LESCHI, THE OFFICERS AND THE CITIZENS
PART ONE - THE OPENING OF THE WAR AND THE FIRST CASUALTIES
Letter from James McAllister suggesting that Leschi be "attended to."
Letters and articles from the Pioneer and Democrat of Olympia discussing the outbreak of the war, the killing of Moses and the others and the role of Leschi in the war.
Letters and articles published in the Puget Sound Courier of Steilacoom regarding the opening of the Indian War.
Letters and reports from the Military at the outset of the War.
PART TWO - THE TRIALS OF LESCHI
Diary of August V. Kautz Dec. 29,1857 to Feb. 19,1858 (excerpts)
A note on August V. Kautz by Charles Prosch
A note on August V. Kautz and Leschi by Andrew Wallace
A note by Ezra Meeker on the Kautz map as published in the Truth Teller
A note on the arrest of Sheriff Williams by James M. Bachelder, United States Commissioner
A letter to Colonel George Wright regarding the defeated Indian leaders
Letter to Colonel Silas Casey commander of Fort Steilacoom from Governor Fayette McMullin regarding the execution of Leschi
First Indignation meeting of the Citizens of Steilacoom
Second Indignation meeting of the Citizens of Steilacoom
First Mass meeting of the Olympia Citizens
Second Mass meeting of the Olympia Citizens
Report of the Olympia Investigation Committee
Letter from the Territorial Prosecuting attorney regarding the Leschi case dated May 4,1858
The Death Warrant for Leschi issued by the Washington Territorial Supreme Court order
Note on Leschi by Antonio B.Rabbeson
Note on Leschi by James Wickersham, Tacoma City Official and later an Alaska Territorial Official
Note on Leschi at Medicine Creek by Hazard Stevens
Note on Leschi by Ezra Meeker, an early Pierce County settler
Note on Leschi by J. Ross Browne, Special Indian Agent
Note on Leschi by Hubert Howe Bancroft
PART THREE - THE EXECUTION OF LESCHI
A note by Father Antonio Rossi as reported by the Pioneer and Democrat, February 26,1858
As reported by the Truth Teller February 23,1858
PART FOUR - REMINISCENCES WRITTEN MANY YEARS AFTER
Why Leschi was hanged by E. R. Rogers of Steilacoom
Reminiscences of Erastus Light of Steilacoom.
Reminiscences of Urban E. Hicks of Olympia
Reminiscences of Sarah M. Hartman of Sherlock
Reminiscences of August V. Kautz
One of the more interesting sidelights of the Indian War of 1855-1856 in Washington Territory was the controversy surrounding the efforts made to have Leschi, one of the surviving Indian leaders hanged for murder committed at the outset of the war. In October of 1855 an express sent from a detachment of the Army which was camped near Naches Pass with dispatches for Fort Steilacoom was ambushed by Indians on Connell's Prairie in rural Pierce County. A number of men, including A. Benton Moses, were killed.
A witness, Antonio B. Rabbeson, who was a member of the guard sent to accompany the express swore that Leschi, a leader of the Nisqually Indians was present and responsible for the death of Moses and the others. Leschi continually denied having any part in the ambush and at his trials his attorneys were quick to point out that even if Leschi had been involved in the attack it was a legitimate act of War and could not be considered murder.
When the war ended most of the Indians were made part of a general amnesty which was proclaimed by the civil authorities. Excluded were a number of Indian leaders, including Leschi. He was eventually arrested and tried for the murder of Moses, for territorial officials reasoned that the attack occurred before the actual outbreak of the war and the crime was indeed murder.
A number of the officers of the United States Army who were stationed at Fort Steilacoom were prominent in several of the attempts to stop the hanging of Leschi. Convinced that he was not involved in the murder of Moses and the others, the officers went to great lengths to save Leschi's life. Joining themselves with others who believed that Leschi was innocent their activities became the major cause of contention on Puget Sound during the Winter and Spring of 1857-1858. The officers and their friends failed, but in their failure they demonstrated that they were willing to undergo public censure to support what they believed to be right.
Prominent in the group wishing to see the end of Leschi was Governor Isaac I. Stevens who considered the Indian leader to be one of the major instigators of the Indian uprising. The governor was supported by many public officials, by most of the white residents of the region and by the Olympia newspaper Pioneer and Democrat. It is of interest to note that Leschi was the only Indian identified by name by the Pioneer and Democrat during the early stages of the war and probably served as a focus of frustration as the war continued.
While nearly all the officers at Fort Steilacoom supported the attempt to save Leschi, Lieutenant August V. Kautz proved to be the most outspoken. Kautz was born in Baden, Germany and was brought to America as a small child. He served as an enlisted man during the Mexican War and was later appointed to the United States Military Academy. Upon graduation he was assigned to the Fourth Infantry and spent several years on Puget Sound both before and after the war.
During the early part of the war he was serving at Fort Orford along the California coast. When Lieutenant William A. Slaughter was killed in King County during the war on Puget Sound Kautz was transferred to Fort Steilacoom to replace Slaughter and finished the war chasing Indians around the lower Cascade mountains.
Kautz convinced himself that the testimony offered by Antonio B. Rabbeson was invalid, for by measuring distances between where Leschi was first seen and where Moses and the others were killed on Connell's prairie Kautz found that Leschi could not have traveled the distance necessary to have ambushed the express.
Kautz and his allies first attempted to obtain executive clemency for Leschi. A new territorial governor, Fayette McMullin, had arrived to replace Stevens. Leschi's friends were convinced that the new governor, when presented the evidence that Kautz and the others had gathered would reprieve Leschi.
When this failed Kautz and his associates at the Fort along with DR. William F. Tolmie, chief factor or agent of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Nisqually, arranged for the publication of a newspaper in Steilacoom which they hoped would counteract the reporting done by the Pioneer and Democrat in Olympia. The Steilacoom paper they entitled the Truth Teller. In its columns demands were made for the respite of Leschi and the new evidence found by Kautz and others was outlined. The paper ran two issues, one before Leschi was hanged and the second following the execution.
The most overt of all the actions taken by the officers and their associates to save the life of Leschi was that of arranging for the arrest of the sheriff of Pierce county and his deputy who was also the executioner. They were charged with selling liquor to Indians which was a Federal offense and were arrested by Fred Kautz, a brother of the Lieutenant, and David McKibben, an officer at the Fort on a warrant issued by the U.S. Commissioner who was also the post suttler.
The law officers were placed in custody until the time set for the execution of Leschi passed and he was saved for another day.
Indignation meetings of local citizens were held in both Olympia and Steilacoom where resolutions of condemnation were drawn up by the citizenry expressing outrage that Leschi was not hanged. The arrest of the sheriff did Leschi little good for a new warrant was issued to the sheriff of Thurston County and within the month this official carried out the execution.
A study of the whole Leschi affair leaves a number of unanswered questions. Certainly knowing why the officers and others went to extraordinary lengths to save the Indian leader's life would be interesting. Generally the officers were not closely involved in local affairs, did not feel themselves permanent members of the community, and did not take public stands on issues.
The collection of documents which make up this paper present information about the beginning of the Indian war, especially the murder of A. Benton Moses for which crime Leschi was eventually hanged.
Comments about Leschi from a variety of sources are included as are newspaper and other accounts of the tactics used by his friends to save his life.
We are fortunate to have copies of the diary kept by August V. Kautz available so that we have a day to day account of the efforts made by that gentleman to save Leschi.
Also included are a number of other items which the editor of this paper felt would be of interest to anyone studying this episode in history of the Pacific Northwest.
The final section of this paper contains reminiscent accounts of the Indian War of 1855 and Leschi as seen through the eyes of a number of people. Urban East Hicks was a captain in the Pioneer Company of the Territorial volunteers and in 1897 responded to an article in the Tacoma Ledger written by James Wickersham whose account of the Indian War raised the ire of surviving pioneers. Something should be said about the unpopularity of William F. Tolmie of the Hudson's Bay Company with local settlers. The Company still claimed large portions of Pierce County under the Treaty of 1846 and it became Tolmie's duty to remind many settlers that they were trespassing on land owned by the British and not open to American settlement.
Captain Maurice Maloney was popular with American settlers because he didn't "fit" into the mold which produced the other young officers at Fort Steilacoom. He was an Irish Catholic who received his commission after spending some time as an enlisted soldier. He was often at odds with Kautz and did not approve of the general policy of the young officers to co-habitate with Indian Women.
