THE BODIES SWUNG ROUND AND ROUND
LIEUTENANT ALBION HOWE
Word of Captain Jack's surrender quickly reached the
2d and 3d Squadrons, and these troopers rode into Applegate's ranch. The
Oregon Volunteers continued to track a while longer, making their
contribution by capturing the notorious Black Jim. When he learned of
this minor success, Major Green requested General Ross to bring in his
Meanwhile Trimble and Perry escorted their prize
prisoner to Davis' headquarters at Applegate's. The prisoners who had
been captured in Langell Valley had already reached the ranch and were
quartered in a corral. Jack and his family joined them. There was none
of the drama experienced at Fairchild's ranch that would come
later. In the evening, June 1, Davis ordered shackles put on the legs of
Captain Jack and Schonchin John. The chiefs were greatly humiliated by
this, but their fate lay in Davis' hands now. Of his surrender Jack had
little to say. He provided no ringing phrases for future historians to
cull, analyze, and admire. In his final report Davis recorded that all
Jack said was that his "legs had given out." 
On June 4 Davis moved his headquarters to the camp on
the Peninsula. The heavily-guarded Modoc prisoners traveled separately
in a wagon. Anticipation and excitement flowed through the throng of
soldiers and civilians as they waited for the arrival of Captain Jack.
In mid-afternoon a cloud of dust announced that the procession was
Soldiers, citizens, and everyone who could spare a
few moments gathered near the barricade and watched the procession as it
. . . passed up the sandy stretch at the base of the bluff where the
tent containing the prisoners is located. Lieutenant Chapin, Company F,
Fourth Artillery, was in advance. Next came a large wagon loaded with
Modocs, followed by two loaded with baggage. The rank and file of
Battery G marched beside the wagons, and forty mounted Warm Spring
scouts followed in the rear. The Warm Springs supplied the lack of music
by sounding their war whoops. "Where is Captain Jack?" "Where is Captain
Jack?" was the cry among the spectators. None had the pleasure, however,
of seeing the warrior's face. He had anticipated the excitement . . .
and was concealed in the wagon, completely in a blanket. 
The prisoners climbed from the wagon, the men
shuffling off to one side of the makeshift enclosure, the women to the
other. One of Jack's two wives, "Lizzie," and their three-year-old child
was allowed to stay with Jack out of deference to his position.
Davis intended to punish summarily those Modocs whom
he considered to be the leaders during the months of violence. To
identify those who had attacked the settlers in November he brought two
widows to the Peninsula, Mrs. William Boddy and her daughter, Mrs.
Nicholas Schira. The suspected Indians were brought out so that the two
women could point out who had killed their husbands. The women were of
no help. Davis was standing near them when, suddenly, Mrs. Schira "draw
a pistol and went for Steamboat Frank, and Mrs. Boddy drew a knife and
dashed at Hooker Jim." The startled colonel lunged at the women and
succeeded in disarming them. In doing so he received a cut on the palm
of his hand from Mrs. Boddy's knife. The flurry quickly subsided, and
Davis was no wiser than before the women came. 
Frank and Jim were not the only Modocs whose lives
were endangered after capture. As soon as Captain Jack was made prisoner
Davis sent orders to Mason at Fairchild's to move all five infantry
companies to the Peninsula and to bring with him all the Modoc prisoners
from the western band. Mason never explained why he did not order an
escort to accompany each wagon or group of prisoners. Perhaps he decided
that since the war was over, escorts would be unneeded. Whatever the
reason, James Fairchild's brother, John, was driving a large ranch wagon
eastward on June 8, filled with 17 Modoc men, women, and children,
without an army escort. As he crossed Lost River, Fairchild met
Lieutenant Hyzer and a detachment of Oregon Volunteers who at that time
were camped at Crawley's ranch. Hyzer stopped the wagon and questioned
Fairchild about his passengers. Apparently satisfied the Volunteers
returned to their camp.
A few miles farther on Fairchild spotted two horsemen
passing him, then waiting for him to come up to where they stood. The
horsemen raised their rifles and ordered the wagon to stop. They cut the
traces and began firing. The four mules, startled by the noise, dashed
off dragging Fairchild behind them. When the two men finished firing,
four Indian men (Tehee Jack, Pony, Mooch, and Little John) lay dead, and
Little John's wife was severely wounded. Just then Sergeant Murphy with
a patrol of ten men from Battery A came upon the scene. The horsemen
fled. Murphy sent to the Peninsula for assistance and eventually got the
surviving prisoners to the camp.
Who were the killers? The Oregon Volunteers denied
emphatically that they had had anything to do with it. Alfred Meacham
wrote that no effort was ever made to find out who they were. An eastern
newspaper claimed "it is generally supposed that the guilty parties are
Oregon volunteers. Fairchild is of that opinion himself." The army did
not doubt it, "the Indian captives . . . were fired into by Volunteers."
