Copyright 2000 - 2003 - Janine M. Bork
This page is part of the Union County, OR AGHP
Campaign of General Clarke and Colonel Wright, in the Country East of the Columbia River and North of Walla Walla - The Peace of 1856 Abortive - Kamiakin Still Inaugurating Hostile Movements - Combination of Hostile Eastern Tribes, and Motives of Hostility - Indian Depredations in Walla Walla Region - Expedition of Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe, and His Disastrous Defeat - Colonel Wright's Views of the Campaign Necessary - Treaty with the Nez Perces - Colonel Wright Sets Out on Northern expedition- Battle of Four Lakes - Battle of Spokane Plains - The Spokanes submit - The Coeur d'Alenes Submit - Death of Owhi and Qualchen - Submission of the Palouses - The War Ended.
HOSTILITIES of the Indians in the interior who had taken part in the outbreak of 1855-56 were not terminated by the so-called peace made under General Wool's orders in prosecuting the campaigns of the regulars in 1856. It was a mere suspension of open hostilities; and at not time had there been an indication that the Yakimas, Palouses, Cayuses, and all those bands and tribes which ahd refused to treat with Governor STevens at Walla Walla in September, 1855, had been subdued, or had become reconciled to the United States authorities or to the presence of American citizens in the hither to hostile country. Indeed, the temporary lull in hostilities had depended upon the fact that the United States troops were in the hostile territory to keep out white persons, as a condition of the Indians maintaining a quiet deportment towards the soldiers, and submitting to the presence of military posts. Through all of 1857, there had been constant apprehensions of a renewed outbreak. In the winter of 1857-58, the Catholic fathers in the upper country apprised their brethren at Vancouver that they had labored incessantly to pacify the Indians, - the Cayuses, the Yakimas, the Palouses and other tribes in their vicinity, - but that a general uprising of the Indians towards the commencement of spring was feared (1). Another statement of the Catholic fathers was that, when Governor Stevens was at Spokane Prairie (winter of 1855), the Spokane Indians demanded that troops should not pass the Walla Walla river.
In the winter of 1857-58, prominent chiefs of the Spokane and Coeur d'Alene nations, speaking the sentiments of their followers or bands, said, "If the soldiers exhibit themselves in this country, the Indians will become furious." Everything indicated that the yakimas, the Cayuses and the Palouses had not been pacified, and that they were as unfriendly as ever. To those tribes who had been hostile were now added the Spokanes and Coeur d'Alenes. Among them, Palouse emissaries had labored with great success to incite them to hostile feeling against the Whites. Kamiakin, Owhi and Qualchen, the implacable leaders of the Yakima nation, not to say of the confederate hostile tribes east
(1) Father Hocken to a brother priest. Father Joset to Father Congeato.
of the Cascade Mountains, had never submitted to the troops, and had never accepted the amnesty. They had marched before Colonel Wright's column in 1856; and as he advanced they retired, and then crossed the Columbia river to incite to hostility those tribes who had not been visited by General Wool's missionaries of peace. Those leaders took up their residence with the Palouses, a tribe as hostile as themselves. A large portion of the Yakimas, thus abandoned by their most influential leaders, had gone to the Simcoe reservation to be fed, and were friendly. Kamiakin still continued general-in-chief of the hostile Indians. He was at this time at the head of the Palouses, a tribe who, in 1855, at the council of Walla Walla, was classified as one of the fourteen bands constituting the Yakima nation, of which Kamiakin was then, and ever since had been, the head chief. Of course he was their chieftain. The disaffected Yakimas had merged into and swelled the number of the Palouses, who had become very numerous, embracing the Palouse ands proper, the affiliating Yakimas, many restless young spirits who found gratification in war, and all the renegades of every neighboring tribe. Those Palouses were noted horse-thieves. One of their number, Tilcoax, had for years successfully pursued that calling, and by his proficiency had accumulated about eight hundred head of horses. He had earned the highest consideration among his brother outlaws, not only because of that wealth, but because he had proved himself to be the successful despoiler of their enemies. For such great merit in their eyes, he had been elevated to the position of chief, and shared equally the authority of Kamiakin.
The astute Kamiakin cordially accepted Tilcoax as his co-ordinate in rank, because it enabled him to use the furtive Tilcoax to harass and prey upon the Whites, to provoke the resentment of the garrison at Fort Walla Walla by the stealing of stock, which would sooner or later be followed by an expedition against the Indians to recover the property and punish the marauders. History was about to repeat itself. It was Kamiakin's real aim to draw Colonel Steptoe and his little command from the post and serve them as he had Haller's detachment in 1855, in the Yakima country. Kamiakin was still the same unrelenting and unconquerable enemy of the white race, and of white settlement within the territory. He was the same wary and persistent strategist as when he planned the outbreak in the summer of 1855, to draw out the garrison from Fort Dalles and induce its march into his country, where he could and did surround them, and, as he supposed and intended, cut them to pieces. As one of the details of that campaign, he had instigated the simultaneous massacres upon Puget Sound, which had necessitated the keeping there of all available forces to protect those settlements, and thereby had prevented Major Haller from receiving help from that quarter. Kamiakin having thus isolated Haller, he expected him to become an easy prey. Haller was compelled to retreat to The Dalles without having accomplished any purpose; and the hostile Indians had been encouraged by that first conflict with the United States soldiers. The same tactics were about to be renewed in a different field, but under the direction of the same master mind. The Palouses were already hostile. The Spokane and Coeur d'Alenes had been insidiously and industriously labored with, and their prejudices inflamed against the approach of soldiers into their country.
The survey of the Mullan road
from Fort benton to Fort Walla Walla, which the Indians had been advised
was to be made that spring, was the circumstance relied upon to convince
the Spokanes that the troops were about to occupy the country; and thus
the Spokanes were incited to the highest pitch against the soldiers and
their purpose, or presence in the country. Such feeling engendered, then
followed immediately the
murders of the miners near Colvile, which were committed to provoke hostilities, and were designed as and did become the occasion of Colonel Steptoe making a northern expedition towards the Spokane country. Upon the arrival of Colonel Steptoe and his force within their country, the predictions of the malcontents had been verified. The Spokanes and Coeur d'Alenes, as expected, united with the Palouses, Yakimas and Walla Wallas to destroy the invaders. Such was the plot; and all that time it had been the study and work of Kamiakin, the wily chieftain and conspirator, the ablest savage general west of the Rocky Mountains. Such were the acts of those very Indians referred to in the several communications of General Wool to the government, in the winter of 1856-57. Since his vain-glorious heralding of peace, the preparations for a hostile campaign and the renewed declaration and incitement of hostilities had been the pastime, the only occupation, of those friends of General Wool whom he had taken under his protection.
