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  • The Battle of Hungry Hill no longer hidden by time

    SOU team finds the site of the largest clash in the Rogue River Indian Wars of 1855-56
  • The location of the Battle of Hungry Hill, the largest clash in the Rogue River Indian Wars of 1855-56, has been discovered after being lost in the dust of time for more than a century.
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  • The location of the Battle of Hungry Hill, the largest clash in the Rogue River Indian Wars of 1855-56, has been discovered after being lost in the dust of time for more than a century.
    The site was located this month by a team led by Mark Tveskov, director of Southern Oregon University's Laboratory of Anthropology in Ashland.
    "It's very gratifying to finally find it — we've done a lot of detective work," Tveskov said, stressing it was a team effort.
    The team bushwhacked up and down steep hills and pored over old records, from the National Archives in Washington, D.C., to the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, Calif., following every clue during its three-year search.
    The historic battlefield was found on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property in an area known as the Grave Creek Hills west of Interstate 5 between Sunny Valley and Glendale. Hungry Hill west of Glendale is not connected with the battle, he said.
    "Our search area covered more than 24 square miles," Tveskov said, noting the exact spot is not being divulged out of concern it could spur illegal artifact hunting.
    Two musket balls and other items found at the site, as well as evidence provided by historic maps and documents, nailed down the location, he said.
    "All the dots have been connected," he said.
    The site is important because it will undoubtedly shed light on the short-lived war, he said. No detailed, contemporary firsthand account about the battle by an Army officer had ever been found.
    Until Robert Kentta, historian and member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, discovered a front-­page article in the New York Herald that was dated Nov. 12, 1855, from Crescent City, Calif., that provided precise information that only an Army officer who was in the battle would have known, Tveskov said. The anonymous correspondent who wrote the article was undoubtedly Lt. August V. Kautz, a survivor of the battle, he said.
    Another important new clue was a copy of a battle map drawn by Kautz discovered in the National Archives by retired Army Col. Daniel Edgerton, who had worked in the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Tveskov added.
    Others helping in the effort were SOU archaeologist Chelsea Rose, BLM employees, SOU students and tribal volunteers, he said.
    "Sometimes when you are out there, walking through the woods and finding nothing, you feel like you are crazy for doing it," he said. "And we had been doing that for three years."
    They also followed the clues of local folks who searched before them.
    In 1934, Richard I. Helms, a reporter for the Daily Courier newspaper in Grants Pass, believed he had found the battle site atop a prominent site in the Grave Creek Hills, Tveskov said.
    "We actually looked there and didn't find any artifacts," he said.
    But historian and pioneer descendant Larry McLane, author of a 1995 book called "First There was Twogood: a Pictorial History of Northern Josephine County," argued the battle occurred near a site local residents call Bloody Spring, Tveskov said. No evidence of a battle was found at that site by the team, he said.
    Armed with the new information provided by Kentta and Edgerton, the team made one last field trip for the summer early in September, he said.
    The historic documents indicated the battle began on Oct. 25 at one site, ending on the night of Oct. 31 at another location, he noted.
    "Those two locations are described with reference to each other," he explained. "When we found the first musket ball, which was on the main Oct. 31 battlefield site, then, for me, that meant that the Oct. 25th site had to be over there."
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