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March, Planting Season in Arkansas

 Native American Nations | Participant in the Civil War                   

 

March was then as now the planting season in the Arkansas Valley and, as Phillips rightly argued, if the indigent Indians were not to be completely pauperized, they ought to be given an opportunity to be thrown once more upon their own resources, to be returned home in time to put in crops. When the high waters subsided and the rivers became fordable, he grew more insistent. There was grass in the valley of the Arkansas and soon the Confederates would be seizing the stock that it was supporting. He had held the line of the Arkansas by means of scouts all winter, but scouting would not be adequate much longer. The Confederates were beginning, in imitation of the Federals, to attach indigents to their cause by means of relief distribution and the "cropping season was wearing on."

At the end of March, some rather unimportant changes were made by Curtis in the district limits of his department and coincidently Phillips moved over the border. The first of April his camp was at Park Hill. His great desire was to seize Fort Smith; for he realized that not much recruiting could be done among the Choctaws while that post remained in Confederate hands. Blunt advised caution. It would not even do to attempt as yet any permanent occupation south of the Arkansas. Dashes at the enemy might be made, of course, but nothing more; for at any moment those higher up might order a retrograde movement and anyhow no additional support could be counted upon. Halleck was still calling for men to go to Grant's assistance and accusing Curtis of keeping too many needlessly in the West. The Vicksburg campaign was on.

The order that Blunt anticipated finally came and Curtis called for Phillips to return. La Rue Harrison, foraging in Arkansas,732 was whining for assistance. Phillips temporized, having no intention whatsoever of abandoning his appointed goal. His arguments were unanswerable but Curtis like Halleck could never be made to appreciate the plighted faith that lay back of Indian participation in the war and the strategic importance of Indian Territory. The northern Indian regiments, pleaded Phillips, were never intended for use in Arkansas. Why should they go there? It was doubtful if they could ever be induced to go there again. They had been recruited to recover the Indian Territory and now that they were within it they were going to stay until the object had been attained. Phillips solicited Blunt's backing and got it, to the extent, indeed, that Blunt informed Curtis that if he wanted Indian Territory given up he must order it himself and take the consequences. It was not given up but Phillips suffered great embarrassments in holding it. The only support Blunt could render him was to send a negro regiment to Baxter Springs to protect supply trains. Guerrillas and bushwhackers were everywhere and Phillips's command was half-starved. Smallpox733 broke out and, as the men became more and more emaciated, gained ground. Phillips continued to make occasional dashes at the enemy and in a few engagements he was more than reasonably successful. Webber's Falls was a case in point.

As May advanced, the political situation in Missouri seemed to call loudly for a change in department commanders and President Lincoln, quite on his own initiative apparently, selected Schofield to succeed Curtis,734 Curtis having identified himself with a faction opposed to Governor Gamble. The selection was obnoxious to many and to none more than to Herron and to Blunt, whose military exploits Schofield had belittled. The former threatened resignation if Schofield were appointed but the latter restrained himself and for a brief space all went well, Schofield even manifesting some sympathy for Phillips at Fort Gibson, or Fort Blunt, as the post, newly fortified, was now called. He declared that the Arkansas River must be secured its entire length; but the Vicksburg campaign was still demanding men and Phillips had to struggle on, unaided. Indeed, he was finally told that if he could not hold on by himself he must fall back and let the Indian Territory take care of itself until Vicksburg should have fallen.

The inevitable clash between Schofield and Blunt was not long deferred. It came over a trifling matter but was fraught with larger meanings.735 It was probably as much to get away from Schofield's near presence as to see to things himself in Indian Territory that led Blunt to go down in person to Fort Gibson. He arrived there on the eleventh of July, taking Phillips entirely by surprise. Vicksburg had fallen about a week before.

The difficulties besetting Colonel Phillips were more than matched by those besetting General Steele. He, too, struggled on unaided, nay, more, he was handicapped at every turn. Scarcely had he taken command at Fort Smith when he was apprised of the fact that the chief armorer there had been ordered to remove all the tools to Arkadelphia.736 Steele was hard put to it to obtain any supplies at all.737 Many that he did get the promise of were diverted from their course,738 just as were General Pike's. This was true even in the case of shoes.739 He tried to fit his regiments out one by one with the things the men required in readiness for a spring campaign740 but it was up-hill work. And what was perfectly incomprehensible to him was, that when his need was so great there was yet corn available for private parties to speculate in and to realize enormous profits on.741 In April, the Indian regiments, assembling and reforming in expectation of a call to action, made special demands upon his granaries but they were nearly empty.742 It was not possible for him to furnish corn for seed or, finally, the necessaries of life to indigent Indians. Indian affairs complicated, his situation tremendously.743 He could get no funds and no instructions from Richmond so he dealt with the natives as best he could.744 Small-pox became epidemic among his men,745 as among Phillips's—and from like causes.

Then General Steele had difficulty in getting his men and the right kind of men together. Lawless Arkansans were unduly desirous of joining the Indian regiments, thinking that discipline there would be lax enough to suit their requirements.746 Miscellaneous conscripting by ex-officers of Arkansan troops gave much cause for annoyance747 as did also Cooper's unauthorized commissioning of officers to a regiment made out of odd battalions and independent companies.748 Cooper, in fact, seemed bent upon tantalizing Steele and many of the Indians were behind him.749 Colonel Tandy Walker was especially his supporter. Cooper had been Walker's choice for department commander750 and continued so, in spite of all Steele's honest attempts to propitiate him and in spite of his promise to use every exertion to satisfy Choctaw needs generally.751 To Tandy Walker Steele entrusted the business of recruiting anew among the Choctaws.752

