By DEAN TRICKETT
The policy of the Federal Government toward the enlistment of Indians in the Union Army was vacillating during the first year of the war. Hole-in-the-Day, a northern chief, tendered the services of himself and a hundred or more of his Chippewa warriors on May 1, 1861,1 but the offer was flatly rejected by Secretary of War Cameron a week later. Prefacing his rejection with admiration of the sentiments which prompted the offer, Cameron declared "the nature of our present national troubles forbids the use of savages and makes it imperative upon this department to decline the offer of the Chippewa chief."2 Not until the last day in the year did the Federal Government officially sanction the muster of Indian warriors.
Superintendent H. B. Branch, of the Central Superintendency, in charge of the Indians of Kansas and Nebraska, also opposed their use in active warfare. In his annual report for 1861 he said:
"The question of the organization of the Indians into military bands for the defense of Kansas and Nebraska has been agitated considerably, but I beg leave to report adversely to the measure. The Indians, as at present situated, must follow the chase, and they cannot engage in war and also pursue the hunt, while civilization and humanity demand that they confine themselves to peaceful avocations, and that the hatchet, now buried, be never brought to light by those whose mission it is to advance them in the arts and pursuits of peace."3
Branch still adhered to that opinion a year later, although many of his wards were then in the Union Army. "It is unwise to employ Indians in the military service of the country," he declared in his report for 1862.4
William P. Dole, commissioner of Indian affairs, was less scrupulous, however, than Branch. Although in September, 1861, Dole wrote: "I am disinclined to encourage the Indians to engage in this war except in extreme cases, as guides";5 later in the year, under the stimulus of news of Opothleyoholo's valiant resistance in the Indian Territory, he instigated a plan to enlist 4,000 volunteers among the loyal Indians of the Central Superintendency.
1Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1904), Series III, I, 140. Hereafter cited as O. R.
3Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1861 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1862), 50.
4Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1862 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1863), 98.
5Annie Heloise Abel, The American Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist (Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1915), 233. Dole to Prince, Sept. 13, 1861.
Commissioner Dole repeatedly urged that something be done to protect the loyal Indians. Endeavoring late in April, 1861, to learn whether the Government intended to maintain in the Indian Territory a force sufficient for that purpose, he addressed a letter of inquiry6 to Secretary of the Interior Smith, who in turn referred the matter to the War Department. Dole got no satisfaction, however, from Secretary Cameron's reply:
"...I have the honor to state that on the 17th April instructions were issued by this department to remove the troops stationed at Forts Cobb, Arbuckle, Washita, and Smith to Fort Leavenworth, leaving it to the discretion of the commanding officer to replace them, or not, with Arkansas volunteers. The exigencies of the service will not admit any change in these orders."7
At the end of May, Commissioner Dole made a second attempt to arouse the War Department to the plight of the Indians. Addressing Secretary Smith, he wrote:
"I desire again to call your attention, and through you that of the War Department, to what seems to me the necessity of sending a military force into the Indian country west of Arkansas...Our duty under treaty stipulations requires that we protect these tribes from the mischievous intermeddling of white persons without their borders...8
The letter was referred to Secretary Cameron, but to no purpose. Ignored also was Dole's suggestion in August "that where United States soldiers cannot be furnished, arms and ammunition should be given to the Indian agents, to be used in their discretion in supplying the friendly Indians with the means of defense."9
Senator Lane, of Kansas, however, consulted no one. Ignorant of or, more likely, contemptuous of the policy of the Government, he addressed a circular letter August 22 to the Indian agents of six of the Kansas tribes. Writing to them from Fort Lincoln, twelve miles north of Fort Scott, where he was engaged in organizing a brigade of volunteers, he said:
"For the defense of Kansas I have determined to use the loyal Indians...To this end I have appointed Augustus Wattles, Esq., to confer with you and adopt such measures as will secure the early assembling of the Indians at this point."10
Wattles, a special agent of the Indian Office, informed H. W. Farnsworth, agent of the Kaw (Kansas) Indians, three days later
7Annie Heloise Abel, The American Indian as Participant in the Civil War (Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1919), 60. Cameron to Smith, May 10, 1861.
