New York Daily Times

Saturday, December 01, 1855

Oregon and Washington Territories - The Indian Wars.

Major Haller's Escape - Butchery of Twenty-Five Families by the Indians
The Settlers Arming and Organizing Everywhere.

Special Correspondence of the N.Y. Daily Times
Portland, Oregon, Friday, Oct. 19th., 1855.

In a postscript of my last letter, I gave your readers the startling intelligence that the Yakima and the Klickitats Indians had broken out in open War: that Sub-Agent Bolon had been killed by order of the Yakima Chief, and that Major Haller and 100 regulars had received orders to advance into their country and avenge his death.


After having marched fifty miles north from The Dalles he met the enemy at Sim-coo-a Valley. The war-whoop was the first intimation that he was among Indians. This was at 3 o'clock P.M., and before sundown the enemy were driven from the bushes. The Major lost in this charge one killed, two mortally wounded, and three slightly wounded. Major Haller encamped without fire, expecting and awaiting a night attack; his men lay on their arms all night, and at daylight, [Sunday], he found the Indians were closing in upon him, and for a time they were only kept off by the point of the bayonet. Early in the day he took up a position on a small eminence and by the mountain howitzer, under the charge of Lieut. Gracie, they were kept at bay. The Indians constantly were gaining accessions, and their number on Sunday evening was estimated to be 1500 well armed warriors.


Major Haller saw something must be done; he was cut off from the water; he had no wood; his forty mules had been taken, with the blankets and provisions, and a forced night march was the only hope of escape to The Dalles. This was undertaken, and they succeeded in passing unnoticed the Indian spies. At 2 A.M. Major Haller's party had reached a grove of fir timber, and here encamped, warn out by fatigue and hunger. They lit camp fires as signals to the rear party. The Indians saw these signals and understood that their prey had flown. Shortly after day the distant plain was covered with advancing warriors, and for six or eight miles they were engaged in a running fight, which lasted a few hours. Tuesday evening Major Holler reached The Dalles, having lost five men killed, and twenty wounded. Capt. Russell, Lieut. Gracie and Dr. Hamond are said to have distinguished themselves, as brave, efficient officers, and owing to the number engaged it is a great wonder that the whole command were not cut off. Lieut. Day, who was sent to reinforce Holler, also returned to The Dalles.


Major Raines sent expresses to the Governors of Oregon and Washington for volunteers. In accordance with these requisitions, Governor Curry issued a proclamation for ten companies, one regiment, to rendezvous on the bank of the Willimet, opposite Portland, with the greatest dispatch, all to come mounted and armed.

Secretary Mason, acting as Governor, called for two companies from Washington Territory. A company raised in this city, of 90 men, left for the Cascades on the 12th. They received orders to hold the Cascade Pass in conjunction with a company of United States soldiers. A block fort has been built at the lower landing, well mounted with grape guns, and one is being erected at the upper landing. Every precaution has been taken to repel and attack, which has been daily expected. This Pass is the only means of communication to The Dalles and field of action. Two hundred men have been ordered to cross the Cascades through the Foster pass, and disarm every Indian they see. Before ten days 1,500 men will be in the field, and never have I seen men better fitted to engage in an Indian war. They are determined to avenge the horrid murders committed by these red skins. Indian agents have made their last treaties; their race must now meet its fate.


One would suppose such an army would soon end the war, but it may be one of long duration, as undoubtedly they have three or four thousand warriors now ready to meet any force brought against them. The Walla-Wallas, the Cyusas, and in fact all the up-country tribes, have united in this war, and signs seem to indicate that the coast and valley Indians may combine in this general war.

The valley settlers are fearfully alarmed. At St. Hillers, Rainer, Forest Grove, Hillsborough, large block houses have and are being built as places of retreat in case of an attack. Portland and Oregon City have night watches, and all up and down are preparing to give them plenty of powder and lead should they venture into this valley.

An Express Messenger [Mr. Pearson] has been dispatched to Fort Benton to inform Gov. Stevens of the hostile movements of the Indians and urge him to go down to St. Louis instead of attempting to make his way to The Dalles. There are many in the Colville Mines, but few of them it is feared will ever reach the settlements, as they must pass through large hostile tribes.

I may, if any news reaches this, write again.



Special Correspondence of the N.Y. Daily Times.
Portland, Sunday, Oct. 21st, 1855.

Last evening an express reached Governor Curry at head-quarters, giving officially the sad news that twenty-two families had been murdered in the Rogue River Valley. Miss Pellet, the Temperance lecturer, was last seen at Waggoner's. She and the whole family with whom she was spending the night are supposed to have been murdered, and the house and the bodies burned. The Indians are reported to be about three hundred strong. A large party immediately left the Umpqua to aid in saving the distant settlers, and bring them to places of safety.


Governor Curry, this morning, called for volunteers. One battalion is to be raised north and the other south of Canyou, and both to act in concert in avenging and exterminating the race from the mountains and hills which surround those valleys. Oregon now has, or soon will have, 2000 volunteers in the field - one regiment north and one south, contending against savage Indians who are acting together as a grand war party of extermination against the whites.

Oct. 21, 6 P.M., steamer Belle has just arrived from the Cascades. By the Oregonian Extra of this hour, I see that a party of Indians appeared on the opposite banks of the Columbia, fired into The Dalles and were off in a moment. Major Raines has established a depot at the mouth of the Klickatat. Capt. Wilson and his company have arrived at The Dalles and are awaiting orders. Nathan Olney, sub-Indian agent, writes to R.K. Thompson from Fort Walla Walla, under date of Oct. 12th, that in his opinion the Walla Wallas, Czauses and Umatillas have or will join the War Band. He says all the settlers above The Dalles are in danger. Friendly Indians report to him that 60 white men have already been killed of returning miners and settlers.


The news from the South is that a force had met and killed over 100 Indians south of Canyou. Large parties of volunteers are assembling on Deer Creek. The greatest excitement exsists throughout the Upper Country. The cry is a war of extermination against every red skin between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific.

Oct. 22. Polk and Yamhill companies left today for the Cascades, by steamer Gazelle, two hundred well-armed men, under command of Captains Humbree and Bennett. Nine companies have already reported themselves to the Adjutant-General, and it is but ten days since the call was made. This speaks well for our territory.


Oct. 25. I learned that Miss Pellet is safe. She arrived at Crescent City and went to San Francisco by last steamer. She left Waggoner an hour before the Indian attacks was made. I have nothing further to add.


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R. Gess Smith