Furloughs and desertions were the bane of Steele's existence.753 In these respects Alexander's brigade, within which Colonel Phillips had detected traitors to the Confederate cause,754 was, perhaps, the most incorrigible.755 From department headquarters came impassioned appeals756 for activity and for loyalty but without telling or lasting effect. The Confederate service in Indian Territory was honeycombed with fraud and corruption.757 Wastrels, desperadoes, scamps of every sort luxuriated at Indian expense. It was no wonder that false muster rolls had to be guarded against.758 The Texans showed throughout so great an aversion to the giving of themselves or of their worldly goods759 to the salvation of the country that Steele in despair cried out, "... it does appear as if the Texas troops on this frontier were determined to tarnish the proud fame that Texans have won in other fields."760 The Arkansans were no better and no worse. The most fitting employment for many, the whole length and breadth of Steele's department, was the mere "ferreting out of jayhawkers and deserters."761

The Trans-Mississippi departmental change, effected in January, was of short duration, so short that it could never surely have been intended to be anything but transitional. In February the parts were re-united and Kirby Smith put in command of the whole,762 President Davis explaining, not very candidly, that no dissatisfaction with Holmes was thereby implied.763 Smith was the ranking officer and entitled to the first consideration. Moreover, Holmes had once implored that a substitute for himself be sent out. As a matter of fact, Holmes had become too much entangled with Hindman, too much identified with all that Arkansans objected to in Hindman,764 his intolerance, his arrogance, his illegalities, for him to be retained longer, with complacency, in chief command. Hindman and he were largely to blame for the necessity765 of suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Arkansas and the adjacent Indian country, which had just been done. Strong political pressure was exerted in Richmond766 and the Arkansas delegation in Congress demanded Hindman's recall,767 Holmes's displacement, and Kirby Smith's appointment. The loss of that historic fort, Arkansas Post,768 also a tardy appreciation of the economic value of the Arkansas Valley and, incidentally, of the entire Trans-Mississippi Department,769 had really determined matters; but, fortunately, the supersede of Holmes by Smith did not affect the position of Steele.

Steele divined that the Federals would naturally make an early attempt to occupy in force the country north of the Arkansas River and beyond it to the southward in what had hitherto been a strictly Confederate stronghold. It was his intention to forestall them. The two Cherokee regiments constituted, for some little time, his best available troops and them he kept in almost constant motion.770 His great reliance, and well it might be, was upon Stand Watie, whom he had brought up betimes within convenient distance of Fort Smith771 and with whom, in April, Phillips's men had two successful encounters, on the fourteenth772 and the twenty-fifth. The one of the twenty-fifth was at Webber's Falls and especially noteworthy, since, as a Federal victory, it prevented a convening of the secessionist Cherokee Council,773 for which, so important did he deem it, Steele had planned an extra protection.774 The completeness of the Federal victory was marred by the loss of Dr. Gillpatrick,775 who had so excellently served the ends of diplomacy between the Indian Expedition and John Ross.

Through May and June, engagements, petty in themselves but contributing each its mite to ultimate success or failure, occupied detachments of the opposing Indian forces with considerable frequency.776 Two, devised by Cooper, those of the fourteenth777 and twentieth778 of May may be said to characterize the entire series and were nothing but fruitless demonstrations to seize the Federal grazing herds. A brilliant cavalry raid, undertaken by Stand Watie and for the same purpose, a little later, was slightly more successful;779 but even its fair showing was reversed in the subsequent skirmish at Greenleaf Prairie, June 16.780 To the northward, something more serious was happening, since actions, having their impetus in Arkansas,781 were endangering Phillips's line of communication with Fort Scott, his base and his depot of supplies. In reality, Phillips was hard pressed and no one knew better than he how precarious his situation was. Among his minor troubles was the refusal of his Creeks to charge in the engagement of May 20.

The refusal of the Creeks to charge was not, however, indicative of any widespread disaffection.782 So honorably had Phillips been conducting himself with reference to Indian affairs, so promptly and generously had he discharged his obligations to the refugees who had been harbored at Neosho—they had all returned now from exile783—so successfully had he everywhere encountered the foe that the Indians, far and wide, were beginning to look to him for succor,784 many of them to wonder, whether in joining the Confederacy, they had not made a terrible mistake, a miscalculation beyond all remedying.

To the Confederates, tragically enough, the Indian's tale of woe and of regret had a different meaning. The tale had been told many times of late and every time with a new emphasis upon that part of it that recounted delusion and betrayal. For quite a while now the Indians had been feeling themselves neglected. Steele was aware of the fact but helpless. When told of treaty rights he had to plead ignorance; for he had never seen the treaties and had no official knowledge of their contents. He was exercising the functions of superintendent ex officio, not because the post had ever been specifically conferred upon him or instructions sent, but because he had come to his command to find it, in nearly every aspect, Indian and no agent or superintendent at hand to take charge785 of affairs that were ordinarily not strictly within the range of military cognizance.

General Steele, like many another, was inclined to think that the red men greatly over-estimated their own importance; for they failed to "see and understand how small a portion of the field"786 they really occupied. To Steele, it was not Indian Territory that was valuable but Texas. For him the Indian country, barren by reason of the drought, denuded of its live stock, a prey to jayhawker, famine, and pestilence, did nothing more than measure the distance between the Federals and the rich Texan grain-fields, from whence he fondly hoped an inexhaustible supply of flour787 for the Confederates was to come. In short, the great and wonderful expanse that had been given to the Indian for a perpetual home was a mere buffer.

But it was a buffer, throbbing with life, and that was something Steele dared not ignore and could not if he would. With such a consciousness, when the secessionist Cherokees were making arrangements for their council at Webber's Falls in April, he hastened to propitiate them ahead of time by addressing them "through the medium of their wants" for he feared what might be their action788 should they assemble with a grievance789 against the Confederacy in their hearts. Protection against the oncoming enemy and relief from want were the things the Indians craved, so, short though his own supplies were, Steele had to make provision for the helpless and indigent natives, the feeding of whom became a fruitful and constantly increasing source of embarrassment.790

Just and generous as General Steele endeavored to be in the matter of attention to Indian necessities, his efforts were unappreciated largely because of evil influences at work to undermine him and to advance Douglas H. Cooper. Steele had his points of vulnerability, his inability to check the Federal advance and his remoteness from the scene of action, his headquarters being at Fort Smith. Connected with the second point and charged against him were all the bad practices of those men who, in their political or military control of Indian Territory, had allowed Arkansas to be their chief concern. Such practices became the foundation stone of a general Indian dissatisfaction and, concomitantly, Douglas H. Cooper, of insatiable ambition, posed as the exponent of the idea that the safety of Indian Territory was an end in itself.

