Copyright 2000 - 2003 - Janine M. Bork
This page is part of the Union County, OR AGHP
Campaign of the Regulars West of the Cascade Mountains - Conditions of Puget Sound, December, 1855 - Pacific Department Reinforced by the Ninth Infantry Regiment - Two Companies Ordered to Fort Steilacoom - Lieutenant-Colonel Casey in Command of Puget Sound District - Six Companies Ordered to Columbia River - Colonel George Wright in Command of Columbia District - Lieutenant-Colonel Casey Establishes a Blockhouse at Muckleshoot Prairie - Killing of Kanaskat, the Hostile Chief - Fight with Indians at the Crossing of White River - Requisition of Lieutenant-Colonel Casey on the Governor of Washington Territory for Two Companies of Volunteer Infantry - Governor Stevens Declines - Expeditions to Stuck Prairie, Boise Creek and D'Wamish Lake - Expedition Under Captains Dent, Pickett and Fletcher to the Green and Cedar River Country - Major Garnett's Command of Two Companies Ordered to Join Colonel Wright East of the Cascades.
IN THE early part of 1856, the inhabitants of Puget Sound were in a condition of discouragement and despondency. The hostiles infested the region from Green river to within a few miles of Fort Steilacoom. South of that they were restricted to the towns and blockhouses. Military operations had in great measure been suspended, because of the features and condition of the country. From incessant rains, the streams had swollen so as to become almost impassable; and the roads were so muddy as to retard the movement of troops, not to say to defeat operations entirely. both regulars and volunteers had been withdrawn from the outer sections, where the hostiles had their haunts and hiding-places. In the main they remained in and around towns, prepared to act upon the defensive, and occasionally to repel a hostile demonstration.
On the 3d of December, 1855, the order was given for the Ninth Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army, to reinforce the Department of the Pacific. Of this regiment, two companies, Captains Pickett (1) and Guthrie, were to operate in the Puget Sound district, of which Lieutenant-Colonel Silas Casey was the commanding officer, superseding Captain E.D. Keyes. The remaining six companies were ordered to the Columbia district, of which Colonel George Write had become the commanding officer.
(1) George E. Pickett was born at Richmond, Virginia, January 25, 1825. He died at Norfolk July 30, 1875. He entered West Point as a cadet from Illinois, and graduated in the class of 1846. He was commissioned second lieutenant of the Second Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army, March 3, 1847. He was present at the siege of Vera Cruz, and in all the battles preceding the capture of the City of Mexico. He was transferred to the Seventh Infantry July 13, 1847, and to the Eighth Infantry July 18, 1847. He was brevetted a first lieutenant September 8, 1847, for gallant and meritorious conduct at Contreras and Churubusco, and captain September 13th for gallant conduct at Chapultepec. He was commissioned captain of the Ninth Infantry March 3, 1855.
He distinguished himself in the Indian war on Puget Sound in 1856, and was afterwards stationed at Fort Bellingham. In 1859, with sixty men, he was detailed by General Harney, then commanding the Department of the Columbia, to occupy San Juan Island. Sir James Douglas sent three British vessels of war to eject him. He forbade their landing, and threatened to fire if they attempted it. The admiral opportunely arrived; and a peace was patched up between that officer and General Scott, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army. For his gallantry, the Legislative Assembly of the territory unanimously accorded him a vote of thanks. He resigned from the United States army June 25, 1861, and soon after accepted a commission from his native state (Virginia) as a colonel of the state forces. In February, 1862, he was made a brigadier-general in General Longstreet's division of J.E. Johnston's army, then called "Potomac," but later the Army of Virginia. His brigade, in the retreat before General McClellan in the Peninsula campaign, and in the Seven Days' Battles, was known as the "Game-Cock Brigade." He was severely wounded in the shoulder in the Battle of Gaines' Mills, June 27, 1862, and continued out of the service until after the first Maryland campaign. He was then made general of a division of native Virginians. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, he held the center, and made his name immortal in the charge at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. In May, 1864, he defended Petersburg. At Five Forks, his division received the whole force of the Union attack. He retired to Richmond after the war, and devoted the balance of his days to life insurance.
