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The March to Tahlequah and the Retrograde Movement of the "White Auxiliary"

 Native American Nations | Participant in the Civil War                    


Towards the end of June, the various elements designed to comprise the First Indian Expedition had encamped at Baxter Springs312 and two brigades formed. As finally organized, the First Brigade was put under the command of Colonel Salomon and the Second, of Colonel William R. Judson. To the former, was attached the Second Indian Regiment, incomplete, and, to the latter, the First. Brigaded with the Indian regiments was the white auxiliary that had been promised and that the Indians had almost pathetically counted upon to assist them in their straits. Colonel Weer's intention was not to have the white and red people responsible for the same duties nor immediately march together. The red were believed to be excellent for scouting and, as it would be necessary to scout far and wide all the way down into the Indian Territory, the country being full of bushwhackers, also, most likely, of the miscellaneous forces of General Rains, Colonel Coffee, and Colonel Stand Watie, they were to be reserved for that work.

The forward movement of the Indian Expedition began at daybreak on the twenty-eighth of June. It was then that the First Brigade started, its white contingent, "two sections Indiana Battery, one battalion of Second Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, and six companies of Ninth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry,"313 taking the military road across the Quapaw Strip and entering the Indian Territory, unmolested. A day's journey in the rear and traveling by the same route came the white contingent of the Second Brigade and so much of the First Indian as was unmounted.314 Beyond the border, the cavalcade proceeded to Hudson's Crossing of the Neosho River, where it halted to await the coming of supply trains from Fort Scott. In the meantime, the Second Indian Regiment, under Colonel John Ritchie, followed, a day apart, by the mounted men of the First under Major William A. Phillips,315 had also set out, its orders316 being to leave the military road and to cross to the east bank of Spring River, from thence to march southward and scour the country thoroughly between Grand River and the Missouri state line.

The halt at Hudson's Crossing occupied the better part of two days and then the main body of the Indian Expedition resumed its forward march. It crossed the Neosho and moved on, down the west side of Grand River, to a fording place, Carey's Ford, at which point, it passed over to the east side of the river and camped, a short distance from the ford, at Round Grove, on Cowskin Prairie, Cherokee ground, and the scene of Doubleday's recent encounter with the enemy. At this place it anxiously awaited the return of Lieutenant-colonel Ratliff, who had been dispatched to Neosho in response to an urgency call from General E.B. Brown in charge of the Southwestern Division of the District of Missouri.317

The Confederates were still in the vicinity, promiscuously wandering about, perhaps; but, none the less, determined to check, if possible, the Federal further progress; for they knew that only by holding the territorial vantage, which they had secured through gross Federal negligence months before, could they hope to maintain intact the Indian alliance with the Southern States. Stand Watie's home farm was in the neighborhood of Weer's camp and Stand Watie himself was even then scouting in the Spavinaw hills.318

In the latter part of May, under directions from General Beauregard319 but apparently without the avowed knowledge of the Confederate War Department and certainly without its official320 sanction, Thomas C. Hindman had assumed the command of the Trans-Mississippi Department.321 As an Arkansan, deeply moved by the misfortunes and distress of his native state, he had stepped into Van Dorn's place with alacrity, intent upon forcing everything within his reach to subserve the interests of the Confederate cause in that particular part of the southern world. To the Indians and to their rights, natural or acquired, he was as utterly indifferent as were most other American men and all too soon that fact became obvious, most obvious, indeed, to General Pike, the one person who had, for reasons best known to himself, made the Indian cause his own.

General Hindman took formal command of the Trans-Mississippi Department at Little Rock, May 31. It was a critical moment and he was most critically placed; for he had not the sign of an army, Curtis's advance was only about thirty-five miles away, and Arkansas was yet, in the miserable plight in which Van Dorn had left her in charge of Brigadier-general J.S. Roane, it is true, but practically denuded of troops. Pike was at Fort McCulloch, and he had a force not wholly to be despised.322 It was to him, therefore, that Hindman made one of his first appeals for help and he ordered him so to dispose of his men that some of the more efficient, the white, might be sent to Little Rock and the less efficient, the red, moved upward "to prevent the incursions of marauding parties," from Kansas.323 The orders were repeated about a fortnight later; but Pike had already complied to the best of his ability, although not without protest324 for he had collected his brigade and accoutered it by his own energies and his own contrivances solely. Moreover, he had done it for the defense of Indian Territory exclusively.

