Quantrill Raiders

tragedy of the Civil War in the Territory began. Opothleyohola, a full-blood Creek chief loyal to the Union, gathered 5,000 followers, including some Seminóles and fugitive slaves, and moved towards the Kansas border hoping for military support. Douglas Cooper, now colonel of the Choctaw & Chickasaw Mounted Rifles, led an expedition to force him into allegiance to the Confederacy or drive him from the Territory.

Map of the Indian Territory and neighboring states, 1861-65, with locations mentioned in the text. (Dave Connolly)

Cherokee Full Bloods

Jesse Chisholm, a mixed-blood Cherokee, was a respected trader and interpreter who accompanied Albert Pike in 1861. A Southern sympathizer, he later moved to Kansas. In 1864, when interpreting for Federal officers promising guns, ammunition and loot to Comanche, Kiowa and Arapaho warriors, he took the opportunity to urge the Comanche chief O-hop-ey-a-ne to refuse. In March 1865 he brought trade goods into the Territory, following the route of Col Emory's evacuation. After the war this became famous as the Chisholm Trail. (Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society)

Opothleyohola fought successful rearguard actions at Round Mountain, November 19, and Bird Creek, December 9 - where he was joined by Cherokees who deserted from his attackers, appalled at fighting fellow full-blood Indians. But the pursuit continued, and on December 26 at Chustenahlah (Patriot Hills) his warriors were broken. Most of their goods and stock and hundreds of women and children were captured, the survivors fleeing to Kansas and Missouri.

Battle of Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern), Arkansas, March 7-8, 1862

After building Fort Davis as his headquarters, Gen Pike, who was given command of the Department of the Indian Territory, was ordered to join the Confederate Army of the West in Arkansas. The Creek and Seminole regiments did not accompany him, according to their treaties. The Cherokee initially fought well, capturing an artillery battery, but were disorganized by their success and retired to the timber after coming under further artillery lire. The Choctaw and Chickasaw did not arrive in time to participate. Confederate defeat led to the withdrawal of the Army of the West, and increasing isolation for the Territory. Pike fell back towards the Texas border and established his headquarters at Fort McCulloch.

Weer's expedition, June-July 1862

The Union Col Weer was tasked with returning Opothleyohola's refugees, and his expedition included two newly raised Indian Home Guard regiments. An initial foray on June 6 led to a successful surprise attack on Cherokee troops at Cowskin Prairie, and on June 28 the column entered the Territory. On July 3 the Confederate camp at Locust Grove was surprised at dawn, and the 6th Kansas Cavalry ambushed Stand Watie's Cherokees at Spavinaw Creek. Stand Watie had raised the 2nd (later 1st) Cherokee Mounted Rifles for the Confederacy. After these failures, and the capture of the Cherokee capital Tahlequah, many full-bloods from the regiment changed sides, forming a third Indian regiment for the Union. Weer then retired to his tent with a supply of whisky; and after ten days Col Salomon of the 9th Wisconsin Infantry arrested him and withdrew the command to Fort Scott, Kansas. The Territory erupted into lawlessness and inter-tribal warfare, and the newly returned Creek refugees were forced to flee once more.

Missouri & Arkansas, September-October 1862

Ordered to Arkansas to join the Confederate invasion of Missouri, Gen Pike resigned, disillusioned by lack of support and by criticism after Pea Ridge; he complained that he had never wanted the "damned command" in the First place. Colonel Cooper assumed command of the Indian troops, and took his own regiment, Stand Watie's Cherokees and 200 Texans into Missouri. On September 14 the 5th Missouri Cavalry ambushed the 2nd Indian Home Guard at Carthage, capturing 200 rifles; and on the 20th, the 31st Texas Cavalry and a band of guerrillas under Maj Tom Livingstone hit them again, attacking their main camp at Shirley's Ford. Colonel Cooper fought at Newtonia, September 30, a Confederate victory assisted by a successful charge through the town by the Choctaw and Chickasaw. However, the Union Army of the Frontier forced Southern troops back into Arkansas and the Territory.