The kind of separate military organization that constituted Steele's command was not enough for the Indians. Seemingly, they desired the restoration of the old Pike department, but not such as it had been in the days of the controversy with Hindman but such as it always was in Pike's imagination. The Creeks were among the first to declare that this was their desire. They addressed791 themselves to President Davis792 and boldly said that their country had "been treated as a mere appendage of Arkansas, where needy politicians and protégés of Arkansas members of Congress must be quartered." The Seminoles followed suit,793 although in a congratulatory way, after a rumor had reached them that the Creek request for a separate department of Indian Territory was about to be granted. The rumor was false and in June Tandy Walker, on behalf of the Choctaws, reopened the whole subject.794 A few days earlier, the Cherokees had filed their complaint but it was of a different character, more fundamental, more gravely portentous.

The Cherokee complaint took the form of a deliberate charge of contemplated bad faith on the part of the Confederate government. E.C. Boudinot, the Cherokee delegate in the Southern Congress, had recently returned from Richmond, empowered to submit a certain proposal to his constituents. The text of the proposal does not appear in the records but its nature,795 after account be taken of some exaggeration attributable to the extreme of indignation, can be inferred from the formal protest796 against it, which was drawn up at Prairie Springs in the Cherokee Nation about fifteen miles from Fort Gibson on the twenty-first of June and signed by Samuel M. Taylor, acting assistant chief, John Spears of the Executive Council, and Alexander Foreman, president of the convention. To all intents and purposes the Cherokees were asked, in return for some paltry offices chiefly military, to institute a sort of system of military land grants. White people were to be induced to enlist in their behalf and were then to be allowed to settle, on equal terms with the Cherokees, within the Cherokee country. The proposal, as construed by Taylor and his party, was nothing more or less than a suggestion that the Cherokees surrender their nationality, their political integrity, the one thing above everything else that they had sought to preserve when they entered into an active alliance with the Confederate States. So sordid was the bargain proposed, so unequal, that the thought obtrudes itself that a base advantage was about to be taken of the Cherokee necessities and that the objectors were justified in insinuating that Boudinot and his political friends were to be the chief beneficiaries. The Cherokee country was already practically lost to the Confederacy. Might it not be advisable to distribute the tribal lands, secure individual holdings, while vested rights might still accrue; for, should bad come to worse, private parties could with more chance of success prosecute a claim than could a commonalty, which in its national or corporate capacity had committed treason and thereby forfeited its rights. One part of the Cherokee protest merits quotation here. Its noble indignation ought to have been proof enough for anybody.

... We were present when the treaty was made, were a party to it, and rejoiced when it was done. In that treaty our rights to our country as a Nation were guaranteed to us forever, and the Confederate States promised to protect us in them. We enlisted under the banner of those States, and have fought in defense of our country under that treaty and for the rights of the South for nearly two years. We have been driven from our homes, and suffered severe hardships, privations, and losses, and now we are informed, when brighter prospects are before us, that you think it best for us to give part of our lands to our white friends; that, to defend our country and keep troops for our protection, we must raise and enlist them from our own territory, and that it is actually necessary that they are citizens of our country to enable us to keep them with us. To do this would be the end of our national existence and the ruin of our people. Two things above all others we hold most dear, our nationality and the welfare of our people. Had the war been our own, there would have been justice in the proposition, but it is that of another nation. We are allies, assisting in establishing the rights and independence of another nation. We, therefore, in justice to ourselves and our people, cannot agree to give a part of our domain as an inducement to citizens of another Government to fight their own battles and for their own country; besides, it would open a door to admit as citizens of our Nation the worst class of citizens of the Confederate States ...


732: Confederate Military History, vol. x, 166-168.
733: Britton, Civil War on the Border, vol. ii, 26.
734: A change had been resolved upon in March, E.V. Sumner being the man chosen; but he died on the way out [Livermore, Story of the Civil War, part iii, book i, 256]. Sumner had had a wide experience with frontier conditions, first, in the marches of the dragoons [Pelzer, Marches of the Dragoons in the Mississippi Valley] later, in New Mexico [Abel, Official Correspondence of James S. Calhoun], and, still later, in ante-bellum Kansas. His experience had been far from uniformly fortunate but he had learned a few very necessary lessons, lessons that Schofield had yet to con.
735: June 9, orders issued redistricting Schofield's Department of Missouri [Official Records, vol. xxii, part ii, 315].
736: Confederate Records, chap. 2, no. 270, p. 34.
737: Steele to Blair, February 10, 1863, ibid., 87-88.
738: Steele to Anderson, February 8, 1863, ibid., 81-82.
739: Duval to Cabell, May 15, 1863, ibid., 244-245.
740: Steele to Cabell, March 19, 1863, ibid., 148.
741: Steele to Anderson, March 22, 1863, ibid., 158.
742: Steele to Anderson, April 3, 1863, Confederate Records, 179-180.
743: For instance the officers of the First Cherokee regiment had a serious dispute as to the ranking authority among them [ibid., Letter from Steele, March 14, 1863, p. 143]. The following letters indicate that there were other troubles and other tribes in trouble also:

(a)
"Your communication of 13 Inst. is to hand. I am directed by the Commanding Gen'l to express to you his warmest sympathy in behalf of your oppressed people, and his desire and determination to do all that may be in his power to correct existing evils and ameliorate the condition of the loyal Cherokees. The Gen'l feels proud to know that a large portion of your people, actuated by a high spirit of patriotism, have shown themselves steadfast and unyielding in their allegiance to our Government notwithstanding the bitter hardships and cruel ruthless outrages to which they have been subjected.
"It is hoped that the time is not very far distant, when your people may again proudly walk their own soil, exalted in the feeling, perhaps with the consciousness that our cruel and cowardly foe has been adequately punished and humiliated.
"Your communication has been ford. to Lt Gen'l Holmes with the urgent request that immediate steps be taken to bring your people fully within the pale of civilized warfare.
"It is hoped that there may be no delay in a matter so vitally important.
"We are looking daily for the arrival of Boats from below with corn, tis the wish of the Gen'l that the necessitous Indians sh'd be supplied from this place. Boats w'd be sent farther up the river, were we otherwise circumstanced. As it is the Boats have necessarily to run the gauntlet of the enemy—The Gen'l however hopes to be able to keep the River free to navigation until a sufficient supply of corn to carry us through the winter can be accumulated at this place.
"You will receive notice of the arrival of corn so that it may be conveyed to the Indians needing it."—CROSBY to Stand Watie, commanding First Cherokee Regiment, February 16, 1863, ibid., pp. 91-93.

