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Confederate States
in the
American Civil War

South Carolina
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Claimed territories


During the American Civil War, Indian Territory occupied most of what is now the U.S. state of Oklahoma and served as an unorganized region set aside for Native American tribes of the Southeastern United States that had been removed from their lands. The area hosted numerous skirmishes and seven officially recognized battles[1] involving Native American units allied with the Confederate States of America, Native Americans loyal to the United States government, and Union and Confederate troops. Officers and soldiers supplied to the Confederacy from Native American lands numbered at 7,860[2] and came largely from the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole nations.[3] The Union did not incorporate Native Americans into its regular army.[2]


Native American alliances

Before the outbreak of war, the United States government relocated all soldiers in Indian Territory to other key areas, leaving the territory unprotected from Texas and Arkansas, which had already joined the Confederacy. The Confederacy took an interest in the area, seeking a possible source of food in the event of a Union blockade, a connection to western territories, and a buffer area between Texas and the Union-held Kansas. On the onset of war, Confederate forces took possession of the army forts in the area, and in June and July 1861, negotiated with Native American tribes for combat support. Stand Watie, a Cherokee who reached the rank of Brigadier General in the Confederate Army, was among the Indian leaders to join. Other leaders within the Cherokee and Creek governments opted to remain neutral, while some allied themselves with the Union, including Creek leader Opothleyahola, who was stripped of his power and driven out of the territory by Confederate troops after refusing Creek lands to be annexed by the Confederacy.[4] Leaders from all five major tribes, acting without the consensus of their respective governments, agreed to be annexed by the Confederacy in exchange for certain rights, including protection and recognition of current tribal lands.[5] Native Americans loyal to the Union were expelled into Kansas and Missouri and formed three volunteer regiments known as the Indian Home Guard, which fought in Indian Territory and Arkansas.[6][7]


The first battle in the territory occurred on November 19, 1861. Opothleyahola rallied Indians to the Union cause at Deep Fork. A total of 7,000 men, women, and children resided in Opothleyahola's camp, and a force of 1,400 Confederate soldiers under Colonel Douglas Cooper initiated the Battle of Round Mountain, but were repulsed after several waves, leading to a Southern loss. Opothleyahola moved his camp to a new location at Chustenalah. On December 26, 1861, Confederate forces again attacked, this time driving Opothleyaholo to Kansas amidst a snowstorm.[8] Also in 1861 Union General James G. Blunt ordered Colonel William Weer to lead an expedition into the Indian Territory. Weer's expedition met with early success at the battle of Locust Grove in Missouri, but a mutiny within the Union army stopped the expedition before making any real progress into Indian Territory. The expedition did succeed in prompting the organization of three Indian Home Guard regiments in support of the Union.

The Union victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge in northwest Arkansas during March 1862 limited the Confederate government's ability to protect its Indian allies, leaving the forces under Stand Watie and others to fight without support. The Union army recaptured its forts in the territory, but abandoned them when faced with ongoing raids by Stand Watie only to recapture them again later.

Following the Battle of Honey Springs in 1863, a decisive Union victory that secured Indian Territory, guerrilla warfare was the primary means of combat.[9] Honey Springs Depot, a site of frequent skirmishes, was chosen by Union General James G. Blunt as the place to engage the largest Confederate forces in Indian Territory. Anticipating that Confederate General Douglas H. Cooper would attempt to join with General William Cabell, who was moving to attack Fort Gibson, Blunt approached Honey Springs on July 17, 1863 with a force of 3,000 men, including Native Americans and former African American slaves. On the morning of July 17, he engaged Cooper, who commanded a force of 3000—6000 men composed primarily of Native Americans. Cooper's troops became unorganized and retreated when wet gunpowder caused misfires and rain hampered their movements. The battle was the largest in Indian Territory.[10]


At Fort Towson in Choctaw lands, General Stand Watie officially became the last Confederate general to surrender on June 25, 1865. Watie went to Washington D.C. that year for further negotiations, and did not return home until May 1866.[11] During reconstruction, Union officials forced land concessions upon the tribes and mandated that any former slaves held by Native Americans either be allowed to become members of their respective tribes or awarded Indian land.[12]

See also


  1. ^ "Civil War Sites in Oklahoma". National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-08-10.  
  2. ^ a b American Civil War Resource Database
  3. ^ Confer, Clarissa. The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007) pg. 4
  4. ^ "Union and Confederate Indians in the Civil War". 2002-02-16. Retrieved 2008-08-10.  
  5. ^ Gibson, Arrell. Oklahoma, a History of Five Centuries (University of Oklahoma Press, 1981) pg. 117–120
  6. ^ "United States Volunteers — Indian Troops". 2008-01-28. Retrieved 2008-08-10.  
  7. ^ "Civil War Refugees". Oklahoma Historical Society. Oklahoma State University. Retrieved 2008-08-10.  
  8. ^ Gibson pg. 121
  9. ^ Gibson pg. 122–125
  10. ^ "Battle Summary: Honey Springs". National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-08-10.  
  11. ^ Confer pg. 9, 158
  12. ^ Confer pg. 156

Further reading

  • Downing, David C. A South Divided: Portraits of Dissent in the Confederacy. Nashville: Cumberland House, 2007. ISBN 978-1-58182-587-9


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