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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


The War of 1855
Apparently Eugene photographer Philip F. Castleman was either the author or informant of this account.

THE WAR OF '55.
An Interesting Chapter of Early Day Oregon History.
The Battle of Hungry Hill as Seen from a Distance--
Some Hard Riding Done by an Indian Veteran.

(Written for the Sunday Oregonian)

    It was the early part of October 1855, and the newly settled valleys of Southern Oregon had received their second trial of savage warfare. Two years before, the tribes of Rogue River had come with torch and scalping knife, but that war ended and peace had been purchased, apparently. The Indians were supposed to be on their reservation, when suddenly they proved to be on the war path. Savage atrocity never showed more hideously than it has done in those Rogue River wars. The story of the murder of families and burning of homes has been told time and again, but incidents of that time possess interest that never have been told before.
    Several companies of volunteers had been mustered into the territorial service, and it became an important question how they should be supplied with ammunition to carry on the war. In the early stages of life in a new country there is always considerable powder and lead kept in country stores, but trouble had been brewing for some time; the Indians had been laying in supplies, for though they might be barred from buying in person there were always men vile enough to trade with savages, or low enough to become their intermediaries and aid them in such purchase.
    The settlers had been making purchases of ammunition, and the stores were out of stock. The commissary general of that time and place was General M. M. McCarver, who was making his way south to the scene of war. Word had met him near Eugene that there had been fighting and more was expected, and the stock of ammunition was decidedly low. He had talked matters over, and had reached the conclusion that the only way was to send off, beyond the theater of war, to purchase powder, caps and lead where the excitement had not reached. At that time Scottsburg was a place of some importance and had five or six well-stocked trading houses. It was decided to send a messenger to Scottsburg and lose no time.
THE GEORGE STOCK OF HORSES.
    At Eugene McCarver found a young man named P. F. Castleman, known to be active and energetic, who was stopping there a few days waiting for something to turn up. The quartermaster found his man, and found him "willing," then he said: "Have you got a good horse?" At that time Lute Savage, at Salem, owned the famous "George" stallion, a horse with white points and some white in face, but with a solid sorrel color. These were features all "George horses" were apt to carry, and Castleman had a nag that was thoroughly "George." Sometime there should be written a history of the George stock, for it was a famous family of horses. For many years it was a regular thing for "Old George" himself to run three-quarter-mile races, and after a while there came enough George colts to take the track as his successors. The country was full of "George horses" in the '50s, and they could run or walk or plow or haul a carriage. It was the nearest to a "horse of all work" the farmers of Oregon have ever known. Old George and all his stock were tough as old Jos. Bagstock. They were ugly to a certain point, or they wouldn't have been so tough and such flyers. Castleman had a George horse, in its prime, and he smiled sarcastically when McCarver asked that question. Of course he had a good horse, so he fed his beast while McCarver wrote his instructions and was soon ready, for McCarver insisted that he must "start instanter."
    It was the middle of the afternoon when the sorrel was saddled and brought round, and Castleman took the road for Scottsburg. He got to Cartwright's for supper, fed "Billy," and night was creeping down upon the world when they climbed the spurs of the Calapooia Range. It deepened as they reached the summit, and with only the glitter of stars now and then glimpsing between the treetops, they went down and down towards the Umpqua. The timber was heavy along Pass Creek, the road was heavy, and the same fact held true of all the road they traveled until they finally reached Scottsburg.
    In those days roads were scarcely more than trails, and man and horse needed a double stock of senses to find their way through the mountain passes or on the dizzy trail that went down the Umpqua. Occasionally there were streams to ford and only starlight, and little of that, to do it by. The George horse had a rider made to suit, and they held on. When morning dawned the scene had changed to the banks of the Umpqua. Within twenty-one hours' time man and horse had covered the distance of ninety miles from Eugene to Scottsburg. Before taking rest or food Castleman had called the merchants together and laid the matter before them. Of course he had credentials to show them, but they were not quite as good as any ordinary citizen's verbal promise to pay.
FOR COUNTRY, NOT FOR COIN!
    The merchants took the matter under consideration and promised to give their answer the next morning. Castleman had ridden day and night, and made no change of horses. His George horse had brought him the ninety miles in less than twenty hours' actual time, and while stopping to feed he had not stopped to rest. The horse was put in a stable, and his rider found a bed in the hotel. The merchants realized the gravity of the situation and even felt insecurity as to the fate of Scottsburg, should the war go on and the Indians be successful. In such case there was nothing to hinder a raid down the Umpqua to that place.
    McCarver represented the territorial government, which was supposed to represent the United States of America, but in fact it did not represent anything so stable and permanent, and however furnished supplies had no assurance of payment. These facts were canvassed and fully understood, and then the half-dozen merchants of Scottsburg took a patriotic view of the question and determined, as good citizens and loyal men, to each one furnish his proportion of a mule load of ammunition for the purpose of protecting the threatened settlements. There was no speculation in their eye, and they preferred to keep their wares on their shelves. They did their part as loyal men without expectation of repayment.
    Castleman was to meet Gen. McCarver at Roseburg, so the same forenoon he took what he could carry of the ammunition and returned by the river trail, leaving the pack animal to follow more leisurely. A man was two days making the journey with the pack animal, but Castleman started about 10 o'clock and made the journey to Roseburg the same day. The George horse was equal to the occasion. There was need of haste, because much depended on having a supply of ammunition. If McCarver could know what to depend on he could make his arrangements accordingly, so Castleman and his sorrel rode back in haste to give the needed information.
