Post by owyhee on Jun 8, 2015 20:51:27 GMT -5
I assume this is the place to discuss Indian wars that are not related to the LBH. If it is not, please someone let me know. I am going to write a bit here as I comb through the massive amount of info on this site about the LBH. I hate redundancy and don't want to cover something that has been discussed in depth.
The ION country is the dusty corner of Idaho where Oregon and Nevada meet. The area is known as the Owyhees (OH-Y-HEES) and is named after a group of Hawaiian trappers who were lost on MacKenzies expedition to the area in 1819. It is rugged terrain with deep canyons and basalt lined bluffs. It was also rich in Silver and drew many miners to the area in the 1860's with Silver City being the largest city in the area. It was this influx of miners that led to problems with the Native Americans who inhabited the region.
In the mid 1860's there was quite a bit of trouble with the local tribes (Shoshone, Paiute and Bannock) raiding what they saw as trespassers on their homeland. With the major strikes taking place in Idaho many miners were coming from California to the new fields seeking their fortune. One of those groups was the Chinese miners. They were neither liked by the whites currently in the area and were thought less of by the Indians maybe. The scalps of the Chinese were quite a novelty with their ponytails and the Indians of this area had no problem acquiring them. In 1866 there were three massacres that led to the Battle of Three Forks on the Owyhee river.
Chief Egan of the Paiutes had been raiding the stage line of Hill Beachy on the Chico trail when he reached the Owyhee crossing at present day Rome. Having plundered several stage stations and having acquired rifles, pistols and provisions they stopped here within site of a small garrison at the ferry led by Lt. Silas Pepoon. The large number of warriors (over 300) were too many for the local forces to handle. In short order a new target of opportunity presented itself to the marauding band, Chinese miners.
The Paiutes descended on the miners and told them they would get safe passage if they laid down what few arms they had. They did and were slaughtered. Bodies were found along the trail for six miles. Everything the miners had was taken except for their picks which were lodged in their heads and bodies. Many years later Chief Egan said he told his warriors to stop firing and beat them to death to save ammunition. The victims offered little resistance. More than 100 miners were killed. One young boy was the sole survivor and brought the story to Silver City. These depredations led to the Battle of Three Forks on May 27-28 of 1866.
Lt Pepoon joined with Major Marshal and made out for the Indians on the Owyhee River. They found them and were surprised by the size of the war party. Over 500 Indians were along the Three Forks Dome. When confronted these warriors didn't flee and a spirited fight ensued. For four hours the two groups fired away at each other. Marshal said that the Indians used all firearms and no arrows, I find this a bit hard to believe. The soldiers had a mountain howitzer which they set up and fired 5 shells at the warriors with little effect. As the day drew late Marshal moved down stream and tried to cross the river below the dome. A raft was built and he began to ferry men across the river. After getting half his men across the river the raft sank and took the howitzer with it. It is my understanding it is still there. A harrowing night was spent with the troops split on both sides of the river. In the morning a raft was built and the rest of the troops were ferried across. Marshal sent scouts up the bluff and they were attacked. A private was killed and his body was roped and drug off by the Indians. Lt Pepoon wanted to go after the trooper but Marshal said it was to dangerous. The Indians kept the troopers pinned down until dark. After nightfall they retreated across the river leaving 5 men behind much to the dismay of the troopers.
This action and its failure led to many raids afterwards. As one goes through the papers of the day, mostly the Owyhee Avalanche, it is amazing how many fights took place in this area. Very interesting and little known history. I hope to find that cannon someday!