Every week, Oregon Experience shares a photo highlighting the state’s diverse, exciting history. All photos are courtesy of The Oregon Historical Society.
The Modoc War, fought along the Oregon-California border in 1872-73, was one of the most dramatic battles over frontier expansion. For months, a handful of Modoc Indians held off hundreds of U.S. soldiers.
Fifty-five Modoc warriors and their families took refuge in an ancient lava flow, a sacred Modoc site that today is part of the Lava Beds National Monument.
Reporters and photographers camped out nearby. Accounts — sometimes fabricated — were transmitted by telegraph to an enthralled audience. The story made headlines from San Francisco to London.
Over several months, the small band of Modocs repelled Army onslaughts, overcoming fantastic odds in the battle for land and their way of life. But an Indian attack on a peace commission brought swift retaliation.
To learn more about this siege and what happened to the outnumbered Modoc band, watch the Oregon Experience documentary “The Modoc War.”