Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 3/The First Oregon Cavalry


"Lest we forget, lest we forget."

From the period of its earliest settlement to 1849 Oregon had no military history, if we except the several months spent in the Cayuse country by a few hundred volunteers after the massacre of 1847. The punishment received by the Cayuses left them so reduced in numbers that, even had they wished to make war, they were unable without the support of the neighboring tribes, particularly of their relatives, the Nez Perces. But a vengeful spirit was cherished toward their conquerors, which they imparted to the Shoshones in the Snake-river country, which was laying the foundation of future wars.

When Governor Lane arrived in the newly established territory in the spring of 1849 he brought with him the remnant of his escort, consisting of a lieutenant, G. W. Hawkins, and five men, the main detachment having deserted en route. Early in May, however, the United States steamer Massachusetts, commanded by Captain Wood, arrived in the Columbia with two artillery companies, under Brev. Maj. J. S. Hathaway, who encamped with one company at Vancouver, leaving the other with Capt. B. H. Hill at Astoria, comfortably quartered in the building erected in 1846 by the crew of the wrecked United States vessel Shark. The whole force numbered but one hundred and sixty-one men and officers; but the Indians on Puget Sound being threatening, it was determined between Governor Lane and Major Hathaway to establish a post near Nisqually, and accordingly the artillerymen under Captain Hill were removed in July to the Sound, and a post erected at Steilacoom.

At the same time the long delayed Mounted Rifle Regiment, commanded by Brev. Col. W. W. Loring, was on its way from Fort Leavenworth to Oregon. It arrived, as much of it as was left by desertion, deaths, and detachments, in October. This regiment, when it left Fort Leavenworth, numbered six hundred men, thirty-one commissioned officers, some women and children, with guides, agents, helpers and teamsters a large number. There were one hundred and sixty-one wagons in the train, one thousand and two hundred mules, and seven hundred horses. For all these men and animals subsistence had to be carried.

At Laramie a post was established and provisioned. At or near Fort Hall a cantonment was erected and also partially provisioned. Owing to the failure to arrive on time of a supply train from the Willamette under Lieutenant Hawkins, Colonel Loring's command, which had pushed on to meet it, was reduced nearly to the point of starvation, Hawkins having taken the southern route and missed making the rendezvous. When the regiment reached The Dalles many of the men were barefoot and their horses too weak to carry them. In such sorry plight were the Oregon Riflemen who, in Mexico, had covered themselves with glory. At The Dalles they found no better means of transportation than mackinaw boats, canoes, and a yawl or two. Several men were drowned in attempting to run the Cascade rapids on a raft. Those who crossed the Cascade Mountains by the Mount Hood road with the wagons and the herds suffered severe hardships. Forest fires, steep hills, worn-out and perishing stock, all conspired to add to their miserable condition. The teamsters were not men bred to the service, but adventurers picked up at Leavenworth who were seeking opportunities to get to the California gold mines. The regiment also was largely recruited from this class of men. The deaths and desertions on the march numbered seventy men enough for a company. The other losses by the way were thirty horses and nearly three hundred mules. Forty-five wagons and one ambulance were among the abandoned property.

On arriving at their journey's end no quarters were found prepared for their reception at Vancouver, and as winter with its rains was setting in the soldiers were quartered as best they could be at Oregon City. Their presence in the metropolis of Oregon was anything but delightsome to its inhabitants, who were soon made as unhappy by the advent of troops as they had been previously by the want of them. When spring opened there was a wholesale desertion of one hundred and twenty riflemen organized into a company, which, by rapid marching for two or three days, kept in advance of a proclamation by the governor warning the farmers, off whom the deserters expected to live, not to trust or harbor them. Their well concerted plan was to pass themselves off as a company sent out by the government to purchase beef cattle on government credit.

Lane and Loring overtook one division in the valley of the Umpqua, the governor returning to Oregon City with seventy men in charge. The forward division reached Klamath Kiver before it was overtaken by Colonel Loring, and thirty-five men escaped by canoe across to the south side. With the remainder, which was in a miserable condition from insufficient food and hard traveling in snow, he returned after a two weeks' forced march, leaving the fugitives to their fate, which undoubtedly was death to some, if not all of them. Soon after this incident the artillerymen were removed from Vancouver to Astoria, and the riflemen put to work erecting quarters at the former place, by order of Gen. Persifer F. Smith, commanding the Pacific division. The quartermaster who superintended the erection of Fort Vancouver was Capt. Rufus Ingalls, long and well known in Oregon.

The construction of barracks for the accommodation of the riflemen and also for troops expected in the autumn, was a task more difficult than might have been anticipated. Mechanical skill of any sort had never been a feature of pioneer life; but whatever assistance the Oregonians might have given the army at other times, was reduced to nought by the absence of the working element in the mines of California. For the same reason (the great demand made by mining), lumber was scarce and high priced. Captain Ingalls had, therefore, to make the best use he could of the abandoned buildings of the Hudson's Bay Company, and to pay the soldiers wages in addition to their regular pay to induce them to perform the labor of cutting down timber and rafting it to Vancouver. With the help of the Hudson's Bay Company, however, a sufficient number of buildings were erected or leased to shelter the troops in Oregon and on the road.

It was impossible at this time to secure a title to the site (the United States land law not having been passed), except by purchase or lease of the possessory rights of the British fur company. A lease was accordingly taken by the chief of the quartermaster's department, Maj. H. D. Vinton, of the site of Vancouver, which became and remains the military headquarters for the Columbia region. The same course was pursued at Steilacoom with regard to the site of a fort.

A post was established at The Dalles, where two companies of the rifle regiment were stationed in the spring of 1850, under command of Maj. S. S. Tucker. A post was in contemplation in Southern Oregon, but the temptation to desertion on the road to the gold mines was too great, and the design was abandoned for the time. Cantonment Loring, being found to be too far from a base of supplies, and forage scarce, was evacuated. Thus, Oregon began its military history with a few companies of artillerymen and riflemen to maintain the peace from Astoria to the South Pass, and from the forty-second to the forty-ninth parallel. The government was not prepared, nor was the army department equipped for such extensive and expensive service. The outlay was enormous in proportion to the population guarded; and to troops drawn from forts east of the Rocky Mountains, the transfer was unwelcome.

The Oregon trail, which for several seasons following the Cay use war had been practically deserted, after the passage of the rifle regiment began to be again traveled, and in 1852 the immigration to Oregon was large. Indian outrages increased, provoked not only by the invasion of every part of the country by explorers and settlers, but by the presence of soldiery,—the presumption being that fighters were here to fight, and the Indians desired to secure the advantage of a first blow.

Not only had the government provided fighting men, but peacemakers in the appointment, in 1850, of a superintendent of Indian affairs (Anson Dart, of Wisconsin), and three agents. It is not intended in this article to give a history of Indian treaties, but only to indicate the general course of events by referring to the effect of certain acts of government agents.

That part of the country most rapidly settling up was the rich and well watered valley region west of the Cascade Mountains and south of the Columbia River. No trouble was had with the Indians of the Willamette, they being but miserable fragments of tribes, more or less accustomed to white neighbors. But the Umpqua and Rogue River valleys and the coast region were unsubdued, and were inhabited by warlike tribes whose practice had been from time immemorial to rob and kill. White men, whether travelers, settlers, or gold hunters, feared and hated them, and oftentimes the transient classes, animated by fear, killed the wild man on sight with as little compunction of conscience as they would have felt at killing any wild animal. The Indians, on their side, without taking into account that they had been the aggressors in the first instance, revenged themselves by massacres in the white settlements, and war became necessary. That has been the history of the subdual of the American continent from the Atlantic to Pacific, let apologists on either side say what they will.

