HURRY UP; HURRY!
General O. O. Howard docked at Lewiston at 8 o'clock on the morning of June 14.  With him were his aide-de-camp, Lt. Melville Wilkinson, and Indian Inspector Erwin C. Watkins.  Howard and his companions had left the Headquarters of the Military Department of the Columbia in Portland on May 30 to visit a number of trouble spots in the Northwest. The general had arranged the trip so that the trio would arrive in Lewiston one day before the Nez Perce were supposed to nave completed their journey to the reservation. Watkins wanted to inspect the agency near Fort Lapwai, and as departmental commander, Howard wanted to be close at hand in case of an emergency.
In the early 1860's Lewiston had been the home of miners, gamblers, desperadoes, and harlots, but by 1877 the village had settled into comparative quietness and respectability. Howard found its setting especially charming and later described it in his book:
Lewiston stood near the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers, and the town could boast of several well-to-do merchants, a mill, and a newspaper.
On hand to meet the party were Capt. David Perry, the commanding officer of Fort Lapwai; his wife; Capt. Joel Trimble, commander of Company H of the First Cavalry; Lt. Peter Bomus,  the post quartermaster; Charles Monteith, clerk at the agency and a brother of the agent; and a host of prominent townsfolk. After the formalities of greeting were over, Howard turned to the business at hand. "How is Chief Joseph?" he asked. Putting the general at ease, Captain Perry replied: "All right, at last accounts. The Indians are, I think, coming on the reservation without trouble."  Others in the party confirmed the statement, and a few enlarged upon it. The situation appeared to be so well in hand that Howard decided to stay in Lewiston while Watkins made his inspection. Perry, however, convinced his commander that a rest at Fort Lapwai would be more enjoyable, and the general agreed to make the journey to the post, which lay 12 miles southeast of town. Mrs. Perry remained in Lewiston in order to board a steamer going down the river. She had made arrangements to visit friends at The Dalles.
The trip was a pleasant one. The quality of the road and the beauty of the landscape impressed the general, and soon they drove through the gate of Fort Lapwai to find relaxation in Perry's quarters. Later in the day, after Howard was comfortably settled, Perry decided to get in some target practice and left for the range, a short distance from the garrison.
About 6 o'clock that evening, the first courier from Mount Idaho came galloping into Fort Lapwai. In the absence of Perry, who was still at the range, Lieutenant Bomus received the message. The young lieutenant found that it was from L P. Brown and read the communication with interest. After finishing the letter, he looked up to see that Captain Perry had returned from his outing and was walking towards his quarters. Quickly Bomus closed the distance between them and handed him the envelope.  Perry opened it and read:
Perry immediately took the letter to Howard. Perry trusted Brown's judgment that the situation was not yet critical, and Howard held the same opinion. Before taking drastic action, Perry suggested that they send a detachment to Mount Idaho to investigate the matter, and Howard assented.  The detail consisted of Cpl. Joseph Lytte and Pvt. John Schorr of Company F of the First Cavalry, and the post interpreter, a half-breed named Joe Rabusco. 
As dawn broke on Friday, June 15, the little detachment rode out of Fort Lapwai. After traveling only 12 miles, their mission came to an abrupt and exciting end. As Lytte and his companions neared Craig's Mountain, they saw horsemen approaching at great speed. They turned out to Nat Webb and Putonahloo, friendly Nez Perce who were bringing news of the killings on the Salmon. Webb had been visiting in the camp near Tolo Lake when the avengers returned from their initial raid. He had immediately decided to ride to Fort Lapwai with the news, but he feared that a quick departure flight arouse the suspicions of the nontreaty Nez Perce and lead to his capture and possibly his death, so he spent the night in the village and then left as soon as daylight appeared. As the young Indian drew near the detachment, he began to shout for the soldiers to stop. He told them that fighting had broken out and that it was useless to go any further. Wheeling their mounts to the rear, Lytte, Schorr, and Rabusco joined the couriers of doom in their race to Fort Lapwai. 
At exactly 11 o'clock, the messengers came in sight of the post. As they rushed through the cavalry camp a short distance from the fort, one of the riders relayed the news to Captain Trimble, who happened to be about. "The Indians are killing the citizens at Mount Idaho," was the cry as the party swept by. Trimble immediately called for his trumpeter, and in a short time the notes of "Boots and Saddles" roused the camp into hurried movement. Trimble issued orders to load the pack mules with five day's rations and galloped to post headquarters for orders. 