PART ONE - THE OPENING OF THE WAR AND THE FIRST CASUALTIES
The outbreak of the War with a letter by James McAllister of Nisqually Bottoms asking for assistance to "attend to" Leschi.
Letters and articles published in the Pioneer and Democrat of Olympia reporting the outbreak of the war, the killing of Moses and the others and the role of Leschi in the war.
Letters and articles published in the Puget Sound Courier of Steilacoom regarding the opening of the Indian War.
Letters and reports from the Military at the outset of the War.
LETTER OF JAMES MCALLISTER
Nisqually Bottoms, Washington Territory. October 16,1855.
Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Washington Territory.
From the most reliable Indians that we have in this country, we have information and are satisfied that Leschi, sub-chief and half Clickitat is and has been doing all that he could possibly do to unite the Indians of this country to raise against the Whites in a hostile manner and has had some join in with him already.
Sir, I am of the opinion that he should be attended to as soon as convenient for fear that he might do something bad. Let his arrangements be stopped at once.
Your attention to the above will be exceedingly appreciated by the people of the Nisqually bottoms. For further information, call, and I am at your service.
OUTBREAK OF THE WAR ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE MOUNTAINS
Fort Steilacoom, October 30, 1855
George B. Goudy, Esq.
Pioneer and Democrat
Sir: Being separated from you through the accident of war, and thinking that it might not prove unimportant to our readers to know the doings of the Puget Sound Rangers (Captain Eaton), I have permission of leave from service for an hour to inform you and others as to the result of our late expedition.
The election of officers of the Rangers as you are already apprised took place at Mr. Nathan Eaton's on Monday the 22nd of October, 1855. The choice of commissioned officers was determined by the selection (Charles H. Eaton, of course Captain), of Messrs. McAllister, Tullis and Poe, Lieutenants. The non-commissioned officers were all good men, it is unnecessary to recapitulate their names.
The company left Mr. Eaton's nineteen strong on the 24th of October in quest of the whereabouts of Leschi, a Nisqually chief, half Clickitat, and who, it was apprehended had for some time been preparing his band for active hostilities against the settlements.
Leschi is an Indian of more than ordinary wealth and power. He is in possession of farming land, which he has heretofore cultivated near the Nisqually River, between Packwood's ferry and the crossing of that stream at the Yelm. He has some good, substantial houses on his place and to all appearances would indicate that he might live there comfortably.
As Captain Eaton's command passed his farm, under the pilot of his half-brother Sehi, expecting to find Leschi at his residence, evidence having been afforded at the Indian department that he (Leschi) had assumed a hostile attitude towards the white settlers the command found that the bird had flown, but that the prairie around abounded with his horses, and other evidence that his absence was only temporary. Suffice it to say, we found not the Indian or satisfactory information of his whereabouts.
We encamped on the evening of that day, and until morning, in Pierce County, near the house of a Frenchman, of the name of Gravelle.
The next day, after a short stay for persons to join the command, expecting them up, and their not arriving at an appointed hour, the command left, nineteen in all, for the Puyallup River, crossed the river and encamped for the night about a mile on the eastern side at the house of Charles Baden, good grass and water.
Next morning, Captain Eaton divided the company into two divisions, one under his own superintendence, and the other under Lieutenant McAllister, with an object of making a reconnaissance of both sides of the Puyallup River above the settlements about five miles; along which stream it was reported large bodies of Indians were engaged in fishing. Captain Eaton took the trail on the western side of the Puyallup about twelve miles from Steilacoom.
He crossed the river at a ford almost swimming, entered the settlements at the forks a large prairie entirely deserted and passed up the river some three miles, the trail crossing and recrossing the river, extremely rough and rugged until a junction was formed with Lieutenant McAllister, who had scoured the other side most thoroughly.
No sign of Indians was found of later period than two weeks, as was supposed. The whole command returned to their former camping ground, somewhat late in the evening.
The next morning provisions being exhausted, we having taken only two days' rations from Mr. Eaton's, after consultation amongst the officers, it was, as I suppose deemed advisable for Captain Eaton to send Quarter Master and Commissary W.W. Miller to Fort Steilacoom for supplies and pack animals; at the same time, according to Indian reports, it was thought to be prudent, on the part of Captain Eaton to assign Lieutenants Poe and Tullis to the recruiting service and dispatch them, the former to Olympia and the latter to Mound prairie, for the purpose of raising additional recruits.
For the assistance of Mr. Miller, in the obtaining of provisions and pack animals, Captain Eaton detailed to accompany him, two corporals and three privates. Immediately after the departure of the above named gentlemen, Lieutenant McAllister applied to the Captain for permission to reconnoitre the military road leading towards White River at or near the crossing of which, it had been reported that from two to five hundred Indians were encamped, peaceable engaged in fishing some twelve miles distant from our present camp.
Permission was given to Lieutenant McAllister by our Captain, with an injunction to return that evening. The reply of Lieutenant McAllister was, " I will return if I am alive," and accompanied by Connell, a settler on White River, and two Indians, he left our camp.
An hour had elapsed and Captain Eaton being informed that a bad slough interrupted the passage towards White River about three quarters of a mile from camp, and in order to ascertain what amount of labor it would require to repair the same, requested your correspondent to accompany him on a reconnaissance of it.
After determining that it would require not more than two men for two hours to free from all danger horses passing over it, we started on our way back to camp.
When within about two hundred yards of the house containing our baggage, the sharp report of a rifle was heard, followed immediately by a second, a few seconds elapsed, bringing us to a stand still, after which five additional shots were fired, when Captain Eaton coolly responded to the shots, "My God, our boys are gone."
We immediately hurried towards camp, Captain Eaton giving orders to the following effect, " Boys, saddle up your horses, get your baggage all in readiness and above all things keep cool."
As near as I could understand, the first impression of Captain Eaton was to take the road in the direction of the firing, and the second suggestion, as I supposed, was to beat a retreat back to the settlements.
The first would have been certain death, being only eleven of us, inasmuch, we supposed, as the Indians were ambuscaded all along the road, the second proposition would have exhibited a cowardice of which Captain Eaton nor none of his command were capable.
The house occupied by the company was made of thin cedar boards, unable to hold out for an hour against the force that we supposed were opposed to us.
The next suggestion of Captain Eaton was to fall back on a log house which had hitherto been occupied by Indians and in which a considerable quantity of oats, wheat, peas, salmon skins, berries, etc. were stored. It became necessary to throw out of the cabin all the combustible matter of which it was possessed.
In order to insure safety, it was found necessary to level a long Indian barn looking to the eastward, in which was contained a very considerable amount of grain for the size of it. our next object was to make port holes through the cabin, which was accomplished by the raising of the logs, breast high, by lever pressure, and placing blocks under the logs raised.
By this process the cabin afforded port holes to the four points of the compass. During the process of this operation, some of the men were detailed to bring from the deserted house our baggage and provisions for the purpose of safety, etc.
During the confusion that might be supposed to have prevailed, the greatest concert of action existed, the horses were picketed within two hundred yards of the port-hole to the northward, all the baggage of the company was secured and brought to the cabin, a water cask was procured from the house of Mr. Baden, which was filled two thirds full of water, enough to last eleven of us a week.
Thus secured, we determined to hold out as long as our provisions and water lasted. About the grey of the evening the enemy were discovered by Captain Eaton making slow, stealthy and crawling approach towards our little fortification, the door was barred as best could be, and all hands were on qui vive for Indians.
They commenced assault on our little fortification about three quarters of an hour to sun down, continuing until about two o'clock on the following morning; during this time, we were apprised by them that Lieutenant McAllister was killed; that they also had killed a cow belonging to one of the settlers, and that they intended to devastate the whole country.
They then warned us out of the house we were occupying telling us that unless we left there early in the morning, that they would scalp us. During the whole night, until two o'clock in the morning they kept up a constant fire, at least one hundred shots must have been fired at the house.
The horses belonging to the company were stolen during the night within two hundred yards of the cabin. At intervals during the night orders were frequently given by the chiefs to their slaves, to mount our cabin and pull the roof off. Indian reports say that during the melee, seven of their party were killed and amongst them a chief. A light was kept up all night at the house below, where we originally encamped.
During all these scenes, Captain Eaton was perfectly self-possessed. At first dawn of morning he commenced making arrangements for a permanent defence. It was found that the port holes were more extensive than we had means to defend, there being but three men on three sides, including Captain Eaton, with but two on the other. By means of our blankets and a few logs we strengthened our position and maintained our ground.