10Abel, The American Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist, 229. Lane to Indian Agents, Sac and Foxes, Shawnees, Delawares, Kickapoos, Pottawatomies, and Kaws, Tribes of Indians, Aug. 22, 1861.
that "General Lane intends to establish a strong Indian camp near the neutral lands as a guard to prevent forage into Kansas."11
But on the following day, the 26th, the organization of the Indians was suspended:
"The necessity seemed imperative," wrote Wattles to Farnsworth. "But on hearing that the commissioner of Indian affairs was in Kansas and will probably see you, I think it best to say nothing to the Indians till he is consulted in the matter."12
On arrival in Kansas late in August, Commissioner Dole learned that General Fremont, commander of the Department of the West, had written to F. Johnson, agent of the Delawares, requesting Fall Leaf, a Delaware, to "organize a party of 50 men" for special service in the department. Johnson had "found the chiefs unwilling that their young men should enter the service." Dole interceded, assuring the chiefs that "the Government was not asking them to enter the war as a tribe," but failed to shake their opposition.13 Fall Leaf and a number of other Delawares enlisted, however, with the consent of Dole, and served as scouts and guides for the Union armies. Writing to Capt. W. E. Prince, commandant at Fort Leavenworth, Commissioner Dole said:
"I am disinclined to encourage the Indians to engage in this war except in extreme cases, as guides. I have in this case used my influence in favor of the formation of this company, without any knowledge of the views of the Government, supposing General Fremont was in special need of them or he would not have made the request."14
A change in the military situation prevented a renewal of Lane's efforts to employ Indians in active warfare. The last week in August, General Sterling Price moved north from Springfield, Missouri, and during the next two months Lane's brigade hovered on the flank of Price's army and marched up and down through the western border counties of Missouri.
Although Lane was forced to abandon his plan for the time being, he continued to advocate the use of Indians as soldiers. Early in October he endorsed a proposal made by Agent Johnson to raise an auxiliary regiment of Indians.15
At odds with Captain Prince and Governor Robinson, of Kansas, Senator Lane wrote to President Lincoln October 9 requesting and recommending "the establishment of a new military department, to be composed of Kansas, the Indian country, and so much of Arkansas
and the territories as may be thought advisable to include therein." He offered to resign his seat in the Senate if given the command.16
Exactly a month later, November 9, the new department was created, but General David Hunter was placed in command:
"2. The Department of Kansas, to include the State of Kansas, the Indian Territory west of Arkansas, and the territories of Nebraska, Colorado, and Dakota, to be commanded by Major General Hunter, headquarters at Fort Leavenworth."17
At the same time, General Henry W. Halleck was made commander of the Department of the Missouri, which included Missouri and Arkansas.18
General Hunter assumed command November 2019 and arrived at Fort Leavenworth about the 27th.20 He immediately "telegraphed for permission to muster a brigade of Kansas Indians into the service of the United States, to assist the friendly Creek Indians in maintaining their loyalty."21 His request, ignored by the War Department, was prompted no doubt by his conference with the delegation of Indians escorted to Fort Leavenworth by Agent Cutler late in November.22
In the meantime, General McClellan had conceived an expedition against northern Texas by way of the Indian Territory. General Hunter was informed of the plan by Adjutant General Thomas in a letter dated November 26, which was delayed in transit:
"The general-in-chief thinks an expedition might be made to advantage from your department west of Arkansas against northeastern Texas. He accordingly desires you to report at an early date what troops and means at your disposal you could bring to bear on that point."23
Hunter replied by telegraph December 11, taking a pessimistic view of the military situation:
"In reply I have the honor to report that I think the expedition proposed by the general-in-chief altogether, impracticable. We have a hostile Indian force, estimated at 10,000, on the south, and Price's command, some 20,000, on our east and north. To cope with this force we have only about 3,000 effective men, scattered over an extended frontier."24
With the enemy having "ten to our one," Hunter was doubtful even of the safety of Kansas and Fort Leavenworth.
22Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1862, 138. See also Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1861, 49.
His reply irked General McClellan, who answered sharply in an "unofficial" communication of the same date. Repeating his proposal for an expedition to "make a descent upon northern Texas," he requested Hunter to "indicate the necessary force and means for the undertaking."
