Nelson Appleton Miles.

Personal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire online

. (page 34 of 51)
Online LibraryNelson Appleton MilesPersonal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire → online text (page 34 of 51)
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did, the brave missionary for the first time became seriously alarmed, and
began to think of removing his family to some place of safety, but still
went about his work as usual.

The next morning the doctor assisted in burying an Indian, and having
returned to his house, was reading. Several Indians were in the house ;
one sat down by him to attract his attention by asking for medicine, while
another came behind him with a tomahawk concealed beneath his blanket,
and with two blows brought him to the floor senseless ; still he was not
dead when another Indian, who was a candidate for admission to the
church and on whom Dr. Whitman had bestowed numberless benefits,
came in and cut his throat and mutilated his face, but even then the
murdered man lingered until nearly night. This was only the beginning of
a most sickening massacre in which fourteen people, including Mrs. Whit-
man, lost their lives.

It was believed by those familiar with the facts that this foul massacre
was instigated by the enemies of the people murdered and of the cause in
which they were engaged.

Despite his cruel and bloody death, the missionary work of Marcus
Whitman was far from fruitless. Though the work of the American Board
ended so suddenly and disastrously, years afterward it was found that
many of the Indians were still faithful to the religion taught them by Dr.
and Mrs. Whitman. Neither will his name be forgotten so long as the
walls of Whitman College stand as a monument to the memory of a man
who was glad to suffer untold privations for the good of his country and
his fellow men, and at last perished through his devotion to his duty.



If Dr. Whitman could to-day make the long journey from the Columbia
to the national capital on the banks of the Potomac, and could the insti-
tutions of learning and church spires now standing in the districts, villages,
towns and cities through which he would pass be placed in line at con-
venient distances, he would never for a moment be out of sight of these
objects most pleasing to him in life.








assuming command of the Department of the Columbia,
August 2. 1881, I found the headquarters located at Vancouver
Barracks, on the right bank of the Columbia River, in what
was then Washington Territory. This post is six miles north
of Portland, Oregon, and was formerly an old Hudson Bay
trading station, having been located there during the early
days when the principal commerce of the territory was in the
form of barter with the Indians for the furs which were the chief arti-
cles of merchandise at that time.

In order to communicate with the different tribes scattered over that
vast territory it had become necessary to invent or create a common
language. For, unlike the Indians east of the Rocky Mountains, the
tribes on the Pacific seaboard spoke tribal languages, and had no common
means of communication. The various tribes of Plains Indians com-
municated with each other by means of what is known as the sign
language. Motions, and positions of the fingers and hands, conveyed
their ideas and constituted a language almost identical with that used by
the deaf and dumb of the present day in the asylums and schools estab-
lished for their benefit.* In the absence of any such method of com-
munication, the Hudson Bay fur traders were obliged to create one, and
this eventually came to be known as the Chinook language, consisting
of a few words whose meaning was agreed upon to express the ideas most
used in ordinary conversation. This was adopted by nearly all the tribes

The difference being that the deaf mutes use our common alphabet, each sign meaning a letter, and that
Words are in their way spelled out by them in talking. To the Plains Indians an alphabet was unknown, and
With them a sign might express an animal, an occurrence, a day, an entire fact of any kind.




on the Pacific Coast, and is still understood by some of the tribes now in

Vancouver Barracks was located near the town of Vancouver, on the
Columbia, and upon a mesa a few hundred feet above the level of that

river, on a command-
ing position overlook-
ing the beautiful
valley, and within
sight of the
range, which
embraces a
c luster of
the grandest
mount ains
on the con-
tinent. The
post was at
that time
by Colonel
Henry H-
T w ent y-
First In-
fantry, a

most accomplished and gallant soldier and a man of great learning. He
was a fine lawyer, having been a judge on the bench in Michigan during a
period of ten years at a very early age. He afterward won high dis-
tinction in the Civil War, reaching the rank of general, and being, in
addition, breveted for extraordinary gallantry.

I found in the Department of the Columbia a force of over fifteen
hundred troops, located at the various military stations which were scat-
tered over a territory (not including Alaska) about two hundred and fifty
thousand square miles in extent. This vast region was then occupied
only by scattered settlements, ranches, mining camps, and isolated homes.
It was also the home of bands of nomadic Indians. The interests and
welfare of the two races were constantly clashing, and there was danger



of serious hostilities at any moment. The white settlers looked to the
army for defence, and the Indians in turn applied to the military for the
protection of their rights and privileges.

