Welcome to the Second Walla Walla Treaty Council & Stevens Skirmish Website
In an attempt to end the Indian war that had broken out after the Treaty Council of 1855, Stevens again called all the inland tribes to Walla Walla in September of 1856. Failing to convince them to surrender either their lands or their arms, Stevens and his party were attacked as they attempted to return to The Dalles.
The initial attack led to fighting in the upper Mill Creek area throughout the afternoon and night of September 19, 1856, and into the following day. This skirmishing in the Walla Walla area was the only instance of combat with Indians by Stevens, who later died as a general in the US Army during the Civil War.
Site where the Council began
Stevens and his party arrived on August 23, 1856, and established the council grounds at the camp of Col. B.F. Shaw of the Washington Territorial Volunteers, who had been in the Walla Walla valley since early July. According to Stevens’ letter of August 25, 1856 to Lieut. Col. Edward. F. Steptoe who was in charge of federal troops assigned to the area, “We are on a little tributary of Mill Creek, and about one mile from it.”
This initial camp, called Fort Mason, was placed by historian W.D. Lyman and others as being two miles above the grounds of the 1855 council, which had been held east of where Mill Creek crosses the present intersection of Main and First streets in downtown Walla Walla. The only significant branches of Mill Creek in that vicinity are Yellowhawk Creek, about a mile south of Mill Creek, and Garrison Creek, about a half mile south of Mill Creek.
To satisfy these descriptions, the most likely location for the initial grounds of the Second Walla Walla Treaty Council is between the present School Avenue and Berney Drive, near the Yellowhawk Creek crossings, in the vicinity of Leonetti Cellar winery.
Site where the Council ended
On September 14, because of hostility on the part of the majority of the Indians present, Stevens moved the council to a site several miles up Mill Creek where hundreds of federal troops were camped under the command of Lt. Col. Steptoe.
In 1901 Historian W.D. Lyman refers to Steptoe’s location as being “at a camp which was on the island on the present Gilkerson Place.” The 1905 Standard Atlas shows Gilkerson family property extending from Five-Mile Road to just above Seven-Mile Road.
According to Stevens’ Oct. 22, 1856 letter to Commissioner of Indian Affairs George Maypenny, he moved the Council to within a quarter mile of Steptoe, meeting Kamiakin on the way, who reestablished his camp with other Indians a quarter mile from Stevens, separated only by Mill Creek and its wooded bottom.
The precise council location has not been determined, but the descriptions would put it in the Mill Creek canyon, probably just below the current Seven-Mile Road on the island created by Titus and Mill Creeks.
Failure of the Council
The council continued at the upper Mill Creek site until September 17, when it ended in failure. The Indian position can be summed up in the words of Speaking Owl, a Nez Perce chief close to Looking Glass: “Will you give us back our lands? That is what we all want to hear about; that is what troubles us. I ask plainly to have a plain answer.”
The unsuccessful result and the reason for it are made clear in the governor’s report:
“At the conclusion of this council, in a brief address to the Indians, I expressed my regrets that I had failed in my mission—that no one had said “yes” to my propositions, and that I now had only to say, “follow your own hearts; those who wish to go to war, go….My propositions were unconditional submission…”
When the reconvened council ultimately failed, Stevens left for The Dalles.
The AttackOn September 19, Stevens prepared to leave for The Dalles with his party of 38 wagons pulled by 80 oxen, 50 teamsters and quartermaster’s men, 69 Washington Volunteers, over 50 friendly Nez Perces, and more than 200 head of loose livestock.
According to the governor, “In the afternoon (of September 18) Lieutenant Colonel Steptoe…appointed the next day, a little after noon, for a special conference. The Indians did not, however, come to see Steptoe at the time appointed. They previously set fire to his grass, and following me as I set out about eleven o’clock on my way to the Dalles, they attacked me within three miles of Steptoe’s camp at about one o’clock in the afternoon.”
