Battle of Table Mountain
Humboldt County - May 20, 1865

A detachment of Company D Cavalry, Nevada Volunteers, out of Fort McDermitt (McDermit), was scouting for hostile Indians. Captain Almond Wells and his troops had the misfortune of finding them on Table Mountain, north of Paradise Valley. 

Wells ordered his men to attack at three p.m. thinking it would be an easy fight for his 36 well armed soldiers. What the Captain did not know was that Zelauwick, a Paiute leader, had gathered a force of 500 Paiute, Bannock, and Shoshone warriors who had built rock forts up on the summit. 

A member of Company D wrote later, "I can give no correct guess of how many Indians there were but they must have had 50 or 60 guns, perhaps more; they used no bows and arrows."

Zelauwick and his warriors fought with rifles they had captured from earlier encounters with whites. Before this battle the military had dealt with only scattered small bands, most poorly armed. 

Finally, after four long hours of battle and realizing his troops were losing, Captain Wells ordered his men to retreat. In the heat of the battle, they left two casualties behind thinking they were dead. They also left a lot of military equipment behind. It was a military defeat.

Lieutenant Colonel Charles McDermit, commander of the Military District of Nevada, was so mad that he took seven officers and 50 men from Company E, Nevada Cavalry, and journeyed to the scene on Table Mountain. Privates Isaac Godfrey and James Munroe lay dead in front of the unit's hastily constructed breastworks. If dead can be lucky, the manner in which Godfrey died was best. He had been killed instantly. The same cannot be said of poor Munroe. Zelauwick's men did a good job torturing the hapless soldier who had been shot twice. The warriors built a fire on his stomach. He had almost bitten off his tongue in agony. Both soldiers were scalped and mutilated. Seeing the many rock fortifications the warriors used, Colonel McDermit stated that 20 Indians could have held the mountain from 200 soldiers.

Table Mountain was renamed Godfrey Mountain. Why not Munroe Mountain? He suffered the most. The reasoning will probably never be known. Two months after the battle, July 31, 1865, Lieutenant William G. Seamonds and his troops were patrolling north from Fort Ruby and stumbled onto Chief Zelauwick and about one hundred warriors in Cottonwood Canyon. Taken by surprise, most of Zelauwick's band fled. The chief was surrounded by soldiers who fired bullet after bullet into his body until he was dead.

No, the story does not end here. On August 7, 1865, Colonel McDermit was ambushed by Indians near the creek that now bears his name. The fort was renamed McDermit, a post office was established and called McDermitt by postal officials. There is still discussion about which name to use.  However, it is generally accepted today that the name is McDermitt and is used on maps, so why fight it?

Author's comments: There were some geographical problems while researching this vignette: Godfrey Mountain could not be found on my maps; distances and directions did not always agree in various accounts; there are two  Cottonwood Canyons and three Table Mountains in Elko and Humboldt counties which took awhile to sort out and carefully select the proper ones. If someone knows the exact locations, I would appreciate an email. 

Sources: Nevada Place Names by Helen Carlson, 1974; Nevada's Northeast Frontier by Edna Patterson, Louise Beebe Ulph, and Victor Goodwin, 1969; Nevada Map Atlas, Nevada Department of Transportation; Nevada Atlas and Gazetteer, DeLorme, 1996.

©Copyright 2003 by Howard Hickson.

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