In order to make the best use of troops, measures were taken to facili-
tate communication between these scattered posts, to aid in the concentra-
tion of the available forces, and at the same time to promote their general
efficiency. In addition to their ordinary duties the troops were put to
work in the construction of military roads and the establishment of
military telegraph lines. These not only added to the efficiency of the
military force, but also greatly benefited the citizens. Measures were also
taken at all the military posts to improve the physical condition of the
troops by a thorough system of athletic drills and exercises. Colonel
Morrow was one of the first to establish what has since been so beneficial
to the army, the Canteen Exchange. This is really a post club for the
benefit of the soldiers. One of the first, largest, and best of the military
gymnasiums was established at Vancouver.

During this year facilities were afforded the soldiers with families to
provide homes for themselves at the expiration of their term of service,
and to secure suitable employment. All the troops in the department
were thoroughly equipped for immediate field service; each company, troop,
and battery was made a unit of organization and demonstration. Each
had its allowance of field equipment, including tents, field supplies, trans-
portation, cooking utensils, extra clothing, hospital supplies, and every-
thing required for immediate and continuous service in the field, and enough
to last for several months.

In the department were several sections of country that had not been
fully explored, and other sections of whose topography there was no
knowledge whatever. With a view of obtaining the knowledge which
would be indispensable in case the country had to be occupied by the
military, and that would also be valuable to citizens seeking a knowledge
of those districts, I organized several exploring expeditions. In fact,
during the four years in which I was in command of that department,
there was constantly some expedition in the field obtaining information
about those interesting and to a great extent unknown portions of our

In January, 1882, Lieutenant Thomas W. Symons made an exploration
and examination of the Columbia River from the line of British Columbia
to the mouth of the Snake River, and obtained much valuable information
concerning that extensive district.


In July of the same year an expedition was organized to explore the
region between the upper Columbia and Puget Sound, then but little
known. It was a small expedition, and was placed under the command of
Lieutenant Henry H. Pierce of the Twenty-first United States Infantry,
who performed the duty in a most efficient manner.

After making the necessary preparations at Fort (Jolville, the above
mentioned expedition left that place on the first of August, and the next
day crossed the Columbia by ferry and encamped on the western side.
From there the Columbia was skirted along a good trail for a distance of
six miles; thence the expedition moved westward past lofty mountains,
dashing torrents and beautiful lakes, fording numerous creeks and rivers,
and at the end of ten days reached the Okinakane, a swift, deep river that
flows into the Columbia from the north.

From one of his camps on this river, Lieutenant Pierce desired to send
back a telegram and letters to Fort Colville, and engaged an old Indian to
carry them. Before giving the Indian his compensation, Lieutenant
Pierce asked him if he was an honest man; not that he doubted him, but
he wished to hear his answer. With great dignity, and with something
of an injured look, the old man replied, " Me honest Indian. Me afraid
to do wrong for fear some one there," pointing upwards, "see me and be
angry." Then shaking hands, he mounted his pony and rode slowly

Leaving the Okinakane, they passed over to the Methow. The latter is
a beautiful stream, so clear that the granite boulders beneath its surface
may be plainly seen as it winds along its tortuous course, fringed on either
side with poplars, balms and evergreens, and draining an extremely fertile
country. Then, still moving toward the west, they journeyed on between
lofty mountains and over dizzy paths where a downward glance was
enough to make the firmest head to reel; fording turbulent rivers, pushing
through almost impenetrable underbrush, crossing swampy areas, they
went on until at last they gained the passage of the main cascades. Here
they were beset by so many obstacles that it was almost impossible for
them to proceed further, but their courage and perseverance finally over-
came every difficulty and they reached the other side of the mountains in
safety. From here they followed the course of the Cascade River, cross-
ing it several times, down to the point where it empties into the Skagit.
For their passage down that river they were fortunate enough to obtain
canoes from the Indians, and on September 5, landed at Mount Vernon to
await the coming of the steamer.



This reconnoissance of two hundred and ninety-five miles was through
a country never before, so far as known, visited by white men, and was the
first contribution to its geography.

Other surveys and reconnoissances were made of which the following
were the more important; reconnoissance from Fort Townsend, Washing-
ton, to the Dungeness River; reconnoissance through Bruneau and Duck
Valleys, Idaho; reconnoissance of the country bordering on the Sprague
River, Oregon; surveying route for telegraph line between Forts Kla-
math, Oregon, and Bidwell, California, and from Fort Spokane to

Spokane Falls; surveying
route for road from Fort
Colville to Fort Spokane,
Washington; march of in-
struction from Fort Lap-
wai to the Lolo Trail,

At this time the con-
dition of the various In-
dian tribes in the territory
was satisfactory, and they
were in better condition
to receive the full benefits
of protection and share
the responsibilities of civil
government than was gen-
erally supposed.