"Three regiments of Wisconsin infantry have been ordered to report to you," continued McClellan; "also a battery and two companies of cavalry from Minnesota. This is intended only as a commencement, and will be followed up by other troops as rapidly as your wants are known and circumstances will permit."25
Replying December 19, General Hunter called attention to the wording of the two orders. In the first he was asked "what troops and means at your disposal you could bring to bear on that point"; in the second to "indicate the necessary force and means for the undertaking. "
"Being now for the first time made aware of what is expected of this department," Hunter continued, "I shall lose no time in preparing and forwarding exact estimates of the force that will be necessary for the proposed expedition; and at present may say in rough that at least 20,000 men will be necessary, in addition to those already in and ordered to the department. . .26
The first official intimation that Indians were to be used in the expedition was given in a letter December 31 from the Adjutant General's Department to Surg. Gen. C. A. Finley:
"I have respectfully to inform you that four regiments of infantry, seven regiments of cavalry, three batteries of artillery, besides Kansas troops, from 8,000 to 10,000, and about 4,000 Indians, forming an aggregate of about 27,000 troops, are ordered to be concentrated near Fort Leavenworth..."27
That Senator Lane was to have a prominent part in the expedition was revealed by Lane himself in a letter to General Hunter January 3, 1862:
"It is the intention of the Government to order me to report to you for an active winter's campaign. They have ordered General Denver to another department.28 . . . They have also ordered you, in conjunction with the Indian Department, to organize 4,000 Indians. Mr. Dole, commissioner, will come out with me."29
Lane had returned to Washington late in November for the opening of Congress, and was appointed brigadier general by President Lincoln December 18.30
General McClellan was taken sick with typhoid fever shortly before Christmas and confined to his bed for several weeks.31 During McClellan's illness, President Lincoln seems to have taken over the direction of the expedition. Secretary Cameron was absent from Washington and knew nothing of the plans until they were well under way. Writing to General Hunter January 3, he said:
"I have just had a conversation with General Lane, who, I understand, was authorized during my absence to make preparations to act in conjunction with yourself and with whom I have had no consultation until yesterday. He informs me that he is to go to Kansas to act entirely under your direction, and the department has made preparations for sending him 30,000 troops. Authority was given yesterday (in pursuance of your wishes, as I understood) for the employment by you of 4,000 Indians."32
In spite of Lane's protestation, there is no doubt that he was intriguing for sole command of the expedition, which soon began to be spoken of openly as "Lane's expedition," although the preparations were "veiled in mystery." Even Secretary of War Stanton, who succeeded Cameron January 15, was in complete ignorance of the plans of the Government as late as February 1. Writing to Charles A. Dana, of the New York Tribune, he said:
"What Lane's expedition has in view, how it came to be set on foot, and what is expected to be accomplished by it, I do not know and have tried in vain to find out. It seems to be a haphazard affair that no one will admit himself to be responsible for."33
General Hunter, at Fort Leavenworth, was also left in the dark. In a letter to General Halleck, he later recorded his interpretation of Lane's machinations:
"It seems, from all the evidence before me, that Senator J.H. Lane has been trading at Washington on a capital partly made up of his own senatorial position and partly of such scraps of influence as I may have possessed in the confidence or esteem of the President, said scraps having been 'jayhawked' by the Kansas senator without due consent of the proper owner.
"In other words, I find that 'Lane's great southern expedition' was entertained and sanctioned by the President under misrepresentations made by somebody to the effect that said 'expedition' was the joint design and wish of Senator Lane and myself. Mr. Lincoln doubtless thought he was obliging me and aimed to oblige me in the matter, but so little was I personally consulted, that to this hour I am in ignorance what were the terms of striking points of Senator Lane's programme. Never to this hour has Senator Lane consulted me on the subject directly or indirectly; while the authorities at Washington have preserved a similar indiscreet reticence . . ."34
31Report of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1863), I, 423-24.
33Charles A. Dana, Recollections of the Civil War (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1898), 6. Stanton to Dana, Feb. 1, 1862
The inclusion of Indians in the proposed expedition was due to the persistence of Commissioner Dole. When he learned in December of "the noble struggle then being made by Opothleyoholo and the Creeks, Seminoles, and other Indians under him," he renewed his application to the War Department for troops for their relief.35 As a result, the Interior Department was notified January 2 by Secretary Cameron that 4,000 Indians "from the borders of Kansas and Missouri" would be mustered into the Union Army, and the following day Secretary Smith ordered Dole to assist General Hunter in the organization of the Indians.36
Three days later, January 6, Commissioner Dole instructed Superintendent Branch and the agents of the Central Superintendency to begin enrollment of the Indians,37 but he was unable to leave Washington for Kansas until the 19th.38
When General McClellan recovered from his illness, he began once more to supervise the expedition. In a letter to General Hunter January 24, Adjutant General Thomas wrote:
"...I have respectfully to inform you that Brig. Gen. J. H. Lane, U. S. Volunteers, has urged upon the President and Secretary of War an expedition to be conducted by him from Fort Leavenworth against the region west of Missouri and Arkansas. The outlines of this plan were stated by him to be in accordance with your own views...