First Battle of Cabin Creek July 2, 1863

Skirmishing continued along the Military Road, and Stand Watie made a determined effort to capture a 300-strong wagon train. Union Cherokee scouts discovered that he planned to

Cherokee Trade Shirt

Opothleyohola, or Gouge. In this 1836 portrait the chief of the full-blood Upper Creeks wears a feathered turban, blue hunting shirt with red and yellow motifs, sash and bandoleer bag. After leaving the Territory he worked tirelessly to obtain supplies for his hungry people and encouraged his warriors to join the Indian Home Guard; he died before the end of the war. (Author's collection)

October-December 1862

On October 22, Col Cooper was attacked at Fort Wayne and retreated, abandoning his battery after the horses were killed by carbine fire from the 6th Kansas. On the night of October 23-24, far to the southwest, Union Indians raided the Wichita Agency, followed by a massacre of the Tonkawa tribe.

Confederate defeat at Prairie Grove, Arkansas, on December 7 isolated the Territory, enabling further Federal raids. Union Col William Phillips led the Indian Brigade in the destruction of Fort Davis on December 27 before retiring to winter quarters in Arkansas.

April-June 1863

Indian refugees continued to suffer over the winter, many encamped at Neosho, Missouri, where there was an outbreak of smallpox. Colonel Phillips' Indian Brigade, 3,000 strong, escorted 1,000 families back to their homes; and on April 12 he took Fort Gibson, forcing the Confederate garrison across the river. Renamed Fort Blunt (though the name never took), the post was fortified with earthworks and became the center of Union operations in the Territory. Its extended supply line - 160 miles along the Texas or Military Road from Fort Scott — was Phillips' major problem. On April 25 he attacked Webber's Falls, where Stand Watie, the newly elected principal chief of the Confederate Cherokee, was about to hold a council. Unable to rally his men, Col Watie escaped.

Some 5,000 Confederates soon faced Fort Gibson from across the river, under cover of woods. Cooper crossed the river overnight on May 19-20 and seized the Federal herd grazing outside before moving towards the fort. Phillips sent out cavalry skirmishers as his men manned the ramparts, before advancing with two regiments of the Indian Home Guard supported by a section of the 3rd Kansas Light Battery. The Confederates did not press the attack and withdrew, taking most of the horses with them.

Indian Home Guard Oklahoma Civil War

This 1864 engraving of refugees in Missouri shows clothing typical of that worn by families which fled from the Territory. The man's overshirt or smock is the style from which the battle shirt developed. (Author's collection)

ambush it at Cabin Creek, where he had dug rifle pits covering the crossing. The wagons were corralled, and with support from the 2nd Kansas Artillery the escort, including Indian Home Guards and the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry, attacked across the waist-deep river and forced the Confederate Indians to withdraw.

Battle of Honey Springs (Elk Creek), July 17, 1863

Learning that Gen Cabell was bringing reinforcements from Arkansas after driving Union troops from Fayetteville, Gen Blunt determined to relieve Fort Gibson. Taking personal command, he moved on the Confederate supply depot at Honey Springs; several men were drowned as he rafted troops across the river. In the largest engagement to be fought in the Territory, 3,000 Federal troops with 12 artillery pieces defeated some 4,500 Confederates with 4 guns. A large detachment under Col Stand Watie at Webber's Falls did not take part. Union casualties were reported as 17 killed and 60 wounded, Confederate as 134 killed or wounded with 47 captured.

This 1864 engraving of refugees in Missouri shows clothing typical of that worn by families which fled from the Territory. The man's overshirt or smock is the style from which the battle shirt developed. (Author's collection)

August-December 1863

Reinforced, Gen Blunt pursued the Confederates, who made the error of splitting their forces. On August 26 he took the supply depot at Perryville, before dispersing the bulk of his demoralized and poorly equipped opponents. Only Col Watie's men remained effective, continuing their guerrilla campaign as the Territory descended further into anarchy. Livestock were taken and crops burnt; thousands of proSouthern Cherokee and Creek became refugees, moving into Choctaw and Chickasaw country or the Red River area of Texas. General Steele, Pike's replacement, resigned, to be replaced by Gen Maxey.

The most serious defeat suffered by the Federals during this period was inflicted by Quantrill's Raiders at Baxter Springs, on the Military Road just inside Kansas, on October 6. After an attack on the stockaded post was beaten off, Quantrill ambushed Gen Blunt and his headquarters part)-, 85 of whom were killed, many under questionable circumstances; for instance, 14 bandsmen from the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry, and the bandmaster's 12-year-old servant, were murdered after surrendering. Blunt himself only escaped thanks to the speed of his horse.

After reorganizing his command, and accompanied by Quantrill's Raiders, Stand Watie skirmished around Fort Gibson ("Blunt") in mid-December, before raiding the area around Fort Smith, Arkansas. He returned to over-winter in the Territorv at the end of the month.

February-May 1864

Determined to retaliate and press his advantage, Col Phillips led 1,500 men on a raid into the Territory. He ordered: "Those who are still in arms are rebels, and ought to die. Do not kill a prisoner after he has

Union Colonel William Weer

A Union infantry encampment in the Territory; the log cabins suggest winter quarters. Under magnification these men can be seen to wear frock coats, waistcoats and slouch hats; a teenage drummer (seventh from left) wears a forage cap, and a uniform jacket with musician's %in "herringbone11 lace in light blue worsted on the chest. (Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society)

surrendered. But I do not ask you to take prisoners. I do ask you to make your footsteps severe and terrible." On February 9 the supply base at Boggy Depot was overrun; of the 49 Confederate dead, it was alleged that many had their throats cut after surrender. Over that month Phillips covered 400 miles, coming close to the Texas border at Camp Kagi before returning to Fort Gibson.

Meanwhile, the Confederate Gen Maxev had reorganized his army and instilled a new offensive spirit. Walker's and Gano's brigades were ordered to Arkansas, where they fought at Poison Spring on April 18 - a Southern victory leading to the capture of a Union wagon train. This action became notorious for the massacre of men from the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers amongst the escort. This new aggressiveness led to more Indian refugees, increasing the pressure on the Federal authorities.

Pleasant Bluff, June 15, 1864

Confederate morale was boosted by Col Watie's capture of the steamboat J.R. Williams, disabled by artillery fire, forced aground, and abandoned by its 25-man escort from the 12th Kansas Infantry. A relief force from the 2nd Indian Home Guard did not arrive in time to prevent Watie's men from looting its cargo. Unfortunately, as often with Indian troops, it was difficult to maintain discipline after such a victory, and manv men returned home with their booty.

July-August 1864

Colonel Cooper finally achieved his ambition of overall command when Gen Maxey was reassigned. Moving into Arkansas, he ambushed an outpost of the 6th Kansas Cavalry at Massard Prairie on July 27, but failed in an assault on the fort on July 30, retiring to the Territory and continuing to wage guerrilla warfare.

September-December 1864

General Cooper ordered Watie's and Gano's brigades to disrupt the haying and supply operations necessary for provisioning Fort Gibson over the winter. Outflanking the fort with 2,000 men and 6 artillery pieces, on September 16 the Confederates attacked a 125-strong detachment of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry and the 6th Kansas Cavalry at Flat Rock Ford. Surrounded, they fought desperately; some of the cavalry shot their way out in a desperate charge, but most of the infantrymen were killed. Thousands of tons of hay and a haying machine were destroyed.

Three days later, at the Second Battle of Cabin Creek, Watie and Gano defeated the escort of an important wagon train, capturing large amounts of uniforms, accoutrements and ammunition. As the year ended it seemed that Confederates in the Territory were as well equipped, armed and led as they had ever been; but Federal losses were soon replaced.

11th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry

The battle of Honey Springs, July 17, 1863. The 1st Bn, 6th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, supported by a section of howitzers, made two successful saber charges during the battle; the first drove in the Confederate outposts, and the second - shown here - forced the retreating enemy to take cover in the timber. This romanticized view shows the 6th with regulation uniform, accoutrements and saddlery. This engraving of James O'Neill's drawing appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, and is the only contemporary illustration of fighting in the Territory. O'Neill had the misfortune to be traveling with Gen Blunt's headquarters three months later, and was murdered following the ambush by Quantrill at Baxter Springs on October 6, 1863. (Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society)

