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Hunter Appointed to Command the Department of Kansas

 Native American Nations | Participant in the Civil War                     

 

The appointment of Hunter to the command of the Department of Kansas was open to certain objections, no doubt; but, to Lane, whose forceful personality had impressed itself, for good or ill, upon the trans-Missouri region, it was, to say the least, somewhat disconcerting, not because Lane was hostile to Hunter personally—the two men had long had a friendly acquaintance with each other142—but because he had had great hopes of receiving the post himself.143 The time was now drawing near for him to repair to Washington to resume his senatorial duties since Congress was to convene the second of December.

To further his scheme for Indian enlistment, Lane had projected an inter-tribal council to be held at his own headquarters. E.H. Carruth worked especially to that end. The man in charge of the Southern Superintendency, W.G. Coffin, had a similar plan in mind for less specific reasons. His idea was to confer with the representatives of the southern tribes with reference to Indian Territory conditions generally. It was part of the duty appertaining to his office. Humboldt144 was the place selected by him for the meeting; but Leroy, being better protected and more accessible, was soon substituted. The sessions commenced the sixteenth145 of November and were still continuing on the twenty-third.146 It had not been possible to hold them earlier because of the disturbed state of the country and the consequent difficulty of getting into touch with the Indians.

Upon assuming command of the Department of Kansas, General Hunter took full cognizance of the many things making for disquietude and turmoil in the country now under his jurisdiction. Indian relations became, of necessity, matters of prime concern. Three things bear witness to this fact, Hunter's plans for an inter-tribal council at Fort Leavenworth, his own headquarters; his advocacy of Indian enlistment, especially from among the southern Indians; and his intention, early avowed, of bringing Brigadier-general James W. Denver into military prominence and of entrusting to him the supervisory command in Kansas. In some respects, no man could have been found equal to Denver in conspicuous fitness for such a position. He had served as commissioner of Indian affairs147 under Buchanan and, although a Virginian by birth, had had a large experience with frontier life—in Missouri, in the Southwest during the Mexican War, and in California. He had also measured swords with Lane. It was in squatter-sovereignty days when, first as secretary and then as governor of Kansas Territory, he had been in a position to become intimately acquainted with the intricacies of Lane's true character and had had both occasion and opportunity to oppose some of that worthy's autocratic and thoroughly lawless maneuvers.148 As events turned out, this very acquaintance with Lane constituted his political unfitness for the control that Hunter,149 in December, and Halleck,150 in the following March, designed to give him. With the second summons to command, came opportunity for Lane's vindictive animosity to be called into play. Historically, it furnished conclusive proof, if any were needed, that Lane had supreme power over the distribution of Federal patronage in his own state and exercised that power even at the cost of the well-being and credit of his constituency.

When Congress began its second session in December, the fight against Lane for possession of his seat in the Senate proceeded apace; but that did not, in the least, deter him from working for his brigade. His scheme now was to have it organized on a different footing from that which it had sustained heretofore. His influence with the administration in Washington was still very peculiar and very considerable, so much so, in fact, that President Lincoln, without taking expert advice and without consulting either the military men, whose authority would necessarily be affected, or the civil officials in Kansas, nominated him to the Senate as brigadier-general to have charge of troops in that state.151 Secretary Cameron was absent from the city at the time this was done and apparently, when apprised of it, made some objections on the score, not so much of an invasion of his own prerogative, as of its probable effect upon Hunter. Cameron had his first consultation with Lane regarding the matter, January second, and was given by him to understand that everything had been done in strict accordance with Hunter's own wishes.152 The practical question of the relation of Lane's brigade to Hunter's command soon, however, presented itself in a somewhat different light and its answer required a more explicit statement from the president than had yet been made. Lincoln, when appealed to, unhesitatingly repudiated every suggestion of the idea that it had ever been his intention to give Lane an independent command or to have Hunter, in any sense, superseded.153

The need for sending relief to the southern Indians, which, correctly interpreted meant, of course, reasserting authority over them and thus removing a menacing and impending danger from the Kansas border, had been one of Lane's strongest arguments in gaining his way with the administration. The larger aspect of his purpose was, however, the one that appealed to Commissioner Dole, who, as head of the Indian Bureau, seems fully to have appreciated the responsibility that assuredly rested in all honor upon the government, whether conscious of it or not, to protect its wards in their lives and property. From the first intimation given him of Lane's desire for a more energetic procedure, Dole showed a willingness to cooperate; and, as many things were demanding his personal attention in the West, he so timed a journey of his own that it might be possible for him to assist in getting together the Indian contingent that was to form a part of the "Southern Expedition."154