(b)
"I am directed by Gen'l Steele to say that a delegation from the Creeks have visited him since your departure and a full discussion has been had of such matters as they are interested in.
"They brought with them a letter from the Principal Chief Moty Kennard asking that the Cattle taken from the refugee Creeks be turned over to the use of the loyal people of the nation. The Gen. Com'dg has ordered a disposition of these Cattle to be made in accordance with the wishes of the chief. If necessary please give such instructions as will attain this object. (a)
"Your communication of 13 Inst. is to hand. I am directed by the Commanding Gen'l to express to you his warmest sympathy in behalf of your oppressed people, and his desire and determination to do all that may be in his power to correct existing evils and ameliorate the condition of the loyal Cherokees. The Gen'l feels proud to know that a large portion of your people, actuated by a high spirit of patriotism, have shown themselves steadfast and unyielding in their allegiance to our Government notwithstanding the bitter hardships and cruel ruthless outrages to which they have been subjected.
"It is hoped that the time is not very far distant, when your people may again proudly walk their own soil, exalted in the feeling, perhaps with the consciousness that our cruel and cowardly foe has been adequately punished and humiliated.
"Your communication has been ford. to Lt Gen'l Holmes with the urgent request that immediate steps be taken to bring your people fully within the pale of civilized warfare.
"It is hoped that there may be no delay in a matter so vitally important.
"We are looking daily for the arrival of Boats from below with corn, tis the wish of the Gen'l that the necessitous Indians sh'd be supplied from this place. Boats w'd be sent farther up the river, were we otherwise circumstanced. As it is the Boats have necessarily to run the gauntlet of the enemy—The Gen'l however hopes to be able to keep the River free to navigation until a sufficient supply of corn to carry us through the winter can be accumulated at this place.
"You will receive notice of the arrival of corn so that it may be conveyed to the Indians needing it."—CROSBY to Stand Watie, commanding First Cherokee Regiment, February 16, 1863, ibid., pp. 91-93.

(b)
"I am directed by Gen'l Steele to say that a delegation from the Creeks have visited him since your departure and a full discussion has been had of such matters as they are interested in.

"They brought with them a letter from the Principal Chief Moty Kennard asking that the Cattle taken from the refugee Creeks be turned over to the use of the loyal people of the nation. The Gen. Com'dg has ordered a disposition of these Cattle to be made in accordance with the wishes of the chief. If necessary please give such instructions as will attain this object.

