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The Puget Sound War began over land rights and ended in a cloud of controversy surrounding the hanging of Leschi.

The catalyst of the war was the Treaty of Medicine Creek of 1854. Negotiated by Washington Territory Governor Isaac Stevens, the treaty preserved Indian fishing rights, but took away prime Nisqually farm land. Leschi, chosen to negotiate the treaty with Stevens, was outraged and chose to fight rather than give up his land. The fighting commenced in October of 1855, when “Eaton’s Rangers,” a citizen militia under Captain Charles Eaton, were involved in a clash with Nisqually tribesmen. Two militiamen, Joseph Miller and Abram Benton Moses, were killed. Upon hearing the news, Governor Stevens immediately dispatched a company to locate Leschi and “escort” him back to Olympia.

The war itself consisted of a series of short skirmishes with relatively few deaths on either side. Notable battles occurred in present-day Tacoma, Seattle, and even as far east as Walla Walla.

Leschi was captured in November 1856 and was forced to stand trial for the murder of Abram Benton Moses. His first trial resulted in a hung jury because of the question of the legitimacy of murder during wartime; the jury of twelve voted ten in favour, two opposed to conviction. Leschi was tried again in 1857. Despite vague witness accounts and issues over whether Leschi was actually at the scene of the incident, he was found guilty of murder. Leschi was hanged on February 19, 1858.