Oregon and Washington Volunteers/12
|←Ross to Curry||Oregon and Washington Volunteers by
Drew to Curry, 30 December 1854
|Oregon Joint Resolution→|
|House Misc. Doc. No. 47, 35th Congress, 2nd Session, pp. 16-25|
[Quartermaster General C. S. Drew’s report to Governor Curry, dated December 30, 1854.] 
Quartermaster General's Office,
Salem, O. T., December 30, 1854.
Sir: I have the honor to submit, in obedience to the instructions directed to this office by his excellency John W. Davis; late governor of Oregon, bearing date July 17, 1854, the muster-rolls pertaining to this department, together with the accounts and vouchers relating to the expedition sent upon the southern Oregon immigrant road, under instructions from the same source, and of even date, directed to Colonel John E. Ross, of the 9th regiment Oregon militia, authorizing (if deemed necessary) the enrolment of a mounted volunteer force to suppress Indian hostilities known to exist in that portion of Oregon contiguous to Rogue River valley, and through which the annual overland immigration passes en route to southern Oregon and northern California.
The abstracts and corresponding papers connected therewith relate to army supplies purchased, transportation of the same, issues, sales of captured and other property. Monthly returns of the issues of both subsistence and forage have been made, with the exception of a small amount of subsistence issued to such of the immigration as were destitute of food. The returns for subsistence issued under this head may be seen by referring to the abstract of issues marked “H.”
The whole amount of supplies furnished the expedition have been, in most instances, procured at a less price than were those of the Rogue river war of 1853. The small amount of funds placed at my disposal has enabled me to procure a portion of them at their actual cash value, immediate payments having been made therefor. Owing to the limited amount of means, however, which could be obtained for this purpose, ready payments have only been made when the state of the market has precluded the possibility of procuring the requisite supplies on any other than cash terms.
No effort has been wanting or action left untried by this department that would tend in any degree to further the design for which the command was called into service. To the officers and others connected with the expedition I am under many obligations for the prompt, efficient, and constant aid they have rendered me throughout the entire campaign in the discharge of the duties of this office; the varied and complicated duties of which require strict attention and as intimate acquaintance with all its various branches.
A rigid accountability is in all cases enjoined by the government in execution of vouchers and returns, requiring care and method, and a thorough knowledge on the part of the officers in the discharge of these functions of the duties of the soldier in and out of the field. Without these requisites a perfect system of retrenchment cannot be successfully carried out in the midst ot active operations.
Profiting by the practical knowledge (though limited) of the modus operandi of the quartermaster and commissary departments, gained, however, in the volunteer service only of the preceding years on this coast, I have been enabled in no small degree to curtail the expenses incident to service of this character.
The issue of forage has been exceedingly small, being less than one-third the amount allowed in regular service; and the prices specified in the forage accounts, herewith transmitted, correspond with the present cash value of that commodity in the section of country in which it was absolutely necessary to procure forage for the campaign.
The amount of the quartermaster accounts proper, hospital accounts, and those of miscellaneous expenditures, is altogether less than could be expected, taking into consideration the length and nature of the service rendered. The heavy expenditure connected with the quartermaster’s department in the volunteer service of 1853 (Rogue river war) has to a great extent been avoided. The blacksmithing accounts particularly of that year’s service amounted to a no inconsiderable sum, while such accounts in the present instance furnish but a small item of expense.
The transportation accounts of the expedition form an important item of the sum total of its cost.
The price per diem specified is the least amount for which transportation animals could possibly be procured. Such persons, however as are least acquainted with the country, and the nature of the service required, with all its peculiarities, may deem such prices as being exorbitantly high; but a thorough investigation of the subject, and a familiarity with all its details, cannot fail to banish such erroneous opinions, should any be found to exist.
A glance at the history of the country proves conclusively that Indian hostilities usually commence during the spring and summer months, and, in either case, rarely cease till autumn. Consequently the seasons of the year in which our citizens are the most profitably employed in their various vocations are irretrievably lost whenever and wherever such a state of things exists. It is the season, in fact, in which the agriculturist, on whom the country depends for its subsistence, is compelled to plant and to harvest; the miner to prospect his winter diggins; the mechanic to procure the necessaries of life for himself and family for the balance of the year; the merchant to lay in his semi-annual supply of goods, thereby employing what means of transportation the country affords, and paying remunerative prices therefor.
