Battle of Four Lakes Official Report

Official Report Of Colonel Wright,
After The Battle Of The “Four Lakes.”

Head Quarters, Expedition against Northern Indians, Camp at “Four Lakes;’ W. T.

Lat. 47″ 82 north. Long. 117” 89 west

September 2d, 1858.


I have the honor to submit the following Report of the battle of the “Four Lakes,” fought and won, by the troops under my command, on the 1st inst. Our enemies were the Spokan, Coeur d’Alene, and Pelouze Indians.

Early in the morning of the 1st, I observed the Indians collecting on the summit of a high hill, about two miles distant, and I immediately ordered the troops under arms, with a view of driving the enemy from his position, and making a reconnaissance of the country in advance. At half past 9 A. M. I marched from my camp with two squadrons of the 1st dragoons, commanded by Brevet Major W. N. Grier, four companies of the third artillery, armed with rifle muskets, commanded by Capt. E. D. Keyes; and the rifle battalion of two companies of the 9th infantry, commanded by Capt. F. T. Dent; also one mountain howitzer, under command of Lieut. J. L. White, 3rd artillery, and thirty friendly Nez Percés Indian allies, under command of Lieut. John Mullan, 2nd artillery. I left in camp all the equipage and supplies, strongly guarded by company “M,” 3rd artillery, commanded by Lieuts. H. G. Gibson and G. B. Dandy, one mountain howitzer manned, and in addition a guard of fifty-four men under Lieut. H. B. Lyon, the whole commanded by Captain J. A. Hardie, the Field officer of the day.

I ordered Brevet Major Grier to advance to the north and east, around the base of the hill occupied by the Indians, with a view to intercept their retreat when driven from the summit by the foot troops. I marched with the artillery and rifle battalion and Nez Percés to the right of the hill, in or-der to gain a position where the ascent was more easy, and also to push the Indians in the direction of the dragoons. Arriving within 600 yards of the Indians, I ordered Captain Keyes to advance a company of his battalion deployed, and drive the Indians from the hill. This service was gallantly accomplished by Captain Ord and Lieutenant Morgan, with Company “K,” 8rd artillery, in cooperation with the 2nd squadron of dragoons under Lieutenant Davidson; the Indians were driven to the foot of the hill, and there rallied under cover of ravines, trees and bushes.

On reaching the crest of the hill I saw at once that the In-dians were determined to measure their strength with us, showing no disposition to avoid a combat, and firmly maintaining their position at the base of the hill, keeping up a constant fire upon the two squadrons of dragoons, who were awaiting the arrival of the foot troops. In front of us lay a vast plain, with some 4 or 500 mounted warriors, rushing to and no, wild with excitement, and apparently eager for the fray; to the right, at the foot of the hill, in the pine forest, the Indians were also seen in large numbers.

With all I have described, in plain view, a tyro in the art of war could not have hesitated a moment as to the plan of battle.

Captain Keyes, with two companies of his battalion, commanded by Lieutenants Ransom and Ihrie, with Lieutenant Howard, was ordered to deploy along the crest of the hill, in rear of the dragoons, and facing the plain. The rifle battalion under Captain Dent, composed of two companies of the 9th Infantry under Captain Winder and Lieutenant Fleming, was ordered to move to the right and deploy in front of the pine forest; and the howitzer under Lieutenant White, supported by a company of artillery under Lieutenant Tyler, was advanced to a lower plateau, m order to gain a position where it could be fired with effect.

In five minutes the troops were deployed, I ordered the advance. Captain Keyes moved steadily down the long slope, passed the dragoons, and opened a sharp, well-directed fire, which drove the Indians to the plains and pine forest. At the same time Captain Dent with the rifle battalion. Lieutenant White with the howitzer, and Lieutenant Tyler with his company, were hotly engaged with the Indians in the pine forest, constantly increasing by fugitives from the left.  Captain Keyes continued to advance, the Indians retiring slowly; Major Grier, with both squadrons, quietly leading his horses in the rear. At a signal they mount, they rush with lightning speed through the intervals of skirmishers, and charge the Indians on the plain, overwhelm them entirely, kill many, defeat and disperse them all, and in five minutes not a hostile Indian was to be seen on the plain. While this scene was enacting, Dent, Winder, and Fleming, with the rifle battalion, and Tyler and White with Company “A” and the howitzer, had pushed rapidly forward and driven the Indians out of the forest beyond view.

After the charge of the dragoons, and pursuit for over a mile on the hills, they were halted, their horses being completely exhausted, and the foot troops again passed them about a thousand yards; but finding only a few Indians, in front of us, on remote hilltops, I would not pursue them with my tired soldiers; a couple of shots from the howitzer sent them out of sight. The battle was won. I sounded the recall, assembled the troops, and returned to our camp at 2 P. M.

It affords me the highest gratification to report, that we did not lose a man either killed or wounded during the action, attributable, I doubt not, in a great measure, to the fact that our long range rifles can reach the enemy, where he cannot reach us.

The enemy lost some eighteen or twenty men killed, and many wounded.

