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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Dubois in Clark County, Idaho — The American West (Mountains)
 

Fort Henry Historic Byway

Battle of Camas Meadows

 
 
A Region Where History Was Made panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 13, 2018
1. A Region Where History Was Made panel
Inscription. ( six panels are located beneath the interpretive site shelter:)

A Region Where History Was Made

The scenic routes shown on this map will take you to several historic and scenic landmarks in northeastern Idaho. You will travel through a wide variety of country, ranging from rich agricultural valleys watered by Henry's Fork, to sand dunes, a lava tube, historic mining sites, a major battlefield, lodgepole pine forest and spectacular waterfalls.

Site 1: Camas Meadows and the Battle of the Nez Perce 1877
On August 19, 1877, General Oliver O. Howard and his cavalry units bivouacked on the east side of Camas Meadows. In a predawn raid designed to put Howard's troops on foot, the Nez Perce warriors stole 200 mules and many horses. Howard ordered there cavalry companies to go in pursuit. The Nez Perce warriors halted 8 miles away, just beyond a timbered lava ridge. After about 20 minutes of fighting, Captain Carr and Captain Jackson withdrew. Captain Norwood's 35 men could not safely withdraw and took cover behind a small ridge of lava. They sheltered their horses in a gully among the aspens. The soldiers built breastworks or loose pieces of lava. Each rifle pit was different. Some were crescent, some oval, and some horseshoe-shaped with an
Gateway to the Lost Gold Trails Loop and the Nez Perce Trail panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 13, 2018
2. Gateway to the Lost Gold Trails Loop and the Nez Perce Trail panel
opening at the rear. These can still be seen today at the site of the battle.

Site 2: Spencer Opal Mine
Two deer hunters were lost in the fog on the southern slop of the Continental Divide at about 7,000 feet elevation. Sitting on the ridge by a large pine tree, they spotted opal nodules and took a sample.. For two years they could not find anyone who could tell them what the rocks were. The Spencer opal is classified at about 5.5 in the precious men scale of one to ten. The mines are located about 5 miles east of Spencer.
Go to the Spencer Opal Cafe in Spencer for details and directions.

Site 3: Spencer Rock House
This rock building is on the National Register of Historic Places. The original owner was C.W. Hardy, secretary and treasurer of Wood Life Stock Co. Limited. The company raised livestock in the Centennial and Beaverhead Mountains from 1895 to 1934. The home is crafted of rough-cut igneous field stone, with a foundation wall below basement level about 42 inches thick. Rock walls narrow gradually to a width of 18 inches thick at the roofline. This the exception of the kite sink, all plumbing fixtures are original. The house was constructed so as to utilize a natural spring in the basement as a cooling system for meet and other foods.

Site 4: Clark County
The Nez Perce Trail panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 13, 2018
3. The Nez Perce Trail panel
Captions: (upper right, map) 1877 Conflict; (side-bar at bottom, map) Exile Route, Chief Joseph.
Civil Defense Cave
This large lava tube, 700 feet long and 60feet wide, is 35 feet beneath the earth's surface. The cave has seen many changes over the years. Remains of buffalo skulls indicate that the animals sought refuge there, Indian artifacts remains around campfire sites show that Indians and perhaps mountain men used the cave for a refuge. Dating on the walls goes back to 1904. Temperatures in the cave average 40 degrees in winter and 55 to 60 degrees in summer. The west end cinder block wall and steel door are to prevent vandalism and seal the cave from bats. A ventilation hole 5 inches wide goes through 26 feet of lava rock to the top of the cave.
Call 208 374 5397 for a tour.

Site 5: St. Anthony Sand Dunes
About 12 miles west of St. Anthony are incredible sand dunes, about 15 miles long and reaching heights of as much as 500 feet. They are part of the Sand Mountain Wilderness study area, covering 10,000 acres, with an additional 10,000 acres of sagebrush and juniper around the perimeter of the dunes. This is a winter range for deer and elk. The dunes are continually shifting and are not anchored in place by vegetation. The United States Bureau of Land management managers the dunes recreation area, which can be explored with dune buggies, ATVs and motorcycles. Winter activities include sledding, tubing and
The Battle of Camas Meadows (Kamiskin Takin) panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 13, 2018
4. The Battle of Camas Meadows (Kamiskin Takin) panel
Captions: General Oliver O. Howard (left) and Chief Looking Glass (right)
snowmobiling.

