More Civil War Adventures in Indian Territory
May 29, 2002
When I read this account I was immediately taken with the tension and drama involved. This would make a really good movie. Bartlesville is my hometown and whenever I'm driving north of there I think of these men trapped in hostile country, hundreds of miles from home.
Chronicles of Oklahoma. Volume 51, Number 3, Fall 1973.
More Civil War adventures in Indian Territory this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.
Iím Steven Knoche Kite.
During the Civil War the population of Indian Territory divided itself into neutral, pro-southern and pro-northern groups. The boundaries between these groups was fluid at best and always unpredictable. Most visitors to the region during the war it seems were aware of the volatile situation and realized that to enter Indian Territory was to take a great risk. Willing to accept such a risk were eighteen Confederate soldiers stationed in Missouri. The brave or foolish eighteen were part of a recruiting endeavor launched by the Confederate States of America. The plan was to send a group of men westward to recruit the hundreds of potential soldiers there and lead them back through to Texas, into friendly territory.
The group started off from Missouri and soon encountered trouble. On only their first day out the entourage was attacked by a group of pro-northern Native Americans. This attack set off a harrowing multi-day adventure for the only two remaining survivors of the Confederate group, Warner Lewis and John Rafferty. As far as researchers can tell the assault occurred somewhere north of present day Bartlesville, Oklahoma meaning that Lewis and Rafferty had nearly eighty miles of hostile ground to cross, on-foot without food or water, before reaching safe territory. The two set out at nightfall after the attack and made it to the Verdigris River where during a hazardous night time crossing a pair of boots was lost forcing the men to trade off wearing shoes and wrapping their feet in clothes. The day after the attack a nest of Turkey eggs was found that provided sustenance, although the eggs were described as being in, ďan advanced state of incubation.Ē On the third day of travel the pair made it into Missouri and relative safety.
Warner Lewis survived the adventure living into his eighties but John Rafferty, soon after entering Missouri, succumbed to injuries sustained during the attack. It was in this week of 1863 that the sole survivor, Warner Lewis, was able to report back to his commanding officer finally revealing the fate of his party and the recruiting endeavor.
Ill-fated adventures this week on the Almanac.
I'm Steven knoche Kite.
The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.