The urgency of the Indian call for help155 and the evident readiness of the government to make answer to that call before it was quite too late pointed auspiciously to a successful outcome for Senator Lane's endeavors; but, unfortunately, Major-general Hunter had not been sufficiently counted with. Hunter had previously shown much sympathy for the Indians in their distress156 and also a realization of the strategic importance of Indian Territory. Some other explanation, therefore, must be found for the opposition he advanced to Lane's project as soon as it was brought to his notice. It had been launched without his approval having been explicitly sought and almost under false pretences.157 Then, too, Lane's bumptiousness, after he had accomplished his object, was naturally very irritating. But, far above every other reason, personal or professional, that Hunter had for objecting to a command conducted by Lane was the identical one that Halleck,158 Robinson, and many another shared with him, a wholesome repugnance to such marauding159 as Lane had permitted his men to indulge in in the autumn. It was to be feared that Indians under Lane would inevitably revert to savagery. There would be no one to put any restraint upon them and their natural instincts would be given free play. Conceivably then, it was not mere super sensitiveness and pettiness of spirit that moved General Hunter to take exception to Lane's appointment but regard for the honor of his profession, perchance, also, a certain feeling of personal dignity that legitimately resented executive interference with his rights. His protest had its effect and he was informed that it was entirely within his prerogative to lead the expedition southward himself. He resolved to do it. Lane was, for once, outwitted.

The end, however, was not yet. About the middle of January, Stanton became Secretary of War and soon let it be known that he, too, had views on the subject of Indian enlistment. As a matter of fact, he refused to countenance it.160 The disappointment was the most keen for Commissioner Dole. Since long before the day when Secretary Smith had announced161 to him that the Department of War was contemplating the employment of four thousand Indians in its service, he had hoped for some means of rescuing the southern tribes from the Confederate alliance and now all plans had come to naught. And yet the need for strenuous action of some sort had never been so great.162 Opoeth-le-yo-ho-la and his defeated followers were refugees on the Verdigris, imploring help to relieve their present necessities and to enable them to return betimes to their own country.163 Moreover, Indians of northern antecedents and sympathies were exhibiting unwonted enthusiasm for the cause164 and it seemed hard to have to repel them. Dole was, nevertheless, compelled to do it. On the eleventh of February, he countermanded the orders he had issued to Superintendent Coffin and thus a temporary quietus was put upon the whole affair of the Indian Expedition.


142: Their acquaintance dated, if not from the antebellum days when Hunter was stationed at Fort Leavenworth and was not particularly magnanimous in his treatment of Southerners, then from those when he had charge, by order of General Scott, of the guard at the White House. Report of the Military Services of General David Hunter, pp. 7, 8.
143: Daily Conservative, November 13, 1861.
144: Coffin to Dole, October 2, 1861, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Report, 1861, p. 39.
145: Daily Conservative, November 17, 1861.
146: Ibid., November 23,1861.
147: Denver was twice appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs by Buchanan. For details as to his official career, see Biographical Congressional Directory, 499, and Robinson, Kansas Conflict, 424.
148: Robinson, op. cit., 378 ff., 424 ff.
149: Official Records, vol. viii, 456.
150: Ibid., 832.
151: The Leavenworth Daily Conservative seemed fairly jubilant over the prospect of Lane's early return to military activity. The following extracts from its news items and editorials convey some such idea:

"General Lane of Kansas has been nominated to the Senate and unanimously confirmed, as Brigadier General, to command Kansas troops; the express understanding being that General Lane's seat in the Senate shall not be vacated until he accepts his new commission, which he will not do until the Legislature of Kansas assembles, next month. He has no idea of doing anything that shall oblige Governor Robinson and his appointee (Stanton) who has been in waiting for several months to take the place."—Daily Conservative, January 1, 1862.

"Rejoicing in Neosho Battalion over report that Lane appointed to command Kansas troops. "Ibid., January 4, 1862.

"General Lane will soon be here and General Denver called to another command. "Ibid., January 7, 1862.

152: Cameron to Hunter, January 3, 1862, Official Records, vol. liii, supplement, 512-513.
153: Martin F. Conway, the Kansas representative in Congress, was under no misapprehension as to Lane's true position; for Lincoln had told him personally that Lane was to be under Hunter [Daily Conservative, February 6, 1862].
154: Lane's expedition was variously referred to as "the Southern Expedition," "the Cherokee Expedition," "the great jayhawking expedition," and by many another name, more or less opprobrious.
155: Representations of the great need of the Indians for assistance were made to the government by all sorts of people. Agent after agent wrote to the Indian Office. The Reverend Evan Jones wrote repeatedly and on the second of January had sent information, brought to him at Lawrence by two fugitive Cherokees, of the recent battle in which the loyalists under Opoethle-yo-ho-la had been worsted, at the Big Bend of the Arkansas [Indian Office Special Files, no. 201, Southern Superintendency, J 540 of 1862]. In the early winter, a mixed delegation of Creeks and others had made their way to Washington, hoping by personal entreaty to obtain succor for their distressed people, and justice. Hunter had issued a draft for their individual relief [ibid., J523 of 1861], and passes from Fort Leavenworth to Washington [ibid., C1433 of 1861]. It was not so easy for them to get passes coming back. Application was made to the War Department and referred back to the Interior [ibid., A 434 of 1861]. The estimate, somewhat inaccurately footed up, of the total expense of the return journey as submitted by agents Cutler and Carruth was,

"11 R.R. Tickets to Fort Leavenworth by way of New York City
$48 $ 528.00
11 men $2 ea (incidental expenses) 22.00
2 1/2 wks board at Washington $5 137.50
Expenses from Leavenworth to Ind. Nat 50.00
Pay of Tecumseh for taking care of horses 25.00
—————
[Ibid., C 1433 of 1861]. $ 960.50"
Dole had not encouraged the delegation to come on to Washington. He pleaded lack of funds and the wish that they would wait in Fort Leavenworth and attend Hunter's inter-tribal council so that they might go back to their people carrying definite messages of what was to be done [Indian Office Letter Book, no. 67, p. 107]. Dole had been forewarned of their intention to appear in Washington by the following letter:

Fort Leavenworth Kan., Nov. 23rd 1861.
Hon Wm.P. Dole, Com. Indian Affs.

Sir: On my arrival in St. Louis I found Gen'l Hunter at the Planters House and delivered the message to him that you had placed in my hands for that purpose. He seemed fully satisfied with your letter and has acted on it accordingly. I recd from Gen'l Hunter a letter for Mr. Cutler, and others of this place, all of which I have delivered. Having found Cutler here, he having been ordered by Lane to move the council from Leroy to Fort Scott. But from some cause (which I have not learned) he has brought the chiefs all here to the Fort, where they are now quartered awaiting the arrival of Gen'l Hunter. He has with him six of the head chiefs of the Creek, Seminole and Cherokee Nations, and tells me that they are strong for the Union. He also says that John Ross (Cherokee) is all right but dare not let it be known, and that he will be here if he can get away from the tribe.

These chiefs all say they want to fight for the Union, and that they will do so if they can get arms and ammunition. Gen'l Hunter has ordered me to await his arrival here at which time he will council with these men, and report to you the result. I think he will be here on Tuesday or Wednesday. Cutler wants to take the Indians to Washington, but I advised him not to do so until I could hear from you. When I met him here he was on his way there.

You had better write to him here as soon as you get this, or you will see him there pretty soon.

I have nothing more to write now but will write in a day or two.

Yours Truly R.W. DOLE.

P.S. Coffin is at home sick, but will be here soon. Branch is at St. Joe but would not come over with me, cause, too buissie to attend to business.

[Indian Office Special Files, no 201, Southern Superintendency, D 410 of 1861].

156: In part proof of this take his letter to Adjutant-general Thomas, January 15, 1862.

"On my arrival here in November last I telegraphed for permission to muster a Brigade of Kansas Indians into the service of the United States, to assist the friendly Creek Indians in maintaining their loyalty. Had this permission been promptly granted, I have every reason to believe that the present disastrous state of affairs, in the Indian country west of Arkansas, could have been avoided. I now again respectfully repeat my request."—Indian Office General Files, Southern Superintendency, 1859-1862.

157: To the references given in Abel, The American Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist, add Thomas to Hunter, January 24, 1862, Official Records, vol. viii, 525.
158: The St. Louis Republican credited Halleck with characterizing Hunter's command, indiscriminately, as "marauders, bandits, and outlaws" [Daily Conservative, February 7, 1862]. In a letter to Lincoln, January 6, 1862, Halleck said some pretty plain truths about Lane [Official Records, vol. vii, 532-533]. He would probably have had the same objection to the use of Indians that he had to the use of negroes in warfare [Daily Conservative, May 23, 1862, quoting from the Chicago Tribune].
159: On marauding by Lane's brigade, see McClellan to Stanton, February 11, 1862 [Official Records, vol. viii, 552-553].
160: Note this series of telegrams [Indian Office Special Files, no. 201, Southern Superintendency, D 576 of 1862]:

"Secretary of War is unwilling to put Indians in the army. Is to consult with President and settle it today."—SMITH to Dole, February 6, 1862.

"President cant attend to business now. Sickness in the family. No arrangements can be made now. Make necessary arrangements for relief of Indians. I will send communication to Congress today."—Same to Same, February 11, 1862.

"Go on and supply the destitute Indians. Congress will supply the means. War Department will not organize them."—Same to Same, February 14, 1862.
161: Smith to Dole, January 3, 1862 [Indian Office Special Files, no. 201, Central Superintendency, I 531 of 1862; Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Report, 1862, p. 150].
162: On the second of January, Agent Cutler wired from Leavenworth to Dole, "Heopothleyohola with four thousand warriors is in the field and needs help badly. Secession Creeks are deserting him. Hurry up Lane."—Indian Office Special Files, no. 201, Southern Superintendency, C 1443 of 1862.
163: Their plea was expressed most strongly in the course of an interview which Dole had with representatives of the Loyal Creeks and Seminoles, Iowas and Delawares, February 1, 1862. Robert Burbank, the Iowa agent, was there. White Cloud acted as interpreter [Daily Conservative, February 2, 1862].
164: Some of these had been provoked to a desire for war by the inroads of Missourians. Weas, Piankeshaws, Peorias, and Miamies, awaiting the return of Dole from the interior of Kansas, said, "they were for peace but the Missourians had not left them alone" [ibid., February 9, 1862].


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The American Indian as Participant in the Civil War, 1919

Participant in the Civil War

 

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