“So satisfied was I that the Indians would carry into effect their avowed determination…to attack me, that, in starting I formed my whole party and moved in order of battle. I moved on under fire one mile to water, when forming a corral of the wagons and holding the adjacent hills and the brush on the stream by pickets, I made my arrangements to defend my position and fight the Indians. Our position in a low open basin, 500 or 600 yards across, was good, and with the aid of our corral, we could defend ourselves…”
In describing the fighting, Stevens recounted, “The fight continued till late in the night. Two charges were made to disperse the Indians, the last led by Lieutenant Colonel Shaw in person with twenty-four men…Just before the charge the friendly Nez Perces, fifty in number, who had been assigned to hold the ridge on the south side of the corral, were told by the enemy, they came not to fight the Nez Perces, but the whites. ‘Go to your camp,’ said they, ‘or we will wipe it out!’ Their camp, with their women and children, was on a stream about a mile distant; and I directed them to retire as I did not require their assistance…”
An account by one of the participants published in the Oregon Statesman on October 14, 1856 states, “small parties of Indians began to pass us on the left, and soon commenced firing on our rear…But we drove on, the volunteers, and occasionally a teamster, returning the fire, until we had reached a small spring branch, where we corralled our wagons, including our stock. A place where three small valleys met, and as many elevations of about 30 feet, standing close in the form of a triangle…By the time we were camped, we were surrounded and fired upon from all sides. The three points having first been secured to keep the enemy from annoying the train, a charge was made upon the Indians in our rear to the left.”
Col. Shaw: “The firing was kept up…until late in the evening, when I took all the available force…charged a body of Indians on a hill some 500 yards south of the camp. The object of this was to see how many of the spectators who were congregated in large numbers on the left, were fighting men. The whole party advanced at the top of their horses speed, and on ascending the hill, the whole body of Indians fired a volley; the balls fortunately passed over our heads. We fired a volley when close to them, which made them give back some distance. By this time, the body of supposed spectators came down on the full run, and cut us completely off from camp. I then ordered the command to turn and charge through them to camp; for a moment it seemed doubtful whether we could force our way through them or not…On seeing this, the large party which we first charged, came down on the full run, waving their guns and hatchets…They were however soon checked by a wall of well-directed fire from a picket in the brush; after this the whole body retired some distance…”
During the night, Stevens sent a request for help from Steptoe, who dispatched an escort, and the Stevens party was able to return under fire to Steptoe’s camp with the aid of a howitzer, which was also used the next morning to end a further attack.
After construction of a blockhouse and stockade which was the first military Fort Walla Walla, on September 23 Steptoe and Stevens marched together to the Dalles without further problems.
Location of the Fighting
The location of the 1856 council sites and the ensuing skirmishing was the subject of a workshop organized by Walla Walla 2020 and held on February 11, 2006 at Walla Walla Community College. The purpose of the workshop was to compare historical accounts, to visit likely sites, and to discuss potential commemorative activities during the sesquicentennial of these events. Participants included historians, archaeologists, tribal representatives, and interested local residents.
Fifteen points of activity were described by participants in the September 19-20, 1856 attack by American Indians on the party of Governor Isaac I. Stevens in the vicinity of Mill Creek in the Walla Walla Valley. These points and accounts are detailed below and noted on the map here.
- The point where the Stevens party crossed a stream not more than three miles of leaving Steptoe’s camp and was first attacked.
“After proceeding…two and a half miles, and coming into the valley of a small branch of Mill Creek, the whole body of Indians came on the full run for the rear of the train, and opened fire on the rear guard which was returned in good order”—Col B.F. Shaw. This was confirmed in Gov. Stevens’ letter of October 22, 1856 to Secretary of War Jefferson Davis: “They attacked me within three miles of Steptoe’s camp at about one o’clock in the afternoon,” as well as in Stevens’ letter of the same date to Commissioner of Indian Affairs George Maypenny: “After moving two and a half miles, we crossed a stream, the Indians following us and sounding the war whoop…The whole party was scarcely over the stream when the attack was commenced by the Indians firing into our rears.” This is also confirmed in the account of Expressman John Penn in his report of October 10, 1856: “At the distance of three miles from the council ground, they charged down and commenced an attack on the rear of the train by firing a volley into the rear guard,” as well as by Stevens’ secretary, guide, and interpreter Andrew Pambrun: “We had gone but a few miles, when George, an Old Nez Perce came up to me and told me that the Hostiles were coming to attack us. On looking in the direction he pointed, I saw them coming in squads of from thirty to fifty coming down the hills.”