AMMUNITION IN GOOD TIME.
    Arrived at Roseburg, he found the rough clatter of war in the ascendant, news coming in continually for more assistance and for supplies. There was a rumor, rather well defined, that a battle was in progress south of Umpqua, and that the men were becoming short of ammunition. This dilemma was disheartening, because there was only a hope to secure supplies from the mouth of the Umpqua, and that was uncertain when the territory had no cash in hand and practically no credit to bank upon. But the return of Castleman gave assurance that a temporary supply was forthcoming and would answer the present emergency, or last until a stock of ammunition could be provided from more reliable sources. The next question was: to get the horse load on the way from Scottsburg delivered to the troops in the field. Castleman had a good rest, and Billy, the sorrel, was keen for another ride by the time he was called on for it. The second day the pack horse from Scottsburg put in an appearance, and it was determined to forward his load to the seat of war without delay. P. F. Castleman, having made a successful journey to secure ammunition, was selected as a proper man to finish the work; the man and horse were becoming important factors in the pending war.
    Between Umpqua and Rogue River valleys there rises a cross-range known as Umpqua Mountain that has formed one of the most formidable obstacles to travel from the beginning. From Roseburg the roads were passable until they reached this mountain. There they entered a canyon, climbing its ravines, occasionally surmounting small precipices and fording somewhere near a hundred times a foaming creek that rushes down its chasms. It is a beautiful place to study nature in by day, at one's leisure, but might affright an ordinary soul by night, with only clouds to deepen the heavy blackness of its grand old forests.
    Castleman was provided with an assistant; they drove off through the winding hills of beautiful Umpqua in the early morning and reached Canyonville at dusk. Here they rested, got a fresh pack horse for the dead load of powder, borrowed or bought a lantern, and struck into the fearful canyon as the edge of night was being drawn over the listless world. It was rather a debatable land, this Umpqua Mountain and its canyon, because it formed the divide between the scenes of war and peace. There was no reason why Indians should not lie in ambush where a thousand hiding places offered them security, and slay and plunder at their own sweet will.
A FORTUNATE SUPERSTITION.
    True, there was no ostensible reason why Indians could not occupy the canyon and ambush unhappy wayfarers, but there happened to be known to the whites who were intimate with their life and traditions, a scrap of history that was probably preserved from the records of the Hudson's Bay Company. It is well known that Indians fear any spot that has been a scene of carnage and the dead. They never pass where a battle has been fought and their dead have lain. Very fortunately for the whites, such a tradition attaches to the Umpqua Canyon. The story is worth preserving, as a bit of legendary lore, that once upon a time the Hudson's Bay Company took exceptions to the continual robbery and treachery perpetrated by these savages and gave them a thorough whipping in a battle fought in this terrible pass. The Indians lost many killed as well as wounded. They recognized from that day the Hudson's Bay Company as their masters and were glad to make terms with them, but this discomfiture made them more savage than ever towards other whites. As a result of their superstitious ideas they found some other trail through the Umpqua Mountains, where they need not run the risk of meeting the ghosts of their friends who were slain in battle. It may not be safe to predicate entirely on such superstitions, and place implicit faith in savage bigotry, but knowing this ancient legend and understanding Indian habits, Castleman determined to make the trip by night.
A NIGHT JOURNEY.
    While it was currently said that no Indian ever went through the canyon, yet our travelers took wise precautions. They had a lantern with them, to light the way in the worst places and often had need of it. Their road lay for three miles up the bed of the creek and then went back and forth in continual crossings of the stream. At several places, rocky ledges crossed the ravine, over which the water leaped in cascades, and up which the rider had to clamber as he could. They groped their way through the Stygian blackness, with occasional misgivings that a savage might "be drawing a bead" on them as they did so. They had had word that a several days'  fight was going on and that ammunition was becoming scarce. It was possible that they might run out of powder and lead. Knowing this, these men crept on, making slow headway but sure. While it was necessary to supply the volunteers, it was also very important not to let the savages become owners of that precious load. They might be watching for it; they might have their white allies on the lookout, and there were suspicions that wicked white men were their accomplices. If so, what more feasible than the savages being kept informed of all their actions and a party of them in ambuscade waiting their coming? It was hardly probable that any fear of the shades of their ancestors who were killed of yore would prevent the taking of two scalps and 200 pounds of powder.
    At daybreak the "ammunition train" arrived at Hardy Elliff's place on Cow Creek, south of the canyon. Here they met some of the heroes who had been in the recent battle, for there had been a hard-fought field at the classically named elevation known as Hungry Hill, where a lot of men had been wounded and a few killed, but they had the hardly earned satisfaction of knowing the Indians had the worst of it. Hardy Elliff had a stockade in the beautiful little valley of Cow Creek.
    When Castleman reached there he met a detachment of the volunteers who were in search of him--at least they were in search of ammunition. He was glad to turn over his whole train of one cayuse-load to them and go to bed with a clear conscience. Billy, the sorrel nag, had been on the road enough to earn a rest, so for a brief time horse and rider retired from active pursuits of either war or peace and enlisted under "balmy sleep."
    The battle of Hungry Hill had been fought the day before, while the small ammunition train was on the way from Roseburg to Canyonville. The volunteers had covered themselves with laurels (that grow abundantly in the Grave Creek Hills) and retired to rest on them at the also classically named "Six-Bit House," situated on the waters of Wolf Creek, about ten miles from Elliff's stockade. Just then the log house styled thus had become a hospital, where several surgeons were in charge of twenty to twenty-five men who had been wounded in the battle of Hungry Hill.
