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General Hindman as Pike's Superior Officer

 Native American Nations | Participant in the Civil War                    


In addressing General Hindman as Pike's superior officer, John Ross did something more than make representations as to the claims, which his nation in virtue of treaty guaranties had upon the South. He urged the advisability of allowing the Indians to fight strictly on the defensive and of placing them under the command of someone who would "enjoy their confidence." These two things he would like to have done if the protective force, which the Confederacy had promised, were not forthcoming. The present was an opportune time for the preferring of such a request. At least it was opportune from the standpoint of Pike's enemies and traducers.430 It fitted into Hindman's scheme of things exactly; for he had quite lost patience, granting he had ever had any, with the Arkansas poet. It was not, however, within his province to remove him; but it was within his power so to tantalize him that he could render his position as brigade and department commander, intolerable. That he proceeded to do. Pike's quick sensibilities were not proof against such treatment and he soon lost his temper.

His provocations were very great. As was perfectly natural, the Confederate defeat at Locust Grove counted heavily against him.431 On the seventh of July, Hindman began a new attack upon him by making requisition for his ten Parrott guns.432 They were needed in Arkansas. On the eighth of July came another attack in the shape of peremptory orders, two sets of them, the very tone of which was both accusatory and condemnatory. What was apparently the first433 set of orders reached Pike by wire on the eleventh of July and commanded him to hurry to Fort Smith, traveling night and day, there to take command of all troops in the Indian Territory and in Carroll's district.434 Almost no organization, charged Hindman, was in evidence among the Confederate forces in the upper Indian country and a collision between the two Cherokee regiments was impending. Had he been better informed he might have said that there was only one of them now in existence.

The second435 set of orders, dated July 8, was of a tenor much the same, just as insulting, just as peremptory. The only difference of note was the substitution of the upper Indian country for Fort Smith as a point for headquarters. In the sequel, however, the second set proved superfluous; for the first so aroused Pike's ire that, immediately upon its receipt, he prepared his resignation and sent it to Hindman for transmission to Richmond.436

Hindman's position throughout this affair was not destitute of justification.437 One has only to read his general reports to appreciate how heavy was the responsibility that rested upon him. It was no wonder that he resorted to questionable expedients to accomplish his purposes, no wonder that he instituted martial law438 in a seemingly refractory country, no wonder that he took desperate measures to force Pike to activity. Pike's leisurely way of attending to business was in itself an annoyance and his leisurely way of moving over the country was a positive offence. He had been ordered to proceed with dispatch to Fort Gibson. The expiration of a month and a half found him still at Fort McCulloch. He really did not move from thence until, having sent in his resignation, he made preparations for handing over his command to Colonel Cooper. That he intended to do at some point on the Canadian and thither he wended his way.439 By the twenty-first of July, "he had succeeded in getting as far as Boggy Depot, a distance of 25 miles;440 but then he had not left Fort McCulloch until that very morning.441

Pike's definite break with Hindman was, perhaps, more truly a consummation of Hindman's wishes than of Pike's own. On the third of July, as if regretting his previous show of temper, he wrote to Hindman a long letter,442 conciliatory in tone throughout. He discussed the issues between them in a calm and temperate spirit, changing nothing as regarded the facts but showing a willingness to let bygones be bygones. Considering how great had been his chagrin, his indignation, and his poignant sense of ingratitude and wrong, he rose to heights really noble. He seemed desirous, even anxious, that the great cause in which they were both so vitally interested should be uppermost in both their minds always and that their differences, which, after all, were, comparatively speaking, so very petty, should be forgotten forever. It was in the spirit of genuine helpfulness that he wrote and also in the spirit of great magnanimity. Pike was a man who studied the art of war zealously, who knew the rules of European warfare, and a man, who, even in war times, could read Napier's Peninsular War and succumb to its charm. He was a classicist and a student very much more than a man of action. Could those around him, far meaner souls many of them than he, have only known and remembered that and, remembering it, have made due allowances for his vagaries, all might have been well. His generous letter of the third of July failed utterly of its mission; but not so much, perhaps, because of Hindman's inability to appreciate it or unwillingness to meet its writer half-way, as because of the very seriousness of Hindman's own military situation, which made all compromises impossible. The things he felt it incumbent upon him to do must be done his way or not at all. The letter of July 3 could scarcely have been received before the objectionable orders of July 8 had been planned.