In August, 1882, Gen-
eral Sherman visited the
northern posts in the De-
partment of the Colum-
bia, on his last official tour
of inspection, and was
received with every token
of respect and affection.
He expressed himself as
much pleased with the military bearing and discipline of the troops.
The construction of the Northern Pacific Railway and other routes of
travel made a great change in the means of communication with that
northwest country, making it possible to move troops in a single day as



great a distance as would previously have occupied several weeks. As far as
possible, I discontinued the small and ineffective posts and concentrated
the troops in larger garrisons where they would have better advantages in
the way of instruction and discipline, and could be maintained at less ex-
pense. Fort Canby at the mouth of the Columbia River, Forts Walla Walla,
Spokane, Coeur d'Alene, and Sherman, were made the principal posts
of the department, with troops stationed for immediate use in the sec-
tions of country most liable to Indian hostility, while Vancouver Barracks
served as a station for a strong reserve force for the entire department.
This last-named post was particularly adapted to the purpose mentioned,
owing to its near proximity to Portland, Oregon, which, from its railroad
connection and river and ocean service, was accessible from all sections
of the country.

In 1884, in spite of its great commercial importance, and the large
number of thriving towns that had grown up on its shores. Puget Sound
was still in a defenseless condition. The government had reserved im-
portant sites for batteries and defensive works at the entrance of the
sound, and during the year mentioned I ordered a board of experienced
artillery officers to report as to their relative importance, and the proper
armament, garrison, and work necessary to place them in proper condi-
tion for use.

Having occasion to mount one battery of artillery, I secured several
Hotchkiss revolving cannon, invented by an American and manufactured
in Paris, France, and the result of the practice with these was most satis-
factory. Although the fact of a cannon being fired from the shoulder of
an artillerist seemed somewhat novel, yet experience proved these guns to
be the most destructive that had up to that time been used in the United
States army. It is singular that many American inventors have to go to
Europe to have their inventions adopted. Here was a case of an American
officer on the Pacific Coast making application for a certain class of artil-
lery guns ; they were manufactured in Paris, bought by our government,
shipped across the Atlantic, then across the continent and placed in service
on the Columbia River.

Instruction in signaling and the familiarizing the troops with the use
of the latest modern appliances received attention at all the posts in
the department, and experiments were made with the heliostat with
most gratifying results. From Vancouver Barracks f o the summit of
Mount Hood, fifty miles in an air line, these flashes of the heliostat could
be distinctly seen with the naked eye.



Owing to the rapid settlement of the country the lower Columbia In-
dians were in many cases unjustly deprived of their cultivated grounds,
their salmon fisheries, and other means of support, and I had great diffi-
culty in preventing active hostilities between them and the settlers. The
Indians were finally pacified, however, and numbers of them were assisted
by the military in locating their claims to homesteads under the laws of

In the Territory of Washington there were in 1884 fifteen Indian reser-
vations, inhabited by over ten thousand six hundred Indians. The total
amount of land comprised within these reservations was over six hundred
thousand acres, and consisted largely of the best agricultural, grazing,
timber and mineral lands in the Territory. In many places the Indians
were engaged in cultivating the soil with good results, the system of al-
lotting a suitable quantity of land to them in several ty having a most
excellent effect.




ONTROVERSIES arose in 1878 between the Indians of the
- upper Columbia and the white people of Yakima County and
vicinity. These troubles eventually resulted in the arrest of
Chief Moses, who was a prominent character, although many of
the Indians did not recognize him as having any authority over
them. Chief Moses was kept in prison for some time, but this
did not allay the restlessness of his followers, and additional
troops were sent to the Yakima Valley.

In 1879 Moses, with a number of other Indians, was sent to Washington,
where he made a treaty with the Secretary of the Interior by which a tract
of land was set apart for the use of himself and his people. This reserva-
tion was bounded on the east by the Okinakane River, on the south by the
Columbia and Lake Chelan, on the west by the forty-fourth parallel, and
extended to the Canadian boundary on the north. The country in question
embraced approximately four thousand two hundred square miles, known
as the Moses reservation, and was worth many millions of dollars.
Certain white men afterward declared that they had discovered mines and
occupied ranches on this reservation long before it was transferred to the
Indians. This region was rich in agricultural, pastoral and mineral
resources and contained rich deposits of gold and silver.

The benefits intended to be secured by this treaty did not last very
long, as Moses and the other Indians soon complained that its various pro-
visions were not carried out by the government, while, on the other hand,
citizens who had made their homes in the reservation before it became
such, remonstrated strongly against a treaty by which they were deprived
of their property and rights. These settlers had discovered, had claimed


according to law. and had actually worked valuable mines located in
Stevens County. There had even been voting precincts established, and
elections had been held within its boundaries. In spite of these facts,
when the Moses reservation was set apart by executive order all these
people were peremptorily told that they must leave that part of the
country, although some of them had lived there for many years. They,
however, did not all obey the order. The Indians grew more and more
dissatisfied, and Moses demanded that if the white people would not leave,
they should at least ac-
knowledge their holdings
to be on an Indian reserva-
tion and ask his permis-
sion to work their mines.
An executive order restoring a
strip of land fifteen miles wide south
of the Canadian boundary was also
much resented by the Indians.