On the 3d of January, 1857, that distinguished deluded official, if not the sympathizer with, and apologist of, Indian murderers, had written: "For the information of the lieutenant-general commanding the army, and the Secretary of War, I have the honor to report that peace and quiet pervade throughout the Department of the Pacific, and I have no doubt will thus continue as long as the Indians are treated with ordinary justice. Efforts, for reasons heretofore again and again presented by me, no doubt will be made to disturb the quietude of the department, which I think will not succeed. The disposition of the troops is such as not only to prevent it, but to give protection to the white settlements, and to restrain the Indians should they exhibit indications to renew the war, which, from the information which I have received, I do not in the least apprehend. From the Indians east of The Dalles and the Cascade Range of mountains, no danger is anticipated. They will not interfere with the Whites, if the latter will only let them alone and not plunder them of their horses, cattle and women. If the money appropriated by Congress to preserve peace with the Indians could be properly applied and expended, I am confident there would be no future war with the Indians in the Pacific Department, unless unnecessarily and improperly provoked by the Whites, who have hitherto unjustly been the cause of all the Indian wars in California and Oregon, including the crusade of Governors Curry and Stevens against the Walla Walla tribe, etc., during the winter and summer of 1856."
The Indian country occupied by Colonel Steptoe was under an interdict. No Whites were allowed in it except the miners at Colvile and the Hudson's Bay Company's employés. There were no Whites there to interfere with the Indians. The country was occupied by General Wool's peaceable Indians and the United States regulars he had sent to Fort Walla Walla, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe.
Early in August, 1858, Indians of the Palouse tribe had stolen horses and cattle belonging to various persons, Indians and Whites, and had driven off thirteen head of beef cattle belonging to the garrison (1). The Spokane Indians, as Colonel Steptoe had been advised, were very restless. Forty persons living at Colvile had petitioned Colonel Steptoe for the presence of troops, as they believed their lives and property to be in danger from hostile Indians. The agent of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Colvile, in forwarding the petition, had joined in the complaint. Two white men on their way to the Colvile mines had been murdered near the Palouse river; and the names of the murderers had been furnished by a friendly Indian to Colonel Steptoe. These predatory acts,
letter of Lieutenant-Colonel E.J. Steptoe, April 17, 1858, to the adjutant-general
of the Department of the Pacific. Report of Secretary of War, 1858-59,
instigated by Kamiakin, had produced the intended effect. Upon the confirmation of the reports, Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe determined upon making an expedition to check further outbreaks, and, if possible, to adjust matters. On the 6th of May, the command consisted of three companies First U.S. Dragoons, viz.: Company C, Captain O.H. Taylor and Lieutenant James Wheeler, Jr.; Company E., Lieutenant William Gaston; Company H, Lieutenant D. McM. Gregg; also a detachment of twenty-five men of Company E, Ninth Infantry, Captain Charles S. Winder, in charge of two howitzers; Lieutenant H. B. Fleming, acting Assistant Quartermaster and Commissary, and Assistant Surgeon Randolph, - in all, five company officers and one hundred and fifty-two men. One hundred pack mules had been required for the transportation of the outfit. The last animal had been packed; but the ammunition remained on the ground without provision for its transportation. Strange as it may appear, instead of procuring another pack animal, that supply of ammunition, the one thing needful above all others, was reconveyed to the magazine; and that expedition started on its campaign into the hostile country with intent to make war, if necessary, without ammunition save what happened to be in the cartridge boxes of the soldiers.
The route was through what constituted the present counties of Columbia and Garfield, striking the Snake river at the mouth of Alpowa creek. At that point Timothy, a friendly Nez Perce chief, resided with his band. Since the first advent of the Whites to the region, he and his people had been the constant friends of our race. They ferried the command across Snake river; and Timothy, with three of his warriors, determined to accompany it. On May 16th, the expedition had passed north of Pine creek; and as it approached Four Lakes, the Indians, who had appeared in large numbers in front, became defiant. Insolently they informed Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe that if he proceeded farther north they would attack him. He parleyed with them, denied that any hostile intent actuated the expedition, and promised to turn back the next morning. He insisted that necessity for water compelled his camping for the night at the lakes. At three o'clock on the morning of the seventeenth, he started to return. By daylight the enemy surrounded him. Another talk between Steptoe and the Indians followed. Steptoe was talking with a Coeur d'Alene called Soltees. Father Joseph, their missionary priest, interpreted. The Coeur d'alene assured Steptoe that no attack would be made by the Indians. He then shouted something to his people. One of Timothy's friendly Nez Perces named Levi struck Soltees over the head with the handle of his whip, saying, "What for you tell Steptoe no fight, then say to your people, 'wait awhile.' You talk two tongues." A few minutes before the attack commenced, Father Joseph, the priest of Coeur d'Alene Mission, joined Colonel Steptoe (1) and informed him that most of the excitement among the hostile tribes was due to mischievous reports that the government intended to seize their lands, in proof of which they were invited to observe whether a party (Lieutenant Mullan) would not soon be surveying a road through the country. He also stated that the Coeur d'Alenes, Spokanes and Flatheads had bound themselves, each to the others, to massacre any party who should attempt to make such survey.
About nine o'clock, as the command was reaching Pine creek, which they approached through a ravine, the Indians fired upon them from the south side and from elevated points along their line of march. Lieutenant Gaston charged without waiting for orders, and cleared an opening to the highlands on the south, and was followed by the entire force. The howitzer was then unlimbered and brought into action. Two charges followed,
(1) Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe,
May 23, 1858. Report of Secretary of War, 1858-59, page 350.
in which two privates of Company E were wounded; and one of Timothy's friendly Nez Perces was killed by a soldier, who mistook him for a hostile. The retreat was resumed. Sergeant Williams of Company E, U.S. Dragoons, covering the extreme rear, was wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe was in advance with Company H, First Dragoons, and the pack animals. A detachment of Company C, Lieutenant Wheeler, was on the right. Lieutenant Gaston, with Company E, U.S. Dragoons, was on the left. Captain O.H. Taylor, with the remainder of his company (Company C), covered the rear. In that order, the retreat continued through the forenoon. The hostiles followed closely, gallantly held in check by Captain Taylor and Lieutenant Gaston. Against great numbers, they kept the enemy at bay until the ammunition was exhausted. Lieutenant Gaston sent forward a messenger to Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe to halt the command, and afford his men the opportunity to procure ammunition. The request was not noticed. The head of the column had reached Cache creek. Word was passed to the commander that Lieutenant Gaston had been killed. A halt was ordered; and, in the hand-to-hand encounter for his dead body, the hostiles secured its possession. Captain Taylor had also been numbered with the dead. In the struggle by his comrades to rescue his body from the savages, two of his company had been killed, and another severely wounded by an arrow. So demoralized had the soldiers become, that when Lieutenant Gregg called for volunteers to follow him in a charge, and relieve the rear guard, only ten responded. The enemy had temporarily withdrawn; and Colonel Steptoe went into camp on the spot where the rear guard had driven back the enemy. He threw out a strong picket line, and buried such of his dead as had not been abandoned during the retreat. A council of war decided to bury the howitzers, and throw away their stores and pack train, in the hope that the Indians would suspend the chase while the plunder was being distributed. The Indians were camped in the bottom, in plain sight. They had surrounded Steptoe's camp with Indian sentinels, and only awaited the coming morrow to surround and massacre that little force. One avenue of escape had been left unguarded; it was a difficult pass which the hostiles believed was unknown to the soldiers, and that was an impassable route for them to traverse by night. Timothy, the friendly Nez Perce chief, was thoroughly acquainted with it. The night was dark. When all had become still, he led the way; and the entire force mounted and followed in single file, as silently as possible, out through that unguarded pass. It was a rough and bitter experience for some of the helplessly wounded.
