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Organization of the Arkansas and Red River Superintendency

 Native American Nations | Participant in the Civil War                    


The mismanagement of southern Indian affairs of which General Pike so vociferously complained was not solely or even to any great degree attributable to indifference to Indian interests on the part of the Confederate government and certainly not at all to any lack of appreciation of the value of the Indian alliance or of the strategic importance of Indian Territory. The perplexities of the government were unavoidably great and its control over men and measures, removed from the seat of its immediate influence, correspondingly small. It was not to be expected that it would or could give the same earnestness of attention to events on the frontier as to those nearer the seaboard, since it was, after all, east of the Mississippi that the great fight for political separation from the North would have to be made.

The Confederate government had started out well. It had dealt with the Indian nations on a basis of dignity and lofty honor, a fact to be accounted for by the circumstance that Indian affairs were at first under the State Department with Toombs at its head;464 and, in this connection, let it be recalled that it was under authority of the State Department that Pike had entered upon his mission as diplomatic agent to the tribes west of Arkansas.465 Subsequently, and, indeed, before Pike had nearly completed his work, Indian affairs were transferred466 to the direction of the Secretary of War and a bureau created in his department for the exclusive consideration of them, Hubbard receiving the post of commissioner.467

The Provisional Congress approached the task of dealing with Indian matters as if it already had a big grasp on the subject and intended, at the outset, to give them careful scrutiny and to establish, with regard to them, precedents of extreme good faith. Among the things468 it considered and in some cases favorably disposed of were, the treaties of amity and alliance negotiated by Albert Pike, the transfer of Indian trust funds from the United to the Confederate States government,469 the payment of Indian troops and their pensioning.470 Its disposition to be grateful and generous came out in the honor which it conferred upon John Jumper, the Seminole chief.471

A piece of very fundamental work the Provisional Congress did not have time or opportunity to complete. That work was, the establishment of a superintendency of Indian Affairs in the west that should be a counterpart, in all essentials, of the old southern superintendency, of which Elias Rector had been the incumbent. Elias Rector and the agents472 under him, all of whom, with scarcely a single exception, had gone over to the Confederacy, had been retained, not under authority of law, but provisionally. The intention was to organize the superintendency as soon as convenient and give all employees their proper official status. Necessarily, a time came when it was most expedient for army men to exercise the ordinary functions of Indian agents;473 but even that arrangement was to be only temporary. Without doubt, the enactment of a law for the establishment of a superintendency of Indian affairs was unduly delayed by the prolonged character of Pike's diplomatic mission. The Confederate government evidently did not anticipate that the tribes with which it sought alliance would be so slow474 or so wary in accepting the protectorate it offered. Not until January 8, 1862, did the Provisional Congress have before it the proposition for superintendency organization. The measure was introduced by Robert W. Johnson of Arkansas and it went in succession to the Judiciary and Indian Affairs committees; but never managed to get beyond the committee stage.475

February 18, 1862, saw the beginning of the first session of the first congress that met under the Confederate constitution. Six days thereafter, Johnson, now senator from Arkansas, again took the initiative in proposing the regular establishment of an Indian superintendency.476 As Senate Bill No. 3, his measure was referred to the Committee477 on Indian Affairs and, on March 11, reported back with amendments.478 Meanwhile, the House was considering a bill of similar import, introduced on the third by Thomas B. Hanly, likewise from Arkansas.479 On the eighteenth, it received Senate Bill No. 3 and substituted it for its own, passing the same on April Fool's day. The bill was signed by the president on April 8.480