Site 6: Fremont County Sugar Company Slicer
This is a privately owned, non-profit historical site open to the public during daylight hours. The factory was in operation from 1904 to 1914, extracting juice from sugar beets that was then pumped to Sugar City for purification. A numbered brochure informs you about what you may see along your tour of this unusual place. As you walk to each sign, you will walk back in history. As you contemplate what you are seeing, think of all the hand work that was done here with horses, wagons and hand labor for the harvest of sugar beets.

Site 7: The Fort Henry Monument
This lonely monument commemorates the Henry Expedition to the area in 1810 and 1811. Andrew Henry was the field captain of the St. Louis-based Missouri Fur Company. The winters were harsh. The cabins in the fields just east of the monument are long since gone but Wilson Price Hunt stoping here in 1811, named the post Fort Henry, and the river Henry's Fork. The monument marks the site on the road that is nearest the actual location, which is on private land.


Gateway to the Lost Gold Trails Loop and the Nez Perce Trail

Clark County is a hub for southeastern Idaho historic trails. The Idaho Gold Rush was established in 1864
Battle at "The Frying Pan" panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 13, 2018
5. Battle at "The Frying Pan" panel
Caption: (top right) Satellite view/map of the Camas Meadows area.
as Ben Holladay's freight wagons and stagecoaches ran north and south past the Hole-in-the-Rock stage station north of present-day Dubois. In 1877, during their attempt to reach Canada, the Nez Perce traveled through the area following a route favored by the Shoshone-Bannock (e.g. the Bannock Trail). Their route is now the Nez Perce National Historic Trail.
In 1879, the Utah and Northern Railroad narrow gauge railroad reached southeastern Idaho and continued toward Montana. This ambitious project was started in 1873 from Ogden, Utah, with the intention of linking Utah markets with the Montana gold fields. The line was constructed north into Idaho from the junction with the transcontinental Union Pacific Railroad at Corrine, Utah, and destined for Butte, Montana. This pioneer rail line was soon altered to standard gauge with the help of local Mormon farmers and operated as part of the Oregon Short Line and later the Union Pacific Railroad. A new town, Dry Creek, developed along the railroad. In 1897, the town was renamed Dubois, honoring Fred T. Dubois, early U.S. Marshal and well-known U.S. Senator. In 1948, opal seams were discovered in the nearby mountains, and opal seekers made trails to Spencer, Idaho, to search for gems.
Today, Dubois is a crossroads for tourists and local residents. I-15 runs north to Montana and south to Utah. Clark County Road A-2 is the
Wildlife and Native Plants Of the Sagebrush Steppe panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 13, 2018
6. Wildlife and Native Plants Of the Sagebrush Steppe panel
Click on image to enlarge it.
trail to the Camas Meadows Battlefield Sites National Monument, Island Park, Island Park Reservoir, Henry's Lake, U.S. Highway 20, Targhee Pass and Yellowstone National Park. State Highway 22 trails west to Arco, Craters of the Moon National Park, Sun Valley Resort and Boise.

(side bar bottom right:)
Where to Get More Information
In Dubois, the Tourist Center in the community is located in the rest stop and will provide you with information about what to see and do in Clark County. Take time to visit the Heritage Hall Museum (originally St. James Episcopal Mission Church, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places), and the 700-foot long historic Civil Defense Cave north of Dubois. The motto for Dubois: "Welcome to Dubois, where we've never met a stranger yet."


The Nez Perce Trail

The Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) people inhabited a large region that covered portions of northeastern Oregon, southeastern Washington and central Idaho. This vast area encompassed Chief Joseph's Wallowa Valley, the Clearwater Mountains, high table lands, the Blue Mountains and related ranges and a grass plain called Camas Prairie.
In 1863, a new treaty reduced the lands guaranteed to the Nez Perce in a 1855 treaty. Huge tracts of land, once inhabited and used by the Nez Perce, were now
Fort Henry Historic Byway Interpretive Shelter image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 13, 2018
7. Fort Henry Historic Byway Interpretive Shelter
available for prospecting and settlement by Euro-Americans. The 1863 Treaty also increased existing tribal, political and religious divisions. Some Nez Perce accepted the new treaty's terms and moved, but other bands chose to remain in their ancestral lands and ignore the treaty.
Pressure from cattle ranchers and gold seekers mounted in 1876 and 1877. The United States government pushed the "non-treaty" Nez Perce to move to the reservation. Led by White Bird, Joseph, Looking Glass, Toohoolhoolzote and other chiefs, this group originally agreed to move to avoid violence. But after skirmishes with white settlers and the military, more than 800 Nez Perce, with 2,000 head of livestock, began a journey through northern Idaho, western Montana, eastern Idaho, Yellowstone National Park and eastern Montana. They had hoped to reach safety within Chief Sitting Bull's camp in Canada, but with the U.S. Army in pursuit the entire time, the Nez Perce were besieged and surrendered just 40 miles short of their destination.

