Before the colonization of Oregon, an estimated ninety-five hundred Indian people lived in the region where the Rogue River War was fought, including speakers of Takelman and Shastan languages to the east, in the main Rogue Valley of present-day Josephine and Jackson Counties, and speakers of Athapascan languages to the west and along the coast. Fewer than two thousand Indian survivors of the war were counted on the reservation in 1857.
The commencement of the Rogue-river war was not by any means a merely local disturbance, but was a part of a widely extended effort of the Indians of Oregon, and also of Washington, to rid themselves of the presence of the white race. A comparison of dates shows a widespread combination of the tribes, from the Siskiyou mountains in the south, to the southern boundary of British Columbia in the north; and from the waters of the Pacific on the west, to the springs of the Columbia on the east. Everywhere was discontent, jealousy, and hatred of the superior and encroaching civilization. That there was reason for much of the discontent in treaties compulsarily made, tardily ratified, and fraudulently executed, cannot be denied; nor that the fault was with the government rather than with the people.
The final conflicts of the Rogue River War began early on the morning of October 8, 1855, when self-styled volunteers attacked Native people in the Rogue Valley. It ended in June 1856 with the removal of most of the Natives in southwestern Oregon to the Coast Reservation, which later became the Siletz Reservation. From 235 to 267 Indian people were thought to have been killed in the war, together with fifty soldiers, among them thirty-three volunteers and seventeen regular troops. By one account, Indians killed forty-four white civilians.
Very early on there was an ugly rumor spread by fortune-hunting whites, that the natives of the Rogue Valley had a reputation for violence among non-Indians, although it was trappers who killed some Native people in 1834 were responsible for the first recorded deadly encounters with outsiders. Travel on the trail through the valley into California increased in 1848 due to the Gold Rush, and tensions in the valley increased as well. Jacksonville was established in the Rogue Valley after the discovery of gold on Jackson Creek in late 1851 or early 1852.
Volunteer companies were organized in the summer of 1853 after a series of violent exchanges. Two battalions commanded by Joseph Lane, territorial delegate to Congress, pursued Native people into rough country north of the Table Rocks. After volunteers made an assault, Indian leaders asked for negotiations; and Lane and Indian Service superintendent Joel Palmer made peace treaties on September 8 and September 10, in exchange for "cession and relinquishment" of land. Native leaders were coerced into selling roughly two thousand square miles to the Americans and accepted a reservation of about one hundred square miles north of the Rogue River.
Unfortunately, clashes in nearby Northern California in the summer and autumn of 1855 and the stirring of agitation by rival politicians led to an anti-Indian meeting in Jacksonville on October 7. Most of those present expressed approval of a plan put forward by a newly elected Democrat territorial representative, James A. Lupton, to exterminate Native people living off the reservation. Early the next morning, seven parties of about 115 men set out to attack Indian camps. In those attacks, Lupton and another white man were mortally wounded, and ten more were injured in the initial assault, by one report; forty Indians were killed in the first attack. One witness said half the dead were women and children.
The prospect of being fed and eventually paid for joining volunteer companies may have enticed some of the local men to take part in the initial attacks and subsequent war, but the majority of mercenaries had come from Northern California or other regions of Oregon. Records would later show that In June and July, the paid volunteers were mustered in at $16.00 per day and $4.00 per day for horse, in the 1853 campaign together had received a sum total of $70,200; and nearly 151,000 was contributed for their suppliers,. There is no record of James Jordan or his father-in-law George Fidler of ever volunteering for the militia or participating in the fighting.
