By Dean Trickett
Albert Pike, then in the midst of his negotiations with the Indian tribes, was appointed brigadier general in the Confederate Army by President Davis on August 13, 1861, the nomination being confirmed three days later by the Provisional Congress.1 On the 22d of November the Indian Territory was made a separate department, and General Pike was given the command:
"The Indian country west of Arkansas and north of Texas is constituted the Department of Indian Territory, and Brig. Gen. Albert Pike, Provisional Army, is assigned to the command of the same. The troops of this department will consist of the several Indian regiments raised or yet to be raised within the limits of the department."2
At that time Pike was in Richmond, Virginia, where he had gone to submit the Indian treaties to President Davis; but the creation of a new department and the assignment of Pike to the command had been under advisement for some time and was known in the Indian Territory before he left there in the latter part of October.3
Pike completed his work with the Indian tribes when he signed the treaty of alliance with the Cherokees on October 7. Shortly thereafter he received word that Colonel McIntosh's Creek regiment was threatened by Opothleyoholo. Pike hesitated in employing Indians against Indians; but, as he afterward wrote to Secretary of War Benjamin: "When I was informed of Opothleyoholo's intentions to fight, I could do no more than request Colonel Drew and Colonel Cooper to march to the assistance of Colonel McIntosh . . . "4 The Cherokees, however, were not eager to fight against the Creeks.
"The Cherokees and Creeks are neighbors," explained Pike to Secretary Benjamin, "and the former are very desirous of maintaining their present friendly relations. They have long had a treaty between themselves by which they can settle in each other's country, and many of each nation are domiciled and married in the country of the other. The Cherokees naturally fear that if they fight any part of the Creeks the feud will last between them for many years after our difficulties are settled."5
1Congress of the Confederate States of America, Journal (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904-5), I, 343, 363.
2Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1904), Series I, VIII, 690. Hereafter cited as O. R.
3Annie Heloise Abel, The American Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist (Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1915), 332. Rector to Leeper, Oct. 31, 1861. See also O. R., Series I, III, 727.
A detachment of Colonel Drew's Cherokee regiment, about 500 strong, was posted at Coody's Bluff in the western part of the Cherokee Nation;6 and after Pike's departure for Richmond, Cooper, as senior colonel, assumed command of the troops in the Indian Territory and organized his forces to cope with Opothleyoholo and the loyal Creeks.7
Douglas H. Cooper was a native of Mississippi, and during the War with Mexico served as a captain in the regiment of Mississippi Volunteers commanded by Jefferson Davis.8 He became Indian agent for the Choctaws in 1853, the Chickasaw Agency being added to his charge in 1856. He was an ardent champion of slavery, and in his long service as agent seems to have effectively propagandized the tribes under his jurisdiction. In 1854 he wrote to Superintendent Charles W. Dean at Fort Smith, Arkansas:
"If things go on as they are now doing, in five years slavery will be abolished in the whole of your superintendency. I am convinced that something must be done speedily to arrest the systematic efforts of the missionaries to abolitionize the Indian country .... I see no way except secretly to induce the Choctaws and Chickasaws and Creeks to allow slaveholders to settle among their people and control the movement now going on to abolish slavery among them."9
By 1860, however, he was able to state in the last official report he made to the Federal superintendent at Fort Smith:
"No doubt we have among us free-soilers; perhaps abolitionists in sentiment; but, so far as I am informed, persons from the North, residing among the Choctaws and Chickasaws, who entertain opinions unfriendly to our system of domestic slavery, carefully keep their opinions to themselves, and attend to their legitimate business."10
Cooper was one of the earliest of the Indian agents to openly side with the Confederacy, and his regiment of Choctaws and Chickasaws was the first to be organized among the Indian nations.
In his account of the operations against the loyal Creeks, Colonel Cooper said that he "exhausted every means" in his power "to procure an interview with Opothleyoholo for the purpose of effecting a peaceful settlement of the difficulty existing between his party and the constituted authorities of the Creek Nation,"
8Joseph B. Thoburn, A Standard History of Oklahoma (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1916), I, 307.
