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General Pike in Controversy with General Hindman

 Native American Nations | Participant in the Civil War                    


he retrograde movement of Colonel Salomon and the white auxiliary of the Indian Expedition was peculiarly unfortunate and ill-timed since, owing to circumstances now to be related in detail, the Confederates had really no forces at hand at all adequate to repel invasion. On the thirty-first of May, as earlier narrated in this work, General Hindman had written to General Pike instructing him to move his entire infantry force of whites and Woodruff's single six-gun battery to Little Rock without delay. In doing this, he admitted that, while it was regrettable that Pike's force in Indian Territory should be reduced, it was imperative that Arkansas should be protected, her danger being imminent. He further ordered, that Pike should supply the command to be sent forward with subsistence for thirty days, should have the ammunition transported in wagons, and should issue orders that not a single cartridge be used on the journey.392

To one of Pike's proud spirit, such orders could be nothing short of galling. He had collected his force and everything he possessed appertaining to it at the cost of much patience, much labor, much expense. Untiring vigilance had alone made possible the formation of his brigade and an unselfish willingness to advance his own funds had alone furnished it with quartermaster and commissary stores. McCulloch and Van Dorn393 each in turn had diverted his supplies from their destined course, yet he had borne with it all, uncomplainingly. He had even broken faith with the Indian nations at Van Dorn's instance; for, contrary to the express terms of the treaties that he had negotiated, he had taken the red men across the border, without their express consent, to fight in the Pea Ridge campaign. And with what result? Base ingratitude on the part of Van Dorn, who, in his official report of the three day engagement, ignored the help rendered394 and left Pike to bear the stigma395 of Indian atrocities alone.

With the thought of that ingratitude still rankling in his breast, Pike noted additional features of Hindman's first instructions to him, which were, that he should advance his Indian force to the northern border of Indian Territory and hold it there to resist invasion from Kansas. He was expected to do this unsupported by white troops, the need of which, for moral as well as for physical strength, he had always insisted upon.

It is quite believable that Van Dorn was the person most responsible for Hindman's interference with Pike, although, of course, the very seriousness and desperateness of Hindman's situation would have impelled him to turn to the only place where ready help was to be had. Three days prior to the time that Hindman had been assigned to the Trans-Mississippi Department, Roane, an old antagonist of Pike396 and the commander to whose immediate care Van Dorn had confided Arkansas,397 had asked of Pike at Van Dorn's suggestion398 all the white forces he could spare, Roane having practically none of his own. Pike had refused the request, if request it was, and in refusing it, had represented how insufficient his forces actually were for purposes of his own department and how exceedingly difficult had been the task, which was his and his alone, of getting them together. At the time of writing he had not a single dollar of public money for his army and only a very limited amount of ammunition and other supplies.399

Pike received Hindman's communication of May 31 late in the afternoon of June 8 and he replied to it that same evening immediately after he had made arrangements400 for complying in part with its requirements.

The reply401 as it stands in the records today is a strong indictment of the Confederate management of Indian affairs in the West and should be dealt with analytically, yet also as a whole; since no paraphrase, no mere synopsis of contents could ever do the subject justice. From the facts presented, it is only too evident that very little had been attempted or done by the Richmond authorities for the Indian regiments. Neither officers nor men had been regularly or fully paid. And not all the good intentions, few as they were, of the central government had been allowed realization. They had been checkmated by the men in control west of the Mississippi. In fact, the army men in Arkansas had virtually exploited Pike's command, had appropriated for their own use his money, his supplies, and had never permitted anything to pass on to Indian Territory, notwithstanding that it had been bought with Indian funds, "that was fit to be sent anywhere else." The Indian's portion was the "refuse," as Pike so truly, bitterly, and emphatically put it, or, in other words of his, the "crumbs" that fell from the white man's table.

Pike's compliance with Hindman's orders was only partial and he offered not the vestige of an apology that it was so. What he did send was Dawson's402 infantry regiment and Woodruff's battery which went duly on to Little Rock with the requisite thirty days' subsistence and the caution that not a single cartridge was to be fired along the way. The caution Pike must have repeated in almost ironical vein; for the way to Little Rock lay through Indian Territory and cartridges like everything else under Pike's control had been collected solely for its defense.

