>It might have been more like eight hundred horses that Colonel Wright ordered killed.
The Palouse Chiefs were fearful that their horses were at risk and so they had driven them deep into the ravines near present day Spokane, causing such a cloud of dust that the pursuing army was able to follow the cloud to the horses, trapped between river and steep mountain grade.
It was a crime on the frontier to kill a horse, but this being war—killing eight hundred horses was considered fair. At first, to save ammunition the colts were led to a nearby gravel bar and knocked in the head. The brood mares whined all night from losing their colts. This process was taking too much time; a bullet aimed behind the ear, into the brain proved most effective.
The Palouses told their children and grandchildren and in turn, their children and grandchildren were told about these horses. These horses were the best of their breed at the time and only in more recent decades has the breed become strong in numbers again. Almost fifty years earlier, Meriwether Lewis wrote about this new breed of horse called the Nez Perce horse, a blend of appaloosa and a Central Asian war horse known as akhal-teke. Lewis wrote, “This breed is young, but everything is going good so far.”
I visited the Appaloosa Museum’s website and learned that a horse returning to camp without its rider often would have a bloody handprint on its neck. Fingers pointing down warned of grave danger. A handprint on the horse’s rump, fingers pointing up, spoke of victory instead.
There are many planned events this year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Mullan Road. I wondered what had become of the bodies of these horses, so I visited the Spokane Outdoors website. Horse Slaughter Camp, with its monument, is a few miles east of Spokane, Washington near the Washington/Idaho Stateline.
Straight from Spokane Outdoors Information Center:
“Ignore the small print on the bottom of the monument regarding moving of the monument since that relates to when the monument was moved to the Weigh Station. It has now been moved back to the original position and when they dug the pit for cementing the monument in they hit bones that looked like horse bones.”
And then there is this:
Cautions: Watch the traffic around the State Line exit as it is weird.