It may be truly said that the spring and summer months to the pioneers of the west is what the depot and magazine is to a military force. It not only enables them to procure the common necessaries of life, but also furnishes them the means actually necessary for the prosecution of their journey on the road to wealth and happiness.
Thus it may be seen that persons placing their transportation trains in the service of the government, as did those in the present instance, are compelled to abandon their legitimate and lucrative employment; an act, of course, which nothing but an anticipation of a fair remuneration would authorize them to commit. And I may add that animals used in service of this kind are seldom for a longer period at any one time than from one to three months, and in either case are generally unfit for further service when discharged; consequently, the owners not only lose the profits arising from their business during the only portion of the year which is valuable to them, but are compelled to procure forage at a heavy cost before they can resume their former vocation. Such has been the case heretofore, and such is the case in the present instance.
Those who have rendered service, or from whom supplies have been procured for the command, look for remuneration to the same source as do those placed in similar circumstances by the war of 1853, before alluded to. And a just appreciation of the service rendered, a candid and impartial consideration of the circumstances under which the command was called into the field, and a proper regard for the present and future welfare of Oregon, demands early attention and an immediate response on the part of the general government.
Owing to the disastrous results of the war of the preceding year, which unfortunately prostrated the larger portion of the mercantile community of southern Oregon, I was wholly unable to procure in that vicinity the amount of supplies requisite to keep the command in the field for the length of time necessary to accomplish the design for which it was called into service. This difficulty, however, I was enabled to overcome through the generosity of the citizens of Yreka, California, without whose assistance the command must have abandoned its mission, and much suffering and loss of life and property would have been the unhappy result.
I regret my inability to express, in an appropriate manner, the gratitude I owe to the merchants and others of that city for the cheerfulness and promptitude with which they placed at my disposal the amount of supplies required. I speak not in the language of idle compliment, however, when I assure you that their patriotism knows no bounds, their means of rendering aid no limit, whenever the welfare of the country requires either their personal services or pecuniary assistance.
No relief or provision trains accompanied the expedition, as has usually been the custom in such cases, particularly in California, consequently the provisions issued to persons found in indigent circumstances were taken from the rations of the command.
The class of persons who annually made their trips to the plains for the purpose of trading in stock, &c., have abandoned the practice of taking provisions with them for purposes of speculation. This change is, no doubt, owing to the fact that a majority of those who are found destitute of the actual necessaries of life are also minus the means necessary to procure them; and the trader, with his capital thus invested, is compelled in many instances to render aid without receiving any remuneration therefor, and his adventure of course proves an entire failure.
I mention these facts in order to show the necessity of being prepared to grant immediate aid in such emergencies, and of devising some method by which persons who intend emigrating via the overland route to this coast may be warned against the dangerous policy of leaving the eastern frontier with a short allowance of provisions, anticipating an opportunity to purchase on the road. Such a course has proved wholly impolitic, and fraught in many instances with direful consequences.
Many of the immigration, to whom the command had the good fortune to lend a helping hand, found themselves destitute of provisions on their arrival at the Sierra Nevada mountains, an event which would not have occurred had not the rumor been prevalent at their points of embarkation that provisions in abundance could be purchased at Humboldt river, which, unfortunately, was not the case.
I should do injustice to my own feelings did I neglect to improve the opportunity which the present occasion affords to pay at least a passing tribute, however feeble it may be, to the officers and men composing the expedition. Their zeal in the cause of humanity, the devoted patriotism with which they rallied to protect the defenceless, the promptitude, correctness, and ability exercised in the discharge of their several duties, the cheerfulness with which they shared their scanty subsistence with the needy, and their untiring efforts to facilitate the journey of those who, from unforeseen events, required special attention, merits the warmest approbation of the general government, and higher encomiums of praise than is in the power of my feeble pen to bestow.
But one circumstance only connected with the management of the expedition has occurred to mar the happy results of the campaign, or that may tend to create prejudices unfavorable to those at whose suggestions the command was called into service. I refer to the sale of provisions to immigrants, which, through a misconstruction of orders, actually took place. None can regret the occurrence of this act more than myself. The sum received, however, from this source was small, all of which has been judiciously appropriated for purposes connected with the service, as the accompanying accounts and vouchers plainly set forth.
The quartermaster and commissary stores remaining on hand at the close of the service, together with the small amount of property captured, were sold, after due notice had been given, and the proceeds expended as above stated, proper vouchers in all cases being taken.
