World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Rogue River Wars

Map of the Rogue River Valley

The Rogue River Wars was an armed conflict in 1855–1856 between the US Army, local militias and volunteers, and the Native American tribes commonly grouped under the designation of Rogue River Indians, in the Rogue River Valley area of what today is southern Oregon.[1] While the conflict designation usually includes only the hostilities that took place during 1855–1856, numerous previous skirmishes, as early as the 1830s, had been escalating in the area, eventually breaking into open warfare.


  • Origins 1
  • History 2
  • Cultural conflict 3
  • War 4
  • The Battle of Hungry Hill 5
    • Archaeology 5.1
  • See also 6
  • Notes and references 7
  • Works cited 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


Hoxie Simmons, a Rogue River Indian, c. 1870.

The interaction of the Rogue River Indians and the first settlers who established homesteads in the area was relatively peaceful. However, the situation changed drastically with the opening of the Oregon Trail and the gold rushes in northern California and later in eastern Oregon. Larger groups of settlers and miners entered the area, consuming without restrictions the natural resources upon which the Indians relied on for living, like hunting, fishing and chopping down entire forests of oak trees.

The first recorded hostilities can be traced to American

  • The Fort Lane Archaeology Project—Fort Lane was an important base for the US Army during this conflict
  • Guide to the Rogue River Wars (ca. 1855-1857) at the University of Oregon.

External links

  • E.A. Schwartz, The Rogue River indian War and Its aftermath, 1850-1980. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997.

Further reading

  • Douthit, Nathan (2002). Uncertain Encounters: Indians and Whites at Peace and War in Southern Oregon. Corvallis, Oregon: Oregon State University Press. ISBN 0-87071-549-6.
  • Dorband, Roger (2006). The Rogue: Portrait of a River. Portland, Oregon: Raven Studios. ISBN 0-9728609-3-2.
  • McArthur, Lewis A., and McArthur, Lewis L. (2003) [1928] Oregon Geographic Names, seventh edition. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87595-277-1.
  • Schwartz, E.A. (1997). The Rogue River Indian War and Its Aftermath, 1850–1980. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-2906-9.

Works cited

  1. ^ Waldman, Carl. "Takelma and Tututni resistance." Atlas of the North American Indian, Third Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. American Indian History Online. Facts On File, Inc. (accessed December 4, 2012)
  2. ^ a b c d e "Ewing Young Route". Oregon's Historic Trails. End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Retrieved 2006-12-21. 
  3. ^ Smith, Rose M. and Barrett Codieck (2010). "Guide to the Cayuse, Yakima, and Rogue River Wars Papers 1847-1858". University of Oregon. Retrieved December 4, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d Schwartz, pp. 20–25
  5. ^ Douthit, pp. 11–19
  6. ^ McArthur, p. 822
  7. ^ Dorband, Portrait, p. 58
  8. ^ Douthit, p. 58
  9. ^ Loy, et al., pp. 14–15
  10. ^ Douthit, p. 60
  11. ^ Douthit, p. 63
  12. ^ Douthit, pp. 66–68
  13. ^ Schwartz, pp. 26–27
  14. ^ Douthit, pp. 68–69
  15. ^ Douthit, pp. 78–80
  16. ^ a b Douthit, pp. 76–77
  17. ^ Douthit, p. 80
  18. ^ Douthit, p. 106
  19. ^ Douthit, pp. 124–32
  20. ^ a b Atwood, Kay; Gray, Dennis J. (2003). "Where Living Waters Flow: Place & People: War & Removal". Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved May 18, 2009. 
  21. ^ Douthit, pp. 150–153
  22. ^ Schwartz, pp. 146–49
  23. ^ Douthit, pp. 157–58
  24. ^ Douthit, pp. 147, 163
  25. ^ a b ICTMN staff (November 7, 2012). "Lost Oregon Indian Battlefield Discovery Attributable to ‘Detective Work’". Indian Country Today Media Network. Retrieved December 4, 2012. 
  26. ^ a b c d e Wilson, Kimberly A.C. (October 12, 2012). "Hungry Hill, the lost site of historic Indian battle in southern Oregon, is found". The Oregonian (Portland, OR). Retrieved December 4, 2012. 
  1. ^ The Oregon Territorial Legislature changed the name to Gold River in 1854 but in response to opposition from Rogue River settlers changed it back to Rogue River a year later.[7]

Notes and references

See also

Archaeologist Mark Tveskov, who discovered the site using metal detectors, states that although this battle involving 500 people was a "major defeat" for U.S. troops, it is not well known for a variety of reasons, such as "the disappointment and blame among militiamen and Army regulars over the defeat. Back then, Oregon telegraph cables were in their infancy, and photographers who would document the Civil War several years later were not on hand. If Hungry Hill had happened after the Civil War, it would have been front-page news in The New York Times."[26]

In 2012, the location of the Battle of Hungry Hill was discovered by Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology archaeologists.[25]


The Native Americans were "camped with their women and children" [26] on the top of a hill, with the soldiers located across a narrow ravine about 1,500 feet deep. The U.S. troops had planned a surprise attack, but their position was given away by a warning fire. Seeing that they had been discovered, the soldiers attempted to charge down the ravine and up the other side, but were thwarted, as the Native Americans had good cover in the high ground, and many proved to be good marksmen. "U.S. troops and militiamen retreated out of the mountains ... As many as 36 were dead, missing or severely wounded. Native casualties numbered fewer than 20."[26]