10"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," in Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1860 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1861), 353-54. Cooper to Rector, Sept. 15, 1860.
but that his written overtures "were treated with silence, if not contempt."11 Chief Ross likewise charged that the last messenger sent to Opothleyoholo by the Cherokees, bearing offers of peace "with the full authority of Colonel Cooper and Col. D. N. McIntosh," was prevented from seeing Opothleyoholo by some of his chiefs or officers "who were already stripped and painted for war."12 Learning also that Opothleyoholo had been in correspondence with the Federal authorities in Kansas, Cooper resolved to advance against him and "either compel submission . . . or drive him and his party from the country."13
The white and Indian troops under Cooper's command numbered about 1,400 men, consisting of a detachment from the Ninth Texas Cavalry, under Lieut. Col. William Quayle; the First Creek Regiment, under Col. D. N. McIntosh; the Creek and Seminole battalions, under Lieut. Col. Chilly McIntosh and Maj. John Jumper; and six companies of his own First Choctaw and Chickasaw Regiment of Mounted Rifles.14
The loyal Indians, in the meantime, had abandoned their base at the junction of the Deep and North forks of the Canadian River, breaking camp on November 5 and marching north.15 Cooper was told later by captured prisoners that Opothleyoholo's party had taken a "route towards Walnut Creek, where a fort was being erected, and which had for some time been their intended destination in the event of not receiving promised aid from Kansas before being menaced or attacked."16
Although Walnut Creek, in southern Kansas, did eventually become a haven for the defeated loyal Indians, their first move was probably made to avoid for the time being a clash with Cooper's force. By their subsequent maneuvers they revealed their extreme reluctance to leave the Indian Territory. In fact, they did not leave until they had fought three pitched battles and were driven from the country.
Opothleyoholo's party at that time was composed largely of full-blood loyal Creeks, with a smaller contingent of loyal Semi-
12Joseph B. Thoburn, ed., "The Cherokee Question," Chronicles of Oklahoma (Oklahoma City), II (1924), 187. John Ross' Speech to Drews Regiment, Dec. 19, 1861.
15The date is given on a map that accompanied a letter written by Special Agent John T. Cox to Superintendent Coffin in March, 1864. See "Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," in Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1864 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1865), 477. The original map is now in The National Archives at Washington. A reproduction is given in Abel, op. cit., 263.
noles. Later they had accessions from nearly all the tribes in the Indian Territory. Traveling with them was a caravan of women and children, together with several hundred negroes. It was a general exodus, their household goods being loaded on a long train of wagons, followed by droves of horses, cattle, and sheep.
As to numbers, no reliable figures can be given. It is probable the warriors at that time did not exceed 1,500, although Opothleyoholo subsequently had a force in excess of 2,500. The caravan, of course, was far more numerous.
The Seminoles were led by a celebrated chief, Halleck Tustenuggee, who with a band of seventy warriors had fought with United States troops in 1843 the last battle of the Seminole War in Florida.17 Pascofa and other Seminole chiefs had also joined the loyal Indians.18 In command of all the warriors—Creek and Seminole—was a Creek called the Little Captain. He led in the three battles fought by Opothleyoholo's forces, but remains today a shadowy figure known only by name.19
Cooper took the field on the 15th of November and soon came upon the abandoned camp of the loyal Indians. Moving up the Deep Fork of the Canadian, he followed the trail northward until the 19th, when a few stragglers were picked up. From those prisoners he learned that Opothleyoholo's party was near the Red Fork of the Arkansas River.20 Cooper's forces crossed the Red Fork and pushed rapidly ahead. About four o'clock they discovered camp smokes and the enemy's scouts a short distance in advance. The detachment of Texas cavalry charged the camp, but found it deserted. For nearly four miles they pursued the retreating scouts, who finally disappeared in the timber skirting a creek, along which the main body of Opothleyoholo's forces was then encamped.21
Some seventy men of the second squadron of the Texas cavalry attacked the encampment about sunset, being supported by other companies of the detachment, numbering approximately 150 in all. But after firing from three to five rounds, they were outflanked by the loyal Indians and forced to retreat under a hot fire two and half miles to the main command.22
As soon as the firing was heard by the main body, the Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment was ordered to saddle and mount
17Ibid., 23. See also Grant Foreman, The Five Civilized Tribes (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1934), 236.
