12 February 2020

Peace Commission Appointed [guest post by Edward Fox, 12 February 1873]


[From the New York Herald, 1873; story by Edward Fox]
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ffairs here are progressing rather slowly, and until the Peace Commission arrive and get through their talk there will be no aggressive move against Captain Jack and his forces. That redoubtable warrior is still ensconced in his lava stronghold, and, as he is well posted about everything going on outside, will remain there until he hears what proposals the Peace Commissioners have to make. There is very little doubt Jack is willing to make terms, but he is powerless to a certain extent, as the Curley-Headed doctor who leads the party of Indians that committed all the murders, is strongly in favor of fighting, on the principle that they might as well die in arms as give themselves up and be hanged for murder. Scar-faced Charley, the Indian that is credited with firing the first shot of the campaign, is also said to be a strong peace man and a firm supporter of Captain Jack. They have about ten others with them, which leaves nearly thirty-five in favor of fight.
It is estimated by the settlers, who have known these Indians for years, that there are about forty-four or forty-five warriors in the lava beds, but they are assisted by some forty to forty-five old men, squaws and children. The latter portion are of considerable use in such a natural fortification as they occupy at present, as any one that can hold a rifle and pull a trigger is equal to ten men on the attack. I had a “talk” the other day with a [woman] of the Modoc tribe, who had been in to see Captain Jack. She said that Captain Jack, Scar-faced Charley and about ten others are in favor of peace, but the rest of the tribe are decidedly against it.
It is very amusing to listen to the opinions of different people around this section of the country as to the origin of the disturbance, as they are of the most opposite nature, and vary according to the exact locale of the informant. When I arrived first at Yreka I received various accounts from persons, but, on the whole, they appeared of the opinion that the Indians had been treated badly, and that Davis [Dorris?] and Fairchild were the prime workers in the entire movement, and rather encouraged war in order to get a good bill out of Uncle Sam. The nearer I approached the region of the lava beds, on the California side, the stronger became the feeling that the Indians were badly used, but the blame was thrown on the Indian Agent and the Applegate family. A member of the latter family, Mr. Jesse Applegate, has been appointed Peace Commissioner. He is a large real estate proprietor in Oregon and has considerable interests in some land lately taken up in this neighborhood under the Swamp or Overflowed Land act. Here in Oregon the settlers are rather bitter against the Indians, and many of them coolly assert that Captain Jack was advised to hold his position at all hazards by Mr. Elijah Steele, a man of high standing in this section of the country, but a resident of Yreka and a friend of the Indians, as far as right and wrong are concerned.
There is, however, little doubt that the Indians have been badly treated, and if the whites had kept faith with them there would have been no disturbance at all. The late Indian Agent, Mr. Meacham, thoroughly understood this Modoc tribe and took some interest in their case, so far as to forward their claim to this Lost River slip of land to Washington. From all accounts Captain Jack appears to be a “very square” Indian and he has on several occasions returned property to the settlers that some of his tribe had stolen. The present Indian Agent, Mr. Odeneal, was evidently misinformed as to the class of Indians he had to deal with when he sent Mr. Ivan Applegate to Major Green for twelve or fifteen men to assist him in forcing Captain Jack and his warriors on to the Yainax reservation. Major Green, however, was a little better posted, and sent Captain Jackson, of the First cavalry, with his troop.
The action of the troops on one side of Lost River and the gallant Oregon citizens on the other has already been fully described, and it is generally thought that some warning should have been given to the settlers before making an aggressive movement against these Indians. The residents of Linkville, or the bad whiskey sold in that region, are also responsible for the reinforcement of fourteen picked warriors that Captain Jack received shortly after his arrival in the lava beds. If they had not threatened to kill those Indians on sight and frightened Mr. Dyer, the Sub-Agent, out of his wits, Captain Jack would be minus the assistance of Shack Nasty Jim, Big Jack, Frank and some eleven others, that are said to be the bravest warriors in the tribe.