Lieutenant-Colonel Casey (1) with the two companies of the Ninth Infantry (Guthrie and Pickett), arrived at Fort Steilacoom on the 29th of January, 1856. The force at Steilacoom was thereby augmented to four companies of infantry and one of artillery.
The first movement of Lieutenant-Colonel Casey was to establish a blockhouse at Muckleshoot Prairie, making it his central position, and keeping the communication open between it and Fort Steilacoom by the blockhouse and ferry at the crossing of the Puyallup. Lieutenant-Colonel Casey took the field in person on the 25th of February. The command remained at the Puyallup blockhouse till the morning of the twenty-seventh, when they marched to Lemmon's Prairie and camped. It was at this camp that Kanaskat, the leading spirit of the hostile combination met his death, as he stealthily approached the camp of Lieutenant-Colonel Casey to assassinate that distinguished officer. Captain keyes was second in command, and was officer of the day. He has graphically described the killing of Kanaskat by Private Kehl, of Company D, Ninth Infantry. Captain Keyes had personally inspected all the surroundings of the camp, had located the posts at which the picket guards were to be stationed, and had personally addressed the guards. He goes on (2):
'Private Kehl, with his two companions, went to the post assigned them. In the morning, soon after five o'clock, Kehl was standing sentinel under the tree. It was before daybreak. but the cooks had already lighted their fires; and the watchful soldier saw a gleam of light reflected from the barrel of a rifle a hundred yards up the trail beyond the bend. Then in a few minutes he saw five Indians in single file creeping stealthily down the hill. The one in front was waving his right hand backward to caution the men who followed him. Kehl stood motionless till the leader came nearly abreast of him. Then with deliberate aim he fired; and the great chief kanaskat fell. At the report of his shot, I ran out to the bridge, where I heard Sergeant Newton, forty yards beyond, cry out, 'We've got an Indian!' he and another man were dragging him along by the heels. The savage had received a shot through the spine, which paralyzed his legs; but the strength of his arms and voice was not affected. He made motions as if to draw a knife. I ordered two soldiers to hold him; and it required all their strength to do so. As they dragged him across the bridge, I followed; and he continued to call out in a language I did not understand. Some one came up who recognized the wounded Indian, and exclaimed, "Kanaskat.' "Nawitka!' said he, with tremendous energy, his voice rising to a scream, 'Kanaskat, tyee, mamelouse nica! Nica Mamelouse Bostons!' (Yes, Kanaskat, chief, kill me! I kill Bostons!) He added, 'My heart s wicked towards the Whites, and always will be; and you had better kill me!' Then he began to call out in his native language, not a word of which could any of us understand. I ordered two soldiers to stop his mouth; but they were unable to do so. He appeared to be calling for his comrades. Two other shots were fired from the pickets on the hill; when Corporal O'Shaughnessy,
(1) Silas Casey, Brevet Major-General, U.S. Army, was born at East Greenwich, Rhode Island, January 12, 1807. He died at Brooklyn, New York, January 22, 1882. He graduated from the West Point military academy in the class of 1826, and entered the Second Infantry. He was on garrison duty till 1836, being commissioned first lieutenant June 28, 1836. He served under General Worth in the Seminole War from 1837 to 1842, in the meantime having become captain, July 1, 1839. He served with great distinction in the war with Mexico, and was brevetted major August 20, 1847, for gallant conduct at Contreras and Churubusco. He was at Molino del Rey. While leading the assaulting column at Chapultepec, he was severely wounded, and was brevetted lieutenant-colonel September 13, 1847. The legislature of his native state also extended him a vote of thanks. He received the appointment of lieutenant-colonel of the Ninth Infantry, March 3, 1855, his regiment was ordered to reinforce the Department of the Pacific, and, in February, he arrived at Fort Steilacoom. He was commanding officer of the district of Puget Sound during the years 1856-59. On the 31st of August, 1861, he was commissioned brigadier-general, and assigned to the charge of organizing volunteers near Washington City. Subsequently he was assigned a division in General Keyes' corps, Army of the Potomac. Commanding the eastern advance upon Richmond, he received the first attach at Fair Oaks, May 31, 1862. For distinguished gallantry, he was brevetted brigadier-general U.S. Army, and major-general of volunteers. From 1863 to 1865, he served as the president of the board for the examination of officers to command colored troops. March 13, 1865, he was brevetted major-general U.S. Army. July 8, 1868, he was retired from active service, and served on the retiring board at New York until April 26, 1969. He was the author of a system of infantry tactics, two volumes published, 1861, and infantry tactics for colored troops, published in one volume in 1863. During his service in Washington Territory, he endeared himself to all with whom he came into contact by his genial and affable deportment, his conscientious devotion to duty, his zealous interest in the territory, and his earnest effort to restore peace.