At last there were rumors that a general
war council of the Indians had been called,
whereupon Colonel Merriam, a very intelli-
gent and judicious officer of the Second
United States Infantry, the com-
mander at Fort Spokane, was as-
signed the duty of adjusting the
causes of dispute. This he endeavored
to do by rigidly excluding white settlers
from any part of the Moses reservation
south of the fifteen-mile limit of the strip WATOHISO TIIE CoMINQ OF T1IE W m TB MAN
above mentioned, that had been restored

to the public domain by executive order. Indians who had farms on
this strip were recognized by him as having the same rights on unreserved
public land as the white people had.

In May, 1883, Captain Baldwin, one of the most judicious and compe-
tent officers I had in that department, was ordered to proceed to the Moses
and Colville reservations, and investigate the reported dissatisfaction of
the Indians located there. On the Colville reservation he succeeded in
meeting Tonasket, head chief of the Okinagans, and found him an intelli-
gent, industrious Indian, much respected by all his people as well as by
the white settlers. He said that neither he nor his band desired to have


trouble with the white people, but on the contrary wished to live in peace
with them if possible. He complained that their agent had not visited
them for several years. These Indians greatly desired a gristmill, as they
were obliged to take their grain thirty miles into British Columbia in order
to have it ground, and even then the miller claimed one-
half of it for toll. They were also anxious for a sawmill
and other appliances used by civilized people.

After Captain Baldwin's conversation with Tonasket,
Sarsopkin, a chief of the Okinagans on the Moses reserva-
tion, came to him to have a talk. This Indian and his fol-
lowers were the ones who really had to suffer from
the restoration of the fifteen-mile strip, as they had
lived within its boundaries and cultivated the farms
there for many years. Sarsopkin expressed a strong
desire to remain in the place which had been his
home for generations, but disclaimed all idea of
using force to maintain his rights. His people

were farmers and, for Indians and considering the fact that they had re-
ceived no aid or encouragement from the government, were in an ad-
vanced stage of civilization.

All the Indians who were approached on the subject, united in expres-
sing the same views; and all complained very bitterly because Moses was
recognized by the government as their chief. Both Tonasket and Sarsopkiu
asked: " Why does the government place over us, who make our living by
farming, a man who never works, but gambles, drinks and races horses
with the money he collects from the white men who graze cattle on our
reservation? We want a chief who works, and sets a good example for
our young men." Nearly all the Indians expressed a desire to have the
white people come among them and work the mines, but emphatically ex-
pressed their determination not to allow them to usurp the farming and
pasture lands. They reasoned in this way: "When the white men come
and get the money out of the rocks they will give it to us for what we can
grow from the ground, and for our cattle and horses, and in this way we
will get rich like the white men."

Regardless of these friendly protestations on the part of many In-
dians, the hostile feeling between the two races increased until it became
so violent that a serious Indian war was threatened. The white people
seemed determined to exterminate the Indians, and the Indians to annihi-
late the white settlers or drive them out of the country. Realizing the


difficulties, expenses and sacrifices, as well as the cruelties of Indian war-
fare, I thought it better if possible to endeavor to secure justice for the In-
dians, and, at the same time, protection for the white settlers. I therefore sent
out officers to find Chief Moses and other prominent men, and summon them
to my headquarters at Vancouver, for counsel. When they came I listened
to all their grievances and their statements of what they believed to be
their rights; what they expected the government to guarantee to do for
them, and also to their recital of the aggressions of the white people. I also
heard the accounts of the depredations of the Indians and their trespasses
upon the property of the white settlers. With a view of settling the whole
difficulty without proceeding to hostilities, I obtained permission to send a
delegation of the Indians, accompanied by Captain Baldwin, to Washing-
ton, that they might have an opportunity to negotiate a treaty that would
be satisfactory to both Indians and settlers, and at the same time be cred-
itable to the general government.

On the 7th of July, 1883, they made an agreement with the Secretary
of the Interior, whereby they engaged to give up all claim to the Colum-
bia or Moses reservation, and remove to the Colville reservation. In
consideration of this concession, Moses and Tonasket were to receive an
annuity of $1,000 each as long as they lived. Moses was also to receive
a house costing $1,000. For the benefit of the whole number of Indians,
two schoolhouses were to be built and two sawmills and gristmills. There
were to be provided, three teachers, two sawyers, two millers, and one

Online LibraryNelson Appleton MilesPersonal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire → online text (page 34 of 51)