The information conveyed by the journal entries is unusually meager; nevertheless, from the little that is given, the course of debate on the measure can be inferred to a certain extent. The proposition as a whole carried, of course, its own recommendation, since the Confederacy was most anxious to retain the Indian friendship and it certainly could not be retained were not some system introduced into the service. In matters of detail, local interests, as always in American legislation, had full play. They asserted themselves most prominently, for example, in the endeavor made to make Fort Smith, although quite a distance from all parts of the Indian Territory except the Cherokee and Choctaw countries, the permanent headquarters, also in that to compel disbursing agents to make payments in no other funds than specie or treasury notes. The amendment of greatest importance among those that passed muster was the one attaching the superintendency temporarily to the western district of Arkansas for judicial purposes. It was a measure that could not fail to be exceedingly obnoxious to the Indians; for they had had a long and disagreeable experience, judicially, with Arkansas. They had their own opinion of the white man's justice, particularly as that justice was doled out to the red man on the white man's ground.481 Taken in connection with regulations482 made by the War Department for the conduct of Indian affairs, the Act of April 8 most certainly exhibited an honest intention on the part of the Confederate government to carry out the provisions of the Pike treaties. The following constituted its principal features: With headquarters at either Fort Smith or Van Buren, as the president might see fit to direct, the superintendency was to embrace "all the Indian country annexed to the Confederate States, that lies west of Arkansas and Missouri, north of Texas, and east of Texas and New Mexico." A superintendent and six agents were immediately provided for, individually bonded and obligated to continue resident during the term of office, to engage in no mercantile pursuit or gainful occupation whatsoever, and to prosecute no Indian claims against the government. In the choice of interpreters, preference was to be given to applicants of Indian descent. Indian trade privileges were to be greatly circumscribed and, in the case of the larger nations, the complete control of the trade was to rest with the tribal authorities. In the case, also, of those same larger nations, the restrictions formerly placed upon land alienations were to be removed. Intruders and spirituous liquors were to be rigidly excluded and all payments to Indians were to be carefully safeguarded against fraud and graft. Indian customs of citizenship and adoption were to be respected. No foreign interference was to be permitted. Foreign emissaries were to be dealt with as spies and as such severely punished. The Confederate right of eminent domain over agency sites and buildings, forts, and arsenals was to be recognized, as also the operation of laws against counterfeiting and of the fugitive slave law. In default of regular troops, the Confederacy was to support an armed police for protection and the maintenance of order. The judicial rights of the Indians were to be very greatly extended but the Confederacy reserved to itself the right to apprehend criminals other than Indian.

The intentions of the Confederate government were one thing, its accomplishments another. The act of April 8 was not put into immediate execution, and might have been allowed to become obsolete had it not been for the controversy between Pike and Hindman. On the first of August, while the subject-matter of the address, which he had so imprudently issued to the Indians, was yet fresh in his mind, General Pike wrote a letter of advice, eminently sound advice, to President Davis.483 Avoiding all captiousness, he set forth a program of what ought to be done for Indian Territory and for the Indians, in order that their friendly alliance might be maintained. He urged many things and one thing very particularly. It was the crux of them all and it was that Indian Territory should be absolutely separated from Arkansas, in a military way, and that no troops from either Arkansas or Texas should be stationed within it. Other suggestions of Pike's were equally sound. Indeed, the entire letter of the first of August was sound and in no part of it more sound than in that which recommended the immediate appointment of a superintendent of Indian affairs for the Arkansas and Red River Superintendency, also the appointment of Indian agents for all places that had none.484 It was high time that positions in connection with the conduct of Indian affairs should be something more than sinecures.

Aspirants for the office of superintendent had already made their wants known. Foremost among them was Douglas H. Cooper. It was not in his mind, however, to separate the military command from the civil and he therefore asked that he be made brigadier-general and ex officio superintendent of Indian affairs in the place of Pike removed.485 His own representations of Pike's grievous offence had fully prepared him for the circumstance of Pike's removal and he anticipated it in making his own application for office. Subsequent knowledge of Pike's activities and of his standing at Richmond must have come to Cooper as a rude awakening.

Nevertheless, Cooper did get his appointment. It came the twenty-ninth of September in the form of special orders from the adjutant-general's office.486 Pike was still on the ground, as will be presently shown, and Cooper's moral unfitness for a position of so much responsibility was yet to be revealed. The moment was one when the Confederacy was taking active steps to keep its most significant promise to the Indian nations, give them a representation in Congress. The Cherokees had lost no time in availing themselves of the privilege of electing a delegate, neither had the Choctaws and Chickasaws. Elias C. Boudinot had proved to be the successful candidate of the former and Robert M. Jones487 of the latter. Over the credentials of Boudinot, the House of Representatives made some demur; but, as there was no denying his constitutional right, under treaty guarantee, to be present, they were accepted and he was given his seat.488 Provisions had, however, yet to be determined for regulating Indian elections and fixing the pay and mileage, likewise also, the duties and privileges of Indian delegates.489 Perhaps it is unfair to intimate that the provisions would have been determined earlier, had congress not preferred to go upon the assumption that they would never be needed, since it was scarcely likely that the Indians would realize the importance of their rights and act upon them.490

While Congress was debating the question of Indian delegate credentials and their acceptance, a tragedy took place in Indian Territory that more than confirmed General Pike's worst prognostications and proved his main contention that Indian affairs should be considered primarily upon their own merits, as an end in themselves, and dealt with accordingly. Had the Arkansas and Red River Superintendency been regularly established, the tragedy referred to might never have occurred; but it was not yet established and for many reasons, one of them being that, although Douglas H. Cooper's appointment had been resolved upon, he had not yet been invested with the office of superintendent.491 His commission was being withheld because charges of incapacity and drunkenness had been preferred against him.492

General Pike's disclosures had aroused suspicion and grave apprehension in Richmond, so much so, indeed, that the War Department, convinced that conditions in Indian Territory were very far from being what they should be, decided to undertake an investigation of its own through its Indian bureau. Promptly, therefore, S.S. Scott, acting commissioner, departed for the West. General Pike was in Texas.

Now one of the contingencies that Pike had most constantly dreaded was tribal disorder on the Leased District,493 a disorder that might at any moment extend itself to Texas and to other parts of the Indian Territory, imperiling the whole Confederate alliance. So long as there was a strong force at Fort McCulloch and at the frontier posts of longer establishment, particularly at Fort Cobb, the Reserve Indians could be held in check with comparative ease. Hindman, ignorant of or indifferent to the situation, no matter how serious it might be for others, had ordered the force to be scattered and most of it withdrawn from the Red River Valley.

The so-called Wichita, or Reserve, Indians, to call them by a collective term only very recently bestowed, had ever constituted a serious problem for the neighboring states as well as for the central government. It was with the Confederacy as with the old Union. The Reserve Indians were a motley horde, fragments of many tribes that had seen better days. They were all more or less related, either geographically or linguistically. Some of them, it is difficult to venture upon what proportion, had been induced to enter into negotiations with Pike and through him had formed an alliance with the Confederacy. Apparently, those who had done this were chiefly Tonkawa. Other Reserve Indians continued true to the North. As time went on hostile feelings, engendered by living in opposite camps, gained in intensity, the more especially because white men, both north and south, encouraged them to go upon the war-path, either against their own associates or others. Reprisals, frequently bloody, were regularly instituted. With Pike's departure from Fort McCulloch an opportunity for greater vindictiveness offered, notwithstanding the fact that the Choctaw and Chickasaw troops had been left behind and were guarding the near-by country, their own.

Sometime in the latter part of August or the early part of September, Matthew Leeper, the Wichita agent under the Confederate government, a left-over from Buchanan's days, went from the Leased District,494 frightened away, some people thought, perhaps afraid of the inevitable results of the mischief his own hands had so largely wrought, and sojourned in Texas, his old home. The sutler left also and a man named Jones was then in sole charge of the agency. The northern sympathizers among the Indians thereupon aroused themselves. They had gained greatly of late in strength and influence and their numbers had been augmented by renegade Seminoles from Jumper's battalion and by outlawed Cherokees. They warned Jones that Leeper would be wise not to return. If he should return, it would be the worse for him; for they were determined to wreak revenge upon him for all the misery his machinations in favor of the Confederacy and for his own gain had cost them. Presumably, Jones scorned to transmit the warning and, in course of time, Leeper returned.

The twenty-third of October witnessed one of the bloodiest scenes ever enacted on the western plains. The northern Indians of the Reserve together with a lot of wandering Shawnees, Delaware, and Kickapoo, many of them good-for-nothing or vicious, some Seminoles and Cherokees attacked Leeper unawares, killed him,495 as also three white male employees of the agency. They then put "the bodies into the agency building and fired it." The next morning they made an equally brutal attack upon the Tonkawa and with most telling effect. More than half of them were butchered. The survivors, about one hundred fifty, fled to Fort Arbuckle.496 Their condition was pitiable. The murderers, for they were nothing less than that, fled northward, they and their families, to swell the number of Indian refugees already living upon government bounty in Kansas.

Commissioner Scott then at Fort Washita hurried to the Leased District to examine into the affair. He had made many observations since leaving Richmond, had talked with Pike, now returned from Texas, and had come around pretty much to his way of thinking. His recommendations to the department commander that were intended to reach the Secretary of War as well were in every sense a corroboration of Pike's complaints in so far as the woeful neglect of the Indians was concerned. Better proof that Hindman's conduct had been highly reprehensible could scarcely be asked for.

