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In June 1862 a Union military expedition advanced from Baxter Springs, Kansas, into the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory. Commanded by Col. William Weer, the troops consisted of five white and two Indian regiments and two artillery batteries. Their objective was to restore to Indian Territory the pro-Union Indian refugees driven from there the previous winter. Confederate Gen. Albert Pike refused to meet the invasion, but local Confederate forces sporadically resisted.

Union detachments first drove Confederate Cherokees southward, then an attack at Locust Grove dispersed Missouri Rebels and captured their supply train. The Union army then encamped for two weeks. Weer contemplated proclaiming amnesty for Confederate Indians and inviting the Cherokee Nation to abolish slavery. But supplies ran low, and drought and heat were oppressive. A retreat was urged when reinforcements failed to materialize.

Weer's habitual drunkenness, anxieties over lack of resupply, and concerns about Confederate flanking movements all led to low morale. Officers and troops became mutinous. Col. Frederick Salomon, the second in command, called a council of war and arrested Weer. Salomon then ordered a withdrawal to meet supply trains. The Indian Home Guard Regiments were left behind without orders. The Confederates failed to take advantage.

During this period a Union detachment occupied Fort Gibson, while another unit visited Park Hill, where they transferred many Confederate Cherokee "Pins" to a third Union Indian regiment, arrested Chief John Ross, and ultimately escorted him and the Cherokee archives and treasury to Kansas. During the Union occupation hundreds of Cherokee reclaimed their homes. Disappointed by the Federal retreat and fearing Confederate reprisals, most of the Indians returned to Kansas. Although the expedition did not fulfill all its objectives, it succeeded in organizing, arming, and equipping three Indian regiments to defend Indian Territory and the right flank of Union forces in Missouri and Arkansas.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. Craig Gaines, The Confederate Cherokees: John Drew's Regiment of Mounted Rifles (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989). Gary N. Heath, "The First Federal Invasion of the Indian Territory," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 44 (Winter 1966-67). Lary C. Rampp and Donald L. Rampp, The Civil War in the Indian Territory (Austin, Tex.: Presidial Press, 1975). Joseph B. Thoburn and Muriel H. Wright, Oklahoma: A History of the State and Its People, Vol. 1 (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing, 1929).

Tom Franzmann

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