Captain Jack (Kintpuash or Keintpoos) and his Modocs are hiding in the northeastern California lava beds. This day, his sentries spot an Army scouting party approaching their stronghold. The sentries send a few shots in the Army's direction. The scouting party withdraws.
Kintpuash ("Captain Jack"), Modoc
Lost River (1852)
The so-called Modoc War begins in 1852, although the army will say that it begins years later, in 1873. Good relations with Americans are scarred by an unprovoked attack by miners, followed by subsequent Modoc retaliation on an immigrant train. In these days of the California gold rush, no Indian nation is safe. Indian hunters under Ben Wright advance toward the Modoc camp along Lost River, calling for peace talks. The Modoc are glad. On the morning of the proposed conference, Captain Jack's father, leader of the Modoc, walks unarmed into Wright's camp. He is gunned down and the slaughter begins.
"Ben Wright...told them he would like to hunt Indians...so [he] got some men that liked to hunt Indians to go with him. When they all got together they numbered over one hundred men... They all left Yreka...to hunt down the Modoc Indians.... Wright traveled all through the Klamath Indian country, killing Klamath Indians wherever he could find them. He went through Goose Lake country, killed Paiute Indians wherever he got a chance....On the south bank of Lost River...Ben Wright looks along his gun barrel; he turns slowly around to his men and says...'Boys, don't spare the squaws; get them all!' ...The whites shot them down so fast on the south bank, they jumped in the river....When they got about half way across, the whites on the north bank opened fire on them. Only five escaped....the citizens [of Yreka] gave Wright a big dance. He was...the mighty Indian Hunter, Savage Civilizer, Peace Maker, etc."
Frank Riddle, Modoc
The Lava Beds (1873)
From the cinder caves of the lava beds, Captain Jack surveys Canby's army encamped below. His only crime has been to lead his people away from the Klamath Reservation. they have tried to live peacefully at the Yainax agency, but there is no food. the Modoc have chosen to go home.
Their number is swelled by Hooker Jim's band of Modoc, who find refuge with Jack after murdered settlers in retaliation for the deliberate firing into an unarmed Modoc camp,killing women and babies. Now Captain Jack is hunted like a deer. He tells General Canby that he can guarantee peace if allowed a home where his people will be protected from the settlements. all he asks is a reservation among the lava beds,where whites will never want to go. This is denied. His own people urge him to war. When he resists,he is knocked off his feet by a jeering crowd of Modoc and threatened with death unless he makes a stand. Hooker Jim vows to kill any Modoc who surrender to Canby.
At the peace talks, Captain Jack sadly offers Canby a final chance to agree to a reservation in the lava beds. Canby is belligerent; the military offers only ultimatums. There are no negotiations. Again, Jack urges for peaceful resolution, and again Canby offers the Modoc no quarter. Captain Jack draws a revolver, and Canby is dead. The Modoc escape from the lava beds. Hooker Jim has drawn the entire nation into war. Now he blames Jack for their condition and leaves him. Jack has thirty-seven men; the army coming after him numbers more than a thousand. the same Hooker Jim who has forced Jack to kill Canby now leads the army to Jack's location. In a cell at Fort Klamath,cold shackles around his legs, Captain Jack awaits a "trial" whose verdict has been reached long ago. Hooker Jim testifies against Jack and walks free.
"...the Indians were compelled to slaughter their horses for food on the Klamath reservation to keep from starving, and when they had no more horses to slaughter they were then forced by hunger to seek their fishing grounds on Lost River, a tract of land set apart and given to them by the Hon. E. Steele, late superintendent of Indian affairs for California. The land is valuable. Land speculators desired it and sought to have the Indians removed. The Indians say there was but one of two deaths left to them, by starvation on the reservation, or a speedier death by the bullet in the lava-beds. They chose the latter."
J K Luttrell, United States.