I may have gone beyond the limits of my legitimate duty in this instance by procuring the sale of property which may be considered as belonging to the general government, in the absence of specific instructions authorizing me to do so. But, as may be seen by reference to the abstracts of sales, the greater portion of the property then on hand consisted of a few horses and cattle only, for which it was necessary to procure forage, the scarcity of which, and the consequent high price demanded, precluded the possibility of keeping them for any length of time with the view of deriving any benefit from the proceeds of sale.
A knowledge on the part of many of the citizens of the section of country in which it has been my fortune to reside for a few years past of the means within my reach of becoming familiar with matters pertaining to Indian affairs, may require at my hands a simple statement of the views I entertain relative to that subject; and in complying I am confident that I shall not only express my own views upon the subject, but shall speak the sentiments of all who are in any degree conversant with the Indian character.
I am aware, however, that acting in the official capacity in which I am placed it is not my duty to comment (were I able to do so) upon the policy of the government, but to carry it out in accordance with instructions which I may from time to time receive as occasion may require. I have, in every instance, endeavored to do so; but the lessons which I have been taught by the experience of a few years’ residence in an Indian country, and the knowledge I have gained, from actual observation, of their treacherous character, prompts me to give the subject a passing notice.
The prospects of living on amicable terms with the numerous and formidable tribes of Indians infesting our frontier borders, in fact, occupying the whole extent of country from the British possessions in the north to Mexico in the south, and from beyond the Rocky mountains on the east to the Pacific ocean on the west, is certainly anything but flattering. And my humble opinion is that the coming season will furnish the data of the commencement of a war equal in magnitude and direful results to that of Florida, or perhaps second to none that has ever occurred on the continent. And the experience of the past brings with it the painful conviction that, in view of the scarcity of troops on the Pacific coast, prompt and efficient means must be adopted by the citizens of this Territory to prevent, if possible, the re-enactment of the atrocious massacres of the preceding years on our western frontier.
Among the many incidents of this character I will only refer to the massacre of upwards of thirty men, women, and children, in the summer of 1852, on the southern Oregon emigrant trail, and that of seven men on Rogue river during the following winter, the various murders perpetrated by them during the summers of 1853 and 1854, in southern Oregon particularly, together with the horrid massacre so recently committed near Fort Boise, to substantiate the fact that Indians are in no case to be relied upon.
I could cite other instances of Indian atrocities, though perhaps of less magnitude, (save those of Cayuse notoriety,) were not the facts too well known to require a repetition of their revolting recitals. The treacherous conduct of the Indian has at all times, and on all occasions, since the organization of the first American settlements in this Territory, been such as is calculated to deprive them of the sympathy of every true man having the cause of humanity at heart, and to convince the most peaceable of the necessity of their subjugation. The history of the country since the landing of the Pilgrims to the present time proves them wholly unworthy of confidence, and consequent subjects of governmental policy. The most humane cannot but acknowledge that it is time for vigorous action, and that sickly sentimentality should cease. “Lo! the poor Indian,” is the exclamation of our modern philanthropists and love-sick novel writers. “Lo! the defenceless men, women, and children, who have fallen victims and suffered even more than death itself at their hands,” is the immediate response of the surviving witnesses of the inhuman butcheries perpetrated by this God-accursed race.
The strenuous efforts put forth on the part of the general government to live on amicable terms with the numerous tribes of Indians infesting both the Atlantic and Pacific sea-board has often led to disastrous results. Treaties, in many instances, have proved disadvantageous to the welfare of the communities in the vicinity of which they have been effected, and the country at large derived little or no benefit from them, except in cases where a thorough subjugation has occurred. Treaties effected under any other circumstances ought not to be relied upon, inasmuch as they are of no validity with the Indian, and they secure to the enemy the privilege of striking the first and oftentimes the fatal blow. It frequently occurs that many who cherish a generous feeling towards those whom they please to term “the last of a fallen race” fall themselves a sacrifice to their confidence in the good faith and fair promises of the Indian, and are as often murdered with all the circumstances of cruelty and treachery characteristic of the race. To illustrate this fact, we have only to refer to the history of the Eastern and Florida wars, and to that of the subsequent wars of this Territory, particularly to the Rogue river war of 1853, the particulars of which are no doubt familiar to every citizen of Oregon.
Since the capitulation entered into at the close of the war especially alluded to, by which the confidence of the public was again restored several of the most prominent citizens of the section of country in which the war occurred have been waylaid and most barbarously murdered by parties of the identical tribes with whom the stipulations had been entered into but a short time previous.