744: "Your letter of May 6th, with letter of Black Dog enclosed, has been received and the enclosure forwarded to Lieut. Gen. Holmes for his information. The General Com'dg desires me to express his regrets that the affairs of the Osage and Seminole tribes should be in such a deplorable condition, but he is almost powerless, at present, to remedy the evils you so justly complain of. He has written again and again to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Richmond requesting instructions in the discharge of his duties as ex-officio Superintendent of Indian Affairs, but not a word has ever been received in reply to his reiterated requests, owing probably to the difficulty of communication between this point and the Capital. He has also requested that funds be sent him to liquidate the just demands of our Indian Allies, but from the same cause his requests have met with no response. You must readily appreciate the difficulties under which Gen. Steele necessarily labors. In fact his action is completely paralyzed by the want of instructions and funds. In connection with this he has been compelled to exert every faculty in defending the line of the Arkansas River against an enemy, vastly his superior in arms, numbers, artillery and everything that adds to the efficiency of an army, and consequently has not been able to pay that attention to the business of the superintendency that he would under other circumstances.
"It was stated, some time ago, in the newspapers, that a superintendent had been appointed in Richmond, and the General Com'dg has been anxiously expecting his arrival for several weeks. He earnestly hopes that the superintendent may soon reach the field of his labors, provided with instructions, funds and everything necessary to the discharge of his important duties.
"Major Dorn, the Agent for the Osages, was here, a few days ago, but he is now in Little Rock. The General has written to him, requiring him to come up immediately, visit the tribe for which he is the Agent and relieve their necessities as far as the means in his hands will permit.
"The General has been officially informed that Major D. has in his possession, for the use of the Osages twenty odd thousand dollars.
"I have to apologize, on the part of Gen'l Steele, for the various letters which have been received from you, and which still remain unanswered, but his excuse must be that, in the absence of proper instructions etc. he was really unable to answer your questions or comply with your requests, and he cannot make promises that there is not, at least, a very strong probability of his being able to fulfill. Too much harm has already been occasioned in the Indian Country by reckless promises, and he considers it better, in every point of view, to deal openly and frankly with the Indians than to hold out expectations that are certain not to be realized.
"It is not possible, however, to say in a letter what could be so much better said in a personal interview, and the Gen'l therefore, desires me to say that as soon as your duties will admit of your absence, he will be happy to see and converse with you fully and freely at his Head Quarters" [ibid., no. 268, pp. 27-29].
On this same subject, see also Steele to Wigfall, April 15, 1863, Official Records, vol. xxii, part ii, 819-821.
745: Confederate Records, chap. 2, no. 270, p. 220.
746: Steele to Anderson, May 9, 1863, ibid., 233-234.
747: Same to same, March 1, and 3, 1863, ibid., 112-113, 113-114.
748: Steele to Anderson, February 13, 1863, Confederate Records, chap 2, no. 270, p. 89.
749: It was not true, apparently, that the Chickasaws were dissatisfied with Cooper. See the evidence furnished by themselves, Official Records, vol. xxii, part ii, 1116-1117.
750: Confederate Military History, vol. x, 134, footnote.
751: Steele to Tandy Walker, February 25, 1863, Confederate Records, chap. 2; no. 270, p. 109.
752: Crosby to Walker, March 11, 1863, ibid., p. 136. Steele thought that the Indians might as well be employed in a military way since they were more than likely to be a public charge. To Colonel Anderson he wrote, March 22, 1863 [ibid., p. 155], "I forward the above copy of a letter from Gen'l Cooper for Gen'l Holmes' information. I purpose if not otherwise directed to call out all the available force of the Nations within the conscript age.... They have to be fed and might as well be organized and put into a position to be useful." From the correspondence of Steele, it would seem that there was some trouble over Walker's promotion. April 10, Steele wrote again to Anderson on the subject of Indian enrollment in the ranks and referred to the other matter.
"The enclosed copy of some articles in the Treaty between the C.S. Govt and the Choctaws with remarks by Gen'l Cooper are submitted for the consideration of the Lt. Gen'l.
"It appears that Col. Walker was recommended to fill the vacancy made by the promotion of Col. Cooper, the right being given by the treaty to appoint to the office of Col., the other offices being filled by election, and that at the time, the enemy were at Van Buren. Col. Walker being at the convenient point was put upon duty by Col. Cooper and has since been recognized by several acts of my own, not however with a full knowledge of the circumstances. That under instructions from Gen'l Hindman a Regt was being organized which it was expected would be commanded by Col. Folsom, the whole of which appears to be a very good arrangement. The necessity that exists of feeding nearly all the Indians would seem to present an additional reason for having them in service. Companies are also being organized from the Reserve Indians, with the view to replace white troops with them who are now engaged protecting the frontier from the incursions of the wild tribes. Moreover the enemy's forces being composed partially of Indians, the troops would be effective against them, when they might not be against other troops..." [ibid., pp. 186-187]. Appointments, as well as promotions, within the Indian service caused Steele much perplexity. See Steele to Anderson, April 13, 1863, ibid., pp. 190-191.
753: Steele thought it desirable to arrest all men, at large, who were subject to military duty under the conscript act, unless they could produce evidence "of a right to remain off duty" [Crosby to Colonel Newton, January 12, 1863, ibid., p. 32]. Presumably whole companies were deserting their posts [Crosby to Cooper, February 1, 1863, ibid., pp. 66-67]. It was suggested that some deserters should be permitted to organize against jayhawkers as, under sanction from Holmes, had been the case with deserters in the Magazine Mountains [Steele to Anderson, February 1, 1863, ibid., p. 67]. When word came that the Federals were about to organize militia in northwestern Arkansas, Steele ordered that all persons, subject to military duty, who should fail to enroll themselves before February 6, should be treated as bushwhackers [same to same, February 3, 1863, ibid., pp. 69-70]. Colonel Charles DeMorse, whose Texas regiment had been ordered, February 15, to report to Cooper [Crosby to DeMorse, February 15, 1863, ibid.,], asked to be allowed to make an expedition against the wild tribes. Some two hundred fifty citizens would be more than glad to accompany it. Steele was indignant and Duval, at his direction, wrote thus to Cooper, April 19: "... Now if these men were so anxious to march three or four hundred miles to find the enemy, they could certainly be induced to take up arms temporarily in defense of their immediate homes" [ibid., p. 203]. It was not that Steele objected to expeditions against the wild tribes but he was disgusted with the lack of patriotism and military enthusiasm among the Texans and Arkansans. Colonel W.P. Lane's regiment of Texas Partizan Rangers was another that had to be chided for its dilatoriness [ibid., pp. 168-169, 199, 234]. Deficient means of transportation was oftentimes the excuse given for failure to appear but Steele's complaint to Anderson, April 10 [ibid., 185-186], was very much more to the point. He wrote,
"... I find that men are kept back upon every pretext; that QrMasters and Govt Agents or persons calling themselves such have detailed them to drive teams hauling cotton to Mexico, and employed them about the Gov't agencies. This cotton speculating mania is thus doing us great injury besides taking away all the transportation in the country...." Public feeling in Texas was on the side of deserters to a very great extent and in one instance, at least, Steele was forced to defer to it, "You will desist from the attempt to take the deserters from Hart's Company or any other in northern Texas if the state of public feeling is such that it cannot be done without danger of producing a collision with the people. The men are no doubt deserters, but we have no men to spare, to enforce the arrest at the present time" [Steele to Captain Randolph, July i, 1863, ibid., p. 116. See also Steele to Borland, July 1, 1863, ibid., no. 268, p. 117]. When West's Battery was ordered to report at Fort Smith it was discovered going in the opposite direction [Steele to J.E. Harrison, April 25, 1863, ibid., no. 270, p. 213; Duval to Harrison, May 1, 1863, ibid., p. 221; Steele to Anderson, May 9, 1863, ibid., p. 233; Steele to Cooper, May 11 1863, ibid., pp. 237-238].
One expedition to the plains that Steele distinctly encouraged was that organized by Captain Wells [Steele to Cooper, March 16, 1863, ibid., pp. 145-146]. It was designed that Wells's command should operate on the western frontier of Kansas and intercept trains on the Santa Fé trail [Steele to Anderson, April 17, 1863, ibid., p. 197].
754: Official Records, vol. xxii, part ii, p. 62.
755: For correspondence with Alexander objecting to further furloughing and urging the need of promptness, see Confederate Records, chap. 2, no. 270, pp. 121-122, 163-164, 170, 178-179, 210-211.
756: The following are illustrations:

"... Every exertion is being made and the Gen'l feels confident that the means will be attained of embarking in an early spring campaign. It only remains for the officers and men to come forward to duty in a spirit of willingness and cheerfulness to render the result of operations in the Dept (or beyond it as the case may be) not only successful but to add fresh renown to the soldiers whom he has the honor to command ..."—CROSBY to Talliaferro, February 24, 1863, Confederate Records, chap. 2, no. 270, pp. 105-106.

