The outbreak of the Civil War found the people of the five civilized tribes in a prosperous condition. Many if not most of them would have preferred to take no part in the conflict. Excepting those of the Seminole tribe, nearly all of them had been at peace with the government of the United States since 1815, while the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes had never been at war with the white people since it was founded. In its geographical location, climate and products, the Indian Territory was closely bound to the southern states of the Union. Commercially it depended largely upon steamboat navigation on the Arkansas and Red rivers, both of which flowed in southeasterly courses toward the lower Mississippi. Of the many white men who had married and settled among the people of these tribes, the great majority were from the southern states. All of these tribes had moved from southern states and many of their people, being slave-owners at the time of their removal, brought their slaves with them to their new homes. Despite all this, however, when the question of slavery led to the outbreak of the Civil War between the states of the South and those of the North, which remained loyal to the Federal Union, most of the people of the five civilized tribes preferred to remain at peace and to take no part in the war.
The Federal garrisons at Forts Smith, Washita, Arbuckle and Cobb were withdrawn from the Territory, being finally joined in one expedition near the present town of Minco, in Grady County, whence they were marched northward into Kansas under the command of Colonel William H. Emory. Meanwhile the authorities of the newly organized government of the Confederate States began negotiating with the different tribes to induce them to enter into treaties of friendship and alliance. It required much patient and tactful persuasion by Albert Pike, the Confederate commissioner, to induce the people of some of the tribes to agree, even after they knew that the Federal forces had left the Territory and that they had apparently been abandoned by the Federal Government. The Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes were easily persuaded to sign the new treaties, but among the other tribes there were many people who opposed to taking any part of the Creek people refused to have anything to do with the proposed alliance with the Confederate States. The authorities of the Cherokee Nation tried to maintain a neutral position for some months.
The Confederate forces in arkansas seized Fort Smith and troops from Texas occupied Forts Washita, Arbuckle and Cobb as soon as those posts were abandoned by the Federal garrisons. All of the tribal agents of the government were southern men and nearly all of them were active supporters of the secession movement, and states rights. The newly appointed agents, who were to succed them, did not dare to come to their stations. The payment of annuity funds which were due from the Federal Government were not made. It seemed that the people of these tribes had been abandoned and forgotten by their "great father" at Washington.
The Confederate commissioner, Albert Pike, made a treaty with one party or faction of the Creek Nation but the other, under the leadership of an old chief named Opothleyahola (see Biographies of Prominent Men in Okahoma History), not only refused to be bound by the treaty but prepared to leave the Territory and take refuge in Kansas, late in the Autumn of 1861. Confederate forces under the command of Colonels Douglas H. Cooper and James M. McIntosh pursued and attacked the fugitives, who were not only poorly armed but also incumbered with their families and movable property. After being driven out of the Territory in defeat, with the loss of much of their belongings, the fleeing loyalist Indians finished their journey arrived in Kansas in a destitute condition.
After entering into into treaties with the Confederate States, each of the Five Civilized Tribes raised and organized troops for the Confederate military service.
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Ann Maloney, Bartlesville, OK.
Copyright © 1998 Ann Maloney all rights reserved.