THE SIX-BIT HOUSE.
    The above is not an Indian name, but the reader will be surprised to see how near it comes to being so when he learns its true history. Once upon a time the whites had sat in judgment on an Indian and had pronounced sentence of death on him for some act of robbery that was only the last of many such. They found him incorrigible, so they pronounced sentence of death on him there, at Six-Bit House. It was about to be executed, when a white man, who stood by and lived near, accosted the Indian with a dun. He said: "You owe me six bits and I want my money." At that day six bits was not much money, and the fellow's neighbors were surprised at his tenacity of purpose in claiming it at such--for the Indian at least--a solemn moment. But the Indian was equal to the occasion and will go down in history for his answer. Turning to his creditor, with every feature wreathed with scorn, the savage improved the opportunity his coming fate afforded to free his mind. He said: "You dog, you are so contemptible as to be able to come to a man who is about to die with your demand for six bits. Wait, you hound, until I am dead, and if you can find six bits about me you are welcome to it." Then they swung him off and named it the "Six-Bit House." The Indian's memory is embalmed in the speech he made, and his creditor's seems to be remembered in the same connection. It is well enough to preserve these scraps of history as we go along for some coming Homer to use when he wants to write an Oregon Iliad.
    When he was rested, Castleman went on to the aforementioned Six-Bit House to see how the war was progressing. It was a rather rainy morning as he rode up to the camp--for there was a military encampment there of some importance, consisting of four or five companies and 300 or 400 of Oregon volunteers. When he arrived it was raining a little, but Capt. Jonathan Keeney of Lane County had his men out for exercise, and the visitor came up just as they performed a rather remarkable feat of arms. When the war broke out Mr. Hiram Smith of Portland was going through Rogue River Valley with three or four ox teams heavily loaded with provisions. The exception being a barrel that contained a suitable provision against a rainy day, as Capt. Keeney no doubt thought, but not classed ordinarily as provisions for army use. He had been obliged to abandon his wagons to save his life, or had left part of the load to more easily haul the rest. The military had sent an escort for the goods the Indians had not destroyed, and much of the merchandise, being actually provisions intended for the mines, came in good time and place to satisfy the wants of the troops then in the field. They had been rather surprised to discover in the contents of the cask alluded to a very agreeable quantity of peach brandy. When Castleman drew up the "awkward squad" of Keeney's command were resting on their arms, while a detail passed along the line with a bucketful of this peach brandy, dealing a tin cupful to each man. They were taking to military drill in the kindest manner possible.
Sunday Oregonian, Portland, March 4, 1888, page 1

Rough Campaigning in the Wilds of Southern Oregon.
The Battle on South Umpqua--An Important Historical Fact
Now Told for the First Time--Causes Leading to the Umpqua Raid.
PART II.
    After the battle of Hungry Hill the Indians scattered for awhile, making the trails and highways of all the Rogue River region dangerous and doing harm wherever they could waylay an unfortunate traveler, slay a miner in his camp or ambush a pack train or a wagon train on the road. The battle had been a drawn game and there was no sign of giving in on their part. The carrying of dispatches was a dangerous trade, as Castleman found when he went on a mission from the Six-Bit House to Jacksonville for the quartermaster general, John F. Miller. It was too dangerous to travel the usual route through Rogue River Valley, so he struck over the mountains for Vannoy's Ferry, at the mouth of Applegate, and from there up Applegate Valley until opposite Jacksonville, then over the mountain wall by a pack trail to that place. On his return he came near to being ambushed when nearly home, or the Six-Bit House. When passing an ash swale a bullet went whizzing close to him, and a mark on the pommel of his saddle dates from that time. The sorrel horse took him out of fire in a short time and he arrived safe.
INDIANS INVADE UMPQUA.
    For some weeks the war was quiet. The Indians had drawn the troops off down Rogue River to the Meadows, and held them there, with an impassable river between the forces, stationary for two months. In the meantime, P. F. Castleman was made assistant quartermaster, and stationed at Roseburg. Time passed on and quietness reigned until December 1st, when word came to Roseburg that Indians were burning houses on the South Umpqua. The Indians were supposed to be at the Meadows, a hundred miles away, and none had been seen or heard of in the Cow Creek country or the Grave Creek Hills for a long time. Some travelers, who came from the south, heard firing a little way off the road, where Mr. Rice (father of Judge Rice, well known at Portland) had his land claim. The Rice family were fortified and had a stockade five miles from Roseburg, where they felt safe against any ordinary foe. It was not supposed that there were any Indians in northern Rogue River Valley, much less in the Umpqua; the men of the family were out at their work on the farm when the Indians stole upon them and fired from the adjoining woods. They broke an arm for Mr. Rice's brother, but he was able to escape. The men all ran for the stockade, with the Indians pell-mell after them, and so near that they had barely time to get within and bar the doors to keep them out. Then there was a state of siege; the Indians fired on the stockade, and travelers who heard their firing reported the same at Roseburg. They heard the Indian war-whoop mixing with rifle shots, and needed no explanation of what was the matter. They reported a massacre, but the Rice family were prepared for just such an attack, and having all got in the stockade went coolly about their work of preparing for defense.
    The Indians were at the Meadows, a hundred miles, at least, from Roseburg, and had got almost the entire force of volunteers then in the field opposite them. They probably wanted to break up the siege and draw off the soldiers so they could return to their own country. For this purpose they detailed a force of nearly forty picked warriors to make a diversion. These two score of braves had made their way through the intervening wilderness, and were at their devilish work in South Umpqua, trying to commit atrocities enough to draw away the troops and set the whole Indian force at liberty.