"The general-in-chief, in conveying to you this information, desires it to be understood that a command independent of you is not given to General Lane, but he is to operate to all proper extent under your supervision and control, and if you deem proper you may yourself command the expedition which may be undertaken."39
The discretion given Hunter as to the command of the expedition thwarted Lane's intrigue and blasted the "cherished hope" of his life.40 Lane arrived at Leavenworth, Kansas, Sunday night, January 26. The following day, before Lane had time to consult with him, General Hunter issued a general order, taking command of the expedition:
"1. In the expedition about to go south from this department, called in the newspapers General Lane's Expedition, it is the intention of the major general commanding the department to command in person, unless otherwise expressly ordered by the Government."41
Hunter's action apparently bewildered Lane. He immediately telegraphed a copy of the order to his friend, John Covode, member
in Congress of the powerful Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, and urged him to "See the President, Secretary of War, and General McClellan, and answer what shall I do."42 Covode replied:
"I have been with the man [men] you name. Hunter will not get the money or men he requires. His command cannot go forward. Hold on. Don't resign your seat."43
Although Lane might not have the power to rule, it was clear that he had the power to ruin. He made strenuous efforts, however, to gain command of the expedition. The following day, January 28, he had a conference with Opothleyoholo and Halleck Tustenuggee, who were at Leavenworth awaiting the arrival of Commissioner Dole, and enlisted their aid. They wrote to President Lincoln, pleading that Lane command the expedition to their territory:
"General Lane is our friend," said the Creek and Seminole chiefs. "His heart is big for the Indian. He will do more for us than anyone else. The hearts of our people will be sad if he does not come. They will follow him wherever he directs. They will sweep the rebels before them like a terrible fire on the dry prairie."44
Resolutions passed by the Kansas Legislature recommended that Lane be appointed major general and assigned to command the southern expedition. They were said by General Hunter to have been "jayhawked" from a reluctant legislature by Lane's promise to resign his seat in the Senate.
"This," explained Hunter, "made all Lane's legislative enemies his most active friends, on the principle of 'anything to get rid of him,' and all the aspirants for his seat at once impressed their friends into voting anything that would create a vacancy."45
President Lincoln seems to have resented General McClellan's resumption of control of the expedition. Addressing Secretary of War Stanton January 31, he wrote:
"It is my wish that the expedition commonly called the 'Lane Expedition' shall be as much as has been promised at the Adjutant General's Office under the supervision of General McClellan and not any more. I have not intended and do not now intend that it shall be a great, exhausting affair, but a snug, sober column of 10,000 or 15,000."
As to Lane's status in the affair, he went on to say:
"General Lane has been told by me many times that he is under the command of General Hunter, and assented to it as often as told. It was the distinct agreement between him and me when I appointed him that he was to be under Hunter."46
The following day Stanton wrote to Editor Dana:
"There will be serious trouble between Hunter and Lane . . But believing that Lane has pluck, and is an earnest man, he shall have fair play."47
President Lincoln also wished to "oblige General Lane," but the rules of seniority stood in the way. February 10 he addressed a joint letter to Hunter and Lane:
"My wish has been and is to avail the Government of the services of both General Hunter and General Lane, and, so far as possible, to personally oblige both. General Hunter is the senior officer and must command when they serve together; though in so far as he can, consistently with the public service and his own honor, oblige General Lane, he will also oblige me. If they cannot come to an amicable understanding, General Lane must report to General Hunter for duty, according to the rules, or decline the service."48
No agreement could be reached, and Lane closed the chapter February 16 with a telegram to President Lincoln:
"All efforts to harmonize with Major General Hunter have failed. I am compelled to decline the brigadiership."49
Commissioner Dole arrived at Leavenworth, Kansas, late in January and learned for the first time that Opothleyoholo had been defeated,50 that five or six thousand of the loyal Indians—men, women, and children—were refugees in southern Kansas, and that General Hunter was subsisting them, Superintendent William G. Coffin "being without adequate means to meet the emergency."51
The news of the coming of the refugee Indians had reached Coffin about the middle of January, and he hurried to Leavenworth to seek assistance from the department commander.52 He was joined there by George W. Cutler, agent for the Creeks, and the two decided to await the arrival of Commissioner Dole, then daily expected.53 Notice was sent to the various Indian agents to report at Fort Row, on the Verdigris, in southern Kansas,54 Cutler and P. P. Elder, of the Neosho Agency, being the only agents of the Southern Superintendency then on duty.