and advance to the aid of the retreating Texans. They rode a short distance to the front and dismounted, but it was now dark and extremely difficult to tell friend from foe. Colonel Cooper and his volunteer aide, Col. James Bourland, of Texas, rode to the front, and Bourland called out, asking if any Texans were there. He was answered "by the crack of the enemy's rifles." The Choctaws and Chickasaws immediately opened fire and after a few rounds silenced the loyal Indians, who retreated under cover of the darkness. Off to the right the prairie had been fired and was burning briskly when the engagement ended.23
That battle, the first to be fought in the Indian Territory during the Civil War, is listed in the Official Records as the "Engagement at Round Mountain."24 The location of the battlefield has not yet been determined. One writer placed it "approximately a mile north of the present city of Keystone, around the base and along the crest of one of a number of round-shaped hills in that region."25 A much less likely site in the western part of Tulsa County has recently been proposed.26
Opothleyoholo's force in the engagement was "variously estimated at from 800 to 1,200 Creeks and Seminoles and 200 to 300 negroes," and the loyal Indians were said to have lost 110 killed and wounded, a grossly exaggerated figure. Cooper reported his loss as six killed, four wounded, and one missing.27
Early the next morning the Confederates entered the main camp of the loyal Indians and found it deserted. Left behind were "the chief's buggy, 12 wagons, flour, sugar, coffee, salt, etc., besides many cattle and ponies."28
At that juncture the campaign against Opothleyohola was brought to a halt by orders from General McCulloch directing Colonel Cooper to take position near the Arkansas line and cooperate with him in meeting a threatened attack by the Federal Army under General Fremont concentrated at Springfield, Missouri. Further pursuit at that time was also held impractical by Cooper owing to the destruction of forage by the loyal Indians and the condition of the horses of his command, "worn down by rapid marches."
Returning on November 24 to Concharta,29 where his train was parked, Colonel Cooper learned that the Federal Army had retreated from Springfield and that it was unnecessary for him to take post along the Arkansas border, "but proper to prosecute the operations against Opothleyoholo without delay and with the utmost energy," which, added Cooper in his official report, "I accordingly proceeded to do."30
After reorganizing his forces at Spring Hill, near Concharta, and giving his men a few days' rest, Cooper moved on the 29th of November in the direction of Tulsey Town.31 His command, much reduced, now numbered but 780 men, and consisted of 430 men of the Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment, under Maj. Mitchell Laflore; 50 men of the Choctaw battalion, under Capt. Alfred Wade; 285 men of Col. D. N. McIntosh's Creek regiment; and 15 men of Capt. James M. C. Smith's Creek company.32
Col. William B. Sims, of the Ninth Texas Cavalry, who had joined the regiment and removed with his sick to Tullahassee,33 was ordered to support the movement and march with all his available force up the Verdigris River in the direction of Coody's Bluff, where Col. John Drew was posted with a detachment of the First Cherokee Mounted Rifles.
Colonel Cooper had been informed that the loyal Indians had "taken refuge in the Cherokee country by invitation of a leading disaffected Cherokee"; and on arrival at Tulsey Town he was told by an escaped prisoner that Opothleyoholo's warriors, 2,000 strong, were planning an immediate attack.34
Colonel Drew was ordered to march south from Coody's Bluff and form a junction with Cooper's force somewhere on the road to James McDaniels'; and Colonel Sims, then at Mrs. McNair's on the Verdigris east of Tulsey Town, was directed to join him at David Van's.35 Through some misunderstanding, Drew failed to make connection, and Cooper marched north from Van's as far
29Concharta was south of the Arkansas River and a few miles southwest of the present town of Leonard in the southern part of Tulsa County. Eaton, op. cit.
