Four Lakes and Spokane Plains Battles

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 What:  The park is the site of the last major Indian Battle of the Inland Empire. The United States defeated the allied Coeur d' Alene, Palouse and Spokane Tribes in September of 1858. A Camp existed near this area  from Aug31 to Sep5. On Aug31 the camp was near the smaller of the Four Lakes, and then moved northward to Spokane Plains battlefield, and then ended up at the Spokane river though most fighting was finished at the plains.  See Chiefs for pictures of Kamaikin another major chief of the battle.

Lieutenant Adjutant Kip's pen  recorded a classic account of the battle scene. A splendid panorama lay before him--Four Lakes. A large lake at the bottom of the hill, and beyond the smaller ones to the right. The plateau stretching away to the left, ridge upon grassy ridge, merging into  a dimly visible line of pine-covered mountains in the distance.

Adjutant Kip's view of the battle: At daylight we found the Indians increased in number, still posted on the hills overlooking us. Their manner was defiant and insolent, and they seemed to be inviting an attack. At eight o'clock orders were issued to have the artillery battalion in readiness, as it might be called out at any moment. Shortly after, the dragoons, four companies of artillery, the howitzer battery under Lieutenant White, and the two companies of rifles were ordered out to drive the Indians from the hill and engage the main body, which we ascertained was concentrated beyond it. They were formed into two columns, one of dragoons numbering 100, the other of artillery and infantry, about 220 strong.

One company of artillery, under Lieutenants Gibson and Dandy, a detachment of dragoons and the guard, consisting of about fifty men under Lieutenant Lyon, officer of the guard, all under command of Captain Hardie officer of the day, were left to defend the camp. As we did not know the strength of the enemy, and had 400 mules and extensive stores, it became necessary to leave this force to guard the camp lest it should be attacked in the absence of the main body.

After advancing about a mile and a half, we reached the hill and prepared to dislodge the enemy from it. Major Grier, with the dragoons, marched to the left, while the party of our Nez Perces under the direction of Lieutenant Mullan wound round the hill and ascended at the right. The main column came next, with Colonel Wright and staff at its head, followed by Captain Keyes, commanding the artillery, the Third artillery, the rifles and the howitzer battery.

As soon as the dragoons reached the top of the hill, they dismounted, one half holding the horses and the others acting as skirmishers. After exchanging a volley with the Indians, they drove them off the hill and held it until the foot soldiers arrived. On our way up, Colonel Wright received a message from Major Grier, stating that the Indians were collected in large numbers (about 500, it was thought) at the foot of the hill, apparently prepared to fight. Colonel Wright immediately ordered the battalion rapidly forward, ordering Captain Ord's command to the left to be deployed as skirmishers.

My place as adjutant of the battalion, was, of course, with Captain Keyes. We rode to the top of the hill, when the whole scene lay before us like a splendid panorama. Before us lay "Four Lakes", a large one at the foot of the barren hill on which we were, and just beyond it three smaller ones, surrounded by rugged rocks and almost entirely fringed with pines. Between these lakes and beyond them to the northwest stretched out a plain for miles. Terminated by bare grassy hills, one succeeding another as far as the eye could reach. In the far distance was dimly seen a line of mountains covered with dark pine.

On the plain below we saw the enemy. Every spot seemed alive with the wild warriors we had come so far to meet. They were in the pines on the edge of the lakes, in the ravines, on the opposite hillsides and swarming over the plain. They seemed to cover the country for some two miles. Mounted on their fleet, hardy horses, the crowd swayed back and forth, brandishing their weapons, shouting their war cries and keeping up a song of defiance.

Most of them were armed with Hudson Bay muskets, while others had bow and arrows and long lances. They were in all the bravery of their war array, gaudily painted and decorated with their wild trappings. Their plumes fluttered above them while below, skins and trinkets and all kinds of fantastic embellishments flaunted in the sunshine. Their horses, too, were arrayed in the most glaring finery. Some were even painted, and with colors to form the greatest contrast--the white being smeared with crimson in fantastic figures, and the dark-colored streaked with white clay. Beads and fringes of gaudy colors were hanging from their bridles while their plumes of eagle feathers interwoven with the mane and tail, fluttered as the breeze swept over them and completed their wild and fantastic appearance.

By heavens! it was a glorious sight to see.

The gay array of their wild chivalry.

