A Brief History
On January 17, 1873, despite fielding only 53 warriors, the Native American Modoc tribe, led by Captain Jack, defeated 104 California and Oregon volunteers* and 225 U.S. Army soldiers* who were equipped with 2 howitzers.
In a campaign called “The Modoc War,” also known as the “last Indian war, the U.S. tried to evict Native Americans from their territory in Oregon and California, specifically from a rocky fortress named “Captain Jack’s Stronghold.” Whereas at least 32 white men* were killed, the Modoc apparently left the battle that later became known as the “First Battle of the Stronghold” unharmed. History and Headlines Note: Captain Jack was assisted in leading his warriors by Shaknasty Jim and Scarface Charlie. (Apparently the Modoc were named by New Jersey gangsters.) Unfortunately, the “Second Battle of the Stronghold” that took place 3 months later did not end so well for the Modoc, and Captain Jack and their others were captured and hanged!
Beating odds of least 6 to 1 is impressive, but far from rare in history. For example, on January 17, 1811, at daunting odds of 15 to 1, 100,000 Mexican revolutionaries were defeated by only 6,000 Spanish troops at the Battle of Calderon Bridge.
Afghanistan consistently proves how smaller numbers fighting with determination can overcome great odds, as was the case with their battles against the mighty British Empire and later the Soviet Union. After 13 years of fighting against the United States, the only super power left in the world, the Taliban faction of the Afghans are not yet subdued.
At the time of the Viet Nam War, North Viet Nam had around a tenth of the population of the United States but still managed to kick the Americans out of South Viet Nam to take over that part of the country. (Okay, so they had help from the USSR and China, but still…)
Even the American Revolution was won against great odds.
Question for students (and subscribers): With all the tremendous upsets throughout history, in war, politics and sports, which ones do you think are the most significant? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Lava Beds Natural History Association. Captain Jack’s Stronghold Historic Trail. Lava Beds Natural History Association, 1995.
* Numbers vary according to source.