Supposing the bushes that surrounded us were alive with Indians, no vigilance or guard duty was neglected. About eleven o'clock this day, whilst all eyes were turned towards the scene of danger, not one eye having batted during the night, an express from Fort Steilacoom for Maloney's camp arrived in sight.
At first we supposed them to be the escort of Quarter Master Miller of our command with the men detailed as before designated. On a nearer approach we found it was the express, under Mr. Vale. We immediately threw out the Ranger's flag, the party, three in number came inside of our fortification.
Time will not permit to give full particulars as to what occurred during the time we were held under durance. Suffice it to say that all the officers and privates behaved like men and gentlemen.
By the signals, the screaming and the yelling of the Indians, a person would have supposed that we were besieged by at least one thousand Indians, there must undoubtedly have been two hundred amongst the assailants.
In their harangues, they used the most provoking language towards us that it is possible to conceive of, or which the jargon language would permit. We, at first supposed that there were three Clickatat chiefs, during the night, giving orders to the Indians but we have since learned that the chiefs in charge of the assault were none other than our own dear Nesqually neighbors.
Beyond a doubt all the Indians of all tribes on the Sound and Straights are confederates, aiders and abetters of the hostile Indians east of the mountains. They but await action to ascertain which is the stronger party and they are ready to fall on either side as strength may indicate.
Captain Eaton and Sergeant C.E. Weed, were the only commissioned and non-commissioned officers on duty during the engagement.
In conclusion, I have only to say that out of our command, only one was killed and one wounded, Lieutenant McAllister and a Mr. Wallace. We arrived at the settlements on Monday last.
J. W. Wiley.
Pioneer and Democrat, November 9,1855.
PROGRESS OF THE WAR
We issued no number of the Pioneer and Democrat last week because the hands in the office were all engaged either as volunteers in one of the several parties, who have taken to the field or on various duties connected with the present war, or were employed in the work of fortifying the town of Olympia. For this irregularity, the cause of which is not yet removed, we know our readers will pardon us.
Since our last issue of October 26,1855, the following summary will include all matters of interest in this vicinity, connected with the war. The war was then thought to be waged against the various Indian tribes located east of the Cascade mountains. It was known that Indians living on the Sound, had been tampered with, that vigilance was required in watching the Indians living among us, the settlers in the vicinity of Seattle had occasion for alarm, and had collected in Seattle, but no overt act of hostility had been committed this side of the mountains.
A new element, however, since then, has entered into the war! The Klickatats, Puyallups, and a large portion of the Nisqually Indians have entered into an offensive alliance to wage war against the whites, under Leschi, a Klickatat, and commenced their aggressions about the time of our last issue.
In that paper, we chronicle Capt. Eaton's company of Mounted Rangers taking the field. Of this company, Lieutenant McAllister, and Mr. Connell, a settler on the White river, were treacherously murdered. Captain Eaton's command, having been reduced to eleven by sending off detachments for recruits, provisions, etc. were assailed in the afternoon of Monday, and took position in a small shanty where, for fourteen hours, were these gallant fellows under a fire from a savage force, variously estimated from one hundred fifty to two hundred, protected by brush and timber.
During this siege, Captain Eaton did not lose a man and we have no means of knowing how many Indians were killed though seven at least were supposed to be.
When this news reached Olympia, the citizens assembled in town meeting and resolved to fortify the town. The claims in Thurston and Sawamish counties were all abandoned, the families taking refuge in Olympia and the various forts on the different prairies. Depreciations upon these claims, the plunder of stock, etc. followed their course, and the Indians were growing bolder in their hostilities.
The authorities of Vancouver's Island and the officers of the British vessels of war at that point tendered "material aid" of arms, ammunition and men and in the extremity here felt on Wednesday of last week, Adj. General Tilton, by authority of Acting Governor Mason dispatched the steamer Traveller, Captain Parker to accept their liberal proffer and her return is hourly expected.
An express had been sent by Governor Mason to Captain Maloney as soon as the former had learned that the forces operating from The Dalles were not ready for the field, apprising him of that fact. On the receipt of this intelligence, Captain Maloney determined on falling back and dispatched an express consisting of A. J. Bradley, and William Tidd, the express men to him, together with Col. A. B. Moses, Aid-decamp to Captain Maloney, Joseph Miles, Dr. M. P. Burns, A. B. Rabbeson and George R. Bright of Capt Hays' company mounted volunteers.
When this express party were within one day's travel of Steilacoom, they met some Indians who approached them in a friendly manner, but in a very short time they found themselves surrounded. At the first fire Colonel Moses was mortally wounded and Joseph Miles was killed during the attack.
The rest of the party escaped, after a severe pursuit, reaching Steilacoom on the third day after the attack. We refer our readers to the account furnished by A. B. Rabbeson, sheriff of Thurston County, one of the party for the particulars of this melancholy affair.
Captain Maloney's command coming up and finding bodies of those killed and also that of Lieutenant McAllister, immediately commenced scouring the country in search of the guilty Indians. On Saturday last, November 3,1855, a force consisting of fifty volunteers from Captain Hay's company and fifty U.S. troops in command of Lt. W. A. Slaughter met the enemy in the vicinity of the Puyallup River and had an engagement which continued from eight a.m. to four p.m.
The Indians lost over thirty known to be killed and numbers of their wounded were carried to the rear. Our loss was, of regulars, one killed and one wounded, and of volunteers, one wounded. The Indians were driven from the ground and at our last advices the troops were in hot pursuit reinforced by Captain Wallace, Pierce County Volunteers, Company D over fifty strong, Captain Eaton, Puget Sound Rangers, fifty men, Captain Maloney's force and the remainder of the Puget Sound Mounted Volunteers, together amounting to over one hundred men and also Captain Hewitt's company from Seattle numbering fifty-five.
We do not believe the scoundrels can escape and it is thought ere this they have received the condign punishment they so justly merit.
Governor Mason and A.B. Stuart, Esq. have just arrived. From them we learn that the Oregon volunteer regiment together with the regulars under Major Rains moved forward from The Dalles on Tuesday the 6th. The Oregon regiment elected J. W. Nesmith, Colonel James mes Kelly, Lt. Colonel and M.A. Chinn, Major.
The Indians are reported to number over three thousand warriors and rumor says they are fortifying themselves with blockhouses, etc. If such proved to be the case it is altogether possible that an engagement took place on Sunday or Monday last. Governor Mason obtained from Fort Vancouver one hundred fifty stands of arms, and ten thousand rounds of cartridges. He distributed fifty on his way over with a proportion of cartridges. The remainder are intended for the counties on the Sound, to be as equally distributed as possible. The arms ordered to be shipped from Benicia, California, are expected soon.
Pioneer and Democrat, Olympia, Washington. November 1855.
On Wednesday, October 31,1855, Colonel A. Benton Moses, Aid-de-Camp to Captain Maurice Maloney, Colonel of the Militia District composed of Pierce and Sawamish counties and U.S. Surveyor of Customs for the Port of Nesqually, District of Puget Sound. He was born in Charleston, South Carolina.
The subject of this notice is well known to the citizens of our Territory where he has resided since the fall of 1851, and during the whole of that period he has been more or less in official positions. He enlisted as a volunteer in the Mexican war, and served with credit on both the lines of General Taylor and Scott and was promoted to a 1st Lieutenancy.
He served creditably under Lt. Colonel, now U.S. Senator Welier, in the battle of Monterey; then in the fight at Marin, and afterwards on the other lines as Aid-de-camp to Brig. General Childs, U.S.A. by whom he was highly esteemed.
He came to California in 1849 and while there went on an expedition to Southern California against the Indians; and on his return to San Francisco was a Deputy to Colonel Jack Hays, sheriff of San Francisco, until the fall of 1851 when he accompanied his brother, the Collector of Customs to Olympia, then Oregon.
That winter he was one of the volunteers to Queen Charlotte's Island to rescue the crew and passengers of the American sloop Georgians from captivity, on that Island. He afterwards held the office of sheriff of Thurston County, which he resigned to accept the office, Surveyor of Nesqually.
He leaves a young widow, a mother, sisters to mourn his untimely sudden end, and a numerous circle of friends. He was so generally known in this community, that it is needless to give his characteristics. We may say that the regret at his loss, too well betokens the regard of the many friends his frank, manly and generous nature secured for him.
At the same time, and in the same treacherous surprise on the part of a greatly larger force, Joseph Miles, Esq. a member of Capt. Hays company of Puget Sound Mounted Volunteers, met his fate, by a bullet shot through his neck, his body being found by Major Tidd some fifteen paces from the spot where he had been seen alive.