Respecting the forward movement of the Indian troops, Pike made not the slightest observation in his reply. His silence was ominous. Perhaps it was intended as a warning to Hindman not to encroach too far upon his department; but that is mere conjecture; inasmuch as Pike had not yet seen fit to question outright Hindman's authority over himself. As if anticipating an echo from Little Rock of criticisms that were rife elsewhere, he ventured an explanation of his conduct in establishing himself in the extreme southern part of Indian Territory and towards the west and in fortifying on an open prairie, far from any recognized base.403 He had gone down into the Red River country, he asserted, in order to be near Texas where supplies might be had in abundance and where, since he had no means of defense, he would be safe from attack. He deplored the seeming necessity of merging his department in another and larger one. His reasons were probably many but the one reason he stressed was, for present purposes, the best he could have offered. It was, that the Indians could not be expected to render to him as a subordinate the same obedience they had rendered to him as the chief officer in command. Were his authority to be superseded in any degree, the Indians would naturally infer that his influence at Richmond had declined, likewise his power to protect them and their interests.

During the night Pike must have pondered deeply over things omitted from his reply to Hindman and over all that was wanting to make his compliance with Hindman's instructions full and satisfactory. On the ninth, his assistant-adjutant, O.F. Russell, prepared a fairly comprehensive report404 of the conditions in and surrounding his command. Pike's force,405 so the report stated, was anything but complete. With Dawson gone, there would be in camp, of Arkansas troops, one company of cavalry and one of artillery and, of Texas, two companies of cavalry. When men, furloughed for the wheat harvest, should return, there would be "in addition two regiments and one company of cavalry, and one company of artillery, about 80 strong."406 The withdrawal of white troops from the Territory would be interpreted by the Indians to mean its abandonment.

Of the Indian contingent, Russell had this to say:

The two Cherokee regiments are near the Kansas line, operating on that frontier. Col. Stand Watie has recently had a skirmish there, in which, as always, he and his men fought gallantly, and were successful. Col. D.N. McIntosh's Creek Regiment is under orders to advance up the Verdigris, toward the Santa Fé road. Lieut. Col. Chilly McIntosh's Creek Battalion, Lieut. Col. John Jumper's Seminole Battalion, and Lieut. Col. J.D. Harris' Chickasaw Battalion are under orders, and part of them now in motion toward the Salt Plains, to take Fort Larned, the post at Walnut Creek, and perhaps Fort Wise, and intercept trains going to New Mexico. The First Choctaw (new)407 Regiment, of Col. Sampson Folsom, and the Choctaw Battalion (three companies), of Maj. Simpson (N.) Folsom, are at Middle Boggy, 23 miles northeast of this point. They were under orders to march northward to the Salt Plains and Santa Fé road; but the withdrawal of Colonel Dawson's regiment prevents that, and the regiment is now ordered to take position here, and the battalion to march to and take position at Camp McIntosh, 17 miles this side of Fort Cobb, where, with Hart's Spies, 40 in number, it will send out parties to the Wichita Mountains and up the False Wichita, and prevent, if possible, depredations on the frontier of Texas.

The First Choctaw and Chickasaw Regiment, of Col. Douglas H. Cooper, goes out of service on the 25th and 26th of July. It is now encamped 11 miles east of here.... The country to the westward is quiet, all the Comanche this side of the Staked Plains being friendly, and the Kiowas408 having made peace, and selected a home to live at on Elk Creek, not far from the site of Camp Radziwintski, south of the Wichita Mountains.

The Indian troops have been instructed, if the enemy409 invades the country, to harass him, and impede his progress by every possible means, and, falling back here as he advances, to assist in holding this position against him.

Included in Russell's report there might well have been much interesting data respecting the condition of the troops that Pike was parting with; for it can scarcely be said that he manifested any generosity in sending them forth. He obeyed the letter of his order and ignored its spirit. He permitted no guns to be taken out of the Territory that had been paid for with money that he had furnished. Dawson's regiment had not its full quota of men, but that was scarcely Pike's fault. Neither was it his fault that its equipment was so sadly below par that it could make but very slow progress on the nine hundred mile march between Fort McCulloch and Little Rock. Moreover, the health of the men was impaired, their duties, especially the "fort duties, throwing up entrenchments, etc.,"410 had been very fatiguing. Pike had no wagons to spare them for the trip eastward. So many of his men had obtained furloughs for the harvest season and every company, in departing, had taken with it a wagon,411 no one having any thought that there would come a call decreasing Pike's command.