The last ten days of July were days of constant scouting on the part of both the Federal and Confederate Indians but nothing of much account resulted. Colonel W.A. Phillips of the Third Indian Home Guard, whose command had been left by Furnas to scout around Tahlequah and Fort Gibson, came into collision with Stand Watie's force on the twenty-seventh at Bayou Bernard, seven miles, approximately, from the latter place. The Confederate Cherokees lost considerably in dead and prisoners.443 Phillips would have followed up his victory by pursuing the foe even to the Verdigris had not Cooper, fearing that his forces might be destroyed in detail, ordered them all south of the Arkansas and thereby circumvented his enemy's designs. Phillips then moved northward in the direction of Furnas's main camp on Wolf Creek.444

Pike had his own opinion of Cooper and Watie's daring methods of fighting and most decidedly disapproved of their attempting to meet the enemy in the neighborhood of Fort Gibson. That part of the Indian Territory, according to his view of things, was not capable of supporting an army. He discounted the ability of his men to conquer, their equipment being so meager. He, therefore, persisted in advising that they should fight only on the defensive. He advised that, notwithstanding he had a depreciatory445 regard for the Indian Expedition, and, both before and after the retrograde movement of Colonel Salomon, underestimated its size and strength. He Was confident that Cooper would have inevitably to fall back to the Canadian, where, as he said, "the defensible country commences." Pike objected strenuously to the courting of an open battle and, could he have followed the bent of his own inclinations, "would have sent only small bodies of mounted Indians and white troops to the Arkansas."446

No doubt it was in repudiation of all responsibility for what Cooper and Watie might eventually do that he chose soon to bring himself, through a mistaken notion of justice and honor, into very disagreeable prominence. Discretion was evidently not Pike's cardinal virtue. At any rate, he was quite devoid of it when he issued, July 31, his remarkable circular address447 "to the Chiefs and People of the Cherokees, Creeks, Seminoles, Chickasaws, and Choctaws." In that address, he notified them that he had resigned his post as department commander and dilated upon the causes that had moved him to action. He shifted all blame for failure to keep faith with the Indian nations from himself and from the Confederate government to the men upon whom he steadfastly believed it ought to rest. He deprecated the plundering that would bring its own retribution and begged the red men to be patient and to keep themselves true to the noble cause they had espoused.

Remain true, I earnestly advise you, to the Confederate States and yourselves. Do not listen to any men who tell you that the Southern States will abandon you. They will not do it. If the enemy has been able to come into the Cherokee country it has not been the fault of the President; and it is but the fortune of war, and what has happened in Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and even Arkansas. We have not been able to keep the enemy from our frontier anywhere; but in the interior of our country we can defeat them always.

Be not discouraged, and remember, above all things, that you can have nothing to expect from the enemy. They will have no mercy on you, for they are more merciless than wolves and more rapacious. Defend your country with what help you can get until the President can send you troops. If the enemy ever comes to the Canadian he cannot go far beyond that river. The war must soon end since the recent victories near Richmond, and no treaty of peace will be made that will give up any part of your country to the Northern States. If I am not again placed in command of your country some other officer will be in whom you can confide. And whatever may be told you about me, you will soon learn that if I have not defended the whole country it was because I had not the troops with which to do it; that I have cared for your interest alone; that I have never made you a promise that I did not expect, and had not a right to expect, to be able to keep, and that I have never broken one intentionally nor except by the fault of others.