At the time of his death, he held the office of Lieutenant Colonel of the Militia of Thurston County and Justice of the Peace of Olympia, to both which offices he had been elected by large majorities at the late general election.
Lt. Col. Miles had lived in Olympia very nearly two years, and was among the first to respond to the call of the Executive for volunteers. At that time he with his brother, was engaged in the erection of the Capitol. He was a good citizen and a useful man in our community, and leaves a large circle of acquaintances and friends to mourn his untimely loss.
To his brother, and his family at home we extend the assurance of our sympathy in this bereavement. We can but remind them in these melancholy occurrences, what tradition and education so potently teach us all, that death in our country's service is holy martyrdom, that there is no holier appeal to man's sympathies and regard, than to pursue as our guide star that beautiful precept:
"Stand firm for your country, and become a man,
Honor'd and lov'd: It were a noble life,
To be found dead embracing her."
Pioneer and Democrat November 2, 1855
LETTER FROM MR. RABBESON TO THE EDITOR OF THE PIONEER AND DEMOCRAT DATED OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON TERRITORY, NOVEMBER 5, 1855
Believing that a short account of the misfortune happening to the escort detailed from Capt Hays' company of Mounted Volunteers to escort the Express messengers--Major William Tidd and John Bradley to Acting Governor Mason, might prove of interest to your readers, I therefore give a brief detail of the circumstances happening on the route.
Colonel A.Benton Moses, Dr. M. P. Burns, George Bright, Joseph Miles, and myself in company with the Express messengers, left camp at the first crossing of the Nachez river, on Tuesday last; and traveled unmolested until Wednesday evening, three o'clock to Connell's prairie in the White River valley.
Here we met with a party of Clickatat and Nesqually Indians, numbering about one hundred fifty warriors. Having there discovered that Mr. Connell's house had recently been burned, we inquired of the Indians who, at that time showed no signs of molestation, had burned the house or if they knew how it came to be burned?
They denied all knowledge of the cause and declared themselves entirely peaceable, saying that their tum tums were hyas close copa Bostons, ie. that their hearts were right towards the Bostons. We talked with them for a long time, asking many questions, why they were there? and endeavored as much as words would do to draw them out and make them show their true position, they all the while making declarations of friendship.
We then went to the place where we supposed they intended to camp and endeavored to purchase some mockasins from their squaws and while there we saw and conversed a while with their main chief, Leschi. In the meantime, all the first Indians were gradually dispersed, but we did not know at that time where. We then mounted our horses again and proceeded on our route about half a mile to a deep muddy swamp.
There we received a murderous fire, from the very same Indians who had secreted themselves in ambush from behind us. Colonel A. Benton Moses received a ball, entering the left side of the back and passing immediately under the heart and came out through the right breast, going through the center of a letter in the breast pocket of his over coat.
Mr. Joseph Miles, of Olympia, received a wound in the neck, which unhorsed him, he fell in the deep mud and was unable to regain his horse's back again, or get out without assistance. We directed him to take hold of his stirrup leather, while we gathered his horse's bridle and then putting spurs to our horses, we succeeded in dragging him out of the mud.
Here we found that he had become so faint, that it was impossible for him to mount his horse. He then told us to leave him and make our escape if we could, as there was no hope for him.
All this time the Indians were pouring into us a continuous fire, not more than thirty yards distant, in which Major Tidd received three slugs in his head, but did not penetrate the skull. We were compelled to leave Mr. Miles so we put spurs to our horses and rode about a mile and a half when Colonel Moses became so much exhausted in consequence of his wound that he could not remain on horseback any longer.
We then dismounted and carried him some two hundred yards and hid him in the brush. We then remounted and rode at full speed to the first crossing of Finnell's creek. Here we discovered another ambuscade; whereupon we dismounted and made a charge into the brush, three of us on one side of the creek and two upon the other, each of us discharging the full contents of our revolvers and then using our sabres, completely routing the Indians, they not firing a gun.
We must have killed quite a number of them, as none of us had to shoot more than ten feet, and several times we placed our revolvers against their bodies. We then returned to Colonel Moses for the purpose of making him more secure and comfortable; we took our coats and wrapped them around him and left him having rendered him all the assistance in our power, that we were able under the circumstances. On leaving him, his last words were: "Boys if you escape, remember me!"
We then returned to the edge of the bluff going down to Finnell's creek, here we discovered a large body of Indians on the opposite side of the prairie that lay close by, but our number being so few, we did not think it advisable to risk another attack. All of us, with the exception of Dr. M. P. Burns, took to the brush, but he kept straight on declaring that "He would fight until he died!" We considered it recklessness, but it was utterly impossible to persuade him otherwise.
We saw him enter the Opposite side of the timber and immediately heard the report of three guns and an Indian yell, and very naturally supposed that was the last of him.
We kept in brush and traveled until dark. We then stopped and held a consultation as to what course to pursue. Some were for returning to Captain Maloney's camp, others for making for the settlements. We finally concluded to make for the settlements, believing that we could get assistance to Colonel Moses sooner.
The night was very disagreeable, raining and dark in the forepart of the night and freezing in the afterpart. We all became so exhausted that we could not travel but a short distance at a time, sometimes up to our waists in water and at others entangled in the immense thickets of underbrush and fallen timber.
While resting, two of us would lay down on the ground and the other two upon the top of them. When the two underneath would get a little warm we would then change places. At other times we would get to a hollow stump or tree, two of us would enter and allow the other two to lean against our breasts, and blow the warm breath in others faces.
About daylight we crossed the immigrant road, but dare not travel in it from fear of discovery. We then took a course as near as we could for the forks of the Puyallup River. We struck the river at noon about three miles above the forks, then travelled down the river until we supposed ourselves opposite the upper crossing, then went to the river and found ourselves too far down. We here undertook to cross a large deep swamp. This was about two hours before sunset.
On reaching the opposite side we found ourselves on the edge of Lemon's prairie; consequently we were compelled to remain in the deep mud and water until long after dark, all the while shaking with cold so much that our cartridge boxes rattled like cow bells. About an hour from the time we first came there we saw two Indians approach close by and secrete themselves in a small willow thicket. We supposed them to be spies. We could have taken them prisoners or killed them, but to do so we were afraid that we would have to fire a gun and to escape without observation required much care and anxiety having to scrape away the sticks and leaves from under our feet as we stepped until we were out of hearing.
We then crossed the Puyallup and took the immigrant trail direct to Steilacoom. We arrived at Mr. Tallentire's on Friday morning at three o'clock all very much exhausted having been three days and nights without food. About one half mile from Mr. Tallentires house, Mr. George Bright became so much fatigued that it was impossible for him to travel any further; here he laid down and went to sleep the rest of us being so weak that we could not carry him.
Upon reaching the house we dispatched Mr. Tallentire and an Indian in search of him, but he slept so soundly that their hallooing would not rouse him and the night being so dark he could not be found until morning.
After reaching Steilacoom we immediately sent to the station and informed Lieutenant Nugent of the above circumstances, who immediately detailed Captain Wallace and his command to the relief of Colonel Moses and to deal with the Indians according to their deserts.
Yours in haste,
A. B. Rabbeson
Please contradict the report that I was killed by the Indians on Wednesday last. I killed seven with my own hands. They
hunted me through the brush for one mile with dogs and lighted sticks and every one who carried a light I shot.
The only wound I got was a skin wound in the forehead from a buckshot. I lived in the brush on leaves and shot an Indian this morning for his dried salmon and wheat at Mr. Lemon's.
Give my respects to Bright and Rabbeson and let them know I am safe.
Only I had to throw away my boots and my feet are badly hurt. Lost my horse, instruments and medicine case. My horse was shot in the kidneys in the swamp where we received a murderous discharge of balls and buck-shot.
Please let Mr. Wiley say I am all right.
I remain respectfully,
M. P. Burns,
Surgeon. Captain Hay's Company
Letter to Ad't General Tilton published in the Pioneer and Democrat
NISQUALLIES MOURN A MAN CALLED LESCHI
Cecelia Svinth Carpenter, "Nisquallies mourn a man called Leschi," Tacoma News Tribune, February 19, 1978.
Leschi was born to be a leader. His people believe that the star that rose over the Nisqually Plains on the day of his birth in 1808 predestined him to become some day a war chief on behalf of his people. But ironically the title of chief would be bestowed upon him by a territorial governor who would later demand his life on the gallows.
