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Cantankerous Confederates

June 20, 2001

Historian's Notes

Although most people don't really think of Oklahoma or Indian Territory when it comes to the Civil War, the lives of the residents there were just as severely disrupted, if not more so, than people in the eastern section of the country. The story of Stand Watie and his Civil War experiences is an interesting look at Indian Territory during these traumatic years.


Franks, Kenny A. (1979). Stand Watie and the Agony of the Cherokee Nation. Memphis; Memphis State University Press.

Almanac Transcript

Cantankerous Confederates this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Kite.

The Civil War was a trying time for the entire United States, and the residents of Indian Territory found the situation especially daunting. Native Americans in Indian Territory were forced to contend with not only the splitting apart of the United States but divisions within their own nation tribes as well. During the Civil War most of the tribes located within what is now Oklahoma had northern and southern factions. Battling each other as well forces from outside the state, Indian Territory residents were caught up in a tangled crossfire of violence and destruction.

One of the better known leaders of Native American forces during the war was Stand Watie (sometimes pronounce Wha-tee). A member of the Cherokee tribe, Watie signed up with the Confederate forces in the Spring of 1861. Wooed by attractive offers from the Confederacy and holding a general dislike of the United States Government, convincing Watie to join the Confederate cause was not difficult.

Commissioned a colonel in the Confederate Army, Watie began raising forces later known as The Cherokee Mounted Volunteers, to assist in protecting Indian Territory from federal invasion. The Cherokee Mounted Volunteers participated in numerous actions within Indian Territory as well as one of the largest battles of the western theater of war, The Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas. Watie and his volunteers performed admirable during the Arkansas engagement but could not prevent the northern troops from achieving a major victory. From the time after the battle of Pea Ridge through to the end of the war federal troops controlled much of the west limiting the movement of Confederate troops in the area. For the latter half of the war Watie and his troops were involved in mainly small-scale guerilla war actions. Still the crafty Watie now promoted to general proved more than once to be a thorn in the side of the northern troops.

By late 1864 it was clear that the southern cause was floundering. The mounting cost of war both in dollars and lives lost took its toll, and in April of 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia. Other General followed in Leeís wake surrendering their forces to the US Government. It was in this week of 1865, June 23rd that Stand Watie met with Union officers near Doaksville in the Choctaw Nation of Indian Territory. Unknown to Watie at the time was the fact that he was indeed the last Confederate general of the U.S. Civil War to surrender.

I'm Steven Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a production of the OSU Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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