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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 18, No. 2
June, 1940
1861 (Continued)


Page 142

In a letter authorizing Agent Douglas H. Cooper to raise a mounted regiment among the Choctaws and Chickasaws, Secretary of War Walker informed him, in May, 1861, that the Confederate Government had deemed it "expedient to take measures to secure the protection of these tribes in their present country from the agrarian rapacity of the North."1 With that object in view, three regiments of white troops, under the command of General Ben McCulloch, had been assigned to the military district embracing the Indian Territory, and three mounted regiments were to be raised among the friendly Indian tribes. But General McCulloch, respecting the neutrality of the Cherokees, did not enter the Indian country; and of the three white regiments, only one—Greer's Third Texas Cavalry—saw service therein. In fact, with the exception of four companies of McIntosh's Arkansas regiment, the only Confederate troops to enter the Indian Territory in 1861 were Texas cavalry.

Early in the spring William C. Young, a colonel in the Texas militia, was authorized to raise a regiment of cavalry to protect the northern border of Texas.2 The regiment crossed the Red River late in April and occupied Forts Washita, Arbuckle, and Cobb after the withdrawal of Colonel Emory and the Federal troops. Colonel Young made a treaty with the Reserve Indians at Fort Cobb, pledging the Confederacy to feed and protect them; but a Captain Benning, of Fannin County, Texas, reported to the Secretary of War that the action was approved by very few Texans. "It is considered by the sovereigns here as a worse than needless expense."3

The Chickasaw Indians soon became dissatisfied with the presence of Texas troops on their land, and in their "declaration of independence," passed May 25, instructed Governor Cyrus Harris to take immediate steps to obtain possession of all forts within the Choctaw and Chickasaw country.4 Colonel Young's regiment was withdrawn from the Indian Territory late in August and reorganized,5 entering the Confederate service as the Eleventh Texas

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Cavalry. About the middle of October they marched north to join General McCulloch in Arkansas.6 Colonel Stone's Sixth Texas Cavalry had left for the same destination several weeks before.7 Late in October Colonel Sims' Ninth Texas Cavalry also crossed the Red River en route for McCulloch's command.8

The organization of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Regiment of Mounted Rifles, under the command of Colonel Cooper, was completed about the 1st of August at the old Choctaw Agency at Skullyville, 15 miles from Fort Smith, Arkansas.9 Chief George Hudson, on June 14, had ordered all citizens and residents of the Choctaw Nation subject to military duty, between the ages of 18 and 45 years, to enroll and "hold themselves in readiness to turn out for the defense of the nation at a minute's warning."10 Responding promptly, the Choctaws formed the bulk of the regiment, the Chickasaws being able at that time to furnish only about twenty men.11 A surplus of three companies—two Choctaw and one Chickasaw—was shortly afterward incorporated in a separate battalion. General McCulloch reported to the Secretary of War in July that he intended to keep the Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment at Skullyville as a check on the Cherokees and would make the same disposition of the Creek regiment when organized.12

The First Creek Regiment was raised in July and August.13 Before the treaty with the Creeks had been concluded on July 10, Albert Pike recommended the appointment of Agent William H. Garrett to the command of the projected regiment.14 On hearing of it, General McCulloch objected, writing to the Secretary of War that Garrett was not qualified for the position, and "from what I know of his habits, a worse appointment could not be made."15 The Creeks also objected and "strenuously insisted that the colonel of the regiment to be raised should be elected by the men."16 Pike yielded and withdrew his recommendation, and the War Department dropped Garrett's name.17 Daniel N. McIntosh, youngest son of William McIntosh, ill-fated chief of the Lower Creeks, was elected colonel of the regiment. A battalion, under Lieut. Col. Chilly Mc-

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Intosh, eldest son of Chief McIntosh, and an independent company, under Capt. James M. C. Smith, also were raised among the Creeks.18

The Seminoles furnished a small battalion under the command of Maj. John Jumper, principal chief.19 The nation was divided in sentiment, and many of the Seminoles remained loyal to the Federal Government. Jumper was later rewarded by the Confederate Government, by being made an honorary lieutenant colonel in the Confederate Army.20

The organization of the First Cherokee Mounted Rifles, authorized by the executive council of the nation soon after the general meeting on August 21,21. was completed about the time of the signing of the formal treaty of alliance with the Confederacy early in October. The officers, appointed by Chief John Ross, were Col. John Drew, a member of the executive council; Lieut. Col. William P. Ross, nephew of Chief Ross and also a member of the executive council; and Maj. Thomas Pegg, president of the National Committee, upper house of the Cherokee National Council.

In outlining the plan of the Confederate Government to secure and retain possession of the Indian country, Secretary of War Walker assured Agent Cooper, in May, that "the resources of this Government are adequate to its ends," adding:

"We have our agents actively engaged in the manufacture of ammunition and in the purchase of arms, and when your regiment has been reported organized in ten companies, ranging from 64 to 100 men each, and enrolled for twelve months, if possible, it will be received into the Confederate service, and supplied with arms and ammunition. Such will be the course pursued also in relation to the two other regiments I have indicated. The arms we are purchasing for the Indians are rifles, and they will be forwarded to Fort Smith."22

The Confederate Government, however, had difficulty in fulfilling that promise, and at no time during the war were the Indian troops adequately supplied. On July 30 the quartermaster at Fort Smith, Maj. George W. Clarke, telegraphed the Secretary of War that arms had not arrived for the Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment and there was "discontent prevailing among the Indians in copsequence."23

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Late in December, General Albert Pike, then in command of the Department of Indian Territory, wrote to the Secretary of War:

"The Creek and Choctaw regiments were raised in August and the Cherokee regiment in October; but it was a long time before Colonel Cooper's regiment was even partially armed. No arms were furnished the others; no pay was provided for any of them, and with the exception of a partial supply for the Choctaw regiment, no tents, clothing, or camp and garrison equipage were furnished to any of them."24

To the three regiments of Choctaws and Chickasaws, Creeks, and Cherokees must be added a fourth regiment—the Second Cherokee Mounted Rifles25—organized in the summer and fall of 1861 by the pro-slavery Cherokees, the majority of whom were half-breeds or "white Indians." Those Cherokees called themselves the Southern Rights party,26 and embraced the faction known as the Ridge party, for years bitter opponents of Chief Ross. The leaders in the movement were men prominent in the former Ridge party: Stand Watie, William P. Adair, James M. Bell, brother-in-law of Watie, and E. C. Boudinot, son of Elias Boudinot who was assassinated in 1839.

Stand Watie, who became the most prominent and picturesque Indian officer in the Confederate Army, was born in 1806 in the old Cherokee Nation in Georgia near the site of the present city of Rome. His father was a full-blood Cherokee, but his mother was half white. His elder brother was educated in Connecticut and took the name of a benefactor, Elias Boudinot. After the assassination of his brother and Major and John Ridge, his uncle and cousin, in retaliation for signing the treaty of 1835 by which the eastern Cherokees agreed to sell their lands and remove to the Indian Territory, Stand Watie became the recognized leader of the Ridge or Treaty part. He was a member of the Council from 1853 to 1861 and Speaker from 1855 to 1859.27

The bitter feud between the two parties, waning with the passage of time, was revived by the slavery controversy and the outbreak of the Civil War. Among the pro-slavery or southern Cherokees were many educated and capable men, but they were outnumbered by the Ross party two to one.

Early in May, 1861, several citizens of Fayetteville, Arkansas, wrote to Stand Watie urging him, "as a private and public citizen

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of the Cherokee Nation, to join us in our efforts for defense." Shortly afterward he was "earnestly exhorted" by other citizens "to take this matter immediately in hand," and advised to "hasten to the organization of your companies."28

As related heretofore, a number of Cherokees, anxious to "take up arms for the South," conferred with Albert Pike and General McCulloch at Fort Smith early in June, and Pike invited several members of the anti-Ross party to meet him at the Creek Agency a few days later. They failed to show up, however, and Pike afterward explained:

"The gentlemen whom I had invited to meet me in June at the Creek Agency did not do so. They were afraid of being murdered, they said, if they openly sided with the South...."29

Addressing him as "Colonel," General McCulloch wrote to Stand Watie on July 12 from Camp Jackson, near Maysville, Arkansas:

"You are hereby authorized to raise a sufficient force for operation in the neutral lands north of the Cherokee Nation. When my command marches into Missouri, you are hereby directed to proceed to the neutral lands and drive from it all bands now infesting it and hostile to our cause."30

Early in September General McCulloch reported to the Secretary of War:

"I have, previous to this time, employed some of the Cherokees, under Col. Stand Watie, to assist me in protecting the northern borders of the Cherokees from the inroads of the jayhawkers of Kansas. This they have effectually done, and at this time are on the Cherokee neutral lands in Kansas....I hope our Government will continue this gallant man and true friend of our country in service, and attach him and his men (some 300) to my command. It might be well to give him a battalion separate from the Cherokee regiment under Colonel Drew. Colonel Drew's regiment will be mostly composed of full-bloods, whilst those with Col. Stand Watie will be half-breeds, who are educated men, and good soldiers anywhere, in or out of the Nation."31

Colonel Watie's regiment is said to have been organized at old Fort Wayne, near Spavinaw Creek in Delaware County and only a short distance from Camp Jackson.32 It is also believed that part of the regiment, probably not more than a company, fought with General McCulloch's command at the battle of Wilson's Creek, near Springfield, Missouri, on August 10.33 Thomas Fox Taylor, a Cher-

Page 147

okee lawyer, became lieutenant colonel of the regiment, and E. C. Boudinot, nephew of Stand Watie and secretary of the Arkansas secession convention, major.34

By the end of October, 1861, the Confederate Government apparently had stifled all opposition and gained complete control of the Indian Territory. Treaties had been concluded with all the principal tribes; four Indian regiments, three battalions, and a number of independent companies had been organized; and all approaches had been well secured by troops stationed outside the territory. During the fall, however, opposition had been developing among the Upper Creeks. The Creeks, like the Cherokees, years before had split into two factions over the sale of tribal lands east of the Mississippi.

In their old home in Georgia and Alabama the Creek Nation was composed of two parties, known as the Upper and Lower Towns, each having a separate head chief. During the first quarter of the nineteenth century the principal chief of the Lower Towns was William McIntosh, a mixed-blood Creek, son of a Scotch trader and an Indian woman. Talented and capable, but avaricious and unscrupulous, he promoted or abetted a number of treaties ceding to Georgia millions of acres of Creek land within that state. After he had attempted in 1823 to convey more land, the Creek Council reenacted, in May, 1824, an old law forbidding the sale of any of the remaining lands of the nation, under penalty of death, except in full council and by consent of the whole nation. Fifteen million acres already had been transferred, and there remained but ten million acres in possession of the Creeks, "who had so advanced in education and agriculture that they valued their lands more highly than before."35

In defiance of that law, McIntosh and a number of Lower Creek chiefs signed a treaty at Indian Springs, Georgia, in February, 1825, ceding all the remaining Creek land in that state and several millions of acres in Alabama. Attending the treaty conference was a delegation from the Upper Towns, led by Opothleyoholo,36 a young orator and speaker of the Upper Creek Council. In an impassioned speech to the commissioners, the young leader protested against the sale of any land except in full council, and

Page 148

closed with an ominous warning to Chief McIntosh: "I have told you your fate if you sign that paper. I once more say, beware."37

The treaty was rushed to Washington and "forced through the expiring Senate on the last day of the session."38 Two months later a party of Upper Creek warriors surrounded McIntosh's house and shot him and another prominent signer as they tried to escape.

Opothleyoholo and other Creek leaders went to Washington to protest against the validity of the treaty, and in January, 1826, signed a new treaty, annulling the action at Indian Springs and ceding all the Creek land in Georgia, but none in Alabama. Under that treaty the Lower Creeks, or McIntosh faction, removed to the Indian Territory in 1828, settling along the Arkansas River, near the mouth of the Verdigris.

By the terms of a treaty signed at Washington in March, 1832, the Creeks relinquished their remaining land east of the Mississippi; and in the fall and winter of 1836 the Upper Creeks, led by Opothleyoholo, removed from their ancient homes in Alabama to lands in the Indian Territory along the Canadian River. Fearing a renewal of the bitterness engendered by the killing of Chief McIntosh and the sale of tribal lands, Opothleyoholo previously had attempted to buy a tract of land in Texas on which his people could settle, but the sale was blocked by the Mexican Government.

Threats had been made by the McIntosh faction,39 but after the arrival of the Upper Creeks hostilities were averted; and the pages of Creek history were never stained by bloody reprisals such as occurred among their neighbors, the Cherokees. For years, however, the only tie that bound the two parties was their formal tribal government, and they lived apart, separated "by an uninterrupted prairie extending from the bottoms of the Arkansas south to those of the North Fork of the Canadian, a distance of about forty miles."40

For more than thirty years Roley McIntosh, half-brother of the slain Chief William McIntosh, was principal chief of the Lower Creeks and generally recognized as chief of the entire Creek Nation, although the Upper Creeks had their own elected principal chief. Opothleyoholo was the real leader of his people for a number of years, and throughout his life retained a peculiar influence over them, yet it is an open question whether he was ever head chief

Page 149

in name. However, under date of January 31, 1842, Major Ethan Allen Hitchcock wrote in a diary which he kept during his visit to the Indian Territory: "Opothleyoholo is the principal man over here [Main Canadian], I find, though I understand he has resigned as a chief and is no longer a chief."41

Although Opothleyoholo is one of the great figures in the annals of the Creek Nation, authentic facts of his life are surprisingly meager. His name is not often met with in contemporary literature. That may be due to its startling orthography,42 A Georgia congressman, encountering it in the course of debate on the floor of the House, referred to it as "a long and barbarous Indian name, which I shall not attempt to pronounce."43

Major Hitchcock saw him and talked to him in the early part of 1842, and wrote in his diary: "He is a tall, well made Indian over 45, perhaps 50 years of age. Had on a blue frock coat of good cloth, but wore deer skin leggings."44

Early in the forties Opothleyoholo was a trader in partnership with J. W. Taylor, a white man, but the company failed "to give bond and license" in 1843 and Agent Dawson closed its store.45 Yet in 1845 Agent Logan wrote: "It is reported that Opothleyoholo is by far the richest man in the whole nation."46

Despite this reputed wealth, Mrs. Opothleyoholo was not above making a little pin money on the side. In February, 1842, Major Hitchcock noted in his diary:

"...a negress belonging to Opothleyoholo's wife came (five miles) with the compliments of her mistress desiring me to buy some bead moccasins of which she sent some eight or ten pairs, the work of her own hands. I bought one pair at seven dollars, the negress saying her mistress was disappointed that I had not paid her a visit and sent the moccasins supposing I might wish to carry back with me some of the work of the wife of Opothleyoholo....Today the negress has come again with the commencement of a bead pouch to show from her mistress who had heard the woman say that I wanted one, and she sends word that if the weather will allow, she and her family (three daughters) will visit me tomorrow."47

It is known that a son of Opothleyoholo was one of the early students at the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky. In 1828 he was

Page 150

9 years old and had taken the name of Richard M. Johnson, but nothing is known of his later life.48

Opothleyoholo had no part in the negotiations with Albert Pike leading to the signing of the treaty of alliance with the Confederacy at North Fork Village on July 10, 1861, as he was not a "chief, counsellor, or head man" in the Creek Nation at that time. Motey Kennard represented the Lower Creeks and Echo Harjo the Upper Creeks, and they signed the treaty as principal chiefs of their respective parties.49 Among the other names signed to the treaty, three were denounced as forgeries by their owners when they returned from the Indian council held at Antelope Hills. They were Ok-ta-ha-hassee Harjo (better known as Sands), Tallise Figico, and Mikko Hutke.50

It was afterwards said that Opothleyoholo was present at the making of the treaty and assured Pike that he "fully concurred" in the result; but "after the making of the treaty Opothleyoholo collected together his adherents, and for reasons entirely of a domestic character and in no wise connected with the national question at issue, withdrew from the country and assumed a hostile attitude.51

Whatever may have been the motives for the position taken by Opothleyoholo and his adherents, the slavery question apparently did not enter, as many of them were slaveholders. The "reasons entirely of a domestic character" undoubtedly were those early differences with the McIntosh faction over the sale of tribal lands. That, at least, was the opinion of Chief Ross, of the Cherokees. In his speech to Drew's regiment in December, he said

"I...dispatched a messenger to Opothleyoholo...and advised him to submit to the treaty made with the Creeks, and to be advised by Colonel Cooper, who was his friend, and had used his utmost exertions to bring about peaceful relations with the parties in the Creek Nation. Opothleyoholo replied that he was at peace with the South, with Colonel Cooper and the Cherokees and desired to remain so. He was willing also to submit to all proper treaties, but that a party in his own nation was against him and his people, who would not allow him to be at peace."52

The loyal Creeks, as the party opposed to the Confederate alliance came to be known, refused to recognize Motey Kennard and Echo Harjo as leaders of the Creeks, and chose Ok-ta-ha-hassee Harjo (Sands) as acting principal chief of the tribe.53 Opothle-

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yoholo became their actual leader. They removed to an encampment near the junction of the North Fork and the Deep Fork of the Canadian River, and sent delegates to Washington, by way of Kansas, to confer with the "Great Father."

It was at this time that Albert Pike "authorized James M. C. Smith, a resident citizen of the Creek Nation, to raise and command a company of Creek Volunteers, to be stationed at the North Fork Village, in the Creek country, on the North Fork of the Canadian, where the great road from Missouri to Texas crosses that river, to act as a police force, watch and apprehend disaffected persons, intercept improper communications, and prevent the driving of cattle to Kansas."54

The delegates to Washington—Mikko Hutke (White Chief), Bob Deer, and Joe Ellis—carried with them a letter signed by Opothleyoholo and Sands appealing urgently for help:

"Now I write to the President our Great Father who removed us to our present homes, and made a treaty, and you said that in our new homes we should be defended from all interference from any people and that no white people in the whole world should ever molest us unless they come from the sky but the land should be ours as long as grass grew or waters run, and should we be injured by anybody you would come with your soldiers and punish them, but now the wolf has come, men who are strangers tread our soil, our children are frightened and the mothers cannot sleep for fear. This is our situation now. When we made our Treaty at Washington you assured us that our children should laugh around our houses without fear, and we believed you. Then our Great Father was strong. And now we raise our hands to him we want his help to keep off the intruder and make our homes again happy as they used to be...."55

Upon reaching Kansas, the delegates were received with open arms by the Federal officials, both of the Army and the Indian service. They came first within the orbit of the indefatigable James H. Lane, Senator from Kansas, who since the middle of August had been recruiting and organizing at or near Fort Scott what afterward became known as Lane's Kansas Brigade.56 With no scruples as to who should carry his Minie rifles in defense of Kansas, Lane was soon advocating the use of friendly Indians as soldiers, a step in advance of the policy of the Federal Government. He had already commissioned E. H. Carruth, an educator with service in both the, Cherokee and Creek nations, to arrange an interview "at Fort Lincoln on the Osage or some point convenient thereto" between Lane and representatives of the Indian tribe.57