It has been charged upon the Oregon people that they provoked Indian wars by wilfully wronging in various ways the innocent natives. That the charge is untrue is clear when it is remembered that, situated as they were for years, without protection, they dared not, had they desired, offer violence to the natives. It is true that the presence of the Hudson's Bay Company while it was in power restrained the Indians and the white men as well. It was after the arrival of the United States government officers that wars became unavoidable, the necessity increasing from year to year in the manner just referred to.

The rifle regiment, having proven a disturbance to the people rather than a protection, was removed in 1851 to California, the Oregonians believing that if armed they could protect themselves at less expense to the government than that required to transport and supply regular troops. This probably was a wrong move, for it placed the settlers and the natives in opposition to each other as they had not been before. Hostilities opened by the Rogue River Indians gathering to attack a division of the riflemen under Major Kearney on its way to California, and exploring for a road that would avoid the Umpqua canyon. Kearney attacked them in a fortified position at Table Rock, and was compelled to fall back while a detachment was hurried up, with a volunteer company from mining camps and settlements, when two engagements of several hours duration each were fought, the Indians losing heavily, and the riflemen having several men wounded beside losing one officer Capt. James Stuart. This was the beginning of a long series of outrages and a protracted Indian war which was ended only by the final conquest of the southern tribes of western Oregon in 1856.

From 1851, when the territory was left with only two skeleton companies of artillerymen, and they on Puget Sound, for a period of fifteen years there was a succession of "wars," with a continually disturbed condition in some part of the country. The "wars" after 1855 were chiefly north of the Columbia, and thus in the territory of Washington; but the governors of the two divisions of old Oregon chose to make a common interest of Indian affairs, and did so. Military affairs, which formerly were managed by the commander of the department of the Pacific, were in 1858 transferred to the department of Oregon under command of General Harney, whose ideas of Indian affairs in any department were more in consonance with the popular view than those of any general yet assigned to the Columbia region. By his order the country closed to settlement or occupation east of the Cascade Mountains was opened, exploration for roads was carried on, and settlement encouraged. Immigration began again to flow along the Oregon trail. Murders and outrages increased. Incursions of Indians from Nevada preyed upon the growing cattle industry of Eastern Oregon, and miners were compelled to go armed at all times.

Such was the situation in Oregon and Washington when civil war threatened the republic, and the government was calling in the army from the outlying posts. In 1861 less than seven hundred regulars, with nineteen commissioned officers, were left in Oregon and Washington to garrison eight forts and temporary posts, located at Colville, Walla Walla, The Dalles, Cascades, Vancouver, Yamhill, Steilacoom, and San Juan Island. Col. George Wright was placed in command of the district of Oregon and Washington, and instructed to do the best he could with this "corporal's guard.' To the governors and people he apologized for the country's abandonment at so critical a time, when Indian difficulties surrounded them, and disunion plots were scarcely concealed in their midst.

Hitherto the prejudice of the regular army against volunteer organizations had operated to prevent the defense of mineral districts and the routes of immigration, although when news came of some fresh outrage, the settlements nearest to the scene usually hurried out a company, without waiting to get the news to Vancouver. Of all the commanders, except Harney, who had been at the head of military affairs in Oregon, Colonel Wright was the most popular. He foresaw that he was likely at any time to be ordered East, and that the country was liable to be the scene of internal discord as well as border warfare, and set about arranging for its protection.

In the summer of 1861 Wright made a requisition upon Governor Whiteaker for a cavalry company, to be enlisted for three years, unless sooner discharged, and to serve in the United States army, under its rules and regulations, the only exception being that the men should furnish their own horses, for the use or loss of which they would be compensated. Suspicion attaching to the governor of disunion sentiments, a doubt also extended to the enrolling officer, the attempt failed, and the enlisted men were discharged, on which Wright departed so far from military etiquette as to summon together the loyal young men of the state and address them in camp at Oregon City, appealing to their patriotism to organize for services in the field, even to fight Indians, in order to release the regular troops for immediate duty in the East.

There was, indeed, no difficulty about raising one or more regiments of the best blood in the state for services in the East, to which their loyalty and their ambition prompted them; but not a man of them at this time wanted to fight Indians. He wanted to get at a "foeman worthy of his steel." They were in this mood when Wright was transferred to California to suppress rebellion in the southern part of that state, and Lieutenant Colonel Cady, of the Seventh United States Infantry, took command of the District of Oregon. Promotions were rapid during this period of military history. Before the end of the year Colonel Wright was made brigadier general and given the command of the Department of the Pacific.

As troops continued to be withdrawn from the several Oregon posts, General Wright replaced them with volunteer companies from California. Three hundred and fifty Californians were divided between Forts Yamhill and Steilacoom, and soon after five companies arrived which were stationed at The Dalles, Fort Walla Walla, and Fort Colville.

This was a rebuke the loyal youth of the state could understand; and when in November, 1861, the war department made Thomas R. Cornelius, of Hillsboro (veteran of the Cayuse and Yakima wars), a colonel, directing him to raise ten companies of cavalry for three years' service, there was no further hesitation. Although expecting to be sent into the field against the Indians to get a seasoning, it was believed that when they had learned the trade of war they would be sent East to fight the battles of their country should it come to that at last. Said one of them to me years ago in reviewing this early history, "It was thought as soon as we should become disciplined, if the war should continue, we would be taken East should there be no war on this coast. For my own part I should have gone to the army of the Missouri but for this understanding."

The regimental officers of the First Oregon Cavalry after the colonel were R. F. Maury, lieutenant colonel; C. S. Drew", major; J. S. Einearson, junior major, and Benjamin F. Harding, quartermaster and mustering officer. The pay for each man and horse was $31 a month; $100 bounty at the expiration of service, with a land warrant for one hundred and sixty acres. Camps were established in Clackamas, Marion, and Jackson counties. The first company, A, raised was in Jackson County, T. S. Harris, captain; the second company, B, in Marion County, E. J. Harding, captain; Company C was raised at Vancouver, William Kelly, captain; Company D in Jackson County, S. Truax, captain; Company E in Wasco County, George B. Currey, captain; Company F chiefly in Josephine County, William J. Matthews, captain. Adjutant, Richard S. Caldwell; surgeon, William H. Watkins; assistant surgeon, commissioned in April, 1862, was David S. Holton, and quartermaster, commissioned in February, 1862, was David W. Porter. The first lieutenants commissioned in 1861 were Jesse Robinson, Seth Hammer, John M. Drake, David P. Thompson; in January, 1862, William V. Rinehart and Frank B. White.

The second lieutenants commissioned in 1861 were John W. Hopkins, Charles Hobart, and John M. McCall; early in 1862 Peter Fox, William Kapus, James L. Steele, and D. C. Underwood. These names, still well remembered in Oregon, are those of the original First Oregon Cavalry officers. During the three years' service some changes occurred, but the regiment remained practically the same for its full term.

The winter of 1861-'62 was one of extreme cold with heavy snows. Miners who attempted to stay through the season in their camps were driven out by the prospect of starvation, and frozen to death, or killed by Indians on the trail, when they became food for the famished savages. The spring floods brought down many bodies of, or fragments of bodies, of these unhappy adventurers, warning the volunteers of the nature of the foes they were to encounter.

