Year
1873
Month Day
October 03

U.S. Army hangs four Modoc leaders for the murder of a Civil War general

On October 3, 1873, the United States military hangs four Native Americans found guilty of murdering the Civil War general Edward Canby during the Modoc War in Oregon. Canby was the highest ranking military official and one of the only generals ever killed by Native Americans.

As with most of the American military conflicts with Native people, the Modoc war began with a struggle over land. A treaty signed in 1864 had forced a band of Modoc people under the leadership of Chief Keintpoos—known to Americans as Captain Jack—to move to a reservation in southeastern Oregon dominated by Klamath people, who viewed the Modoc as unwelcome intruders on their traditional lands. Frustrated with the ill-treatment they received at the hands of the Klamath, Chief Keintpoos and his followers abandoned the reservation in 1870 and returned to their former territory and traditional hunter-gatherer life.

But during their six-year absence, white settlers had flooded into the Modocs' territory. Despite Chief Keintpoos' repeated assurances that his people wanted only peace, many feared the Natives. In 1872, bowing to public pressure, the U.S. dispatched military forces to remove the Modoc and force them back onto the reservation. When some of the Modoc resisted, war broke out; and the Modoc fled to a stronghold among the Lava Beds south of Tule Lake, where they succeeded in holding off U.S. forces for almost half a year.

During the early months of the Modoc War, Chief Keintpoos had strongly opposed armed resistance and continuously searched for a peaceful solution. But under pressure from more aggressive Modoc who were challenging his leadership, he agreed to a plan to kill the leader of the American forces, General Edward Canby. On April 11, 1873, Canby and two other men entered the Modoc stronghold under a flag of truce, hoping to negotiate a peaceful end to the conflict. Chief Keintpoos killed Canby, and other Modoc killed one of his companions. The third man escaped to give a detailed report of the Modocs' treachery.

Outraged by the murder of an honored Civil War general, Americans demanded swift retribution. The Army stepped up its attacks on the Modoc, and by early June Chief Keintpoos and his followers had been captured. After a military trial at Fort Klamath, Oregon, Chief Keintpoos and three other Modoc leaders were found guilty of murder and hanged. As a result of the Modoc War and the murder of Canby, the U.S. began to take a much more aggressive approach to dealing with Native American populations throughout the nation.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Gordie Howe, 69, becomes only pro hockey player to compete in six decades

On Oct. 3, 1997, 69-year-old Hall of Famer Gordie Howe skates the first shift with the Detroit Vipers in their International Hockey League opener, becoming the only professional in hockey to compete in six decades. His nickname was "Mr. Hockey," and as that moniker suggests, Howe ...read more

Sinéad O’Connor tears up a photo of Pope John Paul II on "Saturday Night Live"

On October 3, 1992, Irish musician Sinéad O’Connor stuns the audience at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and viewers across the United States when she tears up a photo of Pope John Paul II during a performance on Saturday Night Live. O’Connor surprised the SNL staff when she opted to sing ...read more

Amanda Knox murder conviction overturned in Italy

On October 3, 2011, in a decision that makes international headlines, an Italian appeals court overturns the murder conviction of Amanda Knox, an American exchange student who two years earlier was found guilty in the 2007 murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in ...read more

Maze hunger strike called off

A hunger strike by Irish nationalists at the Maze Prison in Belfast in Northern Ireland is called off after seven months and 10 deaths. The first to die was Bobby Sands, the imprisoned Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader who initiated the protest on March 1, 1981–the fifth ...read more

Iraq wins independence

With the admission of Iraq into the League of Nations, Britain terminates its mandate over the Arab nation, making Iraq independent after 17 years of British rule and centuries of Ottoman rule. Britain seized Iraq from Ottoman Turkey during World War I and was granted a mandate ...read more

O.J. Simpson acquitted

At the end of a sensational trial, former football star O.J. Simpson is acquitted of the brutal 1994 double murder of his estranged wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. In the epic 252-day trial, Simpson’s “dream team” of lawyers employed creative and ...read more

A miraculous home run wins the pennant for NY Giants

On October 3, 1951, third baseman Bobby Thomson hits a one-out, three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the National League pennant for the New York Giants. Thomson’s homer wrapped up an amazing come-from-behind run for the Giants and knocked the Brooklyn ...read more

President Lincoln proclaims official Thanksgiving holiday

On October 3, 1863, expressing gratitude for a pivotal Union Army victory at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln announces that the nation will celebrate an official Thanksgiving holiday on November 26, 1863. The speech, which was actually written by Secretary of State William ...read more

Writer, singer and folk icon Woody Guthrie dies

On October 3, 1967, Woody Guthrie, godfather of the 1950s folk revival movement, dies. In 1963, Bob Dylan was asked by the authors of a forthcoming book on Woody Guthrie to contribute a 25-word comment summarizing his thoughts on the man who had probably been his greatest ...read more

“The Red Badge of Courage” is published

On October 3, 1895, The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, is published in book form. The story of a young man’s experience of battle was the first American novel to portray the Civil War from an ordinary Union soldier’s point of view. The tale originally appeared as a ...read more

This Day In History: East and West Germany reunite after 45 years

East and West Germany reunite after 45 years

Less than one year after the destruction of the Berlin Wall, East and West Germany come together on what is known as “Unity Day.”  Since 1945, when Soviet forces occupied eastern Germany, and the United States and other Allied forces occupied the western half of the nation at the ...read more

War Revenue Act passed in U.S.

On October 3, 1917, six months after the United States declared war on Germany and began its participation in the First World War, the U.S. Congress passes the War Revenue Act, increasing income taxes to unprecedented levels in order to raise more money for the war effort. The ...read more

Germany conducts first successful V-2 rocket test

On October 3, 1942, German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun’s brainchild, the V-2 missile, is fired successfully from Peenemunde, as island off Germany’s Baltic coast. It traveled 118 miles. It proved extraordinarily deadly in the war and was the precursor to the ...read more