(2) "Fifty Years' Observation
of Men and Events," by General E.D. Keyes, page 256.
who was standing by, placed the muzzle of his rifle close to the chieftain's temple, blew a hole through his head, and scattered his brains about."
Lieutenant-Colonel Casey left Lemmon's Prairie on the morning of March 1st. At about noon, he received a note sent by Lieutenant August V. Kautz, Fourth Infantry (1), communicating the intelligence that he, Kautz, with his company were at the crossing of the White river, two miles above Muckleshoot, cut off from camp by a large body of Indians in his rear, and that he had determined to hold his position. He had intrenched his command within a mass of driftwood and dead timber collected upon the river bank. At one o'clock the Indians commenced firing from across the river into his camp, wounding two of his men. Colonel Casey immediately detached Captain Keyes to go to the relief of Lieutenant Kautz. Captain Keyes thus described the operations on that day (2):
"I took the Indian boy, who was only fifteen years old, as a guide. We pushed forward with all possible speed a distance of eight or nine miles; but instead of leading me to the ford, the young rascal conducted me to a point half a mile below, where the contracted torrent was absolutely impassable. I called the boy to me and told him to show me the crossing, or I would shoot him on the spot. He replied 'Nica cumtux' (I know) and led the way through the woods to a place where the river spread out to three times its width below. I ordered the soldiers to fasten their cartridge boxes about their shoulders; and then we dashed in and passed over without accident, although the water, which was icy cold, came up to the armpits of the small men, and ran like a millrace. Between the water's edge and the bluff on the opposite side of the river was a grass-covered slope about two hundred yards wide. The bluff on the bank was not high; and it was so thickly covered with trees and brush that not an enemy could be seen. I deployed my men as skirmishers; and Kautz, who had left the wood-pile, did the same; and I ordered the whole to charge. The Indians fired a volley enough to kill every one of us; but they aimed too high, and only one man was struck; and that was Lieutenant Kautz. A rifle ball passed through his leg; but I was not aware that he had been wounded until the battle was over. After one discharge, the Indians ran; and we pursued them through the woods half a mile, at double-quick time, to the base of a steep hill, on the brow of which they made a stand, and, with derisive epithets, dared us to come on. The slope of the hill for a distance of two hundred yards was bare; and at the top were many large standing and fallen trees, which afforded cover to the enemy and gave him a great advantage.