    The excitement at Roseburg was beyond expression. The most exaggerated reports were in circulation; rumor fed on what it heard and grew apace. The security they had enjoyed had made men careless. Castleman handed his revolver to Dr. Danforth as he rode off to the war, and there were few left in the town. There had been received from below [i.e., from the north] a supply of old-fashioned government yagers, and these Gen. McCarver caused to be distributed among citizens. What to do and how to do it was more of a question than anyone could answer. McCarver had his horse saddled and tied at his door, and when he was asked the reason, said he wished to be ready to load women and children on it when the savages attacked the town and carry them out of danger. This incident is a fair sample of the state of mind people were in. The sun got low and no news came from Rice's stockade and no force was organized to go there and see what assistance could be rendered. It was late in the afternoon when Pat Day [James "Pat" Day], then sheriff of Umpqua County, and P. F. Castleman agreed to go on a scout by themselves and learn what was going on as well as see what could be done.
NIGHT SCOUTING IN UMPQUA.
    The two men mounted their horses and rode out of town. They first went to John Kelly's place (the same John Kelly now of Lane County and lately a United States official of rank in Portland). They found him guarding his horses in the corral. His place was only a mile or mile and a half from Roseburg. He said he would turn the horses loose whenever the Indians came near, and while they were catching the animals he would manage to escape. They told him their mission and he crossed them over the South Umpqua in a canoe. Their horses were well broken, so they swam them alongside while the canoe was paddled across and made the trip in safety. It was getting dark and the rivers were all up and filled their banks full. Pat Day knew the country well and acted as pilot to Rice's farm. They came to Lookingglass Creek after dark; there was a moon to light the stream, which was a long way out of its banks. The shores were lined with  alders and the wagon road had cut out its track through these, so there was a silvery streak of open water to indicate the roadway. Their horses were swept down out of their depth by the swift current and swam among the tangled bushes that lined the shores. It was not an easy route by day and was decidedly perilous by night or even by moonlight. By hook or by crook they managed to get across and a short distance up the creek came to Gage's stockade, for every man who remained on his place had taken precautions to "fort up." They yelled to let them know who it was. They found several families there and refreshed themselves with a cup of coffee before starting on. Gage told them that he had heard firing towards Rice's all the afternoon, but it had stopped at sundown. What it meant they could not tell, but evidently the Indians had gone away. If they had succeeded in capturing the place, they would have burned the house and as there was no blaze they thought the Indians had gone off. Evidently the savages had received a check and were gone to their camp, wherever that might be.
SOME HEROIC WOMEN.
    The pioneer history of Oregon will show that many of the women of that time were brave, and sometimes braver than the men. At Gage's there were several men, and they were willing to join the scout on the night march. One of the women said, "Let all go but one. He can fire from one side and I will defend this porthole. The other women can help load, and we have guns enough." She was not alone in her glory. The other women stood valiantly for self-defense, and some of them said all the men could go. The pity of it is that the veracious chronicler cannot give the names of these brave mothers of pioneer Oregon. It is worthwhile being particular in this recital, as the parties concerned were all early settlers in Umpqua, and many of them are living there in honored age today. The names that will appear will be of men who are there today, or their children are there in their place. They took the women at their word, and enlisted for their further march Ed Gage and Wm. Dillard. Kent was a neighbor of Rice's, so they rode on through the dusky night to his place. There they found John Richards, John Fisher, Jesse Roberts, M. McCully, J. B. Nichols, ------ McCloud, Jeptha Green, Billy Booth, ------ Bellew and James Burnett. These men were on an independent scout and gladly joined the sheriff's party.
    The little company made an informal organization before they started forth on their night march. Castleman had the rank of captain in the volunteer service, so they all deferred to him. Pat Day was sheriff of the county, and a clever fellow generally, so he ranked as next in command. They followed the trail of the Indians up Ten Mile Creek. It was marked by burning houses, barns, stacks and straw. Wherever a match could light a blaze they had made a fire. The people had fled in terror before their approach. Their track was so fresh that some of the houses and buildings were not half burned. They crossed a divide to the waters of Olilly Creek [now called Olalla Creek], a branch of Lookingglass. Here they came up with the savages and actually saw them setting the incendiary torch to the house and premises of a settler. They lay down and hid while the blaze burned and watched to find the camp of the hostiles.
AT McCULLY'S STOCKADE.
    After sending two scouts, who understood the lay of the land, to track the Indians to their camp, the company stopped to rest awhile. In due time the two scouts joined them and made their report. They actually tracked the Indians to a camp they had made in a bend of the Olilly. They waited until all was quiet and then crept into the camp and found them all asleep. They thoroughly learned the location and surroundings and came away chock full of information.
    It was considered necessary to have more help, for the savages were more than two to one, and were evidently picked men who were sent on a hazardous expedition. McCully had a stockade on Lookingglass, and they went there, knowing that Sergeant Tom Holland, of Capt. Bailey's company of volunteers, with a force of twenty or twenty-five men were forted up there. This squad had been left to guard the entrance of the Umpqua via Camas Prairie, the very entrance that probably the Indians had entered by. When they arrived, and had yelled awhile to let the volunteers know who they were, the bars were let down and they entered and were made welcome. When they had time to inquire what the men were doing there, and why they did not render protection to the settlers whose barns they had seen burning all day around them, the answer was that they had not force enough to fight the Indians, and thought it was no use trying. They told the newcomers they could go if they wished, and were answered that they most assuredly should do so. While there was timidity in the leadership, many of the men stepped forward and expressed their willingness to take a hand, and the public mind was soon made up to make a move, and not to stand on the order of their going, but go quickly.
