[Edward Fox’s account of the execution of the leaders of the Modoc insurgents, 3 October, 1873]
Fort Klamath, Oregon,
Oct. 3, 1873. [By telegraph.]
Shortly after reveille this morning I accompanied Lieutenant Taylor to the guardhouse, and after securing the services of Scar-face Charley as an interpreter, we went into the large cell and informed Barncho and Slolux of the commutation of their sentence. They did not show the slightest emotion at their escape from the jaws of death, and Barncho simply remarked, “It is good.” Captain Jack and Schonchin were in the next cell, and I walked in to see them. Captain Jack was looking very much pulled down, and had evidently not given up all hopes of a reprieve. Somebody asked him for his autograph, and he mechanically made a number of crosses on some sheets of writing paper that were furnished for the purpose. Boston Charley and Black Jim were then brought out from their cells and the blacksmith set to work, and, after knocking off the shackles that bound them together, riveted a new set on each man. We were then called back into Captain Jack’s cell, as he wished to know what the writing was for, and through the medium of Boston Charley he was told it was simply to have some remembrance of his handiwork. He was evidently rather disappointed, as he still had hopes of being pardoned. Shortly after eight A.M. the troops were paraded in front of their quarters, and at half-past eight A.M. the procession formed in front of the guard house that was to escort them to the gallows.
The howls of the women relatives of the condemned were then distinctly heard as they came from the stockade. The other prisoners—Curley-Headed Doctor and the Lost River murderers—were then removed from the guard house to the stockade. At half-past nine the wagon and four horses were drawn up in front of the guardhouse, and the condemned were brought out. Black Jim got in first, followed by Boston Charley, Schonchin and Captain Jack. The great chief looked rather sick, and had to be helped into the cart. The drums then rolled out the funeral march, and the procession moved on to the gallows. The cavalry led, with the infantry on guard around the wagon. At ten minutes to ten the wagon halted behind the scaffold and they got out. Boston Charley and Black Jim mounted the stairs first and were placed on the left hand side of the platform, facing north. Captain Jack came up next and was evidently very weak, requiring assistance to get up, and Schonchin came last. Captain Jack took the position on the extreme right, with Schonchin next, Black Jim next and Boston Charley on the extreme left. They were then all seated, and the four men on duty proceeded to pinion their arms and legs. The latter were fastened just above the knees. Captain Jack wore a striped linen shirt and a pair of gray pants. Schonchin wore a dark blue shirt and army pants, and both Black Jim and Boston Charley were in the soldiers' clothes they had stripped from the bodies of those killed during the war. A company of cavalry and infantry were drawn up in the front of the square, and a company of infantry and light battery artillery occupied the right of the square. About five hundred Klamaths then came up, led by their chiefs, and squatted on the ground at the north side of the square. Mrs. [Louisa] Boddy and her daughter [Kate Schira], and the widows of some of the settlers murdered on Lost River, occupied a prominent position on the right. They sat on the front seat of a high wagon.
At five minutes past ten A.M. Colonel Hoge, who was acting as provost marshal, walked behind the prisoners and inspected the strength of their pinions.
Oliver Applegate and Dave Hill, the interpreters, then explained to the condemned the sentence and the crimes of which they were found guilty. Lieutenant Colonel Hoge made a final inspection of the condemned and then went down the rear stairs of the platform. General Wheaton and the officers of the garrison then formed in line in front of the gallows and the two prisoners Barncho and Slolux, whose sentence had been commuted, were also marched to the front with their backs to the gallows and facing Lieutenant Kinsbury, who then proceeded to read the charges and findings of the military commission, the approval at Washington and the commutation of the sentence in regard to Barncho and Slolux. There were, besides the five hundred Klamath Indians, some one hundred citizens present. Many of the latter had ridden two or three hundred miles to witness this execution.
The reading of the sentence took up about twelve minutes of the time. The sun was shining brightly on the backs of the condemned, and for a moment there was dead silence, occasionally broken by a wailing from the timber on the right. The Post Chaplain stood with his prayerbook open behind General Wheaton, and Post Surgeon McElderry stood on the right of the line. The correspondents of the different journals represented were scattered around, holding their horses, and ready to start for their ninety-mile ride. There was considerable competition among the newspapers, as there is only one wire at Jacksonville, and the coursers must have a race for it. This despatch will be carried by three men, riding thirty miles, and changing horses every ten miles, and they expect to ride the ninety in seven hours. At fourteen minutes past ten o'clock A.M. the reading of the sentence was concluded, and Colonel Hoge reported to General Wheaton.
The Post Chaplain then advanced into the centre of the square, and read an appropriate service for the occasion. The four condemned men squatted down on their haunches, seated on the solid platform, with their feet resting on the hinged part, which was so designed as to fall at the cutting of a single rope.
At eighteen minutes past ten Colonel Hoge advanced and mounted the rear steps of the platform, and at a signal the ropes were adjusted. Private Eugene Anderson put the rope and cap on Captain Jack, Corporal J. H. Killen on Schonchin and private R. Wilton on Boston Charley and Black Jim. Boston Charley and Black Jim then took a drink of water, but both Schonchin and Captain Jack declined. Private Anderson cut some of Captain Jack’s hair off, as it was very long and interfered with the rope. Some of Schonchin’s and Black Jim’s hair was also cut. At twenty-one minutes past ten the black caps were adjusted, the condemned men still cool and collected. The four were then stood up and for a few moments everything was perfectly quiet. The condemned, though in instant expectation of death, were perfectly collected and quiet, and not a muscle moved. At twenty-five minutes past ten Colonel Hoge, who was leaning on the back rail of the platform, dropped his handkerchief. Corporal Thomas Ross, of the Twelfth infantry, raised his hatchet, cut the rope, and the four criminals were launched into eternity.
Everything worked perfectly, and the arrangements reflect the highest credit on Mr. Fields, the post carpenter, under whose orders the gallows was built. Captain Jack and Black Jim died easily, but Schonchin and Boston Charley both twitched considerably.