Cherokee Indians and the American Civil War

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Cherokee Indians and the American Civil War

Cherokee Indians and the Civil War
 
Introduction
 
The Cherokee Indians, though not citizens of the United States nor of the recently formed Confederacy, supported both the Northern and Southern governments and served in both the Union and Confederate militaries, which resulted in warring factions within the Cherokee. The Cherokee were involved predominately in the eastern and western theaters and fought bravely in many of the major battles of the Civil War. The Oconaluftee Indians (Eastern Cherokee) would form the last Confederate unit to surrender East of the Mississippi, and Cherokee chief and Brig. Gen. Stand Watie, who attained the highest rank among the Cherokee, commanded the final Confederate command, consisting of men of the Cherokee Nation, to surrender West of the Mississippi and of the four year Civil War.
 
While this page offers a rich history, interesting details, fascinating facts, with plenty of pictures and maps, for Cherokee Indians and the American Civil War, it includes the Cherokee Nation Declaration and the Civil War, leading Native Americans during the conflict, and the Five Civilized Tribes and the great divide of Civil War. It also covers Cherokee chiefs and other famous American Indians and their support and involvement for the Confederate and Union armies, as well as Cherokee Indians and their struggle to assimilate into the Union during Reconstruction.

Confederate Cherokee Indian Veterans
Thomas Legion's Cherokee Indians.jpg
1903 New Orleans Confederate Reunion

(About) The following caption appears under the original image: Above is shown the last photograph ever taken of the remaining members of the famous Thomas Legion, composed of Cherokee Indians in the Confederate Army. The photograph was made in New Orleans at the time of the New Orleans Reunion of Confederate Veterans. The inscription on the banner, displayed in the photograph, is as follows: "Cherokee Veteran Indians of Thomas Legion. 69 N. C. Regiment. Suo-Noo-Kee Camp U. C. V. 4th Brigade, N. C. Division." Reading from left to right, those in the picture are: front row, 1 Young Deer; 2 unidentified; 3 Pheasant; 4 Chief David Reed; 5 Sevier Skitty; back row, 1 the Rev. Bird Saloneta; 2 Dickey Driver; 3 Lieut. Col. W. W. Stringfield of Waynesville; 4 Lieutenant Suatie Owl; 5 Jim Keg; 6 Wesley Crow; 7 unidentified; 8 Lieutenant Calvin Cagle. All of these men are now dead with the exception of Sevier Skitty, who lives one mile from Cherokee. Lieut. Col. Stringfield and Lieut. Cagle were white officers of the legion. Names of the men in the photograph were furnished by James R. Thomas of Waynesville, son of the late Col. W. H. Thomas, who commanded the Thomas Legion. This band of Indians built the first road across the Great Smoky Mountains.

(Final Formal Surrender of Confederate forces "East of the Mississippi")
(Final Formal Surrender of Confederate forces "West of the Mississippi")
Cherokee Indians and the American Civil War
Cherokee and Civil War.jpg
Cherokee and Civil War

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Recommended Viewing: Indian Warriors - The Untold Story of the Civil War (History Channel) (2007). Description: Though largely forgotten, 20 to 30 thousand Native Americans fought in the Civil War. Ely Parker was a Seneca leader who found himself in the thick of battle under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant. Stand Watie--a Confederate general and a Cherokee--was known for his brilliant guerrilla tactics. Continued below...

Also highlighted is Henry Berry Lowery, an Eastern North Carolina Indian, who became known as the Robin Hood of North Carolina. Respected Civil War authors, Thom Hatch and Lawrence Hauptman, help reconstruct these most captivating stories, along with descendants like Cherokee Nation member Jay Hanna, whose great-grandfathers fought for both the Union and the Confederacy. Together, they reveal a new, fresh perspective and the very personal reasons that drew these Native Americans into the fray.

