ALL the News about
Mormons, Mormonism
and the LDS Church
Mormon News: All the News about Mormons, Mormonism and the LDS Church
For week ended January 30, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
Most Recent Week
Front Page
Local News
Arts & Entertainment
·New Products
·New Websites
·Mormon Stock Index
Letters to Editor
Continuing Coverage of:
Boston Temple
School Prayer
Julie on MTV
Robert Elmer Kleasen
About Mormon News
News by E-Mail
Weekly Summary
Submitting News
Submitting Press Releases
Volunteer Positions
Bad Link?

News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

Mormon-Urged 1863 Military Action Against Indians Turned to Massacre
Salt Lake Tribune 24Jan00 D6
By Christopher Smith: Salt Lake Tribune

A newly-found forgotten four-page manuscript has revealed an eyewitness account of an 1863 military attack on a Shoshoni Indian camp. The detailed account, of a here-to-fore unpublished map and firsthand account of the attack at Bear River, was recovered by Utah historian and Salt Lake Tribune reporter Harold Schindler shortly before his death.

This is the last article Schindler wrote before dying of a heart attack in December, 1998. The full account is contained in the new issue of the Utah Historical Quarterly magazine. The newly rediscovered evidence is significant in many respects. It supports with first hand empirical proof what historians have suspected and gradually come to accept: that the Bear River "battle" was in fact a massacre, with soldiers killing hundreds of defenseless Shoshoni men, women and children while they attempted to surrender.

The new-found manuscript was written by Sgt. William L. Beach of Company K, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, California Volunteers, under the command of Col. Patrick Edward Connor. Beach penned the account sixteen days after participating in the massacre and recovering from frostbitten feet. He drew a detailed map showing troop movements, fortifications and the path of retreat.

"With a deafening yell the infuriated Volenteers [sic] with one impulse made a rush down the steep banks into their very midst when the work of death commenced in real earnest," Beach wrote. "Midst the roar of guns and sharp report of Pistols could be herd [sic] the cry for quarters but their [sic] were no quarters that day."

It has been a painful process for residents of Utah and Southern Idaho to realize that the Mormon-urged U.S. military operation turned into an attempt to wipe out the entire Northwest Band of a Shoshoni Indian tribe. Saturday will mark the 137th anniversary of the massacre by the Friends of the Native Americans of Northern Utah. A gathering will be held at the Franklin County Senior Citizens Center in Preston, Idaho.

We've cut three maple tree branches from up in the mountains we'll use to make a tripod where people can hang flowers, feathers and remembrances on at the massacre site, " said Kerry Brinkerhoff of Tremonton. "We just want to let people see there are those who care about what happened there and don't want the truth forgotten."

The story of what happened on the frosty morning of January 29, 1863 has many different versions. Plaques on the four-sided stone monuments on U.S. 91 displays carry three different casualty counts, with the fourth side, offered to the Shoshoni tribe, remaining blank. Renowned University of Utah emeritus professor of history, Brigham Madsen wrote a definitive account in his book, The Shoshoni Frontier and the Bear River Massacre. He maintained that the U.S. Army was attempting a genocide to exterminate 250-400 Shoshoni under the command of a colonel who wanted to make a name for himself.

Madsen, learning of the Beach manuscript in early 1997, found the manuscript tucked it into an envelope at an estate sale. Jack Irvine contacted Madsen after learning about his career. Madsen contacted Schindler to get involved and, " it turned out to be the last thing Hal wrote before he died," said Madsen. He wanted to ensure that Beach's manuscript would become part of Utah history. "Sgt. William L. Beach may have faded way as old soldiers do," Schindler wrote, "but his recollections of that frigid and terrible day in 1863 at Bear River will now live forever in Utah annals."

"The fight lasted four hours and appeared more like a frollick [sic] than a fight," Beach wrote on Feb. l4, 1863. "The wounded cracking jokes with the frozen, some frozen so bad that they could not load their guns [and] used them as clubs. No distinctions was made between Officers and Privates, each fought where he thought he was most needed."

Beach's account puts the number of Indian dead at 280, a higher count than previously reported. "This is a holy, sacred place to the descendants of the Indians who were killed there, and for that reason alone the federal government should ensure the land is protected from development," said Madsen. "Originally, the tribal members wanted the land back as their own but they have come to accept that the Park Service will do the best to protect it and tell the whole story about what happened there."


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information