3. Lt. Col. Silas Casey Correspondence, October 24 - December 14, 1851
[This correspondence was transcribed from materials on file with the Coquille Indian Tribe and was likely first copied from original materials at the Smithsonian Institute.]
Port Orford, O. T. October 24th, 1851
I have the honour to report that I arrived at this place safely about 12 PM on the 22cnd Inst. We succeed in landing every thing by 7 O’clock PM, and by the use of an unfinished store house built by L. Winon, over the roof of which we have placed a tarpaulin, I have managed to have all our stores safely housed.
The rumor that had reached the general of a party of volunteers having left this place for the scene of the murders was a mistaken one. It most probably originated in the fact that a party did leave for the purpose of discovering a road to the Oregon trail. After proceeding about 90 miles, they returned without accomplishing their object, having fell short of provisions. They are of the opinion that they were not far from the trail at the time they turned back. The country in the immediate vicinity of this place is densely wooded, principally with Fir, Spruce, and Cedar.
From the report of a reconnoitering party which I sent out, and which this day returned and from other information which I have collected, I am led to believe that a practicable route can be obtained to the Coquille, which is about 35 miles distant.
The Indian Agent, Dr. Dart, left here a short time since, the Coquille indians refusing to meet him.
I regret that I have no interpreter by whom I could communicate with the Indians in question.
No alternative presents itself but to strike them first and then extending to them the Olive Branch on their submission. I am now anxiously awaiting the arrival of Lt. Stanton with the horse, who enter in my plan of attack.
I find the Cape Blanco Indians, about 15 miles from here, apparently friendly, but I think not to be trusted far.
From information gathered from Gov. Gaines, who was a passenger on the Columbia, and from what I can collect from persons about here, I am led to believe that the Coquille are the only hostile Indians on the coast. After
chastising them, should the season permit, I will turn my attention to discovering a wagon route to the Oregon trail.
I found with the command four general prisoners, but the order of the general promulgating the proceedings, is not here.
Under the circumstances, I have suspended the sentences of Pvt. Johnson, Pvt. Marshall and turned them to duty, and have directed Pvt. Michels, who is on the sick report (from a cut finger) to be turned over temporarily in charge of L. Winon.
Your Obedient Servent
Br. Lt. Col. U.S
Bv. L. Col. S. Hooker
Ap Ad- Gen. 3rd Division
Port Orford, O. T.
October 31, 1851
On the 29th Inst. the Sea Gull arrived and yesterday finished unloading.
I send off to-day, Lt. Stanton with the horse to take a position in the vicinity of the Coquille. We have been directed if possible to receive the services of the Chief of the Cape Blanco Indians as guide. I feel the more sanguine that his sincere services can be obtained from the fact that within a few days it has been reported that one of his men has been killed, and several wounded by the Indians of the Coquille.
I have directed the A. I. M. to engage the services of the Sea-Gull for a short time and shall myself embark tomorrow morning with the …..of the command, and the howitzers, for the purpose of effecting a landing at the mouth of the river. I shall take with me one of the surf boats, with the purpose, if possible, of placing it in the river.
If successful in affecting a landing, I shall make a combined attack on the village of the murderers from both banks of the river.
I regret that no water proof bags were sent for the purpose of packing our Bread, sugar, etc. I have been obliged to cut up ten tents for bags, and a tarpaulin for covers. It has rained almost every day since we arrived and a water proof covering becomes indispensable for parts of the ration.
I have enclosed a return of the troops for the month of October 1851.
I have also enclosed a roll of the citizens employed in the I. m Dept. Brush and (Bruner?) were employed by my order. I think the services of the latter can be dispensed with very shortly.