Although the original plan contemplated the enlistment of Indians from the Central Superintendency only, Dole authorized Coffin and his agents to enroll the warriors among the refugee Indians into companies for muster into service by General Hunter.55
On Saturday, February 1, Commissioner Dole held a conference with Opothleyoholo and Tustenuggee and a number of other Indians at the Planters' House in Leavenworth. Coffin, Cutler, and the
54Ibid., 136. The name of this fort is erroneously spelled "Fort Roe" in nearly all the Government reports.
newly appointed agent of the Seminoles, George C. Snow, were present. Dole and Opothleyoholo engaged in a spirited colloquy:
"Mr. Dole.—[The] Government did not expect the Indians to enter this contest at all. Now that the rebel portion of them have entered the field, the Great Father will march his troops into your country. Col. Coffin and the agents will go with you on Monday, and will assist you in enlisting your loyal men. Your enlistment is not done for our advantage only; it will inure to your own benefit. The country appreciates your services. We honor you. You are in our hearts.
"One party tells us that John Ross is for the Union, and one that he is not.
"Opothleyoholo.—Both are probably right. Ross made a sham treaty with Albert Pike, to save trouble. Ross is like a man lying on his belly, watching the opportunity to turn over. When the northern troops come within the ring, he will turn over.
"Dole.—You did not, and our people remember you. But we hope you will manifest no revenge.
"Opothleyoholo.—The rebel Indians are like a cross, bad slut. The best way to end the breed is to kill the slut.
"Dole.—The leaders and plotters of treason only should suffer.
"Opothleyoholo.—That's just what I think. Burn over a bad field of grass and it will spring up again. It must be torn up by the roots, even if some good blades suffer. The educated part of our tribes is the worst.."56
Opothleyoholo hoped the Creek annuities would be paid to the loyal members of the tribe; but Dole, bound by the restrictions of law, could only assure him that the delay would be as brief as possible. The Creeks had 1,500 warriors who wanted to fight for the Union; the Seminoles 260.
The following week, Capt. J.F. Turner, chief commissary of subsistence for the Department of Kansas, and Brigade Surgeon A. W. Campbell returned from the refugee camps in southern Kansas, where Captain Turner had supplied the Indians with food sufficient to last until the 15th of February.57 Surgeon Campbell reported the Indians in a most wretched condition. "Why the officers of the Indian Department are not doing something for them I cannot understand," he wrote to Surgeon Barnes, medical director; "common humanity demands that more should be done, and done at once, to save them from total destruction."58
General Hunter, on February 6, shifted the burden of relief to the shoulders of Commissioner Dole, informing him that after the exhaustion of the supplies furnished by the Army he would be expected to make provisions for the future.59
56Frank Moore, ed., The Rebellion Record (New York: G. P, Putnam, D. Van Nostrand, 1861-68), IV, 59-60 (Doc.).
To add to his perplexity, Dole received word from Secretary Smith that Stanton had balked at the enlistment of Indians:
Secretary of War is unwilling to put Indians in the Army. Is to consult with President and settle it today."60
The problem confronting Commissioner Dole was grave and urgent. The Indians—their numbers increasing daily—had to be clothed as well as fed. Without funds applicable to the purpose, and with Superintendent Coffin on his way to southern Kansas and not available for consultation or instruction, Dole nevertheless "must act, and that at once."61
He determined to purchase—on the faith of Congress making an appropriation to meet the indebtedness—supplies sufficient for pressing necessities. Dr. William Kile, of Illinois, serving as brigade quartermaster on General Lane's staff, was appointed special agent by Dole February 10 to make the purchases and forward them to Superintendent Coffin.62 Dole also telegraphed Secretary Smith, asking for instructions:
"Six thousand Indians driven out of Indian Territory, naked and starving. General Hunter will only feed them until 15th. Shall I take care of them on the faith of an appropriation?"63
Sanction was given the following day:
The question of Indian enlistment being still unsettled, Dole ordered Coffin February 11 to suspend enrollment of the Indians:
"I have a dispatch from Secretary Smith saying that the Secretary of War is opposed to mustering the Indians into the service, and that he would see the President and settle the matter, that day (Feb. 6).