    Many of the volunteers were hugely disgusted at the day's experience. The Indians knew where they were forted up and had visited them repeatedly during the day, hurling all sorts of challenges at them and daring them to fight. They offered to fight the soldiers in the woods or in the open country. They spoke Chinook fluently and some of them were familiarly known as "pet Indians," because they had been living among the settlers and sometimes worked on the farm and were treated as one of the family. It seemed impossible that these men should forget civilized ways so soon, and be willing to burn, destroy, outrage and mutilate the very families they had received the kindest treatment from. These spoke very fair English and hurled their epithets and challenges at the volunteers in the worst language they had learned from their lately white associates. Holland stood his ground with stoical disregard of insults, whether they were phrased in classic Chinook or couched in the coarsest of billingsgate. He coolly said the Indians were too many for them. It was dangerous out there, and safety lay behind the stockade. To be sure, there were three savages for two white men, but men who understood Indian war could have routed the Indians very easily and soon.
    There were no conveniences for sleep inside the stockade, so the men kept warm and stayed awake, consulting and planning the campaign. About 4 o'clock they started out to execute their plans. There were about forty men in the party, and they were divided into three separate commands. Castleman, being the only commissioned officer, was tacitly acknowledged as the captain. He had fifteen men. Pat Day had ten men, making twenty-five settlers who were in arms for that occasion only. Holland was out with fifteen volunteers, having left a small force in the stockade. It was dark as Erebus, and not particularly warm, when the men started through the trackless woods.
A NIGHT ATTACK.
    The two scouts had tracked the Indians to a bend in Olilly Creek, which naturally possessed all the advantages of defense and fortification. This camp was across a divide, and not more than two miles from the stockade. Following a local guide who knew the country, they crept cautiously along through the woods, until they were only half a mile distant from the Indian stronghold, and then they stopped to arrange a plan of action. The Indians had no fear of attack. They had bulldozed the volunteers during the day to their heart's content, and felt satisfied that no motive they could imagine would be able to draw them from the friendly shelter of their strong stockade.
    They did not deem it possible that other troops, or force, could be raised to attack them, and had gone to sleep, feeling so secure that the scouts  had penetrated their stronghold and taken an inventory of the surrounding circumstances, retiring without a suspicion of their presence remaining behind. It was agreed that Castleman, with his fifteen citizen soldiers, or settlers, should make a detour to the left and approach the Indian camp along the creek, from a flanking position on that side. Pat Day, with ten settlers, was to attack them in front, and strike at the moment Castleman got in range. Holland was to make a detour on the right, cross the Olilly below their stronghold and be in readiness to pick them off as they tried to swim the swift-flowing creek. A log lay for 100 feet in front of their camping place. Castleman was to flank this log and Pat Day was to charge up to it. They were to wait long enough to let Holland get into position across the creek and then make a simultaneous charge. That success would follow such a well-laid scheme was certain, if each party would act well its part. Another issue [of the Oregonian] will tell the story of the rush and war-whoop, the yells and charging of the whites and the discomfiture of the enemy. It was a gallant fight, and the wonder is that as gallant a fight and so important a battle was never told before. The reason may be that the laurels were won by settlers and not by enlisted soldiers. We shall see!
Sunday Oregonian, Portland, March 11, 1888, page 2

A Graphic Night Scene in an Indian Camp.
Third and Final Chapter of the Story of the War--
A Brave and Hot Fight and a Decided Victory.
    A little way above Roseburg, Lookingglass Creek comes in from the southwest. John Kelly had ferried the two scouts over the South Umpqua, just below Lookingglass; there they forded and swam it and went up the creek a mile or so to Gage's stockade; then southerly to Kent's place; thence they followed the blazing track of the Indians over to the stockade, where Sergeant Holland and his men were forted up on the Lookingglass. The Olilly and Ten Mile creeks are affluents of Lookingglass, and when they finally had decided to attack the Indians they had to cross a low divide, to where last Sunday's account left them, only half a mile from the camp of the hostiles.
    Gathered suddenly together here were forty men, organized as a fighting force and about to attack by night a force of victorious savages in their own fort. Only at dusk, a few hours before, two men mounted their horses and left Roseburg to see what the Indians were about. They found others on their way, and during the night had come into command of a force of forty men, who had never met together before, had never smelled powder in battle, and were literally strangers to each other. The Indians had been destroying homes, burning property, killing all they came across, and were flushed with victory. Holland's men enlisted from the Willamette, in Lane County, and the others had come together by chance. It was hazardous for so ill-disciplined a force to try to carry on war under such circumstances.
    The arrangement decided on what [it] was that each party should attack, as stated in the last issue. Castleman, with fifteen men, went up the creek and was to crawl up to within rifle shot of the Indian camp and lie there until daybreak. Holland was to go down the creek, cross over and come up back of their camp, to take the Indians as they retreated and were swimming the stream. Pat Day was to attack in front. All were to be in position, to lie still until daybreak, and be ready for simultaneous assault on the enemy's works. It was then after 4 o'clock in the wintry morning, and daylight did not come until nearly 7. Each party had two hours almost to get into position. It looked as if the battle was well planned.
"THE DEVIL TO PAY."
