INDIAN ATTACK ON FORT NISQUALLY IN 1849
(William P. Bonney, History of Pierce County, Washington. Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publishing Company, 1927.)
An account of the whole affair was recorded in the Journal of Fort Nisqually, kept by Walter Ross, clerk, and is as follows:
"About noon a large party of Snoqualmies and Skewahamish arrived and took up their position before the water gate where they had an affray with our people, in which an American, (Leander) Wallace, was killed and Lewis was slightly wounded. One of the enemy was killed and another wounded.
"The cause and commencement of the difficulty are as follows: As the horn blew for dinner, a large party of Skewhamish and Snoqualmies were reported to have arrived. Our working and other Indians immediately commenced running into the fort and bringing with them their movables.
"When dinner was over, a large party of Snoqualmies, to the number of about one hundred were observed advancing across the plains on the northwest side of the fort; part went to Lahalet's (the Squally chief's) lodge and the others gathered around the water-gate, where they were soon after rejoined by others.
"On being asked the reason for making such a warlike demonstration, they replied that young Lahalet, married to a daughter of one of their petty chiefs, was treating his wife brutally, and they had come to see about it, and did not come with the intention of harming the whites.
"The Chief, Patkanim, was then invited into the fort; to the others was given tobacco to smoke the pipe of peace, for which they retired to one of the deserted lodges. We took the precaution of placing two armed men (Thibeault and Gohome) at the gate, with orders to let none of them in. I also took my gun and went about among our Indians, who were sweeping the fort.
"I had just taken a turn around them when I heard a shot. I repaired to the gate, four or five of the worst Snoqualmies came rushing to the gate. One of their number, Cussass, rudely pushed Gohome into the fort. I demanded why he did that, and told him to keep quiet. He answered only with insolence.
"I then put him out, upon which he cocked his gun, and drew his dagger, making two or three thrusts at me. Wren, standing a piece off, was called in. I then directed that the gate be closed; but, finding Wren shut out, it was again opened.
"Wren, upon entering, seized one of their guns, whereupon a scuffle ensued, and the gun falling between the door and post, prevented closing it. I observed Cussass pointing his gun at me. I presented mine and as I thought, fired first; but it is maintained by friendly Indians outside that one of the Snoqualmies (Quallawowt), provoked by a blow given by Wren with the butt end, to one of their chiefs fired at him (Wren), but missing him, my shot followed.
"A good many shots followed and the gate closed. We then took to the bastions; but our people taking time to get armed, by the time they were at their stations the enemy were out of host, running across the plains to their canoes. Patkanim who was in the fort at the commencement of the row, escaped after the closing of the gate, unperceived by our people, young Lahalet (Wyamoch) showing him the way.
"Wallace and Lewis were outside when the affray commenced, and did not respond to the call of "...all hands come in and shut the gate." They perhaps thought themselves secure from harm, as they were Americans, and did not belong to the fort. Cussass is said to have shot poor Wallace. Lewis had a wonderfully narrow escape; one ball went through his vest and trousers, and another grazed his left arm.
"S'Geass, an Indian, was wounded in the neck, and a medicine man (A Skewhamish) was killed; also a Snoqualmie was wounded in the shoulder. We do not suppose that the war party came here with the intent of attacking us, but think they had some other object in view besides the affair with Lahalet.
"One circumstance proves that they thought lightly of quarreling with the whites. When tobacco was handed to them, Quallawowt asked it if was not poisoned; and none of the Indians would touch it until someone had previously smoked and chewed it. The Snoqualmies and Skewhamish are the terror of all tribes south of the Soquamish."
"Many believed that it was the intention of the Snoqualmies to capture Fort Nisqually; and if the plan had succeeded to massacre the whites upon the Sound. It was thought that Chief Patkanim believed that such a victory would have united all the southern tribes in a movement to exterminate the settlers.
"Although the attack was not successful, the Indians evidently believed that their acts had aroused the enmity of the whites, and that they were, therefore, committed to war. Thereupon they notified the American settlers to abandon the country leaving word that they would be permitted to do so peacefully if they would leave their property behind.
"The settlers prepared a defense, building blockhouses at Tumwater and Cowlitz, into which settlers brought their families, and notified Governor Lane of the situation. The governor at once started for Tumwater, bringing a supply of arms and ammunition, and escorted by Lieutenant Hawkins of the Mounted Rifle Regiment, and five soldiers.
"Major Hathaway, of the United States Army, offered to move one of his two companies of artillery to the Sound and the Governor returned to the Columbia. He sent a letter to Doctor Tolmie at Fort Nisqually asked for his cooperation and requesting the Hudson's Bay Company not to sell arms or ammunition to the Indians. By July, Company M of the First Artillery Regiment, United States Army, with Captain Bennett H. Hill, was garrisoned at Fort Steilacoom."
SNOQUALMIE WARRIORS ARRIVE
In May, 1849, Patkanim and about one hundred armed warriors arrived at the landing at the mouth of Sequalitchew Creek, over a mile distant from Fort Nisqually. Several of the Nisquallies were encamped there while the major portion of the tribe lived in mat huts just outside the fort, for protection or were scattered along the river valley.
Upon observing the foe, those at the landing beat a hasty retreat to the fort, whither Patkanim and his band following them arriving about noon.
