16 April 2020

16 April 2020


 16 April 12020 is World Voice Day. It is Peter Ustinov’s birthday. On this day in 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” I had to venture forth for food earlier and things are getting stranger. Masked figures lurk everywhere, and everyone avoids one another. In some ways I wish it were always like this, but it does feel disquieting. Somehow.

15 April 2020

15 April 2020


 15 April 12020 is the Universal Day of Culture. It is Hans Conried’s birthday. In history this was the day that Abraham Lincoln died and Andrew Johnson became president, Lincoln having been shot the day before.

14 April 2020

The Fatal Surprise and Cruel Massacre [guest post by Edward Fox, 14 April 1873]


[From the New York Herald, 1873; story by Edward Fox]
T
hree days have now elapsed since the massacre of General Canby and Dr. E. Thomas, and, as to-morrow we go take action, I write this in case any stray shot might prevent my giving a detailed account of this most heartless and treacherous act. In some such instances the brutal and treacherous nature of the Indian has been passed over and his deeds of blood laid to the account of ignorance; but here no such palliation can be offered, as the Modoc Indians are far above the average in intelligence, having associated freely for the past ten years with the whites. The knowledge of civilization which they have obtained has, however, only rendered them more dangerous, and I do not scruple to say that they are one of the worst bands of Indians in the United States.
I have followed very closely the negotiations that have passed between the Peace Commissioners appointed by the government and these Indians and, although at one time I was inclined to believe they were peaceably disposed, I am now assured that the insolent manner in which they carried themselves, the result of their fight on the 17th January, could only be destroyed by a sound thrashing. They felt like a victorious army, and received the friendly offers of the government as a victorious people would treat the solicitations of their vanquished foes. On the occasion of my visits to their stronghold I always found them talking of the late fight—how one of their men had defended a line of rocks two miles in length; how their little band had whipped three hundred soldiers without losing a man, when the soldiers lost some forty killed and wounded. They always said, “If the soldiers go away we will stop where we are and shoot no man; but if soldiers want more we will give them all they want.” To tell them that more soldiers were coming only made their eyes glisten, as if the thought flashed across their minds, “all the more to kill.” Thomas at that time was of the opinion that Captain Jack was tired of fighting and would make peace, but I freely acknowledge that the surrounding settlers, such as Fairchild and Dorris, and the [wives] of the men Whittle and Riddle, always held to the opinion they would fight rather than leave Lost River.
In a letter written some time ago I stated that the fiend incarnate of these Modocs, Boston Charley, who had been acting as a kind of courier and spy for Captain Jack, had arranged in behalf of the Modocs to accept the terms then offered by General Canby to go to Angel Island until a reservation had been selected for them in some distant county. In pursuance of this treaty he asked for three or four wagons to come and meet them at Klamath Lake, on the Monday following, at noon. He said General Canby and the members of the Peace Commission might come, but no soldiers. On the Sunday evening Tobe, Riddle’s [Modoc wife], came to General Canby and beseeched him not to go, saying it was a plot among the Indians to massacre them all and secure the horses out of the teams. Both Generals Canby and Gillem, Mr. Elijah Steele and numbers of others, including your correspondent, laughed at the idea of such a thing, and both Riddle and his [wife] were looked upon as playing a double game. Mr. Steele accompanied the wagons to the appointed place; but no Indians came in sight, probably thinking that by exercising a little patience they would get a better haul. At the time nothing was thought of it, but now I feel assured that the Indians meant treachery.
Again, when I remained with Dr. Cabaniss at one of their picket stations, while Captain Jack and five others of the tribe had a talk with General Canby and General Gillem, they objected to leaving their guns before going to talk, and although they finally conceded that point they managed to smuggle their pistols with them. I believed then they meant treachery, but, on afterthought, concluded it would be better to wait for some of the Peace Commission.
After we arrived at this camp there were several meetings between the Peace Commission and the Indians, and, although Messrs. Meacham and Dyar both distrusted the intentions of the Modocs, General Canby and Dr. Thomas felt confident that no treachery was intended. For over a week not a day passed by without one or more Modocs coming into camp, ostensibly to talk, but in reality to beg and trade with the sutler. They brought in their feathers and sold them to the sutler for clothing, calicoes, soap, matches and other articles. Food they got in plenty, as General Canby was too kind-hearted to refuse any of their demands for food, and they generally returned to their camp each carrying a bag full of provisions. Boston Charley was in nearly every day, and was in the habit of making his headquarters in General Canby’s tent. His talks with General Canby and Mr. Meacham generally resulted in his getting a couple of blankets from them ostensibly to cover some sick Indian of their tribe.
The day before the massacre Boston Charley and Bogus Charley both came into camp and made arrangements for the meeting of the succeeding day. They arranged to meet at a spot about half a mile from our camp, near the edge of the second inlet on the lake. Two meetings had been held on the same spot, and a wall tent was kept pitched on the ground, so as to give shelter in case of rain. This little flat, covered with bunch grass and loose scoria, that has since become notorious as the scene of the massacre, was hid from our camp by some intervening rolling and broken ground, but was in full view of the signal station on the bluff, at our backs.
Early Friday morning, the day of the massacre, Tobe, Riddle’s [wife], came to Mr. Meacham and beseeched him not to go out, as she was certain the Indians meant to kill them. She said that the last time she had been in their camp on a message William, Wild Gal’s man, ran alongside of her horse as she was leaving and told her that the Modocs were talking bad, and meant to kill all the men at the next talk. Mr. Meacham then went to General Canby and the other Commissioners and told them this story, but neither General Canby nor General Gillem nor Dr. Thomas would put any credence in the statement. Mr. Dyar felt somewhat like Mr. Meacham, and said that he could not see what Tobe had to gain by lying on such a subject. General Canby said that he looked at the matter in another light, and could not see how the Indians would help their case by murdering them, with so many troops on each side of them; it would be only precipitating a war which they were anxious to avert.
Mr. Meacham then called John Fairchild and asked him to sound Bogus Charley and see if he could find anything out of him. Fairchild had a long talk with Bogus, getting quietly at the point, but could get no more information. Bogus asked Fairchild if he was going out with the Commissioners, and, receiving an answer in the negative, then said everything would be all right; “Captain Jack hurt no one.” When Dr. Thomas heard the story he went to Bogus, an Indian to whom he had taken rather a fancy, and asked him if there was anything in the story, and, very naturally, Bogus denied it, saying it was a squaw yarn. Dr. Thomas then said he was satisfied that the Indians meant no treachery, and that he should go, as he felt certain that the God in whom he trusted would guard over him while he went on such [a] mission.
After some reluctance and with evident misgivings as to the result, Messrs. Meacham and Dyar consented to go, and the party were preparing to start when Riddle called them all into General Gillem’s tent and said:—“Gentlemen, I want you to hold me blameless if any harm comes to you to-day, as I feel confident that the Modocs mean no good. They will not shoot me because I am married to one of their tribe, but I greatly fear they have treacherous intentions.” Generals Canby and Gillem rather laughed at his fears, and the party finally started on their mission, from which two never came back alive. Just before leaving, Boston Charley asked Mr. Dyar’s permission to tie a bag of provisions on his horse, a favor which was granted. The party consisted of General Canby, Dr. Thomas, Boston and Bogus Charley, on foot, and Mr. Meacham, Mr. Dyar, Riddle and his [wife], Tobe, on horseback. General Gillem did not go, as he was on the sick list, having been in the doctor’s hands for the past three days.
