When The Civil War Came to Idaho: The Bear River Massacre

by

Union Army Col. Patrick E. Connor led the massacre on Bear River, near present-day Preston, ID.
  • Union Army Col. Patrick E. Connor led the massacre on Bear River, near present-day Preston, Idaho.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln created the Idaho Territory during the tumult of the Civil War.

That same year, on Jan. 29, outside present-day Preston, Idaho, a campaign launched by Union Army Col. Patrick E. Connor killed more than 400 Shoshone warriors, women and children.

The Battle of Bear River is also known as the Massacre at Boa Ogoi, fought just months before the famous Gettysburg battle in Pennsylvania.

The troops set out from Ft. Douglas, Utah, in search of Chief Bear Hunter's warriors in response to Shoshone raids. Some 70 Union troops were lost, while nearly 400 casualties were inflicted on the Shoshone side.

That same year, the military constructed a new Fort Boise near the present-day city.

Thursday, a daylong conference at Boise State University will focus on a war whose effects are still felt today. Nowhere is that more apparent than Idaho in 1863—a state whose future depended on the outcome of America's bloodiest war.

Sponsored by the Andrus Center for Public Policy and Idaho Humanities Council, the conference welcomes nationally known historians, including Dr. Gary Gallagher, whose book The Union War introduces readers to the conflicted emotions of Union soldiers fighting for the idea of a United States.