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Carruth met the three Indian delegates at Iola early in September and took them to Lane's headquarters at Barnesville, near Fort Scott, where plans were laid for a future conference at the headquarters of the Kansas Brigade with representatives of tribes in the Indian Territory. Carruth wrote personally of Chief Ross, to Opothleyoholo and Sands, and to the Wichitas, Seminoles, and "loyal" Choctaws and Chickasaws, asking them to send delegations. In his letter to the Creek leaders, dated September 10, Carruth wrote:

"Your letter by Mikko Hutke is received. You will send a delegation of your best men to meet the commissioner of the United States Government in Kansas. I am authorized to inform you that the President will not forget you. Our Army will soon go south, and those of your people who are true and loyal to the Government will be treated as friends. Your rights to property will be respected. The commissioners from the Confederate States have deceived you. They have two tongues. They wanted to get the Indians to fight, and they would rob and plunder you if they can get you into trouble. But the President is still alive. His soldiers will soon drive these men who have violated your homes from the land they have treacherously entered...."58

A few days later Superintendent Coffin met the three delegates, and he too was soon planning an intertribal conference at Humboldt.59

The delegates traveled as far north as Lawrence, Kansas, where Evan Jones, the Baptist missionary to the Cherokees, had a long talk with Mikko Hutke. Jones offered the Indian twenty-five dollars to deliver a letter to Chief John Ross and bring back an answer, but he declined to undertake it. "I suppose he was afraid of being intercepted with documents in his possession," commented Jones in a letter to Commissioner Dole.60

The trip to Washington to confer with the "Great Father" was postponed for the time being, and Mikko Hutke returned to the Creek Nation, presumably in the interest of the intertribal conference, as he told Jones he was coming back in November as far as Humboldt.

Meanwhile, Chief Ross had been urging Opothleyoholo to support the Confederate alliance and reconcile his differences with the Lower Creeks. Shortly after the general meeting at Tahlequah on August 21, Ross wrote to Opothleyoholo and "others of the chiefs and head men of the Creek Nation":

"Brothers: I am gratified to inform you that the Great Being who overrules all things for good has sustained me in my efforts to unite the hearts and sentiments of the Cherokee people as one man; and at a

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mass meeting of about four thousand males, at Tahlequah, with one voice we have proclaimed in favor of forming an alliance with the Confederate States, and shall thereby preserve and maintain the brotherhood of Indian nations in a common destiny."61

The note seems to have been received with incredulity by Opothleyoholo, as it was returned to Ross with a few lines written on the back asking if it was authentic.62

Ross assured him, September 19, that he had written the note, and sent copies of his address to the general meeting and the resolutions adopted by the Cherokees. On October 8, after the Cherokee treaty had been signed, Ross again wrote to Opothleyoholo, urging his acceptance of the Confederate alliance. Assistant Principal Chief Joseph Vann was dispatched to the camp of the loyal Creeks to further explain the position of the Cherokees.63 Opothleyoholo refused to be moved, however, saying he had made up his mind to adhere to the Union and that no argument could change that determination.

Early in November, Mikko Hutke returned to Kansas with a delegation of Creeks, Seminoles, and Chickasaws. At Le Roy they had a consultation with Dr. George A. Cutler, who during the summer had been appointed agent for the Creeks.64 Cutler, decided to take them to Fort Scott to consult with Senator Lane, but on reaching there found that Lane had gone to Washington. Colonel Montgomery, Lane's successor, advised that the delegation be taken to the Federal capital. At Fort Leavenworth the department commander, General Hunter, concurred with the views of Montgomery, and Cutler and the delegation immediately left for Washington. "The result of that journey," Cutler afterward wrote, "has strengthened their confidence and belief in the power and stability of the Government."65 But to their dismay they found on returning to Kansas late in December that disaster irreparable had overtaken the loyal Creeks in the Indian Territory.

NOTE:—In the second article of this series (Chronicles of Oklahoma, December, 1939, p. 402) the name "Andrew J. Doran" in the first line should read Andrew J. Dorn and "Doran" in the fifth line should be Dorn.

(To be continued)

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