The Modoc fought the U.S. Army in what would be the most expensive Indian conflict in American history. The hostilities were fierce, bloody, and unjust. In this riveting narrative, Modoc warriors, army foot soldiers, and cavalry officers share their stories. Spirit in the Rock captures the war's dramatic battles, betrayals, and devastating end, but also delves into its underlying causes and the secret schemes by the Applegate family and others to seize Modoc ancestral territory. In addition, the account illuminates ways Native American traditions and spirituality influenced events.
For generations, the Modoc homelands, along what is now the California-Oregon border, provided abundant water and food sources. Indigenous families migrated seasonally throughout the region until large numbers of immigrants began to arrive. As the population of settlers increased, disputes over native lands intensified. By April 1870, the Modoc were forced to live on a crowded, distant reservation with their rivals, the Klamath. Led by a charismatic young chief called Captain Jack, they fled to their original Lost River village and refused to return. Despite ongoing peace negotiations, the cavalry launched a surprise attack just before dawn on November 29, 1872. The stunned band awoke to chaos. Survivors escaped to a natural stone citadel--nearby lava beds--and that stark landscape became the setting for the 1873 Modoc War.