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Mojave Desert History: Pioneer of the Mojave
Old Skeletons & New Trails


Dennis G. Casebier, in The Mojave Road, states that the fear planted in the minds of the Mohaves -- that whites were going to come and take their land away from them -- may have led to their August 1858 attack on an immigrant train near the Mohave Villages on the Colorado River. At least eight members of the party were killed, with another two dozen wounded, and nearly all of their stock was lost.

As a result of this incident the military was brought into the desert, which would have long lasting effects: the permanent Army post of Fort Mojave would be installed at Beale's Crossing on the Colorado River, and to supply the fort, an overland route, called the Mojave Road, would be established through the desert.

The first news of the attack was conveyed by a stage that arrived in Stockton from Kansas City in November. Colonel William Hoffman of the 6th U. S. Infantry was sent with an escort of 50 troops on a reconnaissance to the Mohave Villages.

The contingent left Martin's Ranch in Cajon Pass on December 28, 1858, and reached the Colorado River a week and a half later. The route Hoffman had traveled across the desert was the old Indian trail, and even though he reported to his superiors that it was impracticable for supply purposes, it was that route that became the alignment of the Mojave Road.

The reconnaissance party met with problems at the Mohave Villages, and after engaging in a skirmish with the Indians, Hoffman ended the expedition and returned to the coast. When he reported his findings to his superiors, he recommended that a very large force be used to subdue the Mohaves, and that the troops be disembarked from Fort Yuma on the Colorado River.

Colonel Hoffman, at the head of eight companies of soldiers, returned to the Mohave Villages, and on April 23, 1859, he dictated the terms of a truce to the Mohave chiefs. He then left for San Bernardino, taking the major part of the troops with him, and leaving two companies at the encampment at Beale's Crossing.

Captain Lewis Addison Armistead was left in command of the post, which he named Fort Mojave. He had charge of the fort for only a brief time before he was required to take up arms against the Mohaves because of continued attacks. The Indians suffered a series of disastrous losses in battle, and in August of 1859 they submitted to a peace commission. This time the peace held; as a group the Mohaves never again caused trouble.

Fort Mojave, except for a two-year hiatus, would remain active until 1890. The military post would greatly relieve travelers crossing the Colorado River and the eastern desert. The presence of the Army would also have a significant influence on the development of the region north of the San Bernardino Mountains -- a development in which Aaron G. Lan e pioneered the way.

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