Battle of Port Gamble, Washington

Haida Indians

Haida Indians

In November 1856 a Haida Indian raiding force of seven sea-going canoes and approximately 300 warriors entered Puget Sound. When the raiders threatened the town of Steilacoom, Washington the settlers summoned help from U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Casey. Casey determined that it was a naval matter and notified U.S. Navy Commander Swartout of the steam sloop Massachusetts. In the meantime, the Haida paddled back to the north and approached the sawmill at Port Gamble on November 19th. When the Indians were sighted, Josiah Keller, superintendent of the mill at Teekalet, sounded the mill whistle. The mill employees and their families fled to a two-story wooden blockhouse with all their guns and ammunition, waiting for an attack that never came.

On November 20, 1856, the Massachusetts steamed into Gamble Bay and it was then that fighting erupted. For the next two days, shots were fired and in the melee, 26 natives and one sailor named Gustave Englebrecht were killed. Gustavus Engelbrecht, the first U.S. Navy man to die in battle in the Pacific, was buried on the bluff overlooking the mill in what would become the Buena Vista Cemetery in the town of Port Gamble. The Haida returned to the north, but having lost their chief would return the following August for revenge.

Compiled by Kathy Alexander, updated December 2020.

Also See:

Index of Tribes

Indian Conflicts of Washington

Puget Sound War

Washington Main Page