They all walked quietly towards the rendezvous and arrived there without any incident of importance occurring, but it was noticed that Boston Charley stopped behind them a little and looked about, as if to see that there were no soldiers about. General Canby and the Peace Commissioners, when they arrived at the tent, were shortly afterwards joined by Captain Jack, John Schonchin, Shack Nasty Jim, Hooker Jim, Ellen’s Man and Black Jim. The party finally sat down in a kind of broken circle. General Canby sat facing the west, with Mr. Meacham on his left. Dr. Thomas sat to the left of Mr. Meacham, a little back, and adjoining him were Riddle and his [wife]. Captain Jack sat nearly opposite General Canby, with Schonchin, Black Jim and Ellen’s Man on his left, and on his right were Mr. Dyar, Shack Nasty Jim, Hooker Jim and Boston Charley. Mr. Dyar was standing alongside of Jack during the conference, holding his horse, and Mr. Meacham’s was tied a little in his rear. Bogus Charley was not sitting down, but kept moving about in a restless manner.
Mr. Meacham opened the talk with a long speech, in which he told the Indians how anxious he was to arrange a peace with them, so that the President would be pleased and there would be no more fighting. He told them how difficult it was to get a place where they could live unmolested in this section of the country, and that it would be better for them to decide upon going some distance, where they would be away from the Oregonians, who wished to annoy them. Mr. Meacham spoke for nearly half an hour, after which General Canby talked, telling them not to be afraid of the soldiers; they were their friends and would not hurt them. He also told them how the President wished all his children, Indians and whites, to be at peace and not fighting with one another. Nothing could have been kinder than his speech to these savages, and the kind old gentleman talked to them as if they had been his own children. Captain Jack and Schonchin then spoke to the effect that they wanted the soldiers sent away, and then they would make peace and take a reservation on Cottonwood, Hot Creek or Willow Creek, in the country that they knew and where they had lived many years. Dr. Thomas then talked in his kind, quiet way, and was telling them how difficult it would be for them to live at peace in this part of the country, and how much better it would be for them to go with their families to some other part of the country where they would be fed and clothed by the government.
While Dr. Thomas was speaking Captain Jack got up and walked back to where Meacham’s horse was tied, and then returning said aloud, “Hetuck?” (Are you ready?)—and, pulling his hand out of his pocket, snapped a pistol at General Canby. This was the signal for the murderers, and they immediately commenced their bloody work. There was no hurry or confusion in their manner; each man had selected his victim, and they had only been waiting the signal.
At the first snap of Captain Jack’s pistol General Canby got up and ran in a southerly direction, followed by Captain Jack and Shack Nasty Jim, who both fired at him. The poor old gentleman ran about fifty yards, when he threw up his hands and fell. Bogus Charley, Shack Nasty Jim and another Indian then threw themselves upon him and, after stabbing him in the throat, stripped him of everything he had on. They did not leave a vestige of clothing on his body, and the only portion of his apparel found was a small black necktie.
Mr. Meacham rose at the same time as General Canby, to receive a bullet from the pistol of John Schonchin, but he ran off a short distance, about seventy or eighty yards, and then fell shot in four places. His murderers then stripped him to his underclothing and left him, as they supposed, a ghastly, bleeding corpse. Poor Dr. Thomas was shot through the head in the first fire by Boston Charley, the treacherous brute who had breakfasted with him the same morning. He staggered a few yards and fell on his knees, at the same time asking Boston Charley to spare his life. The fiend replied by firing another bullet through his head, and, at the same time, Bogus Charley said to him, “Why you no believe squaw?” Boston Charley, after stripping the body of Dr. Thomas to the waist, ran to where Meacham was lying and commenced scalping him, when … Tobe shouted, “The soldiers are coming!” and the cowardly devil ran off.
Mr. Dyar was standing on Jack’s right when the first shot was fired, and he immediately turned and ran for camp, followed by Hooker Jim, who fired two shots after him. Dyar, thinking that Hooker Jim was gaining, drew his Derringer, and, turning round, snapped it. The pistol did not go off; but the coward no sooner saw the weapon than he wheeled and ran back to where the rest of his party were finishing their bloody work. This whole scene was enacted in a very few minutes, and before the troops got on the ground the murderers were safe in their rocky fastness.
I was lying down in my tent reading, when I heard a shout that came from above me at the signal station—“They are firing at the Peace Commissioners! General Canby is killed!” I rushed out just as the bugle notes were calling the men to arms. Colonel Miller’s and Major Throckmorton’s batteries of artillery were soon skirmishing across the rolling ground between the camp and the scene of the murder, followed closely by Colonel Wright and Lieutenant Egan, with two companies of the Twelfth infantry. Colonel Biddle and Major Trimble came next with troops K and F, of the First cavalry. When the troops came to where the body of their beloved General was lying cold and dead, disfigured with his wounds, they did not at first recognize him, but learning the horrid truth they dashed forward among the rocks, eager to revenge his murder.
While some were attending to the dead and dying the troops were moving rapidly forward, and it was with difficulty General Gillem kept them back to reserve their vengeance for another day. It was a sad march, that walk back to camp with the dead bodies of General Canby and Dr. Thomas and almost hopelessly wounded Meacham. The Indian [woman], Tobe, was in despair, crying incessantly and muttering, “Why would they not believe me?”
At first it was thought in camp that the murder had not been premeditated, and that the Indians had started the shooting when they found that the Peace Commissioners would not give them a reservation in their old country. When we came back from the scene of the murder I went into General Gillem’s tent, and, as I sat down, he handed me a piece of paper on which was written, “General Canby—The Modocs have attacked Mason’s pickets, wounding Lieutenant Boyle.” As I read it, he said, “I was just writing a note to General Canby, which Dr. Cabaniss had volunteered to take out, when the warning from the signal station told me it was too late to save the life of one of the best and noblest men in the United States Army.” It appears that during the morning some Indians, including Scar-faced Charley and Steamboat Frank, came out on the rocks on the east side and waved a white flag. Lieutenant Sherwood, of the Twenty-first infantry, who was officer of the day, went out to see what they wanted, accompanied by Lieutenant Boyle, Quartermaster of Colonel Mason’s command.
When they arrived within about sixty yards Lieutenant Sherwood asked them what they wanted, and Steamboat Frank answered they wanted to talk with the “little tyee’s,” and asked them to come upon the rocks where they were. This Lieutenant Sherwood refused to do, and the Indians immediately fired upon them, wounding Lieutenant Sherwood severely in two places. Lieutenant Boyle ran away on hearing the first shot and succeeded in escaping unhurt. On hearing the shots a company immediately left Colonel Mason’s camp, led by Lieutenant Egan, who happened to be there visiting at the time, and accompanied by Assistant Surgeon De Witt. They soon came up to where Lieutenant Sherwood was lying and brought him back to camp. His wounds have proved fatal and he died two days afterwards. Mr. Meacham has been doing remarkably well, and, although shot in four places and half scalped, will probably recover. I trust that by this time to-morrow the punishment of these treacherous murderers will have begun, and that some will have paid the penalty of their crimes.
[Note: Although who did exactly what is understandably a matter of controversy, it is generally agreed that Captain Jack and Ellen’s Man George were the two who killed Canby. Shacknasty Jim was busy attacking Meacham, along with John Schonchin. Shacknasty Jim took Meacham’s clothes. Bogus Charley was probably involved in the killing of Thomas, though this is uncertain. Neither Scarfaced Charley nor Steamboat Frank were involved in the attack on Sherwood and Boyle; Miller’s Charley and Curley-Headed Jack were the guilty parties.  Steamboat Frank was part of the crowd at the peace tent, though the only part he took in affairs was to seize Thomas’ coat after he had been killed. Scarfaced Charley was also there, watching from a distance. He had promised to protect Frank Riddle from harm, and was keeping an eye on him.]