Volunteering went on tardily through the winter, with headquarters at Vancouver. Eastern Oregon furnished but forty men, recruited at The Dalles by Captain Currey, and brought up to the standard by detachments from other companies . This was the first company in the field, a detachment being sent out early in March, by the commanding officer at The Dalles, to find and search a camp of Indians from the Simcoe Reservation suspected of murdering a party of miners on John Day River. No evidence being found in their camp, the detachment returned from a disagreeable march on the fifth day, having performed the first scouting duty of the regiment, between the eighth and twelfth of March inclusive.

Captain Currey was not only an indefatigable officer and good cavalryman, but a man possessed of a poetic and literary turn of mind which is seldom found in connection with the more active qualities. He was a sort of Oregon "Teddy Roosevelt" in temperament, but unhappily for him, deprived of the opportunity to shine. This deprivation, that came from his being in the Oregon cavalry, which he had joined in the hope and expectation of being sent to fight for loyalty to his country, as time dragged on through the weary three years in the Indian service became an actual grief to him. This is apparent in his report. But some of his private letters written twenty years after the close of the war are touching expressions of his disappointment. That he performed his duty well, and not only he, but the whole regiment, with few exceptions, should not be forgotten by the passing, nor unknown to the rising generations.

There was this peculiar feature about the cavalry regiment that distinguishes it from other military organizations. Besides being the voluntary offering of the best homes of the state to the service of the country, the men who composed it pledged themselves at the beginning to temperance and pure living. If any violated their pledge it was never reported.

Among those whom I have personally known is Hon. James A. Waymire, son of that worthy pioneer, Fred Waymire, of Polk County, known as the "apostle of democracy' and "watch dog of the treasury" in territorial times. James was a smooth-faced, rosy-cheeked lad, having scarcely attained his majority when he entered the service as a private in Company B, in December, 1861. He was mustered in as second lieutenant April 13, 1863, and assigned to duty with Company D, in which capacity he served until the disbandment of the regiment in the autumn of 1864.

Lieutenant Waymire in his report to Adj. Gen. Cyrus A. Reed has this passage: "I will say here that from my personal knowledge I know that a great majority of the men who composed the First Oregon Cavalry were young men acting from a conviction of patriotic duty. They left pleasant homes and profitable occupations to take up arms, not only in defense of our frontiers against the Indians, but also to assist in preventing or countenancing any movement on-the Pacific Coast in favor of the attempt to dissolve the Union; they also hoped that should the war prove a long one, and should there be no serious difficulty here they would, after becoming drilled and disciplined, be ordered East to engage in active service there. That they have fought no great battles, nor won any important victories, is the misfortune and not the fault of the Oregon volunteers." It indeed required of such men, and under such circumstances as the adjutant general declared in his report, as much patriotism to absent themselves from civilized society, and encounter the hardships and privations of frontier savage warfare, as did any service they could be Called upon to render.

It was midsummer of 1862 before all the six companies were uniformed, armed and mounted. The Dalles company was ordered about the last of March to Camp Barlow, near Oregon City, to be uniformed, and it was July before it was clothed for the service, although in May it was sent to Fort Walla Walla to do garrison duty. The summer was spent in patroling the region about the fort, arresting Indians who violated their .treaty obligations, and performing escort duty on the Oregon Trail, or to the mines. Detachments went to Coeur d'Alene Mission, Fort Colville, Umatilla Indian Reservation, and to the mouth of Palouse River to guard a depot of government freight intended for Fort Colville. In this way the eighty men in Company E were kept on duty and in motion.

In August Captain Currey was ordered to proceed to Grand Ronde and arrest three Indian chiefs who were driving settlers from their claims and tearing down their houses. When found and told that they were wanted by the commanding officer at Fort Walla Walla, they answered that they were on their own land, and if the officer desired to see them, he must come there. During the parley, other Indians gathered about, and Captain Currey, seeing that to fulfill his orders force would have to be used, entered the lodge of the principal chief with the intention of binding them. On this two of the Indians made demonstrations with rifle and revolver, and their motions being less quick and certain than the white man's, both were shot. At the same time exchanges of shots were going on outside, two Indians being killed and another wounded. At this reverse, the band fled, and the troops were ordered to cease firing, while word was sent to them to return and bury their dead; Captain Currey explaining to them that he had not come with the intention of killing any of them, but that he must obey orders, and their armed resistance had brought on the fight. A report of the affair was sent to General Wright, who approved. This was one form of service. Another was scouting.

The aggregate distance traveled by Currey 's company in 1862 was three thousand miles. Then came a winter in garrison at Walla Walla. "This," says the captain, "of all duty the volunteer soldiers are called upon to perform, is the most harrassing, tedious, and abominable."

On the return of spring, scouting and pursuing predatory raiders kept the troops in motion. A detachment of Company E, under Lieutenant Monroe of the First Washington Infantry Regiment, in a forced march to overtake thieves w^ho had driven off sixty head of government mules traveled two hundred miles; but near the junction of the Okanogan Trail and the Columbia River, and while attempting to cross a high mountain range was compelled to turn back by a snow storm which covered the trail to a depth of two feet. Two citizen employees of the quartermaster's department, with great determination pushed on, coming up with the thieves, three in number, the next day at sunrise surprising and shooting two of them before being discovered. The third being but a lad, and an Indian, was taken into their employ, proving a valuable assistant, as the white men had frozen their feet in crossing the mountain. But immediately upon Lieutenant Monroe's departure becoming known in Walla Walla town, news was sent to the mule thieves by their fellows. On learning this, the commanding officer at the fort sent out another detachment under Lieutenant Apperson to overtake Lieutenant Monroe and give him assistance. Finding, after traveling one hundred and twenty-five miles, that he was not going to be able to come up with him, and not having rations or forage for more than ten days, Apperson returned to Walla Walla, when Captain Currey was instructed to take twenty cavalrymen and thirty days rations, and renew the pursuit. Snake River was crossed on the evening of the twelfth of March, 1863, the men in an Indian canoe, and the horses swimming the river being three hundred yards wide, swift, and very cold. This expedition which in four days met the mule rescuers returning and turned back, "is only mentioned," says Currey in his report, "to present the fact that forty-eight head of horses belonging to Company E made forced marches and swam Snake River when its waters were winter cold, as preparatory training for a summer campaign." To complete the mule stealing incident, Currey was ordered to take six men and proceed to Lapwai on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation a hundred miles distant, with the Indian lad in charge to be tried for horse stealing, the punishment for which was hanging, if proved guilty. He was acquitted and the detachment marched back again.

Fort Walla Walla was at this period commanded by Col. Justin Steinberger, Colonel Cornelius having resigned. Steinberger was colonel of the First Washington Infantry, and belonged to Pierce County in that territory. He went to California and raised four companies to fill out his regiment, reporting at Vancouver early in May, 1862, relieving Colonel Cady of the command of the district until July, when Brigadier General Alvord arrived to take command, and Steinberger repaired to Walla Walla to assume command of the post resigned by Cornelius.

On the fourth of May, 1863, a long contemplated expedition against the Snake Indians was set on foot by Colonel Steinberger, Lieutenant Colonel Maury of the cavalry being assigned to the command of the expedition, which was intended to punish the Snakes for atrocities committed in 1860, as well as to protect the immigration of the current year. At the same time there was need of troops on the Nez Perce Reservation, where trouble was threatened between two political parties among the Indians, a portion, under Lawyer, being favorable to Americans, and another division under Big Thunder, opposing the passage of miners across the reservation. That there was some justification for this opposition was probable, but it could not be allowed to bring on a war, especially with the Nez Perces, who had never yet been at war with the white race.

