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From the Coquille Bulletin, June 7, 1901
The Bloody Baptism of Battle Rock.
Correspondent Portland Telegram.
Por t Orford, Or, May 5 -- June 9 will mark a memorable event in
the history of pioneer life on the Pacific Coast. Fifty years ago, on
the morning of June 9, 1853, there landed on the beach just below
the hills where Port Orford now stands nine men, whose thrilling
experience constitutes one of the most interesting chapters of
Oregon's pioneer history.
Battle Rock, visible from every part of the town and far out at
sea, by reason of its location near the center of the beautiful
crescent harbor, is separated from the shore by about 30 yards of
smooth beach, under water at high tide. It rises like a huge whale
head toward the sea, sides perpendicular, to a height of 75 feet.
The rock tapers into a narrow path over its brek [sic; = back]. On
top and commanding its approach, there is a flat surface of 150
yards in length by 75 yards wide, wide [sic], now mostly covered
with a scraggy [sic] growth of myrtle and dwarf pine.
Captain William Tichenor, evidently attracted by the beauty of
the harbor, the vast forests back of it, and its favorable
geographical location to the Southern Oregon mines, concluded to
start a settlement, lay out a town, and build a road to the mines.
The scheme also lured nine young men, whose names were,
respectively, J. M. Kirkpatrick, J. H. Eagan, J. T. Slater, George
Ridoubs [sic] [ M 2006 as also in Dodge's History; but in another
place Dodge has Ridoubt], T. D. Palmer, Joseph Hessey [sic;
Dodge has Hussey], Cyrus W. Hedden, James Corrigan and
Erastus Summers. They sailed from Portland on the old steam
propeller Sea Gull, Captain Tichenor, June 4, 1853, landing at Port
Orford June 9. Their entire armament consisted of one United
States six-shooting rifle, three old flintlock muskets, one old
sword, one 38 caliber revolver, one pair derringers, about 50
pounds of powder and 10 pounds of bar lead, and one old brass
cannon taken from the Sea Gull. Few Indians were in sight when
they landed but Captain Kirkpatrick though the youngest of the
party, took a proper estimate of the situation, based upon his
knowledge of Indian cunning, for he had had the benefit of
association and training with that most famous Indian fighter, Kit
Carson. Captain Tichenor continued his voyage to San Francisco,
promising to return in 14 days with more men and provisions.
On the following morning, June 10, a party of Rogue river
Indians, accompanied by a big chief in a red shirt, came up the
coast in a canoe, and, landing on the beach, began preparations for
an attack. The chief, beginning with a preliminary flourish of his
big knife, indicating to the men on the rocks that he xas [sic; =
was] after their scalps. What follows is best told in the Captain's
words, as follows:
"The brass connon [sic; = cannon], commanding the approach,
was loaded with two pounds of powder and two handfuls of lead
slugs. The fellow in the red shirt drew a long knife, waved it over
his head, gave a terrible yel, and with at least 100 of his braves,
started for us with a rush. I stood by the gun, holding a piece of
tarred rope with one end in the fire ready, as soon as the Indians
crowded on the narrow ridge in front of the cannon, to let them
have the contents when it would do the most execution. The air
was full of arrows, coming from 100 bows. James Corrigan had
picked up a pine board about 15 inches wide, eight feet long and
1.3 inches thick. He stood right behind me and held the board in
front of us both. Thirty-seven arrows hit the board, and at least half
of them showed their points through it. Two of the of my men
[sic] were disabled. Palmer was shot through the neck and was
bleeding badly; Ridoubt was shot in the breast, the arrow sticking
in the breast bone, making a painful wound, and Slater ran and laid
down in a hole behind the tent. This left six of us to fight it out
with the Indians who still kept coming. When the crowded on the
narrow ridge, the red-shirted fellow in the lead not more than eight
feet from the muzzle of the gun, I applied the fiery end of the rope
to the priming. The execution was fearful. At least 12 or 13 men
were killed outright, and such a tumbling of scared Indians I never
saw before or since.
"The gun was upset by the recoil, and we never stopped to right
it, but rushed out and at them, and soon cleared the rock of live
warriors. Then we counted 17 dead Indians on the rock. And this
was the bloody baptism that gave the name "Battle rock" to our old
camp at Port Orford, on the 10th day of June, 1851.
"Incredible as it may seem, there were two warriors that passed
the crowd and were not hit by any of the slugs fired from the
cannon. One, a big, strong looking Indian, made up his mind that
he wanted my scalp; he rushed at me with a big knife. Corrigan
shot him in the [M. break in printout] came on. He made a slash at
me with his knife, which I knocked out of his hand with my left.
When he grappled for his knife agian [sic] I pulled one of the
derringers and shot him in the head, the ball entering one temple
and coming out at the other. He then turned and ran 20 feet, falling
dead among the Indians killed by the cannon.
"The other brave went for Eagan whose musket missed fire, as
the Indian was in the act of fixing an arrow in his bow. Eagen hit
him over the head with the barrel, bending it. Stunned from the
blow, Eagen jumped at him, took away his bow, and then jumped
back, turned his musket and dealt him three or four blows with the
butt, knocking him entirely off the rock into the sea.
"The next day a parley ensued, resulting in a truce. The Indians
were permitted to carry off their dead, about 23, except one, the
fellow in the red shirt. An Indian gave the body a kick and with a
grunt left it. This excited the curiosity of the party when, on closer
inspection they found that he had been a white man -- a former
Hudson's Bay Company man. Ship-wrecked and rescued by the
Indians he had become one of them. They themselves buried the
body on the beach later on. The Indians disposed of their dead by
"The party repulsed two other attacks later on, each led by a big
chief, picked out by the defenders' unerring rifle in turn, the death
of each chief resulting in utter demoralization of the Indians.
But each day brought more Indians to the scene; they guarded
the white men closely; but the white man's strategy was superior to
the Indians' cunning. All of the party escaped. Traveling by night
through a wilderness of forests and swamps, with a few sea
biscuits for food. They followed the coast line, crossed the
Coquille river, and reached in an exhausted and famishing
condition on the Umpqua, where Empire now stands. There they
found a few white men on the other side, who, launching their
boats, took the nine ragged defenders aboard, set sail, and just as
the sun was setting, July 2, 1851, they reached their haven of
After resting a few days, Dr. Joseph Drew and his associates
took the party up the Umpqua, to a place, now Scottsburg, where
they landed July 4. There they separated but Cyrus W. Hedden,
one of the nine heroes, settled down at Scottsburg, where arter half
a century, he still lives, and where, while looking in his garden, the
white haired pioneer related his experience to the writer.
Battle Rock stands today as it did 50 years ago; but no
memorial no tablet marks the scene of the bloody tragedy, where a
handful of white men fought a battle for civilization, blazing a path
to the sea for future generations to follow. Would it not be
appropriate on this, the 50th anniversary, to erect a memorial tablet
inscribing the names of the heroes and the date of the battle of June
10, 1851, to serve as an historic landmark for future generations?
NOTE-- The statement above that Empire City is at the mouth
of the Umpqua is an error. Empire City being on Coos Bay.
[Quote marks sic; not clear where quoted story ends and writer's remarks resume.]
[see also account in Pioneer History, Orvil Dodge, "The Hero of
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