But, immediately following Lupton's massacre of native women and children, in October 1855, bands of Native warriors fled westward down the Rogue River, killing at least eighteen white people in their path. Traveling some fifty miles downriver, at the mouth of Galice Creek, they attacked a fortified mining camp that was blocking their way, burning down most of the miners’ shacks and killing four men.,
By late October, a detachment of regular U.S. Army troops coming from the coast found the Indians’ hiding place near Grave Creek and, together with local volunteers, attacked them on the morning of October 31. In what became known as the Battle of Grave Creek Hills or the Battle of Hungry Hill. Nearly four hundred troops are said to have taken part in the attack against seventy-five Indian warriors along with four hundred Natives, including many women and children. The troops charged into a canyon, but were disorganized, and were driven back, with between eleven killed and thirty-five mortally wounded. The troops and volunteers withdrew after Indians had attacked their camp the next morning.
On February 22, 1856, a Native force, perhaps of people who were involved in fighting upriver, overwhelmed a volunteer camp near the mouth of the Rogue River. The town of Ellensburg (present-day Gold Beach) and all of the dwellings between the Rogue River and Port Orford were burned, and survivors fled to an improvised fort north of the river.
In March, however, troops moving north from Crescent City, California, led by Bvt. Lt. Col. Robert Buchanan, commander of the regulars, camped at Oak Flat on the Illinois River, near its confluence with the Rogue. On May 20, leaders of the bands involved in the war conferred with him. Although Tecumtum refused to surrender, others promised to surrender their bands at Big Bend, downriver from the Meadows. But on May 27, the commander at Big Bend, Capt. Andrew J. Smith, noted that followers of Tecumtum were infiltrating and stirring up the people gathering there. In the late morning, they attacked his troops. The fighting continued until Capt. Smith was reinforced late the next afternoon. Col. Buchanan reported that eleven of the regulars had been killed.
Most of the Indian survivors of the war were sent by steamboat from Port Orford to Portland and from there to the Grand Ronde Reservation in June 1856. Tecumtum surrendered in late June, and his followers, along with two bands from the south coast, had to make the journey on foot. Many of those sent north were moved to the mouth of the Salmon River on the coast and subsequently to the Siletz Agency on the Coast Reservation.
Eye Witness Accounts: "As soon as we got the news at Galice Creek of the massacre at Evans' ferry on Rogue River, and of the murder of the Wagoner family on Applegate, and that of Jones and Harris, we began to keep our eyes open, expecting that the Indians would come down upon us in a body some night and clean the creek out from end to end. The miners held a meeting and agreed to 'lay their claims over,' that is, they passed a law that if anyone owning a claim on the creek or within the limits of Galice Creek mining district should choose to leave his diggings and volunteer, or for other reasons, it should not be lawful for anyone to enter upon said claim during the absence of the proper owner. Thereupon the miners stacked up their sluiceboxes, and taking their other effects on their backs, or on the backs of horses or mules, they scattered in all directions, some for parts unknown, some went up the river and joined various volunteer companies, while others, myself among them, stayed on the creek and organized a company with the determination of holding our ground and taking care of our property, which we had brought together at the mouth of the creek. There were only about forty of us, but we knew that we could defend ourselves against as many Indians as could be brought against us, as the volunteer companies above would keep the most of the Indians busy up there. We elected Billy Lewis Captain, and your humble servant was elected 1st Lieut. As soon as we had got our company in working order we began looking about for a suitable place for a blockhouse. We picked upon a large log house on a wide bar on the river, and soon repaired it and made some additions which we thought might be necessary in case of an attack, although we did not indulge much apprehension of such an event. But we had several women and children with us, and as they looked to us for protection we thought best to have everything safe. We moved all our traps and supplies into our headquarters and soon had everything snug and in order, ready at any time for an attack. In a few days after we had got everything ready, we received news that everybody was forted up in the settlement above us, and that the Indians were getting the best of some of the regular troops in the skirmishes they were having; that it was believed that the Indians had divided their warriors; that George and Limpy had gone down Rogue River, and would probably pay us a visit in a short time, and by reason of their successful raid upon the settlements around Evans' ferry they would pitch into us with great expectations of cleaning us out. But we had no fears on that score, for we were well armed and on the lookout for them, while the settlers above had been taken by surprise, and each family was alone without means for defense. In their attack on Harris' house, Mrs. Harris kept them away until some volunteers came to her assistance.