The only fair way to judge Pike's farewell address to his Indian charges is to consider it in the light of its effect upon them, intended and accomplished.448 So little reason has the red man had, in the course of his long experience with his white brother, to trust him that his faith in that white brother rests upon a very slender foundation. Pike knew the Indian character amazingly well and knew that he must retain for the Confederacy the Indian's confidence at all cost. Were he to fail in that, his entire diplomatic work would have been done in vain. To stay the Cherokees in their desertion to the North was of prime necessity. They had already gone over in dangerously large numbers and must be checked before other tribes followed in their wake. Very possibly Pike had been made aware of Chief Ross's complaint to Hindman. If so, it was all important that he should vindicate himself. So maligned had he been that his sensitiveness on the score of the discharge of his duties was very natural, very pardonable. After all he had done for the Confederacy and for the Indians, it seemed hardly right that he should be blamed for all that others had failed to do. His motives were pure and could not be honestly impugned by anybody. The address was an error of judgment but it was made with the best of intentions.

And so the authorities at Richmond seem to have regarded it; that is, if the reference in President Davis's letter449 to Pike of August 9 is to this affair. Pike wrote to the president on the same day that he started his address upon its rounds, but that letter,450 in which he rehearsed the wrongs he had been forced to endure, also those more recently inflicted upon him, did not reach Richmond until September 20. His address was transmitted by Colonel D.H. Cooper, who had taken great umbrage at it and who now charged the author with having violated an army regulation, which prohibited publications concerning Confederate troops.451 Davis took the matter under advisement and wrote to Pike a mild reprimand. It was as follows:

Richmond, Va., August 9, 1862.

Brig. Gen. Albert Pike,

Camp McCulloch, Choctaw Nation:

General: Your communication of July 3 is at hand. I regret the necessity of informing you that it is an impropriety for an officer of the Army to address the President through a printed circular.452 Under the laws for the government of the Army the publication of this circular was a grave military offense, and if the purpose was to abate an evil, by making an appeal that would be heeded by me, the mode taken was one of the slowest and worst that could have been adopted.

Very respectfully, yours, Jefferson Davis.

The sympathy of Secretary Randolph was conceivably with Pike; for, on the fourteenth of July, he wrote assuring him that certain general orders had been sent out by the Adjutant and Inspector General's Office which were "intended to prevent even the major-general commanding the Trans-Mississippi Department from diverting from their legitimate destination (the Department of Indian Territory) munitions of war and supplies procured by 'him' for that department."453 That did not prevent Hindman's continuing his pernicious practices, however. On the seventeenth he demanded454 that Pike deliver to him his best battery and Pike, discouraged and yet thoroughly beside himself with ill-suppressed rage,455 sent it to him.456 At the same time he insisted that he be immediately relieved of his command.457 He could endure the indignities to which he was subjected no longer. The order for his relief arrived in due course and also directions for him to report in person at Hindman's headquarters.458 He had not then issued his circular; but, as soon as he had, the whole situation changed. He had deliberately put himself in the wrong and into the hands of his enemies. The address was, in some respects, the last act of a desperate459 man. And there is no doubt that General Pike was desperate. Reports were spreading in Texas that he was a defaulter to the government and, as he himself in great bitterness of spirit said, "The incredible villainy of a slander so monstrous, and so without even any ground for suspicion," was "enough to warn every honest man not to endeavor to serve his country."460

Not until August 6 did General Pike's circular address reach Colonel D.H. Cooper, who was then at Cantonment Davis. Cooper wisely suppressed all the copies he could procure and then, believing Pike to be either insane or a traitor, ordered his arrest,461 sending out an armed force for its accomplishment. Hindman, as soon as notified, "indorsed and approved" his action.462 This is his own account of what he did:

... I approved his action, and ordered General Pike sent to Little Rock in custody. I also forwarded Colonel Cooper's letter to Richmond, with an endorsement, asking to withdraw my approval of General Pike's resignation, that I might bring him before a court-martial on charges of falsehood, cowardice, and treason. He was also liable to the penalties prescribed by section 29 of the act of Congress regulating intercourse with the Indians and to preserve peace on the frontiers, approved April 8, 1862....

