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The Indian Wars Volunteer

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The Indian Wars Volunteer
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Author(s): William Thompson
Date Published: 2008/11
Page Count: 180
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-543-7
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-544-4

A classic account of the Indian Wars of the great American North West

The author of this book, William Thompson, was a true pioneer and American frontiersman. He travelled westward by covered wagon with his family experiencing the wild and lawless country he would be destined to help tame at first hand. In keeping with many of his contemporaries in all the new territories he tried his hand at several ways of making his living, but, in common with other men on the edges of civilisation, he was constantly called upon to serve with volunteer units—often created quickly and in emergencies—to combat uprisings, incursions, raids and outrages against settlers by the indigenous native peoples including the Snake and Modoc Indian tribes among others. The author provides a riveting account of his personal participation in several Indian campaigns in particular the 'Lava Beds Campaign' against Captain Jack and his band of renegade Modocs.

Accordingly, after filling our “cantinas” with dried venison from the camp of our allies, we again took the trail. Our horses were fresh and as the Warm Springs were such splendid trailers we made good progress, especially after entering the pine timber. The Indians acted also as scouts, skirting each side of the trail and keeping well in advance. No effort had here been made by the Snakes to cover their tracks, and we followed at a rapid pace. The trail led up the west branch of Trout Creek and in a southerly direction. We had not gone more than four miles when we came to the camp of the night before. Their fires were still burning, showing their utter contempt for the Warm Springs. We followed up Trout Creek to its head and passed through a low gap on to the head of McKay creek, which flows in a south-westerly direction to its junction with Crooked River. Just after passing the divide one on the scouts dropped back and informed us that the enemy was not far ahead. They said the grass cut by the hoofs of their ponies was as fresh as when growing. It was not thought advisable to overtake them in the timber until they had gone into camp. We therefore sent word ahead to proceed with great caution, and to keep well back from the trail. Proceeding now with the stealthiness of a cat creeping upon a bird, the scouts kept well behind the ridges and only occasionally venturing to peep over a ridge or point into the creek bottom down which the Snakes were travelling.<br>
About 3 o’clock they came back and announced that the Snakes had gone into camp about a mile or such a matter ahead. A council was now held to discuss the advisability of attacking them at once or waiting until morning. The Warm Springs were eager for an immediate attack. The camp was located in the edge of an open glade, presenting a splendid opportunity for a close approach. We naturally looked to Jim Clark as our leader and adviser, he being older and far more experienced than any of our party, unless it was our allies. Clark finally advised an immediate attack. “We are getting into the Snake territory, they might move again tonight and we would be compelled to go further on,” and, he declared, “we might bite off more than we can chew.” That settled the matter, and our allies were in high glee.<br>
It was arranged that a portion of the Warm Spring should approach from the west, keeping well behind the hill, and at the moment of attack should stampede their horses, while we were to make a detour and approach at the point of timber nearest the camp.<br>
After separating we turned to the left through the thick timber, keeping well behind the ridge until we were about opposite the camp. Here we dismounted and tied our horses in a thicket of firs. Silently, almost as shadows, we moved up the ridge and crossing over the crest began the descent through the woods, the moccasined feet of our dusky allies falling noiselessly upon the pine quills. We almost held our breath, lest the least noise, the accidental breaking of a twig, should startle the enemy. Though this was to be my first real Indian fight, I felt no fear and not so much excitement as when stalking my first buck. As we neared the edge of the wood and were almost prepared for the rush, the Indians on the other side raised the yell.<br> Led on by their eagerness they had come into view of the camp and seeing they were discovered raised the war-whoop and made for the herd. The Snakes sprang to their weapons and started to save their horses. Concealment being now useless we burst out of the wood and opened fire. As we did so the savages turned down the creek and fled toward the nearest shelter. I remember dropping upon my left knee, and taking deliberate aim at a big fellow, fired. At the crack of the rifle he sprang into the air and fell, and I then knew I had made one “good siwash.” Springing to my feet I drew my revolver, a Colt’s navy, and kept with the crowd in a running fight until the Snakes reached the shelter of the woods.