We had no fears of being cleaned out even if we should be attacked, which we all doubted. We did not have much provisions, and for meat we had to depend on our rifles. Someday it came my turn to go out after game. I don't mean to say I went alone, but that I was one of the six who were detailed for that duty. We went out in three squads, two men together. One party went up the river, one down, and another back in the hills and up the creek. It was my fortune to go up the creek, so my pard and I set out before daybreak, and by the time it was light we were five miles from the house. The country, in spots, is open and well grassed; many fine springs of water issue from the sides of the hills, and the depressions, or 'wallows' as we called them, were to be found at short intervals on the gentle rolls of the hills and occasionally on the summit of a ridge. We had killed two deer and were sitting down by a small fire, which we had kindled, and broiling each a piece of steak, for we were hungry and camp was too far off for us to go to it before satisfying our hunger. 'I say, Bill,' said my pard, 'Don't you believe Old Limpy is around in these hills watching for a chance to pounce upon our blockhouse?' 'Very likely,' I answered, 'I had begun to think that somebody has been hunting in these hills since we were up here two weeks ago. The game is scarce today and everything seems to wear a strange look; the squirrels don't seem lively at all. I've had a strange feeling all day. I believe that we'll have trouble before long.' 'Well, let's start up and go down to the house,' replied my pard. 'It is late and we must hurry along, because, hurry as we will, we'll make slow time carrying these heavy deer--Hark!' A rifle report--two--three--then all was still. The reports came from the hills up the river above our blockhouse; we knew but two of our boys went up there in the morning and they could fire but two shots in such rapid succession. It could not be them. The very stillness seemed to prognosticate a coming fray. We gathered up our game--each one slinging a deer over his shoulders--and started for the blockhouse. My pard, who was ahead about ten steps, said to me, 'Bill, you must keep your ears open from behind and I'll do the same from the front--horse fashion. You know when horses are traveling those in the rear keep their ears turned back, while those in front keep their ears well forward, so that they can better catch sounds in either direction.' 'All right,' said I, 'go ahead, but I don't believe that we'll see any Indians today. If they are meditating an attack on us they will make it at daylight some morning for----.' 'Down, Bill! Down! Do you see that?' And throwing himself down behind a cluster of brush he pointed down the hill directly in our front to a dozen or more mounted Indians and about fifty on foot who were rapidly crossing our track and heading down the river. All of them were armed and from their rapid movements seemed to be intent on accomplishing some already arranged plan. Fortunately we were so far away they did not discover us. Remaining in our hiding place after the last one had passed out of sight, at least fifteen minutes, we again set out for the blockhouse with no fear of running across the Indians, as they in all probability intended to go below us and leave their horses and traps and come upon us early some morning. Arriving at the house with our game, we found that the two who had gone up the river had returned without any game. When they started out in the morning they went up the river about four miles and then turned to the right into the hills. Seeing no game worthy of shot, they slowly wandered up and along the ridge and through the open and level grassy benches until about 1 o'clock in the afternoon, when they sat down by a small spring that burst from the side of the hill, intending to remain there until towards night, when they would return to the house. They had been by the spring about two hours, engaged in talking over Indian matters--for that was the all-engrossing topic--and venturing guesses whether they would see any 'sign' (that was the term they used to designate signs of Indians) when they became aware that they were to have an accession to their company. Through the open woods they saw two persons coming in an oblique direction, towards them. They could not make out to which party they belonged, for the Indians in almost all cases were clothed in the white man's costume, but to be on the safe side they quietly sank back into some brush which was growing below the spring, and from which they could see the newcomers slowly moving toward them. It was not long before the boys distinctly saw that they were Indians who had, perhaps, been sent out to secure meat for a larger number, for it was very evident they could be but temporarily alone. The boys had not succeeded in finding any deer, but they now began to congratulate themselves that they had found game of another kind. Each man had chosen his mark and had prepared to shoot as soon as the Indians should come out of a small ravine which they were crossing. As the Indians began to show themselves above the bank our two men were startled almost out of their wits at the sudden apparition of a large band of Indians mounted and on foot, advancing directly towards the spring which they had just left. No time was to be lost now; things had taken a very sudden and disagreeable turn. Down the little gulch they plunged headlong through the brush at a galloping