John Mosby Bacon Jr. was the great-great-great-grandson of James and Agnes Todd Ware. He was born in Franklin Co., KY to John Mosby and Sarah Jane (Haggin) Bacon. He had a brother and a sister. His father died at age 31 in 1843, and his mother’s death is unknown. Possibly she remarried as it would have been very difficult to raise three children alone. He was related to the Mosby family of Virginia, one of whose namesakes was John Singleton Mosby, the Grey Ghost, of Civil War fame.
“BACON, John Mosby, soldier, b. Kentucky, 17 April, 1844. He became 3rd lieutenant of the 11th Kentucky cavalry on 22 Sept., 1862, and on 5 Nov, of the same year became 3nd lieutenant in the 4th Kentucky cavalry. He was promoted 1st lieutenant in Feb., 1863, captain on 14 March of the same year, and major, 20 Nov.,1864. For gallant and meritorious action at the siege of Fort Kesaca, Georgia, he was brevetted to major on 2 March,1867. He was honorably mustered out of the volunteer service on 21 Aug., 1865, but he entered the regular army as captain of Troop G of the 9th cavalry on 38 July, 1866. The regiment was sent to Texas and spent eight yeas there, patrolling in search of depredating Indians. One 7 June, 1869, with 32 men of his troop, he was engaged with Indians on Rio Pecos, Texas, and on 28 and 29 of Oct., of the same year he had another engagement at the Salt Fork of the Brazos river. For gallantry in these two engagements he received the brevet of lieutenant-colonel. From 1 Jan., 1871, until Feb., 1844, he served as colonel and aide-de-camp on the staff of Gen. Sherman. He was promoted major of the 7th cavalry on 14 April, 1884 and on 7 April, 1896, was transferred to the 1st cavalry as lieutenant-colonel, under Col. Abraham K. Arnold. On 29 June, 1897, he was made colonel of the 8th cavalry. At the outbreak of war with Spain in 1898 he was promoted brigadier-general and appointed to the command of the department of Dakota, with headquarters in St. Paul, Minn. In October, 1898, he promptly put down and outbreak among the Chippewa Indians on the Leech Lake reservation.” (1)
This is the story of that outbreak, the last battle between the Army and the American Indians. It was reported in the New York Times as a conflict equal to that which was reported eight years earlier between the Indians and General Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Wounded Knee. It was called the Battle of Sugar Point.
The whole story began with the pursuit of an Indian man, named Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig. He had been arrested in April of 1898 and taken to Duluth, MN, on liquor and bootlegging charges. Not enough evidence was found to convict him and he was released. He walked over 100 miles back to his home at Leech Lake. He vowed he would never get caught again.
On September 15, 1898, he and another man went to the Indian agency in Onigum to receive their annual annuity payments. They were arrested to held as witnesses in conjunction with another bootlegging trial. As they were being escorted out of town, Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig called to onlookers in his native language for assistance. Several came to their aid and the captives fled. Twenty soldiers from Fort Snelling were dispatched to Walker, the white settlement on Leech Lake.
On October 3, a meeting was called at the Onigum agency to persuade the fugitives and their rescuers to return and surrender, peacefully. They did not attend. Representatives of Indian Affairs were told at that meeting the fugitives were probably at Bear Island or at another place on the east side of the lake. A few days later a US Marshall and one of the inspectors were sent to the Island to meet with the fugitives. The unsuccessful attempt was the final event that broke the peace between the Ojibway and the United States, which had lasted for 89 years.
Reinforcements ordered from Ft. Snelling were to be dispatched to the Lake, under the command of Brevet Major Melville C. Wilkinson accompanied by General Bacon, who was acting commander for the Department of Dakota.
October 5, a large contingency of troops, including Wilkinson and Bacon along with reporters boarded two lake steamers to proceed to the Island. When they arrived they observed the Indians truly had the high ground as the beach was at least eight feet below the cabins. Rain further complicated the landing.
At Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig’s cabin one of the men who had helped the prisoners escape, was arrested after a struggle. 25 of the troops, officers, marshals, deputies and a reporter set off the find the other objects of their quest. But weather had turned worse and they were forced to return to the cabin. They learned a second man had been captured and they decided to bivouac there. Most of the soldiers were inexperienced and the shooting started by accident when one of the soldier rifles fired when he stacked it for the mid-day meal. In the meantime the cabin had been surrounded on three sided by other Indians and at the firing of the gun, they began shooting. Several soldier were killed. Captain Wilkinson was shot in the leg; and later was shot in the abdomen and died.
The Indians fired on the boats, where the two prisoners were held. The boats were being reduced to kindling and it was decided by those remaining aboard the “Chief,” they would return to Walker, with the prisoners. At Walker, hysteria was beginning to mount and the two prisoners were taken by train to Brainerd, to be hidden from crowds waiting to lynch them.
At the cabin shots were randomly being exchanged. General Bacon knew that reinforcements were too far away, and with many casualties, they retreated to the remaining steamboat and returned to Walker. Bacon related, his troops had disbursed the Indians. However, those Indians later told a different story.
Reports of the conclusion of the battle, circulated in newspapers, were highly over-exaggerated and fanned the flames of fear and uncertainty. Many White citizens called on the Army to protect the surrounding communities.
None of the Indians, who fought at at Sugar Point ever surrendered. The two men who were captured served six months in a Duluth jail. Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig was never arrested. (2)
General Bacon retired soon after and moved with his second wife Mary Dennison Frosyth, daughter of his old commander at Ft. Riley, General J. Forsyth, (3) and his 4 children by that marriage to Portland, Oregon. His son Stanley, carried on the military tradition. (His fist wife was Clara M and a boy and girl were born of that union.)
Several of his descendants still reside in the area.
Sources: (1) Appleton’s cyclopedia of American biography, Vol. 7, edited by James G. Wilson and John Fiske, D. Appleton and Co. New York, 1901, page 13
(2)Minnesota Historical Society; “The Battle of Sugar Point, A Re-Examination,” by William E. Masten,Fall 1987, on-line at www.mnhs.org/mnhistory
(3) Candace Wellman, researcher and friend of the family
Photos: General Bacon, submitted to the Bacon-Maverick Family Tree on Ancestry.com, by Lynn Bacon
Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig, Minnesota Historical Scoiety