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Soon after the Civil War began, the Cherokee National executive committee in August 1861 authorized the creation of the First Cherokee Mounted Rifles under Col. John Drew, ostensibly in anticipation of an alliance with the Confederate States of America. The regiment's officers were loyal to Chief John Ross, and many enlistees were full-blood Cherokee traditionalists. The organization may have been created partially in response to the Confederacy's authorization of an alternate unit outside tribal jurisdiction. This rival "First Cherokee" was formed by Stand Watie's aggrieved faction, which had intermarried with southern whites. In November and December 1861 Drew's regiment took part in pursuit of anti-Confederate Creek and Seminole refugees led by Creek Chief Opothleyahola. Rather than fight fellow Indians, many members of Drew's regiment deserted during the campaign. The unit further dissolved in 1862 following the Confederate defeat at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, and the invasion of Indian Territory by the Federal Indian Expedition. The regiment was disbanded that July, by which time many members had switched to U.S. Indian Home Guard regiments.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. Craig Gaines, The Confederate Cherokees: John Drew's Regiment of Mounted Rifles (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989). Lary C. Rampp and Donald L. Rampp, The Civil War in the Indian Territory (Austin, Tex.: Presidial Press, 1975).

Michael A. Hughes

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