pace. The Indians saw them, but only for a moment, still, long enough to send three shots after them. But the boys were good on the run and jump, and in less than half a minute they were far down in a dark, deep canyon putting into Rogue River, following down which they soon made their way to the river and down that to the blockhouse. About an hour after dark the other men came in with two deer; a third one they left to be brought in on the following day, but we never got it, for the next morning just at daybreak the Indians came upon us with a tremendous rush, thinking to take us by surprise. But we had worked all night getting things in readiness for them, and of course were not much surprised at the attack. Every man in our fort, except the guards, had worked all night throwing up breastworks in a square in front of the house. At each of the outer corners we had erected a bastion, and our limited military knowledge assured us that we could defend ourselves against all the Indians that might come against us. Just before daybreak Capt. Lewis had sent me with a squad of men to inspect the entrenchments from the outside and if there should be anything more needed to tell these in the trench inside how and where to perform the needed work. I had been around several times and had at last finished all necessary work and was standing at one of the bastions with my men all in a huddle when the Indians, who had come up under cover of the darkness, poured a broadside into us and into the fort.
'Get inside, boys!' I yelled, to make myself heard above the din, but it was not necessary to tell the biggest fool in the squad to get inside; they would have climbed inside like a band of sheep jumping over a fence, even if I had told them to stand their ground. The Indians had taken possession of the bar above and below our fort--every tree had one or more behind it, while some were down behind large boulders which covered the bar in some places sufficiently to give good hiding places for large numbers. Across the river opposite us the timber and brush were thick, affording still better shelter for them, while back of us, and within thirty feet of the house, ran a ridge as high as the roof of the house, covered with trees. All of the shelter just mentioned was occupied by Indians at the time of the attack, except the ridge close to the house. On that ridge we had always kept a guard, and the savages were smart enough not to try to occupy that place at first.
"It was not quite light enough when the attack began to distinguish objects with any certainty, and as our ammunition was scarce we withheld our fire till we could see to hit an Indian every time. As we did not return the first fire they began to believe that we would make no fight and that they would have a splendid time taking off our scalps and eating our bread and sugar. Acting in this belief, they came flocking along the ridge from both directions expecting to find us in no condition to resist an attack from that place. By this time it was light enough and Captain Lewis told us to begin our part of the performance. 'Now, boys, give those fellows a full dose,' said the captain, pointing to the Indians coming along the ridge. And we did, I assure you. It was not a long nor a hard job to clear the ridge. The other boys in the trenches had been for a few minutes firing stray shots at the Indians whenever they could catch sight of them in the semi-darkness. In a few minutes the light was sufficient for all purposes and the fun began in good earnest. The Indians were thought to be several hundred strong, as they fired from far and near and over each other's heads. We could return yell for yell, we had enough of that commodity, but our ammunition must be carefully used. Every shot on our part told on the enemy. Our breastworks enclosed a square of perhaps forty feet, and all along the side and from out [of] the house we poured a determined and destructive fire upon our assailants, but they would not yield an inch. Contrary to their usual custom, they left their dead lying where they fell, and advanced slowly but steadily upon us. Old Limpy backed around from place to place encouraging his men to advance closer by setting the example. Old John was there too, running from point to point yelling out his orders, equal to any civilized colonel or major. No cessation, the Indians crowded closer upon our defenses, all hands hoarse with yelling, the bullets zipping through our house and knocking the dirt from our breastworks into our eyes; two men killed, seven more wounded, two mortally, the others severely; yet it was early in the day. Our defenses were not so strong as we thought, or the Indians never evinced such dogged determination. The Indians across the river sent bullets in showers over our breastworks and it soon began to get too hot for us, exposed as we were to a fire we could not return, as the Indians were hid in the brush on the hillside and we were compelled to shoot at random in that quarter. But we did good execution among the Indians on the bar. Thus things were until noon. We suffered by the fusillade from across the river, while we paid it back upon the Indians around our works. They climbed into the tops of trees on the bar and sent many a damaging shot from their perch among the branches, but one by one they were picked out and dropped to the ground by our boys until that kind of elevated warfare entirely ceased, and no shots came over and into our trenches except from across the river.