So slowly and laboriously did Dawson's regiment progress that Hindman, not hearing either of it or of Woodruff's battery, which was slightly in advance, began to have misgivings as to the fate of his orders of May 31. He, therefore, repeated them in substance, on June 17, with the additional specific direction that Pike should "move at once to Fort Gibson." That order Pike received June 24, the day following his issuance of instructions to his next in command, Colonel D.H. Cooper, that he should hasten to the country north of the Canadian and there take command of all forces except Chief Jumper's.

The receipt of Hindman's order of June 17 was the signal for Pike to pen another lengthy letter412 of description and protest. Interspersed through it were his grievances, the same that were recited in the letter of June 8, but now more elaborately dwelt upon. Pike was getting irritable. He declared that he had done all he could to expedite the movement of his troops. The odds were unquestionably against him. His Indians were doing duty in different places. Most of the men of his white cavalry force were off on furlough. Their furloughs would not expire until the twenty-fifth and not until the twenty-seventh could they be proceeded against as deserters. Not until that date, too, would the reorganization, preliminary to marching, be possible. He was short of transportation and half of what he had was unserviceable.

Of his available Indian force, he had made what disposition to him seemed best. He had ordered the newly-organized First Choctaw Regiment, under Colonel Sampson Folsom, to Fort Gibson and had assigned Cooper to the command north of the Canadian, which meant, of course, the Cherokee country. Cooper's own regiment was the First Choctaw and Chickasaw, of which, two companies, proceeding from Scullyville, had already posted themselves in the upper part of the Indian Territory, where also were the two Cherokee regiments, Watie's and Drew's. The remaining eight companies of the First Choctaw and Chickasaw were encamped near Fort McCulloch and would have, before moving elsewhere, to await the reorganization of their regiment, now near at hand. However, Cooper was not without hope that he could effect reorganization promptly and take at least four companies to join those that had just come from Scullyville. There were six companies in the Chickasaw Battalion, two at Fort Cobb and four on the march to Fort McCulloch; but they would all have to be left within their own country for they were averse to moving out of it and were in no condition to move. The three companies of the Choctaw Battalion would also have to be left behind in the south for they had no transportation with which to effect a removal. The Creek commands, D.N. McIntosh's Creek Regiment, Chilly McIntosh's Creek Battalion, and John Jumper's Seminole Battalion, were operating in the west, along the Santa Fé Trail and towards Forts Larned and Wise.

June 17 might be said to mark the beginning of the real controversy between Pike and Hindman; for, on that day, not only did Hindman reiterate the order to hurry that aroused Pike's ire but he encroached upon Pike's prerogative in a financial particular that was bound, considering Pike's experiences in the past, to make for trouble. Interference with his commissary Pike was determined not to brook, yet, on June 17, Hindman put N. Bart Pearce in supreme control at Fort Smith as commissary, acting quartermaster, and acting ordnance officer.413 His jurisdiction was to extend over northwestern Arkansas and over the Indian Territory. Now Pike had had dealings already with Pearce and thought that he knew too well the limits of his probity. Exactly when Pike heard of Pearce's promotion is not quite clear; but, on the twenty-third, Hindman sent him a conciliatory note explaining that his intention was "to stop the operations of the commissaries of wandering companies in the Cherokee Nation, who" were "destroying the credit of the Confederacy by the floods of certificates they" issued and not "to restrict officers acting under" Pike's orders.414 All very well, but Pearce had other ideas as to the functions of his office and lost no time in apprising various people of them. His notes415 to Pike's officers were most impertinently prompt. They were sent out on the twenty-fourth of June and on the twenty-sixth Pike reported416 the whole history of his economic embarrassments to the Secretary of War.417

His indignation must have been immense; but whether righteously so or not, it was for others higher up to decide. That Pike had some sort of a case against the men in Arkansas there can be no question. The tale he told Secretary Randolph was a revelation such as would have put ordinary men, if involved at all, to deepest shame. Hindman, perforce, was the victim of accumulated resentment; for he, personally, had done only a small part of that of which Pike complained. In the main, Pike's report simply furnished particulars in matters, such as the despoiling him of his hard-won supplies, of which mention has already been made; and his chief accusation was little more than hinted at, the gist of it being suggested in some of his concluding sentences:

... I struggled for a good while before I got rid of the curse of dependence for subsistence, transportation, and forage on officers at Fort Smith. I cannot even get from that place the supplies I provide myself and hardly my own private stores. My department quartermaster and commissary are fully competent to purchase what we need, and I mean they shall do it. I have set my face against all rascality and swindling and keep contractors in wholesome fear, and have made it publicly known by advertisement that I prefer to purchase of the farmer and producer and do not want any contractors interposed between me and them. My own officers will continue to purchase subsistence, transportation, forage, and whatever else I need until I am ordered to the contrary by you, and when that order comes it will be answered by my resignation. Mr. White's418 contract will not be acted under here. I have beef enough on hand and engaged, and do not want any from him. I have had to buy bacon at 20 to 26 cents, and he ought to be made to pay every cent of the difference between that price and fifteen cents. I also strenuously object to receiving mules or anything else purchased at Fort Smith.

I could get up a mule factory now with the skeletons I have, and there are a few miles from here 600 or 800 sent up by Major Clark419 in even a worse plight.

I know nothing about Major Pearce as a quartermaster nor of any right Major-General Hindman has to make him one. He is an assistant commissary of subsistence, with the rank of major, and Major Quesenbury, my brigade or department quartermaster, is major by an older commission....

While I am here there will be no fine contracts for mules, hay, keeping of mules, beef on the hoof at long figures, or anything of the kind. Fort Smith is very indignant at this, and out of this grief grows the anxious desire of many patriots to see me resign the command of this country or be removed....420

Subsequent communications421 from Pike to Randolph reported the continued despoiling of his command and the persistent infringement of Pearce upon his authority, in consequence of which, the Indians were suffering from lack of forage, medicines, clothing, and food.422 Pearce, in his turn, reported423 to Hindman Pike's obstinacy and intractability and he even cast insinuations against his honesty. Pike was openly defying the man who claimed to be his superior officer, Hindman. He was resisting his authority at every turn and had already boldly declared,424 with special reference to Clarkson, of course, that

No officer of the Missouri State Guard, whatever his rank, unless he has a command adequate to his rank, can ever exercise or assume any military authority in the Indian country, and much less assume command of any Confederate troops or compare rank with any officer in the Confederate service. The commissioned colonels of Indian regiments rank precisely as if they commanded regiments of white men, and will be respected and obeyed accordingly.

With the same confidence in the justness of his own cause, he called425 Pearce's attention to an act of Congress which seemed "to have escaped his observation," and which Pike considered conclusively proved that the whole course of action of his enemies was absolutely illegal.

In some of his contentions, General Pike was most certainly on strong ground and never on stronger than when he argued that the Indians were organized, in a military way, for their own protection and for the defense of their own country. Since first they entered the Confederate service, many had been the times that that truth had been brought home to the authorities and not by Pike426 alone but by several of his subordinates and most often by Colonel Cooper.427 The Indians had many causes of dissatisfaction and sometimes they murmured pretty loudly. Not even Pike's arrangements satisfied them all and his inexplicable conduct in establishing his headquarters at Fort McCulloch was exasperating beyond measure to the Cherokees.428 Why, if he were really sincere in saying that his supreme duty was the defense of Indian Territory, did he not place himself where he could do something, where, for instance, he could take precautions against invasions from Kansas? And why, when the unionist Indian Expedition was threatening Fort Gibson, Tahlequah, and Cherokee integrity generally, did he not hasten northward to resist it? Chief Ross, greatly aggrieved because of Pike's delinquency in this respect, addressed429 himself to Hindman and he did so in the fatal days of June.

