BATTLE ON CONNELL'S PRAIRIE
The decisive battle of the war was fought at Connell's Prairie on March 10, and was described by Major Hays in a letter to the governor on the same day as follows:
Camp Connell, March 10, 1856.
His Excellency I. I. Stevens,
Governor and Commander-in-Chief, W. T. V., Olympia:
Sir, At about 8 o'clock this morning, Captain White, with his company, were ordered to the White River to build a block house and ferry, supported by Captain Swindal and ten privates. He had not proceeded more than half a mile from camp, when he was attacked by a large Indian force, supposed to be at least 150 warriors, and a large number of squaws.
I rushed forward Captain Henness to his support with twenty men. Captain Henness moved with great rapidity, a tremendous volley of guns announcing his arrival. I became satisfied that additional forces were necessary, and despatched Lieutenant Martin of Company B with fifteen additional men. The Indians by this time were seen extending their flanks to the left with rapidity.
I then forwarded Lieutenant Van Ogle, Company B, with fifteen men to check their flank movement, but before he could gain a position they had so extended their line as to make it necessary to send another party of twelve men under Captain Rabbeson, who succeeded in checking them. The fight by this time extended the whole length of our line, and one continuous volley could be heard from the Indian guns on the hill and those of our men in the bottom.
This firing continued some two hours. I saw the advantage which the Indians had in position, and determined to charge them. I ordered Captain Swindal to charge them from his position, which was central, and Captain Rabbeson to make a simultaneous move against their extreme left, while Captain Henness and Captain White were ordered to hold the positions which they occupied.
This order was promptly obeyed, and the charge made in the most gallant style by Captain Swindal against their center and Captain Rabbeson against their left, through a deep slough, driving the enemy from their position and pursuing them some distance in their flight. Captain Rabbeson returned to camp, while Captain Swindal took a position on a high ridge in the rear of the main body of Indians. I ordered Captain Rabbeson to take his men and join Captains Henness and White, and to say to Captain Henness to charge the Indians from his position if he deemed it advisable.
The Indians in front of Captains White and Henness held a strong position from behind logs and trees, and from an elevated hill. It was deemed too dangerous to charge them in front. Captain Rabbeson was ordered to take a few men and join, Captain Swindal to make a flank movement to the right and charge the enemy in his rear. This they succeeded in doing in the same gallant manner that they had done at an earlier hour during the fight.
Simultaneously with this movement, Captains Henness and White charged them in front. The Indians were routed, put to flight, and pursued for a mile or more along a trail or trails covered with blood. It is believed that not less than twenty-five or thirty were killed dead on the field and many wounded. (After information seems to have established the fact that there were not so many Indians killed as at first supposed.)
They were seen carrying off their dead and wounded from the time the fight commenced until it terminated. Withes and ropes were found on the ground which they occupied, which had been used in dragging their dead into the brush. Hats, blankets and shirts were picked up with bullet holes in them, stained with blood. They were foreed to give up their drum, which they abandoned in their retreat. But two Indians were found dead on the field.
One of them is recognized as Chehalis John, and the other was placed under a log and has not yet been examined. I regard the victory of this day as complete-a grand triumph. The Indians had together their whole force. They picked their own ground. They brought on the attack without being seen by our troops. They exceeded us in numbers, nearly if not quite, two to one, and we whipped and drove them before us.
I do but justice to the officers and privates when I say each acted a distinguished part in this fight-each performed his whole duty. I gave no command that was not obeyed most promptly, let the danger be ever so great. There was the most vigorous effort on the part of every man from the captain to the private to render his country service and make his name conspicuous.
It is proper that I should state that Mr. James Goudy rendered important service by carrying intelligence from place to place, during the fight, and is deserving of the highest praise.
I cannot close this communication without referring to the smallness of our force, being about one hundred ten men all told, and to the still more important fact that in my judgment, if our force had been but 100 men more today we could have captured or cut to pieces the whole of the Indians engaged in arms against us on this side of the mountains. Colonel Casey would have gladly furnished us aid, but his force were all absent on scouts.
This fight we had four wounded all of whom, I think, will soon get well.
(Signed) Gilmore Hays,
Commanding Central Battalion, W. T. V.