14 April 2020


 14 April 12020 is probably something or other, and I am done with this entry. Today was entirely filled with garbage, and I am trying to come up with something in a brief gap between activities before the day ends. Wombat.

13 April 2020

13 April 2020


 13 April 12020 is Easter Monday, for whatever that may be worth, as we limp gently through this maimed and awful Passover season. It’s also Jefferson’s Birthday (United States), Katyn Memorial Day (Poland), and Unfairly Prosecuted Persons Day (Slovakia). Notable people born on this date include J. B. Lightfoot (whose edition of the Apostolic Fathers has been a constant companion of mine for many years), Samuel Beckett, Eudora Welty, and Don Adams (a.k.a. Inspector Gadget). And it’s 25 Farvardin 1399, 19 Sha’ban 1441, 5 Parmouti 1736, 24 Caitra 1942, 31 March (O.S.) or 13 April (N.S.) 2020, 28 Mina 5120, 19 Nisan 5780, and JD 2458952.
On this day in history (13 April 11958) pianist Van Cliburn won the first ever International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and receiving a standing ovation that lasted eight minutes. The American musician was treated as a hero in both the Soviet Union and the United States, and his first recording for RCA (of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto) eventually went platinum (in 11989). He is said to have played for every American president from Eisenhower to Obama, and as far as I know the only reason he didn’t play for Trump is that he died during the Obama administration, well before Trump became president.