Included among the marauders, whose enterprises General Hindman was bent upon checking, were Doubleday's men; for, as General Curtis shrewdly surmised,325 some inkling of Doubleday's contemplated maneuvers had most certainly reached Little Rock. Subsequently, when the Indian Expedition was massing at Baxter Springs, more vigorous measures than any yet taken were prepared for and all with the view of delaying or defeating it. June 23, Pike ordered Colonel Douglas H. Cooper to repair to the country north of the Canadian River and to take command of all troops, except Jumper's Seminole battalion, that should be there or placed there.326 Similarly, June 26, Hindman, in ignorance of Pike's action, assigned Colonel J.J. Clarkson327 to the supreme command, under Pike, "of all forces that now are or may hereafter be within the limits of the Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole countries."328 As fate would have it, Clarkson was the one of these two to whom the work in hand first fell.

The Indian Expedition was prepared to find its way contested; for its leaders believed Rains,329 Coffey, and Stand Watie to be all in the immediate vicinity, awaiting the opportunity to attack either singly or with combined forces; but, except for a small affair between a reconnoitering party sent out by Salomon and the enemy's pickets,330 the march was without incident worth recording until after Weer had broken camp at Cowskin Prairie. Behind him the ground seemed clear enough, thanks to the very thorough scouting that had been done by the Indians of the Home Guard regiments, some of whom, those of Colonel Phillips's command, had been able to penetrate Missouri.331 Of conditions ahead of him, Weer was not so sure and he was soon made aware of the near presence of the foe.

Colonel Watie, vigilant and redoubtable, had been on the watch for the Federals for some time and, learning of their approach down the east side of Grand River, sent two companies of his regiment to head off their advance guard. This was attempted in a surprise movement at Spavinaw Creek and accomplished with some measure of success.332 Colonel Clarkson was at Locust Grove and Weer, ascertaining that fact, prepared for an engagement. His supplies and camp equipage, also an unutilized part of his artillery he sent for safety to Cabin Creek, across Grand River and Lieutenant-colonel Lewis R. Jewell of the Sixth Kansas Cavalry he sent eastward, in the direction of Maysville, Arkansas, his expectation being—and it was realized—that Jewell would strike the trail of Watie and engage him while Weer himself sought out Clarkson.333

The looked-for engagement between the main part of the Indian Expedition and Clarkson's force, a battalion of Missourians that had been raised by Hindman's orders and sent to the Indian Territory "at the urgent request of Watie and Drew,"334 occurred at Locust Grove on the third of July. It was nothing but a skirmish, yet had very significant results. Only two detachments of Weer's men were actively engaged in it.335 One of them was from the First Indian Home Guard and upon it the brunt of the fighting fell.336

The Confederates were worsted and lost their train and many prisoners. Among the prisoners was Clarkson himself. His battalion was put to flight and in that circumstance lay the worst aspect of the whole engagement; for the routed men fled towards Tahlequah and spread consternation among the Indians gathered there, also among those who saw them by the way or heard of them. Thoroughly frightened the red men sought refuge within the Federal lines. Such conduct was to be expected of primitive people, who invariably incline towards the side of the victor; but, in this case, it was most disastrous to the Confederate Indian alliance. For the second time since the war began, Colonel John Drew's enlisted men defected from their own ranks337 and, with the exception of a small body under Captain Pickens Benge,338 went boldly over to the enemy. The result was, that the Second Indian Home Guard, Ritchie's regiment, which had not previously been filled up, had soon the requisite number of men339 and there were more to spare. Indeed, during the days that followed, so many recruits came in, nearly all of them Cherokees, that lists were opened for starting a third regiment of Indian Home Guards.340 It was not long before it was organized, accepted by Blunt, and W.A. Phillips commissioned as its colonel.341 The regular mustering in of the new recruits had to be done at Fort Scott and thither Ritchie sent the men, intended for his regiment, immediately.

