Spanish Fork Canyon

Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Part of our in-depth series exploring the Mountain Pacific Forts

The following is from the book, Indian Wars, by Bill Yenne.

1863: A 2nd California Cavalry contingent under Colonel George Evans undertook a campaign against the Ute south of the Great Salt Lake. The Ute responded by ambushing the troopers on April 12, then withdrawing into the protection of Spanish Fork Canyon. The two sides were fairly evenly matched, with the troops numbers about 170 and the Ute perhaps 200. The cavalry had the advantage of firepower in the form of a howitzer, the Ute had the advantage of a prepared defensive position and familiar terrain. On April 15, Evans used the howitzer against defensive concentrations, while outflanking the enemy with cavalry.

With their victory over the Ute at Spanish Fork and through continuing operations against the Shoshone, the military had essentially ended any further threat to emigrants and settlers from either tribe by the end of 1863.

Gregory F. Michno gives a slightly different version in his book, Encyclopedia of Indian Wars.

12-15 April 1863: In Utah, the Shoshones and Bannocks had been subdued, but Utes and Gosiutes were still attacking the overland mail between Salt Lake and Fort Ruby. Leading about 170 men of Companies A, H, and M, 2nd California Cavalry, Col. George S. Evans left Camp Douglas for the Utah Lake area. Lt. Francis Honeyman and a five-man gun crew moved ahead with a howitzer.

On 12 April Honeyman camped in the town of Pleasant Grove. Later, about 100 Utes attacked his camp. Taking shelter in an adobe house, Honeyman and his crew blasted the attackers with the howitzer. The Indians peppered the building with bullets, but no soldier was hit. The Mormons in the town watched the fight but offered no assistance. Finally he Utes gave up and left.

When the main command arrived in town, Evans, misinformed by the Mormons, searched in Dry and Provo Canyons for the Utes who had attacked Honeyman. On 14 April he realized the Indians must have gone up the nearly impregnable Spanish Fork Canyon, southeast of present-day Provo, Utah. Before sunrise on 15 April, he moved his men up the canyon along Spanish Fork and dismounted two companies, sending Capt. George F. Price and Company M to the south side of the river and Lt. C.D. Clark and Company H to the north side. With Lt. Anthony Ethier and Company A, and Lt. Honeyman and his howitzer, Evans move dup the center.

About 200 Utes warriors, many under Little Soldier, had gathered to fight the soldiers, but they were not expecting the attack so early. In addition, rain had masked the sight and sound of the approaching troops. Honeyman moved ahead and dropped shells into the highest concentration of Indians, while the flanking companies got in close enough to use revolvers. When the Utes began to flee. Evans and his men mounted up and chased them for 14 miles up the canyon; they captured 22 horses and mules.

Only one soldier, Lt. F.A. Peel, the regimental quartermaster, was killed, and two, Sgts. Brown and Booth of Company M, were wounded. Thirty Utes were killed and a dozen or more were wounded. The Spanish Fork fight convinced most of the Utes to sue for peace.

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