Confederate General Stand Watie was born near Rome, Georgia. He was the son of a full-blooded Cherokee chief and a half-blooded White/Cherokee mother. Watie was part of the Cherokee tribe that voted to move to the Indian Territory. Watie survived the tribe’s Trail of Tears march in the 1830s and became the only Native American to achieve the rank of general during the Civil War.
Stand Watie – Early Civil War Years
Watie was the Colonel of the 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles in the Battle of Pea Ridge or Elkhorn Tavern where they took Union artillery and covered the Confederate retreat at the end of the end of the three day battle. Watie would later lead his Cherokee at the First Battle of Cabin Creek in 1863 and then on the raid that took the Union steamboat J.R. Williams in 1864.
Stand Watie – Promotion to Brigadier General and Later Civil War Years
Also in 1864, Watie was promoted to Brigadier General and put in command of a brigade of native American troops comprised mainly of Cherokee, but also of other tribes from the Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). Watie was most famous for the Second Battle (or Raid) of Cabin Creek in northeastern Oklahoma where Watie’s unit raided a Union supply shipment that severely disrupted Union operations in the area. BG Stand Watie was also notable as being the last Confederate General to surrender at the end of the Civil War.
Brigadier General Stand Watie is a good reminder that American History is not nearly as clear cut in terms of identities, alliances, and allegiances as some would try to make us believe.
Try Oklahoma State Route 82 from around Vinita to Vian to sample the area of operations that Watie worked in. To see the ground of the Second Battle of Cabin Creek, turn west onto Oklahoma State Route 28, near Langley, and go to Pensacola, OK, you will find the battlefield about 3 and a half miles north of Pensacola. The battlefield is near Pensacola, OK. It might make a good ride out from Tulsa, OK (~60 miles), Bentonville, AR (~70 miles), University of Arkansas (~85 miles) or maybe a longer ride from Branson, MO (~150 miles), if you happen to be in any of those places.
By the end of 1861, the Union forces had secured Missouri by routing the Missouri militia that favored secession. In early 1862, the Union commander, General Samuel Curtis moved his Army of the Southwest into northwest Arkansas to take the fight to the Confedrates and secure Missouri from Rebel cross border incursions.
Newly appointed Confederate Army of the West commander, General Earl Van Dorn decided to take his numerically superior, but logistically inferior forces to the northwest of Arkansas and push the Union back onto the back foot in both Arkansas and Missouri.
After several skirmishes in February and early March, 1862, Curtis settled on favorable ground to the east of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Van Dorn knew it was a good position, so decided to split his forces in an attempt to draw Curtis into a weaker position.
Battle of Pea Ridge or Elkhorn Tavern
On day one of the battle, Curtis took the north and west of the position by heading off a flanking movement. The day was carried by the quick movement of the Union forces, the loss of two Confedrate Generals and the capture of a Colonel. Van Dorn led the other Confederate column to take the south and east near Elkhorn Tavern. On day two, Curtis regrouped and attacked Elkhorn tavern with heavy artillery support. Van Dorn held the position but at a tremendous cost in casualties and ammunition and eventually had to retreat and leave the position to Curtis.
The Union continued to hold the area and the strategically important state of Missouri for most of the rest of the war.
Side note: One of the Confederate leaders at Pea ridge was Stand Watie who commanded the Cherokee Mounted Rifles. Watie was a pro-treaty Cherokee who had survived the Trail of Tears move from the Carolinas/Tennessee/Georgia homelands to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Watie would later be promoted to Brigadier General and become the only Native American General on either side of the Civil War. After Pea Ridge, Watie commanded a brigade of Native Americans for the Confederacy. He and his troops participated in many battles and campaigns for the South.
Motorcycle Ride Recommendation
Begin or end your ride with the online tour of the battlefield. Outside of the Pea Ridge Battlefield National Military Parkpark take a through the loop ride through the Hobbs State Park and around Beaver Lake.
Photo Credit: By Kurz and Allison [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Confederate General Stand Watie was born near Rome, Georgia on 12 December 1806. Watie, a Cherokee Indian, survived the tribe’s Trail of Tears in the 1830s and became the only Native American to achieve the rank of general during the Civil War.*
On the night of 1st and 2nd July 1863, General Watie led his forces against a Federal supply wagon train at the ford where the Texas Trail intersected Cabin Creek in the Indian Territory (to become Oklahoma in 1907). This skirmish was to be called the First Battle of Cabin Creek. The wagon train was led by Union Colonel James Williams and and originated at Ft. Scott, Kansas. It consisted of the 3rd Indian Home guard and the 1st Kansas colored Volunteer Infantry among various other units, crucially some artillery. The Confederates tried to hold the ford and take the supplies, but were driven off by the Union artillery and several charges by Williams’ forces. The wagon train continued to its destination of Fort Gibson in the Indian Territory. There were other skirmishes on the 5th and the 20th of July 1863, but the Union fended off the Confederates each time. It was not until 19 September 1864 that General Watie and his forces were able to win and secure and union wagon train at the same site in the Second Battle of Cabin Creek.
The battlefield is near Pensacola, OK. It might make a good ride out from Tulsa, OK (~60 miles), Bentonville, AR (~70 miles), University of Arkansas (~85 miles) or maybe a longer ride from Branson, MO (~150 miles), if you happen to be in any of those places. The battle site directions on this site are confusing, but I think the actual battle site and commemorative marker is near here.
General Stand Watie is a very interesting character to me. His Indian name was “Red Fox” which was my call sign in the 2nd Cavalry. See below for a history of his and other Indians’ service in the US Civil War.
Image credit: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons