Sons of Confederate Veterans

Sons of Confederate Veterans
Egbert J. Jones Camp #357
Huntsville, Alabama

Service. Honor. Pride.
American Indian Confederate Veterans

     Native Americans were often overlooked in both armies. Perhaps because of the smaller numbers of them that served in the war effort. About 12,000 American Indians served in the army of the Confederacy and around 6,000 served in the Union army. Most of the Indians who served were members of the Five Civilized Tribes living outside of the Indian Territory.

     Perhaps the best known of those in the Union Army was Colonel Ely Parker, who served as an aide to General U. S. Grant, and was present at Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House. Statistics for the Confederacy are not reliably available, but most scholars of Native American involvement in the actual fighting of the war are very well acquainted with the major Southern figure among them: Brigadier General Chief Stand Watie, a three-quarter blood Cherokee who was born in December 1806 near what would become Rome, Georgia.

Stand Waite continued to fight long after the confederacy surrendered     Stand Watie was one of the signers of a treaty that agreed to the removal of the Cherokee from their home in Georgia to what was then the Oklahoma territory; this split the tribes into two factions, and Stand Watie became the leader of the minority party. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the minority party gave its allegiance to the Confederacy, while the majority party went for the North. Watie organized a company, then a regiment known as the First Cherokee Mounted Rifles; the regiment fought at Wilson's Creek, Elkhorn, and in numerous smaller fights and skirmishes along the border with what was known as Indian Territory.

     The warriors found curious the white man's strategy of standing still and allowing people to shoot at them, or lob artillery shells at them; the Cherokee tended to be spectacular at wildly brave mounted charges, but once the artillery began to fire, the warriors wanted nothing to do with it. Stand Watie was unreconstructed to the end; it is believed he never surrendered until June 23, 1865, well after other Confederate commanders had given up. He died in 1871 and is buried in the Old Ridge Cemetery in Delaware County, Oklahoma.

     The Confederates would raise eleven regiments and seven battalions of Indian cavalry with a few more scattered throughout the ranks of white units. These Indians would go to battle with long hair, painted faces and their dress was mainly made up of their traditional Indian costumes. This included buck-skin hunting shirt, dyed of almost any color, leggings, and moccasins. Many went into battle bareheaded and about half carried only bows and arrows, tomahawks and war clubs. The natives were often ill-treated and ignored by their superiors. This often led native soldiers to give a half-hearted effort to the war cause. All too often the natives would ignore army regulations and fight in their old traditional ways. But they certainly lent color to the troops of the Confederacy and Union.

Source: The Civil War Society's "Encyclopedia of the Civil War."

Last to Surrender by Author Donovan Harrison
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     June 23,1865. When the leaders of the Confederate Indians learned that the government in Richmond had fallen and the Eastern armies had been surrendered. They began making their plans to seek peace with the Federal government. The chiefs convened the Grand Council June 15 and passed resolutions calling for Indian commanders to lay down their arms and for emissaries to approach Federal authorities for peace terms.
     The largest force in Indian Territory was commanded by Confederate Brig.Gen. Stand Watie, who was also a chief of the Cherokee Nation. Dedicated to the Confederate cause and unwilling to admit defeat, he kept his troops in the field for nearly a month after Lt. Gen.E.Kirby Smith surrendered the Trans- Mississippi May 26. Finally accepting the futility of continued resistance, on June 23 Watie rode into Doaksville near Fort Towson in Indian Territory and surrender his battalion of Creek, Seminole, Cherokee, and Osage Indians to Lt.Col.Asa C.Matthews, appointed a few weeks earlier to negotiate a peace with the Indians. Watie was the last Confederate general officer to surrender his command. 

     Certainly the most famous American Indian of the War of Northern Aggression and the first American Indian to ever earn the rank of a general officer was Stand Watie. On the wild frontier of the Trans-Mississippi west he earned a reputation as one of the most daring and courageous warriors to ever ride a horse. He was born on December 12, 1806 near Rome, Georgia to David Uwatie and Susanna Reese who was of mixed Cherokee and European blood. He was named Isaac S. Watie or Degataga which can be translated as "standing together as one" or "stand firm" which in either event led to him being known as Stand Watie. Educated by missionaries and instilled with a sense of his southern as well as Indian heritage, he and his brother Buck Watie, along with Major Ridge and John Ridge were in favor of moving the Cherokee to Oklahoma but were opposed in this by their Chief John Ross though both sides knew that their position in Georgia was unsustainable. Ultimately the Cherokees were moved to Oklahoma in 1838, but the feud between the Ross and Ridge factions and of the two Ridge brothers and two Watie brothers Stand was the only one not assassinated by Ross partisans.

     Stand Watie became a prominent man in the Indian Territory (as Oklahoma was called) where he established a flourishing plantation on the Spavinaw Creek (numerous Native American elites were slave owners) and from 1845 to 1861 he served on the Cherokee Council. When the War Between the States commenced in 1861 the Indian tribes were somewhat divided. Some feared that a failure to support the Union would lead to the revocation of the treaties they had signed with the federal government while others were quick to take up arms against the government which had already broken numerous treaties and seemed to regard them as enemies anyway. Questions of states' rights and other political controversies also existed, though not to the same degree since the Indian Territory was not a state and there were relatively few slaves west of the Mississippi.

     Ultimately, most of the Cherokees favored the Confederacy, but fear of having their treaties with the Union nullified led Chief John Ross to try to remain neutral in the conflict. For Stand Watie, however, there could be no neutrality and he left no doubt about his sympathy being with the Confederate States. As more Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creek Indians expressed their desire to ally with the Confederacy, Chief John Ross altered his position and the Cherokee Council voted for an alliance with the Confederate States of America. Stand Watie had pushed for this development and had constantly urged his countrymen to join with the Confederacy in fighting their common enemy; the United States government. As soon as the choice was official Stand Watie organized the First Cherokee Mounted Rifles of which he was commissioned colonel in October of 1861. He was on his way to becoming the most legendary American Indian of the war.

     With his hard fighting Cherokee cavalry Stand Watie battled Union incursions into the Oklahoma territory was well as Creek and Seminole Indians who had sided with the United States. His first major engagement and rise to notoriety came at the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas where the Confederate Army of the West attempted an attack on Union forces that would allow them back into southern Missouri. The battle was a southern defeat, but Stand Watie and his men acquitted themselves bravely, charging Union artillery and fighting hard to cover the retreat of Confederate forces. On the home front, however, there was to be no unity to back up the heroic actions of Stand Watie and his men. Many of the Indians dropped their support of the Confederacy at the first indication that the north might win, nonetheless, others remained committed to the cause they endorsed and in 1862 the Confederate sympathizers or Southern Cherokee elected Stand Watie their chief. In 1863 pro-Union Cherokees captured the tribal council headquarters at Tahlequah which Watie and his men later burned.

     Stand Watie led his cavalry in constant raids against Union forces, tying down thousands of federal troops that could have been employed elsewhere. He was so successful that General Samuel B. Maxey promoted him to brigadier general, the first American Indian to achieve that rank, and gave him command of a brigade of two regiments of mounted rifles, three Cherokee, Seminole and Osage infantry battalions based just south of the Canadian River. General Watie led these men in daring attacks all across Oklahoma and into parts of Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Texas. No brigade west of the Mississippi fought more battles that General Stand Watie and his Indians. All Confederate units were undersupplied but the situation was even worse on the western frontier and Watie had to sustain his men almost totally off of captured Union supplies. One raid saw the capture of a federal supply train loaded down with 16,000 pounds of bacon which his troops put to good use. On another occasion General Watie was wearing a captured Union overcoat that was much too large for him. As he sat outside his tent with his head down one of his soldiers tried to make off with the prize only to be startled when Watie shouted, "Hold on! There's a man in this coat!"

     Despite all of the efforts of the vastly more numerous Union forces, they could never catch or defeat General Watie and his men and his harassment continued until the end of the war. Ultimately, Stand Watie fought on longer than any other Confederate general of the war. It was not until June 23, 1865 that he signed a cease-fire agreement with Union forces at Fort Towson in the Choctaw area of Oklahoma, bringing his troops in to lay down their arms worn and weary but never defeated. After the war, Stand Watie continued to work on behalf of his people as Chief of the Southern Cherokee and negotiated the 1866 Cherokee Reconstruction Treaty which aimed at helping the Indian Territory recover from the devastation of the war. He died in 1871 and is buried in Polson Cemetery, Oklahoma. Among all of the accounts of the Civil War out west the name of General Stand Watie will always be remembered for his boldness, courage and dogged determination which knew no equal in the territory.

Source: Crisp Confederacy

 Sergeant Swimmer. NC Cherokee, Thomas Legion
Col. Tandy Walker, CSA
Col. John Jumper, CSA


SCV Camp #357