 

Recommended Reading: The American Indian in the Civil War, 1862-1865 (Bison Book) (403 pages) (University of Nebraska Press). Description: Annie Heloise Abel describes the divided loyalties of Native Americans and the American Civil War and makes it vividly clear that it brought only chaos and devastation to the Indian Territory. For example, she describes in detail the 1862 Battle of Pea Ridge, a bloody disaster for the Confederates but a glorious moment for Colonel (later promoted to "General")  Stand Watie and his Cherokee Mounted Rifles. The Indians were soon swept by the war into a vortex of confusion and horror. 

 
Recommended Reading: Storm in the Mountains: Thomas' Confederate Legion of Cherokee Indians and Mountaineers (Thomas' Legion: The Sixty-ninth North Carolina Regiment). Description: Vernon H. Crow, Storm in the Mountains, spent 10 years conducting extensive Thomas Legion's research. Crow was granted access to rare manuscripts, special collections, and privately held diaries which add great depth to this rarely discussed Civil War legion. He explores and discusses the unit's formation, fighting history, and life of the legion's commander--Cherokee chief and Confederate colonel--William Holland Thomas. Continued below...
Numerous maps and photographs allow the reader to better understand and relate to the subjects discussed. It also contains rosters which is an added bonus for researchers and genealogists. Crow, furthermore, left no stone unturned while examining the many facets of the Thomas Legion and his research is conveyed on a level that scores with Civil War students and scholars alike.

 

Recommended Viewing: The Great Indian Wars: 1540-1890 (2009) (230 minutes). Description: The year 1540 was a crucial turning point in American history. The Great Indian Wars were incited by Francisco Vazquez de Coronado when his expedition to the Great Plains launched the inevitable 350 year struggle between the white man and the American Indians. This series defines the struggles of practically every major American Indian tribe. It is also a fascinating study of the American Indians' beginnings on the North American Continent, while reflecting the factional splits as well as alliances. Continued below...

The Great Indian Wars is more than a documentary about the battles and conflicts, wars and warfare, fighting tactics and strategies, and weapons of the American Indians. You will journey with the Indians and witness how they adapted from the bow to the rifle, and view the European introduction of the horse to the Americas and how the Indians adapted and perfected it for both hunting and warfare. This fascinating documentary also reflects the migration patterns--including numerous maps--and the evolution of every major tribe, as well as the strengths, weaknesses, and challenges of each tribe. Spanning nearly 4 hours and filled with spectacular paintings and photographs, this documentary is action-packed from start to finish.

 
Recommended Reading: The Blue, the Gray, and the Red: Indian Campaigns of the Civil War (Hardcover) (288 pages). Description: Inexperienced Union and Confederate soldiers in the West waged numerous bloody campaigns against the Indians during the Civil War. Fighting with a distinct geographical advantage, many tribes terrorized the territory from the Plains to the Pacific, as American pioneers moved west in greater numbers. These noteworthy--and notorious--Indian campaigns featured a fascinating cast of colorful characters, and were set against the wild, desolate, and untamed territories of the western United States. This is the first book to explore Indian conflicts that took place during the Civil War and documents both Union and Confederate encounters with hostile Indians blocking western expansion. Continued below...

From Publishers Weekly: Beginning with the flight of the Creeks into Union territory pursued by Confederate forces (including many of Stand Watie's Cherokees), this popular history recounts grim, bloody, lesser-known events of the Civil War. Hatch (Clashes of the Cavalry) also describes the most incredible incidents.... Kit Carson, who fought Apaches and Navajos under the iron-fisted Colonel Carleton, arranged the Long Walk of the Navajos that made him infamous in Navajo history to this day. The North's "Captain" Woolsey, a volunteer soldier, became a brutal raider of the Apaches. General Sibley, a northerner and first Governor of Minnesota, oversaw the response to the Sioux Uprising of 1862 that left several hundred dead. The slaughter of Black Kettle's Cheyennes at Sand Creek in 1864 by Colorado volunteers under Colonel Chivington, a militant abolitionist whose views on Indians were a great deal less charitable, “forms a devastating chapter.” Hatch, a veteran of several books on the Indian Wars that focus on George Armstrong Custer, has added to this clear and even-handed account a scholarly apparatus that adds considerably to its value. 

