THE INDIAN TERRITORY 1861 to 1865
Confederate Veteran, Vol. IV, No. 3, Nashville, Tenn., March, 1896.
THE INDIAN TERRITORY 1861 to 1865
Thomas F. Anderson, Mills, La.
I have concluded to contribute an account of the part taken by our Southern Indians in the war between the States, but have to depend on memory. Strange to say, my recollection of what took place under my observation in the war with Mexico in 1845 and '47, is more vivid than that of our last war. But few dates are remembered.
Being more intimately connected with the Cherokees, what I have to say will principally concern them. We must glance back and refer to the causes which led to a division in that tribe into two parties, between whom the feeling ran as high as that between the Democratic Party South, and the Abolition Party North, previous to and at the outbreak of our Civil War.
At the time of the discovery of America, the Cherokees, then a powerful tribe, occupied much of Georgia. parts of Tennessee, North and South Carolina and a small strip of Southern Virginia. They gradually withdrew from Virginia, moving South, and during Gen. Jackson's presidency, resided principally in Georgia.
As white settlers occupied that State, the usual crowding out process began, and laws were passed bearing hard and injuriously upon the Cherokees. Their principal chief was John Ross, a man of liberal education, crafty and unreliable. To secure peace and quiet propositions, from the United States had been made to purchase their lands east of the Mississippi River and set apart to them a reservation west of the State of Arkansas. These propositions were bitterly opposed by Mr. Ross and his party, numerically the strongest, but composed principally of full bloods.
On the other hand, Major Ridge, founder of the party subsequently named after him and composed of half breeds and slave owners, among whom was Elias Boudinot, one of the ablest and most cultured of his people, saw that eventually his people would have to sell or be driven off, and with his followers concluded a Treaty with the United States, disposing of all their lands east, and agreeing to take a reservation west of the Mississippi. The Treaty was ratified by the United States Senate, and the removal of the Cherokees began in 1828. Previous to this, however, a small body of Cherokees, afterwards known as Old Settlers, had removed and settled in western Arkansas.
John Ross, still the principal chief, now began oppressing the Ridge party, and had their principal men, such as the Ridges, Boudinot, Jim Starr, the Adairs and others murdered. Stand Watie, now the leader of the Ridge party, had attempts made upon him, but they all failed. The last attempt was made by a noted bully named Foreman, who was himself laid out by Watie.
In 1860 there were unusual local disturbances. A secret organization, known as the Ketowah Society, had long existed among the followers of John Ross. The object of this organization was destruction to half breeds and white men living in the nation. The badge of membership in this association was two pins crossing one another and fastened to the lapel of the coat, vest or hunting shirt. Hence they received the name and were known as Pins. We captured all their papers during the war. I have them and the Kansas Jayhawkers to thank for the burning of my house and the destruction of all else that I possessed.
Ia May, 1861, Gen. Albert Pike came as Commissioner from the Confederate States Government authorized to make treaties with the Southern Indians. At first Chief Ross refused and insisted on his nation remaining neutral, and would not allow enlistment of Cherokee troops into the Confederate service. Stand Watie had, however, in a quiet way enlisted a regiment in readiness to join the Confederates. John Ross was evidently holding off for further development. This was before the battle of Springfield, on Wilson's Creek, as the Yankees called it. Success crowning our arms there, Ross hastened to treat with Gen. Pike and agreed to put in the Confederate service a regiment to be armed and equipped by the Confederacy, and he did so. In making that treaty he would allow none of the leaders of the Ridge party to take part in it.
Previous to this Gen. Ben McCulloch authorized Capt. John Miller and myself to raise an independent company to serve for three months. We were known as the Dixie Rangers and we were to occupy the neutral land in part of the Territory and Southern Kansas. In that company served the afterwards noted William Quantrell, about whom I will, at some future time, take occasion to say something, to correct stories about this death, etc. I will only say here that, when you knew Quantrell, you knew a kind-hearted man, an intrepid soldier and a gentleman of whose friendship I was, and am, proud.
The Third Louisiana Regiment came up to us. Many of us saw that Regiment under fire at Springfield and Pea Ridge, where it made its mark as well as at other points, wherever it served, in fact. When that Regiment left us after the Pea Ridge fight, our Indians were distressed, and to the end of the war they never ceased to regret the separation from them of the Third Louisiana.