- The course of the train from the initial point of attack to where a corral was formed.
“I moved on under fire one mile to water”—Gov. Stevens to Jefferson Davis. Also confirmed by the Oct. 14, 1856 report in the Oregon Statesman: “But we drove on, the volunteers and occasionally a teamster returning the fire, until we had reached a small spring branch.” According to Col. Shaw: “The train moved on slowly one mile further.” Expressman Penn: “The train moved on one mile further and halted at a small spring brook.” Andrew Pambrun: “I immediately rode up to the Governor, who was some distance in advance and informing him of the coming hostilities. He at once ordered a halt, but I objected there was going to be some hot work, and if there were wounded, they must have water, that I knew of a small spring creek, which I thought we could reach before we were surrounded. All right lead the way, said he; I did so.”
- The place where the wagons halted and a corral was formed.
Stevens in his letter to Davis: “Forming a corral of the wagons, and holding the adjacent hills and the brush on the stream by pickets, I made my arrangements to defend my position and fight the Indians. Our position in a low, open basin some five hundred or six hundred yards across was good, and with the aid of our corral we could defend ourselves against a vastly superior force of the enemy.” Shaw: “The wagons were formed into a corral, and the loose animals run in for security. Pickets were then placed on the highest hills, so as to prevent the Indians from firing into the corral and stampeding the animals.” Penn: “The wagons as they came up formed a corrall in which the teams and loose stock were secured, without the loss of a single head, athough the Indians kept up a heavy fire and made every effort to stampede the animals.” Pambrun: “Just as we finished making a pen, with the wagons chained together and the animals secured therein, we were surrounded.” The Oregon Statesman: “We had reached a small spring branch, where we corralled our wagons, including our stock. A place where three small valleys met, and as many elevations of about 30 feet, standing close in the form of a triangle.”
- The site of the first Volunteer charge, led by Lt. Hunter.
Col Shaw: “After firing at them for some time from the picket points, Lieut. Hunter was ordered to take twenty men and charge a body of sixty or seventy Indians from a point of brush. The Indians reinforced; and Lieut. Hunter prudently fell back and took position on a hill east of the corral.” The Oregon Statesman: “By the time we were camped, we were surrounded and fired upon from all sides. The three points having first been secured…a charge by Lt. Wilks and about 20 men was made upon the Indians in our rear to the left.”
- The east hill where Lt. Hunter retreated after the first charge, and pickets were established by the Volunteers.
Col. Shaw: “Pickets were then placed on the highest hills, so as to prevent the Indians from firing into the corral and stampeding the animals….Lieut. Hunter prudently fell back and took position on a hill east of the corral.”
- A second hill where pickets were established by Volunteers to protect the corral.
Gov. Stevens: “Holding the adjacent hills and the brush on the stream by pickets, I made my arrangements to defend my position…” Col. Shaw: “Pickets were then placed on the highest hills, so as to prevent the Indians from firing into the corral and stampeding the animals.”
- The area where Volunteer pickets were placed in the brush.
Surgeon Matthew Burns: “Col. Craig and Messrs. Dotty and Pambrun did good service in checking the Indians in their attempt to come into camp; they stationed themselves in the brush on picket guard.” Gov. Stevens: “Holding the adjacent hills and the brush on the stream by pickets, I made my arrangements to defend my position…” Pambrun: “About seventy-five yards from the wagons, was a thicket of willow and rose bushes, which the Governor wished to hold against the Indians and consulted Craig, Higgins (Wagon Master), and P. Whitman, nephew of Doctor Whitman, and others; Col Shaw was entirely ignored in the council….The object of the council was to learn, as to who was the most reliable person to be entrusted with the responsibility of holding the point, and I was unanimously pointed to. When the Governor sent for me and informed me of the decision inquiring at the same time, if I would go and how many I needed to hold it, I answered certainly I’ll go and I think six or seven good men will do.”
- The hill where the second Volunteer charge took place.