12 April 2020

Preconcerted [guest post by Edward Fox, 12 April 1873]

[From the New York Herald, 1873; story by Edward Fox]
T
he massacre of yesterday was entirely preconcerted, as I find this morning that Lieutenants Boyle and Sherwood were induced to leave Colonel Mason’s camp by the Indians waving a white flag and shouting that they wanted to talk. Lieutenant Boyle miraculously escaped without a scratch, but Lieutenant Sherwood fell wounded in two places. He was afterwards brought into camp on a stretcher by some of his own regiment who had been sent out on a skirmish line. The wounds are pronounced severe, but not dangerous.
Mr. Meacham is still in a precarious condition, but hopes are entertained of his recovery.
All the troops in camp turned out under arms at two o’clock this morning, as firing commenced along the picket line; but the enemy finally dwindled down to two horses grazing, and we returned to our beds. In the hurry of getting under arms Colonel Green narrowly escaped death, as an accidental pistol shot passed through the front of his forage cap, tearing away the cross sabre insignia.
We move to-morrow into camp about twelve hundred yards from Captain Jack’s cave, and active operations will immediately commence. The Warm Spring Indians, under Donald McKay, are expected at Colonel Mason’s camp to-morrow. The remains of General Canby and Dr. Thomas left to-day under charge of Lieutenant Anderson.

11 April 2020

Holy Saturday. The Place of the Skull [guest post by Ruth Harrison]


[One of my favorite poems; written by Ruth Harrison and especially appropriate on this day]
Holy Saturday. The Place of the Skull

Yet dare I’ almost be glad I do not see
   That spectacle
   –John Donne, “Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward”

Innocent wood … you knew one grand design:
Growing in grain—your fibered cells align
By laws you followed as an absolute
From high and wind-scarred bough to your dark root—
Crossroad for birds, you were—a shade, a lee…
How is it now, to be the morning tree?

Was it chance chose you out from all the rest?
Or a divine election: Here’s the best,
Higher than all, and sound, and straight in grain,
Easy to hew, to shape with adz and plane
(Squirrels fled in the fallen leaf, and mice
Deserted nests under trampling feet). Once— twice

The ax bit through your side, and sap ran warm
In April air. It seemed a Friday storm
That shook your limbs and pierced your living heart
Until your self gave way and fell. No art
Could then undo the breaking. Were you bred
To host the one we followed, and were fed—?

What is it now that stains each empty arm
Darker than pitch, that marks you cruciform?
I will not ask the way you came.  I saw,
Followed the stumbling steps, the judgment raw
Upon his head, all caught in thorny crown;
I watched us all skulk off, saw him fall down.

I said I didn’t know him. That was true—
I knew a man with answers, someone who
Pulled fish out of the air, handed out bread
From empty sleeves until the thousands fed,
Healed blindness, mocked the money-men—and I
Believed Him when he said we wouldn’t die.

Died like a thief, he did, a common clod…
Now, tree, who’d look at you, and think him God
Whose God forsook him, left him drinking gall
And didn’t crook a finger to forestall
The crumbling Kingdom—and the borrowed tomb…
Is this the mustard seed … the life to come?

And what wings hover now above you, tree,
Against the empty sky, where God should be?
No bird would seek to nest and shelter yet
In your bare arms’ Golgotha. He’d forget
Whatever song he knows upon your rack
Feeling a dead man always at his back.

I couldn’t watch the end—hid like a fish
Brushed by the net … Sheol! I only wish
I’d kept the ear I took! I can’t believe
The story’s dead … There’ll come a time to grieve…
He named me Rock— hah. Well, I’m turned to stone—
One more of his illusions overthrown.

Tree … that you still were living, giving shade
To something more than ants. —I am afraid.
Whoever seeks you now looks for another—
And I am marrow-cold— cannot think further
Than that tomorrow’s dead, that yesterday
Killed hope, killed promise of a finer way.

With boat, with net and sea I could have striven…
To what cruel use men shape the world that’s given.

The Life he promised, tree, is all undone …
How is it now to be the Chosen One?

                                                   —Ruth Harrison
[From How Singular and Fine, © 2012. Used by permission]

One of the Most Treacherous Massacres [guest post by Edward Fox, 11 April 1873]


