NOTE: For more indepth information regarding this era in Indian Territory during the Civil War follow these links to books regarding the Native Americans in this period.

Available from Heritage Books:

Shifting Winds of War: Indian Territory 1861-1865

Indian Territory 1861-1865: The Forts, The Battles, The Soldiers

Available in paperback, a reprint of Dust in the Wind: The Civil War in Indian Territory

Also available for your Kindle Dust in the Wind: The Civil War in Indian Territory


For The Cause

In 1839, the Five Nations had lost their lands in the east and forcibly removed by Presidential order across the Mississippi River to Indian Territory. Some Indian leaders had given in to the U. S. government by selling tribal lands and signing away the lands of their forefathers in the southeastern states. Among those in this group that signed the Treaty of New Echota was Stand Watie, Major Ridge, the leader, hi son John Ridge, the Creek brothers Daniel and Chilly McIntosh, along with O-Pothle-Yahola, Creek Chief. The signers moved west and many that opposed the treaty swore vengeance on them and their families. Later when the others were forcibly moved west, they assassinated most of the leaders of the sale.

By 1861, the turmoil in the east escalated with the withdrawal of the southern states from the Union and the formation of the Confederate States of America. For the past thirty years the internal conflicts resulting from the Removal festering just below the surface of the Nations, threatened to erupt.

The Five Nations, by heritage, were Southerners. Many had grown up under the system of slavery, and many owned slaves. John Ross, the elected Principle Chief of the Cherokee, who was pro-union, was 1/8th Cherokee and owned 100 slaves to work his large plantation in Indian Territory. His political opponent, Stand Watie had strong southern sympathies.

O-pothele-yahola, the old Creek Chief, along with Billie Bowlegs, the pro-Union faction of Seminole and John Ross, Cherokee Chief, were firm in their conviction to not break the treaty with the United States. Creek Chief, Moty Kinnard and the wealthy slave owning Creek brothers, Daniel and Chilly McIntosh, Cherokee Stand Watie, Choctaw Tandy Walker supported the Confederacy.

The Nations were divided by their convictions, as were the people in the eastern states.

Even before the eruption of military conflict began April 12, 1861, with the firing on Ft. Sumter, NC, agents from Arkansas and Texas had converged on Indian Territory to persuade the Nations to join the Confederate States. The Federal forts in Indian Territory, Federal posts at Fort Smith and Little Rock, Arkansas and Texas were turned over to the Confederacy without a fight. The Confederates moved quickly to consolidate their hold in Indian Territory. Texas Troops rode to contain Forts Washita, Arbuckle and Cobb without firing a shot. Indian Territory was designated a department of the Trans-Mississippi under Brig. General Ben McCulloch.

By their withdrawal, the U. S. government abandoned Indian Territory and the Loyal Indians. Troops were sent east or pulled back into Kansa and Missouri.

The Confederate Indian Commissioner, Albert Pike negotiated treaties of alliance with the Nations and Tribes of Indian Territory between July 1 and August 12, 1861. Those who signed were Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Comanche, Wichita, Osage, Senaca, Quapaw, Shawnee, Kiowa, Arapaho, Caddo and Tonkawa.

August 10, 1861, the first battle in the west took place at Wilson’s Creek, Or Oak Hill, just southwest of Springfield Missouri. Joel Mayes’ company of Confederate Cherokee under Colonel Watie were a part of this battle. This was the first win for the Confederacy in the west.

Brig. General Albert Pike was assigned command of the forces in Indian Territory. Colonel Stand Watie commanded the Cherokee, Chiefs Moty Kinnard, Daniel and Chilly McIntosh and Echo Harjo led the Southern Creek, Major John Jumper led the Seminole, and the Choctaw and Chickasaw under Colonel Douglas Cooper, a former U.S. Indian agent, veteran of the Mexican War, and Second in Command under Brigadier General Albert Pike.

