Tour Locations | The Modoc War: A Homeland Lost
LOCATION 27 | The Modoc War: A Homeland Lost
Continue On Hill Road
Okay, you should now be on Hill Road, with Stukel Mountain on your left. You're going to be on this road for a long time, so just keep going straight until I tell you to turn. Also notice all the farming fields on your right. This is agricultural land, so be sure to watch for slow-moving farm equipment. After all, they use this road too.
Now, take this moment to digest some of the key players. First off, as I mentioned, there were some white leaders who were friends to the Modoc, including Alfred Meacham and General Canby. Fair warning, Meacham and Canby will keep coming back into the story, so be sure to remember them both. And, it was General Canby who told Major John Green - the man in control of the army at Fort Klamath that no one was to "chase after the Indians" until he himself decided on a coordinated and concentrated campaign.
But in 1872, the Department of the Interior decided on the opposite strategy. And Alfred Meacham, the friend to the Modoc in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was fired. Meacham's replacement was a man named Thomas B. Odeneal - who didn't really seem to care just how precarious the "Modoc Problem" was. Yet, there he was, put in place to solve it.
What Odeneal did next puzzles me. Remember Captain Jack didn't like the Applegates? Well, Odeneal sent Jesse Applegate's nephew, Ivan Applegate with an order for Captain Jack to ride for a conference in present-day Klamath Falls - all the way back near the museum where we started. So you can imagine it was no surprise when Captain Jack refused, saying the Modoc would not ride, they did not wish to speak with Odeneal, and they would not move to the Klamath reservation.
When Ivan Applegate returned, he made the situation even worse. He reported that the Modocs were talking war, and that he believed Odeneal should take forceful action immediately. Ivan Applegate also reported that only half of the Modoc forces appeared to be gathered at the Lost River camp. What Applegate failed to understand was that the other half of the Modocs - led by a warrior named Hooker Jim - was encamped less than a mile downriver - the same river you can see on the right.
Hooker Jim. you're going to learn a lot more about him in a minute. Hooker Jim was a Hot Creek Modoc - just like my great-grandfather Shacknasty Jim. But Hooker Jim had joined the Lost River Modoc when he got married to the daughter of Curley-Headed Doctor. Curley-Headed doctor, if you remember, was one of the few survivors of the Ben Wright massacre. He also happened to be the Lost River Tribe's medicine man and ends up playing an important role in the war, which I'll get to in a bit.
Now as you continue on this road, let me get back to Ivan Applegate and Odeneal. When Odeneal and his supervisor, F.A. Walker heard Ivan say that the Modocs looked like an easy target, they decided to seize the moment to return to the Modoc to the Klamath Reservation. They sent an order to Major John Green -- the same guy General Canby had ordered to stay put. The order was to soon be etched in history: "You are directed to remove the Modoc Indians...peaceably if you possibly can, but forcibly if you must."
In direct defiance of General Canby, Major Green decided to follow the order. Maybe Major Green felt fewer Modocs coupled with a surprise attack in winter would be a quick and easy way to get rid of the entire Modoc problem. Whatever his reasoning, Green then illegally dispatched Captain James Jackson and Second Lieutenant Frazier Boutelle to lead all available men to Captain Jack's Lost River camp. So on November 28th, Jackson, Boutelle, and thirty-eight soldiers set out on an ill-fated mission, heading straight in the same direction you're heading now.
One of the great ironies of the Modoc War ends up being that Green, who had a major part in illegally starting the war, would eventually receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery on the battlefield. But more on that later.
For now, keep driving straight the way the soldiers did through the night in frozen sleet. And by daybreak on November 29th, 1872, the tired lot halted one mile from Captain Jack's camp along the Lost River.