Colonel Gilbert, in his most
interesting "Historic Sketches of Walla Walla," has graphically described
that expedition on its outward march for hundreds of miles into an enemy's
country without ammunition, and its disastrous retreat. His compilation
of the details furnished by members of the ill-fated party is the authority
from which the foregoing has been substantially extracted. The painful
continuation of that perilous retreat is thus narrated: "The wounded of
each company were taken charge of by some of the comrades detailed for
that purpose; and several, so badly hurt as to be helpless, were tied upon
pack animals, to be carried along with the retreating force. Among the
latter were a soldier named McCrossen, whose back was broken, and Sergeant
Williams, who was shot through the hip. The latter begged for poison, and
to be left behind, preferring death to that terrible ride. He tried to
borrow a pistol from Lieutenant Gregg, with which to shoot himself. He
was then lashed to a horse; and a comrade led the animal. The torture of
this rough motion driving him to frenzy, he soon threw himself from the
moving rack and slipped down the animal's side. His comrades then loosened
the thongs binding him to the horse, and, riding away into the darkness, left him there calling upon them, in the name of God, to give him something with which to take his life. Poor McCrossen, with his broken spine, was tied upon a pack-saddle that turned on the mule's back; and he was precipitated between the animal's legs, when a soldier named Frank Poisle cut the lashings; and he, too, was left calling to his comrades, 'Give me something, for God's sake, to kill myself with.' Through that long, dark night, the retreating column followed, at a trot or gallop, the faithful chief upon whose judgment and fidelity their lives depended. The wounded, except those who could take care of themselves, were soon left for the scalping knife of the savage; and, seemingly with but one impulse, the long shadow-line of fugitives passed over the plains and hills towards Snake river and safety. Twenty-four hours later, they had ridden seventy-five miles, and reached that river about four miles down from where the Indian guide had lived, at the mouth of Alpowa creek. Going up the river to near Timothy's village, the chief placed his own people out as guards, and set the women of his tribe to ferrying the exhausted soldiers and their effects across the stream. This was not completed until near night of the next day. Of the twentieth, Steptoe's command met Captain Dent, Ninth Infantry, with supplies and reinforcements, on Pataha creek, where the road now leading from Dayton to Pomeroy crosses. Here the worn-out fugitives went into camp for a time to rest, and while there were overtaken by Lawyer, chief of the Nez Perces, at the head of a formidable war party, who wished the soldiers to go back with him and try it over again with the Northern Indians."
Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe made the following official report of that disastrous expedition:
"On the second instant, I informed
you of my intention to move northward with a part of my command. Accordingly,
on the sixth, I left here with Companies C, E and H, First Dragoons, and
E, Ninth Infantry, n all five company officers and one hundred and fifty-two
enlisted men. Hearing that the hostile Palouses were at Al-pow-on-ah, in
the Nez Perces' land, I moved to that point, and was ferried across Snake
river by Timothy, a Nez Perce chief. The enemy fled towards the north;
and I followed leisurely on the road to Colvile. On Sunday morning, the
sixteenth, when near the To-hoto-nim-me, in the Spokane country, we found
ourselves suddenly in the presence of ten or twelve hundred Indians of
various tribes, - Spokanes, Palouses, Coeur d'Alenes, Yakimas and some
others, - all armed, painted and defiant. I moved slowly along the bases
of several hills, which were all crowned by the excited savages. Perceiving
that it was their purpose to attack us in this dangerous place, I turned
aside and encamped, the whole wild, frenzied mass moving parallel to us,
and, by yells, taunts and menaces, apparently trying to drive us to some
initiatory act of violence. Towards night, a number of the chiefs rode
up to talk with me, and inquired what were our motives in this intrusion
upon them. I answered, that we were passing on to Colvile, and had no hostile
intentions towards the Spokanes, who had always been our friends, nor towards
any other tribes who were friendly; that my chief aim in coming so far
was to see the Indians and white people at Colvile, and, by friendly discussions
with both, endeavor to strengthen their good feelings for each other.
They expressed themselves satisfied, but would not consent to let me have
canoes, without which it would be impossible to cross the Spokane river.
I concluded for this reason to retrace my steps at once, and the next morning
(seventeenth) turned back towards the post. We had
not marched three miles when the Indians, who had gathered on the hills adjoining the line of march, began an attack on the rear guard; and immediately the fight became general.
"We labored under the great disadvantage of having to defend the pack-train while in motion and in a rolling country peculiarly favorable to the Indian's mode of warfare. We had only a small quantity of ammunition; but in their excitement the soldiers could not be restrained from firing in the wildest manner. They did, however, under the leading of their respective commanders, sustain well the reputation of the army for some hours, charging the enemy repeatedly with gallantry and success. The difficult and dangerous duty of flanking the column was assigned to Brevet Captain Taylor and Lieutenant Gaston, to both of whom it proved fatal. The latter fell at twelve o'clock; and the enemy soon after charging formally upon the company, it fell back in confusion and could not be rallied. About half an hour after this, Captain Taylor was brought in mortally wounded; upon which I immediately took possession of a convenient height and halted. The fight continued here with unabated activity, the Indians occupying neighboring heights and working themselves along to pick off our men. The wounded increased in number continually. Twice the enemy gave unmistakable evidence of a design to carry our position by assault; and their number and desperate courage caused me to fear the most serious consequences to us from such an attempt on their part. It was manifest that the loss of their officers and comrades began to tell upon the spirit of the soldiers; that they were becoming discouraged, and were not to be relied upon with confidence. Some of them were recruits who had but recently joined. Two of the companies had musketoons, which were utterly useless in our present condition; and, what was most alarming, only two or three rounds of cartridges remained to some of the men, and but few to any of them.
"It was plain that the enemy
would give the troops no rest during the night, and that they would be
still further disqualified for stout resistance on the morrow; while the
number of the enemy would certainly be increased. I determined, for these
reasons, to make a forced march to Snake river, about eighty-five miles
distant, and secure canoes in advance of the Indians, who had already threatened
to do the same in regard to us. After consulting with the officers, all
of whom urged me to the step as the only means in their opinion of securing
the safety of the command, I concluded to abandon everything that might
impede our march. Accordingly, we set out about ten o'clock in perfectly
good order, leaving the disabled animals and such as were not in a condition
to travel so far and so fast, and with deep pain I have to add the two
howitzers. The necessity for this last measure will give you, as well as
many words, a conception of the strait to which we believed ourselves to
be reduced. Not an officer of the command doubted but that we would be
overwhelmed with the first rush of the enemy upon our position in the morning.
To retreat further by day, with wounded men and property, was out of the
question, - to retreat slowly by night equally so, - as we could not then
be in condition to fight all next day. It was therefore necessary to relieve
ourselves of all incumbrances and to fly. We had no horses able to carry
the guns over eighty miles without resting; and, if the enemy should attack
us en route, as from their ferocity we certainly expected they would,
not a soldier could be spared for any other duty than skirmishing. For
these reasons, which I own candidly seemed to me more cogent at the time
than they do now, I resolved to bury the howitzers. What distresses me
is that no attempt was made to bring them off; and all I can add is that,
if this was an error of judgment,
it was committed after the calmest discussion of the matter, in which, I believe, every officer agreed with me.