392: Official Records, vol. xiii, 934.
393: Van Dorn would seem to have been a gross offender in this respect. Similar charges were made against him by other men and on other occasions [Official Records, vol. liii, supplement, 825].
394: It was matter of common report that Van Dorn despised Pike's Indians [ibid., vol. xiii, 814-816]. The entire Arkansas delegation in Congress, with the exception of A.H. Garland, testified to Van Dorn's aversion for the Indians [ibid., 815].
395: How great was that stigma can be best understood from the following: "The horde of Indians scampered off to the mountains from whence they had come, having murdered and scalped many of the Union wounded. General Pike, their leader, led a feeble band to the heights of Big Mountain, near Elk Horn, where he was of no use to the battle of the succeeding day, and whence he fled, between roads, through the woods, disliked by the Confederates and detested by the Union men; to be known in history as a son of New Hampshire—a poet who sang of flowers and the beauties of the sunset skies, the joys of love and the hopes of the soul—and yet one who, in the middle of the 19th century, led a merciless, scalping, murdering, uncontrollable horde of half-tame savages in the defense of slavery—themselves slave-holders—against that Union his own native State was then supporting, and against the flag of liberty. He scarcely struck a blow in open fight.... His service was servile and corrupt; his flight was abject, and his reward disgrace."—War Papers and Personal Recollections of the Missouri Commandery, 232.
396: Pike had fought a duel with Roane, Roane having challenged him because he had dared to criticize his conduct in the Mexican War [Hallura, Biographical and Pictorial History of Arkansas, vol. i, 229; Confederate Military History, vol. x, 99].
397: Maury to Roane, May 11, 1862, Official Records, vol. xiii, 827.
398: Maury to Pike, May 19, 1862, ibid.
399: Pike to Roane, June 1, 1862, ibid., 935-936.
400: General Orders, June 8, 1862, ibid., 943.
401: Pike to Hindman, June 8, 1862, ibid., 936-943.
402: C.L. Dawson of the Nineteenth Regiment of Arkansas Volunteers had joined Pike at Fort McCulloch in April [Fort Smith Papers].
403: His enemies were particularly scornful of his work in this regard. They poked fun at him on every possible occasion. Edwards, in Shelby and His Men, 63, but echoed the general criticism,

"Pike, also a Brigadier, had retreated with his Indian contingent out of North West Arkansas, unpursued, through the Cherokee country, the Chickasaw country, and the country of the Choctaws, two hundred and fifty miles to the southward, only halting on the 'Little Blue', an unknown thread of a stream, twenty miles from Red river, where he constructed fortifications on the open prairie, erected a saw-mill remote from any timber, and devoted himself to gastronomy and poetic meditation, with elegant accompaniments..."

404: Official Records, vol. xiii, 943-945.
405: For tabulated showing of Pike's brigade, see ibid., 831.
406: Compare Russell's statement with Hindman's [ibid., 30]. See also Maury to Price, March 22, 1862 [ibid., vol. viii, 798].
407: The parentheses appear here as in the original.
408: Pike had just received assurances of the friendly disposition of the Kiowas [Bickel to Pike, June 1, 1862, Official Records, vol. xiii, 936].
409: The enemy in mind was the Indian Expedition. Pike had heard that Sturgis had been removed "on account of his tardiness in not invading the Indian country...." [Ibid., 944].
410: Dawson to Hindman, June 20, 1862, Official Records, vol. xiii, 945-946.
411: Dawson had allowed his wagons to go "of his own motion" [Pike to Hindman, June 24, 1862, ibid., 947].
412: Ibid., 947-950.
413: Official Records, vol. xiii, 967.
414: Ibid., 946.
415: Ibid., 968, 968-969, 969.
416: Ibid., 841-844.
417: George W. Randolph.
418: "George E. White, formerly a partner, I believe, of Senator Oldham of Texas..."—Official Records, vol. xiii, 842.
419: George W. Clark, Official Records, vol. xiii.
420: For an equally vigorous statement on this score, see Pike to Randolph, June 30, 1862 [ibid., 849].
421: Ibid., 846-847, 848-849, 850-851, 852.
422: Chilly McIntosh to Pike, June 9, 1862, ibid., 853; Pike to Chilly McIntosh, July 6, 1862, ibid., 853-854.
423: July 5, 1862 [ibid., 963-965; July 8, 1862 [ibid., 965-967].
424: Ibid., 844-845.
425: Pike to Pearce, July 1, 1862, Official Records, vol. xiii, 967.
426: One of the best statements of the case by Pike is to be found in a letter from him to Stand Watie, June 27, 1862 [ibid., 952].
427: For some of Cooper's statements, illustrative of his position, see his letter to Pike, February 10, 1862 [ibid., 896] and that to Van Dorn, May 6, 1862 [ibid., 824].
428: It was at the express wish of Stand Watie and Drew that Hindman placed Clarkson in the Cherokee country [Carroll to Pike, June 27, 1862, ibid., 952].
429: Ross to Hindman, June 25, 1862, Official Records, vol. xiii, 950-951. A little while before, Ross had complained, in a similar manner, to President Davis [ibid., 824-825].

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The American Indian as Participant in the Civil War, 1919

Participant in the Civil War


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