Thomas F. Anderson, born in 1820 in Sweden, and immigrated to the United States as a young man, served General Stand Watie as Assistant Adjutant General, Cherokee Mounted Rifles, C.S.A. In 1862, he was responsible for raising a battalion of Osage under Broken Arm, a large company of Caddo and Arapaho under George Washington, a Caddo, and a company of Comanche under Chief Esa-Havey, for the Confederacy.

As the winter of 1861 set in, a bloody uprising flamed up in Creek Country and threatened to engulf the entire Indian Territory. The old Creek chieftain, O-pothle-yohola, violently opposed to Confederate alliances with the Five Nations, had gathered 2,000 of his warriors in October and gone on warpath, crushing D. H. Cooper's Confederate Indian Cavalry in running battles at Round Mounds November 19.

O-Pothle-Yahola led his Loyal Indians north toward Kansas that cold and bitter winter, all the while fighting running battles with the southern Indians following. Cooper's Indian troops and Texas Cavalry hounded the miserable Indians. None of his troops were battle casualties, but the weather was so bitter and cold one Confederate trooper froze to death. This ended the Creek uprising in Indian Territory, as the freezing survivors crossed the border into Kansas. Freezing weather and disease continued to claim Indian lives as they huddled in refugee camps, praying for an early spring and swift revenge on the Confederates.

Major General Earl Van Dorn sent orders out to Generals Price, McCullock and Pike, Colonels Watie, Drew and McIntosh, to start moving their forces toward Fayetteville, timed to join Van Dorn's troops by March 7th, 1862. Units involved were Col. Hebert's Louisiana Infantry, General McIntosh's Cavalry, General Pike's Indian Regiments, Watie's and Drew's Regiments, Col. Sims' 9th Texas Cavalry. This was the beginning of the Battle at Elkhorn Tavern/Pea Ridge in northwestern Arkansas.

After the battle of Pea Ridge, in Arkansas on March 7, 1862, the Confederate authorities diverted all possible forces and equipment to the east side of the Mississippi, leaving the Territory with scarcely any protection from their Confederate allies.

In July 1862, Troops from Kansas made their first incursion into Indian Territory, under Colonel Weer, and Colonel Solomon. Colonel Weer surprised Col. Clarkson’s un-picketed camp at Locust Grove a little before daybreak on July 3. Col. Clarkson and several of his men were captured.

Col. John Drew’s Regiment was made up of mostly full blood Cherokee, who had Union sympathies. Nearly all of Drew's regiment which had been camped on Flat Rock Creek on the west side of Grand River, some twenty miles southwest of Locust Grove, joined the Federal forces on Cabin Creek on the Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth of July. Colonel Drew remained loyal to the confederacy. The Second Indian Home Guards Federal Service was organized at Cabin Creek on the Fifth under Colonel John Ritchey. William A. Phillips became Colonel of the Third Indian Home Guards, U. S. A., the Home Guards returned to Flat Rock on the Eleventh. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Fox Taylor and several of his command were killed on Bayou Menard, on the morning of July 27th.

The battle of Fort Wayne was fought on October 22, 1862, the Confederates were defeated, their artillery captured and they retired to Canadian River. Fort Davis, opposite Ft. Gibson was burned by the Federals on December 27th.

Fort Gibson was occupied on April 8, 1863 by the First, Second and Third Indian Home Guards, four companies of Kansas cavalry and Hopkins battery, aggregating three thousand one hundred fifty men. They threw up some earthworks above the site of the old post and called it Fort Blount in honor of Major General James G. Blunt U. S. A, then in command of Kansas and Indian Territory. On May Twentieth, a sortie was made on the fort by a small detachment of Watie's command which captured all of the mules and most of the horses belonging to the garrison.