"Inclosed is a list of the killed and wounded. The enemy acknowledges a loss of nine killed and forty or fifty wounded, many of them mortally. It is known to us that this is an underestimate; for one of the officers informs me that, on a single spot were Lieutenants Gregg and Gaston met in a joint charge, twelve dead Indians were counted. Many others were seen to fall.
"Report of the killed, wounded and missing in the battle at To-hoto-nim-me, May 17, 1858: Company C, First Dragoons' killed, Brevet Captain O.H. Taylor, Private Alfred Barnes; mortally wounded, Private Victor Charles deMoy; severely wounded, Privates James Lynch and Henry Mountreville; slightly wounded, Farrier Elijah R. Birch. Company E, First Dragoons; killed, Second Lieutenant William Gaston; mortally wounded, First Sergeant William C. Williams; severely wounded, James Kelly, William D. Micon, and Hariot Sneckster; slightly wounded, James Healy, Maurice Henly, Charles Hughes and John Mitchell. Company H, First Dragoons; killed, Privates Charles H. Harnish and James Crozet; missing, First Sergeant Edward Ball. Company E, Ninth Infantry; severely wounded, Private Ormond W. Hammond; slightly wounded, Privates John Klay and Gotleib Berger."
Lieutenant Gregg, who commanded Company H, First Dragoons, in the Steptoe disaster, thus referred to the fight:
"On Sunday morning, May 16th, on leaving camp, we were told that the Spokanes were assembled and ready to fight us. Not believing this, our march was continued until about eleven o'clock, when we found ourselves in the presence of six hundred warriors. The command was halted for the purpose of having a talk, in which the Spokanes announced that they had heard we had gone out for the purpose of wiping them out, and that if that was the case they were ready to fight us, and that we should not cross Spokane river. The Indians were well mounted, were armed principally with rifles, and were extended along one flank, at a distance of a hundred yards. After some talk, the Colonel told us we would have to fight; and we immediately put ourselves into position to move to better ground, determined that the Spokanes should fire the first gun. After marching a mile we reached a lake, where we held another talk with the Indians, from which nothing resulted except insulting demonstrations on their part. We dared not dismount, and were in the saddle three hours, until the setting of the sun dispersed the Indians.
"I was ordered to move forward
and occupy a hill that the Indians were making for; and after a close run
I gained it in advance. The Indians moved around and took possession of
another one commanding that which I occupied. Leaving a few men to hold
the first hill, I charged the second and drove them off. At this time the
action was general. The dragoons, numbering one hundred and ten men, were
fighting five hundred Indians. The companies were separated from each other
nearly a thousand yards, and fought entirely by making short charges. At
eleven o'clock I was reinforced by the howitzers; and the other dragoons
began to move towards the position, I held, the Indians pressing them closely.
As E company was approaching, a large body of Indians got between it and
my company. Seeing Lieutenant Gaston making preparations to charge them,
I charged at the same time. The result was that our companies met, having
the Indians in a right angle, where we left twelve dead Indians. After
getting together we kept up the fight for half an hour, and again started
forward to reach water, moving half a mile under constant fire, under which
Taylor and Gaston fell. We finally reached a hill
near the summit; and, the Indians having completely surrounded us, we dismounted and picketed our horses on the flat summit and posted our men around the crest, making them lie flat on the ground, as the Indians were threatening to charge the hill; but, although outnumbering us five to one, they could not succeed.
"We were kept in this position until nine P.M., when we mounted and left the hill; and after a ride of ninety miles, mostly at a gallop, and without a rest, we reached Snake river at Red Wolf's crossing, and were met by our friends, the Nez Perces.
"It will take a thousand men to go through the Spokane country."
The details concerning that expedition, as stated by eye-witnesses and participants in that sickening repulse to the intelligent and industrious author of "Historic Sketches of Walla Walla," have been admirably summed up into an interesting chapter. Several other statements made do not materially vary from that narrative. All agree: 1st. That the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe was very badly worsted by the hostiles, and that they made a very miraculous escape from the trap set by Kamiakin; and that it would have been much more magnanimous and creditable in the commander to have admitted how greatly he was indebted to the friendly Indian, Timothy, for that escape. 2d. That he was criminally negligent in starting upon such an expedition without ammunition. 3d. That he largely magnified the number of the hostiles by whom he was attacked; that Lieutenant Gregg's estimate is about correct as to the number in the hostile party; that the war party consisted of Spokanes, who furnished the largest number, Palouses, Coeur d'Alenes, Yakimas, Walla Wallas and Lower Pend d'Oreilles.
At the time of Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe's rout, Brevet Brigadier-General N.S. Clarke, U.S. Army, had succeeded General Wool as commander of the Department of the Pacific. Colonel Wright, on being advised of Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe's disastrous repulse from the Indian territory, at once informed the commanding general f the department of the situation: "That all the Indians in that section of the country have combined for a general war, there is no shadow of doubt. They are numerous, active, and perfectly acquainted with the topography of the country; hence, a large body of troops will be necessary if, as I presume, it is designed to bring the Indians under subjection, and signally chastise them for this unwarranted attack upon Colonel Steptoe. It is my opinion that one thousand troops should be sent into the country, thus enabling the commander to pursue the enemy in two or three columns." Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe reported: "From the best information to be obtained, about half of the Spokanes, Coeur d'Alenes, and probably the Flatheads, nearly all the Palouses, a portion of the Yakimas, and, I think, a small number of Nez Perces, with scattered bands of various petty tribes, have been for some time, and are now hostile."
On the 4th of July, 1858, General N.S. Clarke assigned to Colonel George Wright the command of the troops to be employed against the indians north and east of Fort Walla Walla. His orders were: "That Colonel Wright proceed to Fort Walla Walla, assume command of the troops, leave Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe a sufficient garrison to secure Walla Walla, and prepare to move with a column of not less than six hundred men, as soon as practicable after the 1st of August. The objects to be obtained are the punishment and submission of the Indians engaged in the late attack on the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe, and the surrender of the Palouse Indians who murdered two miners in April last. These men are known to Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe."
The Catholic Fathers Congeato
and Joset had made an appeal for amnesty to the Coeur d'Alenes, urging
their penitence and their representations that they had been
deceived by Kamiakin and the Nez Perces. General Clarke was willing to receive their submission; but he instructed Colonel Wright" "The delivery of the insubordinate Indians who fired on the troops, and the restoration of the howitzers abandoned by the troops, must be conditions precedent to any accommodation." General Clarke further instructed: "Your intention to declare martial law, and to forbid Whites to enter the Indian country, as soon as you cross snake river, has been made known to the commanding general. The absolute necessity to which such an act must appeal for its justification is not apparent; and the general forbids it. The Hudson's Bay Company has the right of entry, guaranteed by treaty; and this must not be denied them on the mere suspicion that some of the employés are ill disposed; and our own citizens, from whom no danger is to be apprehended, must not be injured in their interests."
