Civil War and the Kansas Refugees from the Indian Territory

Two regiments of the Cherokee troops originating as homeguards, had been raised by authorization of General Ben McCulloch. The first regiment of Cherokee volunteers, consisting largely of full bloods, was placed under the command of Colonel John Drew; the second regiment, containing many mixed bloods, was commanded by Colonel Stand Watie. In the South a regiment of Choctaw and Chickasaw troops had been formed under Colonel Douglas H. Cooper, formerly Indian agent for these tribes, and a Creek regiment was commanded by Colonel McIntosh. Also, some smaller unites of seminoles, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks and Cherokees were formed.

As indicated, however, the Creeks and Seminoles were seriously divided. Many still favored the North and declared that they would not be bound by the treaty with the Confederacy. This group was under the leadership of an old chief known as Opothleyohola. Rallying about him a considerable force of loyal Creeks, together with some Seminoles and perhaps a few Cherokees, this old chief defied the southern Indians.

Late in the year 1861 two battles were fought, in both of which the northern Indians were successful. In fact, a large part of Colonel Drew's regiment of full-blood Cherokees went over to the enemy, declaring that they were unwilling to fight the northern Creeks. On December 26, however, a third battle, known as Chus-te-nah-lah, was fought. The forces Opothleyohola were terribly defeated and fled from the field. Abandoning nearly all their property and camp equipment, the defeated fighters gathered up their women and children and continued their flight north to Kansas. The ground was covered with snow and the weather was bitterly cold. After enduring terrible hardships and intense suffering, they at last crossed the border into Kansas and reached the military camp of General David Hunter, who relieved their first necessities from his army stores.

For several weeks, more refugees continued to arrive, establishing themselves in camps along the streams near the northern troops. Although most of the arrivals were Creeks and Seminoles, a considerable number were Cherokees. General Hunter did what little he could for them, but their condition remained pitiable in the extreme. The army surgeion reported that he had amputated maore than a hundred frozen limbs and that the Indians were utterly destitute. Many slept on the bare ground in such little shelters as they were able to contrive. The nearby stream was choked by the carcasses of dead horses; of the hundreds still alive and grazing on the surrounding prairie, it was asserted that nearly all would surely die of starvation before spring. The Indians themselves lacked food, clothing, medicines, and shelter. The agents of the United States who had been appointed to these tribes many months earlier came out to minister to their charges, but they lacked the resources to do much. Since the Union government was bending every effort needed for the army and could not be spared for the Indians. Even when some money for such supplies was secured, governmental red tape and transportation difficulties caused heart-breaking delays. Not until the coming of spring could any appreciable reliev from suffering be expected, and to many Indians who lived through that cruel winter it doubtless seemed that spring would never come.

OKGenWeb Index Page | USGenWeb Index Page | WorldGenWeb Project Index Page | USGenWeb Archives | OkGenWeb Archives | Twin Territories Project of the OkGenWeb | State and Unknown County Queries | The Civil War in Indian Territory Index Page | Civil War Battle Sites in the Indian Territory | The Civil War in Indian Territory - The Story in Brief | The Shadow of War | The Mission of Albert Pike | Civil War and the Kansas Refugees | The Military Operations of General Pike | The First Indian Expedition | Difficulties of the Southern Indians | Division of the Cherokees | Occupation of the Cherokee Country by the Union | Waning Fortunes of the South | Last Phases of the War | Bibliography

This information has been gathered from research done in several areas. Source information is available on the bibliography page. This page has been designed and put together by Ann Maloney, Bartlesville, OK. If you would like to add anything, please contact me at the address below.

luvcats@ionet.net

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