But we had no time for mere admiration. For other work was in hand. Orders were at once issued for the artillery and infantry to be deployed as skirmishers and advance down the hill, driving the Indians before them from their coverts, until they reached the plain where the dragoons could act against them. At the same time, Lieutenant White, with the howitzer battery, supported by company A, under Lieutenant Tyler, and the rifles was sent to the right to drive them out of the woods. The latter met with a vigorous resistance, but a few discharges of the howitzers - with their spirited attack soon dislodged the enemy and compelled them to take refuge on the hills. In the meantime the companies moved down the hill with all the precision of a parade; and as we rode along the line it was pleasant to see the enthusiasm of the men to get within reach of the enemy. As soon as they were within 600 yards they opened fire and delivered it steadily as they advanced. Our soldiers aimed regularly, though it was no easy task to hit their shifting marks. The Indians acted as skirmishers, advancing rapidly and delivering their fire, and then retreating again with a quickness and irregularity which rendered it difficult to reach them. They were wheeling and dashing about, always on the run, apparently each fighting on his own account.

But Minnie balls and long range rifles were things with which, now for the first time, they were to be made acquainted. As the line advanced, first we saw one Indian reel in his saddle and fall, then two, three, then half a dozen. Then some horses would dash madly forward showing that the balls were telling on them. The instant, however that the braves fell, they were seized by their companions and dragged to the rear to be borne off. We saw one Indian leading off a horse with two of his dead companions on it.

But in a few minutes, as the line drew nearer, the fire became too heavy, and the whole array broke and fled toward the plain. This was the scheme for which the dragoons had been impatiently waiting. As the line advanced, they had followed on behind it, leading their horses. Now the order was given to mount, and they rode through the company intervals to the front.

In an instant was heard the voice of Major Grier ringing over the plain, as he shouted, "Charge the rascals!" and on the dragoons went at headlong speed. Taylor's and Gaston's companies were there, burning for revenge, and soon they were on them. We saw the flash of the sabers as they cut them down. Lieutenant Davidson shot one warrior from his saddle as they charged up, and Lieutenant Gregg clove the skull of another. Yells and shrieks and uplifted hands were on no avail as they rode over them. A number were left dead upon the ground, when once more the crowd broke and dashed for the hills. It was a race for life as the flying warriors streamed out of the glens and ravines and over the open plain, and took refuge in the clumps of woods or on the rising ground.

Here they were secure from the dragoons. Had the latter been well mounted, they would have made a terrible slaughter. But their horses were too much worn out to allow them to reach the main body. For 28 days they had been on their march, the horses saddled all day, at night picketed, with only a little grass after camping. They were obliged, therefore, to halt when they reached the hillside, their horses being entirely blown.

Then the line on foot once more passed them and advancing, renewed their fire, driving the Indians over the hills for about two miles. As we ascended, the men were so totally exhausted that many had fallen out of the ranks, and Captain Keyes was obliged to order a short halt to let them come up. When a portion had joined, we resumed our march.

The great mass of Indians had by this time passed over the crest of the hill, and when we rode to the top but a few of them were visible. Without again attempting to make any head, they had taken refuge in the woods and ravines beyond the reach of the troops. A single group was seen at some distance, apparently left to watch us, but a shell from the howitzer by lieutenant Wite bursting over their heads soon sent them to seek refuge in the ravines.

For a short time we remained on the hill, but no new demonstration having been made, Colonel Wright ordered the recall to be sounded, and we marched back to the camp. A number of our men had never before been under fire, but begrimed and weary as they were, we could see in their faces how much they enjoyed the excitement of the fight. Certainly none could evince better discipline or behave more coolly. We had been absent from the camp about four hours, and had driven the enemy from the point where the attack was first made, about three miles and a half.

As we rode back we saw on the plain the evidences of the fight. In all directions were scattered the arms, muskets, quivers, bows, and arrows, blankets, robes, etc., which had been thrown away by our flying enemies, horses, too, were roaming about, which our Indian allies were employed in catching. It was amusing to see the troops returning with their trophies. One officer had two buffalo robes and a blanket wrapped around himself and horse.

What the Indian loss was we cannot exactly say, as they carried off their dead. Some seventeen, however, were seen to be killed, while there must have been between 40 and 50 wounded. Among those killed, we subsequently learned, were a brother and brother-in-law of Garry, the head chief of the Spokane's.

Strange to say, not one our men was injured. One dragoon horse alone was wounded. This was owing to the long-range rifles now first used by our troops, and the discipline which enabled them so admirably to use them. Had the men been armed with those formerly used, the result of the fight as to the loss on our side would have been far different, for the enemy outnumbered us and had all the courage which we are accustomed to ascribe to Indian warriors. But they were panic struck by the effect of our fire at such great distances, and the steady advance of the troops, unchecked by constant fire kept upon them.

Indian Wars of the Inland Empire, by Garret B. Hunt

 Where:  The first site is among the Four lakes: Silver, Granite, Meadow, Willow; and on the plain between the hills to the northeast of Silver. The other battle ending site is nine miles west of Spokane on Hwy 2, just west of the entrance to Fairchild AFB and therefore to the north of the Four Lakes area where the battle began five days before.
 Cautions:  n/a