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As the Civil War in Indian Territory progressed, and just before the Battle of Honey Springs, Union Gen. James G. Blunt reorganized his command into two brigades in July 1863. The First Brigade, commanded by Col. William R. Judson, received the black infantry regiments and various artillery sections. The Second Brigade, under Col. William A. Phillips, was comprised primarily of white soldiers. Both brigades participated in the Battle of Honey Springs.

At the onset of that engagement the First Brigade formed west of the Texas Road, and the Second Brigade positioned itself to the east. The infantry advanced toward the south, with cavalry and artillery units following in reserve. Their tight formation helped mask the strength of the Union army, which numbered only about three thousand troops. Initially, the Union forces met stiff resistance. The tide of battle changed after apparent confusion in Union ranks prompted Texas troops to counterattack under the mistaken notion that their enemies were retreating. After repelling this charge, the Union army surged forward. The Confederate army withdrew and broke contact.

The First and Second Brigades later participated in the Battle of Perryville and provided indirect support to the Union expedition that captured Fort Smith in September 1863. The Union military command in Indian Territory was later reorganized into four brigades. During 1864 the First Brigade, under Col. John Edwards, included regiments from Arkansas, Iowa, and Kansas. Various black regiments comprised the Second Brigade, commanded by Col. John Williams. Both brigades defended the Arkansas River line from Fort Smith to Fort Gibson during the Confederate offensive campaign in the summer and fall of 1864.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Wiley Britton, The Union Indian Brigade in the Civil War (Kansas City, Mo.: Franklin Hudson Publishing, 1922). Wiley Britton, The Civil War on the Border, Vol. 2 (3d ed., rev.; Ottawa: Kansas Heritage Press, 1994). Charles R. Freeman, "The Battle of Honey Springs," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 13 (June 1935). Lary C. Rampp and Donald L. Rampp, The Civil War in the Indian Territory (Austin, Tex.: Presidial Press, 1975).

Tom Franzmann

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