Leschi's parents were a Nisqually father and a Yakima mother. It was then the custom of the Nisqually people to arrange marriages outside of tribal lineage so as to minimize the shortness of stature and the broadness of shoulders that is typical of the canoe Indians of Puget Sound.
His mixed heritage provided Leschi with a tall agile body, strong heavy shoulders and a face more slender than others in his village. Most distinguishing and most remembered by those who were to describe him later were his alert, penetrating eyes that seemed to size up a situation immediately.
As he grew to adulthood he became known as a man of great intelligence possessing superb oratorical abilities. He developed the wisdom of a judge and was often called upon to settle disagreements among his tribesmen.
Because of his wealth of horses, Leschi's father was held in high esteem. His sons, Quiemuth and Leschi, benefited from this distinction within the tribe; however, because it was the custom they would not carry their father's name but would choose their own. Leschi had one sister and a brother in law whose name was Stahi.
The Nisqually people were first known as the Squall-absch, meaning "...people of the grass country..." for they inhabited the vast prairies dotted with blue camas blossoms which lay to the east of the head of Puget Sound. The French voyagers called them Nesquallies and conferred the same name upon their river which flowed through the heartland of their prairie and reached from Puget Sound to the forest slopes of the Cascades. Americans later changed the spelling to Nisqually.
Although the Nisquallies roamed a vast land area running north to the Puyallups and south to the Cowlitz and shared berry picking and hunting grounds with both, they tended to locate their villages along the Nisqually River, its tributaries and along the Sound.
The villages sharing the Nisqually watershed held a common bond with the river which provided their main food source. In the summer the bands moved to the lower river and caught great quantities of salmon which were dried and stored for winter consumption. They returned to the smaller, higher streams during the cold season. The foothills of the beloved mountain, Tacobud (Mount Rainier) provided excellent winter hunting.
One of their villages was located on the Mashel River at the point where it empties into the Nisqually. Leschi was born and raised in this village. The Mashel site lay adjacent to an upland prairie which provided winter grazing for the family's horse herd.
Language maps suggests that this was a bilingual village and indeed, Leschi spoke both the Sahaptin language of his Yakima mother and the Salish of his father who was originally from the salt water Salish village at Minter Creek on the Kitsap peninsula. It is recorded that Leschi never learned to speak English but that he spoke a few words of Chinook jargon, a trading language.
During the summer, thirty to forty families would gather along Muck Creek where it joins the Nisqually near the present town of Yelm. Leschi came here each summer with his family for food gathering and friendship. The rich bunch grass of the area provided summer pasture for his horses.
At the delta of the Nisqually River lay the council grounds. Here the bands gathered periodically as the drums called them for feasting, dancing, and scholastitudes, ceremonies performed by young men being taken into adult status in the tribe.
Nisqually life was highly organized, and the unwritten laws carefully observed. Overall tribal life was peaceful. The only diplomatic problems were with the Snoqualmies and the tribes of British Columbia who often came south seeking slaves.
Up until 1849 Laghlet was the acknowledged chief of the Nisquallies; his oldest son, Wyamock, would have been his successor had it not been that he was of a "wild nature" and therefore not permitted to rule.
So the tribe went without a central leader until Quiemuth and Leschi were appointed chiefs for the purpose of signing treaties with the whites, at which time the tribe willingly accepted their leadership.
The British and the Americans both sought control of the Pacific Northwest. The British were after beaver pelts, but the Americans wanted additional land and an outlet to the Pacific Ocean as well as furs.
In 1818 an agreement was signed with both the United States and Great Britain both reserving claims and rights in the Oregon Country. The British fur traders rapidly moved into and occupied the area north of the Columbia River.
The Hudson's Bay Company built Fort Vancouver in 1824 and Fort Nisqually in 1833, the latter becoming a trading center for the entire Puget Sound area. The fort was built on high land north of the Nisqually delta.
In 1838 Hudson's Bay Company extended their Nisqually holdings to include a thirty by sixty mile "Puget's Sound Agricultural Farm," much of which impinged upon tribal root digging fields north of the river. Wheat fields were planted and hundreds of sheep and cattle were pastured on the prairies of the Nisqually plains.
If the British had not been skillful diplomats, there might have been trouble with Leschi's people. Instead, a good relationship developed. While French Canadians and Kanakas (Hawaiians) were brought in to work on the farms, many Nisquallies were also hired to make up the seventy-five man work force.
The British acted civilly toward the Nisquallies, forbade liquor to be sold to them, and recognized marriage between British subjects and Indian women. In 1843 Dr. William F. Tolmie became chief trader at Fort Nisqually. He learned to speak the Nisqually language and he and his clerk, Edward Huggins, became close friends with Leschi.
On several occasions Leschi served as a guide to the Hudson's Bay Company.
Then in 1846 the international boundary was set at the 49th parallel and the Americans in growing numbers came into the area north of the Columbia. The settlers soon claimed Nisqually lands under the Donation Land Act of 1850. James McAllister settled his family on fertile lands on the Nisqually delta at Leschi's invitation.
James Longmire took up a claim east of the Yelm Prairies. The establishment of a United States army fort at Steilacoom completed the encirclement of the Nisquallies.
On March 2, 1853, Congress carved Washington territory out of old Oregon and Isaac I. Stevens was appointed first territorial governor and superintendent of Indian affairs. A veteran of the Mexico War the new governor surveyed a possible railroad route on his way to Olympia.
After attending to legislative duties he set out to make treaties with the Indian tribes whose ownership of the land had to be relinquished so that American settlers could have legal title to their claims.
Stevens set up a treaty commission, selecting an acceptable treaty for, divided western Washington into five treaty districts and arranged for headmen and chiefs to be appointed for each tribe. He offered schools, hospitals, blacksmith shops, and allowed each major Indian group to reserve its hunting, gathering and fishing rights, as well as a piece of land to live on.
Reservations would be located at the discretion of the Treaty Commission with provisions in the treaties which would allow the government to later consolidate the reservations in a more remote area.
The first treaty concluded with the Medicine Creek Treaty so named because the signing took place on She-nah-nam or Medicine Creek on the Nisqually delta. The treaty was explained to the assembled Nisquallies, Puyallups and assorted bands who spoke Chinook jargon and on December 2, 1854, the governor asked those he had appointed chiefs to sign.
Leschi refused although an X appeared before his name. He felt that the proposed Nisqually and Puyallup reservations were inadequate. He knew that the Nisqually allotment, south of the delta on high forest land, would condemn the tribe to a slow death for there would be no river for fishing, no pasture land for horses.
Moreover, to sign the treaty might mean eventually being moved to the dreaded lands to the north.
Governor Stevens made more treaties to the north and east. Meanwhile, Leschi, travelling across the Cascades to the Yakimas and the Klickitats and then south into Oregon noticed the hostility of these inland peoples to the settlers rushing onto Indian land.
In October 1855, he went to Olympia and met with Acting Governor Charles Mason, Stevens was away, and told him that the Nisquallies wanted peace with the white man, but they also wanted to stay on their river bottom where they could fish and farm. Receiving no clear direction from Mason, Leschi returned home to his fall plowing.
Early in 1855, due to a fear of an Indian uprising, Governor Stevens secured from the legislature approval for a volunteer militia. Volunteers had been used in Indian uprisings in Oregon although General John E. Wool, commander of the United States Army's Pacific division, or regular troops as they were known, had sharply criticized their use, believing that the Indian tribes had turned hostile because of their premature presence.
In September of 1855 Indian Agent Michael Simmons encouraged friendly Indians to move onto Fox and Squaxon Islands where they would be safe should an outbreak occur. Then, on October 24, 1855, Acting Governor Mason provoked hostilities by ordering Eaton's Rangers, a detachment of volunteers, to apprehend Leschi and his brother Quiemuth for preventative reasons.
Upon reaching Nisqually they found that the brothers had fled, leaving their plow in the wheat field. The volunteers pursued the Nisqually Chiefs. Indian drums sounded throughout the foothills and not a canoe was seen in the river.
Leschi and Quiemuth fled northeast towards the White River, possibly head for Naches Pass and east of the mountains. A roving band of warriors ambushed the pursuing Eaton's Rangers at Connell's Prairie in Piece County, killing two men. The remainder of the militia turned back to Olympia.
At this time about one hundred fifty warriors of the Duwamish, Puyallup, and Klickitat tribes were camped with their wives and children in the White River area. Approximately thirty-five Nisqually fighters and their families joined them. Drawing the force under his leadership Leschi proposed that this war was with the troops, not the settlers. Unknown to him, however, renegade Indians looted and burned the homes of three White River families killing nine.