The population of Eastern Oregon was at this period increasing rapidly. The two principal causes operating to produce this increase were the civil war, from which many southern and southwestern men desired to escape, and the mining excitement which drew large numbers to the Northwest Pacific Coast from 1860 to 1865, and later.

To such an extent had the rush to the mines depopulated Western Oregon of its able-bodied men that a call made in January, 1863, for six companies to fill up the First Cavalry Regiment produced only one during the whole summer, and it was feared a draft would be resorted to. The state had not raised her share of troops for the United States service, and had but seven companies in the field, while California had not only nine regiments, but Californians were serving in Oregon and Washington.

Troops were needed at various points on the frontier and posts at Boise and Klamath, the latter for the protection of the immigration by the southern route, on which some bloody massacres had occurred. Accordingly, in the spring of 1863, the government having consented, Major Drew, of the Oregon Cavalry, who had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, sent Captain Kelly with Company C to construct and garrison a fort on the Klamath lands near the head of Upper Klamath Lake. These two expeditions left but two of the cavalry companies to be employed in keeping the peace between white men and Indians, pursuing horse thieves, white and red, and arresting whisky sellers and highwaymen. In this service, often requiring long inarches, the cavalry horses were kept worn down.

The expedition into the Snake country proceeded from Fort Walla Walla to Lapwai to be present at a council of United States commissioners with the chiefs of the Nez Perces, trouble being apprehended; the object of the commission being to secure the relinquishment of a certain part of the reservation in order to open a safe highway to the mineral regions lying east of it. To make a treaty, with a handful of white men on one side and twenty-five hundred Indians on the other, a part of whom were openly hostile to the measure, was an undertaking straining to the nerves of the commissioners. But the policy of Lawyer prevailed,—together with the knowledge that ammunition was issued to the troops and the post put in condition for defense.

To make sure of the intentions of the Nez Perces, Colonel Maury ordered Captain Currey to take twenty men at midnight and proceed to the council ground, two miles distant from the post, to make observations. Accompanied by Lieutenant Kapus, regimental adjutant of the Washington Territory Infantry, he entered a lodge where fifty-three chiefs and sub-chiefs were deliberating on the propositions of the commissioners. Says Currey in his report:

"The debate ran with dignified firmness and warmth until near morning, when the Big Thunder party made a formal announcement of their determination to take no further part in the treaty, and then with a warm, and in an emotional manner, declared the Nez Perce nation dissolved; whereupon the Big Thunder men shook hands with the Lawyer men, telling them with a kind but firm demeanor that they would be friends, but a distinct people. It did not appear from the tone of their short, sententious speeches, that either party was meditating present outbreak. I withdrew my detachment, having accomplished nothing but witnessing the extinguishment of the last council fires of the most powerful Indian nation on the sunset side of the Rocky Mountains." The "treaty" was really no more than the agreement of Lawyer and his band, numbering less than a third of the Nez Perce people.

While the council of the commissioners and chiefs was in progress, word was brought that a band of renegades from the Yakimas, Palouse, and Nez Perces was encamped three miles from the council ground, with the purpose of stirring up discord and causing the rejection of the treaty. Captains Drake and Currey a with detachments of Companies D and E, were ordered to proceed by night, surround their camp, and at daylight put them across Clearwater River with the admonition to remain away or take the consequences. This being accomplished, complaint being made that two white men had erected a house on, and laid claim to a portion of the reservation lands, Captain Currey took his company twelve miles down the river to the squatters' cabin, which his men demolished and threw into the river. In this impartial manner military government maintained something like order over a wild and lawless region.

On the thirteenth of June Maury's expedition left Lapwai for the Snake-river country. This part of Currey's report is very interesting from his descriptions of regions that had not been frequented by white men since the furhunting companies had roamed over them. The command passed up Lapwai Creek, and from Craig's Mountain traveled through broken ridges to Salmon River where a ferry enabled them to cross the train of a hundred and fifty pack mules without swimming. In crossing the high ridge between the Salmon and Snake rivers, however, several of these animals lost their footing, and were precipitated down the rock-ribbed mountain sides. In this manner the command passed several days, resting one day at the head of Little Salmon; passing over another ridge to the head of Payette River, where it again rested, while a detachment under Currey proceeded southward to the headwaters of Weiser River to look for signs of Snake River Indians, finding only a deserted camp.

According to Currey, on the head of Payette River are located the most beautiful valleys of Idaho, the mountains that wall them in being covered with pine and tamarack trees, and the prairies verdant with nutritious grasses and clover, watered with trout streams. This region, he says, was in former times the debatable land between the Snakes and Nez Perces, where once a three days battle was fought for its possession and the Snakes driven off, until more settled habits had been adopted by the Nez Perces, when it relapsed to its ancient claimants. At the period of his visit he was convinced it had for several years been the refuge of a band of Snakes which had plundered white travelers and settlers, successfully eluding pursuit or discovery.

The march from the Weiser to Boise River proved "a pleasant country to travel through." When the Oregon troops arrived at the latter river they found Major Lugenbeel of the regular army, from Fort Colville, on the ground, having arrived the day previous, July 1, 1863, with men, materials, and supplies for the establishment of a post, which was named Fort Boise, near which Boise City soon grew up.

Here Maury's command was encamped for several days awaiting supplies and preparing for the long march to Fort Hall, that was eagerly anticipated, but which proved in experience to be more wearisome by its monotony than the mountains by their roughness and dangers. The prairies and streams passed on the march are now well known and need not be mentioned.

No serious encounters with Indians occurred on the march to Fort Hall. Only one scout of any importance was made, which was from Little Camas Prairie, in search of a considerable band of Snake Indians rumored to be encamped fifty miles off, and near the trail. But the night march brought to light no Indian camps. A depot of supplies was established at Trail Creek, and while it was being made secure, Currey with twenty men was sent to look for Indians down the Malade, which, the report says, is called a river more from the habit of calling every running stream a river, than from the quantity of water in its channel. "For miles this industrious little stream has mortised its way through a lava bed by the process known as 'pot-holing.' The walls of the stream vary from five to twenty feet in height, resembling an unfinished mortise before the concave clefts of the auger have been cut away by the chisel. The concaves left by the broken pot-holes vary in diameters from one inch to five feet."

On the fourth day of Currey's scout in this region he came upon a camp, recently abandoned, in which the camp fires were still burning, and pushing on overtook this band of a dozen tepees, located on the river bottom almost beneath the feet of the pursuing troop. Every chance of escape being cut off, the chief displayed all his people unarmed, with their hands held up. "Although," says the chronicler, "we had then trailed the party for four days, one day without rations, I could not consent to fire upon an unarmed and supplicating foe," and only laid them under contribution for a supply of salmon, though he carried off their chief to receive the judgment of his superior. Two hundred miles of hard traveling had resulted in the capture of one Indian.

The command proceeded to the Port Neuf, six miles from Fort Hall, remaining until the last of the immigration had passed, when it began its homeward march. At Salmon Falls Creek it remained long enough to gather in the Indians pretending friendship to inform them of the determination henceforth to let no outrages upon white people pass unpunished. It was expected that this message would be communicated by these friendlies to the hostile members of the tribe, as no doubt it was. The effect of this pacification, however, would be to warn the hostiles to keep out of the way, while the unarmed and old peace men displayed their submission to the soldiers by holding up empty hands.