Among those who have thus fallen victims to the plighted faith of the Indians are the names of Kyle, a highly esteemed merchant, of Jacksonville, Edwards, a miner of the same locality, and Gage, a merchant of an adjoining county. All were murdered at different times, and against whom the Indians could have entertained no hostile feelings other than those manifested by the entire race towards mankind in general, when fear or a hope of gain do not dictate otherwise. Nor is the committal of murder the only manner in which they have expressed an almost entire disregard of the solemn compact entered into, to which I have before alluded. A no [sic] inconsiderable amount of property has also been stolen by them during the past year, under circumstances, too, which renders the theft doubly criminal in its nature, for a majority of those whom they have thus robbed were heavy losers by the war of the year previous; thus practically rendering the white man to the Indian what the African is to the white man--a slave. A statement of the grievances of this character has been properly brought to the notice of the government agent, whose duty should be to guard with zealous care the public welfare, and to aid in the adjustment of any difficulties which may exist between citizens and savages; yet, for reasons best known to himself, he has neglected or refused to render justice to whom justice is due, either by word, deed or action.
It is obvious that this state of things cannot much longer exist. A change either for better or worse must take place. Forbearance has, certainly, in this ceased to be a virtue, and citizens who are thus to be robbed of the proceeds of the toil, care, and anxiety of years by a common enemy must resort to their rifles as the only alternative left them for the protection of their property and of their lives.
A candid and impartial view of the already existing hostilities on the part of the various tribes of Indians occupying the country through which the yearly overland immigration is compelled to pass en route to Oregon and California, which is so often manifested by an indiscriminate slaughter of men, women, and children, opens a wide field for consideration and remark—a field which I acknowledge my inability to enter with the expectation of rendering so important a subject the justice which its merits require.
The absence of any provision whatever in the organic law of Territory, which can be so construed as to meet our wants in the present emergency, requires that a generous confidence be reposed in the general government. That she will endeavor to protect her citizens whom she has encouraged to seek homes in the far west, by granting liberal donations of land, is a matter of too much importance to even doubted, should she fully realize the many perils they are compelled to encounter while journeying hither to accept the proffered boon, and the insecurity, in many instances, of their lives and property after having arrived at their point of destination.
It is a matter of more than ordinary interest to the citizens of Oregon and vicinity that the attention of the general government be especially directed to the proofs already in its possession, and others which may be adduced, relative to the existence of Indian hostilities on our frontier and elsewhere of long standing. I doubt not that the executive of the Territory has rendered to the proper department a true and concise statement of each particular hostile act in the order in which it occurred, and that the representatives of the interests of Oregon have as often brought the subject to the notice of the powers that be. Yet, owing to the false statements of persons whose sympathy is wholly enlisted in behalf of the Indians and who are ready and eager whenever an Indian outrage is committed, however criminal or heartrending it may be, to proclaim to the world the borrowed and oft repeated phrase “the whites are the first aggressors,” legislators have been led no doubt to believe that the perpetrators of these foul deeds are, in fact, the injured party. But a calm, dispassionate investigation of the subject, and an unbiased perusal of a compiled history of the various massacres of unoffending citizens, with all their attendant circumstances, that have occurred during the few years past, cannot fail to convince those who entertain such views of the error into which they have fallen, and to satisfy the federal government that unless active and rigorous measures are taken to prevent it a general war is inevitable. The sooner justice is meted out to the aggressor the less will be the cost, and the smaller the number of lives sacrificed. Procrastination, in this emergency, is dangerous in the extreme; for the Indians not only become more deeply impressed with the idea that they can plunder and murder our citizens with impunity, but become familiar with the use of fire-arms and our mode of warfare.
Owing to the limited number of troops stationed on the Pacific coast, which can be made available when the season arrives for the resumption of hostilities, and the urgent demand for troops in other portions of the Union, it seems obvious that the enrollment of a mounted volunteer force will become absolutely necessary.
The Snake river country will, no doubt, require the attention of the government as soon as spring opens, and a concentration at that point of the entire military force now stationed in this vicinity. Unfortunately, however, the military force now stationed here consists principally of infantry, which experience has proved to be inefficient for service in an Indan [sic] country; not that they lack the energy, courage, and a hearty good will to render effectual service under any and all circumstances, but for obvious reasons, beyond their control, they are unable to do so; consequently, a volunteer force, even for that section of the country, will no doubt be required.
