The Rogue River war was started by miners in the Rogue River valley of Southern Oregon so as to receive war benefits during a time of drought when they couldn't mine. This was a common practice in the area during the late 1850's, as Joseph Lane, the territorial delegate in Washington DC was in favor of any and all Indian wars and was known for assuring prompt war claim payments. The Rogue River war was so blatantly a pork barrel war, that both the Oregon superintendent of Indian affairs, Joel Palmer, and the U.S. Army commander on the Pacific Coast, General John Ellis Wool, publicly opposed it.

The war began when a peaceful group of Rogue River Indians camped near the Table Rock Reservation was attacked and killed by a mob of miners from nearby Jacksonville. This, and several subsequent attacks on the Indian people led a group of Indians, led by Tecumtum to take refuge in the Coast Range. Other Indians chose to put themselves under the protective custody of the regular troops at Fort Lane under the command of Captain Andrew Smith. They were taken in January, 1856, to the Grand Ronde Reservation in northwestern Oregon. The group led by Tecumtum, forced by a harsh winter moved to the coast by February of 1856, and drove nearly all non-indians from the central coast. In May, a group of the volunteers, as the miner vigilantes were being called, moved down the Rogue River and attacked a group of Indians who had already surrendered to the regular army. Around the same time Tecumtum's followers attacked a prisoner of war camp at Big Bend on the Rogue River, and nearly overcame the guards there. After the defeat of Tecumtum's followers, they were force marched to their new reservation, the Coast Reservation on the central Oregon coast.

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