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VERY  RARE HISTORICAL GROUPING FROM THE MODOC WARS OF 1873 INCLUDING A MODEL 1868 .50/70 SPRINGFIELD RIFLE SEIZED FROM THE MODOCS BY LT. FRAZIER BOUTELLE AND PERSONAL ITEMS RELATED TO TWO OFFICERS KILLED BY THE MODOCS ON APRIL 11, 1873 - A CABINET CARD OF GEN. EDWARD CANBY, AND AN 1872 US ARMY SWORD EXERCISE MANUAL OWNED BY LT. WILLIAM SHERWOOD: These three artifacts not only relate to The Modoc War of 1872-1873 which occurred in California and Oregon, but they are directly associated with specific incidents during the Lost River Battle in November-December of 1872 and the assassinations of General Canby and Lt. Sherwood on April 11, 1873.  This is an important historic grouping from the early years of the Indian Wars.   

THE Springfield RIFLE:  The provenance of this Model 1868 Springfield Rifle traces back to one of the best known Indian Wars historians of our time – Ed Green, curator of the US Army Museum at the Presidio of Monterey.  Ed was known for his ability to ferret out special artifacts of historic significance, and this rifle is no exception.  With the rifle, Ed obtained the cabinet card of General Edward Canby and a Modoc quiver, arrows and bow.  Unfortunately the bow and quiver were separated at some point, but the rifle and cabinet card were maintained as a set and that is how I acquired them.  

FOR MORE DETAILED PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE RIFLE, SEE BELOW

Of particular importance, there is a very old paper tag pasted to the right flat of the butt stock bearing the faded handwritten inscription in ink, “Collected from the Modoc Indians/ Major Boutelle Collect-“.  While some of the tag has been worn away with the passage of time, by enhancing the remaining text with digital photography, the portion of the label that is present is fully legible and distinct.  Researching the connection of Major Boutelle to this rifle revealed a long and fascinating military career. 

Born in Troy, New York in 1840, Frazier Augustus Boutelle enlisted as a sergeant in the 5TH New York Cavalry in 1861, was commissioned in 1862 and finished the Civil War as a Captain.  Apparently military life agreed with him, as he enlisted as a private in the 1ST US Cavalry in 1866.  By 1867 he had been promoted to Sergeant Major of the regiment and in 1869 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant, again joining the officer corps.   

In 1872 the 1ST Cavalry was engaged with the Modocs in northern California.  In what became recognized as the opening incident of the Modoc War,  Lt. Boutelle was ordered to locate, arrest, and return Captain Jack, chief of the Modocs, and his leaders to the Klamath Reservation.  Boutelle and Scarface Charley, one of Captain Jack’s principle lieutenants, are credited with firing the first hostile shots of the campaign, trading gun fire at close quarters which resulted in clipping each others’ clothing without inflicting any injuries.  Boutelle continued to serve on this campaign through its conclusion and he had ample opportunity to acquire this rifle from the Modocs, leaving little room for doubt that the attribution to the Modocs on the paper tag is genuine.   As the tag refers to “Major” Boutelle, the tag must have been affixed to the rifle later in his career in an effort to ensure the story of its recovery was not lost with the passage of time.   

One of the early cartridge conversions executed by the Springfield Armory, the Model 1868 Springfield Rifle acquitted itself very well on the frontier, not only in the hands of the soldiers, but in use by the frontiersmen and Indians as well.  This rifle shows all the indications of being one of those that passed from the army into the hands of an Indian, and it is a truly unique, and historically important, survivor of the American West. 

Showing all of the wear expected on an Indian used gun, the metal has a deep, even brown patina without being heavily pitted.  All of the stamps in the lock plate, breech block and barrel are visible, to include the matching serial numbers on the full length barrel and the receiver.  The lock-trigger mechanism functions properly and the breech block opens and locks in place as it should.  All of the components are original to the period of use, including the cleaning rod.  A barrel band from another rifle that was pressed into service to replace the upper band and the rear sight leaf was cut away, leaving a short stub – both characteristic of the sort of repairs and replacement parts noted on Indian used guns.   

The stock exhibits heavy use, with the sort of dents, scratches and handling wear that is expected.  While the stock is intact and strong, there is a pair of cracks beginning at the e front trigger guard tang and rising up to the front end of the lock plate on one side and to the front lock screw on the other, however there is no movement to the wood or metal in the area of the cracks.  There are two sets of old unit issue inventory stamps – one at the top of the wrist and one immediately in front of the butt plate tang – which testify to the rifle’s initial use by the military.  There are also some initials carved in the left flat of the butt plate.  Of particular interest in light of the rifle’s association with the Modocs, there is a single line of brass, square shanked flat head nails decorating the top of the wrist and comb.  Three of the nail heads were broken off or worn away, but all of the remaining heads bear the stamped legend, “J1”.  Identification nails such as these were used to mark timber, lumber, and other materials and were available during the period of use of this rifle and would have been available to the Indians through trade or in the form of goods captured during raids on the frontier communities and wagon parties.   