Nor is the Snake river country the only point from which danger need be apprehended during the coming summer; for, aside from the Indians against whom the expedition was sent in August last, are the Pitt Rivers, a most formidable tribe, who have ever been noted for their unrelenting hostility to the whites, and for the adroitness and skill manifested in their frequent depredations in the settlements and on the highway. But little fear has been entertained of this tribe heretofore in this Territory; yet, owing to the fact that they are constantly being driven further into the interior by the miners and mountaineers of California, until they are now close upon our borders, at a point, too, in the vicinity of which the annual overland emigration passes en route to southern Oregon, renders it a subject worthy of notice. They, like the Modocs, Piutes, Klamaths, and other tribes in that section of country, have never evinced a desire for peace unless compelled through fear to do so. Towards this section of country, which has been converted into a battle field for three successive summers past, and in which the most unheard of cruelties and barbarities have been perpetrated upon defenceless citizens, regardless of age, sex, or condition, I most respectfully beg leave to call your early attention, lest it becomes the theatre of the tragical scenes so recently enacted near Fort Boise.
The policy pursued by the federal government in the prosecution of the Florida and other wars of a kindred nature is the only alternative upon which we can safely rely.
Let the requisite number of mounted volunteers be called into the field, dragoons instead of infantry transferred to the Territory, ample funds placed at the disposal of the proper department, and it seems obvious that the impending conflict would soon be ended, and our desire for peace, the security of the lives and property of our citizens, and the promotion of the welfare of the country more than fully realized.
These suggestions, I am aware, will meet opposition on the part of the pseudo-philanthropists, a few of whom have, unluckily, found their way to Oregon, where their presence is so little needed. However, as I have before alluded to this class of fanatics, I now respectfully leave them to their own reflections, with a faint hope that they may soon see themselves as others see them.
There may be those, however, who honestly entertain the belief that volunteer service draws too heavily upon the treasury of the country. Be that as it may, certain it is that volunteers have never been sufficiently compensated to remunerate them for the sacrifices they are compelled to make on leaving home and employment, aside from the dangers and privations they are compelled to encounter while absent.
Whenever a disparity exists in the expense of the two forces (regulars and volunteers) it is caused by the expense of travelling to and from the place where volunteer service is required; and in some instances by furnishing them a full supply of clothing as a bounty, without regard to the length of service.
Travelling expenses in this case would, as a matter of course, be avoided; but a disbursement of clothing indispensably necessary.
Persons least acquainted with volunteer service, particularly in this section of country, may deem such a disbursement of trivial importance, but such as have a knowledge of the many privations and consequent sickness to which men are liable when in mountain service and poorly clad, will duly appreciate the suggestion.
It is not my purpose to say aught in disparagement of the operations of the officers, and others connected with the regular service, whether stationed on this coast or elsewhere. On the contrary, none can entertain a more exalted opinion of the character, ability, and zeal of the officers of the army than I do. And if I have said aught, either verbally or in writing, officially or unofficially, now that I can justly appreciate, from an intimate acquaintance with the nature and requirements of the service of this country, from which the inference can be drawn, that they, in any instance, have been found wanting in any of the characteristics of the “American soldier,” I acknowledge myself in duty bound solemnly to retract it.
In the present emergency every expedient which can be devised and resorted to, of whatever nature, will be required during the coming season to prevent the wanton murders so often perpetrated upon our citizens by the various tribes of Indians occupying the greater portion of the country adjacent to the north Pacific coast.
The prosperity of the country requires that a course of policy be adopted by the government that will at once teach the Indians to feel the power of Americans, and to dread their punishment. If the treasury of the country will not warrant it, or the prejudices of legislators will not sanction the measures necessary to carry into effect such a policy, whatever it may be, it should be abandoned, at least for a time, or until the period arrives when the proper feelings and motives actuate those to whom our rights are confided. The adoption of the latter policy, though tinctured strongly with anti-progressive Americanism, would throw the citizens of Oregon and vicinity upon their own resources; the effect of which would be the adoption by her citizens of a mode of warfare inconsistent perhaps, in some instances, with the articles of war governing nations, yet altogether more effectual. The tactics of armies are but shackles and fetters in the prosecution of an Indian war. “Fire must be fought with fire;” and the soldier, to be successful, must, in a great measure, adopt the mode of warfare pursued by the savage.
I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. S. DREW,
Quartermaster General O. M.
His Excellency George L. Curry,
Governor of Oregon Territory.