Quantrill RaidersJames Neill Leslies Illustrated

LEFT First Lieutenant James B.Pond, Medal of Honor, 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry. His citation states that while in command of the post at Baxter Springs on October 6, 1863, he was "surprised and attacked by several times his own number of guerrillas, but gallantly rallied his men, and after a severe struggle drove the enemy outside the fortifications. First Lieutenant Pond then went outside the works and, alone and unaided, fired a howitzer three times, throwing the enemy into confusion and causing him to retire." Known as Fort Blair, the post at Baxter Springs was garrisoned by one company of the 2nd Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry, and part of the 3rd Wisconsin's Company I, which was out foraging when the attack took place. (Wisconsin Historical Society, ID 334g8)

January-July 1865

Skirmishing continued, and news of Gen Lee's surrender at Appomattox on April 9 reached the Territory only slowly. On April 23 a Union patrol killed three men at Snake Creek, 58 miles west of Fort Gibson, and captured mail indicating that Gen Cooper, unaware of the surrender in the East, was planning an attack on Missouri. In May, an Indian council met at Camp Napoleon near the Wichita Agency, seeking to unite the tribes around the principle that "an Indian shall not spill an Indian's blood"; but by June it was clear that the Southern cause was lost. General Cooper gave his Indians the right to negotiate their own surrender, and gradually the tribes came in. On June 25 at Doaksville, Stand Watie (who had been promoted brigadier-general on May 6, 1864 - the only Native American general of the Civil War) was the last Confederate general to surrender; and the very last unit to come in was the Caddo battalion on July 14.

The war had devastated the Territory. Businesses had been ruined, mills, plantations and farms burned, crops spoiled and livestock run off throughout the whole of the Cherokee, Creek and Seminole lands and much of the Choctaw and Chickasaw territory. The Wichita Agency was destroyed. Guerrilla warfare and desperate refugee conditions caused thousands of deaths: at the end of the war it was reckoned that 33 percent of the population were widows, 16 percent fatherless children and 14 percent orphans. In the long term the treaties concluded at the end of the war, which treated the Civilized Tribes as sovereign nations at war with the United States, paved the way for the further division of the Territory at the hands of white settlers.

RIGHT Major George Washington (Sho-we-tat, "Little Boy") was the chief of the Whitehead Caddos on the Wichita Agency. Here he is wearing a turban, woolen leggings, a beaded bandoleer bag, moccasins and sashes, with a print shirt and a sack coat. From 1862 he served as "captain of the Indian spies" with a company of Caddos and Arapahos, but after Comanche raids on nearby Chickasaw settlements in summer 1864 the Caddo Frontier Guard was raised. Its two companies were captained by the Andarko chief José Maria, and Phil McCusker, a regular soldier who had also served as a scout. It was the very last Confederate unit to surrender, in mid-July 1865. (Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society)

Photos Quantrill Raiders

The dandified George Maddox, a member of Quantrill's Raiders, wears a plumed hat and a classic "guerrilla shirt" under a Confederate frock coat with light-colored - yellow? - facings at collar and cuffs. He holds Remington Army revolvers, with another pair and a knife on his belt. (Dr Thomas P.Sweeney)

Jayhawkers, guerrillas and bushwhackers

Simultaneously with the formal campaigns described above, an almost constant state of ruthlessly cruel irregular warfare plagued this theater of the Civil War, and both sides were responsible for many unreported or forgotten atrocities. The vicious fighting along the KansasMissouri border occasionally spilled over into the Territory. "Jayhawkers" were originally Kansan Free-State fighters, but during the war this became the nickname of the 7th Kansas Cavalry, and was also applied to any looting band of marauders. The "Kansas Red Legs" also gained a reputation for indiscriminate violence. Guerrillas, or "Partisan Rangers," operated out of Missouri against the Union, and the most notorious -William Clarke Quantrill - was a frequent visitor to the Territory. Alongside these organizations were assorted bushwhackers, outlaws and deserters, Indian and white. Many wore elements of uniform, but owed no allegiance to either side, simply exploiting the anarchic conditions in the Territory to prey upon any victims they could find.

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Responses

  • debra
    What did the cherokee trade?
    8 years ago
  • Robel
    What indian tribes were the quantralls in?
    7 years ago

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