On October 31, 1855, a seven man vanguard of Captain Maurice Maloney's troops, returning home from the Yakima area via the Naches Pass Trail passed through the Indians camp. All seemed friendly at the time but the seven were ambushed a mile beyond the camp.
When Maloney's main force reached the same camp area a few days later, the surprised Indians fled across the White and Green Rivers. Following a three day battle during which both sides suffered casualties, Maloney disengaged, and continued to Fort Steilacoom.
News of this outbreak sent the settlers of Western Washington fleeing into the towns. Governor Stevens, returning from his treaty trek east of the mountains, provided the settlers, more than sixty volunteer built block houses. Stevens met with the legislature and then pledged eradication of the hostile Indians.
Leschi now made two visits to the lowlands pleading for peace talks. On January 5, 1856, he went to Fox Island to see John Swan, Indian agent, and on February 4, he appeared at John McLeod's home near Muck Creek. On the latter visited he asked that John Swan come to the Indian camp located on the Green River.
Swan came but because he could not offer amnesty, nothing was accomplished. Governor Stevens maintained that all hostiles must be put in jail and stand trial. The Indian warriors could not agree to this and more violence followed.
In April the Mashel massacre occurred, Captain H. J. G. Maxon and his volunteer troops annihilated an entire group of from seventeen to thirty-five Nisqually Indians fishing on the Mashel River site, Leschi's former home. Orders of Governor Stevens had read, "All Indians found in your field of operations, except a mounted company of Indians allied to the government, are to be considered as enemies."
A month of martial law in Pierce and Thurston Counties followed.
As the summer passed and tensions relaxed, Stevens, on the advise of his superiors in Washington, D.C., met with the Medicine Creek Treaty Indians at Fox Island and under Article Six of the Treaty changed the location of the Puyallup and Nisqually Reservations. The new and more adequate Nisqually Reservation would be located straddling the Nisqually River including the Muck Creek village grounds.
A homesick Leschi returned to the Nisqually Plains in the fall of 1856. Knowing there was a price on his head, Leschi went to his trusted friend, Dr. William F. Tolmie, who later wrote:
"In October, Leschi came....he desired to acquaint the Americans that if they needed the assurance to keep the peace he would cut off his right hand in proof of his intention never again to fight them again.
"He expressed his willingness to Colonel Casey commanding at Fort Steilacoom, but that officer considered it most prudent that Leschi should, for a time, remain in the woods, as prejudice ran high against him.
"Soon after, tempted by a large reward Sluggia, a Nisqually, trapped Leschi by treacherous promises of complete reconciliation with the Olympia white chiefs...."
Leschi was captured on November 13, 1856, and was imprisoned at Fort Steilacoom under the custody of Colonel Casey. The military considered Leschi a prisoner of war. Stevens considered him a criminal and charged Leschi with the murder of A. Benton Moses, a soldier killed in the White River over a year before.
The regular session of the district court in Steilacoom City had just concluded when Judge F. A. Chenoweth was asked to reconvene in order to hear Leschi's case. The trial began on November 17, 1856. Antonio B. Rabbeson, a surviving member of Maloney's vanguard identified Leschi as having been among those Indians first encountered in the White River area.
He testified that it was the same Leschi who had shot Moses on the trail a short time later. Leschi denied shooting Moses, and his defense argued that in time of war neither side could be held accountable for deeds committed anyway.
The jury was unable to agree on a verdict, and a second trail was held in Olympia beginning March 18, 1857, with Judge Edward Lander presiding. This time Leschi was found guilty and sentenced to hang on June 10.
An appeal to the Territorial Supreme Court delayed the execution. New evident was presented when Lieutenant August V. Kautz submitted measurements to prove Leschi could not have possibly been seen in the Indian camp and then almost immediately a mile down the trail.
Appeals, including one by Dr. Tolmie, were made on behalf of the chief, but the high court of which Judges Lander and Chenoweth were also members backed the verdict of the lower court, and set the execution date for January 22, 1858.
At any time Governor Stevens could have pardoned Leschi, but he chose not to, even though the recent change in the reservation location essentially vindicated Leschi. Unfortunately local politics complicated the situation. Regular Army General Wool was holding Stevens and his volunteers accountable for the Indian war, and so Stevens used Leschi as his scapegoat.
It is significant that Stevens' harsh treatment of Leschi was not matched by his conduct when Indians were the victims of violence. A few months before, Leschi's brother Quiemuth had turned himself in only to be killed in his sleep in the governor's office. His murderer was never apprehended.
Defenders of the Nisqually position in the intervening one hundred twenty years have criticized this apparent double standard of justice.
Even though Stevens would not halt the execution, it still did not take place as planned. Before it was scheduled to occur a federal marshal arrested the Pierce County officials in charge of the hanging for having sold liquor to the Indians. So the execution date passed.
The territorial Legislature, in a questionable interference in judicial matters, ordered the Supreme Court to set another date, February 19, 1858. When U.S. Army authorities refused to allow the hanging of Leschi at Fort Steilacoom, a scaffold was erected about a mile east of the fort.
Leschi waited in silence. He had taken a stand for his people in the reservation matter, and in time the Nisquallies acquired better land. But false accusations and political maneuvering would cost him his life. He accepted fate and made peace with God.
Leschi heard the beating of Indian drums in the distance and his heart must have become one with his people, the Squally-absch. He approached the scaffold, bowed his head and prayed. Turning to Thurston County Sheriff Charles Granger, Leschi thanked him for the kindness he had shown him while a prisoner in his care, then said he was ready.
Leschi's death was dignified as his life. Granger believed he had hanged an innocent man on that day.
Daniel Mounts, Indian agent at the Nisqually Reservation, took Leschi's body and buried it in a spot known to few. On July 4, 1895, his remains were moved to a site at the mouth of Muck Creek near his old village. In 1917 when Piece County donated a large tract of land to the United States for an army post, the northeastern portion of the Nisqually Reservation was condemned and included in that parcel.
Muck Creek was in that section and so, for the third time, the body of the chief was moved, this time to the Cushman Cemetery near where his daughter lived. On the memorial stone over his grave are these words:
"This is a memorial to Chief Leschi 1808-1858. An Arbitrator of his People.
"Judicially murdered, February 19, 1858, owing to misunderstanding of Treaty of 1854-55.
"Serving his people by his death. Sacrificed to a principle. A Martyr to liberty, honor and the rights of his native land.
"Erected by those he died to serve."
Leschi's legacy has lived on through his daughter who married Chief Tom Stolyer, the founder of the Cushman Indian School near Puyallup where the Cushman Hospital was later built. For three generations only daughters descended from Leschi. Today only the descendants of Quiemuth, the chief's brother carry the chief's name.
Leschi left a still greater legacy to his tribesmen who live today on or near the remaining portion of the reservation on the Nisqually River near Yelm. The courage and determination Leschi displayed on behalf of what he felt rightfully belonged to his people have been carried down through six generations of Nisquallies who today insist on receiving their fishing rights through the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854.
They still hope that some day the portion of their land on the Nisqually Plains where the Muck Creek flows and the blue camas flowers bloom will be regained, and Leschi, chief of the Nisquallies will be brought back home to a final resting place among his people.
(Cecelia Svinth Carpenter," Nisquallies Mourn a Man Called Leschi," The News Tribune, February 19, 1978, pgs. A-9 and A-14).
THE HANGING OF CHIEF LESCHI
Dateline: Northwest. The 52 week series, Dateline: Northwest is a part of the P-I's contribution to our nation's bicentennial. The events described are taken from history presented here in modern journalistic style as a news story might have been written shortly after the event occurred.
(Walter Evans, "The Hanging of Chief Leschi," Seattle Post Intelligencer, January 4, 1976)
Fort Steilacoom, February 19, 1858
Leschi of the Nisquallies was hanged here at 11:30 this morning providing the final chapter in the Puget Sound wars between the Indians and whites in 1855-56.
The whites ended the war as ignobly as the Indians began it.
Although there has been no fighting since March of 1856, the Leschi case has kept the war alive among the citizenry, providing more debate than the treaties which led to the war itself.
Leschi, his brother Quiemuth and their followers crossed the Naches Pass after the battle of Connell's Prairie in March two years ago and stayed among the Yakimas. They gave themselves up to colonel George Wright, commander of the United Sates Army forces in the Northwest in the autumn of 1856.
They returned in November to the Puget Sound country where they reaped at least one benefit of their recent war. They were placed on a reservation other than that provided for in the Medicine Creek treaty four years ago. the fact that the reservation was unsuitable for them was the primary cause of the war.
