Rogue River War

Rogue River War

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Rogue River War

The center of conflict between Native Americans and white Euro-American settlers in the 1850's, was in the Rogue River region of southwestern Oregon. Most of the early conflicts occurred between the Volunteer Oregon Militia, and Native Americans. However, in most areas in Oregon saw very little conflict. In fact, when the population density increased, most of Native Americans either moved or assimilated with the new white culture. Unfortunately, things were much different in the Rogue River region. Here existed a confederation of tribes that became known as the Rogue River Indians. They were in fact not a group of tribes, but instead a confederacy of small bands including the Klamath, Umpqua, Tutuni, Shasta, and Coquille tribes.

The first skirmishes between the militia and the Red River Indians occurred in June of 1851, near Ashland, Oregon when a group of miners were ambushed . They would exchange gunfire for over 4 hours, and in the end 7 Rogue River Indians would lie dead, and 1 miner. Then, just 8 days later over 100 warriors attacked Port Orford on the Oregon coast. Here the settlers managed to hold their own for 2 weeks without any casualties. These were followed by numerous other conflicts.

Finally, on June 17,1851, the U.S. Army entered the picture for the first time. They would clash with the Red River warriors on Table Rock, just outside present day Medford, Oregon. The army was well armed with the latest weapons, and had no problem repelling the attack as they killed 11 warriors, while suffering only 1 loss. Then, on September 14, a band of Coquille warriors would kill 5 settlers near present day Brandon, Oregon. Immediately, the U.S. Army retaliated, killing 15 Coquille.

Things were now completely out of hand so Indian agent Alonzo Skinner asked everyone to meet at Table Rock for a peace conference. Everyone showed, representatives of the Rogue River Indian Confederacy, the settlers, and the local volunteer militia. It didn't take long before the discussion turned into an argument, and before they knew it gunfire was exchanged and 20 people were dead, including almost all of the Rogue River Indians.

Meanwhile, a group of Modoc warriors attacked a wagon train just south of the Oregon border. They killed 62 immigrants and kidnapped 2 young girls. The volunteer militia in turn killed 52 Modoc. Now all the local settlers were living in fear as the fighting continued to escalate with 2 more vicious battles on Table Rock that left over 2 dozen dead. Finally, they all agreed on a cease fire on September 10, 1852, and everything was quiet for a year.

Everything was calm until a Yreka man named James Lupton organized a volunteers for a search and destroy campaign aimed at the Rogue River Indians who were living in the Siskiyou Mountains. On October 8, 1855, they killed 2 dozen Rogue River Indians including women and children. The very next day the warriors responded by killing 20 settlers. Shortly afterward, an Indian leader named Tecumtum organized 500 Rogue River warriors for a fight to the finish. They would fight the U.S. Army in ferocious battles at Little Meadows and Hungry Hill. Then on May 27, Tecumtum and his men would attack once more, only this time they would be forced to surrender when the army unleashed its howitzer cannons. Tecumtum was subsequently imprisoned on Alcatraz Island.