Isaac Stevens

1818 - 1862

          Isaac Stevens

Graduating at the top of his class at West Point in 1839, and served in the Army Corps of Engineers.  During the Mexican-American War, saw considerable action and recognized for distinction and award rank of captain.  As a supporter of Franklin Pierce for president, awarded as the governor of the new Washington Territory 1853.  In addition, carried the title and role of Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the territory, and soon commissioned and conducted himself an extensive survey of an appropriate route of a railroad to foster immigration.  As Superintendent is tenure as controversial, seeking to consolidate Indian lands to open up the territory for settlers.  He applied a combination of intimidation and force to bring tribes to comply with his treaty designs.  Among the treaties were the Treaty of Medicine Creek, Treaty of Hellgate, Treaty of Neah Bay, Treaty of Point Elliot, Point No Point Treaty, Quinault Treaty, and the Walla Walla Treaty Council of 1855, which included the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla, as well as the Nez Perce, Palouse, and Yakama.

When Stevens was met with resistance, he used the troops at his disposal to exact vengeance. His winter campaign against the Yakama Tribe, led by Chief Kamiakin, and his execution of the Nisqually leader, Leschi (for the crime of having killed Stevens' soldiers in open combat), among other deeds, led a number of powerful citizens in the territory to beg Pierce to remove Stevens. Territorial Judge Edward Lander and Ezra Meeker (an influential private citizen) were both vocal in opposing StevensóLander was arrested as a result, and Meeker was simply ignored. Pierce sent word to Stevens of his disapproval of Stevens' conduct, but refused to remove the governor. Those who opposed Stevens ultimately lost public support, as the majority of the citizens of Washington Territory saw Meeker as being on the side of the "Indians", and Stevens on the side of the white settlers.  His popularity resulted in being elected the territorial delegate to the U. S. Congress in 1857-58.   His actions certainly established the foundation for subsequent Indian-white conflicts to come.

With the Civil War beginning in 1861, Stevens was commissioned a Colonel and later Brigadier General, and was killed in action, leading a charge, 1 September 1862, at the age of 44.

During the Civil War

 

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