Brigadier-General Pike, and apparently other expert Indian leaders, allowed the Indians to fight their own way. The Confederates were mounted on wiry
Plains ponies, which were sometimes tethered to the rear whilst the braves fought as infantry. However they did operate as cavalry, especially after the collapse of the Confederate strength west of the Mississippi, when warfare degenerated into a series of raids. It was in this role of irregular cavalry that the redskins came into their own, and Stand Watie, now the Indians' leader after Pike had resigned, and John Ross principal chief of the Cherokees had deserted to the Union, harassed Federal supply trains. In one surprise attack he even captured a U.S. supply ship on the Arkansas River!
The usual weapons were carried, except the sabre, and the Confederate Indians favourite weapon was the shotgun, widely used by the Rebels. By special authority at least Colonel Drew's Cherokee full bloods had bows and arrows, tomahawks and scalping knives. Lances and spears also appear to have been used. The Union Indians asked for, but were refused, 'wagons that shoot', ie, artillery, and were issued very poor quality muskets at the start.
The Indians fought in a number of battles, but only met face to face in a few. The first such clash was Locust Grove, in which the Federal redskins with white troops defeated a similarly mixed Confederate force. Near Newtonia, in a fight for the Granby lead mines, Colonel Cooper's Choctaws and Chickasaws defeated Colonel W. A. Phillips' Federal Cherokees, and scalps were taken, as they were reported to have been at the earlier Pea Ridge. At Pea Ridge some 3,500 Confederate braves fought as a Brigade, forming over a fifth of the Rebel force. The Confederates were defeated and Stand Watie's men covered the retreat. There were no Indians in the Union force.
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