General Clarke then adopted vigorous measures to stop the purchase by the Hudson's Bay Company's agent at Fort Colvile of horses and other property stolen from the United States, and the sale of ammunition to the Indians making war against the United States. The General had received letters from Colvile stating: "I met at Colvile the Coeur d'Alene chief, with some ten others of the same tribe. They came well mounted on United States horses and mules. They are offering the mules for sale. Some were bought by the Hudson's Bay Company. I told the gentleman in charge that I had no orders to stop it, but I did not think it right to furnish a market for stolen animals to the enemy. The Hudson's Bay Company's train (some two hundred head of horses) starts in a few days for Fort Hope for the year's outfit. I think they are to bring some two thousand pounds of powder, with a proportionate amount of ball. This, as a matter of course, will find its way into the hostile camp, or at least a large portion of it. The trade in ammunition might be stopped here; but, as the gentleman in charge told me, we could not prevent the company trading at Fort Forty-Nine, which is another post thirty miles above Colvile."
Sending copies of these to the officer in charge at Fort Vancouver, General Clarke protested against the continuance of such unfriendly, unlawful and contraband trade. It may also be added that James A. Graham, in charge at Fort Vancouver, and Governor James Douglas of Vancouver Island, co-operated promptly in checking the continuance of such acts by the employés of the company.
On the 6th of August, Colonel Wright negotiated a treaty with the Nez Perces, as follows: "1st. There shall be perpetual peace between the United States and the Nez Perce nation; 2d. In the event of war between the United States and any other people whatever, the Nez Perces agree to aid the United States to the extent of their ability; 3d. In the event of war between the Nez Perces and any other tribe, the United States agree to aid the Nez Perces with troops; 4th. When the Nez Perces take part with the United States in war, they shall be furnished with such arms, ammunition, provisions, etc., as shall be necessary; 5th. When the United States take part with the Nez Perces in war, they (the United States) will not require the Nez Perces to furnish anything to the troops unless paid for at a fair price; 6th. Should any misunderstanding arise hereafter between the troops and the Nez Perces, it shall be settled by their respective chiefs in friendly council."
Before proceeding to the campaign
of Colonel Wright in the country north and east of Walla Walla, the co-operative
campaign of Major Garnett in the Yakima country must be noticed. On the
18th of July, General Clarke, commander of the Department of the Pacific,
marched two companies of the Fourth Infantry from Fort Vancouver to Fort
Simcoe, to join Major Garnett's command. That officer was instructed: "Leave
sufficient force to garrison Fort Simcoe, and with the remainder take the field to punish the Indians who in June, 1858, attacked a party of miners in the Yakima country; and make such an impression upon and arrangements with those and other tribes, as will secure the lives of the Whites and their property. The tribe by whom the attack was made must deliver the individual offenders, or you must drive the whole to submission by severe punishment. Your rear must be secured from danger by hostages given for their good behavior. If they refuse to comply with this condition, they must be treated as hostiles. All must be driven to feel that, in the future, the demands of the government must meet with obedience. Kamiakin and Qualchen cannot longer be permitted to remain at large in the country. They must be surrendered or driven away. No accommodation must be made with any who will harbor them. Any tribe, the members of which give assistance to either of those troublesome Indians, will be considered as hostiles."
On the 15th of August, Major Garnett reported the death of Second Lieutenant Jesse K. Allen, Ninth Infantry. He fell that morning, having, in command of fifteen mounted men, accomplished the successful surprise of a hostile Yakima camp, capturing twenty-one men, accomplished the successful surprise of a hostile Yakima camp, capturing twenty-one men, fifty women and children, seventy head of horses and fifteen head of cattle, besides a large quantity of Indian property. Three of the men, having been identified as participants in the attack on the miners, were shot. Another party, detailed by Major Garnett, consisting of sixty men, commanded by Lieutenant Crook, Fourth Infantry, captured five of the hostiles who had attacked the miners; and they were shot. The remainder of the party had eluded their pursuers, crossed the Columbia, and had joined Owhi, Qualchen and Skloom.
On the 15th of August, Colonel Wright left Fort Walla Walla on his northern expedition. His force consisted of four companies of the First Dragoons, Major Wm. N. Grier; five companies of the Third Artillery, Captain Erasmus D. Keyes; two companies of the Ninth Infantry, Captain F.T. Dent; thirty friendly Nez Perces, Lieutenant John Mullan, - in all numbering six hundred men. Fort Taylor, named after Captain Taylor, who had fallen in Colonel Steptoe's engagement with the hostiles, had been erected on the left bank of the Snake river, at the mouth of the Tucanon. It was garrisoned by Brevet Major Wyse with one company of the Third Artillery. Two six pounders and two howitzers were mounted there. The expedition, which crossed the Snake river on the 25th and 26th of August and camped on the right bank of the river, consisted of five hundred and seventy regulars, thirty friendly Nez Perce Indians, one hundred employés, eight hundred animals, and subsistence for thirty-eight days. Advancing on the morning of the thirtieth, occasionally a few hostiles were seen on the hilltops on the right flank, increasing in numbers through the day, and moving in a parallel line with the troops. After a march of eighteen miles, the force encamped, when the Indians approached the pickets and commenced firing. Colonel Wright moved out with a portion of his command, and the Indians fled. He pursued them for four miles. On the next day the same tactics were pursued by the Indians, who were increasing in numbers. They made an attack on the supply train, but were dispersed and driven off by the rear guard.
On the 1st of September was fought
the Battle of Four Lakes, against the Spokane, Coeur d'Alene and Palouse
Indians. Early in the morning the hostiles were observed collecting upon
the summit of a hill, distant two miles. The troops were immediately ordered
under arms to drive the enemy and make a reconnaissance of the country
At half past nine A.M., Colonel Wright marched from camp with two squadrons of the First Dragoons, commanded by Brevet Major William N. Grier; four companies of the Third Artillery, armed with rifle muskets, commanded by Captain E.D. Keyes; the rifle battalion of two companies of the Ninth Infantry, commanded by Captain F.T. Dent; one mountain howitzer under command of Lieutenant J.L. White, Third Artillery; and thirty friendly Nez Perce Indian allies, under Lieutenant John Mullan, Second Artillery. The camp was guarded by Company M, Third Artillery, Lieutenants H.G. Gibson and G.B. Dandy, one mountain howitzer manned, and a guard of fifty-four men under Lieutenant H.B. Lyon, - the whole commanded by Captain J.A. Hardie, officer of the day. Major Grier, with the dragoons, advanced around the base of the hill occupied by the Indians, to intercept their retreat when driven from the summit by the troops on foot. Colonel Wright with the artillery, rifle battalion and Nez Perces marched to the right of the hill, where it was easiest of access, to push the Indians in the direction of the dragoons, and arrived within six hundred yards of the hill. Captain Keyes advanced Company K, Third Artillery, commanded by Captain E.O.C. Ord and Lieutenant Morgan, in co-operation with the Second Squadron of dragoons, commanded by Lieutenant Davidson, who drove the Indians to the foot of the hill, where they rallied under cover of ravines, trees and bushes.