Despite his thwarting the women's attack on the
Modocs and sending aid to the victims of the wagon incident, Davis was
not averse to punishing Modocs. At first he was thoroughly supported in
this by General Sherman who wired Schofield, "Some should be tried by
court martial and shot; others be delivered over to civil authorities,
and the balance dispersed so that the name Modoc should cease." Davis
agreed but felt that the four Modocs who had helped to track down the
last of the hostiles should be exempted from execution although "two of
them, Hooka [sic] Jim and [Steamboat] Frank are among the
worst of the Band." 
Davis wasted no time. By June 5 a scaffold decorated
the Peninsula, and hanging ropes had been prepared. Even with the four
exemptions Davis had picked out "8 or 10 ringleaders" for execution at
sunset, June 6. Amazed, he read a telegram from Schofield ordering a
postponement of any hangings. The War Department had concluded that any
extreme action should be delayed until the Attorney General made a
decision as to whether the Modocs were prisoners-of-war who could be
tried by military law, or were murders who should be turned over to
civil authorities for trial. Sherman's sympathies still lay with the
troops: "I wish Davis had dispatched those Indians." Not all was lost
however. "I believe the same result will be accomplished in a way that
will be strictly lawful," he wired Schofield, "and at the same time
serve as a rule for the future." 
The Attorney General's ruling came down on June 9.
Sherman wired Schofield that the Modocs' actions since November 29
"constitute war in a technical sense that crimes afterwards committed
against the laws of war are triable and punishable by military courts
preferably Military Commissions." 
The prisoners were escorted to Fort Klamath, where Jackson's 3d Squadron
had preceded them to erect a log stockade "large enough to confine 44
Bucks 49 Squaws and 62 children total 155."  There was one less prisoner than before
the caravan left the Peninsula. Curley Haired Jack had somehow hidden a
pistol and, rather than leave as a prisoner, killed himself. 
Schofield instructed Davis on the functions of a
military commission. It should have at least three but not more than
thirteen members. The proceedings would be the same as for a court
martial, and the "usages and laws of War" would govern the sentences.
Schofield left it to Davis whether or not those who had helped him after
their capture should receive capital punishment. If they were exempted
he felt that they and all other Modoc men should be imprisoned,
preferably at Alcatraz, and the women and children sent to some distant
reservation. Schofield believed that the commission had the authority to
try both those who had killed settlers and those who had attacked the
peace commission. The War Department later directed the commission to
try only those Modocs who had killed General Canby, Lieutenant Sherwood,
and Dr. Thomas. All others were to be treated as prisoners-of-war.  In the end, only those who had attacked
the peace commission faced the judges.
The military commission and its eventual findings
aroused deep emotions from both those who demanded more severe
punishment and those who thought the punishments much too strong. The
state government and many of the citizens of Oregon felt outraged that
the military should have jurisdiction and that those Modocs who had
killed civilians should be exempt from trial. Citizens of southern
Oregon, particularly, believed that only the state courts would inflict
sufficient penalty to revenge the dead. Across the Continent, pacifists,
citizens generally involved in the welfare of Indians, and others
besieged Secretary Delano with appeals for mercy. The most active
organization on behalf of the captives was the Universal Peace Union
headquartered in Philadelphia. A number of Californians, in contrast to
their northern neighbors, also came to the Modocs' assistance. One of
these, Congressman J. K. Luttrell, representing California's 3d
Congressional District, wrote the secretary, "the War was caused by the
wrongful acts of bad white men." While he favored the hanging of those
Modocs who had murdered, he demanded a full investigation of the war.
"There never was a time since the organization of our Government,
that there was so much corcuption and swindling," he wrote, "as
is to day practiced on the Indian Reservations on this Coast."
The military commission when formed consisted of Lt.
Col. Washington L. Elliot, 1st Cavalry, acting as president; Capt. John
Mendenhall and Capt. Henry C. Hasbrouck, 4th Artillery; Capt. Robert
Pollock, 21st Infantry; and 2d Lt. George W. Kingsbury, 12th Infantry.
Maj. H. P. Curtis, Judge Advocate, Department of California, became the
judge advocate for the trial.  The
Modocs would not be represented by a legal officer. The first meeting of
the commission was held July 1; the trial was over July 9. 
In the end six Modocs faced the commission: Captain
Jack, Schonchin John, Black Jim, Boston Charley, Barncho, and Sloluck.
The commission found all six guilty of two charges, each having two
Charge 1 Murder, in violation of the laws of war.
Specification 1 murder of General
Specification 2 murder of Dr.
Charge 2 Assault, with intent to kill, in violation of the
laws of war.
Specification 1 attack
on A. B. Meacham.
attack on Agent Dyar.
The sentence for the six read "to be hanged by the
neck until they be dead." President Grant approved the findings on
August 22. 
Three weeks later Grant commuted the sentence to
imprisonment for life at Alcatraz for Barncho and Sloluck.  The two Modocs did not know this.
Colonel Wheaton, from his headquarters of the District of the Lakes at
Fort Klamath, wrote on the last day of September, "Six graves for the
burial of the condemed are dug near and in front of the Guardhouse just
outside the parade ground fence." Orders had come to him not to inform
the two men of the commutation until minutes before the execution.
