HEADQUARTERS INDIAN BRIGADE
HEADQUARTERS INDIAN BRIGADE,
Fort Gibson, C. N., January 8, 1865.
Hon. SECRETARY OF WAR,
SIR: I deem it proper to advise you of the following facts: First. The three Indian regiments now in the Federal service as home guards have only a short time longer to serve. Their terms of enlistment expire during the months of May, June, and July next. If it be the design of the Government not to make any reorganization of these troops I would respectfully recommend that the "muster out" be anticipated a few months, say the first or not later than the middle of March, so that they can raise a crop, otherwise they will be dependent on the Government for a whole year more. Second. I briefly state the present condition of the Indian country: The rebels have still a military organization numerically much greater than ours. We have about two-thirds of the people and fighting men of the Cherokee Nation. The Second and Third Indian Home Guards are Cherokees (full and half breed). We have about half of the Creeks. The First Indian is Creek, except one company of Seminoles and one of Uchees. The rebels have two Cherokee regiments. They still have an organization of two Creek regiments, a battalion of Chickasaws, one of Seminoles, a company of Caddos, and the whole Choctaw Nation, except about 100 persons, men, women, and children. They have had, and are still reported to have, the organization of three Choctaw regiments. The rebel refugees, or women and children and non-combatants, are clustered in camps, or colonies they have been making on Kiamichi, Boggy, Blue, and Washita Rivers. Their soldiers are mostly mounted, and the country between is overrun with hostile forces, and desert, so far as crops are concerned, but there is still plenty of stock there. With the rebel Indian soldiers, in the rebel Indian department, there is a brigade of Texas and Arkansas troops, under General Gano. Generals Cooper and Stand Watie are also in command. Their artillery is at present rather better than ours. Around Fort Gibson are from 8,000 to 10,000 refugees, the larger portion of whom are Creeks, or people whose homes are south of the Arkansas River. Some 7,000 or 8,000 of these latter were brought down here by the superintendent last June, too late to raise a crop.
Scattered through the Cherokee Nation, at their homes, are as many more loyal non-combatants. In all, upward of 20,000 persons depend for protection on the military force here. The refugees here were brought in hired transportation and left here, and cannot move as they are. An order to move my force elsewhere would leave them at the mercy of the rebels, if, indeed, it would be possible at all to move these soldiers away, to leave their women, children, old and sick people. Under the orders received it was necessary, since my return, for the Fifty-fourth U.S. Colored and the First Arkansas Infantry to march below. This leaves me simply the Indian command. My tri-monthly of the 31st ultimo shows that to be an aggregate of 2,112; 1,463 are present for duty; 382 escorting train. The evacuation of Fort Smith will leave this place rather weak, but I think I can hold my own until you determine what is to be the future of this command. The orders I have received so instruct me. For the future I make no recommendation, being ignorant of the policy determined about the Indian Nation. With the present Indian force, a good infantry regiment and good battery, and mounting half of the Indians, I think the country north of the Arkansas River, in the Indian Nation, could be held by making a vigorous use of the force. Unless the country north of the river be held it is doubtful about our holding any foothold in the Indian Nation, and the probabilities are that it would be organized against us. Efforts have been made, and are made by the enemy, to get these civilized and half-civilized Indians into a sort of neutrality league, which would, of course, eventually operate to their benefit. Of the present condition of affairs and the approaching period of" muster out," I thus advise you.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. A. PHILLIPS,
SOURCE: United States War Department. THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 128 Volumes. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.
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