About 9 o'clock the Indians ceased firing and, as far as we knew, left for another field of operation. Not sure of anything except our deplorable condition, we concluded to occupy the night in strengthening our position, which we could only do by digging rifle pits inside of our breastworks. Mustering all the able-bodied men, we divided into two parties. One was set to work digging the pits, while the other guarded the house and cared for the wounded, who by this time were enduring great suffering. Relieving each other every two hours, the work progressed very rapidly, and by an hour before daylight we had four splendid pits dug and covered with a foot or more of earth, from which we could command the ridge back of the house and the country across the river and be, ourselves, completely out of sight."
"But how could you get to your pits from the house without exposing yourselves to the Indians' fire," asked some one of the listeners. "Easy enough. Our first step was to run a ditch from the house four feet deep to the first pit, and similar ditches connected this with the others. The ditches were covered, as were the pits, with anything in the shape of boards, or anything else we could find suitable for the purpose, and over them we put the dirt dug from the trenches. So, you see, we had a covered way from the inside of the house to our pits outside, so that there was not the slightest danger from the enemy." "Why didn't you do this before the Indians attacked you? If you had, you wouldn't have suffered so much," ventured another of the audience. "Go on, Bill, don't mind him," said someone. "I don't mind an interruption when it gives me a chance to explain. In the first place, I'll say that I've always observed that there are numerous strategists who do their work best while sitting before snug warm fires, criticizing the operations of those leading in the field who have to contend against all the rapidly shifting circumstances of a campaign or battle. In our case we were all young, inexperienced, knew nothing about the art of fortification, and very little of battle in the open field. But a short time from the States, and having been occupied most of the time in mining, critics must be lenient when overhauling our acts. In a few days we are to start down to the Big Meadows, and there attack the Indians in their stronghold, and we will, if at all observing, gain a clearer idea of Indian warfare and strategy. "But to begin again. We had our works in a better condition than ever for defense, but the walls of our breastworks prevented our seeing the enemy on the bar above or below us, should they again renew the attack. Daylight came, but no Indians. The boys who occupied the rifle pits were eager to have a few shots from their snug quarters, but if the savages did not return they would be happily disappointed. "We had laid our dead with due care and respect on the ground in one corner of the house. The wounded were placed in bunks along the sides. Our morning meal was spread upon a long table in the center, and running lengthwise of the building. The boys had been called from the pits and there, in presence of the dead, in hearing of the groans and labored breathing of the mortally wounded, sat down, with drooping spirits, to a meal of bread and coffee. There was no one keeping watch; we could not be taken by surprise. We could be under cover all the time and did not care a fig if we did not see them begin the attack again, if indeed they intended to do so. The boys had about half finished their meal when our ears, which by that time were accustomed to it, were again saluted by the rising and falling yells of the returning savages, and the pattering of bullets against the house. 'Come, boys! No time to eat now,' said the Captain, 'Out to the pits and give 'em h--l.' The most of them jumped to their feet, dived down into the ditch and went on the run, rifles in hand, and began another day's fighting. One of the boys who was sitting at the table, a specimen Yankee, whom the boys had christened 'Nutmegs,' and who had gained our respect and confidence by his coolness and bravery and was one of the strong props of our little company, drawled out, as the Captain gave the order to man the pits, 'I d-o-n't s-e-e, Cap'n, as there's any use in h-u-r-r-ying matters,' at the same time raising his cup of coffee to his lips, but as he was on the point of taking the meditated drink, a bullet come snapping through the house and knocked the cup from his hand and sent it flying in fragments about the room. 