[From the New York Herald, 1873; story by Edward Fox]
P
eace policy and the Indian Bureau have accomplished the bitter end, and offered as martyrs to the cause the lives of General E. R. S. Canby, commanding the District of the Columbia, and the Reverend Mr. Thomas, of Petaluma, California, Presiding Elder of the Presbyterian Church. As my courier leaves instantly, having eighty miles to ride, I can only give brief details of one of the most treacherous massacres ever perpetrated by the Indians.
For several days past there have been endeavors made by the Peace Commissioners and General Canby to obtain an interview with Captain Jack and the leading chiefs of the Modoc band. The prospects of peace seemed to be better as orders had been sent from Washington to the Peace Commissioners to give the Indians, if necessary, a reservation in this neighborhood.
Yesterday evening Bogus Charley came in, and said that Captain Jack, Schonchin and three or four others would meet the Peace Commissioners on a spot near the lake, about three-quarters of a mile from camp. Bogus Charley stopped in our camp all night, and in the morning Boston Charley also came, and said that everything was all right, as Captain Jack was coming out to meet the Commissioners.
Between ten and eleven o’clock this morning the Peace Commission party—comprising General Canby, Mr. A. B. Meacham, Dr. Thomas, Mr. Dyar, Riddle, the interpreter, and [wife], and Bogus Charley and Boston Charley—went out to the designated spot. There they met Captain Jack, John Schonchin, Black Jim, Shack Nasty Jim, Ellen’s Man and Hooker Jim. They had no guns with them, but each carried a pistol at his belt. This, however, was not much noticed, as in previous interviews they had had their guns with them.
They sat down in a kind of broken circle, and General Canby, Meacham and Dr. Thomas sat together, faced by Captain Jack and Schonchin. Mr. Dyar stood by Jack, holding his horse, with Hooker Jim and Shack Nasty Jim to his left.
Meacham opened the talk, and gave a long history of what they wanted to do for them, after which General Canby and Dr. Thomas both talked for some time. Captain Jack then talked in an apparently good, serious strain, and when he finished stepped back to the rear near where Meacham’s horse was hitched.
John Schonchin then began to talk, and while he was speaking my informant, Mr. Dyar, heard a cap miss fire, and looking around saw Captain Jack to his left with his pistol pointed at General Canby. This was the signal for a general massacre, and a dozen shots were fired inside of half a minute. Mr. Dyar, after hearing the cap miss fire, turned and fled, followed closely by Hooker Jim, who fired two shots after him. Dyar finding Hooker Jim gaining on him turned and drew his Derringer, whereupon Hooker Jim retreated and Dyar made the rest of his way to the camp.
Captain Jack fired again on General Canby, and the noble old gentleman ran off to the left, but was speedily shot down and killed instantly. Meacham was shot at by Schonchin and wounded in the head. He tried to draw his Derringer, when two Indians ran up and knocked him down. Dr. Thomas was killed almost instantly by two pistol shots in the head. Riddle ran off, and it appears they did not fire at him, but they knocked his [wife] down. Dyar, Riddle and [his wife] returned in safety to the camp.
The above story I obtained from Mr. Dyar.
I was lying down in my tent just after lunch, reading a book and rather sulky with the Peace Commissioners for refusing the press access to the talk, when I heard a shout from the signal station on the side of the bluff—“They are firing on the Peace Commissioners.” I jumped up, and, buckling on my revolver, ran out just as the drums and bugles were sounding the call to arms. I then learned from General Gillem that the Indians had attacked Colonel Mason’s camp on the east side of Tule Lake, and he showed me a half-written note which he had hastily penned to send as a warning to General Canby.
I rushed out with Colonel Miller and Major Throckmorton’s two batteries that were leading the skirmish line, and, after about five minutes’ tramp over the broken rocks, we arrived at the scene of the massacre. In the distance I saw three of the perpetrators of the murders running round the edge of the lake on their way back to their rocky fastness. About a hundred yards to the west of the place of meeting we found Mr. A. B. Meacham badly wounded with a pistol shot over the left eye. He was immediately attended to and carried back for medical treatment. Fifty yards further on was the body of the Rev. Dr. Thomas, lying on his face and stripped to the waist. Life was extinct from pistol shot wounds in his head. The body of General Canby, the hero of many a fight, was stripped of every vestige of clothing and lay about one hundred yards to the southward, with two pistol shot wounds in the head.
Pausing only to cast a glance on the body of the man they both loved and respected, the troops dashed on and the two leading batteries were within a mile of the murderers when the bugle call sounded a “halt.” Lieutenant Egan and Major Wright’s companies of the Twelfth infantry were behind the artillery and then come the cavalry. General Gillem and Colonel Green and staff were up with the men, but as soon as they found that the Indians had all got back to their stronghold the troops were ordered to fall back, and active operations will commence to-morrow or the day after.
The attack on Colonel Mason’s camp, as I learn through Lieutenant Adams, signal officer, commenced by the Indians firing on Lieutenants Boyle and Sherwood, who had wandered some five hundred yards outside their picket lines. Lieutenant Sherwood was shot through the arms and leg, but Lieutenant Boyle escaped without injury. Both officers got safely back to their camp.
In justice to Riddle, the interpreter, and his [wife], it should be stated that they both warned the Peace Commissioners and General Canby not to trust implicitly in the Indians, and added, “if they will go I wash my hands of all blame in the matter.”
The murder of General Canby has thrown a gloom over this camp, and created a bitter feeling in the hearts of the men that will exact a bitter reckoning from these treacherous savages. I have never known an officer so universally respected and esteemed as General Canby. He was a true Christian and brave soldier, and died in what he believed was the discharge of his duty. For the past few days he has clothed and fed these Indians, giving them blankets, food and tobacco. I saw him give Boston Charley money out of his pocket to go and buy some things at the sutler’s. When the [Modoc women] came into camp they rushed to General Canby, and they went back laden with provisions, calico, etc. Yet the first to fall was their kindest and noblest benefactor.
Dr. Thomas was the most earnest and best member of the Peace Commission, and never hesitated to go to meet these savages when he deemed his duty called him there.
Mr. Meacham is still in a dangerous condition, suffering from a flesh wound on the right forearm and a pistol shot entering behind the right ear and escaping three inches above. He also has an incised wound on the head, where the Indians tried to scalp him.