Col. Shaw: “The firing was kept up by the picket in this manner, until late in the evening, when I took all the available force, consisting of Capt. Goff, Lieuts. Hunter and Wait, and twenty-three men, and charged a body of Indians on a hill some 500 yards south of the camp. The object of this was to see how many of the spectators who were congregated in large numbers on the left, were fighting men. The whole party advanced at the top of their horses speed, and on ascending the hill, the whole body of Indians fired a volley; the balls fortunately passed over our heads. We fired a volley when close to them, which made them give back some distance. By this time, the body of supposed spectators came down on the full run, and cut us completely off from camp. I then ordered the command to turn and charge through them to camp; for a moment it seemed doubtful whether we could force our way through them or not; the most of the men having revolvers, made good use of them, unhorsing several Indians as we passed through, which made them give way on both sides. On seeing this, the large party which we first charged, came down on the full run, waving their guns and hatchets…They were however soon checked by a wall of well-directed fire from a picket in the brush, after this the whole body retired some distance, and did not make their appearance in any place near us.”
Gov. Stevens: “The fight continued till late in the night. Two charges were made to disperse the Indians, the last by Lieut. Col. Shaw in person, with twenty-four men, but, whilst driving before him some one hundred and fifty Indians, an equal number pushed into his rear, and he was compelled to cut his way through them towards camp, when, drawing up his men, and, aided by the teamsters and pickets, who gallantly sprang forward, he drove the Indians back in full charge upon the corral.”
The Oregon Statesman: “About 4 o’clock the Indians gathered ahead of us in considerable numbers, and were (the Nez Perces said) preparing to make a charge upon us, when Captain Goff, with 30 of his men, made a charge upon them…The Indians outnumbered them 10 to 1, and charged the boys on all sides, and quite a number charged between them and camp, the guns keeping up a continual roar…After a few minutes the volunteers came over the hill, and one in advance cried out, ‘They are killing all the boys,’ when the command was halted, a charge made, and the enemy were driven from every position.”
Pambrun: “Col. Shaw seeing a large band clustered together, determined to make a charge and called for thirty volunteers, but the Indians anticipated him and made a trap; according to the plans, those exposed when charged should run while those hid in a ravine should cut off his retreat. They were sure of his destruction for there were in all about three hundred warriors, that is ten to one. As understood, as soon as Col. Shaw made the charge those in sight ran. But providentially an old Indian who was ignorant of the plans met them and cried ”You band of squaws, what are you running from a few white men for, turn on them and kill them all.” They obeyed and saved them. Those in the ravine joined the others in the counter charge, and the confusion and noise that ensued were alarming. Boys, I said to my men, Shaw and his men I am afraid are taken, let us charge, and I ran to within twenty-five yards…”
- Where Indian spectators were located to the left of the south hill.
Col. Shaw: “I…charged a body of Indians on a hill some 500 yards south of the camp. The object of this was to see how many of the spectators who were congregated in large numbers on the left, were fighting men…. (After the main body retreated) the body of supposed spectators came down on the full run, and cut us completely off from camp.” This may also have been the hill the friendly Nez Perce were assigned to hold, rather than the larger hill southwest of it where the second charge took place. Gov. Stevens to Davis: “Just before the charge, the friendly Nez Perces, fifty in number, who had been assigned to holding the ridge on the south side of the corral, were told by the enemy, ‘they came not to fight the Nez Perces, but the whites, go to your camp, or we wipe it out.’ Their camp with the women and children, was on a stream about a mile distant—upon which I directed the Nez Perces to retire, as I did not require their assistance, and I was fearful that my men might not be able to distinguish them from the hostiles, and thus friendly Indians might be killed.” Surgeon Burns: “As there was great danger of our men shooting the friendly Indians, Gov. Stevens told them to stop on a small hill about one hundred yards from our corral.”
- The area where Elijah Hill, Co. K, was killed.
Surgeon Burns: “So closely did the Indians charge into the camp, that Elijah Hill, Co. K, was mortally wounded, the ball entering his abdomen. I extracted the ball on the spot, but he died on the third day after great suffering.” Andrew Pambrun: “In the midst of confusion and noise, there was a sudden lull and I could not conjecture what the cause could be, till I heard the report of a gun, followed by loud Indian yells. It appears that a white man and an Indian simultaneously observed each other, enter a deep washout, and made for each other, but the Indian after running a short distance stopped and quietly waited for his adversary, who came rushing up without care or caution and of course was shot, and he died in great agony, being shot through the bowels.” A portion of this “deep washout” appears to have been the ravine where the Indians hid to cut off Shaw during the charge in #9, as described by Pambrun.
