• LOCATION 100 | The Modoc War: A Homeland Lost

    Last Stretch Of CR 120

    You should be back on the main stretch of road, with Gillem's Bluff looming in front of you, heading toward the last stop on our tour. Because after the vote in the Stronghold, Captain Jack promised to uphold the consensus of the Modoc - as was his duty.

    He said: [Captain Jack]: I am your chief. I will kill Canby. But hear me, my people. This day's work will cost the life of every Modoc brave. We will not live to see it ended.

    [CHEEWA]: Captain Jack did make one caveat - he said he wouldn't kill General Canby if he agreed to the reservation on the Lava Beds.

    On Meacham's side, after Toby had warned him that his meeting with General Canby and Captain Jack was a bad idea, Meacham and Canby decided to go through with the meeting on Good Friday, refusing to believe that Captain Jack would violate a peace talk, especially when the Modoc were so greatly outnumbered. Meacham even wrote to his worried wife that being a widow was better than being the wife of a coward. Toby reluctantly agreed to accompany him and the General.

    On the morning of Good Friday, General Canby and his entourage arrived at a tent just up the road from where you're driving now to find Captain Jack and seven armed warriors. My great grandfather, Shacknasty Jim, was among them, as was Schonchin John and Bogus Charley. Captain Jack begged Canby to withdraw his troops and give them a small reservation in the Lava Beds. Once again, Canby refused and his fate was sealed. 

Captain Jack drew a pistol from his shirt and shot Canby in the face, killing him instantly. The other warriors opened fire. One commissioner attending with the General named Reverend Eleazer Thomas, died immediately. My great-grandfather Shacknasty managed to shoot off Meacham's finger, who tripped and fell unconscious. That's when Toby stepped in. Afraid the Modocs would kill Meacham, Toby shouted to the Modocs that soldiers were coming, and the Modoc fled.

    The Modoc war doesn't end here, but I do believe that this moment was the last moment when the full impact of the war could have been avoided. Because after the killing of General Canby, there was no turning back for the Modoc, and from here, the dominos of fate began falling.

    In fact, it was this killing of a General during supposed peacetime that triggered Gillem's second attack on the Stronghold, when the Modocs were forced to evacuate. And once the Modoc were on the run, the last - and bloodiest - battle of the war broke. Now referred to as the Thomas-Wright battle, it's when 64 soldiers on patrol for the retreating Modoc were ambushed. 27 soldiers - nearly half of the patrol - were killed and 17 of them were wounded. It was the last big stand the Modoc would make, because without the stronghold, time was no longer on the Modoc's side. But Jack knew if he surrendered, he'd be facing death. Because no matter what the consensus was in the Stronghold that night, he was the one that pulled the trigger - and he did it right here at the spot that we're coming up to on the right.

The Modoc War: A Homeland Lost