10 April 2020

“Too Many Men” [guest post by Edward Fox, 10 April 1873]


[From the New York Herald, 1873; stories by Edward Fox]
W
e are still waiting patiently for the Indians to come in, and the Peace Commissioners continue hopeful of a successful termination to their labors.  They sent a message to-day to Captain Jack to the effect that if the Modocs surrendered to the Peace Commission they would be take by them to Yreka or some convenient spot and taken care of until they decided upon their future home, which would be selected according to their views.
As Captain Jack had sent out word that if the soldiers went away they would come out, General Gillem sent him back word that the soldiers would not go away until they took Jack and his party with them.
Donald McKye and seventy Warm Spring Indians are expected at Colonel Mason’s camp to-morrow.
Major Biddle, late Captain of the First cavalry, will leave in a few days for Kansas to join his new regiment, the Sixth cavalry.
Another week will probably settle this Modoc difficulty.

I
t is now nearly two months since a Peace Commission arrived in this section of the country, armed with full power to treat with Captain Jack and his tribe, and nothing as yet has been accomplished. Time may be of no account to the Peace Commissioner, drawing twenty dollars per diem for his services, but the Indian Bureau should certainly have a little consideration for the public purse in their endeavors to carry out and establish the moral suasion theory as the infallible cure for fractious Indians.
I have now been long enough among these Indians to gain some insight into their personal character, and believe them to be a fearless, brave set of men. I am satisfied that they do not want to fight any more, and that, eventually, when moral suasion has failed and the force of arms succeeded, they will accept the proffered terms and go to a home on some distant reservation. In their present position they occupy the stand of victors, and, judging from the tone of the communications that have passed between Captain Jack and the Peace Commissioners, the former is evidently impressed with that belief, and prefers dictating to accepting. For the past two months they have been treated as if the United States government was afraid of them, and, flushed with their victory of the 17th of January, nothing but the force of arms can make them leave the home of their childhood.
If immediately after that fight the troops had come into camp where they now are and commenced a regular siege of the Modoc stronghold the Indians might have been disposed to accept terms and the trouble settled in a few days. Two months now have elapsed, during which time the Peace Commission have shown themselves afraid of the Indians. Tobacco has been given them, provisions have been given them, blankets have been given them. They have been petted and pampered, had every trifling wish granted, and yet people are astonished that they do not give up their old home and go to some distant country. Is it likely that a party of Indians, after just repulsing two or three hundred United States soldiers and knowing that there were six hundred more soldiers within twenty miles for the past two months, would give up what they fought for, especially when they found they could remain where they were and get provisions, blankets and tobacco for the asking?
The Peace Commissioners are perhaps not as much to blame for the prolonging of the war as are the authorities in Washington, who send such despatches as, “Hold on and make peace if it takes all Summer.” Such kind hearted doctrines may look very well in official reports and are probably read with pride by the members of societies for providing the aborigines with clothing. Though on the face they seem sentiments of humanity, and may occasionally meet with success for the time being, they ultimately are cruel.
In this instance, if these Indians were allowed to remain where they are, and the troops withdrawn, the country would flow with blood before another thirty days. The Indians would have to live, to live they would have to steal cattle, to steal cattle they would have to fight, and soon fresh outcries and complaints would pour into Washington, muttering dark tales of murdered settlers and Indian outrages. It is also highly probable that such submission on the part of the government to a tribe of rebellious Indians would tend to increase the discontent already brewing among the Snakes and Piutes. The fact that forty or fifty Indians had repulsed two or three hundred soldiers has already had a marked effect upon the untutored savage, and the additional news that the United States government in their magnanimity have decided to give these same victorious Indians the land they asked and take their licking in good grace will also be appreciated by the sagacious Lo! [see Note]
I do not feel bloodthirsty towards these Indians, but I am certain it is expedient that they should receive a slight idea of the power of the government before they are embraced and loaded down with its gifts. If they are to know it as a government that can give, they should also know it as a government that is not afraid of Indians and can punish them when they deem it necessary. An air of insolence has pervaded the whole of these Indians ever since the last fight, that requires checking, and I have myself heard them say that one Modoc in the rocks can kill twenty soldiers.
Last Monday week [31 March] the whole command left Van Bremer’s ranch, and after a march of about twelve miles, encamped for the night on the shores of Little Klamath Lake.  Major Thomas with the mortars, and Lieutenant Miller, with a detachment of the First cavalry, remained at Van Bremer’s a few days longer. Early Tuesday morning the march was resumed, and before one P.M. the entire command, baggage train and all, had arrived at the top of the cliffs. The troops then moved down the hill and took possession of our present camp [see Note], which is situated on the shore of Tule Lake, on the western edge of the lava beds, and about two and a half miles from Captain Jack’s stronghold. The baggage was taken off the wagons at the top of the hill and packed down on mules. For the past week the mules have been hard at work packing stores down the hill, and we have at last succeeded in getting things pretty comfortable. If we are to remain here all Summer talking to Indians we might have struck a worse place than Tule Lake, as “barring” the scorpions, rattlesnakes and a rather high wind, it is not a bad kind of place.
Talking about the duration of this trouble, the following lines, written on the Florida war [see Note], are decidedly appropriate:—
Ever since the creation,
By the best calculation,
            The Florida war has been raging;
And ’tis our expectation
That the last conflagration
            Will find us the same contest raging.
And yet, ’tis not an endless war,
            As facts will plainly show,
Having been “ended” forty times
            In twenty months or so.
Sam Jones! Sam Jones! thou great unwhipped,
            Thou makest a world of bother;
Indeed we quite suspect thou art
            One Davy Jones’ brother.
“The war is ended,” comes the news,
            “We caught them in our gin;
The war is ended, past a doubt,
            Sam Jones has just come in!”
But, hark! next day the tune we change,
            And sing a counter strain;
“The war’s not ended;” for behold!
            Sam Jones is out again.
And, ever and anon we hear
            Proclaimed, in cheering tones,
“Our General’s had”—a battle?—no,
            A “talk with Samuel Jones!”
For aught we see, while ocean rolls
(As tho’ these crafty Seminoles
            Were doubly nerved and sinewed),
Nor art nor force can e’er avail,
But like some modern premium tale,
            The war’s “to be continued.”
We have now quite an extensive camp, and, looking from the bluffs above, it presents quite an imposing appearance. Major Thomas arrived on Friday with the mortars and also another battery of the Fourth artillery, with Lieutenants Harris and Howe. Captain Johnson, of the Twenty-first infantry, also arrived and left next day under orders for Fort Klamath. The past week has been devoted to Indian negotiations between the Peace Commissioners and the Modocs.