At the expiration of their three months' term of service the Dixie Rangers were disbanded, and nearly all, myself included, joined Company K., First Cherokee Regiment. Capt. Thompson Mayes, a brother of the late principal Chief Joel B. Mayes. Capt. Mayes was a man of superior education and a fine officer. This was Colonel Watie's pet company. There was but the one company in the First Cherokee Regiment, composed of and officered by Indians. In the other companies, whites and Indians were mixed as well among the officers as in the ranks, and it worked well and smoothly. In the Choctaw regiments some companies were either all whites or all Indians, which caused more or less friction and jarring. But the plan had been adopted by Col. D. N. Cooper and could not well be changed.
Many of Col. Watie's Regiment took part in the battle of Springfield, but went there with his permission as individuals and not as an organized body.
A number of Missourians came to us and took part in the fight. Some came unarmed and others armed with their shotguns and rifles. Among them was an old, lean and lank Baptist preacher with a Flintlock rifle about seven feet long. He would kneel on one knee, take deliberate aim, and say: "May the Lord have mercy on that poor critter's soul," and pull the trigger. Then he would get up, reload, get down on one knee again and repeat his prayer, fire. I stood and looked at him fire five or six times, and I believe he made every bullet count.
Very little was done between that fight and the battle of Pea Ridge, except a fight that took place in December, 1861, between our Cherokees and the forces of Opothleoholo, the leader of the so-called Loyal Creeks, Seminoles, Wichitas, Kickapoos and Delawares. The weather was extremely cold. We found Opothleoholo occupying a strong position in the mountains near Chustenola. We commenced driving them from the start, captured their baggage and papers, and followed them for three days up into Kansas to the big bend of Arkansas River. The Pin Regiment came up the second day, but took no part in the fight. Many of the enemy were killed. Here and there we would strike bunches of their squaws huddled together. These we sent back to our camp and fed. In their flight they had thrown away their infants, which were frozen stiff. Altogether it was a sickening sight.
After this, nothing worth noting took place until we were ordered to Pea Ridge, where the Cherokees distinguished themselves capturing a battery. Here one of the Yankee artillerymen was lying stretched out, face down, between two of the pieces apparently dead. One of our full blood Cherokees took out his knife, got his fingers in the Yankees hair and cut out and jerked off a scalp about the size of a dollar. Thus resurrected, Mr. Yank got him on his legs in a hurry, and "he ran like a quarter horse," not a gun was fired after him, but a yell went up: "Go it, Yank, we have a lock of your hair." This scalping business, however, brought on more or less correspondence between opposing commandery, and our Indians were strictly ordered to keep their fingers out of white men's hair, leaving it optional with them to take such mementoes from other Indians or let it alone.
At this time we were in the Department of Arkansas, first under Gen. Holmes and next under Gen. Hindman. We were then put into a department of our own, called the Indian Department, and under Gen. Steele. Colonels Cooper and Watie were made Brigadier-Generals. Gen. Watie had the command of the First Indian Brigade, consisting of the First and Second Cherokee Regiments, commanded respectively by Colonels J. M. Bell and W. P. Adair, Scales' Battalion, Major J. A. Scales and Quantrell's Battalion, the latter the most of the time on detailed service in Missouri and Kansas.
The Second Indian Brigade, Gen. Cooper, was composed of two Choctaw regiments and the Chickasaw Battalion.
The Third Brigade consisted of First Creek Regiment, Col. D. N. McIntosh, and the Second Creek Col. Chilly McIntosh. and the Seminole Regiment Col. John Juniper, and commanded by Brig. Gen. Sam Checoti.
In the summer of 1862, I was sent out west to enlist for the Confederacy, and succeeded in raising one battalion of Osages, Major Broke Arm, one large company of Caddoes and Arrapahoes, Capt. George Washington, and one company of Comanches, Capt. Esopah or Esc Habbe, their Chief. All of these reported to Gen. Watie and were of good service to us, as they rambled between Kansas and the Texas Panhandle and prevented any invasion from Kansas, which otherwise would undoubtedly have taken place. After the Pea Ridge fight, Gen. Price's Missourians and the Third Louisiana Regiment were ordered east of the Mississippi River, and we were left to ourselves, all Indians, except Wills' Battalion and a Texas infantry regiment, which were stationed at our depot of supplies and saw no fighting.