Governor Isaac I. Stevens had put a reward of fifty blankets on the head of Leschi. He was betrayed by his nephew Sluggia, on November 13 and the next day was face to face with Governor Stevens in the latter's Olympia office.
Ironically Quiemuth had been slain in the same office just six days before. While he was locked in the office under guard a man named Bunting, in the presence of the guard shot Quiemuth, then stabbed him to death when the wounded warrior pursued him.
Bunting was arrested but was released for insufficient evidence.
Governor Stevens bound Leschi over for trial on charge of murder of A. Benton Moses killed in an ambush October 31, 1855, along with Joseph Miles.
Judge F. A. Chenoweth called a special grand jury to indict Leschi and a petit jury to try him on November 17.
The haste was to no avail. The all white jury would not convict Leschi because Judge Chenoweth in his instructions charged the jury that if the deed was done as an act of war the prisoner could not be held answerable to civil law.
That, of course, had been the position of Colonel Wright and of Colonel Silas Casey, commander at Fort Steilacoom. They consider Leschi a prisoner of war and have asked that he not be tried by a civilian court.
The jury deadlocked 8-4 for conviction and when it became apparent that there would be no change in the vote, asked to be discharged. Judge Chenoweth told them they must agree and sent them back into deliberation.
Two of the jurors caved in to the pressure, but Ezra Meeker and William M. Kincaid held out. Kincaid said, simply: "I will never vote to convict that man."
The second trial was held March 18 of last year, with the crucial testimony being that of Antonio B. Rabbeson, one of the first settlers of Olympia. Despite the contention by Leschi's attorney, Frank Clark, that Rabbeson perjured himself, the jury convicted him.
An appeal to the State Supreme Court was made and Army Lieutenant August V. Kautz prepared a detailed map which proved conclusively that Leschi could not have been at the scene of Moses' killing. The court would rule only on the actions of the lower court and would not hear new evidence. So the conviction was upheld.
Army officers, Clark, Hudson's Bay Company factor Dr. William F. Tolmie and all of the Indians of the territory appealed for the commutation of the sentence and a pardon for Leschi. There was some hope that when Fayette McMullen became territorial last year he would take a hand in the case, but he turned a deaf ear to the pleas.
Sentenced to die on January 22 of this year, the execution was not carried out when the Pierce County Sheriff was conveniently arrested for selling whiskey to Indians.
Even that final ploy proved unsuccessful and today's date was set. Leschi finally seemed resigned to his fate. "I do not see that there is any use in me saying anything," he said shortly before his death. "My attorney has said all he could do for me. I do not know anything about your laws.
"I have supposed that the killing of armed men in war time was not murder; if it was, the soldiers who killed Indians were guilty of murder too.
"I went to war because I believed the Indians had been wronged by the white men and did everything in my power to beat the Boston soldiers. But for lack of numbers, supplies and ammunition, I have failed.
"If I am dying for my people I am willing to die; Christ died for others."
Charles Grainger who was appointed executioner said, "I felt I was executing an innocent man."
Leschi did not struggle. He died with a dignity that he carried with him all his life. Two people who knew him in war and peace spoke eulogies that are damning for those who caused his execution.
Lieutenant Kautz said, "Leschi's course during the war seemed to be characterized by greater intellect and humanity than that of any other chief. He protested against the killing of women and children and against pillaging and plundering the settlements.
"On several occasions during the war he had individual white men in his power and his influence saved them from being killed by others."
Owen Bush who lives near Olympia added, "Leschi was as good a friend as we ever had. He told me before going to war that the Indians would not hurt any of the settlers and advised us to stay on our farms.
"Governor Stevens wanted me to go into the war, but I wouldn't do it. I knew it was his bad management that brought on the war and I wouldn't raise a gun against those people who had always been so kind to us when we were weak and needy.
"The Indians could have killed us all at any time we were here before Governor Stevens came, but instead of molesting us in any way, they helped us all they could."
Leschi's dislike of the 1854 treaty and his stature among the Indians of Western Washington caused some trepidation among the whites, but it was the hasty action of Charles Mason, acting governor in Stevens absence that made him an implacable foe.
In October of 1855 Mason raised six companies of volunteers because of the threat of Indian war. Captain Charles Eaton's company, known as Eaton's Rangers, was sent to take Leschi and Quiemuth into custody.
Quiemuth left so hurriedly that his plow was still in the furrow he was plowing. The two made their escape with the Rangers following to hunt them down.
On October 26 Eaton divided the command into two companies with him taking the trail on the west side of the Puyallup River and Lt. James McAllister taking the trail on the east side. Neither found trace of the Indians. the next day Eaton detailed W.W. Miller his commissary officer with two corporals and three privates to Fort Steilacoom for supplies. Two lieutenants were sent on recruiting duty.
That left just 13 rangers in the field.
That night McAllister asked permission to reconnoiter the military road toward the White River. Given it, he left with a man named Connell, a long time settler of the area, and the man for whom Connell's prairie is named.
The two had been gone a short time when Captain Eaton and J. W. Wiley, editor of Olympia's Pioneer and Democrat went to check on the difficulty of bridging a slough. They heard two rifle shots, then five additional shots.
Captain Eaton knew immediately what had happened, "My God," he said, "our boys are gone."
That night the camp of the Rangers was besieged by Indians, who drew off in the night with all the command's horses except one leaving the Rangers afoot.
The shots that killed McAllister and Connell were the first of the war that would disrupt lives in the Puget Sound region for the next five and a half months.
It was the events of the following day, however that caused the bitterness that pushed the feelings of the white settlers to such a high degree of hatred.
That day three groups of Indians attacked three settlers cabins on the White River. Nine persons lost their lives in the surprise attacks, seven adults and two infants. The adults were horribly mutilated by the Indians.
Dead were Mr and Mrs Harvey Jones, Enos Cooper, Mr and Mrs. W. H. Brannar, and their infant child and Mr. and Mrs. George King and one of their children.
Three of the King children were saved, Johnny King, 7, took his four year old sister and two year old brother in tow and took them into the woods. They ate bark and roots until a friendly Indian took them to Seattle in a canoe. They were then taken aboard the warship USS Decatur.
The Nisquallies and their allies maintain the attacks on the cabins were the work of Chief Nelson and a group of his Klickitats and that their actions were so repugnant to Leschi that he almost destroyed the confederation he had forged.
In fact, it was while Leschi was wrangling with the perpetrators of the surprise attacks on the cabins that the incident occurred for which he was hanged.
On October 21, 1855 about 3:00 p.m. William Tidd, an express rider, Moses, Rabbeson, Miles and three other men were returning from east of the mountains with dispatches from Captain Maurice Maloney. Maloney's regulars from Fort Steilacoom and Captain Gilmore Hays' Puget Sound Volunteers were engaged in the war with the Yakimas.
The dispatch riders came upon the Indian encampment on Connell's Prairie. They talked to the Indians but were allowed to pass with no problem.
As they went west, they ran into an ambush near the spot where McAllister and Connell had been killed the day before. Five of the men made it through, but Moses and Miles were killed.
Two days later, Maloney's command of 243 men returned from the Yakima country and took the prairie without firing a shot. The Indians simply melted away.
Early the next day, November 3, Maloney sent fifty regulars under Lieut. William A. Slaughter and fifty volunteers under Captain Hays to track the Indians. They found them across the white River and some desultory long range firing was kept up until 3:00 p.m.
One soldier was killed while felling a tree in an attempt to cross the river. Another regular was severely wounded and a volunteer suffered a slight wound in the day's fighting. The Army claimed to have killed thirty Indians but that was a joke among the Indians who escaped unscathed.
The following two days the troops pursued the Indians over rugged country between the White and the Green River Valleys. Two soldiers of Maloney's command were wounded the first day and five men were wounded by snipers the second day.
Maloney returned to Fort Steilacoom and there was a lull in the fighting until November 24 when Lt. Slaughter with fifty regulars and fifty of Captain Hays' volunteers moved down the Puyallup.
On December 4, while Slaughter and an officer of the volunteers were talking the Indians made a sudden attack on the camp. Slaughter and corporals Berry and Clarendon of the volunteer force were killed in the battle and four regulars were wounded. One of the wounded regulars later died.
The problems in chasing the Indians through the rugged terrain in the wet, cold, weather, convinced the Army of the futility of a winter campaign.