"Lieutenant David B. McKibbin of Guthrie's company, Ninth Infantry, was in line with the front rank; and, when half way up the hill, the savages arose with a whoop and opened fire. Several soldiers fell; but McKibbin's gallantry encouraged the others, and
(1) August V. Kautz was born at Ispringer, Baden, January 5, 1828. His parents settled in Brown county, Ohio, in 1832. Young Kautz served during the Mexican War, in the First Regiment of Ohio volunteers, and upon his discharge went to the West Point military academy, from whence he graduated in the class of 1852. He was assigned tot he Fourth Infantry as second lieutenant, and came to Washington Territory. In 1855, he was promoted to a first lieutenancy. He distinguished himself in the campaign upon the Sound, 1855-56, in which he was wounded in a battle at the crossing of White river. Surrounded by the whole force of the hostiles, with a mere skeleton company which he commanded, he stationed his men behind driftwood and timber collected on the edge of the stream, sent word to Colonel Casey, who was some miles distant, and patiently waited attack. On the approach of reinforcements, he left his improvised defense and joined in the charge. In this action (the last west of the Cascade Mountains against the hostiles in force), he was severely wounded, but never made it known until the troops went into camp. In 1857, he was commended by General Scott for his conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. In 1859-60 he traveled in Europe. In 1861, on the breaking out of the Rebellion, he was commissioned captain in the Sixth Cavalry, U.S. Army, in which capacity he served until about the close of the Seven Days' Battles. Before the Battle of South Mountain, he had been transferred to the Second Cavalry, of which he was appointed colonel. On the 24th of october, 1864, he was brevetted major-general of volunteers. In March, 1865, he was assigned to the command of a division of colored troops, which he marched into the city of Richmond April 3d. Later he was brevetted brigadier-general, U.S. Army, for gallant and meritorious service during the war. In 1866, he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the Thirty-Fourth Infantry, and in June, 1874, colonel of the Eighth Infantry, U.S. Army.
He was the author of "The Company Clerk," published in 1863. "The Customs of Service for Non-Commissioed Officers" 1864, and "The Customs of Service for Officers," 1866. In the Century Magazine of October, 1888, he evolved a plan for the reform of the service. Instead of recruiting in the big cities and making the slums contribute the soldiery, he proposed that recruits should come from each congressional district throughout the Union, proportionate to their population; that young men of character should pass an examination; and that garrisons should be schools of instruction, and each enlisted man taught. If war should render necessary the calling out of volunteers, at these schools would be found educated soldiers, competent at once to act as officers.
In the early days, when General Kautz served in the defense of our settlements, he made judicious investments, which now in his green old age have made him wealthy.
(2) "Fifty years' Observation
of Men and Events," page 258.
not one flinched. I was at that moment just coming up the slope of the hill; and we all pressed forward, and in a short time our victory was complete. Our number engaged was one hundred; and we lost two killed and eight wounded. The smallness of the loss was probably due to the bravery of the men, who rushed upon the Indians, disconcerting them; and fifty of their shots went over our heads for every one that took effect." Closing his official report, Captain Keyes remarked: "We have now the good fortune of having completely routed the Indians. Our next difficulty will be to find them."
On the 5th of March, Captain Keyes, with one hundred and twenty men, was sent to attack the main camp of hostiles, which was six miles from Muckleshoot, towards Porter's Prairie, in the middle of a dense swamp defended by a breastwork of logs with loopholes. The Indians had, however, made their escape the night before. Captain Keyes thus described the remaining service performed on that campaign: "We hunted and pursued them almost without intermission night or day for two months over hills and dales, through swamps and thickets. It rained more than half the time; and the influence of Mount Rainier and its vast, eternal covering of snow upon the temperature made the nights excessively cold. The hardships of that campaign, in which the pluck of Kautz, Suckley, Mendell and several others was so severely tested, caused me afterwards to regard the seven days' fight before Richmond as a comparative recreation." (1). In that action of March 1st, brought on by the cool determination of Lieutenant Kautz, and gallantly finished by Captains Keyes, Kautz and McKibbin, the entire hostile forces west of the Cascades were present. That defeat, together with the death of Kanaskat, their ablest and most desperate leader in the Puget Sound forays, broke the spirits of the Indians; and they from that time dissevered, scattered in small parties, hid themselves, crossed the mountains, and joined the camps of the Yakimas.
On the 14th of March, Lieutenant-Colonel Casey was further reinforced by the arrival of two companies of the Ninth Infantry (Captains Fletcher and Dent), under Major Garnett (2), accompanied by Lieutenant George H. Mendell, as topographical engineer. On the 15th of March, Colonel Casey addressed the governor of Washington Territory: "I respectfully request that you will at once issue your proclamation calling into the service of the United States two companies of volunteers to serve on foot, for the period of four months unless sooner discharged, each company to consist of one captain, one first and one second lieutenant, four sergeants, four corporals and seventy privates. I wish both companies to be mustered into service at Fort Steilacoom. The authority for calling for the above-named troops has been given by the general commanding the Department of the Pacific.