"This as you will see disarranges all my previous arrangements, and devolves upon me the necessity of revoking my orders to you to proceed with the agents to organize the loyal Indians in your, superintendency into companies preparatory to their being mustered into the service by General Hunter. I have now to advise that you explain fully to the chiefs that no authority has yet been received from Washington authorizing their admission into the Army of the United States; but I would at the same time advise that you proceed to ascertain what number are able and willing to join our Army, and that you so far prepare them for the service as you can consistently do, without committing the Government to accept them, as I still hope for the power to get these refugees, if no others, into
64President Lincoln's son Willie, who died Feb. 20, 1862. See John G. Nicolay, A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Century Co., 1902), 293.
the service, it being one, and as I think, the best means of providing for their necessities. . ."66
Three days later, Secretary Smith notified Dole that Stanton had refused to enlist the Indians:
"Go on and supply the destitute Indians. Congress will supply the means. War Department will not organize them."67
Commissioner Dole's cherished plan for an Indian expedition, to further which he had come to Kansas, was wrecked by Lane's duplicity and Stanton's obstinacy; but there yet remained the pressing problem of Indian relief. Congress justified Dole's faith and authorized the use for subsistence of annuities due several of the Indian Territory tribes. From those funds the refugees were afterward fed and clothed.68
Superintendent Coffin and Agent Snow arrived at Fort Row about the 10th of February. A census of the tribes taken late in January had shown about 4,500 refugees in all.69 Coffin was appalled at the "destitution, misery, and suffering" among the Indians.
"It must be seen to be realized," he reported to Commissioner Dole. "There are now here over two thousand men, women, and children, entirely barefooted, and more than that number who have not rags enough to hide their nakedness. Many have died and others are constantly dying."70
They were still arriving at the rate of twenty to sixty a day, "sending runners for provisions to be sent to the destitute on the way and for transportation for the sick and feeble and helpless" scattered over the bleak plains between the Verdigris and Fall Rivers, Walnut Creek, and the Arkansas.
"I doubt much if history records an instance of sufferings equal to these," declared Agent Cutler, who soon joined Coffin and Snow at Fort Row. Describing the retreat of the loyal Indians after their defeat at the battle of Chustenahlah, December 26, 1861, he said:
"Numbers of families had become separated during the fight with the rebels, of whom many were captured and taken back, and in consequence of which the wildest confusion prevailed, but the main body succeeded in keeping together and made good their escape.
"The weather was intensely cold, and with a bitter northwest wind in their faces, and over the snow-covered roads, they traveled all night and the next day, without halting to rest. Many of them were on foot, without shoes, and very thinly clad, and, having lost nearly all their bedding on the battlefield, their suffering was immense and beyond description.
"In this condition they had accomplished a journey of about three hundred miles; but quite a number of them froze to death on the route, and their bodies, with a shroud of snow, were left where they fell to feed the hungry wolves."71
Fort Row was on Osage Indian land in the northwestern corner of Wilson County, near Coyville, a settlement of whites begun several years before the war. During a Confederate raid in October, 1861, the town of Humboldt, in Allen County to the northeast, was burned, Superintendent Coffin's office, together with his books and papers, being destroyed.72 That alarmed the Wilson County settlers, and they organized a company of eighty men, under Capt. John R. Row, for defense. Fortifications were built on the Verdigris River about three miles south of Coyville and named Fort Row in honor of the captain. They consisted of three blockhouses, 16 by 24 feet, made of heavy logs, surrounded with pickets six feet high and embankments. The company went into winter quarters there, but in the spring of 1862 the fort was abandoned and most of the militia enlisted in the Ninth Kansas Volunteers.73
Acting under the advice of General Hunter, Superintendent Coffin had sent down to Fort Row, just before he left Leavenworth, five wagon loads of blankets, clothing, shoes, boots, and socks for distribution to the refugees, but the supply was pitifully inadequate. Coffin also brought with him $3,200 of his own money and that of his son, O. W. Coffin, who was his clerk, but that fund was soon exhausted. He purchased what he could on credit and appealed to Dole.74
The different tribes of Indians were put in separate camps and placed in charge of their respective agents as soon as they reported. Cutler and Snow took charge of the Creeks and Seminoles, Isaac Coleman of the Choctaws and Chickasaws, Charles W. Chatterton of the Cherokees, and E. H. Carruth of the Wichita Agency Indians.75 P. P. Elder, of the Neosho Agency at Fort Scott, did not report, although some of his Quapaws were among the refugees.76 The camps were along the Verdigris and Fall rivers on Osage and New York Indian lands.