Your Obt. Servant
Bvt. Lt. Col. U. S. A
Bvt. Lt. Col. S. Hooker
A. Ad. Gen
Camp at the Mouth of the Coquille
November 9th, 1851
In my last communication I stated that I was about combining an operation against the enemy by land and water. In pursuance of that object, I left Port Orford on the evening of the 31st of October with Companies A & E, 1st Dragoons, and the two mountain howitzers on board the Sea Gull. About 11 o’clock same day Lt. Stanton with C Troop started by land. I arrived off the mouth of the Coquille river at day light on the morning of the 1st of November, found a heavy surf beating on the shore, but succeeded in landing. Lt. Wright with about 20 men, the six men at the immediate danger of their lives, as the boat capsized in the surf about two hundred yards from the shore and in two fathoms of water. After the capsizing, it was with the utmost difficulty that the sailors could be prevailed upon to make another attempt. In the meantime, the surf having increased, it was found impossible to land Any more men.
We remained until daylight the morning of the 2cnd. awaiting an opportunity to land, but the prospect at the time appearing worse than ever, I directed the Capt. to leave for Port Orford. By the time the imminence of the danger to the vessel had become such that it was only by shipping one anchor, and applying all force possible to the other, that we were enabled (fortunately having a full head of steam) to escape from our anchorage, just as the sea broke in the place where we had laid, and in seven fathoms of water.
We arrived in Port orford 9 PM same day, landed the men that night, and left the next day with A Company and the part of E Company who had not succeeded in landing at the mouth of the river, and arrived at Lt. Stanton’s camp (which we found two miles from the mouth of the river) on the afternoon of the 4th.
I had previously sent an express to Lt. Stanton, directing him to concentrate the troops and await my arrival. In the meantime to construct a raft for the purpose of enabling us to cross the river. I found L. Wright encamped at the mouth of the river and constructing a raft.
The morning after the landing of Lt. Wright, while walking a short distance from camp, he perceived four Indians behind a rock. On beckoning to them, they approached him. After a little while, the Indians becoming alarmed at some movement of the Lt.’s men, started running. The Indian nearest to Lt. Wright made an effort before leaving to snatch his gun from him. He jerked it from him, and shot the Indian dead as he ran from him.
The Indians showed themselves in number on the opposite side of the river; when the men commenced in making the raft, firing across a number of rifle balls. Brandishing their knives, shaking their bows, and evincing every bravado possible.
On the morning of the 5th, I visited Lt. Wright’s camp at the mouth of the river. About 50 Indians made their appearance, and went through the performances of the previous day. Soon after my leaving, the numbers increased to 100, who fired several shots across the river.
On the 6th, I sent Lt. Stanton with 30 dismounted dragoons, and with four days rations in their haversacks, to take a station about ten or fifteen miles above the mouth and on left bank of the river, for the purpose of intercepting any canoes that might pass up. On the morning of the 7th, I crossed the river on a raft, with the two companies of dragoons on foot, with four days rations in our haversacks, and one blanket, each man.
After marching about 15 miles through marsh and over mountains which were rendered very slippery, and difficult to cross, by the incessant rains, we arrived on the morning of the 8th about 10 o’clock, within sight of fires of an Indian village, directly on the bank of the river.
I made my dispersion to attack, but on entering the place, found that the enemy had fled. We saw but two who were within rifle range. The Indians had evidently taken their Salmon and fled up the river.
I should have remarked that the day before I left, an Indian crossed the river and came to my camp. He appeared somewhat alarmed. Whether he came as a spy, or for other purposes, I could not tell, as I have no interpreter. I concluded, however, to keep him a prisoner, believing that should I obtain an interpreter, I could make him extremely useful. Lt. Stanton unfortunately became entangled in the challenges of the country and did not reach the position marked out for him, and consequently did not succeed in intercepting any of the enemy who had been driven from the right bank. At the village (which Mr. Brush recognized as the one where the men were murdered) we found a fishery, the nets extending across the river.
The Indians are frightened, and have fled up the river. I am well satisfied from the few trails leading into the interior, that their villages are all on the river. I am also satisfied that their principle means of subsistence is the Salmon obtained from the river, and that their principle fisheries are at the mouth, and within a short distance of the mouth. The nature of the country is such that the incessant rain renders the hills near the river very difficult to cross, and by keeping directly upon the river, impassible …….would be encountered.
Under all the circumstances, I have resolved to operate upon the river in boats. It is 30 miles to Port Orford from this point, and although the road is very difficult at points, I am in hopes I will be able to get through the two surf boats which I have. One of them is now on the road.