"The Commanding Gen'l would be gratified to grant the within petition were it compatible with the interests of the service and the cause which petitioners 'Hold dearer than life.' He is fully aware of the many urgent reasons which a number of officers and men have for visiting their homes, providing for their families, etc., etc.

"The Enemy conscious of his superior strength is constantly threatening the small force that now holds him in check on the line of the Arkansas river. Speight's Brigade was sent to their present position—not because they were not needed here—but for the reason that it was an utter impossibility to subsist it in this region.

"Every consideration of patriotism and duty imperiously demands the presence of every officer and soldier belonging to this command. The season of active operations is at hand. The enemy in our front is actively employed in accumulating supplies and transportation and in massing, drilling, and disciplining his troops. His advance cannot be expected to be long delayed. This enemy is made up of Kansas Jayhawkers, 'Pin Indians,' and Traitors from Missouri, Arkansas and Texas. The ruin, devastation, oppression, and tyranny that has marked his progress has no parallel in history. The last official Report from your Brigade shews a sad state of weakness. Were the enemy informed on this point our line of defense would soon be transferred from the Arkansas to Red river. In the name of God, our country and all that is near and dear to us, let us discard from our minds every other consideration than that of a firm, fixed, and manly determination to do our duty and our whole duty to our country in her hour of peril and need. The season is propitious for an advance. Let not supineness, indifference and a lack of enthusiasm in a just and holy cause, compel a retreat Texas is the great Commissary Depot west of the Mississippi. The enemy must be kept as far from her rich fields and countless herds, as possible. Let us cheerfully, harmoniously, and in a spirit of manly sacrifice bend every energy mental and physical to preparations for a forward movement. The foregoing reasons for a refusal to grant leave of absence will serve as an answer in all similar cases and will be disseminated among the officers and men of the Brigade by the Commanders thereof."—CROSBY, by command of Steele, March 20, 1863, Confederate Records, chap. 2, no. 270, pp. 151-152.

757: J.A. Scales to Adair, April 12, 1863, Official Records, vol. xxii, part ii, 821-822.
758: Confederate Records, chap. 2, no. 270, p. 224.
759: Holmes, as early as March, warned Steele that he would have to get his supplies soon from Texas. It would not be possible to draw them much longer from the Arkansas River. He was told to prepare to get them in Texas "at all hazard," which instruction was construed by Steele to mean, "take it, if you cant buy it" [ibid., 145-146]. It was probably the prospect of having to use force or compulsion that made Steele so interested, late in May, in finding out definitely whether Hindman's acts in Arkansas had really been legalized [Steele to Blair, May 22, 1863, ibid., 34]. Appreciating that it was matter of vital concern that the grain crop in northern Texas should be harvested, Steele was at a loss to know how to deal with petitions that solicited furloughs for the purpose [Steele to Anderson, May 4, 1863, ibid., 227; Duval to Cabell, May 7, 1863, ibid., 230-231]. Perhaps, it was a concession to some such need that induced him, in June, to permit seven day furloughs [Duval to Cooper, June 27, 1863, ibid., no. 268, p. 100].
760: Steele to Alexander, April 23, 1863, Confederate Records, no. 270, pp. 210-211.
761: Duval to Colonel John King, June 30, 1863, ibid., no. 268, p. 110.
762: Livermore, Story of the Civil War, part iii, book i, p. 255.
763: Davis to Holmes, February 26, 1863, Official Records, vol. liii, supplement, 849-850.
764: Davis to Holmes, January 28, 1863, ibid., 846-847.
765: The necessity was exceedingly great. Take, for instance, the situation at Fort Smith, where the citizens themselves asked for the establishment of martial law in order that lives and property might be reasonably secure [Crosby to Mayor Joseph Bennett, January 10, 1863, Confederate Records, chap. 2, no. 270, pp. 33-34].
766: Davis to Garland, March 28, 1863, Official Records, vol. liii, supplement, 861-863; Davis to the Arkansas delegation, March 30, 1863, ibid., 863-865.
767: Hindman was not immediately recalled; but he soon manifested an unwillingness to continue under Holmes [ibid., 848]. He had very pronounced opinions about some of his associates. Price he thought of as a breeder of factions and Holmes as an honest man but unsystematic. In the summer, he actually asked for an assignment to Indian Territory [ibid., vol. xxii, part ii, 895].
768: Livermore, Story of the Civil War, part iii, book i, 85. Davis would fain have believed that so great a disaster had not befallen the Confederate arms [Letter to Holmes, January 28, 1863, Official Records, vol. liii, supplement, 847].
769: Perhaps, it is scarcely fair to intimate that the Trans-Mississippi Department was regarded as unimportant at this stage. It was only relatively so. In proof of that, see Davis to Governor Flanagin, April 3, 1863, ibid., 865-866; Davis to Johnson, July 14, 1863, ibid., 879-880. When Kirby Smith tarried late in the assumption of his enlarged duties, Secretary Seddon pointed out the increasingly great significance of them [Letter to Smith, March 18, 1863, ibid., vol. xxii, part ii, pp. 802-803].
770: Steele to Cabell, April 18, 1863, Confederate Records, no. 270, p. 199.
771: "You will order Colonel Stand Watie to move his command down the Ark. River to some point in the vicinity of Fort Smith."—CROSBY to Cooper, February 14, 1863, ibid., p. 90.
772: Britton, Civil War on the Border, vol. ii, 37.
773: Phillips to Curtis, April 26, 1863, Official Records, vol. xxii, part i, 314-315; Britton, Civil War on the Border, vol. ii, 40-41. Mrs. Anderson, in her Life of General Stand Watie, denies categorically that the meeting of the council was interrupted on this occasion [p. 22] and cites the recollections of "living veterans" in proof.
774: "I am directed by the General Com'dg to say that he deems it advisable that you should move your Hd. Qrs. higher up the river, say in the vicinity of Webber's Falls or Pheasant Bluff. He is desirous that you should be somewhere near the Council when that body meets, so that any attempt of the enemy to interfere with their deliberations may be thwarted by you."—DUVAL to Cooper, April 22, 1863, Confederate Records, chap. 2, no. 270, p. 209.
775: Britton, Civil War on the Border, vol. ii, 42.
776: Ibid., vol. ii, chapters vi and vii.
777: Official Records, vol. liii, supplement, 469.
778: Ibid., vol. xxii, part i, 337-338; Confederate Records, chap. 2, no. 268, p. 34.
779: Anderson, 20-21. Interestingly enough, about this time Cooper reported that he could get plenty of beef where he was and at a comparatively low price, Confederate Records, chap. 2, no. 268, pp. 60-61.
780: Official Records, vol. xxii, part i, 348-352.
781: Not all got their impetus there. The following letter although not sent, contains internal evidence that Cooper was concocting some of them:
"I learn unofficially that Gen'l Cooper, having received notice of the approach of a train of supplies for Gibson, was about crossing the Arkansas with the largest part of his force, to intercept it. It is reported that the train would have been in 15 miles of Gibson last night. If Gen'l Cooper succeeds Phillips will leave soon, if not he will probably remain some time longer. Be prepared to move in case he leaves."—STEELE to Cabell, June 24, 1863, Confederate Records, chap. 2, no. 268, p. 96.
782: The following letter shows the nature of the Creek disaffection:

