The Modoc War

The Modoc War

A Story of Genocide at the Dawn of America’s Gilded Age

Robert Aquinas McNally

432 pages
11 illustrations, 2 maps, index

Hardcover

November 2017

978-1-4962-0179-9

$34.95 Pre-order

About the Book

On a cold, rainy dawn in late November 1872, Lieutenant Frazier Boutelle and a Modoc Indian nicknamed Scarface Charley leveled firearms at each other. Their duel triggered a war that capped a decades-long genocidal attack that was emblematic of the United States’ conquest of Native America’s peoples and lands. Robert Aquinas McNally tells the wrenching story of the Modoc War of 1872–73, one of the nation’s costliest campaigns against North American Indigenous peoples, in which the army placed nearly one thousand soldiers in the field against some fifty-five Modoc fighters.

Although little known today, the Modoc War dominated national headlines for an entire year. Fought in south-central Oregon and northeastern California, the war settled into a siege in the desolate Lava Beds and climaxed the decades-long effort to dispossess and destroy the Modocs.

The war did not end with the last shot fired, however. For the first and only time in U.S. history, Native fighters were tried and hanged for war crimes. The surviving Modocs were packed into cattle cars and shipped from Fort Klamath to the corrupt, disease-ridden Quapaw reservation in Oklahoma, where they found peace even more lethal than war.

The Modoc War tells the forgotten story of a violent and bloody Gilded Age campaign at a time when the federal government boasted officially of a “peace policy” toward Indigenous nations. This compelling history illuminates a dark corner in our country’s past. 
 

Author Bio

Robert Aquinas McNally is a freelance writer and editor based in Concord, California. He is the author or coauthor of nine nonfiction books, including So Remorseless a Havoc: Of Dolphins, Whales, and Men.

Praise

“From the opening scene to the end, The Modoc War unfolds with an unrelenting pace and engaging immediacy. One rarely comes across a historical account written with such verve, truly deserving to be called a page-turner. Here is ethnohistory at its best, an accounting of Indian-white relations from multiple perspectives.”—James J. Rawls, author of Indians of California: The Changing Image 

“Robert McNally’s page-turning The Modoc War is one of the finest books ever written on this tragic history.”—Benjamin Madley, author of An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846–1873
 

“Robert McNally’s history of the Modoc War, convincingly told from engrossing start to finish, tells the story of an American tragedy, but not without powerfully illustrating the nobility and endurance of the people who suffered it.”—Greg Sarris, chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and author of Grand Avenue and Watermelon Nights
 
 

“Well-paced, with vividly drawn characters and exciting, dramatic prose, Robert Aquinas McNally’s narrative history of the Modoc War is the most thoroughly researched and historically accurate account of that tragedy to date. A tour de force of historical storytelling, The Modoc War is an insightful exploration of one of America’s most important but forgotten Indian wars.”—Boyd Cothran, author of Remembering the Modoc War: Redemptive Violence and the Making of American Innocence
 

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments

Prologue: Duel at Lost River

Part 1. Holy Lands Here and There
1. Bad to Worse
2. Stone and Story
3. Running the Pagans Out of the Promised Land
4. Death Squads, Sex Slaves, and Knights of the Frontier
5. The Peace That Wasn’t, the Treaty That Was, Kind Of
6. The Bacon of Three Hundred Hogs
7. Gray-Eyed Rancher to the Rescue

Part 2. True Fog, Real War
8. Glove and Fist
9. Modoc Steak for Breakfast
10. A Look Inside
11. First Fog of War
12. Celebration and Postmortem

Part 3. Firing into a Continent
13. Give Peace a Chance
14. The News That Fits
15. Heroic Reporter Dens with Lions
16. Talking for Peace, Lying for War
17. The Warrior Takes Command
18. Squeeze Play
19. A Homeland to Be Named Later
20. Pride and Prejudice in the Peace Tent
21. Martyrs at Midday
22. The War Goes Cosmic
23. Girding for Battle
24. Half-Empty Victory
25. Scalps and Skulls
26. Into the Volcanic Valley of Death

Part 4. Things Fall Apart
27. The Center Cannot Hold
28. Hounds and Scouts
29. Hang ’em High
30. Varnishing Vengeance
31. Still Small Voices Swell
32. Strangled Necks, Severed Heads
33. Exile and Showbiz
34. Requiem

Epilogue

Notes
Bibliography
Index

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