While in camp at this place Currey was ordered to make another scout across the desert that lay between Snake River and the Goose Creek Range [Seven Peaks?] to the southwest. With twenty men and ten days' rations the expedition set out. A four days' march brought it, through sagebrush and lava ridges, to Salmon Falls Creek [West Fork?], a stream which ran through a canyon from one thousand to two thousand feet in depth, with nearly perpendicular walls, and few places where a descent to it was possible for man or horse. The water famine was somewhat relieved by a rainstorm.

The point traveled for was a snow peak of the Goose Creek Mountains [Seven Peaks], two days' travel from Salmon Falls Creek [West Fork], where at the foot of the peak on the morning of the seventh day a smoke was discovered, and the supposed encampment surrounded. "We found," says the captain, "a lordly Indian, 'monarch of all he surveyed.' His kingdom consisted of two wives, seven children, eight horses, and some camp equipage." Out of commiseration for his wives and children, he was allowed to remain in peace and accumulate more horses.

On the thirtieth of September, from observations taken in passing along the northern base of Goose Creek Mountains [Seven Peaks], it was discovered that the "Seven Peaks' were only seven views of the same mountain as seen from the east side; and that the Bruneau River gathered its waters from the north side, while the Owyhee was fed by the snows of the south side. Within a few miles the tributaries of the Bruneau were gathered together, and entered "one of the most terrific chasms my wanderings have brought me to shudder on the brink of,says the report. "With this immense fissure on my right, sagebrush and trap rock beneath my feet, the hazy, deathlike sky of Snake River over my head, and a cloud of alkali dust hurled by the sagebrush in my eyes, ears, and nostrils, I picked my way as best I could for myself and men. The principal object of solicitude in these desert marches, is water for your men and animals; and here, although a river of respectable magnitude was rippling cool and clear, whose margin walls broke surface within a rod to our right, yet to go down there after it required wings— which, unfortunately for the service, the Oregon cavalry were not supplied with. At intervals gulches break the face of the margin wall, and down these, with much labor in rolling stones and smoothing, a way can be made down which the thirsty horses and men will force themselves when urged by the strongest of all possible inducements— desire for water on a sagebrush desert. While passing down the river we got one drink a day in the manner above described.

Down in one of these deep canyons we found three Indians, who claimed to be Conner's Indians, and as General Conner and the governor of Utah had sent the commanding officer of the expedition notice that they had treated with the Bannocks, as a matter of course we twenty would not molest three. Besides their discovery was rather fortunate for us, as the morning before finding them our last ration, one half inch square of flatcake, was devoured, and we relished some fresh elk, procured from the Indians, exceedingly."

In this painful and apparently useless manner the march continued down the Bruneau River; losing the trail at night, examining it by the light of "Dutch" matches, for horse tracks; finding one dead Indian which seemed to say that some part of the command had been in a skirmish in that region; scrambling down precipices two thousand feet in depth to slake intolerable thirst, and marching the last day without food, it came up with another detachment under Lieutenant Apperson with a detachment of Company A, who was encamped fifteen miles further down stream. From Apperson supplies were obtained, and Currey's command returned to the main camp, having traveled in eleven days about four hundred miles. On this march, "with the exception of two camps on Goose Creek Mountains [Seven Peaks], the remainder were made in fissures of the earth so deep that neither the 'Polar Star' or the 'Seven Pointers' could be seen." The return to Fort Walla Walla was by the dusty emigrant road, and over the Blue Mountains covered with snow, arriving October 26, 1863—the expedition having been on the march five months. With all their hardships the troops preferred such service to garrison life, than which, declared Currey, no better system could be devised to alienate men from their officers, chill the enthusiasm of troops, sap the foundation of patriotism, and destroy the efficiency of the army, leaving them exposed to temptations, to vice, and the enervating influence of aimless formality and self-abnegation.

Holding such views it was with pleasure that, after a brush with the renegade band on the Palouse in March, 1864, Currey received notice from Brigadier General Alvord that he would be sent into the Snake country again. Accordingly on the twenty-eighth of April, an expedition was organized, consisting of Companies E, A, and a part of F, Currey commanding; Lieut. John Bowen, Company F, adjutant; Lieut. Silas Pepoon, acting assistant quartermaster and A. C. S.; Sergt. Peter P. Gates, sergeant major; Capt. W. V. Rinehart, commanding Company A, and Lieut. James L. Currey, commanding Company E. The train consisted of one hundred and three pack mules and eight army wagons drawn by six mules each, with a traveling forge. The troops, says their commander, were "a noble set of Oregon men, well drilled and in an excellent state of discipline, eager for service and anxious to accomplish something."

In crossing the Umatilla Indian Reservation, camp was made at the foot of the Blue Mountains, to which the Cayuses were invited, with the object of securing volunteers among them to go against their old enemies, the Snakes. A war dance was held, the result of which was ten volunteers, under Chief Umahontilla. These warriors, glad of an opportunity to strike their hereditary foe, furnished their own horses, two to each man, and without pay or the promise of it, joined the white cavalry. But Currey's desire was for a considerable force of Indians, which might have been had for $10 a month per man, their clothing and rations, and the use of the arms furnished them, with their ammunition.

"With well trained troops, and one hundred riders equal to the Cossacks in agility, and the Mamelukes in bravery and intrepidity, fired by their hereditary hatred of the Snakes, there can be no doubt but that the spring flowers of 1865 would have come and found peace upon our borders so long the scene of plunder, massacre, and torture." * * "This digression," continues the report, "has been indulged in, not to reflect upon the military leaders of the country, nor with the hope of instructing the political rulers of the land, but to- give expression to an opinion pretty generally entertained by the subordinate officers doing military duty on our borders, where important and decisive action is constantly demanded at their hands without adequate force wherewith to accomplish it."

This abstract is, here made to show the spirit in which the Oregon volunteers performed their duties, at no time agreeable or wholly satisfactory. That they desired to have something to show for their three years' services, we are frequently reminded by paragraphs like the following: "When I visited this valley (the Grande Ronde) in 1862, what is now a thriving village of over a hundred houses, consisted of a single house, without any roof, and another up to the top of the valley that the settlers have thrown up as a fort against the Indians. I do not remember any others except those in La Grande. Now the whole valley is dotted with farm houses. This great change, I flattered myself, was materially aided by the night ride of 1862."

There is not space in a magazine article to continue the details which give interest to Currey's report. His objective point being the Owyhee, it is only necessary to say that after leaving the emigrant road, about the middle of May, the experiences of the previous summer were repeated—riding among rocks and sagebrush through the long, hot days to come at last to a stream several hundred feet below the surface of the surrounding country. Some of the descriptive passages are very interesting; indeed, I know of no traveler in the Northwest, unless it is Theodore Winthrop, whose word pictures of natural objects are equal to those of our acting colonel of the First Oregon Cavalry. Here is something from the Owyhee country:

"The region immediately opposite the mouth of Jordan Creek has a weird, antiquated look; it is one of the unusual landscapes wherein the wind has been the most powerful and active agent employed by Dame Nature to complete her exterior. The formation is of greyish red sandstone, soft, and under the capricious workings of the wind for centuries, has assumed shapes strange and fantastic. Here stands a group of towers; there is an archway curiously shaped; yonder is a tunnel running the face of a sandstone ledge hundreds of feet from the bottom. The whole catalogue of descriptive antique might be exhausted in giving fanciful names to the created results of this aerial architecture. The spectacle of seeing my command wind its way through this temple of the wind was pleasing, and one that will long be remembered by the most who beheld it."