The battle of Honey Springs was fought on July seventeenth, on the site of present day community of Okatah, along the eastern border of the old Creek Nation. Douglas Cooper, commanding approximately 6,000 troops, including units of the Five Tribes and a Texas Cavalry squadron, had moved north along the Texas Road, intending to attack Fort Gibson. When Cooper paused at Honey Springs to await reinforcements from Fort Smith, General James G. Blunt, Union Commander at Fort Gibson, unexpectedly led some 3,000 against the Confederate positions. The 1st and 2nd Creek Regiments commanded by D. N. McIntosh occupied Coopers left flank and were arranged along the upper crossing on Elk creek, just north of Honey Springs. They were facing Federal Units of the 3rd Wisconsin. Blaming bad Mexican ammunition and enemy artillery, Cooper abandoned his position after a sharp morning battle that left 134 of his men killed or wounded, and retreated eastward as if to circle the enemy and hit Fort Gibson.

By September, Union forces controlled the area north of the Canadian and Arkansas Rivers and were preparing for a push south to the Red River.

In December, 1863, the new commander appointed for the Confederate forces in Indian Territory was Gen. Samuel B. Maxey, a veteran of the Army of Tennessee. Maxey was dedicated to the Southern Cause and planned a more aggressive campaign than his predecessor. He began drilling and supplying his men for action. Before he got his forces reorganized, however, Col. William Phillips set out from Fort Gibson, on February 1, 1864, with about 1500 Cavalry troopers on a "scorched earth" march to show the power and wraith of the Federal army and the futility of opposing it. Phillip's forces were made up of some of the 1st and 3rd Home Guards and a portion of the 14th Kansas.

Phillip's men destroyed the country side, burning farms and wiping out what little livestock that remained. Phillips or some of his men would disguise themselves, pretending to be Confederates, would go to the homes at night, tell that they had some wounded comrades and ask for help. When the men went to help bring the wounded in, they were killed. He rode almost as far south as the Texas border, burning homes, barns, and gunning down any that opposed him, in his path to Boggy Depot

Col. Phillip's march lasted a month, covering 400 miles, reporting he killed 250 Confederates and returning to Fort Gibson without a single loss. His report did not say that many he killed were innocent civilians. Yet, his mission failed to break the spirit of the Confederacy. The death and destruction he left in his path only served to strengthen the resolve of the Southerners to fight back another year.

In the spring of 1864, the Confederate forces underwent a change in unit and command structure as Maxey attempted to re-organize his army. The troops of the Creek and Seminole Nations were brigaded with Watie's Cherokee troops. This force was designated the 1st Indian Cavalry Brigade and consisted of 1st Cherokee Regiment under Col. Robert C. Parks, 2nd Cherokee Regiment under Col. William Penn Adair (a private that was elected to Col.), Cherokee Battalion under Maj. Joseph A. Scales, 1st Creek Regiment under Col. Daniel N. McIntosh, 2nd Creek Regiment under Col. Chilly McIntosh, the Creek Squadron under Capt. R. Kennard, the Osage Battalion under Major Broke Arm (these warriors were the minority of the Osage Tribe who cast their lot with the Confederacy), the Seminole Battalion under Lt. Col. John Jumper. The commander of the 1st Indian Cavalry Brigade was Col. Stand Watie.

The 2nd Indian Cavalry Brigade was composed of the remainder of all Confederate Indian Military Units. They were the 1st Chickasaw Battalion under Lt. Col. Lemuel M. Reynolds, 1st Choctaw Battalion under Lt. Col. Jackson McCurtain, 1st Choctaw and Chickasaw Regiment under Lt.Col. James Riley, 2nd Choctaw Regiment under Col. Simpson Folsom, and the Reserve Squadron consisting of warriors of the Caddo Tribe under Capt. George Washington, who was the Caddo chief. The commander of the 2nd Indian Cavalry Brigade was the Confederate hero of the Battle of Newtonia, MO, Col. Tandy Walker. Walker was a mixed blood Choctaw and had been the Choctaw's first principle chief after the tribe's settlement west of the Mississippi.
Col. Tandy's first duty after becoming commander of the 2nd Indian Cavalry Brigade was to accompany Gen Maxey and Col. Richard Gano's Texas Brigade to Arkansas to help Gen Price's army hold back a Federal army under Gen. Fredrick Steele coming out from Union held Little Rock. Soon, Col. Walker found himself in the middle of one of the most infamous battles in the Civil War at Poison Springs, Arkansas (located south and east of Arkadelphia) on April 18, 1864.

