The Battle of Toppenish Creek was the first engagement of the Yakima War in Washington. The prior month, Yakama Chief Kamiakin announced that he would kill all whites who entered his country, and Indian agent Andrew J. Bolon was tipped that he should leave the area. As he was trying to do so on September 23, 1855, he encountered three Yakima braves, including Chief Kamiakin’s nephew, Moshell. After one of them accused the agent of having previously hanged several Indians, Bolon’s throat was cut, and he was killed.
In retaliation, district commander Major Gabriel J. Rains ordered an expedition to intimidate the Indians. Led by Major Granville O. Haller, several infantry companies left Fort Dalles in early October with a howitzer. After a three-day march, Haller and his more than 80 men arrived at Toppenish Creek, east of present-day Fort Simcoe State Park, on October 6, 1855.
There, they encountered about 600 Yakama and Palouse Indians led by Yakima Chief Kamiakin and Palouse Chief Owhi. Though Haller’s group was not nearly as large, the infantry took a position on a ridge and attacked. However, when the warrior numbers were reinforced to about 1,500, Haller ordered his men to retreat.
As they headed back to Fort Dalles, they were followed by about 250 braves who fought the soldiers intermittently. In the initial battle and on their return, they lost the howitzer, most of the pack train, five men were killed, and some 17 others wounded. Their defeat would soon embolden other northwestern tribes to take action.