'Wall!' he coolly ejaculated, and without another word rose from the table and with gun in hand stepped into the ditch, and was soon at work in the pits dealing out his bullets to the enemy. "The Indians rushed up to the breastworks, but found none of us in sight. Instead, they found the boys shooting at them from under the ground, a defense that was new and unapproachable. They tried their old dodge of firing from across the river, and some few climbed into the treetops, but they shortly saw that the only impression they could make on us was by firing at the house. In an hour they had abandoned all their positions except the ridge back of the house, and from there they sent a hotter fire than ever before, which lasted about half an hour. The damage was greater to them than it was to us. In fact, we received no damage at all, while on their side we killed several and wounded a number more. "About ten o'clock it became evident that they were weakening and intended to abandon the attack; and I assure you we felt as proud as one can imagine when we found that we were to be the victors. Outnumbering us more than seven to one, and with as good defenses as we had, and as good arms, we thought we had not done so bad after all. "By 11 o'clock the firing had become desultory on both sides and continued so until nearly 1 o'clock, when all was still. The Indians had withdrawn and the siege of Galice Creek had ended. But we were left in a crippled condition. No news from the upper settlements, not knowing if we would be able to get there without another attack, and we hesitated as to the course to pursue. Vannoy's ferry being the nearest point, we decided at last to try and go there. We buried the dead inside of our trenches, carefully dressed the wounds of those who needed it and then began making stretchers upon which to convey such wounded as could not travel alone. We had but one horse, and we packed him with our camp equipage and the little flour and coffee we had left. "An hour or so after dark we had all in readiness and set out upon our hazardous journey. After taking up our wounded there was but twelve men left for duty, that is, to guard the front and rear. If the Indians should have attacked us, hampered as we were with our wounded, I don't believe that many of us would have been alive today. "We traveled about eight miles that night. We were all so worn out, and the wounded were suffering so much, that we concluded to camp and get a little rest that night and be in a better condition for traveling the next day. We had some bread baked, and well and wounded alike partook sparingly of it. It would not do to build a fire to make coffee, so we ate the cold, tough bread and washed it down with cold water. Guards were posted and in a little while nothing could be heard but an occasional hoot of an owl, the incessant rippling of the water in the little brook on which we were encamped, and now and then a suppressed groan of some one of our seriously wounded boys. We were all greatly fatigued, and the well ones and those who were not seriously hurt were soon sound asleep. Those whose wounds were serious passed a long and sleepless night, except one; he, poor fellow, passed away silently, giving no notice of his dissolution. He was observed in the morning lying as he had been placed in the evening. With open eyes he lay there as though alive, with his gaze fixed upon the winking stars above. The boys buried him as best they could, and we took up our slow and painful march, leaving him alone in his shallow grave near the bank of Rogue River. "We were compelled to stop often to rest the wounded and pour cold water on the wounds to allay the continually rising fever. I won't speak of my own sufferings, but there are some of you here who may recollect seeing me on my hands and knees crawling along the uneven trail, which I was often compelled to do, as my left foot might as well have been at the bottom of the river for all the good it did me in getting along. "At noon we stopped to make a pot of coffee, for we had had none since we left Galice Creek. The coffee was boiling on the fire, and its rich odor was floating to our willing olfactories, when all were thrown into a state of consternation by the sight of a large band of Indians or volunteers slowly filing down the trail directly ahead and about a mile distant. That they were coming to our camp there was not much doubt, and of our inability to defend ourselves successfully if they were Indians there was none. "The only alternative instantly suggested itself. It was for the major part of our