The Modoc War of 1872 to 1873 was one of the costliest American Indian wars in U.S. history, considering the number of people involved. For nearly seven months, a handful of Modoc Indian warriors and their families held off hundreds of U.S. Army soldiers.
The war is largely forgotten to most of the nation, but at the time of the conflict, the story made headlines from London to San Francisco. People were enthralled as one of the last real-life, Wild-West battles unfolded on the American frontier.
“The Modoc War,” the next episode in OPB’s OREGON EXPERIENCE series,revisits the battle scenes, uses rare historical images and original wood-cut drawings from the period along with interviews with Modoc descendants and written first-hand accounts to bring the Modoc War to life.
The war began in November 1872 when the military tried to force a small band of Modoc Indians, led by Captain Jack, to a reservation. The Modocs took refuge in an ancient lava flow that became their stronghold. Today it is a part of the Lava Beds National Monument. The Modocs knew the land and used it to their advantage. Twisting lava tubes and hidden caves created the perfect hideout for fifty-five Modoc warriors and their families.Indian policy was the subject of national debate and many humanitarians sided with the Modocs. Then the Indians attacked a peace commission, resulting in the only U.S. general killed in an Indian conflict. The government cracked down hard, calling for swift punishment.
By the end, the Modocs were fighting off a force of nearly 1,000 men, made up of both military soldiers and civilian volunteers. Again and again, the small band of Indians overcame incredible odds to protect their way of life. But it could not last. Their world was about to change forever.
“The Modoc War” held an advanced screening on October 27 at the Ross Ragland Theatre, a recipient of a Cultural Trust Development Grant for 2011-12. Read producer Kami Horton’s blog about OPB’s visit to Klamath Falls.
“The Modoc War” is produced by Kami Horton and edited by Bruce Barrow and airs on the stations of OPB on Tuesday, November 8 at 8pm. (And at 9pm on SOPTV.)