31"The Tulsey Town referred to in Civil War records was on the terrain covered by the present city of Tulsa. It was more or less a camping site, probably around the springs which were once in use along what is now Riverside Drive." Eaton, op. cit.
33Ibid., 7. The location given in Cooper's report (Tallahassa, Mo.) is undoubtedly a transcriber's error. Tullahassee is in the southern part of Wagoner County west of the Verdigris River.
35Ibid., 7. The exact location of places given in Cooper's report and identified only by owner's names (James McDaniels', Mrs. McNair's, David Van's, Melton's, Musgrove's, etc.) cannot now be determined.
as the Caney River before he turned west and, about noon on Sunday, December 8, found Drew encamped on Bird Creek. He had arrived there Saturday morning with a force of approximately 480 men.36
The loyal Indians were in camp six miles farther south on the same creek, and Drew was in receipt of a message from Opothleyoholo "expressing a desire to make peace." Colonel Cooper authorized him to send Major Pegg, of the Cherokee regiment, to Opothleyoholo's camp with the assurance that the Confederate commander did not desire the "shedding of blood among the Indians" and proposed a conference the next day. Cooper went into camp on the west side of the creek about two miles below the Cherokees.37
Major Pegg was accompanied on the peace mission by Captains George W. Scraper and J. P. Davis and the Rev. Lewis Downing. Late that afternoon, before they returned, Colonel Drew learned that not more than sixty men were in camp and that a rumor was being circulated that they were to be attacked by a large force then close at hand. Drew and a small party of Cherokees mounted their horses and started for Cooper's camp. After proceeding some distance, they turned back to secure the ammunition. In camp they found Major Pegg, who had returned without being able to reach Opothleyoholo, but who reported that he had seen "a large number of warriors painted for battle," who would be "down" upon them that night. Pegg himself had been allowed to return only on the "plea of removing some women and children from danger." His report completed the demoralization of the Cherokees, and in the darkness they "dispersed in squads."38 Some of them, including Major Pegg and Captain Davis, made their way back to Fort Gibson, but many of the Cherokees put on the shuck badge worn by Opothleyoholo's warriors and joined the loyal Indians.39 Among them were Captain Scraper and Captain James McDaniel, the latter a member of the Cherokee National Committee, 1857-59, from the Coo-wee-scoo-wee district.40 Only twenty-eight Cherokees were left to follow Colonel Drew to Cooper's camp and pledge their aid in its defense.41
39Agent William H. Garrett wrote to Commissioner Hubbard on Dec. 16, 1861, that 400 Cherokees "deserted a few days before the recent battle from Col. John Drew's regiment." Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1864, op. cit., 479.
40Emmet Starr, History of the Cherokee Indians (Oklahoma City, Okla.: Warden Co., 1921), 272. The Coo-wee-scoo-wee district comprised the western portion of the Cherokee Nation.
