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Commanding Officer Falls off Horse in Battle

Indians killed several cattlemen in 1861 as they drove their livestock across Indian lands near Canby in Northeastern California.  The attack was known as the Evans and Bailey Massacre in the 1870’s.

One of the survivors, L.T. Thompson, wrote his recollections.  His description of the unit sent to investigate the attack suggests the Civil War left the West with few experienced military commanders.

Thompson said the investigating unit had a young commander from Germany who was great on discipline but not on fighting Indians.  Thompson said the enlisted men Out West were undisciplined and made life difficult for their commander.

Trying to sound competent, the young lieutenant bragged that he could whip 10 Indians at a time with his latest model, breech-loading rifle he had brought from the East.

When he encountered some Indians, the lieutenant aimed and fired his “Injun Killer” rifle and promptly fell backward off his horse. Simultaneously, an arrow hit a buckle on his field glasses strap.  Dazed and staggering, the lieutenant commanded his orderly to finish the fight.

Source: Thompson, L.T. The Journal of the Modoc County Historical Society. Alturas CA: Modoc County Historical Society, 1979. 9-11. Print.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.