Bear River Massacre Site by Preston IdahoBear River Massacre Site
This now peaceful valley is the site of one of the most tragic meetings of two cultures that the state has ever experienced. At 1:00 am on January 29, 1863, an infantry of soldiers with all their weapons moved through the snow drifts into position to attack a band of 450 Shoshoni men, women, and children that had camped along the banks of the Bear River. The troops began the attack at the crack of dawn just as the Shoshoni were lighting their first campfires. The Shoshoni lost nearly 275 people due to this cruel attack of the California Volunteers. The battle became one of the worst disasters for Native Americans in the west.

A new monument to the massacre has been constructed on the north hill above the massacre site.
Click on the photo below to see one of the interpretive signs.

Click to see this new interpretive sign at the massacre site.

Before dawn on the bitterly cold day of January 29, Shoshone leader Sagwich rose early to survey the area. As he looked to wards the bluffs to the south he observed what seemed to be a mist or for crawling down the bluffs across the river from the camp. Suddenly a company of soldiers on horseback appeared. The alarm was raised in the camp and the Shoshone leaders gathered to parley with the soldiers. However, upon fording the river and seeing the mass of Shoshone, the cavalry opened fire and advanced on the camp. At first they were driven back and several soldiers were killed. Eventually, regrouping and reinforced by the infantry, the soldiers attacked the encampment and what began as a battle quickly became a massacre. The creek bottom, where the Shoshone turned for protection, became instead a trap. Many who were not killed outright drowned while trying to escape in the river. The soldiers, better equipped with guns and ammunition, slaughtered the INdians in hand-to-hand combat. According to the Shoshone, Col. Conner never had any intention of negotiating with their people and arrived with the specific intention of attacking the Indians, leaving them no alternative but death and annihilation.

Painting of the Bear River Massacre in the Preston Post Office.
Preston Idaho - Preston Chamber of Commerce