464: Toombs did not long hold the portfolio. Among the Pickett Papers, is a letter from Davis to Toombs, July 24, 1861, accepting with regret his resignation [Package 89].
465: In evidence of this, note, in addition to the material published in Abel, The American Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist, the following letters, the first from Robert Toombs to L.P. Walker, Secretary of War, dated Richmond, August 7, 1861; and the second from William M. Browne, Acting Secretary of State, to Walker, September 4, 1861:
1. "I have the honor to inform you that under a resolution of Congress, authorizing the President to send a Commissioner to the Indian tribes west of Arkansas and south of Kansas, Mr. Albert Pike of Arkansas was appointed such Commissioner under an autograph letter of the President giving him very large discretion as to the expenses of his mission. Subsequent to the adoption of the resolution, above named, Congress passed a law placing the Indian Affairs under the control of your Department and consequently making the expenses of Mr. Pike and all other Indian Agents, properly payable out of the appropriation at your disposal for the service of the Indian Bureau."—Pickett Papers, Package 106, Domestic Letters, Department of State, vol. i, p.86.
2. "The accompanying letters and reports from Commissioner Albert Pike addressed to your Department are respectfully referred to you, the affairs to which they relate being under your supervision and control. "Ibid., P-93.
466: A re-transfer to the State Department was proposed as early as the next November [Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States, 489].
467: President Davis recommended the creation of the bureau, March 12, 1861 [Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, vol. i, p. 58: Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States, vol. i, p. 142]. On the sixteenth, he nominated David Hubbard of Alabama for commissioner [Pickett Papers, Package 88]. The bill for the creation of the bureau of Indian Affairs was signed the selfsame day [Journal, vol. i, 151]. S.S. Scott became Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs before the year was out.
468: The preliminaries of the negotiations with the Indians have not been enumerated here, although they might well have been. On the twentieth of February, 1861, W.P. Chilton of Alabama offered a resolution to inquire into the expediency of opening negotiations [Journal, vol. i, 70]. March 4, Toombs urged that a special agent be sent and offered a resolution to that effect [ibid., 105]. The day following, Congress passed the resolution [ibid., 107]: but left the powers and duties of the special agent, or commissioner, undefined. Davis appointed Pike to the position and, after Congress had expressed its wishes regarding the mission in the act of May 21, 1861, had a copy of the act transmitted to him as his instructions [Richardson, vol. i, 149].
The act of May 21, 1861, carried a blanket appropriation of $100,000, which was undoubtedly used freely by Pike for purposes connected with the successful prosecution of his mission. In December, the Provisional Congress appropriated money for carrying into effect the Pike treaties. The following letter is of interest in connection therewith:

Richmond, Va., 9" December 1861.

Sir: On the 1st or 2nd of August 1861, after I had made Treaties with the Creeks and Seminoles, I authorized James M.C. Smith, a resident citizen of the Creek Nation, to raise and command a company of Creek Volunteers, to be stationed at the North Fork Village, in the Creek country, on the North Fork of the Canadian, where the great road from Missouri to Texas crosses that river, to act as a police force, watch and apprehend disaffected persons, intercept improper communications, and prevent the driving of cattle to Kansas.

The Company was soon after raised, and has remained in the service ever since. At my appointment George W. Stidham acted as Quartermaster and Commissary for it, and without funds from the Government, has supplied it.

By the Treaty with the Seminoles, made on the 1st of August, they agreed to furnish, and I agreed to receive, five companies of mounted volunteers of that Nation. Two companies, and perhaps more, were raised, and have since been received, I understand, by Col. Cooper, and with Captain Smith's company employed in putting down the disaffected party among the Creeks. Under my appointment, Hugh McDonald has acted as Quartermaster and Commissary for the Seminole companies, and made purchases without funds from the Government. After I had made the Treaties with the Reserve Indians and Comanche, in August 1861, Fort Cobb being about to be abandoned by the Texan Volunteers who had held it, I authorized M. Leeper, the Wichita agent, to enlist a small force, of twenty or twenty-five men, under a Lieutenant, for the security of the Agency. He enlisted, I learn, only some fifteen, and he has had them for some time in the service.

I also appointed a person named McKuska, formerly a soldier, to take charge of what further property remained at Fort Cobb, and employed another person to assist him, agreeing that the former should be paid as Ordnance Sergeant, and the latter as private; and directing the Contractor for the Indians to issue to the former two rations, and to the latter one.

In consequence of the collection of some force of disaffected Creeks and others, and an apprehended attack by them, Col. Douglas H. Cooper called for troops from all the Nations, and I understand that several companies were organized and marched to join his regiment. I think they are still in the service.

I am now empowered to receive all the Indians who offer to enter the service. To induce them to enlist, what is already owing them must be paid; and I earnestly hope that Congress will pass the bill introduced for that purpose. Respectfully your obedient servant

Albert Pike, Brig. Genl Commd Dept of Ind. Terr'y.
Hon. W. Miles, Chairman Com. on Mil. Affs.

[War Department, Office of the Adjutant-General, Archives Division, Confederate Records.]