    Castleman led the way with his squad of citizens, and went cautiously clambering over logs and through brush in the necessary direction. The moon was down by this time; even the stars were clouded, but they knew their way by woodsman's craft. It would seem as if there was no chance for mistake or reason for failure, but while Castleman and his fifteen were making their way successfully, the others were lagging by the way. Each party started on its march at the same time. Holland's men got into a depression where he concluded to wait. "If they come here we will fight them until ---- freezes over," is the classical remark handed down. Pat Day got started with his men, and when part way concluded to wait and see what would happen. Neither knew where the others were. It seems as if Castleman's presence had been their stimulus. Only for his acts and words to inspire them, they would not have met together that night, and certainly would never have taken the war path. When he was gone the inspiration he gave was wanting.
    They hesitated and waited, and neither of the leaders gave an order for the march. Of course the men all waited for this word. There were twenty-five men, leaning on their rifles or lying on the ground, and there they stood or lay until time was wasted that was invaluable. Perhaps they thought they would wait where they were an hour or so and there would yet be time enough to reach their appointed rendezvous. Whatever was in their minds, there was no motion in their feet. After half or three-quarters of an hour of this patient inaction, a brilliant idea took possession of Sheriff Day. He raised his rifle and fired it off. The echoes of its reverberations had not died away before a response came from the Indian camp in the near distance. The war-whoop was yelled from forty demonic throats; guns were fired; bedlam was let loose; yells and counter yells; cursings and shouts; gunshots and death howls rang through that neck of woods in a manner that Olilly Creek, it is hoped, will never hear again. This pandemonium sounded:
As if the fiends from heaven that fell,
Had pealed the banner cry of hell.
    Scott's brilliant imagery was never better justified by human perversity than when these forty savage throats were let loose by the discharge of Pat Day's unhappy rifle.
CREEPING ON THE FOE.
    The Spartan band reached the shores of Olilly Creek and then turned towards the Indian camp. This was located in a sharp bend, and across the semicircle of land there lay a large fir tree fully 100 feet long. The situation was as if the creek took the form of a bent bow, and the log represented the string held taut from end to end. Castleman was so intent on his progress and so taken up with watching the foe that he stood almost at the end of the log, and not over forty yards from the Indian campfire before he recognized the danger of his position. He crouched close to the ground and literally crept along from tree to tree and log to log, when suddenly the scene burst upon him. He raised to look around and there the Indians were, not a stone's throw away from him. The scene would have been entrancing had it been but a stage effect and not a place of danger. The dawn was just brightening the far-off east. The Indians had awakened early--long before day--and were preparing their breakfast with a view to renewing the burning and slaughter of the day before. By sunrise they would have been at their deviltry again. There were three blazing fires inside the log. The bend they occupied had been once a thicket. The forest had been cleared from the front of the log by settlers, but there were a few trees near the creek. Among them were tied a number of horses they had taken from the settlers. In front of them were heaps of all sorts of plunder, for there had been method in their madness. Before they applied the torch they had plundered the premises and loaded on the captured horses the stolen goods. A glance took in all this, and more. It is said that Indians make small fires. This was an exception to that rule, for there were three fires blazing high. It had been a cold and wintry night; after the moon went down the stars were out; there came dark clouds and rain. The snowfall had plastered the face of nature with patches. They were gathered close around the fire, keeping warm. Coffee pots were steaming, and the fragrance of the breeze was varied by the smell of bacon frying. They had plundered the settlement and were feasting on the few delicacies the region afforded. To the forty braves there was a single squaw. The woman was the life of the camp; she danced and dang and talked and raved in a very passion of glee, and all the men responded to her sayings and doings with peals of generous laughter. To see their blazing fires, the dancing, gleeful Jezebel, the painted warriors and hear the shrieks of laughter that went the rounds would make a first-class act or scene on the boards of a theater. Alas for Castleman! He took the scene in, and could not say how long before they would take him in.
THE FATAL SIGNAL GUN.
    It was while he stood, not over forty paces from this glowing scene, that the demoralized Pat Day discharged the gun. Then the game was all up. The Indians knew, of course, that white men were on their track. The raised the war-whoop, and every man of them rushed for his gun. It required but a moment's time to convert that merry scene of feasting, glee and revelry into a pandemonium of war. Fortunately for our friends, the enemy had returned full of confidence and, emboldened with victory, and had acted very carelessly. It was moonlight when they "turned in," and they had thrown down their guns where rain and snow had fallen later, and a number of them were useless through the succeeding battle. Seizing their rifles the Indians instantly turned them to the front. Then they saw the small force at Castleman's back rushing for the log. When the fatal gun gave them away, he looked behind for his men, not doubting that all were close after, but there were only six in sight: I. D. Bennett, Ed Gage, Jeptha Green, Isaac Bailey, Wm. Dillard and Ben Kent. The latter was a boy of 15, who had joined them at his father's place. He was buckling on the family revolver when his father remonstrated that he might be attacked and need arms, so the lad took his squirrel gun and went off to the war like a hero of the olden time.
    The other eight turned up soon after, but just then were behind shelter and could not be seen. There was no refuge nearer Castleman than the creek bank, and that would have proved a deathtrap. Brave men think quickly in times of emergency. A commander has to think for all. Hardly had the sound of that unfortunate signal gun been lost when the leader shouted in stentorian tones: "Take the log, boys; take the log!" Then, crouching low, he led the rush toward it. The rest came later, and, before the Indians could find their guns and take possession, the little band of whites had seized and held the fort. What had been their strongest defense now became the Indians' greatest danger. The capture of the log was not made without some loss. A rifle ball struck their captain as he went crouching along, entered the side, ranged the ribs, and went out at the right thigh. Another rifle ball went so near Burnett, who was following close behind, that the concussion stunned him; with a leap in the air he fell over on his head. Castleman was wounded then, but saw it and thought his friend was dead. He shouted to him and he instantly was up again and did valiant service through the fight. When he gave the order "Take the log," the seven rushed forward and in an instant were in possession. Thinking his end was come, the captain made the best of himself. His lower limbs were paralyzed, but his arms were all right. Above all, his voice was in full volume. He shouted to his men to make all the noise they could and make believe there were a thousand of them. So they loaded and fired, and yelled and shouted, and their leader, who had got midway of the log, lay there, loading and firing over the log, and doing his full share of the vocal performance.