I take great pleasure in commending to the Department the coolness and gallantry displayed by every officer and soldier engaged in this battle.

1st. Brevet Major Grier conducted his squadrons with great skill, and at the decisive moment, after Captain Keyes had driven the Indians to the plain, made the most brilliant, gallant, and successful charge I have ever be held. The Major commends particularly the coolness and gallantry of Lieutenants Davidson, Pender, and Gregg, each m command of a troop, for the handsome and skilful manner in which they brought their men into and conducted them through the fight.

The Major also speaks in the highest terms of Assistant Surgeon Randolph, who was with the 2nd squadron during the action, exhibiting great coolness and courage, and ever ready to attend to his professional duties.

Major Grier also reports the following named men of his squadrons, as having been mentioned by their company commanders for distinguished conduct.

“C” Troop, 1st Dragoons
1st Sergeant James A. Hall
Sergeants Bernard Korton, and Patrick Byrne; Bugler Robert A. Magan
Privates James Kearney and Michael Meara

“E” Troop, 1st Dragoons
1st Sergeant C. Goetz
Sergeant J. F. Maguire
Privates J. G. Trimbell, J. Buckley, Wm. Ramage and F. W. Smith

“H” Troop, 1st Dragoons
1st Sergeant E. Ball
Sergeant M. M. Walker
Bugler Jacob Muller

“J” Troop, 1st Dragoons
1st Sergeant W. H. Ingerton
Sergeant Wm. Dean

Lieutenant Davidson reports of 1st Sergeant E. Ball, “I saw him charge upon some Indians, unhorse one of them, dismount himself, and kill him.”

2nd. Captain E. D. Keyes, commanding the 3rd Artillery, brought his battalion into action with great skill, and after deploying, made a gallant and successful charge in advance of the dragoons, driving the Indians from the hillsides far into the plain; and again, after the dragoon charge, Captain Keyes pushed vigorously forward in pursuit as long as an enemy was to be seen.

Captain Keyes reports the gallantry of the officers and men of his battalion as admirable, and so uniform among the officers, that he cannot attempt to discriminate; the position of some of the officers, however, brought their conduct under the special notice of the Captain, and in that connection he mentions Lieutenants Tyler, White, and Ihrie. The Captain also says, “The activity and intelligence displayed by Lieutenant Kip, Adjutant of the battalion, in transmitting my orders to all parts of the line, were most commendable.”

3rd. Captain F. T. Dent, commanding the rifles, composed of two Companies ” B” and ” E,” 9th infantry, with Captain Winder and Lieutenant Fleming, brought his battalion into action with great spirit, and after deploying on the hill in front of the pine forest, dashed gallantly forward, and sweeping through the woods, drove the Indians before him, and came out on the plain, forming the right wing of the whole line of foot troops.

Captain Dent speaks in high terms of Captain Winder and Lieutenant Fleming, and the men of both companies, for the intelligent and fearless manner in which they behaved through-out the battle, and further says, “I feel I have a right to be proud of my battalion.”

4th. Lieutenant John Mullan, 2nd Artillery, Top. Engr., and commanding the friendly Nez Percé Indians, moved gallantly forward in advance, and to the right of the foot troops, in the early part of the action, giving and receiving from the enemy a volley as he skirted the brush to the east of the main hill.

Lieutenant Mullan speaks in glowing terms of the Nez Percés throughout the action, at one time charging the enemy lurking in the brush and timber on the Spokan plain, driving him out, and pursuing him beyond view; and again a small party under the chief Hutis-e-mah-li-kaw, and Captain John, met and engaged the enemy, that were endeavoring to attack our rear; recapturing a horse left by an officer, while moving over the rocks and ravines.

Lieutenant Mullan expresses his approbation of the good con-duct generally of this band of friendly Nez Percés, and mentions Hutis-e-mah-li-kaw, Captain John, Edward, and We-ash-kot, as worthy of special notice for their bravery.

5th. It affords me additional pleasure to present to the Department, the gentleman on my staff

1st Lieutenant P. A. Owen, 9th Inf. Acting Assist. Adjt. General.

1st Lieutenant J. Mullan, 2nd Arty. Engineer officer.

Captain R. W. Kirkham, Assist. Quar. Master.

Assist. Surg. J. F. Hammond, Chief of the Med. Dept.

These gentlemen were with me on the field, cool and collected, ever ready to convey my orders to every part of the line, or to attend to their professional duties as circumstances might require.

Their good conduct and gallantry commend them to the Dept. Enclosed herewith is a topographical sketch of the battle field, prepared by Lieut. Mullan, illustrating the tactical part of this Report.

Very respectfully your obt. servt.

G. Weight, Col. 9th Inf’y Commanding.
Major W, W. Mackall, Assist. Adjt. Gen.
Head Quar. Dept. of the Pacific,
Fort Vancouver, W. T.

Kip, Lawrence. Army Life on the Pacific: A Journal of the Tribes of the Coeur d'Alenes, Spokans, and Pelouzes, in the Summer of 1858. Redfield, 1859.

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