THE CABINET CARD:  General Edward R.S. Canby had a long and varied career, beginning with his graduation from West Point in the Class of 1839, service in the Seminole, Mexican and Utah Wars, and notable service during the Civil War resulted in his promotion to the rank of major general.  While his service included many notable assignments and distinguished accomplishments, unfortunately he is best known as the only general officer of the US Army who was killed in action during the Indian Wars.  At the time of his death, General Canby was leading a peace commission which was attempting to negotiate the return of the Modocs to the Klamath Reservation.   

On April 11, 1873, Canby and the peace commissioners were scheduled to meet with the leadership of the Modocs including Captain Jack.  Frustrated that their pleas for a reservation of their own had gone unheeded, the Modocs had planned in advance to murder Canby and the commissioners.  Captain Jack was opposed to the attack and intended to make their demands heard one more time.  When Canby – who was unarmed – replied that he did not have the authority to make such a promise, Captain Jack attacked the general, shooting him twice in the head and slitting his throat.  The other Modocs present attacked the other members of the party killing Rev. Eleazar Thomas and wounding several others.   

Eventually, Captain Jack, Boston Charley, Schonchin John and Black Jim were tried for murder, convicted, and executed on October 3, 1873. The surviving Modoc were sent to reservations.   

Canby's body was returned to Indiana and interned at Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana on May 23, 1873 with at least four generals in attendance:  William Tecumseh Sherman, Philip Sheridan, Lew Wallace, and Irvin McDowell.  

Measuring 7 by 5”, this image was taken after Canby's promotion to general officer in 1862, and a handwritten inscription “CANBY” is on the reverse.  The image is clear and bright with no stains or other imperfections.  The card is full form with nice edges.  The only sign of wear is to the edges of the thin beige paper stock to which the image itself is attached.  The edges of the image are untouched, but there is minor wear to the backing sheet – hardly noticeable, but mentioned here in the interest of a complete description.   

THE MANUAL:  Another causality of the Modoc War, First Lieutenant William L. Sherwood, was on duty at another outpost surrounding the hostiles’ Stronghold when he was mortally wounded only ten minutes before Gen. Canby was killed. 

Sherwood had been commissioned in 1867 as a second lieutenant in the 21ST US Infantry Regiment, and having served with the regiment in the Arizona Territory, transferred with the unit to northern California to engage the Modocs.  Known by his fellow company grade officers and the senior officers of the regiment as an energetic, conscientious officer, Sherwood was on duty as the officer of the day when his post was approached by a party of Modocs who indicated a desire to parley.  Sherwood and another lieutenant went forward of their lines to meet with the Modocs and once they were beyond the protection of the pickets, the Modocs opened fire, striking Sherwood in the arm and leg.  Sherwood was recovered and carried back to camp where he died of his wounds on April 14, 1873.   In May of 1873 his remains were returned to Buffalo, New York and interred at the Forest Lawn Cemetery. 

Acquired by Lt. Sherwood on his way west, this US Army manual, A New System of Sword Exercises bears a handwritten inscription in ink on the front flyleaf, “W. L. Sherwood. U.S. Army; Cavalry Depot, St. Louis, Mo.  1872”.  Printed in 1872, the manual consists of 120 pages and is extensively appointed with numerous diagrams illustrating the proper handling of the sword and sabre.  Having survived the years in excellent condition, the manual shows minimal wear.  The binding is intact and all of the pages are securely attached.  The front cover retains its gold leaf title and the green cloth cover boards are in very nice condition with no significant wear and only one small spot at the top edge of the front cover.  

The Model 1868 Springfield Rifle, the cabinet card and the manual are accompanied by a binder of research material on all three men – Boutelle, Canby and Sherwood.  The research includes biographical information, photographs of their burial sites, and in the case of Boutelle – as a result of his bequest of his personal papers to the University of Oregon, I have secured a considerable collection of photocopies of his personal papers relating to his military career, certificates of his commissioning and promotions, personal letters of recommendation, newspaper articles highlighting his career, and an considerable collection of personal photographs documenting his service on the frontier obtained from the U of O archive and contained on an electronic disc.    

The offering represents a very rare and unique grouping of artifacts related to one of the earliest of the Western Indian Wars. Due to the relatively brief duration of the Modoc War, artifacts directly related to that conflict seldom, if ever, appear on the market.  

These three pieces not only belong together, but offered as a grouping, they provide a ready made display of significant historic importance and they deserve a place of prominence in a collection where they will be appreciated.  $ 6500

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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