Camp Henderson was established on Gibb's Creek, about eight miles from the mouth of Jordan Creek, on the twenty-sixth of May, 1864,—distant from Walla Walla three hundred and thirty miles,—and the tents warriors</noinclude>having been left at Fort Boise to lighten transportation, the troopers made themselves wickeups out of willow wands, grass, canes, or sagebrush, which served as shelter from the burning desert sun.

On the twenty-eighth of May, Currey, with Campanies A and E, mounted for a ride to a snow peak in the southwest. "After thumping along all day through sagebrush and loose trap rock without water, a short time before sundown, the sergeant of Company E, who had been sent to the top of a neighboring height to examine the country around for appearances of water, returned to the command and reported a large lake about two miles further on. This encouraged us, and tumbling more than marching we reached the bottom of a canyon that led into our prospective lake, and just as the sun was passing behind the dark ridge of basalt to our west. But what was our surprise and disappointment upon nearing it to find that it did not contain a drop of water. It was nothing but an extensive tract of perfectly smooth, yellow clay smooth as the drying yard of the brickmaker. It was the mirage caused by this flat, hard surface that deceived us. At a hundred yards from it Old Neptune himself would have wagered his trident that it was a beautiful sheet of water, but he would have lost. While riding towards it I heard men, when within less than fifty yards of it, offering to wager six months' pay that it was a lake we were approaching, so complete was the deception. Passing over this deceptive ground, in about two miles, at the foot of a high ridge, we luckily found some beautiful springs and a nook of excellent grass. Part of the Indians accompanied me on this scout, and so much did one of them suffer for water that when we reached the springs he had completely lost his hearing in one of his ears, and could hardly see his horse."

The morning following Alvord Valley was discovered and a place selected for a summer camp, the indications being that this valley was the headquarters of a considerable body of Indians. On the return to Camp Henderson the troop amused itself for an hour with the mirage on the dry lake, which performed an amusing pantomime, figures of men and horses moving over its surface, some high in the air, while others were sliding to right or left like weavers' shuttles. Some horses appeared stretched out to an enormous length, while others spindled up, the moving tableau "representing everything contortions and capricious reflections could do."

Returning by a different but not easier route to Gibbs' Creek, the" command remained in camp until June 2, when a scouting party which was out for three days found and killed five unarmed Snake Indians. While awaiting the arrival of the quartermaster's train at Camp Henderson, Captain Rinehart was sent on a scout up the Owyhee River, and during his absence a settler on Jordan Creek arrived in haste to report Indians in his neighborhood. On this information the main force started in pursuit, finding only satisfactory proofs that the Indians seen were Currey's Cayuse scouts, and they had taken a forced night ride in pursuit of themselves!

On the sixteenth of June, the supply train having arrived, the whole command set out by a new route for Alvord Valley. It consisted at this time of one hundred and thirty-three officers and men, having been joined at the mouth of the Owyhee by twenty-nine non-commissioned officers and privates of the First Washington Infantry, officered by Capt. E. Barry, Lieutenant Hardenburg, and Assistant Surgeon Cochran, U. S. A. Twelve miles from camp a rest of two days was taken, the horses being much jaded, this being the first rest of the whole command since the twenty-eighth of April. The remainder of the march—thirty-four miles—to Camp Alvord was completed on the nineteenth, when all arrived, "the infantry very much fatigued."

Satisfied that a large body of Indians had been recently encamped in Alvord Valley, a place was chosen by Currey at the foot of Stein's Mountain for a depot of supplies, and a star-shaped fort erected of earthworks. Through it ran a stream of snow water from the mountains, and altogether, this spot was deemed a paradise in comparison with the camps left behind. Leaving Camp Alvord on the twenty-second with the greater portion of the cavalry, Currey started for Harney Lake, where he was ordered by the department commander to form a junction with Capt. John M. Drake, in command of an expedition starting from The Dalles.

Marching north by an old Indian trail, with grass and water abundant and excellent, Malheur Lake was reached on the evening of the twenty-fourth. Here, instead of dry alkali lakes Malheur was found to be a wet one, and not in the least amusing, as the approaches were crossed by alkali marshes, and the shallow water was unfit to drink. Harney Lake was found to lie to the west of, and to be connected with Malheur Lake. In order to reach it a stream from the south had to be crossed, requiring a half days travel to find a ford, a passage being affected by cutting and piling in willow brush, which was made compact by sods of grass. At the moment the front rank of cavalry reached the bank a loud clap of thunder burst overhead, from which incident the stream was named Thunder River, while one of its headwaters took the euphonious name of Blitzen River.

Not finding Captain Drake at Harney Lake, Currey proceeded to look for Indians, and was on a tributary of Silvie's River when at midnight of the thirtieth a courier from Drake overtook him with the information that he was at Rattlesnake Camp on a small stream coming from the mountain rim encircling the Valley of Harney and Malheur Lakes. The two commands now acted in concert. The first attack was on the thirteenth of July, when the Cayuse scouts were pursued almost into camp by the Snakes, and on that afternoon the trail of the Indians was discovered. In following it the next day through the canyon of the south fork of John Day River, the troops were fired on from the overhanging rocks. Captain Drake with Company D scrambled up the sides of the canyon. Captain Rinehart was posted in the rear, and the remainder of the command took positions in the bottom of the canyon and fired a volley or two to draw the attention of the Indians away from Drake's movements. In about an hour Drake got his men on a level with the Indians, when after receiving one volley they fled. The pursuit, continued until the following afternoon, was fruitless. The Indians were not overtaken, but the valley was relieved of their presence. Neither the Indians nor the cavalrymen had sustained much harm. Hoping to discover other bands, which if not found would renew depredations upon settlers and miners in the John Day region and on the Canyon City Road, the remainder of July was spent in patroling this highway and scouting to the south of it, but without results.

While encamped one night near the Eugene City road an express arrived from Fort Boise bringing news of a raid in Jordan Valley. The command was then three hundred and fifty miles from Jordan Creek, and had not rested a day since leaving Camp Alvord. And yet the Oregon and California newspapers commented severely upon the failure of the cavalry to prevent or to punish Indian raids. "The California press is more excusable," says Currey, "than the Oregon; but the unjust criticism that we received from the Oregon press did more to make my command lag than a thousand miles of hard marching over the most inhospitable desert that can be found in North America."

And here the historian may make a digression to explain that both the Oregon press and the Oregon cavalry were at that time unaware of the fact that it was not the Snake Indians whose raids gave so much trouble, but incursions of Nevada and Utah tribes, with some Shoshones from the upper Snake River, who were responsible for the robberies, murders, and other atrocities committed for years in Eastern Oregon and Western Idaho, a record of which would fill a large volume. It was only after the close of the civil war, when the regular army was released from service against rebellion, that troops could be sent to the relief of the frontier settlements, and by that time border warfare had assumed such proportions that many regiments, much money, and much time were required to subdue the savage foe. The southern invaders knew every movement of the volunteer companies, which they could observe from their hiding places in the rocks, from which they did not emerge when danger seemed to threaten. They knew where to find water and grass, and could sleep in peace while the cavalry wore out men and horses in night rides to hunt trails which they were too cunning to leave. Camp Alvord, at the foot of Stein's Mountain, was almost at the entrance to a rocky defile, up which they fled to a place of safety when alarmed by the approach of an enemy. In a country so immense and so rough as the deserts of Southeastern Oregon and Southwestern Idaho looking for Indians, was like searching for the legendary "needle in the haymow."

I have not room to go much further into detail. The object in view has been to show the spirit of the services rendered, and why it accomplished little more than to train a regiment of young Oregonians for military duty.

