Published on July 19, 2012 by Amy
Scarface Charley (circa 1851 – December 3, 1896) was a chief of the Modoc tribe of Native Americans. He took part in the Modoc War of 1872-73 in California, and is considered to have fired the first shot at the Battle of Lost River. On April 26, 1873, Scarfaced Charley led a victorious attack against a patrol of 63 soldiers. He killed all five of the officers in the patrol, as well as twenty others. It is widely written that he stopped the slaughter and told the soldiers, “We’ve killed enough of you, now go home.”
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After the execution of Kintpuash and three of his warriors for the murder of Major General Edward Canby and Rev. Eleazer Thomas, Scarface Charley was appointed by Colonel Frank Wheaton as chief of the Modocs who were to be sent to Oklahoma as prisoners of war. After a year in Oklahoma, Scarfaced Charley was replaced by Indian Agent Hiram Jones, as chief by Bogus Charley, partly due to the latter’s better understanding of English. Other accounts hold that he was removed because he refused to ban gambling.
Scarfaced Charley was also a gifted craftsman, designing an elegant typeface for the phonetic transcription of the Modoc language. He also developed a line of traditionally influenced domestic furniture, which was an important source of revenue for him after his political career was ended.
An 1895 Quapow census shows him to be 65 years old, thus putting his date of birth around 1830.