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Justice of the Peace Sues Military Officer for Jailing a Civilian

There was trouble in Port Orford in 1855.  Lt. August Kautz, a German-born officer in the U. S. Army, had arrested a civilian for harassing Indians on the nearby federal reserve.  Kautz jailed the man in the guardhouse for six days.  In response, the local justice of the peace was suing Kautz, accusing him of false imprisonment of a civilian.

Kautz walked into town one evening after dinner, carrying a cane in case he encountered Justice Sutton.  A little later, the town constable summoned the fort doctor because Kautz had been shot through the heart. 

When the doctor arrived, Kautz was sitting in a chair calmly, as if nothing had happened.  It turned out that Sutton had called Kautz a liar, and as Kautz raised his cane to strike him, Sutton had fired his pistol.  Kautz dropped to the floor, and when bystanders helped him up, he was clutching his chest.  The bullet had missed him, however.  The doctor said the sound of the pistol at close range might have caused a temporary nervous shock. 

Kautz recovered, but other disputes occurred between military and civilian authorities during the Rogue River Wars.


Sources: "August V. Kautz." National Park Service. Web. 17 Apr. 2014. Glisan, Rodney. Journal of Army Life.: A.L. Bancroft, 1874. Southern Oregon Digital Archives. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.

Amy Couture has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Oregon, a master’s in teacher education from Eastern Oregon University, and a master’s in history from Minnesota State University, Mankato.  A former teacher and cross-country coach, she is the author of 14 historical vignettes in the book, Astorians: Eccentric and Extraordinary.