In the summer of 1862, Chief Ross and the Pin Regiment deserted to the Yankees. From that on we saw no rest, and hardly a week passed but what bushwhacking engagements between us and the Northern Indians and Yankees took place. Early in the spring of 1863 the military authorities in Kansas conceived the idea of returning the Northern refugee Cherokees to their homes in time to plant a crop. They had furnished them with horses, seeds and necessary agricultural implements, and they came escorted by Gen. Blount, commanding Kansas troops, and Col. Phillips, commanding the old Pin Regiment. But Gen. Watie did not propose to let them alone. We routed them from settlement to settlement and they, together with Col. Phillips' Regiment, had to shut themselves up in Fort Gibson. We were quite beholden to the Yankees for the supplies thus furnished by them, which mostly fell into our hands.
Gen. S. B. Maxey now took command of the Department. He was the Indians idol. His free and easy manner suited them exactly; besides, he was a fighter and kept us moving. When Red River Banks started on his expedition, which terminated at Mansfield, Federal Gen. Steele was to move out from Little Pock, and Gen Thayer from Fort Smith, to join Banks in Texas. The greater part of our Indians were waiting for Thayer to come out from Fort Smith, but he concluded best not to show himself and he acted wisely, for our boys were spoiling for a fight. Part of the Indians commanded by Gen. Maxey met Steele at Poison Springs, captured his train, and sent two Negro regiments to the happy hunting grounds. We followed Steele on his retreat to Saline River, where we fought in mud and water, belly deep to our horses, and felt very much relieved when Parsons' Brigade of Missourians, who had force-marched it from Mansfield' came up in double quick, and one of them called out: "Stand aside, you critter companies, and let us at them." Well, we critter companies stood aside, and Parsons' men went at them sure enough.
I must pass over numerous small engagements we had with the Northern Indians. They gave us the most trouble. Had we not had them to fight, we would have had a comparatively easy time of it. But they knew the country as well as we did and took advantage of that knowledge. Their losses, however exceeded ours.
Among our captures from the enemy, I will mention one steamboat loaded with dry-goods, near Webber's Falls, for Fort Gibson, and a train of about 200 wagons loaded principally with ready made clothing, on Cabin Creek, Cherokee Nation.
The last winter of the war, Gen. Maxey was ordered to Texas, Gen. Cooper took command of the Indian Department, and Gen. Watie of the Indian Division. This was the first time that we saw some rest for a little over a month, when we had gone into winter quarters near Red River in Choctaw Nation.
About a year previous to this, messengers had been sent to the Western and Northwestern Indians to meet us in Council at Walnut Springs. The object of this council was, first, to make peace between the different tribes. The next program was for these tribes, thus united, to invade Kansas from the north and west, whilst we would meet them from the south, and leave but a greasy spot of Kansas. We had, during that winter, prepared a number of pack saddles, as we would not be encumbered with a train. Unfortunately, Gen. Lee's surrender took place but a short time before the meeting of this Council. Hence, we thought best to confine the proceedings to peace-making between the Indians, and I have heard of no war between them from then until now. Tribes from Idaho, Dakota and Montana were present. It was, perhaps, the largest lndian Council that ever met.
The disbanding of the Indian troops took place in April, 1865. The Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks and Seminoles returned to their respective homes, which had not been desolated. With tine' Southern Cherokees it was different. Their houses had been burned, their stock stolen and driven into Kansas. Many of them who, at the outbreak of the war, counted their stock of horses and cattle by the thousands, could barely raise a pony to go home on. Their country was now in possession of the Federals and Pins, and they were therefore compelled to remain as refuges in the Choctaw Nation and keep up a quasi military organization until after the meeting of the United States Commissioners and Southern Tribes of Indians at Fort Smith, in June, 1865, when peace was declared.
I have thus endeavored to give a mere outline of the campaign in the Indian Territory. But I cannot conclude this hasty and incomplete sketch without words of praise to our Indian allies, especially the Cherokees, under their able leader, Stand Watie, and our Seminoles, under that good man and strict disciplinarian, Col. John Juniper.