- The area where Sgt. C. Riggs, Co. K, was gravely wounded.
The Oregon Statesman: “Silas Riggs, of Co. K, mounted the point of a hill, and fought manfully with some Indians who had taken shelter of the hill, discharged his gun and revolver, turned under cover of the hill, reloaded, went up again, discharged his gun and turned back, when a shot passed through his right pocket and carried away his ramrod. He stopped to pick it up, when a ball struck him in the back. He staggered and fell, then the scalp-shout was raised by about a dozen Indians, and as they made a rush for him, our boys went to the rescue, and he was brought back into camp, and is still living, 7 days after.” Pambrun: “Some time elapsed before there was anything going on in our part of the field, and one of my young men became restless, and in spite of all I could say, to prevent him, went on a rising piece of ground and perceiving an Indian behind some sage bushes, emptied his rifle and two revolvers without effect. The Indian returned the fire, knocking the ramrod from his hand and stooping to pick it up, was shot in the back. I sent two men to bring him and take him to the wagons.”
- The hill where Volunteer rifle pits were dug in, abandoned, then retaken.
Gov. Stevens: “(Prior to the arrival of Steptoe’s troops about two o’clock in the morning) a picket had been driven in an hour and a half before by the enemy, that on the hill south of the corral, but the enemy was immediately dislodged, and all the points were held, and ground pits being dug.” The Oregon Statesman: “About 12 o’clock at night, the Indians drove in the guard from one of those points that commanded the camp, and for a while showered the balls in tolerably freely. Some consternation prevailed in camp…It was immediately proposed to send a party of 10 men to retake the point, but it was almost impossible to get men to go and take it from them. It was, however, at length made up. Lt. Wilks and 10 men retook the point and the firing ceased for a while.” Andrew Pambrun: “This was the most critical time; the pickets could not stand the constant fire and whiz of bullets over their heads; they were in pits, and were therefore perfectly safe, but they abandoned them and rushed for camp; hearing the trampling and supposing to be that of Indians charging, I told the men with me, to lie flat on the ground and not to shoot until I have the word; all did as I directed, but an old teamster, who shot at the coming fugitives taking a finger off of one, who lustily cried don’t shoot, it’s us. It was a fortunate occurance, as no doubt, we would have killed every one. The trouble now was, to get out more pickets; Shaw in vain tried, for as fast as he got one or two, they would hide, while he was after others; he was perfectly discouraged, when I went to and reported the matter to the Governor. He immediately went to about the center of the enclosure, and addressed the men in the strongest terms, not exactly in genteel English, called them out by name, when he got all he required. He ordered each to his post, warning them at the same time, that nonfulfillment of orders would be instant death. This put an end to all further trouble or disorder.”
- The area where Steptoe’s troops fired the howitzer as they approached the corral.
The Oregon Statesman: “Presently, a shot from a howitzer, a mile distant, told that the regulars were coming to our assistance.” Gov. Stevens: “Lt. Col. Steptoe sent to my camp Lt. Davidson, with detachments from the companies of dragoons and artillery with a mountain howitzer. They reached my camp about two o’clock in the morning.” Surgeon Burns: “When the command was within a half a mile of our camp, they had to cross a small branch; Lieut. D. heard the Indians speaking in the brush. He put the howitzer in position and raked the brush, making the Indians run in all directions.” Andrew Pambrun: “Between one and two o’clock the soldiers made their appearance, and sent a shell to where the Indians were playing on a fife and drum, which silenced both.”
- The course of the train during its return from the corral to Steptoe’s camp.
Lt.Col. Steptoe, in his Sept. 20, 1856 letter to Col. Wright reported: “Lt. Davidson was assailed by the enemy along the way back, but he drove them promptly from their positions without sustaining any loss…and the whole party returned about four o’clock in the morning.” The Oregon Statesman: “We were soon hitched up and on our way back to Steptoe’s camp, which we made at day-break, after a running fight all the way without loss on our part. The Indians suffered some, as a horse came back into camp from them, bearing finger marks of blood.” Expressman Penn: “The train encamped near Col. Steptoe’s at day-light, without loss in returning though the Indians fired into it several times.” Surgeon Burns: “The command reached our camp about 2 o’clock in the morning, when Gov. Stevens and both the volunteer and regular forces returned to Col. Steptoe’s camp, the Indians firing at us continually from the right side all the way.”