(side-bar at bottom:)
The Nez Perce in Exile
After their surrender, the non-treaty Nez Perce were transported to Fort Keogh in the Montana Territory, then on to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where they spent the winter in squalid conditions. In the Spring of 1878, they were moved to Oklahoma. During this time of continued death and
Ghost Riders image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 13, 2018
8. Ghost Riders
deprivation, Chief Joseph took every opportunity to publicize the plight of the Nez Perce and find a way to return them to their beloved homeland in the Pacific Northwest. Joseph's persistence produced strong public support and in 1885, the government allowed the remaining 268 survivors to return to reservations in Idaho and Washington.

The Battle of Camas Meadows
(Kamiskin Takin)

During the Nez Perce War in 1877, General Oliver O. Howard's forceps pursued the non-treaty Nez Perce bands down the Birch Creek on their way to Yellowstone National Park. General Howard was starting to close the gap with the Indians when he bivouacked on August 19, 1877, at Camas Meadows, about eight miles southwest of this interpretive site. The Nez Perce decided to slow down Howard's pursuit and extend their lead over his army. Early the next morning, Nez Perce warriors lead by Ollokot, Looking Glass and Toohoolhoolzote raided Howard's camp in the camas meadow along Spring Creek, making off with 200 pack fuels and some horses belonging to the Virginia City Volunteers. A mission led by Captain Randolph Norwood failed to regain the mules and the Nez Perce continued eastward into what is now Yellowstone Park. Howard rested his men at Henry's Lake for four days while he went to Virginia City, Montana to obtain more mules.

(side-bars at bottom:)
General Oliver Howard
Pursuing the Nez Perce, General Oliver O. Howard had crossed the Continental Divid at Monida Pass. Joined by Captain James E. Calloway and his Montana volunteers and Captain Randolph Norwood's cavalry, Howard and his command moved south onto the edge of the Snake River Plain. On Sunday, August 19, 1877, Howard followed the broad trail left by the Nez Perce and after an 18-mile march, reached the Camas Meadows area. The troops camped on high ground near Spring Creek and named the site "Camp Calloway."
Howard described the camp as: "a very strong natural position on the first elevated ground which overlooked the meadows toward the west and some lava-beds toward the north and east. The cavalry was posted in line of battle covering the camp; the infantry in reserve near the creek, and great pains taken by my inspector, Maj. E.C. Mason. Twenty-first Infantry, to cover the camp with pickets in every direction. Before night every animal was brought within, the horses tied to the picket-ropes, the animals with a few wagons, to their wagons, and the bell-mares of the pack-trains were hobbled. Captain Calloway's volunteers came up and encamped about one hundred yards from me, across a creek. They are between two streams of water whose banks were fringed by thickets of willow."

Chief Looking Glass
Eighteen miles distant, Nez Perce scouts returned to camp with word of Howard's force. A warrior, Black Hair, has a vision of himself and others returning with horses. He told the chiefs of his vision, and they organized a raid under the leadership of Ollokot, Looking Glass and Toohoolhoolzote. Accounts differ, but most agree that Chief Joseph did not participate in the raid.
The raid by the Nez Perce was not intended as one where they would quietly take horses and mules and disappear in the dark. Some of the Nez Perce wanted to find General Howard and kill him. Near midnight, they approached the army camp. Several warriors crept quietly among the herd of animals, cutting them loose and removing warning bells. The main group of warriors road toward the camp, four to a column, as would a cavalry unit.
The sentry mistook them for Lieutenant Bacon and his returning men. who earlier had gone ahead to Henry's Lake in an attempt to outflank the Nez Perce. The sentry called out a challenge that resulted in a shot being fired that awakened the troops and spurred the Nez Perce to action. Shots were exchanged, and there were casualties on both sides.