The Coquille river is 200 yards wide at its mouth at low water, with probably 9 ft. of water on the bar, but the channel is narrow that leads out among the mouths. The mouth …………..is so exposed to the prevailing winds, that there are breakers constantly almost quite across its entrance. Once over the bar and it appears to be a large navigable stream affected by the tide water to its forks about 40 miles up.
I am encamped in a fine position at the mouth and on the left bank of the river and shall make here my depot for supplies while operating up the stream. Should I succeed in putting my boat party in open water, I am in hopes now to incline the enemy to peace if they are not so now.
The service of a good interpreter would be invaluable.
I shall endeavor to start the party for the Oregon road soon, although the season is so far advanced that I fear they will not succeed.
I would like to have two or more surf boats, with the necessary articles for repair sent up immediately. Should we not need them, they will be useful in the camp.
Inasmuch as there is an extensive farming country in the vicinity of Port Orford, extending to, and up this river, which if an adequate protection was afforded, would I think would I think speedily settle. I suggest that another supply of subsistence store be furnished to Port Orford.
Your Ob. Servant
Bvt. Lt. Col. S. Hooker
Ass. Ad. Benicia
Camp at the mouth of the Coquille
November 11th, 1851
One of my surf boats has just arrived safely, and is now launched in the river. Tomorrow the team will start for the other boat and will also bring up a small launch which Lt. Wyman has in possession, provided it can be repaired. I have just had a report of the result of some soundings. The tide at little more than half flood gives but seven feet in the channel at the mouth of the river. Thereby demonstrating that at Port Orford, must be the depot for all supplies required for this portion of the country. As soon as my boats arrive, which will be in a few days, I shall organize a party to operate up the river in boats, with a confident expectation of speedily bringing the Indian to terms. In fact, I believe I could treat with them now, had I an interpreter.
I would respectfully suggest that authority be given me to leave, if it should be necessary, a company of Dragoons at this point. By the aid of the boats which will be on the river, they will be able effectually to (curb?) the Indians of this region, and give confidence to settlers, who are inclined. I learn, to come in considerable numbers to this, one of the finest portions of Oregon.
Horses, I have but little doubt, could be subsisted here all winter on the grass alone, but inasmuch as their services would be but little required, I would consider it more expedient that the force here be footmen. The force here could be supplied from Port Orford, either by wagon or pack mule.
I shall tomorrow lay off a government reservation, which will combine good water, plenty of firewood, good land for cultivation, fine timber for building, with (beauty of situation?). Sufficient log buildings for a company can be put up at a triffling expense.
I consider it expedient to make a reservation at once, for by the Oregon land bill, some person would be sure to lay their claim. Should the government not wish to retain, they can but give it up.
Your Obt. Servant
Bvt. Lt. Col. S. Hooker
Ap. Ad. gen Pac. Div.
P.S. Lt. Stanton leaves to-morrow for Port Orford with 30 (horses?), preparation to starting as an escort to Lt. Williamson, who will leave in a few days on the route for the Oregon trail.
Report of Silas Casey
Report of Expedition against Indians
Camp Abbeyville, mouth of the Coquille, OT.
November 24th, 1851
At the date of my last communication I was in this place awaiting the arrival of my boats.
Being convinced of the impracticability of pursuing the Indians to advantage by land, owing to the dense nature of the undergrowth, and for other reasons, I resolved if possible to organize a boat party, and in continuation of the narrative of my expedition, I have the most honour to report as follows.
Having succeeded in obtaining, by land transportation from Port Orford, two boats, and by means of pitch obtained from pine trees rendering them possibly tight. I left this place before daylight on the morning of the 17th Inst. with a party 60 strong (including Officers) and nine days provisions.
After crossing up the river about 25 miles, passing a number of lodges which had been dilapidated and abandoned in haste, we perceived a fire on the left bank of the river. The officer in charge of leading the boat, saw a canoe with one Indian in it going up the river.
I immediately ordered the boats to land, and attack. We found two large lodges, covered with boards and matting, from which the Indians had just escaped. In one of them Salmon was cooking.