469: Journal, vol. i, 650, 743, 761. The Confederate government took, in the main, a just, reasonable, and even charitable view on the subject of the assumption of United States obligations. Pike had exceeded his instructions in promising the Indians that monetary obligations would be so assumed. See his letter to Randolph, June 30, 1862.
470: This matter went over into the regular Congress, which began its work, February 18, 1862. For details of the bill for pensions see Journal, vol. i, 43, 79.
471: "The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the President of the Confederate States be authorized to present to Hemha Micco, or John Jumper, a commission, conferring upon him the honorary title of Lieutenant Colonel of the army of the Confederate States, but without creating or imposing the duties of actual service or command, or pay, as a complimentary mark of honor, and a token of good will and confidence in his friendship, good faith, and loyalty to this government...."—Statutes at Large of the Provisional Government, 284.
472: Quite early a resolution was submitted that had in view "the appointment of agents to the different tribes of Indians occupying territory adjoining this Confederacy..." [Journal, vol. i, 81.]
473: Journal, vol. i, 245.
474: Pike was not prepared beforehand for so extended a mission. In November, he wrote to Benjamin, notifying him that he was enclosing "an account in blank for my services as commissioner to the Indian nations west of Arkansas.
"It was not my intention to accept any remuneration, but the great length of time during which I found it necessary to remain in the Indian Country caused me such losses and so interfered with my business that I am constrained unwillingly to present this account. I leave it to the President or to Congress to fix the sum that shall be paid me...."—Pike to Benjamin, November 25, 1861, Pickett Papers, Package 118.
475: Journal, vol. i, 640, 672, 743.
476: Ibid., vol. ii, 19.
477: The Committee on Indian Affairs, at the time, consisted of Johnson, chairman, Clement C. Clay of Alabama, Williamson S. Oldham of Texas, R.L.Y. Payton of Missouri, and W.E. Simms of Kentucky.
478: Journal, vol. ii, 51-52.
479: Journal, vol. v, 47.
480: Ibid., 210.
481: The Confederacy, as a matter of fact, never did keep its promise regarding the establishment of a judiciary in Indian Territory. Note Commissioner Scott's remarks in criticism, December i, 1864 [Official Records, vol. xli, part iv, 1088-1089].
482: The regulations referred to can be found in Confederate Records, chap. 7, no. 48.
483: Official Records, vol. xiii, 871-874.
484: In his message of August 18, 1862 [Richardson, vol. i, 238, President Davis remarked upon the vacancies in these offices and said that, in consequence of them, delays had occurred in the payment of annuities and allowances to which the Indians were entitled.
485: Official Records, vol. liii, supplement, 821.
486: War Department, Confederate Records, Special Orders of the Adjutant and Inspector General's Office, C.S.A., 1862, p. 438; Official Records, vol. xiii, 885.
487: See document of date, October 7, 1861, signed by Douglas H. Cooper, certifying that Robert M. Jones had received the "greatest number of votes cast" as delegate in Congress for the Choctaws and Chickasaws [Pickett Papers, Package 118].
488: Journal, vol. v, 513, 514.
489: Ibid., vol. ii, 452, 457, 480; vol. v, 514, 523, 561.
490: Davis had thrown the responsibility of the whole matter upon Congress, when he insisted that the "delegate" clauses in the treaties should be so modified as to make the admission of the Indians dependent, not upon the treaty-making power, but upon the legislative. See his message of December 12, 1861, Richardson, vol. i, 149-151.
491: Elias Rector, who had been retained as superintendent under the Confederate government, seems never to have exercised the functions of the office subsequent to the assumption by Pike of his duties as commander of the Department of Indian Territory. He was probably envious of Pike and resigned rather than serve in a subordinate capacity. He seems to have made some trouble for Pike [Official Records, vol. xiii, 964, 976].
492: Ibid., 906, 908, 910-911, 927-928.
493: Official Records, vol. xiii, 868.
494: Official Records, vol. liii, supplement, 828.
495: On the murder of Agent Leeper, see Scott to Holmes, November 2, 1862, Official Records, vol. xiii, 919-921; Holmes to Secretary of War, November 15, 1862, ibid., 919: F. Johnson to Dole, January 20, 1863, Abel, American Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist, 329-330, footnote; Moore, Rebellion Record, vol. vi, 6; W.F. Cady to Cox, February 16, 1870, Indian Office Report Book, no. 19, 186-188; Coffin to Dole, September 24, 1863, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Report, 1863, 177.
496: S.S. Scott asked permission of Governor Winchester Colbert, November 10, 1862, to place the fugitive Tonkawa "temporarily on Rocky or Clear Creek, near the road leading from Fort Washita to Arbuckle." Colbert granted the permission, "provided they are subject to the laws of the Chickasaw Nation, and will furnish guides to the Home Guards and the Chickasaw Battalion, when called upon to do so."

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The American Indian as Participant in the Civil War, 1919

Participant in the Civil War


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