About 7 o'clock that night Colonel Cooper was informed of the panic among the Cherokees. He sent Lieutenant Colonel Quayle with a squadron of the Texas cavalry to investigate and report the condition of Drew's camp. Some provisions and a portion of the train were brought down that night by the Cherokee wagonmaster and his teamsters, "true to their duty." The remainder of the camp equipment was removed the next morning.42
Cooper's whole command was aroused by the alarm and remained under arms all night, and a company under Captain Parks was sent on a scout to the rear of Opothleyoholo's camp.43
The loyal Indians did not attack, however, and on the morning of the 9th two companies of Creeks, under command of Captain Foster, went on a reconnaissance in the direction of Park's Store, on Hominy Creek.44
Seeking a position that would enable him to maintain lines of communication with his depot at Coweta Mission45 and with reinforcements expected at Tulsey Town, Cooper recrossed Bird Creek about 11 o'clock and moved down the east side. He had proceeded about five miles when two runners reached him at the head of the column with a message from Captain Foster saying that he had found the enemy "in large force" and that Captain Parks "had exchanged a few shots with them, taken six prisoners, and was retreating, hotly pursued."46
At that moment shots were heard in the rear. Directing the Cherokee train to be parked on the prairie, under guard, Cooper hastily formed his troops in three columns—the Choctaws and Chickasaws on the right, the Texans and Cherokees in the center, the Creeks on the left—and "advanced at a quick gallop on the enemy, who had by this time shown himself in large force..."47
Meanwhile, the rear guard repulsed an attack made by a body of 200 loyal Indians, who were driven back to the creek bottom, a distance of two miles, by a squadron of Choctaws and Chickasaws under Captain Young.48
Opothleyoholo's main camp at that time is thought to have been on the west side of Bird Creek in a horseshoe bend about
44Ibid., 8. In reports in the Official Records this stream is usually called "Shoal Creek." In only one report (ibid., 27) is it given the name by which it is known today.
45Coweta, or Coweta Mission, is in the western part of Wagoner County, about halfway between Tulsa and Fort Gibson.
two miles north and one mile east of the present town of Turley, in Tulsa County. This belief is strengthened by the fact that the Upper Creeks seem to have had a penchant for bends of rivers, in spite of their early disastrous experience at the Horse Shoe Bend of the Tallapoosa River in Alabama during the Creek War of 1813-14. Their warriors, however, were mainly on the east side, above and below the camp, concealed in the heavy timber that skirted the tortuous windings of Bird Creek. The creek was deep and could be forded only at certain points; but knowing these, the loyal Indians could cross and recross at will.
The strategy of Opothleyoholo's forces was clearly outlined by Col. D. N. McIntosh in his official report:
"1st. ....They had placed their forces in a large creek, knowing by marching across the prairie that we would be likely to pass in reach of the place.
"2d. The grounds they had selected were extremely difficult to pass, and in fact most of the banks on the creek were bluff and deep waters, so that no forces could pass across only at some particular points, which were only known to them.
"3d. This place was fortified also with large timber on the side they occupied, and on our side the prairie extended to the creek, where the enemies were bedded, lying in wait for our approach."49
The main body of Cooper's command advanced rapidly across the intervening prairie, clearing the ravines of skirmishers and sharpshooters, and driving the loyal Indians to the creek bank. In describing the terrain, Cooper said:
"The position then taken up by the enemy at Chusto-Talasah, or the Caving Banks (the Creeks call the place Fonta-hulwache, Little High Shoals), presented almost insurmountable obstacles to our troops.
"The creek made up to the prairie on the side of our approach in an abrupt, precipitous bank, some 30 feet in height, at places cut into steps, reaching near the top and forming a complete parapet...The opposite side, which was occupied by the hostile forces, was densely covered with heavy timber, matted undergrowth, and thickets, and fortified additionally by prostrate logs."50
Cooper was describing, it should be noted, the front along the horseshoe bend. The reverse bends above and below were heavily wooded on the east side.
The battle, which lasted about four hours, was a series of attacks and flanking movements. After being driven back into the timber, and often to the creek bank, the loyal Indians would work around on the flanks of the Confederates and pour in a volley, only to be charged and forced back again. Captain Pitehlynn, of the Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment, stated in his re-
port to Cooper: "The mode of warfare adopted by the enemy compelled us, as you are aware, to abandon strict military discipline and make use of somewhat similar movements in order to be successful."51
The Choctaws and Chickasaws fought on the right of the line throughout the enngagement; and the Creeks, except at the close, on the left. In the center, however, Colonel Sims divided his Texas cavalry, numbering about 260 men, into two divisions; one, under Lieutenant Colonel Quayle, fighting alongside the Choctaws and Chickasaws; and the other, under his own command, fighting at the side of the Creeks; the two being again united on the right late in the afternoon.52
Much of the fighting of the Choctaws and Chickasaws centered around "a dwelling-house, a small corn-crib, and rail fence," the location of which cannot now be established with certainty, but which were situated near and probably north of the ravine at the northeast corner of the horseshoe bend.
Just before sunset the Creek regiment ended the fighting on the left by driving the loyal Indians across the creek; then closed the battle by going to the relief of the exhausted Choctaws and Chickasaws on the right.53
Colonel Cooper estimated his force actually engaged at 1,100, and reported a loss of 15 killed and 37 wounded. He was certain the loyal Indians had "over 2,500" in their ranks, and cited Major Pegg's figure of 4,000. But the loss charged to them of 500 killed and wounded was another gross exaggeration.54
The Confederates bivouacked that night on the prairie, returning to the battlefield the next morning, but the loyal Indians had "retreated to the mountains." After burying their dead, Cooper's men marched to David Van's, where the train and their wounded had already been moved, and encamped for the night.55
Cooper was again forced to suspend the campaign against Opothleyoholo and the loyal Indians. For one thing, his supply of ammunition was nearly exhausted; but of far graver importance was the alarming news that the defection among the Cherokees was widespread and growing. On arrival at Van's the night of December 10, Colonel Cooper learned that a body of 100 Cherokees from Fort Gibson had passed through the evening before and joined the loyal Indians on Hominy Creek. He decided to place
his troops in position to counteract any further movement among the Cherokees in support of Opothleyoholo.56
Colonel Drew, with the Cherokee train, and Colonel Sims and the Ninth Texas Cavalry were ordered to march direct to Fort Gibson. Colonel Cooper, with the Choctaw and Creek regiments, fell back by way of Tulsey Town down the Arkansas.57 Meanwhile, Col. James McIntosh, in command of McCulloch's Division, then in winter quarters at Van Buren, Arkansas, had been urgently requested to send reinforcements of white troops into the Cherokee country. "The true men among the Cherokees must be supported and protected or we shall lose the Indian Territory," declared Cooper in a letter to McIntosh.58
Arriving on the 13th at Choska, in the Creek Nation, twenty miles above Fort Gibson, Cooper put the main body of his command into camp and hastened on with two companies of the Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment to a point on Grand River opposite Fort Gibson, where he encamped. The rapid concentration of troops, however, had by that time achieved its object, suppressing all "outward show of sympathy with the enemy."59
Colonel McIntosh promptly responded to Cooper's call for aid by ordering seven companies of Young's Eleventh Texas Cavalry, five companies of Greer's Third Texas Cavalry, and Major Whitfield's Texas battalion of three companies to report to him at Fort Gibson. McIntosh urged him, as soon as the force was concentrated, "to march at once and use his utmost efforts to destroy the enemy." Cooper was also allowed to retain Sim's regiment, which had been ordered into winter quarters at Van Buren, but which was still in camp at Fort Gibson. Further, he was authorized to call on the ordnance and quartermaster departments at Fort Smith for ammunition and supplies.60
On the evening of the 19th Cooper crossed over to Fort Gibson from his camp on Grand River for the purpose of addressing Drew's regiment in conjunction with Chief Ross of the Cherokees. At the fort, much to his surprise, he found Col. James McIntosh, "who announced his intention of taking the field with some 2,004 troops against Opothleyoholo."61
Although disappointed by the "change in Colonel McIntosh's intentions," Cooper made no objection. He shared with McIntosh all the information he possessed of the location of Opothleyoholo's
camp and the topography of the surrounding country, and agreed to cooperate by moving up the Arkansas to the rear of Opothleyoholo's position, while McIntosh marched up the Verdigris and attacked in front. The strategy was excellent, although the division of forces seems to have been prompted by the scarcity of forage.62
Following his address to the members of Drew's regiment, Cooper concluded arrangements with Chief Ross and Colonel Drew for the reorganization of the regiment, and returned to Choska on the 20th with Whitfield's battalion and the squadron of Choctaws.63