Superintendent Coffin also began enrollment of the warriors for military service. They were willing and anxious to enter the service and were much disappointed when Dole's order halting the enlistment was received.
"When the enrollment was nearly completed, orders were received to stop the proceeding," reported Coffin. "This was very discouraging to the Indians—the cause of much dissatisfaction and loss of confidence on their part. A grand council of all the chiefs, braves, and headmen was immediately held, and an expedition upon their own responsibility to their homes, in time to put in a crop in the spring, decided upon. They were deterred from carrying out this purpose by the reported presence of a large rebel force in the Indian Territory. . ."77
With the coming of warm weather, "the stench arising from dead ponies, about two hundred of which were in the stream and throughout the camp," compelled the removal of the Indians from the Verdigris to the Neosho River, a distance of about thirty miles.78 Writing to Commissioner Dole Monday, March 3, from Le Roy, Coffey County, Superintendent Coffin said:
"Since writing you from Humboldt, Dr. Kile and myself have visited Fort Row to make arrangements for moving the Indians to the Neosho. On getting there we found that about 1,500 of them had left for this place. They left Saturday noon. It turned cold Saturday night and commenced snowing and snowed hard most of the day Sunday and last night was the coldest of the season. The Indians all got to timber Saturday night to camp and remained in camp Sunday, but most of them were on the road today, though it was too cold to travel in the fix they are in. I saw many of them barefooted and many more that the feet was a small part of them that was bare."79
J.P. Hamilton, Sr., a citizen of Le Roy, was one of the teamsters engaged in the removal of the Indians, and many years later wrote his recollections of the event.
"As they relied upon the teams of the citizens for transportation," he said, "it was a very easy matter for a person with a team to get a job and receive his pay in Government vouchers at the rate of $2.50 per day for single team and wagon. The writer was one of many who engaged in the transfer . . . .
"We found that the majority of them had encamped in a heavily timbered bend of the Verdigris River, but now it was denuded and looked as bare as the prairie, with the exception of the stumps which alone remained . . . .
"Camping over night, the ensuing morning we would load from one to two families and their effects (the latter being very meager) into a wagon and start—children and 'graybacks' being the dominant feature. The men and women, at least the principal portion of them, walked. It was quite an influx upon Le Roy and vicinity. Scarcely a suitable camping place could be found upon the river, extending from two miles above Le Roy to Neoshofalls, but what had its complement of Indians. . ."80
Late in March, when George W. Collamore, adjutant general of Kansas, visited the encampments in company with the Cherokee
80J. P. Hamilton, Sr., "Indian Refugees in Coffey County," Le Roy (Kans.) Reporter, Aug. 14, 1931. Reprint of a story originally printed some time in the 1880's.
missionary, Evan Jones, the number of the refugees had increased to 7,600.81 They were still in distress.
"I found them encamped upon the Neosho River bottom, in the timber, extending a distance of some seven miles," said Collamore. "Not a comfortable tent was to be seen. Such coverings as I saw were made in the rudest manner, being composed of pieces of cloth, old quilts, handkerchiefs, aprons, etc., stretched upon sticks, and so limited were many of them in size that they were scarcely sufficient to cover the emaciated and dying forms beneath them. Under such shelter I found, in the last stages of consumption, the daughter of Opothleyoholo, one of the oldest, most influential, and wealthy chiefs of the Creek Nation."
The food supply was insufficient in quantity and deficient in quality.
"Great complaint was made," he continued, "by the chiefs and others as to the quality of the bacon furnished, it being, as they expressed it, 'not fit for a dog to eat.' Many of them were made sick by eating of it..."82
When Agent Snow left Fort Row with the Seminoles, it was his intention to take them as far north as the Sac and Fox Agency, in Osage County, but on arrival at Le Roy they became obstinate and refused to go any farther, and were finally settled at Neoshofalls, a few miles south.83 They, as well as the other refugees, were homesick and never ceased to clamor for their return to the Indian Territory.