The indignation of the citizens being aroused by this atrocious and unprovoked massacre, a mass meeting was held. the following morning to take some action in the premises. Charley Moore and Reeves hearing of it, started early in the morning, on foot, towards Rattlesnake, Henry Plummer preceding them on horseback. Sentries were then posted all around the town, to prevent egress, volunteers were called for, to pursue the criminals, and Messrs. Lear, Higgins, O. J. Rockwell and Davenport at once followed on their track, coming up with them where they had ridden, in a thicket of brush, near the creek. The daylight was beginning to fade, and the cold was intense when a reinforcement arrived, on which the fugitives came out, delivered themselves up, and were conducted back to Bannack.
Plummer was tried and honorably acquitted, on account of Cleveland's threats. Mitchell was banished, but he hid around the town for awhile, and never went away. Reeves and Moore were next tried. Mr. Rheem had promised the evening before to conduct the prosecution, and Judge Smith had undertaken the defense, when on the morning of the trial, Mr. Rheem announced that he was retained for the defense. This left the people without any lawyer or prosecutor. Mr. Coply* at last undertook the case, but his talents not lying in that direction, be was not successful as an advocate. Judge Hoyt, from St. Paul, was elected Judge, and Hank Crawford, Sheriff.** Owing to the peculiarly divided state of public opinion, it seemed almost impossible to select an impartial jury from the neighborhood, and therefore a messenger was sent to Godfrey's Canon, where N.P. Langford, R. C. Knox, A. Godfrey, and others, were engaged in erecting a saw-mill, requesting them to come down to Bannack and sit on the jury. Messrs. Langford and Godfrey came down at once, to be ready for the trial the next day. The assembly of citizens numbered about five or six hundred, and to them the question was put, "Whether the prisoners should be tried by the people en masse, or by a selected jury." Some leading men advocated the first plan. N. P. Langford and several prominent residents took the other side, and argued the necessity for a jury. After several hours' discussion, a jury was ordered, and the trial proceeded. At the conclusion of the evidence and argument, the case was given to the jury without any charge. The Judge also informed them that if they found the prisoners guilty, they must sentence them. At the first ballot, the vote stood: For death, 1; against it, 11. The question of the prisoners' guilt admitted of no denial. N. P. Langford alone voted for the penalty of death. A sealed verdict of banishment and confiscation of property was ultimately handed to the Judge, late in the evening. Moore and Reeves were banished from the Territory, but were permitted to stay at Deer Lodge till the Range would be passable.
*Afterward killed in trying to take Pizanthia, the greaser, January 11th, 1864.
** Hank Crawford was the first sheriff of Bannack District.
In the morning the Court again met, and the Judge informed the people that he had received the verdict, which he would now hand back to the foreman to read. Mr. Langford accordingly read it aloud.
From that time forward a feeling of bitterest hostility was manifested by the friends of Moore, Reeves and Mitchell towards all who were prominently connected with the proceedings.
During the trial, the roughs would swagger into the space allotted for the Judge and jury, giving utterance to clearly understood threats, such as, ''I'd like to see the G d d d jury that would dare to hang Charley Reeves or Bill Moore," etc., etc., doubtless had fully as much weight with the jury as the evidence had. The pretext of the prisoners that the Indians had killed some white friends of theirs, in '49, while going to California, was accepted by the majority of the jurors as some sort of justification; but the truth is, they were afraid of their lives -and, it must be confessed, not without apparent reason.
To the delivery of this unfortunate verdict may be attributed the ascendancy of the roughs. They thought the people were afraid of them. Had the question been left to old Californians or experienced miners, Plummer, Reeves and Moore would have been hanged, and much bloodshed and suffering would have been thereby prevented. No organization of the Road Agents would have been possible.