Lava Beds
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Chapter 10
Captain Evan Thomas

May 23—June 4, 1873

Captain Jack, Schonchin John, and their followers traveled eastward from the lava beds. Keeping on the ridges between Tule and Clear Lakes they first went north to a favorite campsite on the east side of the Bryant Mountains, northeast of Tule Lake. After a few days they packed up again, this time heading toward Steele Swamp east of Clear Lake. They never reached it. [1]

The day after the western band surrendered, Colonel Davis reorganized his mounted troops into three squadrons: 1st Squadron — Captain Perry, Troops F and H, and twenty Warm Springs; 2nd Squadron — Captain Hasbrouck, Battery B, Troop G, and twenty Warm Springs; 3rd Squadron — Captain Jackson, Troops B and K, and twenty Warm Springs Scouts. Thirty pack mules were attached to each squadron. Trusting the already-captured Modocs not to betray him, Davis dispatched Steamboat Frank, Bogus Charley, Hooker Jim, and Shacknasty Jim to find Captain Jack's band and persuade it to surrender. He also sent the two Indian women who had been his messengers and scouts in the past. The pressure on Jack was increasing. Davis felt confident that with his mobile forces and spies, he would soon bring the remaining Modocs to bay. [2]

Jackson's Third Squadron left Fairchild's ranch on May 24. Riding by way of Lower Klamath Lake and Lost River Ford, it arrived at the Peninsula camp at 10 a.m. on the 25th. There it proceeded to refit for the coming pursuit. Twenty-four hours behind it Hasbrouck's Second Squadron arrived at this newest camp. The squadrons learned on May 28 that the Modoc scouts had discovered Captain Jack camped on Willow Creek, a small swift stream that drained the highlands east of Clear Lake. [3] At three-thirty in the morning, May 29, both squadrons rode toward the rising sun, stopping briefly at Applegate's ranch, where Davis had already moved his headquarters. The four Modoc scouts joined them here and guided the command to Willow Creek. [4]

Stopping momentarily from two to three miles short of Jack's camp, the squadrons deployed. Jackson's 3rd Squadron crossed the stream at one of its few crossing places and moved up the south bank. Hasbrouck rode along the high ground close to the north edge of the canyon that bore the river's bed on its bottom. Because of the great depth of the canyon and its sheer walls, communication between the two squadrons was almost nonexistent from this point on. Hasbrouck's men encountered some very rough terrain as they moved up the creek and gradually they fell behind the other squadron.

Jackson, moving over a rocky plateau covered with trees, reached the suspected area at three p.m. and could see some Modocs in the trees across the canyon. He ordered 1st Lt. Henry N. Moss, B Troop, to lead a skirmish line to take possession of the canyon. Second Lt. George R. Bacon and 12 men moved forward to take a small butte that commanded both the canyon and surrounding country. While 1st Lt. Charles C. Cresson with Troop D rode past Moss, "dismounted in the timber, & deployed along rocky walls of Willow Creek canon preparatory to crossing & enveloping Modoc Camp on foot." [5]

Just after K troop dismounted, three Modocs yelled from across the creek that they wanted to surrender. Jackson held back his men, and one of the Indians crossed over to the troops. It was none other than Boston Charley. He told Jackson "that all the band were hidden around in the rocks and timber and wanted to surrender." He volunteered to bring them in.

The end of the war was possibly minutes away. Then, as so often in the past, hopes fell apart. A Warm Springs scout accidentally fired his weapon, and the Modocs scattered like pellets from a shotgun. Attempting to rectify the result, Jackson sent Boston Charley back across the creek to try to persuade the Indians to return. By this time Hasbrouck's squadron had come up and occupied the deserted Indian camp, finding the Modocs' "camp equippage and an immense lot of ammunition and arms." Discovering Boston Charley wandering about Hasbrouck took him prisoner, along with eight Indian women and some children. Not until two hours later did he learn of Charley's mission. By then the Modocs were far away, and it was too late in the day to renew the pursuit. The troopers took little pleasure in learning that one of their prisoners was Mary, Captain Jack's sister. The squadrons camped for the night. [6]

Early on the 30th both squadrons moved up Willow Creek. Within three miles the Warm Springs scouts discovered the Modocs' trail turning off to the north. They followed it for eight miles until it gave out. Continuing in the same direction the cavalry descended a bluff into Langell Valley. Early in the afternoon the trail became clear again, and the troops followed it six miles in a northeasterly direction. About an hour before dark they spotted three Indian men who ran into a canyon on the eastern side of the valley. The Warm Springs chased them and "among the rocks at the head of [the] . . . sharp canyon near the crest of the bluff" they found the Modocs.