There have been several protracted powwows, in which Captain Jack and his counsellors have done some rather tall talking, relating their story to the disciples of peace. In every instance the Peace Commissioners have gone to the place designated by Captain Jack, and on one occasion General Canby sat in it open during a heavy storm of snow and sleet, listening to the speeches of Jack and Schonchin. It is certainly very kind of the commander of the Department of the Columbia to give way to the whims of an insolent Indian; but I am afraid such condescension is not appreciated by the savage, and the motive misconstrued. The “talks” have resulted in Captain Jack giving up all claim to the Lost River land; but as yet he declines to leave this section of the country, and offers to remain where he is and fight no more if the soldiers are removed.
Although Captain Jack declines to visit our camp there are others of the tribe who come in and out nearly every day. Boston Charley and Bogus Charley are constant visitors, and the [women] Mary, Ketcham, Limpey and Mrs. Shack Nasty have been in several times. Mary asked General Canby one day for some hard bread, and the kind-hearted old gentleman gave her an order for twenty pounds. She came back presently and said it was not enough, and the General then told them to give her the rest of the box, amounting to about eighty or ninety pounds. These provisions were then carried off to feed the hungry braves in Captain Jack’s camp. Bogus and Boston rarely go back empty handed, and generally return carrying a large bag of provisions and several blankets, the gifts of the Peace Commission.
The [Modoc women] also brought in several bags of feathers the other day, which they traded to the sutler for provisions and clothing. Speaking of the presents to the Indians, the Peace Commission have, during the past six weeks, given them a large quantity of tobacco, which they obtained from the Quartermaster on order of General Gillem. This generosity to the Indians has resulted in depriving the enlisted soldier of his usual quantum of the fragrant leaf, unless he can afford to pay the Sutler $1.50 per pound for the luxury. I have only mentioned this “gift enterprise” in order to show the policy that has been adopted to pacify a rebellious and insolent tribe of Indians, holding a United States army in check.
Bogus Charley has had quite a pleasant time on the occasion of his visits to camp, and on several occasions returned to his dusky friends much impressed with the genius of the pale face. On one occasion he was shown some of the shells belonging to the mortars, and on seeing them immediately exclaimed, “Must take mighty long gun to shoot.” He got badly scared last Sunday by an officer here who has seen considerable Indian service and carries a glass eye as a memento of one of his red skin fights. Bogus was looking at him with evident curiosity, when the officer beckoned him on one side and asked him if he ever saw a “San Francisco eye.” Bogus answering “no” the officer immediately whipped his out, and, after showing it on the palm of his hand, returned it, saying, “Heap good eye, you shoot that; send to San Francisco and get another.” This feat so impressed Bogus with the supernatural power of the officer that he said, “Indian no shoot you,” and immediately left him.
Major Mason moved his camp on Monday to Hospital Rock, a spot about a mile and a half to the eastward of Captain Jack’s cave, and the signal service operate daily between the east and west camps. The other day when Bogus was in camp he saw Lieutenant Adams swinging a signal flag and he asked General Gillem what it meant. The General told the inquisitive Indian that he was talking with the soldiers at the other camp. “What?” said Bogus, “talk over my house!” The General answered in the affirmative, and presently when Bogus asked for some tobacco, he was told that they had none, but they would tell them to send some from the other camp. Soon after, Bogus was shown the boat coming across the lake, and when it arrived he was taken to the water’s edge and saw the tobacco taken out. This feat of magic completely puzzled him and he was very anxious to go up, and as he said, “hear them talk,” but General Gillem would not let him go. One of the Modocs dropped down yesterday in their camp dead, and in the evening they told Biddle that he was killed by the “Long Talk on the hill.” They were also very anxious to know if the “Sunday man,” meaning Dr. Thomas, had not something to do with the “Long Talk.”
Boston Charley came in to-day and was sent back by the Peace Commissioners, with a proposition that Jack and his party should surrender to the Peace Commissioners and they would be taken care of and given a voice in the selection of their future home. As Captain Jack had sent out word that he would come out if all the soldiers went away, General Gillem sent him a message “That the soldiers would not come out until they took Jack and his party with them,” and he also added that if Jack came out and could not get his people to come with him, the soldiers would go in and make them come. There was a battalion drill to-day, and all the soldiers in camp were out. They presented quite a fine appearance, and rather astonished Boston Charley, who kept repeating “Too many men.”
I regret to have to announce the death of Assistant Surgeon McMillin, the chief medical officer of the Modoc expedition. Dr. McMillin was one of the most popular officers on the medical staff, and his death will be much lamented throughout the service.  He had been suffering from chills for three or four days, and died suddenly of heart complaint early Sunday morning [6 April]. At a meeting of the officers held the same afternoon the following resolutions were unanimously adopted:—
Whereas the Almighty has in his pleasure removed from among us our late companion and brother officer, Assistant Surgeon Thomas McMillin, United States Army Medical Director of expedition operating against Modoc Indians, who was endeared to us by his uniform kindness, amiability and many noble qualities; and whereas it has come lately to our belief that while suffering from a disease contracted from exposure in the service he has nobly and without hesitation performed all duty required of him, both in camp and in the field, and at last became its victim when in the face of the enemy; therefore, be it
Resolved, That while we deplore his early death, and look upon it as a great loss, not only to ourselves, but to the army at large and the profession of which he was a member and to which he was an ornament, we entertain the hope that his gain is beyond our ability to express.
Resolved, That we take this method to make known and extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family and relatives in their sad bereavement.
The remains of Dr. McMillin were sent to Yreka, en route for San Francisco, where they will be interred. Assistant Surgeon McElderry has been appointed Medical Director of the expedition, vice McMillin, deceased.
There is a probability of an adjustment of these difficulties, either by peace or war, in the course of a few days, as the Indians will have to do one thing or the other. General Gillem is perfectly prepared for action, and if the Indians do not give up pretty soon he will move camp to within about half a mile of their stronghold, and, with the aid of the Warm Spring Indians under Donald McKay, who will hold the rocks to the southward, commence to starve them out.
[Notes: Camp on Lava Beds: a.k.a. Lava Beds Camp; called “Gillem’s Camp” by the military. Lo!: Native Americans. The reference is to a phrase from Pope’s Essay on Man: “Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutored mind | Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind; | His soul proud science never taught to stray | Far as the solar walk or milky way; | Yet simple nature to his hope has giv’n, | Behind the cloud-topped hill, an humbler heav’n.” This use was common at the time. The Florida War: The reference here is to the Second Florida War of 1835-1842. This long-drawn-out war was fought to remove the Seminoles from the Florida swamps and ship them to Arkansas. Seminole resistance might not have been so determined if the government had not insisted on settling them among their long-time enemies, the Creeks, and upon reducing the black Seminoles to slavery. Sam Jones, referred to in the verse, was one of the Seminole leaders, also known as Arpeika. Canby had a minor rôle in the conflict, and supervised the transfer of one group of Seminoles from Florida to Indian Territory. The verse Fox quoted appeared in various papers in 1839, such as the Augusta Chronicle and Sentinel of 16 April.]