Fort Nisqually at this time was well fortified. It was enclosed by a stockade about twenty feet in height, with three-story bastions at the northwest and southeast corners. These were built of twelve-inch squared timbers, the upper stories projecting so as to enable the defenders to enfilade the outside walls of the stockade.
A cannon, swivel guns, musketoons, and a dozen flint-lock muskets were kept in each bastion. There was also a strong blockhouse inside the fort erected for defense during the construction of the bastions and stockade.
GATHERED AT WATER GATE
When the Snoqualmies arrived they took up a position before the watergate at the north side of the fort. The Nisquallies were very much excited feeling sure that their ancient foes were on one of their customary murderous raids.
Outside the gates were also some American settlers, among them Michael T. Simmons, the Tumwater pioneer and afterward Indian superintendent; Leander Wallace, and a man named Lewis.
After dinner a delegation of the Snoqualmies went to Chief Laghlet's lodge while the rest remained before the water gate and were soon joined by the others. Upon being asked by Dr. William F. Tolmie, the Hudson's Bay Company factor why they were making such warlike demonstrations they replied that they had come to inquire about Wayamoch's treatment of his wife, and meant no harm to the whites.
PATKANIM A WILEY SAVAGE
Chief Patkanim was then invited into the fort. He is described as being small in stature and insignificant in appearance but a sharp, shrewd savage, as many people found to their cost in dealing with him.
To the other warriors were given tobacco to smoke, the pipe of peace. Two armed men were placed at the gate, Louis Thibeault, a French-Canadian, and Gohome, a Nisqually, with orders not to allow any Snoqualmies inside the fort.
Through the kindness of Edward Huggins we have been permitted to copy the following account of the fight that followed. It is taken from the fort journal and was entered at the time by Dr. Tolmie's chief clerk. After narrating the disposition of the forces as above given the journal continues:
SHOT FIRED IN JEST
"I also took my gun and went about amongst the Indians (Nisquallies) who in fear of the enemy, were inside the stockade in great numbers, and to keep them employed I set them to sweeping the front yard or square. After I had made a circuit of the fort I heard a shot and learned that it had been fired by Gohome in jest. I reprimanded him for his carelessness.
"Soon after I arrived at the gate four or five of the worst Snoqualmies came rushing up, provoked, no doubt, by the shot foolishly fired by Gohome. One of their number, Cassass, more forward than the rest rudely pushed Gohome, who was standing in the gateway into the fort and took his place.
"I went to him and demanded why he did that, and warned him to keep quiet. He answered with an insult. I then put him out, upon which he cocked his gun and drew his dagger and made two or three thrusts at me with it.
"Wren, one of our men, who was standing a little way from the gate at the time, was called in, and I gave orders to close the gate, which was done, but finding Wren was still without, it was again opened.
"Wren, upon entering, seized one of their guns, whereupon a scuffle ensued and the gun falling between the door and the post prevented us from closing it. During that time I noticed Cassass pointing his gun at me. I at once presented mine and, I thought fired first; but it is maintained by the friendly Indians outside that one of the friendly Indians, Gullawowt, provoked by a blow from Wren with the butt end of the gun to one of their chiefs fired at him, but missing, my shot followed.
"Which is correct I can't be positive, the noise and excitement being too great, but my shot missing him, Cassass, wounded another. A good many shots followed and the gates were closed. One of the enemy, a tamomous, or medicine man, was killed and two or three badly wounded.
PATKANIM MAKES HIS ESCAPE
"We then took to the bastions, but our people, taking some time to get armed, the affair being rather sudden, by the time they were at their stations, most of the enemy were out of shot and running away full speed across the plain to their canoes.
"Patkynum (Patkanim), the head chief, who was in the fort at the commencement of the row, escaped after the closing of the gate, unperceived by our people, Wayamoch, assisting him to scale the stockade at a retired quiet spot of the fort yard.
KILLING OF LEANDER WALLACE
"Two men, Americans named Wallace and Lewis, were unfortunately standing outside the fort gate when the affray commenced and did not respond to the call of "All hands come in and shut the gate." They perhaps thought themselves secure from harm, as they were Americans and did not belong to the fort, but if this was the case they were sadly mistaken.
"They were also beckoned in by Michael T. Simmons and others there at the time, but they either unheeded or did not understand them. Wallace was shot dead, but Lewis had an almost miraculous escape. A bullet went through his vest and trousers and another wounded him in the right arm. A friendly Indian received a wound in the neck. One of the Skykomish Indians, a medicine man, was killed and two or three Snoqualmies were badly wounded.
"Kussas (Cassass) is said to be the one who killed poor Leander Wallace. We do not suppose that the war party came here for the purpose of attacking us but think they had some other object in view besides the affair with Laghlet. It was no doubt their intention to raise a row with the fort Indians and then kidnap as many of the women and children that they could catch.
"Two hours after the affray, Selousin, an Indian, was dispatched to the Cowlitz with an express for Vancouver and a message form Mr. Simmons to Governor Lane. All the plainsmen came into the fort in the evening by order and guard was kept up all night."
Robert S. More, "History of the Indian War," as quoted by Robert Montgomery in "History of the Puyallup."