Newly uncovered documents claim far higher number of Shoshones killed in Bear River Massacre
In his 1911 autobiography, Danish emigrant Hans Jasperson claims to have walked among the bodies, counting 493 dead Shoshones.
"I turned around and counted them back and counted just the same," Jasperson writes. He was just 19 at the time of the massacre.
That is a far higher number than previous accounts of the Jan. 29, 1863, massacre when the U.S. Army's Third California Volunteers--intent on punishing the region's Indians for pestering mining supply wagons and pioneers in Cache Valley and along the California Trail--rode from Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, surrounded the Shoshones on the banks of the Bear River near Preston, Idaho, and slaughtered most of four bands.
Accounts at the time said 210 to 300 Shoshones were killed (17 soldiers died on the battlefield and several more died of their wounds later).
The highest previous number--nearly 400 Shoshones--was reported by three pioneers who rode horses through the battlefield the next day, says historian Scott Christensen, who wrote a biography of Sagwitch, a surviving chief.
Even at the lower estimates, the Bear River Massacre stands as the worst in the western United States since the nation was founded.
In this context, I don't include Pearl Harbor, the World Trade Center, Dresden, Tokyo, or Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I refer only to massacres by Americans (Indian or non-Indian) against other Americans.