Sheepeater Indian War

Sheepeater Indian War

The Sheepeater Indian War of 1879 was the last Indian war fought in the Pacific Northwest portion of the United States. A band of approximately 300 Western Shoshone, (Turakina, or Tukuaduku), were known as the Sheepeaters because of their proficiency in hunting Rocky Mountain Sheep. The campaign against the Sheepeaters primarily took place in central Idaho.

Leading up to the war the Shoshone were accused of stealing horses from settlers in Indian Valley and during the pursuit killing three of the settlers near present day Cascade. In August, they were accused of killing two prospectors in an ambush at Pearsall Creek, five miles from Cascade. By February 1879 they were accused of the murders of five Chinese miners at Oro Grande, the murders at Loon Creek, and finally the murders of two ranchers in the South Fork of the Salmon River in May. However, there was no evidence for these accusations.

Heading the campaign against the 'Sheepeaters' was Company G of the 1st Cavalry led by Colonel Bernard, a detachment of men from the Second Infantry under First Lieutenant Catley, and men listed under Lieutenant Edward Farrow. The troops were all heading toward Payette Lake, near present day McCall. Bernard headed North from Boise barracks, Catley headed South from Camp Howard, and Farrow headed East from the Umatilla Agency.

Throughout the campaign, the troops faced difficulty with travelling through the rough terrain. The first segment of the campaign, from May 31 to September 8, was through the Salmon River dubbed the "River of No Return" because it was barely navigable. By August 20, a Sheepeater raiding party of ten to fifteen Indians attacked the troops as they rode on a train at Soldier Bar on Big Creek. Those who defended the train included Coroporal Charles B. Hardin along with six troopers and the chief packer, James Barnes. They managed to successfully drive the Sheepeaters off with only one casualty, Private Harry Eagan. By October, the campaign ended once Lieutenants W.C. Brown and Edward S. Farrow, along with a group of twenty Umatilla scouts, negotiated the surrender of the Sheepeaters.

References

  • Parker, Aaron. The Sheepeater Indian Campaign (Chamberlin Basin Country). Idaho Country Free Press, c1968.

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