Battle at "The Frying Pan"

After the Nez Perce raid on their camp, General Howard ordered three companies - about 150 men - to recapture the mules and horses that were by this time far ahead on the trail. Captain Randolph Norwood's company was ordered to follow the Nez Perce. He caught up with them after about six miles, and they dismounted to exchange shots. The skirmish at "The Frying Pan: lasted more than four hours. When the men realized from the direction of gunfire that the were being encircled by a flanking maneuver of the Nez Perce, "recall" was sounded by the bugler.
The troops hastily retreated, built rock cairns as a defense and remained until reinforcements came. Meanwhile, as the sun arose, the Nez Perce warriors assessed the success of their raid and realized they had captured most of the mule herd and a few horses. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the Nez Perce gathered their stock and the captured fuels, broke camp and left Camas Meadows. Their raid proved a tactical success by leaving General Howard with too few pack animals, forcing hime to go to Virginia City to get more mules to continue his pursuit. For their part, the military paid a high price for the few mules they recovered: Bugler Brooks lay dead, two soldiers died later and five men were wounded, which Captain Calloway's volunteers escorted ti Virginia City.
Up ahead near Henry's Lake, Lieutenant Bacon had waited and watched for the Nez Perce. After two days, he assumed they had taken another route and , as ordered, he and his troops returned to General Howard's camp. Ironically, the Nez Perce departed Camas Meadows later that day, narrowly missing Lieutenant Bacon.
When they arrived at Camas Meadows the day before the battles, General Howard and his troops were closing the 18-mile gap that separated them from the Nez Perce. The unsuccessful attempt to reclaim the mules opens a new gap that would not be bridged until other U.S. Army units caught and surrounded the Nez Perce near the Bear Paw Mountains, about 40 miles short of the Canadian border.

(side-bar at lower right:)
• "The race to the thicket was something never to be forgotten, for a cavalry man is not trained for a five hundred yard sprint .. I had a horse's nose-bag slung over my shoulder containing extra cartridges, and a bullet cut the strap and it fell to the ground. A hero would have stopped, gone back and recovered that bag, but not I." -- Lieutenant Henry M. Benson
• "Those soldiers ... we must have hit one or two ... they became scared ... A bugle sounded down among the timber, and those soldiers skipped for their lives for that shelter. We sent bullets flying after them but they all reached the brush and disappeared." -- Bird Alighting (Peopeo Tholekt)
• Stopping at Henry's Lake after the battles, General Howard offered a realistic, it defensive appraisal of his command's performance that was undoubtedly intended to dilute lingering criticism of his effort to stop the Nez Perce:
"From Kamiah to Henry Lake, at which point the cavalry and infantry together, the command was marching continuously without a day's halt 26 days, making and average of 19.3 miles a day' baggage carried generally by pack trains, the Indian trail from Kamiah to the Bitter Root Valley being impassable for wagons. The command suffered often for want of shoes, overcoats, and underclothing during the latter part of the march owing to the rapidity of the march and the difficult of procuring the supplies in Montana".
• Criticism of Howard's performance did not discourage him finishing what he had started. A reprimand from his superior officers gave Howard new resolve and on August 27, 1877, back at Henry's Lake after his side trip to Virginia City, Montana, he shot off a message to the commanding general:
"You misunderstand me. I never flag. It was the command, including the most energetic young officers that were worn out weary by a most extraordinary march. You need not fear for the campaign. Neither you nor General McDowell can doubt my pluck and energy. ... We move the morning and will continue to the end."

Wildlife and Native Plants Of the Sagebrush Steppe

Click on the image to enlarge and view the panel.
 
Location. 44° 25.16′ N, 111° 47.582′ W. Marker is near Dubois, Idaho, in Clark County. Marker is on A-2 Clark County Road (Main Street) near Old Highway 22, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Dubois ID 83423, United States of America.
 
More about this marker. Not the end of the world, but you can see it from here.
 
Also see . . .  War and death: the Battle of Camas Meadows -- East Idaho News. Knowing what occurred 141 years ago gave the dry, broken land a reverent feel. As we walked around the soldier’s grave, the historian pointed to the protrusions of lava rock that soldiers and warriors hid behind as they exchanged volley after volley of gunshots that began the Battle of Camas Meadows. (Submitted on October 10, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.) 
 
Categories. MilitaryNative AmericansNatural FeaturesWars, US Indian
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on October 11, 2018. This page originally submitted on October 10, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 30 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on October 10, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.
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