They contained large quantities of the different articles used by the Indians, fishing nets etc., together with three or four tons of dried salmon. I again embarked, landed above the lodges about half a mile, and sent back a party of ten men by land, with orders to approach as carefully as possible. I then ordered Lt. Wright to go down in his boat with his company and burn every thing except canoes, which I took for our use.
When the land party reached the vicinity of the lodge, they perceived several of the Indians returning to them. They fired, but with what result, I do not know.
Suffice it to say that by the time we reached the forks of the river (about 45 miles from the mouth) on the morning of the 20th Inst., we had destroyed a number of lodges and large quantities of their food and implements. On the 21st, I ordered Lt. Stoneman with a scouting party in one of the Surf boats, to ascend the South fork of the river, and Lt. Wright with a party in the other Surf boat to ascend the north fork, with special orders that they both should return the same day Lt. Wright proceeded up the north fork about ten miles and returned, having perceived no fresh sign.
Lt. Stoneman returned in a few hours and reported that six or seven miles up the fork, he came upon a number of Indians, one of whom commenced talking in a loud voice and motioned him away. They continued to advance, and previewing one of the Indians loading his rifle, he fired at him. Several shots from guns and a shower of arrows were delivered in return, and replied to by a volley from our men.
Agreeably to the instructions, given by me to the Lt. in case a large party was met, he returned to camp. It was the opinion of Lt; Stoneman as he reported, that the Indians were in a fork (made by the stream which ascended, and another stream coming into it) in large number awaiting our approach.
I again sent him out with a few men to make a reconnaissance by land, and ascertain if possible the true position of the enemy. He succeeded in approaching within about one mile of their position. His examination at this time (which owing to the density of the woods and undergrowth, was of necessity imperfect), rather shook his former opinion that the enemy were in the fork, but now was of the opinion that they occupied the left bnank of the stream which he had ascended. The next day, on the 22cnd., I resolved to attack the Indians who were evidently collected in position and awaiting my approach.
Believing that they were in considerable number, and having but 55 men, exclusive of Officers (from whom taking ten men, for boat crews, leaving but 45 men for the attack), I directed that the men should leave every thing in camp, excepting one days rations in haversacks, their bivouacs standing, their fires burning, and the remaining boat, and the remaining canoe tied to the bank.
I could not afford one man for guard. I directed Lt. Gibson, with 20 men, in the surf boats to ascend the river and take a position as near the enemy as he could, without being perceived by them, and then await further orders.
With the remainder of the command, I went up by land, and met the boats on the river. I will here mention that on our arrival up, we discovered about one ton of dried Salmon, which the Indians had hid on scaffolds.
On joining Lt. Gibson, I directed LT. Stoneman with his company, who together with Asst. Surgeon Campbell and two hospital attendants, constituted one half of the command, to cross to the left bank of the stream, (kreep?) up to the enemy position, and commence the attack.
I directed the boats to ascend the river, keeping in rear of the commands on the banks; take up some safe position out of reach of the enemy fire, then land, and protect the boats, awaiting further orders. At the same time with Lt. Wrights Comp E, I ascended the right bank of the stream, resolving to attack, should the Indians be found on that bank, if not to await the attack of Lt. Stoneman, and take them as they fled from him, or cross the river in the boats to his assistance if necessary.
On arriving near the position of the enemy, I perceived that there was a fork, separated from my bank of the river by a small creek, that the greater portion of the Indians were in the forks, and that from the canoes on the left bank at the junction of the other branch of the fork with the main stream, there was about 20 of the Indians. I took up a position (the river here lending in an arc) admirably commanding the position of the enemy, should they attempt to take their canoes, or to come out of their (coverts?)
I there anxiously awaited for about 15 minutes the attack which I expected to be made by Lt. Stoneman, a number of the enemy being all the time in plain sight, and within the complete command of my fire. Unfortunately the boats at this juncture, mistaking the position of the Indians, commenced advancing until they came within their fire, who it was apparent, were wholly unapprised of the dispersion against them by land, and were prepared for a boat attack alone, being placed in such position that they would have completely surrounded the boats, had they advanced.