little band to go forward and engage them, while those who remained should carry off and secrete the wounded while the Indians were kept back. Without tasting the coffee, the boys seized their guns and started forward on the run, leaving six to carry off and hide the wounded. Our view of the newcomers had been only for an instant, and then they had descended into a bushy canyon. "Our boys were soon out of sight, and we were all in a stir and bustle to get ourselves out of the way in time. I clung to old 'Hawkins,' and when it come to the worst I knew that I was good for one or half a dozen of the infernal savages. We have got most of the wounded up the creek inside of a dense thicket of brush around which was almost a corral of old logs blown down during some bygone storm. I was just on the point of starting to "cache," as the boys afterwards called it, when we were startled by an uproarious and long-continued shouting, followed by renewed shouts. "No firing. They could not be Indians. Of course they were friends. We waited a few minutes, and one of our boys came running back with the glad news, yelling at the top of his voice, 'Volunteers! Volunteers!' We were safe now and for myself I can say that I actually felt a weakness in my knees and all over my body. We were soon joined by our boys who were accompanied by fifty volunteers from the upper settlements who had started down to assist the people of Galice Creek. They had not heard of the attack on us, but that Old George and Limpy had gone down the river they were certain, and knowing that ours was the only company down there, they thought it best to come down and look into matters. "Our wounded were brought out from their hiding place; their wounds were dressed afresh, and partaking of the universal hilarity they were greatly improved in health. Our friends brought out their stores and soon a splendid meal of bacon, bread, potatoes, onions, rice, coffee and sugar was dispatched with a keen relish. "The next evening we arrived at Vannoy's, where the wounded men were well cared for, while those of the company who were still able for duty made a camp a little up the river and--Boys, my story is done." William Moore, in J. M. Sutton, "Scraps of History," Ashland Tidings, January 31 and February 14-21, 1879
"We returned and camped at the widow Niday's place, eight miles south of Grave Creek, as being a convenient point from which to act in any direction that we might be needed. We remained at this place a few days. One night while camped here, two men, Jack Collins, now of East Portland, and Ben Gentry arrived at our camp from Galice Creek, a mining camp on a creek by that name, emptying into Rogue River on the south side, about thirty miles below Jacksonville. The Indians had attacked the miners and they had congregated in a small board shanty, where the Indians had besieged them and killed one man and wounded five others. Collins and Gentry had made their escape from the cabin at night. Early next morning a portion of our company, including myself, under Capt. Rinearson, marched for Galice Creek, fording Rogue River with much difficulty, and reached there in the afternoon. The Indians receded into the mountains as we approached. The cabin in which the miners were congregated was filled with bullet holes from the Indians' guns. Among the people there was one white woman, the wife of the man Pickett, whom the Indians had killed. About twenty-five or thirty people had taken refuge in this cabin. We stayed overnight at this place, and early the next morning word reached us that Capt. Smith's company of regulars was close at hand, and they arrived within an hour or two after." Francis M. Tibbetts, "An Indian Outbreak," Sunday Oregonian, Portland, May 30, 1886
"The first engagement between the volunteers and Indians occurred on the seventeenth of October, at Skull Bar of Rogue River, a short distance below the mouth of Galice Creek, where Company E was encamped. In camp were gathered all the miners from the diggings in the vicinity, including some Chinese who had been driven from their claims, besides some captive Indian women and boys. Skull Bar lay on the south side of the river and had for a background a high ridge, covered with a dense growth of hazel and young firs. The thickets had been cut away for some distance that no lurking places for the foe might be afforded within rifle shot of the camp, and a breastwork of logs thrown up on the side most open to attack. It was discovered on the day above-mentioned that the forest on the hillside was swarming with