Andrew Pambrun: “There was now a general stir, yoking and hitching ox teams, saddling horses, etc., while the Volunteers took one station and the Soldiers another, till we were on our way to the Soldiers encampment. The Soldiers then took the advance and the Volunteers were to take the rear; what became of the latter I do not know for I found myself, with the team in the rear, without a single guard. I had to ride the leading team, and wait till the last came up and so on through the whole way. On one round I found the last team detached… I accompanied (the driver) to get the wagon. I told him to drive as fast as his oxen would travel, till we overtook the train but an Indian or two annoyed us very much constantly shooting at us. So I told him to halt, get behind his wagon and hold my horse…I went but a short distance and sat down and waited…, at the third flash of his gun I fired. The teamster…cried, you have got him, I heard him fall, and he ran in that direction, when he met a white pony, with neck and shoulders covered with blood. He caught him and hitched him to his wagon…I told him…drive up as fast as he could and overtake the train, which we soon did as they had halted, to find out the cause of my absence so long. All this time the Indians kept an incessant fire, but doing no damage…We finally came to a halt near a small branch of Mill Creek, and waited fully half an hour while the soldiers were scouring the timber of lurking Indians. The moon now shone enough to expose our position and the enemy having taken position on the brow of the hill, poured volley after volley, without harm to the defenseless teamsters. I stood on the hill side, to see that none left his team, the greatest danger being the stampeding of our teams, for nothing will top a frightened ox. I heard an Indian yell distinctly, shoot that man beyond the wagons, and the bullets fell around me raising quite a dust, a second volley followed and closer to the mark. My horse snorted and jumped several times, so near did the bullets come to his head, and one came close enough to me to tear off a button hole from my vest….The teamsters were much concerned about me, and called to me to come away, and about this time the soldiers returned, and we resumed our march to camp.”
- Steptoe’s camp further up the Mill Creek Valley where the final skirmishes occurred on Sept. 20.
Gov. Stevens to Jefferson Davis: “Soon after sunrise, the enemy attacked the camp, but were soon dislodged by the howitzer and a charge by a detachment from Steptoe’s command.” Col. Steptoe to Col. Wright: “Soon after day-break, the Indians established themselves on the heights around, and beyond the reach of shot, and soon got into the bush and fired into the camp, but without doing any harm. A shell and a few riflemen dispersed them at once. They were all mounted and…I knew it would be worse than idle to pursue them.” The Oregon Statesman: “In the morning the Indians took the brush above the regulars’ camp and fired a few shots at them, some of the balls passing through their tents, but the shanghais and a bomb soon took possession of the brush, leaving blood and hair to mark the spot where the bomb burst, still a few shots were fired till noon.” Col Shaw: “The Indians attacked Col. Steptoe’s camp from a point of woods nearby, but a shell from the howitzer dislodged them, and the infantry took possession. Strong picket guards of both the regulars and volunteers kept the Indians out of gun shot.” Burns: “When daylight came, the hostiles could be seen on all the hills around, and some more bold than the rest, set fire to what little grass remained around Col. Steptoe’s camp…Our cattle and horses are starving.”
Andrew Pambrun: “I had hardly gone to sleep when the officers sent for me then being broad day, and stated that the Indians had fired on the guard and herders…While talking and taking some artificial courage, several bullets pierced the tent and passed close by our heads…Col. Steptoe ordered a few shells to be thrown into the timber, which was effectually cleared of Indians, who had a great dread of the fire balls, as they called them. Seven soldiers followed me and stayed. We took a position under a small bluff and the Indians being dislodged from the timber now collected en masse on our front….The Minnie rifle then used by the Army, was a fine arm, shooting with accuracy at long range, and with such tremendous force. The Soldiers reported thirty were killed, though I would not vouch for the correctness of this statement….The Indians now left the valley…”
A contour map placing each of these points on the ground in the Rooks Park- Bennington Lake vicinity, together with first person descriptions of them by participants in these events is available online at www.ww2020.net/historic-sites, along with other information regarding this history, and the text of an interpretive sign placed by Walla Walla 2020 along the south levee of Mill Creek just above the Yellowhawk/Garrison Creek diversion dam.