During the winter Leschi appeared at two separate places with suggestions for peace. On January 5, 1856, he went to Fox Island where John Swan had charge of the friendly Indians and said he wanted to make peace, but not with Stevens appointed Indian agent, Michael Simmons.
On February 4, he made an offer of peace when he went to John McLeod's farm. At McLeod's Leschi spoke bitterly of Stevens and accused him of having deceived him in the Medicine Creek Treaty.
"I would like to have two pieces of paper," he said. "one written with the wrongs done by the Indians , the others written with the wrongs inflicted on the Indians by the whites. I would send both papers to the Great Father and let him decide who is most to blame, the Indian who had his lands taken from him or the white man who has deceived him."
Leschi also denied that any of his people were involved in the January 26 attack on Seattle.
Just two days before the attack, Governor Stevens visited Seattle. The governor, who had called for the war to "...be prosecuted until the last hostile Indian is exterminated," told the people of Seattle they had nothing to worry about.
"I have just returned from the counties of the Nez Perce and the Coeur d'Alenes. I have visited many tribes on the way, both going and coming and I tell you there are not fifty hostile Indians in the territory. I believe that the cities of New York and San Francisco will as soon be attacked by Indians as the town of Seattle."
The attack on Seattle was a one day affair that was broken by the guns of the USS Decatur, lying in Elliott Bay, and the actions of the ninety marines and shore party personnel sent ashore by Captain Gansevoort.
Seattle's citizens had built two block houses, one at the foot of Cherry Street and the other at the corner of Occidental Avenue and Main Street with a breast works connecting the two. The two block houses had room enough for the entire population of the town.
Although the battle went on from early morning until 10:00 p.m. only two persons were killed by Indians, Milton Holgate, 16, was shot when he needlessly exposed himself at the Cherry Street block house door. Robert Wilson was killed on the beach when he left the south block house to obtain water.
It is apparent now that the Indians were short of ammunition and that the confederation was falling apart at the time of the attack on Seattle.
The regulars had their last battle with the Indians on March l, 1856 when Lieutenant August V. Kautz with fifty men arrived on the ford of the White River.
"When I arrived at the ford, the Indians appeared in my rear, and threatened an attack," Kautz said. "I at once sent a dispatch to Colonel Casey telling him the Indians had made their appearance and I would endeavor to hold the ford until he arrived.
"At 3:00 p.m. Captain Erasmus D. Keyes arrived with about one hundred men. We then moved against the Indians and they retreated. As we marched to Muckleshoot Prairie, they gave us a volley from a bluff. They then disappeared."
Captain White of the volunteers had the last battle with the hostile Indians on march 10.
There was another fight connected with the Puget Sound war that spring, but it engaged men of the USS Massachusetts and the USS Hancock and Indians from British Columbia.
The British Columbia Indians came down 117 strong to take advantage of the unsettled conditions. The sailors and Marines killed 27, wounded 21, and destroyed their supplies and canoes. When the survivors surrendered they were loaded aboard the Massachusetts and taken to Victoria and dumped.
The Nisquallies and their allies, after the battles with Kautz's regulars and White's volunteers, quit the field of battle, except for some scattered and ineffective shots fired at troops and retreated over Naches Pass.
There they were welcomed by Kamikin, who killed some wild horses to feed the gaunt and hungry warriors after their tortuous struggle across the mountain pass.
Nothing was left then but the killing of Quiemuth and Leschi the last two casualties of a needless war that started and ended with atrocities.
(Walter Evans, "The hanging of Chief Leschi", Seattle Post Intelligencer, January 4, 1976)
THE DEATH OF LESCHI
An interview with General August V. Kautz conducted by the Tacoma Ledger and published in the Weekly Ledger on April 14, 1893.
Leschi, was the chief of the Nisquallies and the leader of the dissatisfied Indians of the tribe in the uprising of 1855 and 1856. When I came back to the Sound, after an absence of two years to southern Oregon, the war was half over. This was in the latter part of February, 1856.
A day or two after my arrival at Fort Steilacoom, we started out on a campaign against them. Our objective point was Muckleshoot prairie which is now an Indian reservation, between the White and Cedar rivers.
It was regarded as the heart of the country occupied by the hostiles. The troops separated at the Puyallup block house near where Sumner is now. From there I marched on with that portion of the command which went direct to Muckleshoot prairie. Colonel Casey who was in command of the other detachment went by the Lemon prairie route to Muckleshoot.
My command reached the prairie about the last day of February. On that day I received a dispatch from Colonel Casey requesting me to send a detachment to the crossing of White river to meet him. On the next day, the 1st of March, I started out with a command of fifty men. When we arrived at the ford of White river the Indians appeared in our rear and threatened an attack.
I at once sent a dispatch to Colonel Casey telling him that the Indians had made their appearance and that I would endeavor to hold the ford until he arrived. I made dispostion of the men on a bar of the river, among some driftwood, to await the coming of the troops. The Indians worked their way around us on both sides of the river, but were not able to make any impression on the troops lodged as they were behind logs and driftwood.
At three o'clock in the afternoon Captain Keys arrived at the ford with about one hundred men. We then moved against the Indians and they retreated. Later, as we were marching to Muckleshoot prairie, they gave us a volley from a bluff where they were stationed. They then disappeared and we went into camp. One man had been killed and nine men, including myself, wounded. This was the last fight the regulars had with the hostiles.
Soon after this they scattered and went off into the mountains and foothills. About the 1st of April I was sent out with fifty men into the foothills east of Steilacoom. We returned after an absence of two weeks with about thirty prisoners, men, women and children. We treated the captives kindly and sent some of them out after the rest of the hostiles. These brought all the other hostile Indians in except Leschi. He went over into the Yakima and Klickitat country and remained there until fall. Leschi had a wife who was around about the post at Fort Steilacoom and to whom he was very much attached. He came to see her, and while there made himself known to Dr. Tolmie of Fort Nisqually. The doctor advised him to surrender himself, which he did.
He was then arraigned by the civil authorities for the murder of Miles, Moses and others the year before, the fall of 1855. He was tried at Steilacoom, soon after his arrest, and the jury failed to agree. Subsequently he was tried again at Olympia and was there convicted and sentenced to be hung.
I had Leschi in charge during all the time of his confinement. He was imprisoned in the guard house at Fort Steilacoom. I commanded the guard and took him up to Olympia and was obliged to be present during the trial. So I was in a position to know all the facts and details of the case. He was convicted principally on the testimony of Antonio B. Rabbeson who testified that while coming toward Steilacoom from the Natchez pass he met Leschi and some of his people on the edge of Connell's prairie. Leschi was friendly and did not make any hostile demonstration.
They separated after a short distance, so the testimony ran, Leschi going into the woods and Rabbeson and his party continuing on the road. At a swamp, about one mile beyond their separation Leschi and others suddenly arose from ambush and fired upon them. This statement could not have been true because the party traveled on a road and Leschi would have had to have traveled through the woods, besides making a detour to have reached the swamp before Rabbeson and his party who were on horseback.
Rabbeson claimed there was a shorter trail which the Indians took which there was to another point of the prairie, but not to the point where he averred Leschi fired on them. The shortest route was traveled by Rabbeson and his party and Leschi could not possibly have arrived at the place mentioned before they did. Frank Clark was Leschi's counsel, and when I called his attention to this point he recognized the fact that Rabbeson's testimony was not correct, but it was too late to help Leschi at that time.
However, he made an effort to get the sentence suspended but the prejudice against Leschi among the people was such that the governor would not take any action and it became necessary to carry out the sentence. The time was too short to communicate with Washington, and have the president interfere, so Clark stayed the execution by getting out a warrant for the arrest of the sheriff before the United States commissioner on an accusation of having sold liquor to Indians.
His arrest followed and he was in prison at the time Leschi should have been hanged. For this reason it became necessary to resentence Leschi. It was the spring of the year at that time and the court was not to meet again until December. The legislature was in session, however, and they passed a law authorizing the court to convene. Within a few days the court met and again sentenced him to be hung by the sheriff of Thurston county. He was hung near Fort Steilacoom.
On the date of the first hanging a great many people came down from Olympia to witness the execution, and there was considerable indignation expressed by them when the sentence was not carried out. The military at Fort Steilacoom were accused of being implicated in preventing the execution and indignation meetings were held there and at Olympia by the people expressing their disapprobation.
Quiemeth, Leschi's brother, came in before Leschi and gave himself up to the governor. Subsequently he was assassinated in the governor's office at Olympia. This had the effect of keeping Leschi out longer than he would have remained unexecuted under other circumstances.