    There was something decidedly amusing in the situation just then, for all its murderous horrors, for Castleman candidly avers that he was twice as brave because he thought his time was short. That he was mortally hurt he did not doubt. The blood was flowing fast, and his lower half was devoid of feeling. As he saw no hope for himself his motive became to render all possible aid to his companions. So he cheered them on, and his shouts roused the manly blood of even Holland's men, so far away.
    Before many minutes were gone the whole force was close at hand, and the battle assumed much larger and more satisfactory proportions. Credit must be given to two men in particular who led this charge. One of these was John Sumner of Linn County, a member of Bailey's company of volunteers. The other was J. B. Nichols, one of the citizens of Umpqua who took part in the campaign. When the firing reached their respective squads they started, broke ranks and made for the scene of conflict. The rest only needed a leader, and soon all were at their work. Two men who knew the country well had been elected as guides for Holland's party. Not being able to induce him to take position across the creek, they led the way themselves, hoping the rest would follow. They also did their part well, but their names cannot be given.
BATTLE INCIDENTS.
    The few men who held the long log had the advantage that their guns were in good order. At their leader's call they made night hideous with their share of shouting, so that soon their whereabouts became known to all the rest. These shouts and cheers proved that they held their own and reinforcements poured in from all sides. The eight who lagged behind when the charge was made became a flanking party and poured in shots from up the creek, sheltered by forest trees. It was black as night where the assailants were, while the savages stood in the glare of the great campfires they had made and could not put out. Those who held the log loaded and fired from behind it, only raising a head above it long enough to take swift aim. Only one man had a revolver, and one gun was disabled in the beginning. The wounded man loaded his gun and could sit up to get a sight over the log while he could not stand. He was also shielded by three saplings that grew beside the log on the other side, but an Indian was behind the same saplings, trying to make his gun go off. Fortunately, it had become thoroughly wet, and the charge would not leave the gun. He put a fresh cap occasionally, then would suddenly lean over the log without taking aim and snap at Castleman, who lay helpless so near him that the savage could have clubbed him if he had dared to expose himself that much. This was not a pleasant ordeal, exactly, but the fresh caps exploded and the charge did not, so there was no harm done. A man's nerves don't endure such experience very calmly. The fellow could see where the wounded man's gun was loaded and had every advantage. At last, Castleman called to Burnett: "I say, Jim, can't you give his scoundrel his dose?" Burnett watched his chance and the next time the Indian got ready to fire he shot him. The ball hit him in the bowels and the wretch went off howling like a Minnesota blizzard. Then the boys laughed and jeered back at the Indians, for all this time shooting was interspersed with interchange of verbal compliments. There was lots of fun mixed in with the scrimmage all the while. One of the funniest features was that their captain, supposing that his time had certainly come, took desperate chances all the while to make the most of what life was left in him.
EXCHANGE OF COMPLIMENTS.
    Shouting to his men he said: "Boys, don't use your revolvers; keep them until the rascals charge on us, and then give them Hail Columbia!" Of course, the Indians knew nothing of the want of revolvers, and took this bluff in good earnest. Continuing this advice he said: "Don't all fire at once, but half hold your fire while the others load." One of the savages was a "pet Indian," known as "Cow Creek Tom." This fellow was able to understand English and could talk it fairly well. While Castleman was shouting to the men what to do, this "Charley" yelled back: "Yes, G-d d--n you, and while you are doing that we will kill you and cut you up in a thousand pieces and lay you out on that log." Here was a nice thing for a man to keep in mind who thought his time was come in any event, and knew what to expect if the whites lost the battle and left the natives in possession of the field. He knew it was no idle boast they uttered, for many a time during that horrible year they had perpetrated barbarities no civilized tongue could recite or decent pen could write. Just before that time they had waylaid a man well known in the settlements. What torture he endured was never known, but his flesh was found hung up in strips on the surrounding bushes. This battle fiend could use glibly the worst epithets the meanest of white ruffians had invented, and while this conflict raged he did use them with horrible emphasis. The scene was worse than "hell let loose" while it lasted, and it did not last long either, but it seemed much longer than it really was. The Indians could not understand the situation, and were at a disadvantage. The firing of guns and shouts from a distance worried them. The men with Pat Day and Holland, as soon as they realized the fact that their comrades were under fire and in danger, yelled out a war-whoop of their own to let them know they were coming, and fired a few guns. This shouting grew nearer, and the Indians did not understand its meaning.
A BRAVE YOUNGSTER.