Immediately, I perceived that we were in the close proximity of about 200 Indians. They raised the war-whoop, and for about 15 minutes contested the ground with us, when the deliberate fire of the men proving too galling, they abandoned their ground and fled in every direction. In the meantime, Lt. Stoneman being detained by the impracticable nature of the thickets from ascending the stream, took a broad trail which he supposed would lead to the position of the enemy. He found, however, that it struck the right stream of the fork about one mile above rge junction.
On hearing our firing, he deployed his men as skirmishers, and came down to our position, killing a number of the Indians as they fled.
Although but five of the enemy were found dead, I have reason to believe that about 15 were killed. Many were seen to be carried off in the midst of the fight, and we made no search after the engagement. Although a number of my men were struck by the missiles of the enemy, both balls and arrows, they were all grazing shots which merely tore their clothes. Not one man was wounded. We recovered from the enemy one old U. S. musket and several balls which were recognized as having been taken from the party who were murdered last summer. One of the Indians who was wounded was seen to throw a rifle into the river.
I have enclosed a rough sketch of the ground in which the engagement took place, which will probably throw light on the subject. During the operation on the river, we took and destroyed 20 large lodges, with quantities of implements invaluable to them. We destroyed about 2000 feet of boards, which had been split out from logs, some of them three feet in width.
We took 15 canoes, and destroyed about thirteen tons of dried Salmon. Both Officers and men have been zealous in the performance of their duties. From Lt. Gibson I have received efficient and zealous aid. I feel much indebted to Lt. Stoneman for his practical knowledge of things, and for his zeal and efficiency in the performance of his duties. Although from a mistake he did not participate in the heat of the action, still as soon as the firing commenced he came down with gallantry, and performed good service. Lt. Wright with 22 men sustained the heat of the contest, and for the gallantry and firmness exhibited by him, merits the warmest praise.
The Indians having scattered and fled in all directions, and my supplies being nearly out, resolved to return to the mouth of the Coquille. Should my supplies, however, have been ample, I would still doubt the expedience of pursuing further.
[Casey’s “rough sketch of the ground in which the engagement took place,” with handwritten and typed annotations. One difficulty in interpreting the map, in addition to Casey’s poor handwriting and the document’s poor reproduction, is the fact that he put south on the top of the page – in direct opposition to most maps. The sketch is inverted here for easier interpretation].
The Indians were evidently on the outskirts of their country, and pursuing further, friendly tribes would be involved. Mr. Brush who is with me, and was one of the survivors of the massacre, states that he found the Indians a little further up the fork friendly and evidently on bad terms with the Coquille tribe.
I lament every day that I have no interpreter, and feel confident that the Indians would now be glad to make peace. At any rate, before any further steps are taken against them, humanity demands that peace should be offered. I still have the Indian who came into me.
I am now putting up a few log buildings for the accommodation of a company which I intend to leave here for the present. Should the Indians not feel disposed for peace, a company at the mouth of the river with a few boats could control them completely, inasmuch as they would hold their hand their means of subsistence, keeping them from their best and principal fisheries and depriving them of their mussels, which they obtain at the mouth of the river, and which forms their chief subsistence one portion of the year.
I have the honor to be
Your Obt. Servant
Bvt. Lt. Col. U. S. A.
Bvt. Lt. Col. S. Hooker
Ass. Ad. gen Pac Div.
Port Orford, O. T.
November 28, 1851
I have just arrived at this place from the mouth of the Coquille, Comp A commanded by Lt. Stoneman, with direction to complete his quarters to make the men comfortable while remaining. I consider the Indians subdued, and if I had an interpreter, I could treat with them at once.
However, until that event transpires, I would respectfully suggest the following disposition be made. Let A Comp. be continued at the mouth of the Coquille until the arrival of the (C?) Comp. (now mounted) from the Oregon trail. As it will be difficult to get their horses on board without a (float?), would recommend that the Comp. be left, and A Comp. relieve. There are now three good boats and six captured canoes at the mouth of the Coquille. Should the Indians refuse to treat, it is the grand strategic (point?) as regards operations against them. It controls their best fisheries, and prevents them from obtaining mussels from the mouth of the river.