The Battle of Hungry Hill, the largest battle of the Rogue River Wars,[25] occurred on Oct. 31, 1855, Two hundred Native Americans, located in the mountains "southwest of present-day Roseburg"[26] and armed with muzzleloaders and bows and arrows managed to hold off a group of "more than 300 ... dragoons, militiamen and volunteers."[26]

The Battle of Hungry Hill

Most of the Rogue River Indians were removed in 1856 to reservations further north. About 1,400 were sent to the Coast Reservation, later renamed the Siletz Reservation.[22][23] To protect 400 natives still in danger of attack at Table Rock, Joel Palmer, the Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs, ordered their removal, involving a forced march of 33 days, to the newly established Grande Ronde Reservation in Yamhill County, Oregon.[24]

Suffering from cold, hunger, and disease on the Table Rock Reservation, a group of Takelma returned to their old village at the mouth of Little Butte Creek in October 1855. After a volunteer militia attacked them, killing 23 men, women, and children, they fled downriver, attacking whites from Gold Hill to Galice Creek.[20] Confronted by volunteers and regular army troops, the Indians at first repulsed them; however, after nearly 200 volunteers launched an all-day assault on the remaining natives, the war ended at Big Bend (at RM 35 or RK 56) on the lower river.[20] By then, fighting had also ended near the coast, where, before retreating upstream, a separate group of natives had killed about 30 whites and burned their cabins near what later became Gold Beach.[21]

In 1855 this friction culminated in open conflict, which lasted into 1856, and is now called the Rogue River War.[19]


The peace did not last. Miners began prospecting for gold in the watershed, including a Bear Creek tributary called Jackson Creek, where they established a mining camp in 1851 at the site of what later became Jacksonville.[15] Indian attacks on miners that year led to U.S. Army intervention and fighting near Table Rock between Indians and the combined forces of professional soldiers and volunteer miner militias.[16] John P. Gaines, the new territorial governor, negotiated a new treaty with some but not all of the Indian bands, removing them from Bear Creek and other tributaries on the south side of the main stem.[16] At about the same time, more white emigrants, including women and children, were settling in the region. By 1852, about 28 donation land claims had been filed in the Rogue Valley.[17] Further clashes in 1853 led to the Treaty with the Rogue River that established the Table Rock Indian Reservation across the river from the federal Fort Lane.[18] As the white population increased and Indian losses of land, food sources, and personal safety mounted, bouts of violence upstream and down continued through 1854–55.

Formal portrait showing the head and shoulders of a white-haired, full-bearded man wearing a dark suit
Joel Palmer, Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs

[14] negotiated a peace treaty with Apserkahar, a leader of the Takelma Indians. It promised protection of Indian rights and safe passage through the Rogue Valley for white miners and settlers.Joseph Lane After Indians attacked a group of returning miners along the Rogue in 1850, former territorial governor [13] basin.Sacramento River passed through the Rogue Valley on their way to the Oregon Territory, when hundreds of men from the California Gold Rush Along the Rogue, tensions intensified in 1848 at the start of the [12] In 1847, the

The number of whites entering the Rogue River watershed greatly increased after 1846, when a party of 15 men led by Jesse Applegate developed a southern alternative to the Oregon Trail; the new trail was used by emigrants headed for the Willamette Valley.[8] Later called the Applegate Trail, it passed through the Rogue and Bear Creek valleys and crossed the Cascade Range between Ashland and south of Upper Klamath Lake.[9] From 90 to 100 wagons and 450 to 500 emigrants used the new trail later in 1846, passing through Rogue Indian homelands between the headwaters of Bear Creek and the future site of Grants Pass and crossing the Rogue about 4.5 miles (7.2 km) downstream of it.[10] Despite fears on both sides, violence in the watershed in the 1830s and 1840s was limited; "Indians seemed interested in speeding whites on their way, and whites were happy to get through the region without being attacked."[11]

[4] In 1827 an HBC expedition led by

Formal portrait showing the head and shoulders of a white-haired man wearing a dark cape or coat
Peter Skene Ogden encountered inland Rogue River natives in 1827.

The first contact between the Indians and European occurred when British explorer Cape Blanco, about 30 miles (48 km) north of the mouth of the Rogue River, and Indians visited the ship in canoes.[4] In 1826, Alexander Roderick McLeod of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) led an overland expedition from HBC's regional headquarters in Fort Vancouver to as far south as the Rogue.[4]

Cultural conflict

Throughout the 1850s Governor Stevens of the Washington Territory clashed with the US Army over Indian policy: Stevens wanted to displace Indians and take their land, but the army opposed land grabs. White settlers in the Rogue River area began to attack Indian villages, and Captain Smith, commandant of Fort Lane, often interposed his men between the Indians and the settlers. In October 1855, he took Indian women and children into the fort for their own safety; but a mob of settlers raided their village, killing 27 Indians. The Indians killed 27 settlers expecting to settle the score, but the settlers continued to attack Indian camps through the winter. On May 27, 1856, Captain Smith arranged the surrender of the Indians to the US Army, but the Indians attacked the soldiers instead. The commander fought the Indians until reinforcements arrived the next day; the Indians retreated. A month later they surrendered and were sent to reservations.[3]

The Guide to the Cayuse, Yakima, and Rogue River Wars Papers 1847-1858 at the University of Oregon summarizes the war as follows:


[2] The local Indians were unsuccessful in seeking vengeance during the remainder of the cattle drive as only a few animals were lost to their attacks.[2] when Gay shot and killed a native boy for no other reason than in retaliation for the previous attacks years earlier.Willamette Valley) Bailey, Gay and others were herding cattle north to the Willamette Cattle Company Then in 1837 (as part of the [2]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.