    When young Ben Kent left home it was rather against his father's wishes. He was not well armed and there was only a revolver left to protect the home and family. The lad had a squirrel gun, a light rifle of his own, and, shouldering this, he went off for a bigger campaign than he had bargained for. When they charged on the log Ben was there among the first. He fired once and then managed to choke his gun. Finding it difficult to get a good purchase on his ramrod whilst lying down, he got on his feet and was trying to force down the ball while standing, unmindful of bullets, when the captain sharply called to him to lie low. The boy dodged behind the log just in time, for as he got out of range the bullets went whizzing by his standing ground, and several scalped the log in front of him. The fellow chafed terribly at having to be still while others could give battle, but the load was caught just in the muzzle of rifle and no force he could use was able to shove it down. He asked permission to fire it off, but that would surely have burst the gun, so he was told to lie still, and did so. If living, he is now a man in life's prime, and will perhaps be amused to see his boyish escapade recited after so many years. So will others, who, like Burnett, are becoming grey in years, but it is a verifiable incident of Indian war times that is being recited and should be put in shape as a chapter of genuine pioneer history. Time flies quickly in great emergencies. When bullets are flying, minutes and even seconds decide the destiny of lives. The men of the Umpqua were sterling stuff, and the women were as true as steel. There is no other record of so important a battle having been decided under such circumstances, with men who were neither disciplined nor enlisted.
THE TOTAL ROUT.
    The combined attack, when it finally was accomplished, proved too much for the Siwash contingent. It was fire all around, and an occasional shot may have come from the two guides who were in their position across the creek. The two score of braves yelled a parting war-whoop and fell back in great disorder. They were routed and whipped and discomfited, so that they had no chance of exit but to cross Olilly Creek and leave their dead behind. When the war was over the whites learned some further particulars they did not know before. They knew that their victory was complete and they had only one man wounded, while the Indians suffered severely. Had the battle been fought as originally planned, it should have exterminated the last one of that wicked band of Siwashes. Had Pat Day come up in front and Holland been posted with twenty men across the creek, there could hardly an Indian have escaped to tell the story. The two men who reached the other side of the creek and took the Indian camp in the rear found that "discretion was the better part of valor" before the fight was over. The Indians crossed the creek in retreat, as it was supposed they would, and these two men stood behind great fir trees, as quiet as needs be to let them pass. They could have killed a man apiece easily enough, but their own fate would have been certain death. With their rifles discharged they would have been powerless and the savages could and would have killed them, beyond all question. They simply proved the wisdom of the original plan of battle.
YET THE SHOT WAS FORTUNATE.
    Before the final act was finished all the men found their way to the front and covered themselves with glory to some extent. After all, it was rather fortunate than otherwise that Pat Day fired his gun. It was--to use a gambling phrase--"eagle bird by chance." [apparently a current term for a lucky shot]. Considered as an independent act, it was worse than folly, against all discipline, and blindly idiotic. No reason could be given to excuse it. Happening as it did--coming when no hope of victory could be expected--it precipitated a conflict that finally drew all the force to the scene of action and wrought out a defeat for the hostiles. Had Castleman been seen at first and held at bay, it is very doubtful if he and his men could have escaped and victory have been an impossibility. It might have ended far otherwise. The failure to act as planned and agreed was almost an abandonment of the first company to their fate. Perhaps the gun was intentionally discharged for the purpose of recalling them and to announce the failure of those behind to act their promised parts. It proved fortunate to some extent. It is not necessary to pronounce judgment on those who were lacking, as would be done to men disciplined and trained in the art of war. They were raw recruits or settlers merely picked up for the occasion. Bravery is not always consistent. That these men possessed courage was proved by the way they joined in the fight when the emergency came. Some men have an unreasoning fearlessness that takes them through "moving accidents by flood and field" as fearlessly as they would hunt a squirrel or tree a coon. Such a man led them on and received almost his death wound in so doing. Savages are fearless because bigoted and ignorant. The timidity that checks civilized humanity is tempered with reasoning courage. It often proves to be well-balanced bravery that on trial can hold in check the courage of savages and beasts.
 TROPHIES OF THE BATTLE.
    When the last Siwash had decamped and the field was clear the settlers entered the Indian camp and took an inventory of the supplies on hand. They had robbed first and burned afterwards. The settlers recognized many articles of clothing they had lost, and took possession of the whole. There were many horses tied inside the bend of the creek, and a few of these were the worse for the bullets that flew among them. One or two were killed, but the satisfaction of saving the remainder was great. The squaws of the Rogue River tribes were losers of many dresses and some finery, probably intended for their use. The goods of the settlers were in piles, and the whirling snows of midnight had wet them where they lay.
    Castleman's wound was not merely dangerous but was considered fatal. He was strong and well vigorous when shot, and such men die hard. They made a rude litter and took him to a temporary hospital, fitted up for the season. There he lay for weeks and months, groaning with pain and suffering intensely.
    Time is the great healer, and gradually time wrought a cure and brought partial relief. Long weeks grew into weary months before the winter passed away and the vigorous, ruddy-hued man that had been shot down in December left the hospital. In his place there went forth from its gates a pale, thin, wan creature, whose steps were feeble and whose eye was dulled by long confinement and much endurance of pain. Time continued to work his cure, and in time he has become three score, always carrying with him painful reminders of that night encounter on the South Umpqua, and never receiving the least compensation, or even recognition, that his services and sufferings had been worth anything to his country.
    This small battle was pronounced by Governor Curry the first victory of a decided character the whites had achieved over the Indians, and was hailed as a good omen. The settlers recovered most of their plundered effects and all their horses. The volunteers who participated in the battle were some of them so greatly in need of clothing that they were glad to recruit their wardrobes from the captured goods found in the Indian camp. The supplies the territorial government was able to offer were not sufficient to keep our soldiers in the field decently clad, and no reasonable recognition or compensation has ever been made for their services.
Sunday Oregonian, Portland, March 18, 1888, page 2




Last revised January 4, 2014