Scarfaced Charley, deciding his race had been run, came down the face of the bluff and offered to surrender to Doctor Cabaniss, who was with the command. The Modoc offered to return to the bluff to persuade the others to surrender. Doctor Cabaniss went with him and talked with Captain Jack. The Modoc leader told Cabaniss that he would surrender the next morning. By the time the doctor returned, darkness had come. Green had no alternative but to accept Jack's promise. He ordered the cavalry to camp "at first water." The squadrons rode to Wilson's ranch, from three to five miles distant, and there spent the night. Cabaniss, still proving his friendship for and understanding of the Modocs, returned to their camp with a supply of bread and stayed with them until morning. [7]

Early the next day Schonchin John, "the old villain," Scarfaced Charley, "the best and bravest of the entire Modoc band," twelve other men, and their families (ten women and nine children) quietly gave themselves up to the troopers. The end of hostilities was tantalizingly close. But once more it slipped away. Doctor Cabaniss said sadly that Captain Jack "with three warriors escaped in one direction, [and the] remaining nine escaped in different directions." Rising before the others, these last of the Modocs had slipped off in the pre-dawn gloom. The desperate, tired men could not yet bring themselves to surrender the flicker of freedom that was still theirs. [8]

As the sun burned across the sky the second and third squadrons crisscrossed Langell Valley, the Bryant Mountains, and all the cruel earth north of Clear Lake. Occasionally a detachment would find a trail only to discover that another group was already following the sign. [9] Besides the regulars, the Oregon Volunteer Militia was back in the field. This time three companies cross-stitched southern Oregon: C (Capt. Joseph H. Hyzer), D (Capt. Thomas Mulholland), and E (Capt. George R. Rodgers). The ubiquitous Colonel Thompson was also with them still carrying all his prejudices.

The Oregon government had become alarmed in April when it seemed the regulars could not bring the troubles to a conclusion. Fearful that the Modocs would attack settlements after they left the Stronghold, the militia had again responded to cries of alarm. As soon as General Ross learned that Jack's band had moved to the Clear Lake-Langell Valley area, he moved his men into the valley hoping to prey on the viscera of defeat. [10]

Hasbrouck and Jackson had flushed the quarry and had captured half the band. Now it was Perry's turn. On May 31 he took two-thirds of the squadron, with Charley Putnam, Jesse Applegate's nephew, as his guide, eastward from Applegate's toward the upper Lost River, "where it is supposed Modoc Jack has secreted himself." Captain Trimble, with the rest of the squadron scoured the angle between Clear Lake and Lost River. [11]

The two captains "scouted around the hills all day" with no success. Early the next morning, June 1, they resumed the hunt. Before long the persistent Warm Springs struck a trail that looked promising, except that it branched and the branches diverged. Sgt. Michael McCarthy wrote that "the command was broken up in detachments and ordered to follow some particular trails that appeared to lead in different directions, but nevertheless appeared to have one particular destination." [12]

The squadron, in several detachments, followed the tracks five miles toward the south, arriving again at Willow Creed. Using the same tactics as had the 2d and 3d Squadrons, Perry retained the major portion of the command on the north bank of the creek and sent Trimble across to the south side. Slowly the two groups moved upstream spotting signs here and there that indicated they were still on the trail. [13]

Perry reached a point where the creek canyon "turned a sharp angle to the left." He approached the rim of the canyon "and stood on a ledge projecting well out," where he saw "on the opposite bank of the ravine and about a hundred yards to my left an Indian dog suddenly appear at the top of the ravine, and just as suddenly an arm appeared and snatched the dog out of sight." Perry felt that the coveted prize was his. The final drama was about to be enacted. His men realized it too and lined the canyon wall to witness the events on the other side. [14]

Sergeant McCarthy found himself in a detachment consisting of Captain Trimble, a citizen (Putnam?), two Warm Springs, himself as sergeant, a corporal, and 14 privates. [15] This patrol moved along the tableland south of the creek, carefully searching for evidence of the Modocs having preceded them. "We had been thus detached about an hour and were taking a short cut to avoid a promontory or bend on our left. On this bend was a small clump of junipers." They might have passed by the promontory, but "Captain Trimble told me to send a man to examine it and the man, an old soldier named Shay, found a Modoc on the point who had been so intent watching the troops moving on the other side that he was cut off before he knew it and surrounded." [16]

The two Warm Springs disarmed the prisoner who was Humpy Joe, a half-brother of Captain Jack. The troops immediately dismounted and started to rush forward in a skirmish line. But the Warm Springs warned them not to be hasty; patience was more important than aggressiveness at this critical moment. The soldiers "sat down out of [illeg.] sight of anybody in the canon, but within a few yards of Jack's hiding place." [17]

Humpy Joe asked to speak to Fairchild. Putnam, informing him that Fairchild was on the other side of the canyon, asked where Jack was. The prisoner replied that Jack was hidden in the canyon bottom. Putnam reminded Joe that the troops surrounded the Modocs and urged him to call Jack telling him to come up. Sergeant McCarthy wrote, "After some parley Jack came up on our side, handed his gun to Jim Shay shook hands with him and surrendered himself." [18]

The rest of Jack's group — one or two men, two boys, three women, and some small children — came out of the canyon. [19] It was a sad ending for this man who with less than 70 men had defeated the army repeatedly for seven months. Sergeant McCarthy was a little surprised when he saw the long-sought warrior, "he looks rather younger than I thought he was. Altogether he is only a passable looking buck and don't at all look the character."

When Trimble became certain that his prisoner was really Captain Jack, "he threw his hat in the air and cheered like a good fellow. We all followed suit. The cheer was taken up on the other side by the Troops . . . and there was considerable noise." McCarthy added, "Thus ends the Modoc war." Colonel Davis shared the sergeant's relief. "I am happy," he telegraphed San Francisco, "to announce the termination of the Modoc difficulties." [20]

Gillem's Camp
Northwest end of Gillem's Camp. The lone bell tent in the center is believed to be General Canby's. The rock corral still stands today. The larger tents at the left end of the far row composed the general field hospital.


Modoc War
©1971, Argus Books
thompson/chap10.htm — 11-Nov-2002