The Hood River Glacier, Hood River, OR., December 20, 1890, page 2

A Midnight Flight

     Major General John E. Wool commander of the department of the Pacific, a bigoted shoulder strapped fossil in his dotage, was as directly responsible for the Cascade massacre as if he instead of Kamiaken had led his painted savages down through the mountain passes of the Cascades and turned them upon the defenseless citizens. Had General Wool been court martialed and hung along with Kamiaken's poor dupes for their share in the butchery justice would have had no more than her dues, and the cause of peace rid of an icubus that hung like a milestone around her neck. The Yakima's who with their various branches formed by far the most formidable tribe east of the mountains were in open war, and the Klickitats, a powerful factor in the Yakima confederation, had only ten or twelve days prior to the attack on the Cascades made a partially successful raid on the White Salmon and Hood River settlements. Kamiaken the greatest warrior the Pacific coast has ever known, could with his 2000 savages have reached the Columbia river settlement in ten hours ride. In the face of all these facts General Wool in his vindictive hatred of citizens soldierly of the two territories ordered his troops out of their comfortable quarters at Fort Vancouver past every possible point of danger, and burdened with orders that were virtually to drive the volunteers out of the country to make war upon the whites and protect the hostile tribes. After the Klickitats failed in their design upon our little settlement, they disappeared from our knowledge completely as though they had been blotted from off the face of the earth. The friendly Indians themselves could give no clue to their whereabouts. That a storm was brewing no one could doubt, where could it burst, who were to be the next victims to be immolated upon the altar of official incapacity. With anxious hearts we watched the little steamers as day by day they carried their loads of soldiers past on their mission of hate to satisfy the malignant whims of a hoary headed old man. The morning of the 26th, of March 1856, opened clear and still. Not a sound nor a curl of smoke had been heard or seen in the White Salmon country, but a rude awakening was at hand, the mysterious disappearance soon explained. About 10 A.M. a faint halloo was heard coming from the White Salmon Shore, again and again it came. The friendly Indians began to collect and anxiously council with the whites as to the meaning of this lonely call plaintively it came oft repeated. Two forms were plainly seen on the White Salmon bar below its mouth. It was decided to cross and learn who they were and what they wanted. A canoe was dragged from its hiding place, and four Indians heavily armed, embarked. We watched them cross, take on board the to from the other shore and return. The parties proved to be a friendly Wasco and his wife who had been held captive by the Yakimas' for fear that returning he would expose their plans to their enemies. Six days before while at Simcoe they had managed to elude the vigilance of their captors and make their escape. Pushing directly toward the Columbia, the strained every nerve, endured every privation, without food or blankets struggled through the drifted snows that still enveloped the mountain tops, forded the raging torrents of the Klickitat and White Salmon, slept as best they could without fire, and arrived too late to give his warning. This very day bright and beautiful as it was; Kamiaken had set apart for the attack upon the doomed Cascades. Seven days before his fleet winged messenger had left The Dalles and brought him word that Col. Wright with his army were to leave that place within three days. Three days later he would be beyond recall and Kamiaken master at the Cascades. Col. Wright left at the time appointed but for some reason was detained a few miles east of The Dalles and so was an intentionally within reach when the call came. The plan of the Indian campaign has given us by the arrival was as follows: Kamiakin had long known the importance of the pass at the Cascades, and believed that once in possession no force that whites could bring against him would be successful. The long sought for opportunity came. Col. Wright's forces had left The Dalles. Kamiaken's warriors had been for some time massed at Simcoe waiting the movements of the troops. The dusky messenger bearing the news arrived at midnight and daylight found the warriors on the trail. The route was chosen through the Cammas prairie, past the ice caves, over the great Chequash mountain, striking at the Columbia at the mouth of Wind river. After capturing the Cascades to cross into Oregon, thence up the Columbia to The Dalles, thence in combination with the Deschutes and Warm Spring Indians, after sacking that place to press on and overtake Col. Wright, and with the assistance of the hostile Walla Wallas' and cayuses to blot out the white man from east of the Cascades. As the dusky figure breathed his appalling news the beautiful day seemed to grow dark. Could his words be true, many friends and an elder brother were there, had they fallen victims of that savage horde. Soon the exhaust of the steamer Mary was heard and one of our number leaping upon a horse intercepted her near the landing and hurriedly told his news. To late, on board the boat where those paced by hostile bullets, and at the Cascades probably not a soul would see the rising of another sun. Would they wait and take us on board. No, impossible, Col. Wright must be over taken or all was lost. That evening an Indian courier from the Cascades arrived bringing the intelligence that the Bradford store had just been taken and all had perished. The friendly Indians immediately convened in council and at once dispatched couriers to watch the Cascades and report any attempt to cross the river on the part of the hostile guards. Along the river front guards were to be doubled after which they returned to the camp. A council among ourselves was then held and it was decided to leave at once for The Dalles by water. A large canoe capable of containing our entire party was known to be concealed up Hood river near where the present wagon bridge is located. At midnight our neighbors having joined us we silently left our homes and made our way to the mouth of the river. Two of the party having brought down the canoe we were soon paddling up the broad bosom of the Columbia. But we had not left unseen; the ever vigilant Indian sentinels had seen our canoe and we could hear their warning notes passed from one to another. About 10 o'clock in the morning the two little steamers loaded to the water's edge with soldiers and towing a barge of cavalry horses passed us. We told them all we knew and then they passed on. We reached The Dalles that afternoon without further event. The details of the Cascade massacre are too well known to recapitulate here. Col. Wright soon after marched his troops to Yakima instead of the Walla Walla country and the Yakimas at once submitted. An Indian agency was immediately established at White Salmon, a block house built and a company of soldiers stationed there. But the war was over then; the stable was locked but the horse was gone. Had these things been done when common sense demanded they should be done, the Cascade butchery would never have occurred.

H.C. Coe.

©  Jeffrey L. Elmer