"I received yesterday an accession of two companies of the Ninth Infantry. With this accession of force, and the two companies of volunteers called for, I am of the opinion that I shall have a sufficient number of troops to protect this frontier without the aid of those now in the service of the territory."
(1) "Fifty Years' Observation of Men and Events," page 260.
(2). Robert Selden Garnett was
born in Essex county, Virginia, December 16, 1819. He was killed in battle
at Carrick's Ford, Virginia, July 13, 1861. He graduated at West Point,
class of 1841, and was assigned to the artillery with the rank of second
lieutenant. He was assistant instructor in infantry tactics at the academy
from July 1843, to October, 1844. He acted as aid to General Wool in 1845.
He served with distinction in the Mexican War. He was present at the battles
of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, at which time he was promoted to a
first lieutenancy. He was brevetted captain and major for gallantry at
Monterey and Buena Vista. He was commissioned captain of infantry in 1851,
and was appointed major of the Ninth Infantry March 27, 1855. He served
with conspicuous gallantry in the Oregon-Washington Indian war in 1856,
both east and west of the Cascade Mountains, and in the Clark-Wright campaign
of 1858. At the breaking out of the Rebellion, he was traveling in Europe.
He immediately returned to the United States, and resigned his commission
in the army, April 30, 1861. He was appointed adjutant-general of Virginia
state troops, with the rank of colonel. On the 6th of June, 1861, he was
commissioned brigadier-general in the Confederate service. On the 13th
of July, 1861, when General Pegram had been surrounded in Western Virginia
by General McClellan, and had attempted to retreat upon Beverly, and was
overtaken at Carrick's Ford on Cheat river, General Garnett took command
of a detachment and attempted to retreat. Hs army was routed, and he was
killed in the engagement. While in this territory, the then Major Garnett
was one of the most popular and esteemed army officers on duty in the Indian
To which Governor Stevens replied: "I have received your letter of the fifteenth instant, advising me of an accession to your command of two companies of regulars, and requesting me to issue my proclamation calling into the service of the United States two companies of volunteers to serve on foot, for the period of four months, unless sooner discharged. These companies you wish to be mustered into the service at Fort Steilacoom. You also express the opinion that if this requisition be complied with, that you will have a sufficient number of troops to protect this frontier without the aid of those now in the service of the territory. I am also advised that you have been authorized to make this requisition for troops by the general commanding the Department of the Pacific. You have been informed by me not only of the volunteer force which had been called out to protect the settlements, and to wage war upon the Indians, but of the plan of campaign which I have adopted, of the positions which these troops occupy, and of the blows already struck by them against the enemy. I take it for granted that this information has been communicated to General Wool, and has been considered by him in his official action. In the two visits which I have made to Steilacoom to confer with you, one of them made at a great person inconvenience, I have waived etiquette in my anxious desire to co-operate with the regular service. I have communicated unreservedly my plans and views, and have endeavored, so far as my operations were concerned, to conduct affairs in a way to insure the whole force operating as a unit in the prosecution of the war. I am happy to say that, in our several interviews and communications, you have met me in the same spirit of co-operation to the extent that the impression has been made upon my mind, that such disposition had been made of the volunteers, as, in your opinion, would make them an efficient element in the general combination.
"Now your requisition on me to issue my proclamation to call into the service of the United States two companies of volunteers, in the connection with the expression of your opinion, that, if the call were complied with, the services of the troops now in the service of the territory may be dispensed with, is, in fact, a call upon me to withdraw all the troops now in the field, with their sixty to eighty days' provisions, to abandon the blockhouses, to leave the settlements both north and south open to attacks of the marauding Indians, and, at the very moment when our troops are prepared to strike, a, and perhaps the, decisive blow, to abandon the campaign and reorganize anew.
"Are you aware that in the patriotic
response of the citizens of this territory to the call of the executive,
over one-half of our able-bodied men are bearing arms, that the people
are almost entirely living in blockhouses, and that it is entirely beyond
the ability of our citizens to form an additional company of fifty men?
