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    Letter Announcing the Surrender of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce

    [Chief Joseph]. Military Letter to Treasury Secretary John Sherman. One page, 4.75" x 7" (sight), on Headquarters Army of the United States letterhead, Washington, October 10, 1877. The discovery of gold on Nez Perce land led to a request from the U.S. government in 1863 for the reduction of their 7.7 million acre reservation (established in 1855) to a mere 760,000 acres. Many chiefs, including Chief Joseph's father, refused to sign a new treaty and remained where they were. In the years following his father's death in 1871, Chief Joseph allowed concessions to the new settlers in the name of peace, but, in 1877, he was given thirty days to evacuate the Wallowa Valley and enter the smaller reservation. During a council with his people, several young warriors arrived and announced that they had killed four white settlers.

    In an effort to avoid war, Joseph led his band on a three month, 1,700 mile journey seeking refuge, while battling the U.S. cavalry along the way -- an action known today as the Nez Perce War. Cold and near the brink of starvation, they made camp forty miles south of the Canadian border, unaware that Gen. Nelson Miles was closing in. On October 5, 1877, after a five day battle (Battle of Bear Paw), Joseph and his people surrendered.

    Five days later, this historically important letter was sent to Treasury Secretary John Sherman, younger brother of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, announcing the surrender of Chief Joseph (though giving an incorrect date). In full: "Genl Miles telegraphs this morning that Chief Joseph, and all of his Band, surrendered to him on the 7th." Smoothed folds; scattered spots of foxing. Matted with two photographs of the great chief and framed to an overall size of 36" x 30".

    Chief Joseph (1840-1904) spent the remainder of his life in exile from his native land. From the Collection of a Minnesota Gentleman.


    More Information:

    This letter is written in the hand of Col. Alexander McDowell McCook (1831-1903), a career officer who began his career fighting Indians in the Southwest. In the three years leading up to the war (1858-1861), he returned to his alma mater, the U.S. Military Academy, as an assistant instructor of infantry tactics. When war broke out, he was made a colonel in the 1st Ohio Infantry and was posted in the capital as part of her defenses. He saw action at First Manassas, was made a brigadier general of volunteers, and commanded the 2nd Division, Army of the Ohio, at the Battle of Shiloh [Tennessee, April 6-7, 1862]. Obtaining a major general's commission, he proved to be an ineffective field commander and was court-martialed for his part in the Union defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga [Tennessee, September 19-20, 1863], having his command relieved. After the war, he served in Texas before being made aide-de-camp to Gen. William T. Sherman in 1775, a post he held for five years. Over the next decade and a half, he commanded Fort Leavenworth and the Departments of Arizona and Colorado.



    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2014
    8th-9th Wednesday-Thursday
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