The Indians kept up a constant fire upon the two squadrons of dragoons who awaited the arrival of the foot troops. In front was a vast plain where five hundred mounted warriors, wild with excitement, were rushing to and fro. To the right at the foot of the hill, the hostiles were to be seen in large numbers. Captain Keyes, with two companies of his battalion commanded by Lieutenants Ramson and Ihrie, with Lieutenant Howard, was ordered to deploy along the crest of the hills in the rear of the dragoons, and facing the plain. The rifle battalion, under Captain Dent, composed of two companies of the Ninth Infantry, under Captain Winder and Lieutenant Fleming, was ordered to move to the right and deploy in front of the pine forest. The howitzer, under Lieutenant White, supported by a company of the Third Artillery, Lieutenant Tyler, was advanced to the plateau. In five minutes the troops were deployed, and the advance ordered. Captain Keyes moved steadily down the long slope, passed the dragoons and opened a sharp fire which drove the hostiles to the plains and pine forest; while Captain Dent with the rifle battalion, the howitzer and Lieutenant Tyler's company of artillery, were hotly engaged with the Indians in the pine forest, whose number was being constantly augmented by the retreating fugitives from the left. Captain Keyes continued to advance, the Indians slowly retiring, and Major Grier leading his horses in the rear. At a signal the dragoons mounted and rushed with lightning speed through the intervals of skirmishers, and charged the Indians on the plain, completely routing and dispersing them. In the meantime the rifle battalion, and Company A, Third Artillery, with the howitzer, had driven the Indians from the forest. The Indians were pursued by the dragoons over the hills, where they halted to rest. But a few scattered Indians could be seen on the distant hilltops. They were sent out of sight by a couple of shots from the howitzer. The battle had been won without the loss of a man, either killed or wounded. The enemy lost twenty killed and as many more wounded. The troops had returned to camp by two o'clock in the afternoon.
On the fifth, Colonel Wright
fought the Battle of Spokane Plains. The enemy consisted of Spokanes, coeur
d'Alenes, Palouses and Pend d'Oreilles, numbering between five and seven
hundred warriors. Leaving camp at Four Lakes, at 6:30 on the morning of
fifth, the command followed the margin of a lake for three miles, and thence two miles over a broken country, thinly scattered with pines. Emerging on the open prairie, about three miles distant tot he right and in front, the hostiles were discovered, moving rapidly apparently with a view to intercept the command before it reached the timber. After a halt to close up the lengthy pack train, the column again advanced, and found that the Indians were setting fire to the grass at various points in front and upon the right flank. Captain Keyes was ordered to advance three companies deployed as skirmishers to the front and right. This order was promptly obeyed; and Company K, Captain Ord, Company M, Lieutenant Gibson, and Company A, Lieutenant Tyler, were thrown forward. Captain Hardie, Company G, Third Artillery, was deployed to the left; and the howitzer, under Lieutenant White, supported by Company E, Ninth Infantry, captain Winder, was advanced to the line of skirmishers. The Indians attacked in front and on both flanks. The prairie fires nearly enveloped the whole command, and were fast approaching the troops and the pack train. Not a moment was to be lost. The advance was ordered. Through the flames gallantly dashed the skirmishers, the howitzer and Major Grier's squadron of dragoons; whilst the Indians sought shelter in the forest and rocks. The howitzer was got into position; and Lieutenant White opened fire with shells, which soon drove the Indians out of cover, when they were again pursued. The pack train had been concentrated and guarded by Captain Dent.
A large body of Indians had been concentrated upon the left. The line moved quickly forward; and the firing became general throughout the front, which was occupied by Captains Ord and Hardie and Lieutenant Tyler, and the howitzer under Lieutenant White, with Lieutenant Gregg's squadron of dragoons, who were awaiting the opportunity to make a dash. Lieutenant Gibson at the same time, with Company M, Third Artillery, drove the Indians on the right front. An open prairie intervening Major Grier passed the skirmishers with his and Lieutenant Pender's companies of dragoons, charged the Indians, killing two and wounding three. The whole line and train advanced steadily, driving the Indians over rocks and through ravines. The point of direction having been changed to the right, captain Ord and his company on the extreme left of the skirmishers were confronted by a large number of the hostiles. They were charged by Captain Ord and driven successively from three high table rocks, where they had sought refuge. He pursued them until, approaching the train, he occupied the left flank. Captain Ord was assisted by Captain Winder and Lieutenants Gibson and White, who followed into the woods after him. Moving towards Spokane river, the Indians still in front, Lieutenants Ihrie and Howard, with Company B, Third Artillery, were thrown out on the right flank and instantly cleared the way. After a continuous fight for seven hours over a distance of fourteen miles, Colonel Wright camped on the Spokane, the troops having become exhausted by a fatiguing march of twenty-five miles without water, and having been for two-thirds of that distance under fire. The battle had been won. Two chiefs, and two brothers of the head chief, Spokane Garry, had been killed, besides many of lesser note. Colonel Wright's loss was one man slightly wounded.
On the sixth, Colonel Wright
remained at his camp, three miles below Spokane Falls. The enemy made no
hostile demonstrations, although numbers approached the opposite bank of
the river and intimated a desire to talk; but no direct communication was
had that day, the river being too wide, and also deep and rapid. Early
on the morning of the seventh, Colonel Wright advanced along the left bank
of the Spokane, and soon the Indians were on the opposite side. A talk
commenced with the friendly Nez Perces
and the interpreters. They said that Gary was near by, and that they and he desired an interview with the Colonel. A meeting was appointed at the ford, two miles above the falls.
The foregoing accounts of the battles fought by Colonel Wright are freely copied from the official reports. the attitude of those Indians, and the Clarke-Wright policy of dealing with the question, so diametrically opposed to that of General Wool, and the fact so apparent that all the present troubles were directly originated by the unpunished malcontents of the war of 1855-56, which never had been ended, makes it most interesting to embody the verbatim official reports.
Colonel Wright thus reported that interview: "I halted at the ford and encamped, soon after which Gary crossed over and came to me. He said that he had always been opposed to fighting, but that the young men and many of the chiefs were against him, and that he could not control them. I then told him to go back, and to speak as follows for me to all the Indians and their chiefs; 'I have met you in two bloody battles. You have been badly whipped. You have had several chiefs and many warriors killed or wounded. I have not lost a man nor animal. I have a large force. You Spokanes, Coeur d'Alenes, Palouses and Pend d'Oreilles may unite; but I can defeat you as badly as before. I did not come into this country to ask you to make peace. I came here to fight. Now, when you are tired of the war, and ask for peace, I will tell you what you must do. You must come to me with your arms, with your women and children, and everything you have, and lay them at my feet. You must put your faith in me and trust to my mercy. If you do this, I shall then dictate the terms upon which I will grant you peace. If you do not do this, war will be made on you this year and next, and until your nation shall be exterminated.'
"I told Gary that he could go and say, to all the Indians that he might fall in with, what I had said, and also say that, if they did as I demanded, no life should be taken. Gary promised to join me the following morning on the march.
"After my interview with Gary,
the chief Polotkin, with nine warriors, approached and desired an interview.