The two companies you call for can, therefore, not be raised except by
withdrawing troops and abandoning the campaign at the very moment when
the prospects are flattering to end the war. For the reasons above, it
will be impossible to comply with your requisition. Nor can I suppose that,
in making the requisition, either Major-General Wool, or yourself believed
for a moment that the requisitio would be seriously entertained by me.
But I am of the opinion that, even were the requisition complied with,
your force would not be adequate to the protection of the frontier and
the settlements. Having the highest respect for your opinion, knowing how
cautiously and carefully you approach any field of labor, and how thoroughly
you investigate it and reach your conclusions, I am constrained to express
my judgment that you would soon be obliged to call for an additional force
fully equal, in all, to the force which has been called out by my previous
proclamations. In such a case, I have no alternative but to act according
to my deliberate judgment; for if, waiving my own judgment to yours, injury
should result, the responsibility would attach to me no less than
to yourself. Otherwise, why is the militia organized, and the executive made its commander-in-chief? It is to meet emergencies like the present. But were it practicable to comply with your requisition, and were these requisitions in my judgment competent, I should not deem it expedient to place the force thus raised under the command of the officers of the regular service.
"The war has ow been waged for five months. It is a war emphatically for the defense of the settlements. So much so, that I have ordered to the Sound, four companies from the Columbia river; and at this critical period it is important that there should be no changes in the command, nor in the plan of campaign. In view of this, and also in view of the changes of opinion and of plan, on the part of the officers in chief command on this coast, growing out of a want of proper understanding of the difficulties to be encountered, I am of the opinion that the whole force will be more efficient, and that there will be a better spirit of co-operation, if the regular and volunteer services are kept distinct. Be this as it may, the campaign is, I trust, approaching its consummation; and changes of plan can only be fraught with mischief.
"The citizens of this territory have very great confidence in the officers of the regular service; and especially is this the case with the people of the Sound. These relations have been more than cordial. These are the witnesses of the efficiency of the troops stationed here; and their gratitude has been announced on several occasions since the organization of the territory. The force now in the field has not been mustered into the service of the territory, but into the service of the United States. My authority, as the highest federal officer of the territory, is derived from the same source as that of the major-general commanding the Pacific Division. I am commissioned by the President; and I act under the authority of the laws of Congress, and the responsibilities of my oath of office. For these reasons, your requisition cannot be complied with. At the same time, you may rest assured of my doing everything in my power to co-operate with you; and I hope that, through the action of us all, the war may soon be closed, and the suffering inhabitants of the territory be rescued from their present unhappy condition."
Lieutenant-Colonel Casey pursued his plan of operations, notwithstanding this refusal of Governor Stevens, with renewed activity. Parties were detached for the purpose of hunting the places of concealment and the haunts of the small bands into which the main body of the Puget Sound hostiles had disintegrated. On the 18th of March, an expedition was sent to Stuck Prairie, which attacked an indian village and captured several Indians. Another party went in pursuit of another hostile band on Boise creek. another detachment proceeded against the Indians camped on Lake D'Wamish. Captain Gansevoort, of the U.S. sloop-of-war Decatur, had been requested by Colonel Casey to co-operate in the latter movement; but he declined. Colonel Casey's expedition followed up his purpose, which resulted in those Indians voluntarily coming in, giving themselves up, and consenting to be placed on the reserve. The companies of Dent, Pickett and Fletcher, under Major Garnett, made a march to Meridian Prairie May 13th, and from thence scoured the whole country along both Green and Cedar rivers. The result was that bands of Indians in any considerable number were not to be found. It has been demonstrated that the marauders of Puget Sound had become fugitives; that hostilities on their part had ceased; that no Indian enemy was in the field west of the Cascade Mountains. On the 19th of May, Lieutenant-Colonel Casey reported the war west of the Cascade Mountains ended. On the 21st of May, Major Garnett, with his command of Dent and Fletcher's companies of the Ninth Infantry, was ordered to join Colonel Wright, then prosecuting a campaign on the east side of the Cascade range of mountains.