The Indian Expedition had started out with a very definite preliminary program respecting the management of Indian affairs, particularly as those affairs might be concerned with the future attitude of the Cherokee Nation. The program comprised instructions that emanated from both civil and military sources. The special Indian agents, Carruth and Martin, had been given suitable tasks to perform and the instructions handed them have already been commented upon. Personally, these two men were very much disposed to magnify the importance of their own position and to resent anything that looked like interference on the part of the military. As a matter of fact, the military men treated them with scant courtesy and made little or no provision for their comfort and convenience.342 Colonel Weer seems to have ignored, at times, their very existence. On more than one occasion, for instance, he deplored the absence of some official, accredited by the Indian Office, to take charge of what he contemptuously called "this Indian business,"343 which business, he felt, greatly complicated all military undertakings344 and was decidedly beyond the bounds of his peculiar province.345

312: Baxter Springs was a government post, established on Spring River in the southwest corner of the Cherokee Neutral Lands, subsequent to the Battle of Pea Ridge [Kansas Historical Society, Collections, vol. vi, 150].
313: Salomon to Weer, June 30, 1862, Official Records, vol. xiii, 458.
314: James A. Phillips to Judson, June 28, 1862 [Official Records, vol. xiii, 456].
315: William A. Phillips, a Scotsman by birth, went out to Kansas in the autumn of 1855 as regular staff correspondent of the New York Tribune [Kansas Historical Society Collections, vol. v, 100, 102]. He was a personal friend of Dana's [Britton, Memoirs, 89], became with Lane an active Free State man and later was appointed on Lane's staff [Daily Conservative, January 24, 31, 1862]. He served as correspondent of the Daily Conservative at the time when that newspaper was most guilty of incendiarism.]
316: James A. Phillips to Judson, June 28, 1862, Official Records, vol. xiii, 456.
317: Weer to Moonlight, June 23, 1862, Official Records, vol. xiii, 445, and same to same, July 2, 1862, ibid., 459-461.
318: Anderson, Life of General Stand Watie, 18.
319: Official Records, vol. xiii, 28.
320: The emphasis should be upon the word, official, since the government must assuredly have acquiesced in Hindman's appointment. Hindman declared that the Secretary of War, in communicating on the subject to the House of Representatives, "ignored facts which had been officially communicated to him," in order to convey the impression that Hindman had undertaken to fill the post of commander in the Trans-Mississippi Department without rightful authority [Hindman to Holmes, February 8, 1863, ibid., vol. xxii, part 2, p. 785]. The following telegram shows that President Davis had been apprised of Hindman's selection, and of its tentative character.

Baldwin, June 5, 1862.
(Received 6th.)


Do not send any one just now to command the Trans-Mississippi District. It will bring trouble to this army. Hindman has been sent there temporarily. Price will be on to see you soon.

Earl Van Dorn, Major-General.

[Ibid., vol. lii, part 2, supplement, p. 320.]

