Tour Locations | The Modoc War: A Homeland Lost
LOCATION 73 | The Modoc War: A Homeland Lost
Passing Bloody Point
Now, look to your right. In the distance, do you see that big group of trees? If you look past that group of trees, can you see an outcrop of land, kind of rising higher above the plains around it. That's Bloody Point - which I promised to show you. And, by the time Hooker Jim and his warriors rode past here twenty years later, all hopes of improving race relations seemed to have fully disintegrated.
Now, as you continue along this road, the thing people also don't always realize is that it wasn't just the warriors that moved into the stronghold. There were somewhere around 100 women and children the whole time, too. When the warriors traveled from their primary camp to other parts of the lava beds, the women and children went with them.
The Stronghold itself was two miles long and 300 yards wide - about the size of the National Mall in Washington. The Modoc families lived in their own little "apartments" among broken lava tubes and pits, and they drove in a herd of about 100 cattle as a food source. And, where the terrain didn't offer natural protection, they built stone barriers.
The Modoc also placed natural stone markers as guides. These stones meant nothing to the military, but allowed the Modocs to navigate the stronghold with ease. They also helped the Modocs navigate the darkness - a simple touch of the stone piles served as a guide. Can you imagine guiding yourself through the terrain surrounding you by touch? One lieutenant would later write: "The match for the Modoc Stronghold has not been built and never will be...it is the most impregnable fortress in the world."
In contrast, the US Army thought fighting the Modoc was a simple matter of numbers . After Lost River, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Wheaton took command, and recruited a force of 300 soldiers. He estimated a two-to-one advantage, confident this war would have a quick end. In reality his advantage was actually more like four-to-one.