Sims' regiment joined Cooper at Choska, but the companies assigned to him from the Eleventh and Third Texas regiments were retained by Colonel McIntosh. A supply of ammunition promised by McIntosh was not received until the night of the 23d. Delayed also by the desertion of his teamsters, Cooper was unable to begin the march for Tulsey Town until the 24th.64
Colonel McIntosh, in the meantime had left Fort Gibson at noon on the 22d with a force of 1,380 men. His command consisted of five companies of the Third Texas Cavalry, under Lieut. Col. Walter P. Lane; the Sixth Texas Cavalry, under Lieut. Col. John S. Griffith; seven companies of the Eleventh Texas Cavalry, under Col. William C. Young; four companies of McIntosh's own regiment, the Second Arkansas Mounted Rifles, under Capt. William Gipson; and the Lamar Cavalry, a company of Texans attached to division headquarters, under Capt. H. S. Bennett.65 In addition, Col. Stand Watie's Second Cherokee Regiment, stationed on Grand River, was ordered to join McIntosh at Mrs. McNair's, on the Verdigris.66
McIntosh arrived at Mrs. McNair's on the morning of the 24th. Resuming his march the next morning, he made camp on the evening of the 25th at a place unidentified, but which may have been David Van's. As the Confederates went into camp, a party of Opothleyoholo's warriors appeared in sight. A regiment sent to observe them was recalled when the loyal Indians retreated, McIntosh refusing to be drawn into a "fruitless chase." That evening a message was received from Colonel Cooper saying it would be several days before he could join in the movement. McIntosh resolved to attack alone.67
James McIntosh was born at Tampa Bay, Florida, in 1828, and was the son of Col. James S. McIntosh, who was killed in
the storming of Molino del Rey during the Mexican War. He was graduated from West Point in the class of 1849. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was a captain in the First Cavalry, and had been stationed at Fort Arbuckle, 1858-59; at Fort Cobb, 1859-60; and at Fort Smith, 1860-61. He resigned May 7, 1861, and joined the Confederates. At the battle of Wilson's Creek, in August, he commanded the Second Arkansas Mounted Rifles, acting also as adjutant to General McCulloch. He assumed temporary command of McCulloch's Division early in December when the general went to Richmond, Virginia, to explain conditions in his department.68
Unable to move his train farther, Colonel McIntosh placed it in charge of the brigade quartermaster, with a guard of 100 men, and with four days' cooked rations broke camp early on the morning of December 26 and marched west toward the hills "running back into the Big Bend of the Arkansas." The Third Texas Cavalry, under Lieutenant Colonel Lane, moved in advance, a company under Captain Short forming an advance guard.69
Toward noon Captain Short crossed Hominy Creek and immediately came under fire. The loyal Indians were posted "on a high and rugged hill, with its side covered with oak trees." Between the hill and the creek was open ground 200 or 300 yards in width."70
Captain Short gallantly maintained his position until the main body came up. Colonel McIntosh ordered the Eleventh Texas Cavalry, under Colonel Young, to form on the left, and the Sixth Texas Cavalry, under Lieutenant Colonel Griffith, on the right. The center, composed of Lane's regiment, Captain Gipson's detachment of the Second Arkansas Mounted Rifles, and Captain Bennett's company, the Lamar Cavalry, were ordered to cross the stream and support Captain Short, and were followed by Colonel Young's troops, who formed on their left.71
The loyal Indians, "estimated at 1,700," occupied a strong position. The Seminoles, under their chief, Halleek Tustenuggee, were on foot at the base of the hill, posted behind trees and rocks, while others formed a line near the top. The Creeks, on horseback, were stationed beyond in reserve.72
68Marcus J. Wright, General Officers of the Confederate Army (New York: Neale Publishing Co., 1911), 69. George W. Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U. S. Military Academy (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1868), II, 252-53. O. R., Series I, III, 107, 110; ibid., VIII, 703.