Howard and Perry listened intently as Rabusco attempted to interpret the foreboding tale told by the Indian messengers. The half-breed had some difficulty in making the translation, and the officers were not quite sure just what had happened. Apparently three or four Indians had committed a murder on Slate Creek, and the killing had something to do with Larry Ott. Howard and Perry decided to take the Indians to the agency, located four miles north of the post, and have them repeat their story for Inspector Watkins and Agent John E. Monteith.  This time Perin Whitman, the agency interpreter, did the translating, but he was unable to clarify the account.  One thing was certain: all of the men feared that trouble was coming, unless they acted swiftly. It appeared that the killing was an isolated incident, but the hatred it had generated might explode into widespread violence at any moment.  To stem the rising tide of hostility, Monteith suggested that Jonah Hayes, the acting head chief of the treaty Nez Perce, ride to the camp at the mouth of Rocky Canyon and urge constraint and compliance. Joseph's brother-in-law, another agency Indian, volunteered to go with Jonah, and it was not long before the Indians left on their errand of peace.
Perhaps an hour had passed when the emissaries returned to Fort Lapwai accompanied by Mr. West and Tucallasasena, who carried dispatches from Mount Idaho. Although West had left the hamlet an hour earlier than Tucallasasena the Indian had overtaken the half-breed on the road, and they were together when they met the Indian ambassadors sent by Monteith.
A crowd gathered on Perry's front porch shortly after the messengers rode into the fort. All the officers were there, and the ladies of the post soon arrived. Included in the assemblage were a number of agency Indians who had been in the nontreaty village on June 13, but who had left after it had become obvious to them that some of the warriors were serious in their claims to resist any attempt to put them on the reservation. Howard felt the excitement of the moment, and aware of the need to maintain his poise, he made an effort to appear cool and self-possessed as he opened the packets and read, first to himself, and then to his officers, the letters from Mount Idaho.
Howard then examined West, who spoke English, and the messenger gave a graphic account of the murders and outrages that had been committed. After making arrangements to forward the messages to Inspector Watkins and Agent Monteith, Howard wrote a note to Brown, informing him that help was on the way. He sent his aid-de-campe to Walla Walla and the closest telegraph station to communicate his orders for troops and supplies to headquarters. Finally he dispatched Quartermaster Bomus to Lewiston to procure pack animals to carry supplies for Perry and his command, who prepared to move to the scene of the outbreak. 
Howard's way was clear. Necessity forced him to send immediate relief to Mount Idaho; he had to stop the killings and insure the safety of those living in the vicinity. He had only two companies of cavalry available at Fort Lapwai for duty but they would have to suffice. The small contingent, he hoped, might also serve another purpose--that of containment. He wanted to keep the Indians occupied while he marshalled troops to deliver a crushing blow. His orders would start two more companies of cavalry marching from Wallowa and a detachment of infantry steaming up the river from Walla Walla. Additional troops and supplies would be forthcoming from more distant posts under his command. It would take time to assemble the strength he needed, and time was precious, but above all Howard did not intend to "feed the enemy with driblets."  Much depended on Captain Perry and his men.
When Bomus had not returned from Lewiston by the time that retreat sounded, Perry felt that he could wait no longer and asked for permission to begin without the pack train, and Howard granted the request.  The force consisted of Company F and Company H of the First Cavalry. Perry commanded Company F, and he selected 1st Lt. Edward R. Theller of the Twenty-first Infantry for his junior officer, since Howard wished to retain Bomus at Lapwai to continue his duties as post quartermaster. There were 49 enlisted men in Company F, and they carried cooked rations that would last them for three days. Captain Trimble commanded Company H, and his first lieutenant was William R. Parnell, a very capable officer who had a great deal of combat experience. Fifty-four men were available for duty in Company H. Their pack animals carried rations good for five days. Each of the soldiers carried 40 rounds of ammunition.  To complete the complement, Perry enlisted the aid of Joe Rabusco and a number of friendly Nez Perce, including Jonah Hayes, Abraham Brooks, Joe Albert, Robinson Minthon, Frank Husush, Henry Yumushakown, Amos Wapsheli, Itskea Levi, Matthew Sottoks, Yuwishakaikt, and Wishtashkat. 
When everything was in readiness, Perry turned to Howard:
A few horses plunged and reared and bucked, but soon the men had them under control, and the column moved off into the darkness. Mrs. Theller was the only wife left at the post to bid her husband adieu. Mrs. Perry was on her way to The Dalles and would soon receive a message from her husband that would send her to Portland to stay with Mrs. Howard. The wives of Trimble and Parnell were both at Walla Walla. After troops left, the period of waiting began. To receive himself from anxiety, Howard read, wrote, studied maps, counted days for the marches, and paced his room. But Howard did have confidence in his men. In a dispatch, which he had given Wilkinson, he had written: "Think they will make short work of it." 
Last Updated: 09-Mar-2003