The Second Rogue River Campaign

Hostilities flared up again starting in the early summer of 1855 when Indians from the Applegate Creek and
Illinois Valley branches of the Rogue River Indians along with Indians from other tribes (Shasta, Klamath,
and others) began to raid mining camps and isolated farms. Again, volunteer units were called up and several
companies of militia were formed. The militia units, through early fall, numbered about 150 men. Through the
summer, fall, and early winter of 1855 several battles and skirmishes occurred between the amassed Indians
and volunteers, dragoons from Fort Lang, and companies of the 9th US Infantry. In mid and late October,
several pitched battles were fought between the Indians and joint volunteer and regular forces in the vicinities
of Galice and Grave Creeks. In mid October, Governor Curry called for 5 companies of of mounted volunteers
to make up a Northern Battalion and a further 4 companies of mounted volunteers to make up a Southern
Battalion. Each company was to have 60 enlisted men and a full complement of officers. These two battalions
later were formed into one regiment named the Second Regiment of Oregon Mounted Volunteers.

In January 1856, the members of the Northern Battalion, having become tired of the campaign, demanded and
received their discharge. The regulars were petitioned for aid and General John Wood (Commander – Department
of the Pacific) dispatched two companies under Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan (Major, Fourth US). On the
23rd of February Indians attacked settlers at Whaleshead, upstream from Port Orford, putting them under siege.
Several attempts to relieve them by river failed. Finally, after being besieged for a month, the community was
rescued by Lt. Colonel Buchanan and the two companies of the Fourth US under his command. On March 4th,
Company G, Fourth US Infantry, under the command of Captain C. C. Augur, was ordered from Fort Vancouver
to Fort Orford to reinforce the Third artillery who was protecting the friendly Indians and public stores at Fort
Orford. Also in March, Captain Floyd J. Jones, Fourth US, was ordered from Fort Humboldt to Crescent City
to guard supplies and friendly Indians at that place. In late March the troops under Major Buchanan, assisted
by Captain E. O. C. Ord (Third Artillery) and Captain Jones, attacked a village of Mackanootenais Indians about
11 miles from Whaleshead in an effort to induce other Indian tribes in the area to make peace.

In May, Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan’s forces and the militia met the Indian tribes at the mouth of the Illinois
River to discuss a peace treaty. The tribes met on May 21st and all, except a chief named John, agreed to turn
over their arms on the 26th. On the 26th, Captain Smith with 80 dragoons were at the agreed upon rendezvous
site, but no Indians appeared. In the evening two Indian women came to the camp and told him Chief John was
going to attack him with 200 or more braves. Captain Smith immediately moved his camp to higher ground and
dispatched a messenger to Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan asking for reinforcements.

On the morning of the 27th, a body of 40 warriors approached the camp and signaled that they wished to surrender
their arms, in person, to Smith. Alerted to a possible attack, however, Smith instructed the Indians to lay down
their arms at a point outside of his camp. Thwarted, the Indians withdrew. The Indian attack started about 10:00 in
the morning and went on through the day. The Indians had an advantage in arms in that they were armed with
rifled muskets, whereas the dragoons were armed with short range musketoons. The Indians took advantage of
this by firing into Smith’s camp from a second hill out of range of the musketoons. During the night the Indians
retreated allowing the soldiers to build what they could in the way of breastworks. The battle began again the
morning of the 28th, still with no relief. By 4 p.m., one third of Smith’s command was dead or wounded. Just
as the Indians began a new assault on Smith’s position a relief column, under the command of Captain Augur
(Co. G, Fourth US), attacked the rear of the Indian force. Broken, the Indians fled into the surrounding hills. The
total loss of troops, killed and wounded was 29. Chief John finally surrendered on June 29th.