The boats offer a cheap transportation to follow the enemy to their place of abode. it is necessary that the Columbia stop here on her next trip up to furnish supplies, and if it should meet with the approbation of the general, I will on my return from Oregon, proceed to carry out my suggestion.
I thought of leaving Capt. Kane here for the present. What should be done with Asst. Surgeon Campbell?
Your Obt. Servant
Bvt. Lt. Col. U. S. A.
Bvt. Lt. Col. S. Hooker
Asst. Ad-Gen. Pac.
Dec. 6th, 1851
In my communication of the 28th Ult., I mentioned that I had left A. Comp. at the moth of the Coquille, and intended that it should remain there for the present. I expected that the Sea-Gull, on her return from the Columbia river would bring down an Indian agent and interpreter. I knew that the mouth of the Coquille would be the best place for which to communicate with, and at which to assemble the Indians of that river for a treaty.
The only boat of any description which has touched at this place since the landing of the troops, was the Columbia on her return from Astoria, the 28th Ult. I then learned that the Sea-Gull was still at San Francisco, when she left,and as she has not yet made her appearance, I can make no calculation on her movements.
Two days since, I received information that a wagon which left here with supplies for Camp Abbyville, on the 1st Inst., had gone but 10 miles, being stopped by the high water in the river which empties into the ocean near Cape Blanco.
Yesterday, an experienced rider and horse were unfortunately drowned in attempting to cross that river. Inasmuch as there are three rivers between here and Camp Abbyville, which at times are (?) and from the almost incessant rains, will become more and more difficult to cross. I have considered that the immediate advantages of keeping up that (?), are more than counterbalanced by the difficulties of supplying it, and shall consequently abandon it as soon as the public property can be removed.
I have the honor to be
your Obt. Servant
Bvt. Lt. Col. U. S. A.
Bvt. Lt. Col. S. Hooker
Asst. Ad-gen Pac. Div.
Headquarters: Det. Pac. Div.
Fort Orford, Oregon Ter.
Dec. 9, 1851
Order No. 22
I- Unless contrary orders shall be received by the Steamer “Columbia”, which is expected to arrive here on the 10th Inst.., the following disposition will be made of the troops of this Detachment.
II- Companies “A” & “C”, 1st. Dragoons, and Asst. Surgeon S. Campbell will embark on board the Columbia for Benicia.
III- First Lt. H. G. S. Gibson (?) will remain at this post until further orders and will report to Lieut. Stanton for duty upon arrival of the latter at Fort Orford. Lt. Gibson will by the first opportunity will send one of the mountain howitzers to the ordinance offer at Benicia.
IV- All the men of “C” Troop Dragoons now at this post with the exception of Sergeant Hill will remain at this Post in charge of Lt. Gibson until the arrival of their company.
V- Captain E. R. Kane, A. 2M. will remain on duty at this Post until further orders. He will secure as soon as possible a supply of forage for the horses of C Troop, 1st Dragoons.
VI- First Lieut. H. W. Stanton, upon his return from an exploration of a route to the Oregon trail, will remain with his troop at this post until further orders.
VII- Lieutenant R. S. Williamson, Topographical Engineers, now with Lieut. Stanton, will upon his return to Port Orford, proceed by the first opportunity to Benicia, and report in person at the Head Quarters of the Division.
By order of lt. Col. Casey
(signed) Lt. H. G. S. Gibson
December 12, 1851
I have the honour to report that I have arrived here this afternoon from Port Orford, O. T., with A & EComp., 1st Dragoons.
I have explained in a former communication the reason for abandoning the mouth of the Coquille. Incurring the Companies to leave Port Orford without express orders to that effect, I was actuated by what I considered the good of the service, and for the following reasons.
I considered the object of the expedition as required by my orders fulfilled. In the next place, I had received no orders which conflicted with my act; The troops were exposed to almost incessant rains, without any covering but tents. But the principal reason for my withdrawing the troops without orders to that effect, was the fear that our supply of Subsistence Stores would be exhausted before a new supply could be received.