This became the end of the Red River Campaign, the last Federal invasion of Confederate Territory in Arkansas. Its aim was to capture Shreveport Louisiana, open Texas for Federal occupation and acquire the much needed cotton for Yankee Textile mills in New England. The campaign failed as the result of several battles and skirmishes in Arkansas and Louisiana.

Early July, 1864, Major Howland took about 300 raiders from the Cherokee and Creek Regiments north of the Verdigris and attacked a haying crew, burning the hay. September 16, 1864, another raid took place near the mouth of Flat Rock Creek.

From prisoners taken at Flat Rock, Generals Watie and Richard Gano, 5th Texas Cavalry Brigade, learned that a large Union supply train they hoped to find, was expected at Fort Gibson from Fort Scott, Kansas. A train of 205 government wagons and 91 subtler wagons with armed teamsters had left the Kansas post September 12, escorted by 260 men of the 2nd, 6th, and 14th Kansas Cavalry, commanded by Major Henry Hopkins. Following the Texas road, the train reached the crossing at Cabin Creek on September 18, 1864, where it was met by 310 Union Cherokees of the 2nd and 3rd Home Guards. Only hours after the 300 plus wagons arrived at Cabin Creek, General Gano's Confederate scouts found them. The Confederates moved up, the battle raged and the enemy fled. The Confederates salvaged the stores of 710 mules and 130 wagons, the rest being damaged or killed in the battle and started them "way down south in Dixie". In the battle, only 20 Union and 9 Confederates were killed.

This action, known as the second Battle of Cabin Creek, not far from the present day Big Cabin, OK, convinced people on both sides that the Confederates in Indian Territory were not a weak, defeated rabble of washed-up warriors, but a rather dangerous force of hardened veterans who were still a threat to the Federal Government.

Many dreaded the coming of spring, 1865, bringing a new series of deadly military campaigns and terrifying guerilla raids. Yet, it was not the same as the previous four had been. Instead there were only a few scattered shots and most of these didn't even hit their targets. Not even the legendary Stand Watie took the field in one of his daring raids. Both sides were sick of death and destruction and avoided each other, waiting the inevitable end that came with Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, April 9, 1865.

One last skirmish took place in Indian Territory on April 24, 1865, as three Confederate cavalrymen were blown out of their saddles in a hail of gunfire along Snake Creek in Choctaw Country. A Federal cavalry patrol out of Fort Gibson ran into a small detachment of Rebel troopers carrying mail north from Boggy Depot. The captured letters revealed these Confederates and their comrades did not know of Lee's surrender.

The fate of Indian Territory was decided when Lt. General Edmund Kirby-Smith surrendered the Trans-Mississippi Department on May 26, 1865. Peter P. Pitchlynn, the chief of the Choctaw Nation surrendered the military forces of his tribe on June 19th, and Winchester Colbert, governor of the Chickasaw Nation surrendered for his people and the Caddo. In a sense, the end of the Civil War in Indian Territory was anticlimactic, for the passions surrounding the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox on April 9 had subsided before the last surrender in Indian Territory. Confederate Chickasaw and Caddo Warriors made their surrender official on July 14, over three months after Appomattox.

Stand Watie, the proud and fiercely patriotic chief of the secessionist Cherokee, had the distinction of being the last Confederate officer of General rank to stop fighting. On June 23, 1865, he rode into Doaksville, a small community adjacent to Fort Towson in the Choctaw Nation, to sign a Cease Fire with the United States commissioners who had come for that purpose. To my knowledge, this Cease Fire is still in affect. Watie's Cherokee never surrendered!

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