Historian will explain 1856 Battle of Seattle



An 1856 Indian raid that killed two Seattle residents before being repulsed with the help of a Navy warship is the topic of a Thursday museum presentation in Vancouver.

Historian Lorraine McConaghy will discuss the Battle of Seattle at 7 p.m. at the Clark County Historical Museum, 1511 Main St.

Her presentation, “Washington Territory at War: The Sloop-of-War Decatur in Puget Sound, 1855-1856,” is free.

In 1855, Washington’s territorial legislature issued an urgent request for military protection against warriors who had risen up in opposition to recently signed treaties.

In response, the Navy sloop Decatur was dispatched from Honolulu to Puget Sound, to protect settlements and enforce the treaties.

The sailing ship was in Washington waters from October 1855 into June 1856. The period included Indian raids that killed settlers in King and Thurston counties, as well as an ambush that killed an Army officer near what is now Auburn.

The Decatur and its Marines helped fight the Battle of Seattle on Jan. 26, 1856.

McConaghy’s narrative will also look at the incident in a wider context, exploring the ship as a workplace for men intent on reaching Western opportunities and as an agent of U.S. foreign policy in the Pacific West.

Now, as we observe the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, her presentation also will look at the issues raised by the Decatur’s commission and the choices of its men to stay loyal to the Union or “go South.”

McConaghy is the author of “Warship Under Sail: Sloop-of-War Decatur in the Pacific West.” She is working on two projects concerning Washington Territory during the Civil War.

The event is part of the museum’s First Thursday program. Admission is free from 5 to 9 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, from February through November.