Published on February 20, 2013 by Carol
When news of the Whitman Massacre reached the provisional Oregon Territorial capitol at Oregon City in early December, immediate steps to raise a volunteer regiment began. Organizing a force of about 600, Cornelius Gilllam, an Oregon pioneer and former military officer in the U.S. Army, was appointed colonel to lead the Oregon Volunteers and prosecute the Cayuse. The company left about the first week of January, 1848, followed the trail to a point above the Cascades, and proceeded to the to The Dalles. The soldiers believed that the Cayuse, Walla Walla, Nez Perce, Yakama, and other tribes were joining forces against the whites and a policy was adopted of fighting any Indians they found. In actuality, the Cayuse had attempted to get many other tribes to join them, but most were hesitant and the Nez Perce worked actively against them. By February 12th, a total of 537 officers and men had arrived at The Dalles. Four days later, Colonel Cornelius Gilliam left 20 men to guard Fort Lee (later Fort Dalles) and began his march. The troops first encountered Indians on January 30th on the Des Chutes River. The Indians were driven off and the casualties on each side were few. However, the “victory,” had a positive effect on the soldiers as they continued further into the interior of the Indian country.
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