General Gillem, Colonel of the First cavalry, commanding the troops in this section; Lieutenant Rockwell, of the First cavalry, Acting Adjutant General, and the Herald correspondent left Dorris’ ranch on the morning of the 7th and arrived here the same day after eleven hours in the saddle. As the General was anxious to have an interview with a Modoc woman [Matilda Whittle, a talented amateur artist who, along with her husband, Bob Whittle, served as interpreter for conferences with the Modocs during the war] living at the Klamath River ferry, with a view to obtaining her services as interpreter in case of a talk with Captain Jack, we went round that way, giving us about sixteen miles longer to ride. The nearest route by Van Bremer’s ranch to this point is about twenty-two miles, but by the trail we took round Little Klamath Lake the distance is said to be forty miles. We were ferried across Klamath River, and also Link River, a large stream connecting Klamath Lake with Little Klamath Lake, and arrived at the camp about eight P.M.
Lost River Camp is at present the headquarters of the army, and yesterday Brevet Major General Frank Wheaton, who had been in charge up to the present, turned over his command to Brevet Major General Gillem, who now assumes control of operations in this section of the country. It is the intention of General Gillem to remove headquarters to Dorris’ ranch or somewhere in that neighborhood, but as definite news arrived yesterday that the Peace Commissioners are to meet on the 14th no movement of importance will be made until they have transacted their business. It is the general feeling among the army officers that there will not be another shot fired, which is rather a disappointment to them, as they would like to have had another turn at Captain Jack, in order to get even for the disaster of the 17th January. If there is a continuation of hostilities Jack will find it rather a hot place in the lava beds, as shells will be in order and a plentiful supply sent into his stronghold at Uncle Sam’s expense. The attack will probably be made from the Lake, upon a plan suggested by Colonel Mason, bringing some floating batteries into service. The land forces will be divided into two battalions, one commanded by General Gillem and the other by General Wheaton, and as fast as the shells begin to operate upon the Indian strongholds the troops will advance and carry the position by storm.
It is pleasant to find that for once the settlers are satisfied with the work of the regular troops and it is safe to say that there is not one of the volunteers that took part in the fight of the 17th that will not speak enthusiastically as to the cool bravery exhibited by the military. General Frank Wheaton, although obliged to retire on that occasion through force of circumstances, cannot be blamed for the result, as the elements were against him in a perfectly strange country. No man had any idea of what lava beds were until that morning, and there are very few that were there then that want to go in again. Of course, as soldiers they will do their duty, and do it gallantly, but they all agree it was one of the hottest places they ever struck. The impression that General Wheaton was relieved of his command on account of incapacity is simply ridiculous, as in truth General Gillem was sent up by General Canby, commanding the Department of the Pacific, because the latter deemed the disturbance of sufficient importance to render necessary the presence of the senior officer on the coast.
Now that the Peace Commissioners are to meet on Saturday, there is considerable anxiety as to what measures they will take, and what will be the result of their talk. They have a rather difficult task before them in order to satisfy both Indians and whites. Justice demands the death of those Indians that murdered the fourteen settlers, but perhaps prudence and the interests of the country may disarm the terrible majesty of the law, and preserve those outlaws from the fate they have so richly earned. It is highly improbable that the Indians will make any treaty whatsoever unless assured of a pardon for these aforesaid murderers; and even should Captain Jack agree to give them up he would be powerless to do so. It is generally believed that the administration are in favor of granting their claims to the strip of land along Lost River, but it is sincerely hoped that the Commissioners will be firm enough to insist on the giving up of the murderers at all hazards, as, should they be pardoned and allowed to reside on this Lost River land there could never be any security to settlers living in that section of the country. Men that will commit such offences against the laws of human nature on one occasion are liable to repeat the offense again and again.
General Wheaton left here yesterday en route for Camp Warner, via Fort Klamath and Yainax Reservation, but will return in case of a renewal of hostilities. General Canby is expected to arrive in this vicinity before long, via Jacksonville. The roads are all in a very bad state, and we have eight inches of snow on the ground to-day.
The troops are beginning to get rather impatient here, and want to have the affairs settled up one way or the other, so that they can get back to their stations, instead of being forced to endure the discomforts and expenses of camp life. It is rather hard on officers and men serving in California to be always paid in greenbacks, making a considerable loss in their receipts, besides having the discomfort and bother of getting their paper exchanged for specie. This camp will probably not be broken up for another month, as the negotiators with Captain Jack and his party will take at least a fortnight to consider the propositions of the Peace Commissioners.

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