Musketballs, old maps, and an anonymous newspaper article are among the clues that researchers have used to identify the site of a 150-year-old American Indian Wars battle in southwest Oregon. Past Horizons Archaeology has an interesting piece on the 1855 Battle of Hungry Hill and how a team led by Mark Tveskov, of the Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology, finally determined its location. In it, Tveskov explains why the battlefield had been “lost” for long:
“In the pre-Civil War decade of the 1850s, the conflict over State’s Rights and federal power were already being played out on the frontier in places like southern Oregon,” says Tveskov. “Locally organized militias and federal Indian Agents and U.S. Army officers were frequently in opposition—often violently—over the proper way to interact with the Indians who lived in lands being colonized by the United States.”
As a significant defeat, the events of October 1855 exacerbated these tensions and it is possible that participants in the battle were motivated to let the details of the defeat be forgotten. According to Tveskov, “what we know about the battle comes mostly from second hand or brief contemporary reports, later memoirs by veterans and other participants, and pioneer and Native American oral histories. Despite concentrated efforts by historians from the 19th century through to very recently, no detailed, contemporary first-hand report about the Battle of Hungry Hill by any army officer has been found.