Many of the materials used in the research for this project were collected by Steve Plucker, a Touchet area farmer whose great grandfather was a soldier in the U.S. Army during the Yakama War in 1858, before settling here to farm along the Touchet River. Plucker is also one of the people responsible for the erection of the historical sign on Five Mile Road honoring both the treaty council and the establishment of the first US Army Fort Walla Walla in that area.
Further details are given by Andrew Pambrun, Stevens’ secretary, guide, and interpreter, who writes a colorful account in Sixty Years on the Frontier in the Pacific Northwest.
The Indian Side of the Story by William Compton Brown
Historians have habitually said Kamiahkin was the prime mover in this attack on Stevens’ party. They even go into detail and tell what orders Kamiahkin gave and how he conducted the engagement and what he said about it. My information is all to the effect that Quil-ten-e-nock and the youthful Qualchen led the fighting, and it was to them that the young looked for inspiration and directions.
The spirited young Quil-ten-e-nock was the head chief of the “Half-Sun” people or so-called Isle de Pierres Indians. The famous Chief Moses was his younger brother. Quil-ten-e-nock was not notified of the first Walla Walla Treaty Council and his people had no representation there…When Kamiahkin and the rest signed the Yakima Treaty, it ceded away the Half Sun lands….Quil-ten-e-nock became filled with a… desire to see Governor Stevens and lay the matter directly before him and get him to right the wrong….
When Quil-ten-nock got no consideration from Stevens, he was greatly disappointed and angered. In consequence, Quil-ten-e-nock and some of his followers attacked Stevens’ escort and some sharp fighting ensued….He is said to have been very reckless himself and during the fighting had two horses shot under him.
Qualchen’s younger brother Lo-Kout, was in the forefront of the scrimmage all the afternoon and evening. He got caught in the sortie that Shaw and a detachment of the volunteers made from the white camp after dark and was so severely wounded as to render him helpless. A white volunteer came up and struck him with the butt of his gun in the forehead and left him for dead. This resulted in a conspicuous scar in the shape of a big depression in his forehead which was carried all the days of his life. He lived to a good old age and died here at Nespelem on the Colville reservation…
(Gov.) Stevens, in his report of this fighting, says, “We fought four hundred and fifty Indians, and had one man mortally, one dangerously, and two slightly wounded. We killed and wounded thirteen Indians.” Hazard Stevens (son of Gov. Stevens) has this to say about the attack: “One half of the Nez Perces, one hundred and twenty warriors, all of the Yakimas and Palouse, two hundred warriors, the great bulk of the Cayuse, Walla Wallas, and Umatillas were in the fight.
The principal war chiefs were the son of Ow-hi and the Isle de Pere chief, Quil-to-mee.” From what I have gathered I don’t think over three or four Indians were killed. And as for four or five hundred Indians having joined in the attack, I am inclined to think that there is certainly very much of an exaggeration unless the on-lookers from a distance be counted.
In the party that came over with Quil-ten-e-nock there could not have been over fifty or sixty young men and they were the only ones that participated in the demonstrations, as I understand it, except a small sprinkling from the other tribes assembled there that could not be restrained by their chiefs.
— “The Indian Side of the Story: being a concourse of presentations historical and biographical in character relating to the Indian Wars, and to the treatment accorded the Indians, in Washington Territory east of the Cascade Mountains during the period from 1853 to 1889, combined with some general discussions designed to bring out the Indians side of the story, and to offer a re-examination into Stevens-Wool controversy” by William Compton Brown, C.W. Hill Print. Co (1961)
Walla Walla 2020 Historic Research & Plaque Project
If you would like to help with the marking & interpretation of these and other significant sites in the Walla Walla area, please send tax-deductible donations to Walla Walla 2020, PO Box 1222, Walla Walla WA 99362, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 509-522-0399 for more information.