It was the twelfth of August before Currey 's command reached Camp Alvord, by which time two thirds of his men were suffering from disorders peculiar to armies kept continually on the march in hot climates without proper diet. It was about this time, and from seeing in what direction a party of marauders fled after a slight skirmish, that Currey became convinced of the character of the enemy, and that he held a defensive position among the crags of Stein's Mountain.

Acting upon this conclusion an expedition was undertaken and prosecuted as far as the Pueblo mining district, in the northern border of Nevada. A small party of Piutes was captured, but such was the fear of savage vengeance that Currey was entreated by the miners to spare the Indians, who deserved hanging for past crimes. The return made for this undeserved clemency was the murder a few months later of these same miners.

On returning to Alvord Valley, which was now seen to be the base of all the thieving operations in Eastern Oregon, Currey suggested to the district commander, General Alvord, the utility to the service of maintaining Camp Alvord through the winter, but the suggestion not being approved by the department commander, General McDowell, the camp was abandoned September 26. The following spring and summer many lives and much property were destroyed on the roads leading from the Sacramento Valley to the Idaho mines.

The wagon train was sent to Fort Boise, and the cavalry returned north. On the sixteenth of October, Currey was met by an express from district headquarters, stating that southern sympathizers in Oregon threatened an outbreak on the day of the presidential election, and directing him to be at Fort Dalles on that day with Company E. On the twenty-sixth the command was in camp near Fort Walla Walla, and dissolved the same evening, Company A going into garrison, Company F to Lapwai, Company E beginning its march to The Dalles on the twenty-eighth of October, and arriving November sixth, when it went into garrison. Currey was ordered to Vancouver and assigned to recruiting service. This ended his connection with the First Oregon Cavalry, being appointed in the spring of 1865 to the command of the First Oregon Infantry Regiment.

It is not pretended that this article is a history of the First Oregon Cavalry—"only a photograph," in the slang language. From the reports of the various officers an interesting volume might be written. One of the earliest encounters with the enemy in the field, in 1863, was by the youthful second lieutenant, James A. Waymire, assigned to duty with Company D. Waymire was with Colonel Maury on his march to Fort Hall and back. While Maury was encamped near the mouth of the Bruneau River the lieutenant was sent with twenty men to punish any Indians he might find in that region. Moving up the stream and scouting, on the first of October the scouts reported a large body of Indians encamped in a canyon a mile ahead. Fearing that they would escape if alarmed, Waymire pushed forward with eleven men, finding the Indians in a rocky defile three hundred feet deep, through which ran the river and seemingly inaccessible. A volley brought about thirty armed men out of the wickeups, who posted themselves behind rocks, and, when Waymire dismounted his men on the brink of the canyon, opened a brisk fire on them. This was returned with effect, and the Indians attempted to escape. This so excited the cavalrymen that they scrambled down the rocks, waded the stream, and followed in hot pursuit for some distance. Five Indians were killed, several American horses captured that had recently been stolen from immigrants, and a large supply of ammunition and provisions, obtained in the same way, destroyed.

The following spring Lieutenant Waymire left Fort Dalles under orders to proceed with twenty-five men, and supplies for ninety days, to the south fork of John Day River and encamp at some point best calculated to protect the settlers against incursions from the Indians. He was instructed to treat the friendly Indians from Warm Springs Reservation with kindness; and if opportunity occurred to investigate the charge that they committed any of the frequent depredations along the Canyon City road.

Way mire's command marched a hundred and fifty miles from The Dalles in severe weather, reaching the south fork, March 15, 1864, where it established Camp Lincoln. On the nineteenth with a detachment of fifteen men the lieutenant proceeded to Canyon City where he learned that a few days previous Indians had made a raid on the ranch of a citizen, driving off about one hundred mules and horses, and that the owner of the ranch with a party of volunteers had gone in pursuit. Leaving word that he held himself in readiness to pursue the thieves on receiving information that there was any likelihood of overtaking them, he awaited such information. Word came to him on the twenty- second that twenty citizens were on the trail of the Indians, at Harney Lake, where they waited for supplies, and that thirty more men, with plenty of provisions and transportation would start immediately to re-inforce them.

Waymire sent word that he would co-operate with them, and asked that guides be sent to bring him to their camp. With eighteen men and twenty days rations he set out on the twenty-fourth, encountering severe weather with snow, sleet, and ice, delaying the march an entire day. On the thirtieth he reached the volunteer camp ninety miles from his own, finding a company of citizens fifty-four strong, commanded by C. H. Miller ("Joaquin" Miller), and two lieutenants, elected by the company, which Miller represented to be thoroughly organized.

On the thirty-first Miller took twenty men of his company toward the upper end of the valley, intending to cross the Silvies River to scout on the other side. Being unable to find a ford the re-united commands marched south along the eastern side of the valley, where the Indian trail led, to the southeastern border. Here severe weather again detained the commands in camp until the fourth of April, when scouts reported a large valley fifteen miles ahead. (The same discovered by Currey's command later in the year.) On the fifth the expedition crossed the ridge between the two valleys, finding in the southern one evidences of a recent encampment of about one hundred Indians. "They seem," reported Waymire, "to subsist to a great extent upon horse and mule flesh, as a great number of bones which were lying about the campfires, and from which the meat had been taken, plainly indicated."

Continuing the march, on the sixth the scouts reported signal fires to the south. The cavalry were deployed as skirmishers, but found no enemy, although an Indian village, recently deserted, with fires still burning, and which had contained about one hundred inhabitants, was found. These had left about their deserted fires halfcooked horse flesh, baskets, ropes, furs, and trinkets, showing the haste with which they had abandoned their encampment; and the tracks all led towards the mountains, up a gorge of which two stragglers were observed to be fleeing. They were overtaken by two citizens, their horses captured, and one of the thieves wounded. Before the command could come up the Indians had disappeared.

It was now certain that the marauding bands which gave so much trouble to settlers, miners, teamsters, emigrants, and other travelers, enjoyed a safe retreat in the mountains of Southeastern Oregon. Hoping to find their winter quarters, at 3 o'clock on the following morning Waymire with fifteen cavalrymen, and Miller with thirty-two citizens, set out to discover this resort. A large smoke being observed about three miles distant, Waymire dispatched Sergeant Casteel with privates Cyrus R. Ingraham, John Himbert, Company D, and George N. Jaquith, a citizen acting under his command, to reconnoiter the position and return as soon as possible to the command. At 7 o'clock in the morning, the citizen company being in advance, mistook a flock of geese on the plain two miles below for a band of horses, and made a charge which exhausted their riding animals, making them unfit for efficient service during the day. (This was the effect of the mirage referred to in the report of Colonel Currey as magnifying and distorting objects reflected in its atmosphere).

On the divide between the valley of Dry Lake and Alvord Valley Lieutenant Waymire requested Captain Miller to send a scouting party forward, as he was apprehensive of falling into an ambuscade. Miller took five men and moving half a mile to the front, on seeing an Indian on the hills to his right, sent three of them in pursuit, and moved on with the other two. Impatient at this, Waymire resumed his march, but hearing the report of a rifle in the direction Miller had taken, directed his course accordingly. Proceeding but a short distance, he discovered a body of Indians filing down a gulch on the side of the mountain west of the narrow plain he was traversing, and at once took position with his cavalry, reduced by the absence of Casteel's scouting party to eleven men, upon a ridge near the defile.