 

Recommended Reading: Civil War in the Indian Territory, by Steve Cottrell (Author), Andy Thomas (Illustrator). Review: From its beginning with the bloody Battle of Wilson's Creek on August 10, 1861, to its end in surrender on June 23, 1865, the Civil War in the Indian Territory proved to be a test of valor and endurance for both sides. Author Steve Cottrell outlines the events that led up to the involvement of the Indian Territory in the war, the role of the Native Americans who took part in the war, and the effect this participation had on the war and this region in particular. As in the rest of the country, neighbor was pitted against neighbor, with members of the same tribes often fighting against each other. Continued below...

Cottrell describes in detail the guerrilla warfare, the surprise attacks, the all-out battles that spilled blood on the now peaceful state of Oklahoma. In addition, he introduces the reader to the interesting and often colorful leaders of the military North and South, including the only American Indian to attain a general's rank in the war, Gen. Stand Watie (member of the Cherokee Nation). With outstanding illustrations by Andy Thomas, this story is a tribute to those who fought and a revealing portrait of the important role they played in this era of our country's history. Meet The Author: A resident of Carthage, Missouri, Steve Cottrell is a descendant of a Sixth Kansas Cavalry member who served in the Indian Territory during the Civil War. A graduate of Missouri Southern State College in Joplin, Cottrell has participated in several battle reenactments including the Academy Award winning motion picture, "Glory". Active in Civil War battlefield preservation and historical monument projects and contributor of a number of Civil War relics to regional museums, Cottrell recently co-authored Civil War in the Ozarks, also by Pelican. It is now in its second printing.

 

Recommended Reading: The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War (Hardcover). Description: This book offers a broad overview of the war as it affected the Cherokees--a social history of a people plunged into crisis. The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War shows how the Cherokee people, who had only just begun to recover from the ordeal of removal, faced an equally devastating upheaval in the Civil War. Clarissa W. Confer illustrates how the Cherokee Nation, with its sovereign status and distinct culture, had a wartime experience unlike that of any other group of people--and suffered perhaps the greatest losses of land, population, and sovereignty. Continued below…

No one questions the horrific impact of the Civil War on America, but few realize its effect on American Indians. Residents of Indian Territory found the war especially devastating. Their homeland was beset not only by regular army operations but also by guerrillas and bushwhackers. Complicating the situation even further, Cherokee men fought for the Union as well as the Confederacy and created their own "brothers' war." About the Author: Clarissa W. Confer is Assistant Professor of History at California University of Pennsylvania.

 

Recommended Reading: The Eastern Band of Cherokees, 1819-1900, by John R. Finger. Review from University of Tennessee Press: This volume presents the story of the Eastern Band of Cherokees during the nineteenth century. This group – the tribal remnant in North Carolina that escaped removal in the 1830’s – found their fortitude and resilience continually tested as they struggled with a variety of problems, including the upheavals of the Civil War and Reconstruction, internal divisiveness, white encroachment on their lands, and a poorly defined relationship with the state and federal governments. Yet despite such stresses and a selective adaptation in the face of social and economic changes, the Eastern Cherokees retained a sense of tribal identity as they stood at the threshold of the twentieth century. Continued below…

“Most scholars, like most Cherokees, have tended to follow the Trail of Tears west with scarcely a backward glance at the more than 1,000 Indians who stayed behind in the North Carolina mountains. In this pathbreaking book, John R. Finger combs federal, state, and local archives to tell the story of these forgotten natives.”

-- Journal of Southern History

“This work is a significant contribution to the literature on this long-ignored group….Finger works [his] sources well and out of them has produced a narrative that is readable and that puts the Eastern Band of Cherokees as a tribal entity into a clear, historical perspective.”

-- American Historical Review

John R. Finger is professor of history at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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