The effects of the American Civil War on the Cherokee Indians
24 January 2012
Word Count: 1,530
A. Plan of Investigation:
Throughout the events leading up to, and during the course of the American Civil War, thousands of American Indians were killed. The Cherokee Indian tribe fought on both sides of the Union and Confederacy. The point of this historical investigation will be to determine whether the Cherokee Indian tribe was more from the Confederacy or the Union. Two of the sources used in the essay, Union and Confederate Indians in the Civil War, written by Wiley Britton and Native Americans in the Civil War are then evaluated for their origins, purposes, values, and limitations. The importance of this investigation is to determine the long lasting effect upon the Cherokee Indian tribe due to the American Civil War.
B. Summary of Evidence:
The Cherokee were the largest Indian tribe in the southeast United States in the early 1800s. The United States Government, throughout numerous congressional and court battle, had the vast majority of Cherokees forcibly removed. Less than 1,000 remained in the southeast United States after the relocation efforts culminating in the disastrous Trail of Tears in 1838. (Hodge) There would be countless broken promises, agreements and treaties by the United States Government toward the Cherokee people. Even though the Cherokee had been splintered in their forced relocation, they were committed to remaining a sovereign nation. They endured a 6year civil war in the 1840s between different factions. In 1846, the factions signed a treaty of agreement. The Cherokee Nation would experience a prosperous period in the 1850s until more horrific civil war in 1861 would renew old divisions with horrendous consequences. (Hodge)
On the eve of the American Civil War the Cherokee, while being courted by both the North and South, voted to remain neutral. The lifestyle and interest of the Cherokee were most identified with the Confederacy. In fact, some Cherokee owned African slaves and most were sympathetic to the southern cause. During the summer of 1861 Union troops withdrew from the Indian Territory in the west and the Confederate army began occupation (Britton). Geography and southern sympathies made neutrality impossible. In August of 1861 the Cherokee Nation voted to secede from the United States and became an ally of the new Confederacy. In the west, where almost all of the Cherokee had been relocated to, 3,000 Cherokee enlisted in the Confederate army, 1,000 enlisted in the Union army (Native Americans In The Civil War). Cherokees in the east that did not relocate enlisted with the Confederacy; 400 enlisted, almost every able bodied Cherokee.
The Cherokee in the east were led by William Holland Thomas and were primarily assigned to harass Union troops. On September 15, 1862 Confederate Cherokee troops were attempting to stop a Union advance when a leader among the Cherokee, Astoogahtogeh, was killed. The remaining Cherokee, avenging his death, scalped Union soldiers. As word spread of this atrocity, the Union soldiers came to their fear of the Cherokee troops. (Britton)
Confederate Cherokees in the west fought in numerous battles: Wilson Creek (1861) and the notable Pea Ridge (1862). The Confederates won the battle at Wilson Creek, however, Pea Ridge is much more notable for the same reason as the eastern troops headed by William Holland Thomas. (Cherokee) The Confederate troops at Pea Ridge were defeated; however, Confederate Cherokees scalped as many as 8 Union soldiers after the battle.
Cherokee Chief John Ross began to question the Confederacy’s commitment to the Indian Territory in the west. By 1862 he made it known that he did not think the Confederacy was doing all it could to help protect its Cherokee allies (Cherokee Wars). After the Battle of Pea Ridge the Confederacy diverted…