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The Battle of Four Lakes was a battle during the Coeur d'Alene War of 1858 in the Washington Territory (now the states of Washington and Idaho) in the United States. The Coeur d'Alene War was part of the Yakima War, which began in 1855. The battle was fought near present-day Four Lakes, Washington, between elements of the United States Army and a coalition of Native American tribes consisting of Schitsu'umsh (Coeur d'Alene), Palus, Spokan, and Yakama warriors.

Battle of Four Lakes
Part of the Coeur d'Alene War, Yakima War
Battle of Four Lakes and Battle of Spokane Plains.jpg
Map showing the Battle of Four Lakes and the Battle of Spokane Plains
DateSeptember 1, 1858
Near present day Four Lakes, Washington

47°33′02″N 117°36′36″W / 47.550664°N 117.609874°W / 47.550664; -117.609874Coordinates: 47°33′02″N 117°36′36″W / 47.550664°N 117.609874°W / 47.550664; -117.609874
Result United States victory
 United States Yakama
Schitsu'umsh (Coeur d'Alene)
Commanders and leaders
United States George Wright Kamiakin
(including 200 civilian drovers)
Casualties and losses
0 17 to 20 (dead);
unknown injured


Although their lands were protected by treaty, the Schitsu'umsh were outraged by miners and illegal white settlers invading their territory. They also perceived the Mullan Road, whose construction had just begun near Fort Dalles, as a precursor to a land-grab by the United States.[1] Two white miners were killed, and the U.S. Army decided to retaliate. The Coeur d'Alene War (the last part of the larger Yakima War)[2] began with the Battle of Pine Creek (near present-day Rosalia, Washington) on May 17, 1858, during which a column of 164 U.S. Army infantry and cavalry under the command of brevet Lieutenant Colonel Edward Steptoe was routed by a group composed primarily of Cayuse, Schitsu'umsh, Spokan, and Yakama warriors.[3]

Following Steptoe's defeat, Colonel George Wright, commander of Fort Dalles, led a much larger unit of 500 Army soldiers, 200 civilian drovers, and 30 Niimíipu (or Nez Perce) scouts to nearby Fort Walla Walla and then north to the Spokane Plains (near modern-day Spokane, Washington).[4][5] Wright's troops were armed with the new Springfield Model 1855 rifle-musket.[6] These had a range of 1,000 yards (910 m), more than 20 times the range of Steptoe's outdated guns.[7] They also had five times the range of the weapons (bow and arrow and musket) used by the Native Americans.[8] Wright's men also carried two 12-pound (5.4 kg) howitzers and two 6-pound (2.7 kg) cannon.[4][9]


On September 1, 1858, Wright's men woke at dawn to discover a large group of Indians atop an east-west trending ridge about 2 miles (3.2 km) north-northwest of Wright's camp that connected Meadow Lake in the east and Granite Lake/Willow Lake in the west. The Native Americans, who numbered about 500 in total,[10][11] planned to lure Wright's cavalry over the ridge and onto the plains beyond, where their faster mounts and superior horsemanship would enable them to wipe out the mounted soldiers. This would leave Wright's infantry stranded, incapable of resupply and thus easy prey. Chief Kamiakin occupied the center with Palus and Yakama. On the Indian left were Kamiakin's nephew, Qualchan, with additional Yakamas, and Stellam, a chief of the Schitsu'umsh, with warriors of his tribe. On the right were the Spokan chief Polatkin and members of his tribe.[12]

Wright attacked with a group of 30 Niimíipu led by 1st Lt. John Mullan, who swept far to the right and then behind the ridge, forcing the Indians atop it to withdraw. Wright then sent his infantry up and over the ridge. The infantry line stopped 600 yards (550 m) from the Native American forces, who (based on their previous experience with Steptoe) believed themselves safely out of range. The infantry opened fire, killing a number of Native Americans and scattering most of them. Then Wright's cavalary sped around the ridge to the left, driving into the main Native American force, scattering more of them and driving many into the woods on Wright's right.[13] Wright's artillery, brought up to the ridge, fired into the trees.[9]

The battle lasted until 2 P.M.[14] No Army personnel were lost,[14] while Native American casualties numbered 17 to 20 dead and several times that number wounded.[15][10] Although Wright's cavalry pursued the Indians, their slower mounts, laden with much more gear, soon tired and the Army could not keep up the chase.[15]

Kamiakin had counted on another Army defeat to rally more tribes and warriors to his cause and vastly enlarging his alliance. The defeat at Four Lakes meant no such allies emerged, effectively ending the uprising (although one more battle remained to be fought).[15]


  1. ^ Frey 2001, pp. 79-81.
  2. ^ Glassley 1953, p. 143.
  3. ^ Manring 1912, pp. 137-138.
  4. ^ a b Manring 1912, p. 174.
  5. ^ Josephy 1997, p. 382.
  6. ^ McFarland 2016, p. 155.
  7. ^ Petersen 2014, pp. 74, 84.
  8. ^ Petersen 2014, p. 84.
  9. ^ a b McFarland 2016, p. 175.
  10. ^ a b Pierpaoli 2001, p. 302.
  11. ^ Woodworth-Ney 2004, p. 66.
  12. ^ Petersen 2014, p. 86.
  13. ^ Petersen 2014, pp. 86-87.
  14. ^ a b Manring 1912, p. 193.
  15. ^ a b c Petersen 2014, p. 87.


  • Frey, Rodney (2001). Landscape Traveled by Coyote and Crane: The World of the Schitsu'umsh (Coeur d'Alene Indians). Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN 9780295801629.
  • Glassley, Ray Hoard (1953). Pacific Northwest Indian Wars: The Cayuse War of 1848, the Rogue River Wars of the '50s, the Yakima War, 1853-56, the Coeur D'Alene War, 1857, the Modoc War, 1873, the Nez Perce War, 1877, the Bannock War, 1878, the Sheepeater's War of 1879. Portland, Ore.: Binfords & Mort.
  • Josephy, Alvin M. (1997). The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 9780395850114.
  • Manring, Benjamin Franklin (1912). The Conquest of the Coeur d'Alenes, Spokanes and Palouses: The Expeditions of Colonels E.J. Steptoe and George Wright Against the "Northern Indians" in 1858. Spokane, Wash.: Inland Print. Co.
  • McFarland, Ronald E. (2016). Edward J. Steptoe and the Indian Wars: Life on the Frontier, 1815-1865. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company. ISBN 9781476662329.
  • Pierpaoli, Paul G., Jr. (2001). "Four Lakes, Battle of". In Tucker, Spencer; Arnold, James R.; Wiener, Roberta (eds.). The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Wars, 1607-1890. Volume 1: A to L. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781851096978.
  • Petersen, Keith (2014). John Mullan: The Tumultuous Life of a Western Road Builder. Pullman, Wash.: Washington State University Press. ISBN 9780874223217.
  • Woodworth-Ney, Laura (2004). Mapping Identity: The Creation of the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation, 1805-1902. Boulder, Colo.: University Press of Colorado. ISBN 9780870817618.

Further readingEdit