Introduction

Lieutenant Pleasant Porter, a Confederate officer of the 2nd Creek Cavalry; after the action at Flat Rock Ford in September 1864, the Cherokee General Stand Watie commended him for capturing seven revolver-armed Kansas cavalrymen. He wears a "battle shirt" under a captured Federal overcoat, and carries a Colt .36in Ml851 Navy revolver. (Smithsonian Institution)

Seneca Tribal Alphabet

The Indian Territory was one of the most tragic battlegrounds of the Civil War, setting members of the same tribes against each other. It might have been expected that the war would Find Native Americans taking the opportunity for revenge. During the war Federal troops served against the Sioux, Navaho, Kiowa, Apache, Cheyenne and Arapaho amongst others; however, these conflicts often owed as much to the continuing pressures exerted by the spread of western settlement as to the war. The Comanche and Cheyenne continued to raid Texas, sometimes at the instigation of Union supporters willing to purchase stolen livestock. However, there were tribes in the Indian Territory which had a greater and more direct stake in the war.

A policy of enforced removal of native communities had been pursued since the 1830s, and resulted in the establishment of the Indian Territory, approximating to present-day Oklahoma. This country was originally sparsely populated by nomadic tribes such as the Comanche and Cheyenne in the west and the semi-nomadic Osage in the east; but Forts Washita and Arbuckle were then established, both to guard the trails to California and New Mexico and to provide security for the tribes which were removed there from the South. These were very different from the Plains Indians: many had adopted the "white man's road", becoming increasingly dependent on agriculture, and even acquiring African-American slaves.

The largest tribe were the Cherokee, whose considerable acculturation had not protected them, even though they were the First Native American tribe to develop their own alphabet, publishing laws in 1821 and a newspaper in 1828. Under pressure, the Cherokee leader Major John Ridge signed the Treaty of New Echota ceding Cherokee land east of the Mississippi; this split the tribe, and its terms could only be applied by force. In 1838 Gen Winfield Scott oversaw the removal of 17,000 Cherokees, about 4,000 of whom died on the "Trail of Tears." Continued dissension led to violence between the pro-treaty faction, primarily mixed-bloods, and the full-bloods, who regarded it as a betrayal.

The Creeks moved from Georgia and Alabama under the same pressures. The Choctaw and Chickasaw were allied; in 1830 the Choctaw signed the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, ceding most of their Mississippi homeland, and bv 1838 most had settled in the Territory, where they

Colonel William H.Emory, 1st US Cavalry, the pre-war commander in the Territory. On April 16, 1861, he captured skirmishers from the Texas Mounted Rifles, claiming the first Confederate prisoners of the war. He had begun to rally his detachments from the 1st Cavalry and 1st US Infantry when he received orders to withdraw to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on May 2, 1861. Guided by Delaware scouts Black Beaver and Possum (see page 50), Col Emory led his 750 men, with 150 women, children, teamsters and other non-combatants, on the 500-mile journey, with the loss of only two deserters. He ended the war as a brevet majorgeneral. (Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society)

Oklahoma Historical Society Photos

were joined by the Chickasaw. The Seminole fought a prolonged guerrilla war in the Florida swamplands, where some remained, but many settled in the Territory; they did not practice slavery, and the tribe included runaway slaves. In 1843 the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole formed a Confederacy known as the Five Civilized Tribes.

Smaller tribes also moved into the Territory, mostly to the Wichita Agency where Wichita, Waco, Caddo, Tonkawa, Delaware and Comanche were amongst those living under the protection of Fort Cobb. Small numbers of Quapaw, Shawnee, Seneca and Osage also settled there, away from their main reservations on the northern borders.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861 the Civilized Tribes faced a dilemma. As independent nations, they had treaties with the US Government and relied on its army for protection; but culturally and economically they were close to the South. Many Indian Agents and officials were Southerners (Douglas Cooper of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Agency was a friend of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, a fellow veteran of the Mexican-American War).

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