The Seven Toughest Men in Oregon History – Part 5 – Survivors of Battle Rock
Battle Rock is one of the most well documented conflicts in Oregon history. Two of the major participants wrote diaries and newspaper articles about it, plus submitted articles to the Oregon Historical Society Quarterly Magazine in 1902.
In June of 1851, 9 men were landed at was is now known as Port Orford, Oregon. Their goal was to plat the town of Port Orford as a supply depot between the California Gold Fields and Portland. Armed with only a few ancient and not reliable muskets, plus the ship’s four inch cannon that they demanded from the ship’s Captain at the very last moment, these men suddenly found that the previously friendly indians had turned hostile when their passage out steamed away.
Finding themselves outnumbered 40 to 9, they camped on a rock part way in the ocean. The cannon was pointed down the only accessible path up the rock and they proceeded to attempt to hold off the Indians all night. The next morning about 60 Indians including a Chief started climbing up the rock into the camp. The Chief attempted to wrestle a musket out of the hands of one of the men and was clubbed over the head for it. A volley of arrows fired over the camp and J.M. Fitzpatrick fired the canon into the crowd. After the fifteen minute battle, 13 indians were dead on the ground, four of the party were wounded. Later accounts say that there were 20 dead and 15 wounded indians.
The Indian kept firing muskets at the party camped on the rock, but never hit anything. That afternoon another Chief came and asked to remove the dead. They informed him that they would be gone in 14 days (when the ship was scheduled to come back.) At that point the Indians left them alone.
Unfortunately, urgent repairs to the ship delayed it’s sailing from San Francisco on time, so on the fifteenth day the Indians attacked again, this time in much greater numbers. The attack was repelled and the Indians would not attack again, instead firing arrows towards the rock which fell short. At this point the party on the rock was running short of ammunition.
Luckily, a large group of the indians set up a camp to the south of the rock near a creek. A small party remained to watch the rock. Those on the rock started building up fortifications in preparation for another attack. Satisfied that they were not leaving, the remaining Indians joined the rest of their party at the creek. Using this opportunity those on the rock managed to get into the woods undetected. As most of their ammo and food was gone they subsisted on salmonberries and a few roots. After four days of being followed and tracked by the hostile indians, they managed to get a friendly tribe of Coos Indians to ferry them across the river by trading their shirts for passage. J.M. Fitzpatrick carried one of his comrades most of the way, despite demands to be left so the rest could get away. After eight days of constantly traveling through the woods with little to eat, and 4 wounded men to care for, the party managed to make their way to Umpqua City on the Umpqua River.
A second party of 67 men was put together with enough supplies to last four months. These men built two blockhouses and managed to later create the city of Port Orford. Another similar incident happened several months later. This was also a party of 9. Five of those were of the first party. But this time they only had to run for two and a half days. These two battles signify the start of the Rouge Indian Wars which lasted from 1851 to 1856.
Next up is Mat Taylor, the Dancing Blacksmith