DEAR GREAT FATHER: Sir, The wicked rebellion in the United States has caused a division in the Nation. Some of our many loving leaders have joined the rebels merely for speculation and consequently divided our people and that brought ruin in our Nation. They had help near and ours was far so that our ruin was sure. We saw this plain beforehand. Therefore we concluded to go to you our great father, remembering the treaty that you have made with us long ago in which you promised us protection. This was the cause that made us to go and meet you in your white house about eighteen months ago and there laid our complaint before you, as a weaker brother wronged of his rights by a stronger brother and you promised us your protection; but before we got back to our people they were made to leave their humble and peaceful home and also all their property and traveled towards north in the woods without roads not only that but they were followed, so that they had to fight three battles so as to keep their families from being taken away from them. In the last fight they were overpowered by a superior force so they had to get away the best way they can and most every thing they had was taken away from them ... Now this was the way we left our country and this was the condition of our people when we entered within the bounds of the State of Kansas ...
Now Great Father you have promised to help us in clearing out our country so that we could bring back our families to their homes and moreover we have enlisted as home guards to defend our country and it will be twelve months in a few weeks ... but there is nothing done as yet in our country. We have spent our time in the states of Mo. and Arks. and in the Cherokee Nation. We are here in Ft. Gibson over a month. Our enemies are just across the river and our pickets and theirs are fighting most every day ...
There is only three regts. of Indians and a few whites are here. Our enemy are gathering fast from all sides ...
A soldier's rights we know but little but it seems to us that our rations are getting shorter all the time but that may be on account of the teams for it have to be hauled a great ways.—CREEKS to the President of the United States, May 16, 1863, Office of Indian Affairs, General Files, Creek, 1860-1869, O 6 of 1863.

