Battle of Lost River

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Battle of Lost River
Part of Modoc War (Indian Wars)
Date November 29, 1872
Location Lost River (along the California-Oregon border)
Result Marginal United States victory
United States Modoc
Commanders and leaders
Captain James Jackson Captain Jack
Scarface Charley
40+ {U.S. 1st Cavalry Regiment}+citizens Unknown
Casualties and losses
1 killed, 7 wounded 2 killed, 3 wounded

The Battle of Lost River in November 1872 was the first battle in the Modoc War in the northwestern United States. The skirmish, which was fought near the Lost River along the California-Oregon border, was the result of an attempt by the U.S. 1st Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army to force a band of the Modoc tribe to relocate to the Klamath Reservation. In the subsequent war, Captain Jack of the Modoc and 53 warriors held off over 1000 U.S. soldiers for 7 months.[1]


In the 1860s, the Modoc had relocated from their traditional home near the Lost River to the Klamath Reservation, but they had been mistreated on the reservation by the Klamath tribe. In 1872, Kintpuash (Captain Jack) led his band of about 100 Modoc off the Klamath Reservation back to their traditional home on Lost River. White settlers had moved into the area during their absence and complained to the government about the returning Modoc, asking that the Modoc be returned to the reservation. Despairing of a peaceful settlement, on November 27, Bureau of Indian Affairs Superintendent T. B. Odeneal requested Major John Green, commanding officer at Fort Klamath, to furnish sufficient troops to compel Captain Jack to return to the reservation. On November 28, Captain James Jackson, commanding 40 troops, left Fort Klamath for Captain Jack's camp on Lost River. The troops, reinforced by citizens from Linkville (now Klamath Falls, Oregon) arrived in Jack's camp on the Lost River about a mile above Emigrant Crossing (now Stone Bridge, Oregon) on November 29.

Wishing to avoid conflict, Captain Jack agreed to go to the reservation, but the situation became tense when Captain Jackson demanded he disarm. Captain Jack had never fought the Army, and was alarmed at this command, but finally agreed to put down his weapons.

As the rest of the Modoc were following his lead, it is believed that the Modoc warrior Scarfaced Charley and an unidentified Army sergeant got into a verbal argument, pulled their revolvers, and shot at each other, both missing their target. The Modoc scrambled to regain their recently cast-aside weapons, and fought a short battle before fleeing towards the border with California. After driving the Modoc from camp, Captain Jackson ordered the troops to retreat to await reinforcements. The casualties in this short battle included one U.S. soldier killed and seven wounded, and two Modoc killed and three wounded.

Retreating from the battlefield on Lost River to the Lava Beds south of Tule Lake, a small band of Modoc under the leadership of Hooker Jim killed 18 settlers on the afternoon of November 29 and morning of November 30.


  1. ^ Murray, Keith A. (1984). The Modocs and Their War. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-1331-6. 

Coordinates: 41°59′46″N 121°31′26″W / 41.996°N 121.524°W / 41.996; -121.524