But his resignation had been accepted.463

430: Pike had his traducers. The Texans and Arkansans circulated infamous stories about him. See his reference to the same in a letter to Hindman, July 3, 1862 [ibid., 955].
431: July 3.
432: Official Records, vol. xiii, 854.
433: First, probably only in the sense that it was the first to be received.
434: Official Records, vol. xiii, 857.
435: Ibid., 856-857.
436: Pike to Hindman, July 15, 1862 [ibid., 858; Pike to Secretary of War, July 20, 1862 [ibid., 856].
437: In September, Hindman declared he had never had any knowledge of the order creating Pike's department [Official Records, vol. xiii, 978].
438: He instituted martial law, June 30, 1862 and, although he believed he had precedent in Pike's own procedure, Pike criticized him severely. See Pike to J.S. Murrow, Seminole Agent, October 25, 1862, ibid., 900-902. Hindman had authorized Pearce, June 17, 1862, to exercise martial law in the cities of Fort Smith and Van Buren and their environs [ibid., 835].
439: Pike to Hindman, July 15, 1862.
440: Hindman's Report [Official Records, vol. xiii, 40]
441: Pike to the Secretary of War, July 20, 1862 [ibid., 859].
442: Ibid., 954-962.
443: Phillips to Furnas, July 27, 1862, Official Records, vol. xiii, 181-182.
444: Same to same, August 6, 1862, ibid., 183-184.
445: Cooper reported that Pike regarded the Indian Expedition as only a "jayhawking party," and "no credit due" "for arresting its career" [Cooper to Davis, August 8, 1862, ibid., vol liii, supplement, 821].
446: Pike to the Secretary of War, July 20, 1862, Official Records, vol. xiii, 859-860.
447: Ibid., 869-871.
448: Pike gives this as the effect of his proclamation:

"... it effected what I desired. The Choctaw force was immediately increased to two full regiments; the Creek force to two regiments and two companies; the Seminole force was doubled; the Chickasaws reorganized five companies and a sixth is being made up. The Indians looked to me alone, and for me to vindicate myself was to vindicate the Government. We lost half the Cherokees solely because their moneys and supplies were intercepted..."Ibid., 904-905. See also Pike to Holmes, December 30, 1862. Another effect was, the creation of a prejudice self-confessed in General Holmes's mind against Pike.

449: Official Records, vol. liii, supplement, 822.
450: Ibid., vol. xiii, 860-869.
451: Ibid., vol. liii, supplement, 820-821.
452: It is possible that the printed circular here referred to was some other one that was directly addressed to the president but none such has been found.
453: Official Records, vol. xiii, 903; Pike to Holmes, December 30, 1862, Pike Papers, Library of the Supreme Council, 33. Pike did not receive Randolph's letter of July fourteenth until some time in August and not until after he had had an interview with Holmes. See Pike to Holmes, December 30, 1862.
454: Official Records, vol. xiii, 970.
455: This is inferred from the very peculiar General Orders that issued from Fort McCulloch that selfsame day. They were sarcastic in the extreme. No general in his right senses would have issued them. They are to be found, Ibid., 970-973.
456: Ibid., 973, 974.
457: Ib id., 973.
458: Pike to Hindman, July 31, 1862, ibid., 973.
459: And yet, August 1, 1862, Pike wrote to Davis one of the sanest papers he ever prepared. It was full of sage advice as to the policy that ought to be pursued in Indian Territory [Official Records, vol. xiii, 871-874].
460: Pike to S. Cooper, August 3, 1862, ibid., 975. See also Pike to Newton, August 3, 1862, ibid., 976.
461: D.H. Cooper to Hindman, August 7, 1862, ibid., 977.
462: Pike to Anderson, October 26, 1862, ibid., 903.
463: Hindman's Report, ibid., 41.

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The American Indian as Participant in the Civil War, 1919

Participant in the Civil War


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