I received them. I found this warrior was the writer of one of the three
letters sent to you by Congeato; that he had been conspicuous in the affair
with Colonel Steptoe, and was the leader in the battles of the first and
fifth instants. They had left their rifles on the opposite bank. I desired
the chief and warriors to sit still, while two of his men were sent over
to bring me the rifles. I then told this chief that I desired him to remain
with me, with one of his men whom we recognized as having lately been at
Walla Walla with Father Ravelle, and who was strongly suspected of having
been engaged in the murder of the two miners in April last. I told the
chief that I wished him to send his other men, and bring in all of them,
with their arms and families. I marched at sunrise on the morning of the
eighth, and at the distance of nine miles discovered a cloud of dust in
the mountains to the front and right, and evidently a great commotion in
that quarter. I closed up the train, and left it guarded by a troop of
horse and two companies of foot. I then ordered Major Grier to push rapidly
forward with three companies of dragoons; and I followed with the foot
soldiers. The distance proved greater than was expected, deep ravines intervening
between us and the mountains; but the dragoons and Nez Perces under Lieutenant
Mullan were soon seen passing over the first hills. The Indians were driving
off their stock, and had gone so far into the mountains that our horsemen
had to dismount. After a smart skirmish, they succeeded in capturing at
least eight hundred head of horses; and, when the
foot troops had passed over the first mountain, the captured animals were seen approaching under charge of Lieutenant Davidson, with his men on foot, and the Nez Perces. The troops were then reformed and moved to this camp. I had previously sent an express to the pack train to advance along the river. After camping last evening, I investigated the case of the Indian prisoner, suspected of having been engaged in the murder of the two miners. The fact of his guilt was established beyond doubt; and he was hanged at sunset."
On the 10th of September, Colonel Wright received, from Father Joset of the Coeur d'Alene Mission, a dispatch announcing that the hostile Coeur d'Alenes were suing for peace. Colonel Wright thus reported his answer: "I have just sent off Father Joset's messenger. I said to the Father, that he could say to those who had not been engaged in this war, that they had nothing to fear; that they could remain in quiet with their women and children around them; to say to all Indians, whether Coeur d'Alenes, or belonging to other tribes, who have taken part in this unhappy war, that if they are sincere and truly desire a lasting peace, they must all come to me with their guns, with their families, and all they have, and trust entirely to my mercy; that I promise only that no life shall be taken for acts committed during the war. I will tell them what I do require before I grant them peace. As I reported, in my communication of yesterday, the capture of eight hundred horses on the eighth instant, I have now to add that this large band of horses composed the entire wealth of the Palouse chief Til-co-ax. This man has ever been hostile; for the last two years he has been constantly sending his young men into the Walla Walla valley, and stealing horses and cattle from the settlers and from the government. He boldly acknowledged these facts when he met Colonel Steptoe in May last. Retributive justice has now overtaken him; and the blow has been severe but well merited. I found myself embarrassed with these eight hundred horses. I could not hazard the experiment of moving with such a train; should a stampede take place, we might not only lose our captured animals, but many of our own. Under these circumstances, I determined to kill them all, save a few for service in the quartermaster's department and to replace broken down animals."
Colonel wright reached Coeur d'Alene Mission on the fourteenth. He reported: "I found the Indians here in much alarm as to the fate which awaited them; but happily they are no quieted. Father Joset has been extremely zealous and persevering in bringing in the hostiles. They are terribly frightened; but last evening and to-day they have been coming in quite freely with their women and children, and turning over to the quartermaster such horses, mules, etc., as they have, belonging to the United States.
"The hostile Spokanes have, many of them, gone beyond the mountains and will not return this winter. The Palouses, with their chiefs Kamiakin and Til-co-ax, are not far off; but it is doubtful whether they will voluntarily come in. If they do not, I shall pursue them as soon as I can settle with the Coeur d'Alenes.
"The chastisement which these Indians have received has been severe but well merited, and was absolutely necessary to impress them with our power. For the last eighty miles, our route has been marked by slaughter and devastation. Nine hundred horses and a large number of cattle have been killed or appropriated to our own use. Many horses, with kamas, and great quantities of dried berries, have been destroyed. A blow has been struck which they will never forget.
"On the seventeenth instant,
the entire Coeur d'Alene nation having assembled at my camp near the mission,
I called them together in council. I then stated to them
the cause of my making war upon them. I made my demand specifically: 1st. That they should surrender to me the men who commenced the attack on Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe, contrary to the orders of their chiefs; 2d. That they should deliver up to me all public or private property in their possession, whether that abandoned by Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe, or received from any other source; 3d. That they should allow all white persons to travel at all times through their country unmolested; 4th. That, as security for their future good behavior, they should deliver to me one chief and four men with their families, as hostages, to be taken to Fort Walla Walla. After a brief consultation, they announced their determination to comply with all my demands in every particular, in sincerity and good faith. All the Coeur d'Alene nation, with the exception of some six or eight, were present at the council; and, as an evidence that they had previously determined to make peace on any terms, they brought with them their families, and willing to submit to such terms as I should dictate. The chiefs and head men came forward and signed the preliminary articles of a treaty of peace and friendship, and in the course of the day fulfilled, as far as practicable, my demands, by delivering up horses, mules and camp equipage. The chiefs and head men expressed great grief and apparently sincere repentance for their misconduct, which had involved them in a war with the United States. I have never witnessed such a unanimity of feeling, nor such manifestations of joy, as were expressed by the whole Coeur d'Alene nation, men, women and children, at the conclusion of the treaty. They know us; they have felt our power; and I have full faith that henceforth the Coeur d'Alenes will be our staunch friends.
"I marched from the Coeur d'Alene Mission on the morning of the eighteenth, having with me the prisoners, hostages, and many other Coeur d'Alenes as guides, etc.
"Marching from my camp on the morning of the twenty-second, at the distance of three miles we emerged from the woods onto the open prairie, and, after pursuing a west-southwest course for eighteen miles over a rolling country thinly studded with pines, we reached this place and encamped.
"Before reaching here I was advised that the whole Spokane nation were at hand, with all their chiefs, head men and warriors, ready and willing to submit to such terms as I should dictate.
"Yesterday at ten o'clock A.M., I assembled the Indians in council; and, after enumerating the crimes they had committed, I made the same demands upon them which had been made upon the Coeur d'Alenes.
"Speeches were made by the principal chiefs. They acknowledged their crimes, and expressed great sorrow for what they had done, and thankfulness for the mercy extended them. They stated that they were all ready to sign the treaty, and comply in good faith with all its stipulations.
"The chiefs Gary, Polotkin and
Mil-kap-si were present; the first two are Spokanes; the last is a Coeur
d'Alene. It will be recollected that each of those men wrote a letter to
the general in August last. That of Mil-kap-si was particularly significant,
haughty and defiant in tone, and stated that he was willing to make peace
if we desired, it, but that he was unwilling to take the initiative.
This man was not present when the treaty was made with the Coeur d'Alenes.
Now he comes in and humbly asks for peace, and that he may be allowed to
sign the treaty. I granted his request; but I took occasion before the
whole council to remind him of his letter to General Clarke, and to say
to him that we had not asked for peace.