Indians, and to drive them back J. W. Pickett, with six men, charged the bushes. He was received with a galling fire, and fell, his men being forced to retreat. Lieutenant Moore then took a position, sheltered by a bank, on that side of camp from which attack seemed most imminent, where he fought for four hours under a heavy fire, himself and nearly half his men being wounded, when they also were compelled to retreat. Captain Lewis was himself three times struck and severely wounded. The Indians, discovering that the weakest point in the volunteer position was on its left, made a bold attack in that quarter, but lost by it one of their most powerful Shasta warriors, which incident for a brief space operated as a check. Then, finding that the volunteers were not dislodged with rifle balls, they shot lighted arrows into their camp, giving them much ado to prevent a conflagration. Indeed, during the fighting the mining town of Galice Creek was consumed, with the exception of one building, occupied as the company's headquarters. When night closed in, nearly one-third of Company E were hors de combat. The killed were J. W. Pickett and Samuel Saunders; the mortally wounded, Benjamin Taft and Israel D. Adams; the severely wounded, Lieutenant Moore, Allen Evans, Milton Blackledge, Joseph Umpqua, John Ericson, and Captain Lewis. In his report to his colonel, Lewis boasted that he had "fought the hardest battle ever fought this side of the Rocky Mountains." More than two thousand five hundred shots had the enemy fired that day, but his men had not flinched. Two facts are brought to light by this report--one, that the camp was ill chosen; the other, that the Indians possessed an abundance of ammunition which they must have been a year in gathering." Frances Fuller Victor, The Early Indian Wars of Oregon, 1894,
THE ROGUE RIVER WAR JAMES NEALY HELD 30 INDIANS AT BAY FOR TWELVE HOURS. In Those Days He Was a Lad of Seventeen Trying His Luck Mining on Galice Creek. "Few of those who now enjoy the peace and prosperity of Southern Oregon realize the cost of it to the pioneers who braved the dangers of the Rogue River war from 1853 to 1857 [sic], says the Portland Telegram. Among the survivors of the war is James Neely, now a well-to-do farmer of Merlin, but in those days he was a lad of 17 or so, trying his luck mining on Galice Creek. He had fine diggings just as the war broke out and was making upwards of $100 a day, when one night his cabin was surrounded by 30 dusky warriors, who wanted to get inside to obtain a lot of arms and ammunition belonging to Neely and his comrades, the latter being absent having a little time down at the store some miles away. Neely knew if he let the Indians in it would "be all day with him," so he refused to open the door, and when one of the warriors got too close he would poke the muzzle of a shotgun at him. In this way he stood them off all night. It was clear moonlight, and he could see the rascals sitting around on logs, but he was too well fortified for them to try force in entering. When morning came a white man rushed down the canyon yelling that the Indians had broken out, and the sudden noise from an unexpected point threw the cowardly crowd into a panic and they all scattered for the timber. Those in pursuit of the Indians suffered untold starvation and hardships, as they were far away from their base of supplies most of the time, and both food and clothing became terribly scarce at times." Grand Forks Miner, Grand Forks, British Columbia, January 23, 1897,
"Our company returned to the Harkness place, on Grave Creek, where the settlers had congregated and fortified for protection. We remained there two days, marching south to Widow Niday's place, near Jump-off Joe Creek, now Merlin. We heard here that the Indians had made a raid on the mines at the mouth of the Galice Creek, this news being brought by a courier who had managed to get through. A detail of 14 men was sent to their relief, leaving Jump-off Joe at 12 o'clock on the night of October 19. I was on this detail. We arrived at Galice Creek at dusk the next day and found 30 men and one woman (Mrs. Pickett) in a split board house, which they had entrenched by throwing up earthworks on the inside and digging trenches to the outside for protection when firing. One man (Pickett) was dead and 12 others wounded. The Indians had withdrawn after riddling the house with bullets. The next morning Major Fitzgerald arrived with a company of regular troops and took the wounded to Jacksonville." Francis M. Tibbetts, Oregonian, Portland, May 23, 1909