SECOND INDIAN CAVALRY BRIGADE
As the Civil War progressed in Indian Territory, in late 1863 and early 1864 Maj. Gen. Samuel Bell Maxey, commander of the District of Indian Territory, recruited additional regiments, sought new sources of resupply, and reorganized his Confederate command into two brigades (a third was planned but never effected). The Second Indian Brigade, under Col. Tandy Walker, comprised primarily veteran soldiers drawn from numerous Choctaw and Chickasaw units. In late 1864, for example, it contained the Second Choctaw Regiment, led by Col. Simpson N. Folsom, the First Chickasaw Battalion, under Lt. Col. Lemuel N. Reynolds, the First Choctaw Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Jackson McCurtain, the First Choctaw and Chickasaw Battalion, under Lt. Col. James Riley, and Capt. George Washington's Reserve Squadron.
The brigade participated in the Camden campaign in Arkansas and was commended for its performance at the Battle of Poison Spring in April 1864. During that engagement about 680 members of the command spearheaded an assault against the Union escort of a large supply train. The Federal troops were routed, an artillery battery was overrun, and about two hundred wagons captured.
The assault began with shouting of the Indian rebel yell and an aggressive advance. Officers were concerned that the undersupplied and hungry Choctaw soldiers would halt to pillage the captured supplies, but they continued to fight until Texas units moved past them in pursuit of the fleeing Union forces. During the battle the Choctaws also visited retribution on black Union soldiers, whom they had faced with less success the previous summer at the Battle of Honey Springs.
After the return of the Second Brigade to Indian Territory and a furlough of its members, the Choctaw troops reaffirmed their loyalty to the Confederacy and reenlisted for the duration of the war on June 23 at Camp Green in the Choctaw Nation. The Confederate supreme commander at Trans-Mississippi Department headquarters had the reenlistment resolutions printed and circulated to inspire loyalty among other Indian peoples in the region.
In July the brigade participated in aggressive operations near Fort Smith and were present at the capture of a Union outpost at Massard Prairie on July 27. Offensive activity thereafter was limited until the early fall, when runners were dispatched to bring in all absentees and have them report to their regiments. Once mobilized, however, the command to some extent was still inadequately prepared to enter the field. An ordnance officer's report concluded that the troops were poorly armed and had few guns that were "entirely serviceable."
The First Choctaw Regiment was armed with an assortment of weapons, but most members carried Texas rifles. The report complained that these latter firearms "are nothing more than a cheat, badly put together and very unreliable, being liable, a great number, to burst." Other soldiers carried sporting rifles in ill repair, short-range, double-barreled shotguns, or antiquated muskets.
During the Second Battle of Cabin Creek in September 1864, Walker's brigade advanced to the Canadian River to cover the extraction of Watie's and Gano's commands from north of the Arkansas River after their successful expedition. Little activity occurred afterwards until the spring of the next year. Finally, in May 1865 the brigade was called one last time into camp. Scouting parties were dispatched to monitor river crossings, and other details spent time bringing in cattle from surrounding areas for use as subsistence for military personnel and for civilian refugees clustered in camps along the Red River. The Second Indian Brigade dissipated shortly thereafter, following the signing of a temporary treaty with U.S. officials by Choctaw principal chief Peter Pitchlynn.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Tom Franzmann, "The Final Campaign: The Confederate Offensive of 1864," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 68 (Fall 1985). Nancy Hobson, "Samuel Bell Maxey as Conference Commander of Indian Territory," in The Civil War Era in Indian Territory, ed. LeRoy H. Fisher (Los Angeles: Lorrin L. Morrison, 1974). Ira Don Richards, "The Battle of Poison Spring," Arkansas Historical Quarterly 18 (Winter 1959).
© Oklahoma Historical Society