The Pyramid Lake Battle

The Battle of Pyramid Lake  

The Ovid Bee - September 26, 1860 CALIFORNIA.-- Rumor was rife here some two or more months ago that a brother of ours, (Mahlon) and a cousin, Eugene Angel, had been either captured or massacred by the Indians, in California, sometime in May last. We have been in painful suspense ever since, until a day or two ago, the following letter, written by a brother of Mr. Angel to his sister in Otsego county, arrived here, confirming the rumor in regard to the probable fate of our cousin -- and escape of our brother.

Pilot Hill, El Dorado Co., California, June 8, 1860

Dear Sister:--

My letters have usually been of a sad and sorrowful nature, in giving a faithful account of the hardships and misfortunes that have attended Eugene and myself, but never has it fallen to my lot before to write a letter bearing so sad news as this.

I lately sent you a paper containing an account of a battle with the Indians near Pyramid Lake, in Utah Territory. Our dear brother Eugene was in the battle. You will see by the paper that nearly all the command retreated leaving a few brave and good men to the mercy of the Savages. A gentleman -- Maj. Ormsby was Captain of the company from Carson City, and Eugene was Lieutenant, Eugene, Maj O. and another person whose name has escaped my memory, were the last on the field. Maj. O. died a few miles from the battle ground, and the other escaped and reports that he saw Eugene's horse running amont the Indians without a rider. No one saw him fall, but his long absence forbids all hope. I did not learn of his being in the battle until two weeks after it, as his name was not reported in the papers, and Mahlon did not inform me of it, as he was endeavoring to raise a party to go in search of him and others, owing to the want of arms and the panic that existed he did not succeed. I expect to see Mahlon in a day or two and shall go over the mountain as soon as I can.

The many reflections this sad occurrence gives rise to are too harrowing to my feelings to record. Eugene was brave, generous and honorable, and was cut off at the moment that a prospect of an easier and pleasanter life was opening to view but he has fallen--not unwept--no indeed--but unhonored and unknown. He had many friends in California and Utah, and none who fell are mourned more sincerely than Eugene. Poor Eugene! his acquirements and abilities were such as to enable him to rise to a higher position, but he was not one of those who press themselves forward into notice disregardful of abilities, as is the case with most of the prominent men of this State.

Your affectionate Brother,

Myron W. Angel

This letter recalls the May 12, 1860, Paiute War, or Pyramid Lake War, at Big Bend in the Truckee River Valley in Nevada.

Paiutes under Numaga ambushed a party of Nevada volunteers being led by Major William Ormsby. This series of conflicts was caused by the kidnapping of two young Indian women by three white men who held them at their cabin. The men were subsequently killed by a band of rescuing Indians.

In the first major confrontation on May 12th of 1860, a poorly organized and badly armed group of white miners and settlers headed for the Indian settlement. As they got near Pyramid Lake the ill equipped mob was ambushed. This skirmish resulted in an Indian victory in which 76 white men, including Eugene and Major Ormsby, were killed.

There was no mail service for a few weeks after Ormsby was defeated in this battle. The general Indian uprising at this time lead to attacks that resulted in the loss of many Pony Express riders along with their horses, not to mention the destruction of every rest station between California and Salt Lake.

In a later confrontation on the 2nd of June, the Indians were outnumbered by the now better-organized settlers. The settlers proved victorious, killing almost 160 Indians while suffering a loss of only 3 or 4 of their own number. No further hostilities ensued; the Indians were driven off their reservation, but later were allowed to return so long as they agreed to use peaceful means to settle disputes and grievances.

Myron considered his brother a hero of the event and a more detailed story can be found in The History of Nevada,  Thompson & West, Oakland, CA (1881), edited by Myron.

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Last Modified October 2005