09 April 2020

Commission Despondent [guest post by Edward Fox, 8 April 1873]

[From the New York Herald, 1873; story by Edward Fox]
Y
esterday the Peace Commission sent Frank Riddle’s Indian [wife] to Captain Jack’s camp for the purpose of arranging for a talk at some point between Jack’s camp and ours. She returned in the evening and reports that while she was there Captain Barnard’s men, camped at Hospital Rock, made a reconnoisance and captured four horses belonging to Jack. This made them (the Indians) very angry, and they abused her roundly and refused to make any arrangement to talk with the Commission. Orders have been given by signal to return the captured horses.
I am informed by Mr. Fairchild that the Commission begin to feel very despondent. It is the general opinion that if the Commission would withdraw this farce would be ended within three days.
Jack’s men were busily engaged this morning in building rock fortifications. The troops are making every necessary preparation for a fight.

08 April 2020

8 April 2020


 8 April 12020 is International Romani Day. I don’t have anything else listed for it, and I’m not up to looking anything up, so I guess I’ll leave it at that.  I don’t know why I’m feeling as crappy as I am—I had a good night’s sleep for once. I did have a strange dream—I was wandering in a world of giants, looking through a forest of legs (so to speak), my companion a wisecracking stork-like bird that identified as a goose and insisted upon being addressed as such. We were scrounging food from vendors offering free samples on toothpicks (we had to get up on various objects to reach the table tops) while we tried to find a connecting bus that would take us to a station from which we could catch a bus home. An argument was going on around us about whether “alota” or “lotsa” was the correct word to use in the expression “we got alota (or lotsa) time.” I didn’t think either one was right, but the whole discussion was over my head anyway. My stork-like companion spotted a place where water was pouring from an open pipe and got under it, flapping his wings happily and scattering water-drops everywhere. «I thought we were going home,» I said, or words to that effect. “As far as I’m concerned, I am home,” the goose said blissfully. I woke up—which, I suppose, was the easy way of getting home—but I kind of miss the goose. Or stork, or whatever he was.

07 April 2020

Nothing Accomplished [guest post by Edward Fox, 7 April 1873]

[From the New York Herald, 1873; story by Edward Fox]
T
he Peace Commission have not as yet accomplished anything. They have had but one talk with the leading Indians since they arrived in the lava bed; but unreliable Indians, such as Bogus and Boston Charley, come in every day and always receive some present from Mr. Meacham.
Battery K, Fourth artillery, arrived here at noon to-day. Colonel Mason has moved his command from Land’s ranch to Hospital Rock, about two miles east of Captain Jack. Signal stations have been established at different points and work well.
Two or three boats have been put upon the lake, and communication is now frequent between the different camps.
Dr. Semig takes charge of the medical department at Hospital Rock.
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