January 28, 2008

Worst US massacre ever?

Tribe Remembers Nation's Largest MassacreOn January 29, 1863, almost 500 Northwestern Shoshone men, women and children perished in the Bear River Massacre. Federal troops trapped and decimated the Tribe at the site of its annual "Warm Dance," in present Franklin County, Idaho. The Tribe will be conducting a memorial service at 11am, Tuesday, January 29, 2008, at the Massacre Memorial four miles northwest of Preston, Idaho, on Highway 91. The public is invited.

Now, 145 years later, the Tribe has acquired the Massacre Site and surrounding lands, in an effort to protect the sacred site and create an appropriate memorial. In an ironic twist, the Northwestern Shoshone have distinguished themselves as an important federal contracting partner with the U.S. military, providing important intelligence and infrastructure assets in enhancing the nation's war fighting capacity.
A long description of the massacre and the events leading up to it:

Bear River massacreAs the Shoshone were reaching desperate measures to fight off the U.S. Army, including the use of tomahawks and archery, the soldiers seemed to lose all sense of control and discipline. After most of the men were killed, soldiers proceeded to rape and molest the women of the encampment, and many of the children were also shot and killed. In some cases, soldiers held the feet of infants by the heel and "beat their brains out on any hard substance they could find." Those women who refused to submit to the soldiers were shot and killed. One local resident, Alexander Stalker, noted that at this time many soldiers pulled out their pistols and shot several Shoshoni people at point blank range. The soldiers also deliberately burned almost everything they could get their hands on, especially the dwelling structures that the Shoshone had been sleeping in, and killing anybody they found to be still inside.

The California Volunteers lost 27 soldiers, including five officers. The Shoshone bands lost between 200 and 400, including at least 90 women and children, with the official U.S. Army report listing 272 dead.
Comment:  I previously reported that Sand Creek or Wounded Knee was probably the worst massacre in US history. That's because I'd never heard of Bear River. Or if I had, I forgot about it. This massacre obviously needs better PR.


Anonymous said...

Minnesota massacre was the worst


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
You may be right. Two of writerfella's ancestors survived the Sand Creek Massacre, and if they had not, writerfella would not be here to argue such a point...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

For my thoughts on the Minnesota Massacre, see Which Massacre Was Worst?