321: Department seems to be the more proper word to use to designate Hindman's command, although District and Department are frequently used interchangeably in the records. In Hindman's time and in Holmes's, the Trans-Mississippi Department was not the same as the Trans-Mississippi District of Department No. 2 [See Thomas Jordan, Chief of Staff, to Hindman, July 17, 1862, Official Records, vol. xiii, 855]. On the very date of Hindman's assignment, the boundaries of his command were defined as follows:
"The boundary of the Trans-Mississippi Department will embrace the States of Missouri and Arkansas, including Indian Territory, the State of Louisiana west of the Mississippi, and the State of Texas."Ibid., 829.
322: Yet Hindman did, in a sense, despise it and, from the start, he showed a tendency to disparage Pike's abilities and efforts. On the nineteenth of June, he reported to Adjutant-general Cooper, among other things, that he had ordered Pike to establish his headquarters at Fort Gibson and added, "His force does not amount to much, but there is no earthly need of its remaining 150 miles south of the Kansas line throwing up entrenchments." [Official Records, vol. xiii, 837].
323: Hindman to Pike, May 31, 1862 [ibid., 934.
324: Pike to Hindman, June 8, 1862 [ibid., 936-943.
325: Ibid., 398, 401.
326: General Orders, ibid., 839, 844-845.
327: Of Clarkson, Pike had this to say: "He applied to me while raising his force for orders to go upon the Santa Fe' road and intercept trains. I wrote him that he could have such orders if he chose to come here, and the next I heard of him he wrote for ammunition, and, I learned, was going to make forays into Missouri. I had no ammunition for that business. He seized 70 kegs that I had engaged of Sparks in Fort Smith, and soon lost the whole and Watie's also. Without any notice to me he somehow got in command of the northern part of the Indian country over two colonels with commissions nine months older than his."—Pike to Hindman, July 15, 1862, Official Records, vol. xiii, 858.
328: Official Records, vol. xiii, 845-846.
329: Rains had made Tahlequah the headquarters of the Eighth Division Missouri State Guards.—PIKE to Hindman, July 15, 1862, ibid., 858.
330: Ibid., vol. xiii, 458, 460.
331: Ibid., 460.
332: Anderson, Life of General Stand Watie, 18. This incident is most likely the one that is referred to in Carruth and Martin's letter to Coffin, August 2, 1862, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Report, 1862, p. 162.
333: Britton, Civil War on the Border, vol. i, 300-301.
334: Report of General Hindman, Official Records, vol. xiii, 40.
335: Weer to Moonlight, July 6, 1862, ibid., 137.
336: Carruth and Martin reported to Coffin, August 2, 1862, that the Indians did practically all the fighting on the Federal side. In minor details, their account differed considerably from Weer's.
"When near Grand Saline, Colonel Weer detached parts of the 6th, 9th, and 10th Kansas regiments, and sent the 1st Indian regiment in advance. By a forced night march they came up to the camp of Colonel Clarkson, completely surprising him, capturing all his supplies, and taking one hundred prisoners; among them the colonel himself.
"The Creek Indians were first in the fight, led by Lieutenant Colonel Wattles and Major Ellithorpe. We do not hear that any white man fired a gun unless it was to kill the surgeon of the 1st Indian regiment. We were since informed that one white man was killed by the name of McClintock, of the 9th Kansas regiment. In reality, it was a victory gained by the 1st Indian regiment; and while the other forces would, no doubt, have acted well, it is the height of injustice to claim this victory for the whites...."—Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Report, 1862, p. 162.
337: Official Records, vol. xiii, 138.
338: Hindman's Report, ibid., 40.
339: Ritchie to Blunt, July 5, 1862, ibid., 463-464.
340: Weer to Moonlight, July 12, 1862, ibid., 488.
341: Blunt to Salomon, August 3, 1862, ibid., 532; Britton, Civil War on the Border, vol. i, 304.
342: Pretty good evidence of this appears in a letter, which Carruth and Martin jointly addressed to Coffin, September 4, 1862, in anticipation of the Second Indian Expedition, their idea being to guard against a repetition of some of the experiences of the first. "We wish to call your attention," wrote they, "to the necessity of our being allowed a wagon to haul our clothing, tents, etc. in the Southern expedition.
"In the last expedition we had much annoyance for the want of accommodations of our own. Unless we are always by at the moment of moving, our things are liable to be left behind, that room may be made for army baggage which sometimes accumulates amazingly....
"The cold nights of autumn and winter will overtake us in the next expedition and we ought to go prepared for them. We must carry many things, as clothing, blankets, etc."—General Files, Southern Superintendency, 1859-1862.
343: Official Records, vol. xiii, 460.
344: Ibid., 487.
345: Weer, nevertheless, was not long in developing some very pronounced ideas on the subject of Indian relations. The earliest and best indication of that is to be found in his letter of July twelfth, in which he gave his opinion of the negroes, whom he found very insolent. He proposed that the Cherokee Nation should abolish slavery by vote.

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The American Indian as Participant in the Civil War, 1919

Participant in the Civil War


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