Besides the graves, the scaffold was also finished by the end of
September. It was thirty feet long built of "very strong . . . dressed
pine logs one foot in diameter," large enough for six men at one time.
The execution was scheduled for 10 a.m., October 3.
The evening before a newspaper editor got permission to witness the last
visit between the condemned men and their families. He described the men
"seated on the floor, each with space enough that his family might
gather around him where they engaged in their death chant. The condemned
men sat stolidly without uttering a word." It was an experience he would
not care to repeat. 
Minutes before the execution the sheriff of Jackson
County, Oregon, presented warrants demanding that the prisoners be
turned over to civil authorities for trial and punishment. Writs of
habeas corpus were also issued by the circuit court of Jackson County.
It was too late for civil interference; the military proceeded with a
surety as if hanging were a part of the daily ritual between reveille
and taps. 
Nearly the entire Klamath tribe stood silently
watching the scaffold. The Modoc prisoners from their stockade could see
the beam from which hung six ropes, two of them now thrown back.
Soldiers led Boston Charley, Black Jim, Schonchin John, and finally
Captain Jack up the steps to the platform. The Modocs did not resist.
Their shackles had been removed; now they stood, each in his appointed
place, their arms tied securely with rope. At 9:45 a.m. Oliver Applegate
and Dave Hill explained to the prisoners the army's orders, which
Lieutenant Kingsbury formally read aloud at 10:00 o'clock.
Then Barncho and Sloluck were led back to the
stockade. At least they would not have to watch. A chaplain prayed, no
doubt with earnest hope that the white man's concept of afterlife would
comfort the condemned who had never penetrated the white man's concept
of the real world. At 10:15, the nooses were fitted carefully. There was
a slight delay while a soldier trimmed Captain Jack's hair to insure a
better fit. An officer then moved from man to man bidding them farewell;
and black hoods descended over their heads, cutting off forever from
view the familiar world. At 10:20 the captain dropped his handkerchief
and an assistant cut the rope holding the drop.
As the drop fell with a thud, a half cry of horror
escaped the spectators' mouths. A wail of anguish went up from the
stockade. "The bodies swing round and round, Jack and Jim apparently
dying easily, but Boston and Schonchin suffering terrible convulsions."
They all were pronounced dead at 28 minutes past ten. 
It was probably Col. H. S. Shaw, a reporter from the
San Francisco Chronicle, who happened to walk past a tent at Fort
Klamath and saw an amazing sight. In the center of the tent stood a long
table "similar to those used in the dissecting-room of a medical
college." A black india rubber sheet was spread over the table. In one
corner stood a barrel of water and in another was a case of surgical
instruments. The curious reporter set out to learn what this strange
ensemble was for. He soon was able to inform the Chronicle that
he had learned that the heads of Captain Jack and Schonchin John had
been cut off for shipment to Washington. The Chronicle was
aghast. But the Army and Navy Journal countered that if the story
was true, it was not a case of barbarism, but the need to do a medical
The report was incomplete but not incorrect. However,
the army's attempt at secrecy resulted in the spread of a story, even
more grotesque, that still is alive today. On November 2 several wagons
carrying government stores from Fort Klamath arrived at the railroad
station at Roseburg, Oregon. One of the teamsters entered the office of
the Roseburg Plaindealer and invited the editor down to the depot
where he showed him a whiskey barrel allegedly addressed to the Society
of Natural History, Washington, D. C. The teamster told the startled
editor that the barrel contained the body of Captain Jack, minus the
head, which had been shipped separately. 
There is not a shred of evidence that Captain Jack's
body was shipped to Washington. However his head was, as were the heads
of the other three Modocs who were hanged. On October 25 Colonel Wheaton
wrote the Surgeon General notifying him of the shipment of not two but
of the four heads of the executed for the Army Medical Museum. 
Soon after the hangings the surviving Modocs climbed
aboard wagons for the long drive to Yreka, escorted by Captain Hasbrouck
and his battery. They arrived at Yreka on October 17 and stepped on a
train bound for Fort McPherson, Nebraska. On October 29 Hasbrouck turned
over his 155 charges to Col. J. J. Reynolds and collected a receipt for
them. From there the Modocs traveled south to the Indian Territory where
they received a tract of land, two and one-half miles square, near the
Quapaw Agency and not far from Baxter Springs, Kansas. Here they lived
in exile and in poverty. Diseases accomplished what bullets could not.
Shortly after 1900 a few returned to the Klamath
reservation and, despite the continuing unfriendliness exhibited by the
Klamaths, tried to renew their ties with the world they once knew
intimately a world of mountains, forests, sage, and lava. The
Modocs are not yet extinct. But the spirit that drove them to resist the
inevitable westering of the whites died in the lava beds. Occasionally,
on frostbiting nights, the cries of coyotes haunt the ghostly, star-lit
Stronghold, bringing back the memory of that time. A time to
Another view of Gillem's Camp. The row
of four bell tents in the foreground undoubtedly represent officers'
row. Horses have disturbed the earth along the picket line in