"Among this assemblage of Spokane Indians were representatives from the Calespelles and some other small bands, who stated that they had not engaged personally in the war, but that some of their young men had been in the fights. I did not make any special treaty with them, but told them that they might consider themselves on the same footing as the Spokanes, so long as they refrained from war, and conformed to the articles of the Spokane treaty.
"The entire Spokane nation, chiefs, head men and warriors expressed great joy that peace was restored, and promised, before the Great Spirit, to remain our true friends forevermore. They have suffered; they have felt us in battle; and I have faith that they will keep their word.
"At sunset on September 23d, the Yakima chief Owhi presented himself before me. He came from the lower Spokane river, and told me that he had left his son Qual-chen at that place. I had some dealings with this chief Owhi when I was on my Yakima campaign in 1856. He came to me when I was encamped on the Nahchess river, and expressed great anxiety for peace, and promised to bring in all his people at the end of seven days. He did not keep his word, but fled over the mountains. I pursued him, and he left the country. I have never seen him from that time until last evening. In all this time he has been considered as semi-hostile; and no reliance could be placed on him.
"This man Qual-chen spoken of above is the son of Owhi. His history for three years pst is too well known to need recapitulation. He has been actively engaged in all the murders, robberies and attacks upon the white people since 1855, both east and west of the Cascade Mountains. He was with the party who attacked the miners on the Wenatche river in June last, and was severely wounded; but, recovering rapidly, he has since ben committing assaults on our people whenever an opportunity offered. Under these circumstances, I was very desirous of getting Qual-chen in my power. I seized Owhi and put him in irons. I then sent a messenger for Qual-chen desiring his presence forthwith, with the notice that if he did not come I would hang Owhi. Qual-chen came to me at nine o'clock this morning; and at 9:15 A.M. he was hanged.
"On the 23d, Brevet Major Grier, with three troops of dragoons, went to Colonel Steptoe's battle ground, twelve miles south of this place. He returned on the 25th bringing the remains of Captain Taylor and Lieutenant Gaston, who fell in the battle, and also the two howitzers abandoned by the troops when they retreated.
"On the evening of the twenty-fifth, many of the Palouse Indians began to gather in my camp. they represented themselves as having been in both battles, and that, when Kamiakin fled over the mountains, they seceded from his party, and were now anxious for peace. I seized fifteen of them; and, after a careful investigation of their cases, I found that they had left their own country and waged war against the forces of the United States, and that one of them had killed a sergeant of Colonel Steptoe's command, who was crossing the Snake river. I had promised those Indians severe treatment if found with the hostiles; and accordingly six of the most notorious were hanged on the spot. The others were ironed for the march.
"I left my camp on the Ned-whauld (Lahtoo), on the morning of the twenty-sixth, and after a march of four cold, rainy days, reached this place (Palouse river) last evening.
"On the twenty-seventh, I was
met by the Palouse chief, Slow-i-archy. This chief has always lived at
the mouth of the Palouse, and has numerous testimonials of good character,
and has not been engaged in hostilities. He has about twenty-five men,
women and children, probably one hundred in all. He told me that some of his young men had, contrary to his advice, engaged in the war, but that they were all now assembled and begging for peace. Slow-i-archy had five men with him; and he dispatched two of them, the same day he met me, high up the Palouse to bring in the Indians from that quarter, whom he represented as desirous of meeting me.
"After I encamped last evening, Slow-i-archy went down the river about two miles and brought up all his people, men, women and children, with all the property they had; and, early this morning, a large band of Palouses, numbering about one hundred men, women and children, came in from the Upper Palouse. These comprise pretty much all the Palouses left in the country. A few have fled with Kamiakin, who is represented as having gone over the mountains and crossed Clark's fork.
"After calling the Palouses in council, I addressed them in severe language, enumerated their murders, thefts and war against the United States troops. I then demanded the murderers of the two miners in April last. One man was brought out and hanged forthwith. two of the men who stole the cattle from the Walla Walla valley were hanged at my camp on the Ned-whauld; and one of them was killed in the Battle of Four Lakes. All the property they had, belonging to the government, was restored. I then brought out my Indian prisoners, and found three of them were either Walla Wallas or Yakimas. They were hanged on the spot. One of the murderers of the miners had been hanged by the Spokanes.
"I then demanded of these Indians one chief and four men, with their families, to take to Fort Walla Walla as hostages for their future good behavior. They were presented and accepted.
"I told these Indians that I would not make any written treaty of peace with them; but, if they performed all I required of them, the next spring a treaty should be made with them.
"I said to them that white people should travel through their country unmolested. That they should apprehend and deliver up every man of their nation who had been guilty of murder or robbery. All this they promised me. I warned them that, if I ever had to come into this country again on a hostile expedition, no man should be spared; that I would annihilate the whole nation.
"I have treated these Indians severely; but they justly deserved it all. They will remember it."
Colonel Wright added: "The war
is closed. Peace is restored with the Spokanes, coeur d'Alenes and Palouses.
After a vigorous campaign, the Indians have been entirely subdued, and
were most happy to accept such terms of peace as I might dictate. Results:
1. Two battles were fought by the troops under my command, against the
combined forces of the Spokanes, Coeur d'Alenes and Palouses, in both of
which the Indians were signally defeated, with a severe loss of chiefs
and warriors, either killed or wounded; 2. One thousand horses, and a large
number of cattle were captured from the hostile Indians, all of which were
either killed or appropriated to the service of the United States; 3. Many
barns filled with wheat or oats, also several fields of grain, with numerous
of vegetables, dried berries and kamas, were destroyed, or used
by the troops; 4. The Yakima chief, Owhi, is in irons; and the notorious
war chief, Qual-chen, was hanged. The murderers of the miners, the cattle
stealers, etc. (in all, eleven Indians), were hanged; 5. The Spokanes,
Coeur d'Alenes and Palouses have been entirely subdued, and have sued most
abjectly for peace on any terms; 6. Treaties have been made with
the above-named nations. They have restored all property which was in their possession, belonging either to the United States or to individuals. They have promised that all white people can travel through their country unmolested, and that no hostile Indians shall be allowed to pass through or remain among them; 7. The Indians who commenced the battle with Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe contrary to the orders of their chiefs have been delivered to the officer in command of the United States troops; 8. One chief and four men, with their families, from each of the above-named tribes, have been delivered to officer in command of the United States troops, to be taken to Fort Walla Walla and held as hostages for the future good conduct of their respective nations; 9. The two mounted howitzers abandoned by the troops under Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe have been recovered."
General Clarke, in his closing
report of those operations which secured peace and put at rest Indian outbreaks,
murders and robberies in the Yakima and Walla Walla countries, and enabled
both to be opened to settlement, thus remarked: "Some time since I was
persuaded that the treaties made by Governor Stevens, Superintendent of
Indians Affairs for Washington Territory, with the Indian tribes east of
the Cascade Range, should not be confirmed. Since then circumstances have
changed, and with them my views. The Indians made war and were subdued.
By the former act, they lost some of their claims to consideration; and,
by the latter, the government is enabled and justified in taking such steps
as may give the best security for the future."