Battling on the Devilís Backbone
September 4, 2002
Battling on the Devilís Backbone this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.
Hello, Iím Steven Knoche Kite.
Without a doubt the largest Civil War battle to occur in Indian Territory was the Battle of Honey Springs.
Yet this, ďGettysburg of Indian Territory,Ē as it has been called, did not preclude further military action
in the area, nor did the Federal Victory at Honey Springs, as is often assumed, reduce the Confederate
forces to rag tag bands of guerilla fighters. One example of the continued Confederate presence in Indian
Territory following Honey Springs is The Battle of the Devilís Backbone.
The Battle of the Devilís Backbone occurred during the fight to take over Fort Smith. Although the
Northern or Union troops were arguably in control of the area the Southern or Confederate forces still
held onto a number of important positions including Fort Smith. Shortly after the Battle of Honey Springs
in 1863, Northern troops began maneuvers to take over Fort Smith. As they approached the fort and the
stockpile of Confederate supplies there. Southern troops rather than waiting for the attack, abandoned
the fort, choosing instead to face the aggressors on better ground.
A mile or so south of Pocola, Oklahoma in LeFlore County lies the Devilís Backbone a rough, rocky,
timber covered hill. It was there that the Confederates opted to make their stand. It was in this week
of 1863 that Northern troops charged up the Devilís Backbone facing heavy resistance. Southern forces
with the geographical advantage could have easily finished off the assault except for an odd occurrence.
In the middle of the battle a large number of Southern troops, perhaps misunderstanding an order, embarked
on a massive retreat. The sudden loss of forces spelled doom for the rebel force on the backbone, and
the area including Forth Smith was left open to complete Northern control. It was this battle occurring
in this week of 1863 that finally gave the Northern forces complete control of what is now northern Oklahoma.
After the fall of the Devilís Backbone and Forth Smith the Confederacy in Oklahoma was, no longer able
to mount a large scale organized resistance and was reduced to hit and run tactics and guerilla warfare.
I'm Steven Knoche Kite.
The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University
Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.