At 12 noon Colonel McIntosh ordered a bugler to sound the charge. "One wild yell from a thousand throats burst upon the air, and the living mass hurled itself upon the foe," said McIntosh in his official report. "The sharp report of the rifle came from every tree and rock, but on our brave men rushed, nor stopped until the summit of the hill was gained and we were mingled with the enemy."73
The charge upon the hill was made by the troops in the center led by Lane's regiment. The Seminoles retreated to the top of the hill, unable to stem the impetuous onset of the Texans. There for a short time a desperate struggle took place, marked by hand-to-hand conflict. Forced to give way, the loyal Indians fled in wild disorder. Young's and Griffith's regiments joined in the pursuit over rocky hills and through deep ravines. The loyal Indians attempted to make a stand at their encampment, but were routed, and the battle ended at 4 o'clock with the Confederates "victors in the center of Opothleyoholo's camp."74
The battle, known officially as the "Engagement at Chustenahlah," was fought west of Skiatook on Hominy Creek, but the exact location is unknown.75 Colonel McIntosh reported a loss of 8 killed and 32 wounded. He claimed the loss sustained by the loyal Indians was "upwards of 250" in killed alone.76 That figure is of kindred value to Colonel Young's report: "My regiment killed 211."77
Late that afternoon Col. Stand Watie, with 300 men of his Cherokee regiment, joined McIntosh. He made a forced march, but was unable to reach Hominy Creek in time for the battle. The Confederates camped that night on the battlefield.78
Early the next morning Colonel McIntosh resumed pursuit of the loyal Indians. After a march of about twenty-five miles, Col. Stand Watie overtook a body of Opothleyoholo's warriors, said to number 500 or 600. He divided his force, placing half of the command under Major Boudinot, and attacked, dispersing the loyal Indians after a running fight lasting two hours or more. Reporting no loss of his own command in either killed or wounded, he and Major Boudinot claimed to have killed about twenty loyal Indians, the figure being revised to fifteen by Colonel McIntosh in his report.79
75"Old-timers and especially the early Osage ranchers always said there had been a battle near Hominy falls, which is west of Skiatook and on Hominy Creek." Eaton, op. cit.
Colonel Cooper arrived at Tulsey Town on the evening of the 26th. The following morning he heard that McIntosh had attacked and defeated the loyal Indians. Abandoning his plan to gain the rear of Opothleyoholo's forces, he decided to pursue by the nearest route. On the 28th, at Park's Store, on Hominy Creek, he met Colonel McIntosh returning to winter quarters. Cooper continued his march, moving up Bird Creek.80
In a "fatiguing scout of seven days," his command followed the trail to the Kansas line, then turned west toward the Arkansas River, "embracing the entire country lately occupied by Opothleyoholo's forces." The weather was exceedingly cold, the ground was covered with sleet, and one man froze to death.
"Its results," said Cooper in his official report, "were 6 of the enemy killed and 150 prisoners taken, mostly women and children, the total dispersing in the direction of Walnut Creek, Kansas, of Opothleyoholo's forces and people, thus securing the repose of the frontier for the winter. It also demonstrated that the capture of the whole of those who remained on Shoal [Hominy] Creek up to the 26th of December, including Opothleyoholo himself, could have been easily effected had Col. James McIntosh waited until the forces under my command reached a position in the rear of the enemy, or even if Col. Stand Watie had been sent up Delaware Creek or up Bird Creek and thence to the rear of Opothleyholo's position, the same result would have been attained and the machinations of the arch old traitor forever ended."81
Colonel Cooper returned to his train at Tulsey Town and moved with the main body of his command down the Arkansas to winter quarters.
To the north, the fugitive loyal Indians struggled across the bleak prairies of southern Kansas. Many died of cold and privation before aid could reach them; and long, weary months passed before those who survived were able to return to their homes in the Indian country.