The Sea-Gull, which I understood had left with supplies on the 20th of November, I had reason to believe was lost. I was informed by the A. P. S., Capt. Kane that but two months supplies of Subsistence had been brought from Benicia, and that already some of the (parts?) of the ration were gone.
I have enclosed a copy of the order issues by me on leaving.
In conclusion, I can only say that my time and best abilities has been devoted to the good of the service, and if i have erred, it has been an error of jusgement alone.
your Obt. Servant
Bvt. Lt. Col. U. S. A.
Capt. F. Steili
Benicia , Ca.
Benicia, Dec. 12, 1851
Bvt. Lt. Col.
Reason for leaving Port Orford
The (?) has read the written report with every disposition to put a favorable construction upon the movement of Lt. Col. Casey in returning to Benicia without orders, but us constrained (?) that the reasons assigned for the movement are altogether unsatisfactory; and the general is persuaded that Col. Casey himself, had he been setting judgement upon the movement instead of having been engaged in it, would be among the first to see the anomaly of an officer assuming to make such a movement on the alleged absence of orders “conflicting” with it-a principle that would disorganize in a very brief period any army whatever, and make it impossible for a general officer to know where to find his troops, after specifically posting them in view of purposes only known to himself: and, in regard to supplies, the apprehension of deficiency had no sufficient foundation. Supplies were shipped to Fort Orford the 4th Inst. – while by the reports of the Commissary Dept., there should have been supplies on hand at Fort Orford of the substantial parts of the ration not subject to injury from rain until the 1st, if not the 10th of January. Besides, the return trip of the Columbia might readily have been counted upon by the 20th Inst. The discomfort of being in tents is an incident to the profession and ought rather to be considered a convenience, as troops in the field are not always supplied with them.
Benicia 13 Dec., 1851 E. A. H.
December 14th, 1851
Yours of yesterdays date with a copy of the endorsement (made by the Brig. Gen Comm. Pacific Division) on the communication of mine of the 12th Inst., has just been received. I would respectfully make a few explanatory remarks to be laid before the general. In my desire promptly to comply with the direction of the general Commanding, calling immediately for my reasons for the movement, which was made by me, I did not, it appears, take sufficient time properly to consider the order, and in consequence, have been misunderstood in one of the reasons rendered by me.
As a general principle, I do not think that a subordinate officer has a right to make the movement which was made by me on the alleged absence of conflicting orders merely. I did not make it on that ground. It will be admitted, I think by the Commanding general, that circumstances might arise in which a subordinate may be justified in anticipating, or even in disobeying the orders of his superior officer. I sincerely believed that such justifying circumstances had arisen in my case. The Gen. will probably remember that I was placed in command of the expedition at a short notice.
I had no opportunity before leaving, to inform myself with regard to the supplies. I looked for information on that subject to the A. 2 M. & A. C. S. Capt. Kane. I was informed by him that two months supply of Subsistence Stores had been brought along, which was in agreement withthe (?) order No. 18, dated Benicia October 16th, 1851. He informed me a short time previous to my issuing the order for the movement that most of the supplies would be out on the 18th or 20th Inst., and that the Sugar and Coffee was already exhausted.
The only vessel of any kind which had touched at Port Orford since the landing of the troops, and before I embarked, was the Columbia on the 18th day of November, then on her way from the Columbia river (I had on that day returned to Port Orford from the Coquille). By the Columbia I learned that the Seas-Gull had left San Francisco on the 10th November for Port Orford, I had strong reason to believe that the Sea-Gull was lost. I accordingly availed myself of the first opportunity and embarked on the 10th Inst. with two Companies of Dragoons for Benicia, fearing that if I waited longer, I might be out of stores.
I knew that the military operation for the season had ceased, inasmuch as the requisitions of that order directing them had been complied with, and consequently that no urgent military reasons existed, which made it expedient to remain longer. Had I known then, what I afterwards knew, I should have acted differently, but possessed only of the knowledge which I had at the time, there was then no doubt on my mind that circumstances were such that justified me in anticipating orders, and for doing which I regret much that I have incurred the censure of one for whose military opinion I have the highest regard.
Bvt. Capt. D. Steili Your Obt. Servant
AAA GEN./Pacific Div. S. Casey