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  • Historian presents intimate accounts of Modoc War

  • The story of the Modoc War and the people involved on both sides is one of the most dramatic in U.S. history. It was the last war between the U.S. Army and American Indians to occur in California and Oregon, and one of the costliest. Led by Chief Kintpuash, known to the settlers as Captain Jack, about 100 Modoc Indians held off more than 1,000 soldiers in the rugged and treacherous lava beds of Northern California.
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  • The story of the Modoc War and the people involved on both sides is one of the most dramatic in U.S. history. It was the last war between the U.S. Army and American Indians to occur in California and Oregon, and one of the costliest. Led by Chief Kintpuash, known to the settlers as Captain Jack, about 100 Modoc Indians held off more than 1,000 soldiers in the rugged and treacherous lava beds of Northern California.
    Jackson County Library Services and Southern Oregon Historical Society will offer "Voices of the Modoc War" as the next topic in the 2014 "Windows in Time" history series. The noon lecture will be presented by Bill Miller on Wednesday, Aug. 13, at the Ashland library.
    The Modoc War of 1872 to 1873 lasted a little over five months. Although the war has been largely forgotten by many today, the conflict made front-page headlines across the nation and in Europe at the time, its coverage fueled by fascination with Wild West battles on the American frontier.
    The war began in November 1872 when the military tried to force a small band of Modoc Indians to a reservation. The Modocs knew the land and used it to their advantage. Their stronghold was in the natural caves and crevasses throughout the lava beds just south of Tule Lake. Part of the area is now Lava Beds National Monument. The serpentine lava tubes and hidden caves created the perfect hideout for the tiny group of warriors.
    Although the Modocs overcame incredible odds in the battle to preserve their home and their way of life, they were hopelessly outnumbered and eventually overwhelmed by U.S. Army troops.Miller, a former historian with the Southern Oregon Historical Society and former reporter and history columnist with the Mail Tribune, will bring the conflict to life by sharing military transcripts, letters, newspaper clippings and memories of Modoc survivors to articulate the thoughts and feelings of those who were closely involved in the struggle.
    If you are curious about the Modoc War or want to brush up on your history before Miller's presentation, the library has a number of fascinating books on the topic. Below are a few titles.
    • "The Modoc Indian War," by Harry V. Sproull. This is a dry, but detailed account of the events leading up to the war and of the main characters involved in the conflict. Complete with vintage illustrations and a map.
    • "Hell With the Fire Out: A History of the Modoc War," by Arthur Quinn. The title for the book refers to a description of the lava beds where the Modocs took refuge. This is a richly detailed account of the war and the region as well as public sentiment about the conflict.
    • "The Indian History of the Modoc War," by Jefferson C. Davis Riddle. The author was born in 1863, and his parents played prominent roles in the Modoc War. As a child he had firsthand experience with the conflict. The book vividly chronicles this episode of Western history.
    The monthly "Windows in Time" lunchtime lectures are offered free to the public in Medford on the first Wednesday of the month and in Ashland on second Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. For information on the series, call 541-774-8689 or the Southern Oregon Historical Society at 541-773-6536.
    The Ashland library is at 410 Siskiyou Blvd.
    Angela Decker is a freelance writer in Ashland and can be reached at decker4@gmail.com.
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