Published on March 10, 2013 by Carol
The Sheepeater Indian War of 1879 was the last Indian war fought in the Pacific Northwest portion of the United States. A band of approximately 300 Western Shoshone, (Turakina or Tukuaduku), were known as the Sheepeaters because of their proficiency in hunting Rocky Mountain sheep. The campaign against the Sheepeaters primarily took place in central Idaho.
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Leading up to the war, settlers accused the Shoshone of stealing horses in Indian Valley and killing three settlers near present-day Cascade, Idaho during the pursuit. In August, the Shoshone were accused of killing two prospectors in an ambush at Pearsall Creek, five miles from Cascade. By February 1879 they were accused of the murders of five Chinese miners at Oro Grande, murders at Loon Creek, and finally the murders of two ranchers in the South Fork of the Salmon River in May. There was no evidence for these accusations.
Heading the campaign against the Sheepeaters was Troop G of the 1st Cavalry led by Captain Reuben Bernard, Company C and a detachment of Company K from the 2nd Infantry Regiment under the command of First Lieutenant Henry Catley, and 20 Indian scouts commanded by Lieutenant Edward Farrow of the 21st Infantry. The troops were all heading toward Payette Lake, near present day McCall. Bernard headed North from Boise barracks, Catley headed South from Camp Howard, and Farrow headed East from the Umatilla Agency.
Throughout the campaign, the troops faced difficulty traveling through the rough terrain. The first segment of the campaign, from May 31 to September 8, was through the Salmon River, dubbed the “River of No Return” because it was barely navigable. By August 20, a Sheepeater raiding party of ten to fifteen Indians attacked the troops as they guarded a pack train at Soldier Bar on Big Creek. Those who defended the pack train included Corporal Charles B. Hardin along with six troopers and the chief packer, James Barnes. They managed to drive the Sheepeaters off with only one casualty, Private Harry Eagan, of the 2nd Infantry. By October, the campaign ended once Lieutenants W.C. Brown and Edward S. Farrow, along with a group of twenty Umatilla scouts, negotiated the surrender of the Sheepeaters.