783: Britton's account of the return of the Cherokee exiles is recommended for perusal. It could scarcely be excelled. See, Civil War on the Border, vol. ii, 34-37.
784: Certain proceedings of Carruth and Martin would seem to suggest that they were endeavoring to reap the reward of Phillips's labors, by negotiating, somewhat prematurely, for an inter-tribal council. Coffin may have endorsed it, but Dole had not [Dole to Coffin, July 8, 1863, Indian Office Letter Book, no. 71, p. 116]. The pretext for calling such a council lay in fairly recent doings of the wild tribes. The subjoined letters and extracts of letters will elucidate the subject: February 7, Coffin reported to Dole [General Files, Southern Superintendency, 1863-1864] that the wild Indians had been raiding on the Verdigris and Fall Rivers into the Creek and Cherokee countries, "jayhawking property," and bringing it into Kansas and selling it to the settlers. Some of the cattle obtained in this way had been sold by a settler to the contractor and fed to the Indians. Jim Ned's band of wild Delaware, returning from such a jayhawking expedition, had stolen some Osage ponies and had become involved in a fight in which two Delaware had been killed [Coffin to Dole, February 12, 1863, ibid., Neosho, C 73 of 1863]. Coffin prevailed upon Jim Ned to stop the jayhawking excursions; inasmuch as "Considerable bad feeling exists on the part of the Cherokees in consequence of the bringing up ... a great many cattle, ponies, and mules, which they allege belong to the Cherokee refugees ..." [Coffin to Dole, February 24, 1863, Indian Office General Files, Southern Superintendency, 1863-1864].
Feelings of hostility continued to exist, notwithstanding, between the civilized and uncivilized red men and "aided materially the emissaries of the Rebellion in fomenting discords and warlike raids upon whites as well as Indians ..." [Coffin to Dole, June 25, 1863, ibid., C 325]. It was under such circumstances that Carruth took it upon himself to arrange an inter-tribal council. This is his report [Carruth to Coffin, June 17, 1863, ibid.,]. His action was seconded by Martin [Martin to Coffin, June 18, 1863, ibid.,]:
"I left Belmont (the temporary Wichita agency) May 26th to hold a Council with the Indians of the Wichita Agency, who have not as yet reached Kansas ... I found ... upon reaching Fall River ... that the Wichita alone had sent over 100 men. We reached the Ark. River May 31st. After having been compelled to purchase some provisions for the number of people, who have come, that were not provided for. The next day we were joined by the Kickapoo and Sacs, and here I was informed by the Kickapoo, that no runner had gone through to the Caddo and Comanche from them, as we had heard at Belmont, yet I learned, that these tribes were then camped at the Big Bend, some sixty miles above and waiting at this point: I sent three Wichita—among them the Chief—some Ionie, Wacoe, and Tawa Kuwus through to them calling on their Chiefs to come and have a 'talk.'
"They reached us on the 8th of June, and after furnishing the presents I had taken to them all the different tribes were called to Council. Present were, Arapahoe, Lipan, Comanche, Kioway, Sac and Foxes, Kickapoo and Caddo besides the Indians who went out with me.
"All of them are true to the Government of the United States, but some are at war with each other. I proposed to them to make peace with all the tribes friendly to our Government, so that their 'Great Father' might view all of them alike.
"To this they agreed, and a Council was called to which the Osages, Potawatomie, Shian, Sac and Foxes, in fact all the tribes at variance, are to be invited, to hold a grand peace Council near the mouth of the Little Arkansas River within six weeks. Meanwhile they are to send runners to notify these tribes to gather on the Arkansas, sixty miles above, that they may be within reach of our call when we get to the Council ground. Subsistence will have to be provided for at least 10000 Indians at that time. They will expect something from the Government to convince them of its power to carry through its promises. Some of the Caddo and Comanche connected with this Agency, after coming to the Arkansas, returned to Fort Cobb. These will all come back to this Council. Their desire is to be subsisted on the Little Arkansas, some 70 miles from Emporia until the war closes.
"They argue like this, 'The Government once sent us our provisions to Fort Cobb over 300 miles from Fort Smith. We do not want to live near the whites, because of troubles between them and us in regard to ponies, timber, fields, green corn, etc. Our subsistence can be hauled to the mouth of the Little Arkansas, easier by far, than it was formerly from Fort Smith, and by being at this point we shall be removed from the abodes of the whites, so they cannot steal our ponies, nor can our people trouble them.'
"I believe they are right. I have had more trouble the past winter in settling difficulties between the Indians and whites on account of trades, stolen horses, broken fences, etc. than from all other causes combined.
"I cannot get all the Indians of this Agency together this side of the Little Arkansas. That point will be near enough the Texan frontier for the Indians to go home easily when the war closes. It is on the direct route to Fort Cobb. They are opposed to going via Fort Gibson ..."
785: Without legislating on the subject, and without intending it, the Confederacy had virtually put into effect, a recommendation of Hindman's that "The superintendency, agencies, etc., should be abolished, and a purely military establishment substituted ..." [Official Records, vol. xiii, p. 51.].
786: Steele to Wigfall, April 15, 1863, Official Records, vol. xxii, part ii, 820.
787: Steele's letter books furnish much evidence on this score. A large portion has been published in the Official Records. During the period covered by this chapter, he was drawing his supply of flour from Riddle's Station, "on the Fort Smith and Boggy Road" [Confederate Records, chap. 2, no. 270, p. 252] in charge of which was Captain Hardin of Bass's Texas Cavalry. He expected to draw from Arkansas likewise [Steele to Major S.J. Lee, June 9, 1863, Confederate Records, chap. 2, no. 268, pp. 70-71; Duval to Hardin, June 16, 1863, ibid., p. 81; Steele to Lee, June 17, 1863, ibid., pp. 87-88].
788: "Enclosed please find a letter to Col. Adair, and a note from him forwarding it. I send it for the consideration of General Holmes. The subject is one of grave importance. If a regiment of infantry could be spared to take post at this place and General Cabell could be permitted to include it in his command, I would go more into the nation and would be able soon to give the required protection. The troops from Red River have been ordered up and should be some distance on the way before this. I fear the meeting of the Cherokee Council which takes place on the 20th ... unless more troops arrive before they act."—STEELE to Anderson, April 15, 1863, Confederate Records, no. 270, p. 194.
This was not the first time Steele had expressed a wish to go into the Nation. March 20th, when writing to Anderson [ibid., p. 150], he had thought it of "paramount importance" that he visit all parts of his command. Concerning his apprehension about the prospective work of the Cherokee Council, he wrote quite candidly to Wigfall [Official Records, vol. xxii, part ii, 821].
789: The letter to Colonel W.P. Adair, written by one of his adjutants, J.A. Scales, April 12, 1863 [ibid., 821-822], is a creditable presentation of the Cherokee grievance.
790: Steele here presents certain phases of the embarrassment,
"... The matter of feeding destitute Indians has been all through a vexatious one, the greatest trouble being to find in each neighborhood a reliable person to receive the quota for that neighborhood. These people seem more indifferent to the wants of others than any I have seen; they are not willing to do the least thing to assist in helping their own people who are destitute. I have, in many instances, been unable to get wagons to haul the flour given them. I have incurred a great responsibility in using army rations in this way and to the extent that I have. I have endeavored to give to all destitute and to sell at cost to those who are able to purchase. In this matter the Nation has been more favored than the adjacent States. I am told by Mr. Boudinot that a bill was passed by the Cherokee Council, taking the matter into their own hands. I hope it is so. In which case I shall cease issuing to others who have not, like them, been driven from their homes. Dr. Walker was appointed to superintend this matter, some system being necessary to prevent the same persons from drawing from different commissaries ..."—STEELE to D.H. Cooper, June 15, 1863, Confederate Records, chap. 2, no. 268, pp. 80-81.
791: Mory Kanard and Echo Harjo to President Davis, May 18, 1863, Official Records, vol. xxii, part ii, 1118-1119.
792: Davis, in his message of January 12, 1863 [Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, vol. i, 295] had revealed an acquaintance with some Indian dissatisfaction but intimated that it had been dispelled, it having arisen "from a misapprehension of the intentions of the Government ..." It was undoubtedly to allay apprehension on the part of the Indians that Miles, in the house of Representatives, offered the following resolution, February 17, 1863:
"Resolved, That the Government of the Confederate States has witnessed with feelings of no ordinary gratification the loyalty and good faith of the larger portion of its Indian allies west of the State of Arkansas.
"Resolved further, That no effort of the Confederate Government shall be spared to protect them fully in all their rights and to assist them in defending their country against the encroachments of all enemies." [Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States, vol. vi, 113].
793: June 6, 1863, Official Records, vol. xxii, part ii, 1120.
794: June 24, 1863, ibid., 1122-1123.
795: Steele's letter to Kirby Smith, June 24, 1863 [ibid., 883-884], gives some hint of its nature also.
796: Ibid., 1120-1122.


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The American Indian as Participant in the Civil War, 1919

Participant in the Civil War

 

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