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Bloc Campaign

Modocs, 1872-1873. The Bloc Campaign of 1872-73 was the last Indian war of consequence on the Pacific Coast. When the Modocs, a small and restless tribe, were placed on a reservation with the Klamaths, their traditional enemies, they soon found the situation intolerable. A majority of the Modocs soon left the reservation, led by a chief known as "Captain Jack," and returned to their old lands. A detail of 1st Cavalry troops under Capt. James Jackson became involved in a skirmish with these Modocs on Lost River on 29 November 1872 when the troops sought to disarm then and arrest the leaders. Following the skirmish, Captain Jack and about 120 warriors with ample supplies retreated to a naturally fortified area in the Lava Beds east of Mount Shasta. On 17 January 1873 Col. Alvan Gillem's detachment of some 400 men, half of them Regulars from the 1st Cavalry and 21st Infantry, attacked the Modoc positions, but the troops could make no progress in the almost impassable terrain, suffering a loss of 10 killed and 28 wounded. By spring of 1873 Brig. Gen. Edward R. S. Canby, commander of the Department of the Pacific, had collected about 1,000 men (elements of the 1st Cavalry, 12th and 21st Infantry, and 4th Artillery) to besiege the Modocs. Indian Bureau officials failed in attempts at negotiation, but General Canby and three civilian commissioners were able to arrange a parley with an equal number of Modoc representatives on 11 April. The Indians treacherously violated the truce. Captain Jack, himself, killed General Canby while others killed one commissioner, Eleazer Thomas, and wounded another. The siege was resumed. Brig. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis, who arrived in May to replace Canby pushed columns deep into the Lava Beds, hurrying the Indians day and night with mortar and rifle fire. When their source of water was cut off, the Indians were finally forced into the open, and all were captured by 1 June 1873. Captain Jack and two others were hanged, and the rest of the tribe was removed to the Indian Territory. During the course of the siege some 80 white men were killed.



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