Reinforcements of Indians, mounted and afoot, drew together from various directions, concealing themselves among rocks and sagebrush, the horsemen deploying in front to draw attention from the footmen, and the whole showing considerable skill in the art of war. Their objective point was a tongue of rock, covered thickly with tall sage, and projecting into the pass or plain. Just beyond it was a canyon, easily defended, but dangerous to enter, and this was where they had hoped to ambuscade the troops, but being a little late found themselves in a position where it became necessary to fight, if fight they must, in the open.

Waymire's chance of success in battle was to demoralize the enemy by a dashing charge, or to gain the defile by a flank movement. He chose the former plan, and desired the citizen company to make a vigorous attack on the enemy's left, while the cavalry would charge him in front, to be supported as soon as possible by the citizens. Miller's men being scattered in squads of two to five over several miles of plain, Way mire dismounted his men, deploying them as skirmishers to cover the horses while waiting for these squads to come up. Taking advantage of the delay, the Indians opened fire with rifles, most of their bullets falling short. Seeing that they were becoming bolder, and expecting to be attacked, Waymire advanced to within easy range and delivered a few well directed volleys, emptying several saddles and unmasking the footmen, who kept up a ceaseless firing with no effect, their balls flying overhead. The fighting was varied by the Indian horsemen making a dash intended to cut off the cavalry horses, a movement which was met by a change of position and continued firing, until both sides fell into their original situations.

After half or three quarters of an hour spent in this manner, seeing that a party of citizens twenty-five strong were gathered on the plain, Way mire sent Lieutenant Bernon to solicit their aid, who returned in haste with the information that the citizens refused to join him. On receiving this news, the Indian force all the time increasing, Waymire withdrew to the plain, mounting his men and forming a line diagonal to the canyon, when the volunteers rallied and fought for a short time. The small force of cavalry was now on the defensive, and it retreated firing, the Indians endeavoring to surround it on the plain, whose broken surface, familiar to them, gave them great advantage. Three quarters of a mile to the east was a large hill, which, could it be gained, offered comparative safety, and of this the Indian horsemen were endeavoring to secure possession. On each side of the summit was a bench, one of which was occupied by six citizen volunteers, including their surgeon and a wounded man.

Waymire sent Corporal Meyer with five men to occupy the summit of this hill, and a brisk race followed, in which the corporal won, having the shorter arm of a triangle, and the command was soon in this defensible position and able to repulse a much larger force. After resting for an hour, and considering the chances of escape, with several of the men on foot, their horses failing from fatigue or wounds, retreat to camp twenty miles distant was determined upon. The route lay across Dry Lake, and was effected in good order, although the Indians followed, at one, time passing with a body of horsemen in an attempt to get to the front. A desultory firing was kept up, "in which several of the volunteers rendered very efficient service with their, rifles."

On reaching camp which with the entire pack train was left in charge of twenty men, it was found to be secure, to the satisfaction and surprise of the troops. "That it was so," remarks Waymire, "I can only attribute to the want of a sagacious leader among the Indians."

The day, from three o'clock in the morning to late at night when the last footmen were in, had been spent in this first engagement of the cavalry with fierce and predatory Indians of the southern border, who for several years after occupied the regular army under its most noted Indian fighters with their subjugation.

Waymire's report of this days operations was, "the discovery of the nature and strength of the enemy and the whereabouts of his home, which information I trust will be of material benefit hereafter, in connection with operations to be carried on in that region. Our loss was very light. One of the citizens was wounded in the breast, but not seriously. Some of the horses were wounded, one of the cavalry horses severely. Several of the horses belonging to the citizen volunteers gave out and were left behind. As the enemy held his ground it was impossible to ascertain his loss. Many of the Indian warriors, and several of their horses, were seen to fall either killed or seriously wounded. Nothing has been seen of Sergeant Casteel's party since their departure. The morning following, Waymire, with a party of fourteen men on foot went in search of Casteel, following the trail made by them to the supposed fire, which proved to be steam from some hot springs, and back to the pass between the two valleys, where it ended. Nothing could be found of them or their remains. Another day was spent in camp hoping for their appearance, but imagination only pictured the fate of this little detachment.

Being upon half rations, and expecting pursuit, the command broke camp on the night of the ninth with the bells on the leading pack mules silenced, and the march to Harney Valley was begun in darkness. Meeting no opposition, by forced marches the volunteer and cavalry companies reached Canyon City on the fifteenth, where they were thanked by the citizens, who if they had not recovered their property, realized the peril and privation suffered in the attempt to restore it. Way mire says of his command: "They were at all times self-possessed, and as prompt in the execution of commands as when on ordinary dril];' and adds: "as a matter of justice to myself and command, I feel it my duty, though a painful one, to state that our defeat on the seventh was due in great part to the want of a proper organization under an efficient commander on the part of the citizen volunteers. Although it is hardly possible that the stolen animals could have been recovered with our jaded horses, yet I feel confident that from the position I first occupied, with thirty cavalry instead of eleven, the Indians could have been routed and severely punished."

In this opinion Adjutant General Reed, in his report to Governor Gibbs, appears to concur. He says of Waymire's services: "His encounter with the Snake Indians near Harney Lake, is undoubtedly the hardest fought battle in which bur troops participated, and evinces a courage and coolness on the part of the lieutenant and his brave followers worthy of note; and should any future occasion call him into the battlefield, I have no doubt, judging from the past, that he would rank high as a military leader. The report of Capt. H. E. Small of Company G, First Oregon Volunteer Cavalry, is also worthy of a permanent record, and we have sufficient evidence from every quarter to demonstrate to us that had Oregon volunteers been permitted to cope with an enemy worthy of their steel, they would have ranked with the bravest of our country's brave."

It was not my intention, nor is there space to pursue this subject beyond the limits of the first three years of service. But year after year Indian troubles increased, as the savages grew strong on horse meat, rich on thievery, intelligent by imitation, and powerful by accretion of allies from beyond the border. This increase of strength, notwithstanding Indian superintendents and posts on Indian reservations, was a continual occasion of remark, the favorite explanation being the bad treatment of Indians by volunteers—state troops and emergency organizations—accounted for it. But the facts will show that until the regular army listened to advice from those who had acquired their knowledge by experience, they made no headway in securing peace. Then the long marches and hardships, with occasional fighting of the First Oregon Cavalry, were found to have revealed the things important to be known before Indian wars could be brought to an end.

A history of the wars of Eastern Oregon from 1862 to 1868 would embrace that of the First Oregon Infantry, the permanent establishment of Forts Lapwai, Klamath, Boise, and Lyons; the reports of many exploring expeditions, among which one by Maj. C. S. Drew is of particular interest, together with many incidents worthy of remembrance.[1] It would also embrace a list of casualties and losses of appalling length, the memory of which is rapidly fading, as has faded the story of the whole continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.


  1. I avail myself of this opportunity to suggest to the readers of the Quarterly, that already it is almost, if not quite impossible, to find the printed reports of officers connected with these expeditions, and other historical matter of date forty or forty-five years past. The state library does not contain them, the city and private libraries have been searched in vain, and the conclusion follows that the people have not, and the state officers have not, properly comprehended the value of such "documents," which should, if any still exist, be preserved by binding and placing where they can be found by students of history. Among the most valuable of documentary matter is the report of Adjt. Gen. Cyrus A. Reed, 1865-6, which is not preserved in the state library, nor can I learn that any effort has been made to secure it since my earnest inquiry for it some time ago. The only copy I can hear of is one in General Reed's hands, which he generously loaned me for reference in this article. Yet this volume contains information about every man who served in the volunteer regiments from 1862 to 1866, a period of great interest to the people of Oregon.