Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
				Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.


Fort McCulloch, May 4, 1862.

SIR: I inclose a copy, marked A(*) (with notes since added), of the part taken by myself and the small body of Cherokees under my command in the action of 6th and 7th March near Elkhorn, and I avail myself of this occasion to forward copies of certain orders and directions since issued by me, which will put the department in possession of the plans I am endeavoring to carry out in order to hold possession of this Indian country and keep the several Indian tribes loyal to the Confederate States.(*)

When I consented to accept the military command of this country, while I knew that to command the Indians would make my name detestable in the Northern States, I was also well aware that I could not expect to gain by it any great reputation in our own country. The Indian troops are of course entirely undisciplined, mounted chiefly on ponies, and armed very indifferently with common rifles and ordinary shot-guns. When they agreed to furnish troops they invariably stipulated that they should be allowed to fight in their own fashion. They will not face artillery and steady infantry on open ground, and are only used to fighting as skirmishers when cover can be obtained.

All the treaties with the Indians had also stipulated that they should not be taken out of their own country to fight without their consent. They are incredulous people, and those who fought against us under Hopoeithleyohola were chiefly alienated by the belief, induced by that crafty old man, that we would get them to become soldiers, take them out of their own country, first into Arkansas, then into Missouri, then across the Mississippi, and when their young men were thus all gone would take and divide out their lands.

It pleased General Van Dorn in February to order me to march all the Indian troops into Missouri and there encamp at or near Neosho. I received it after the enemy, pursuing General Price, had invaded Arkansas, and was thus relieved of the necessity of disobeying it. When information of this movement of the enemy reached Fort Smith and General McCulloch, disobeying the order to march to Pocahontas, ordered his command to Fayetteville, I sent orders to the two Cherokee regiments and the Creek regiments to advance toward Fayetteville and receive orders from General McCulloch. I knew that he understood the Indian character and their mode of fighting and would not dream of using them as part of an army in the open field, nor did I suppose that they would be taken into Arkansas, since that step would be a confession of our weakness, and we, instead of protecting them by white troops in their own country and asking them only, as had been agreed, to help to hold that, would thereby require them to leave their own country and go into ours to fight our battles. I supposed they would be used along the frontier to harass the rear and right flank of the invading force, cut up his foraging parties, and render such service as their habits and manner of making war warranted Us in expecting from them.

It is much to be regretted that they were taken into the open field, to see half of our troops never brought into action, large bodies of cavalry taking shelter in the woods at the discharge of a shell or two, and at other times wholly inactive, confusion and disorder prevailing nearly everywhere, and at last our army retreating, leaving 2,000 men, without notice of the retreat, to shift for themselves, and, pursued and routed,  to flee in squads into the hills. I regret that no other allusion is made by General Van Dorn in his report of 27th March of the action at Elkhorn to the Indian troops engaged than the simple statement that he had ordered me to join him with my force. I did not expect that any credit would ever be given them in orders for any gallantry displayed, since that would be contrary to all precedent, but surely it would have been wise and politic to mention their presence, and not to have assigned to others the whole credit of what they at least aided in doing.

Having the right to refuse to leave their own country, the Creeks said that what Hopoeithleyohola had told them was true, and as an excuse for not going demanded to be paid off before they would march. The Choctaws and Chickasaws were willing enough to cross the line, but, influenced by merchants whom they owed, they too demanded to be paid, and the result was that I left them all behind, and overtaking the Cherokee regiments, fell in the rear of the army with them alone and two companies of mounted Texans. That these, with not more than 150 or 200 of Colonel Sims' Texan regiment, charged face to face and took a battery of three guns supported by regular cavalry, having 2 men killed and I wounded in the charge, and killing some 35 to 40 of the enemy, is certainly true. No other battery was taken in that action, and Cherokees and no others by my orders drew the guns into the woods. It is true that when a second battery opened on them they hastily retired into the woods, but they went no farther and remained there, holding the extreme right and keeping another battery and a large body of infantry in check, who would otherwise have been at liberty by a short march to take the other forces in flank or rear, until the action ceased.

It is equally certain that Colonel Drew's regiment of Cherokees was the last that left that field, and that when the Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment came up with the train which, abandoned by General Van Dorn, was pursuing its headlong flight toward Van Buren it passed all the troops that were with the train and with the Cherokees interposed between them and the enemy.

It is equally certain that it was a body of Colonel Watie's Cherokees that went with ammunition that night to find the remainder of the army at the main battle ground.

It was not reasonable to expect much of a small body of Indians, 900 men, among 18,000 or 20,000 in a regular engagement, where the enemy had to be attacked in a position selected by himself on ground to which he had dexterously enticed us and where he had been encamped and preparing to welcome us for three weeks. Surely it would have been both magnanimous and wise to acknowledge what they did do.

I also inclose a copy of an order from General Van Dorn, by which I am advised that I am expected to maintain myself in the Indian country independent of his army.

The Indian troops having been in the service for several months without pay, and not being supplied with clothing, tents, and blankets, I had made great exertions to collect supplies for them. In their thin clothing part of them, Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws, had, under Colonel Cooper, pursued Hopoeithleyohola in the snow and cold, and fought him twice, first in the dark night and then in open daylight, killing in the last action nearly 400 of his men, and compelling him to retreat and abandon the country, leaving only a few hundred men in care of the women and wounded, to be afterward routed by Colonel Mcintosh.

I had also procured a sufficient number of pieces of artillery and a tolerable supply of ammunition, and persons were engaged at heavy expense to themselves and by means of most active exertions in raising two of the regiments for service in this country that had been promised the Indians by way of chief inducement for them to take up arms. I had the positive promise of the late Secretary of War that 2,000 stand of small-arms should be forwarded for these regiments out of the very first received from abroad.

The principal parts of my ordnance stores and supplies had reached Fort Smith before the actions at Elkhorn. I had myself carried 3,000 pounds of cannon powder there about the middle of February. I directed Maj. George W. Clark, the depot quartermaster, to forward all as rapidly as possible to North Fork. Instead of doing so, he by telegram asked instructions from General Van Dorn, who by telegram, without notifying me of the order, directed him to send nothing for my command into the Indian country.

Up to this time I have with great exertion, and owing in a great measure to the kindness of General Price, received at this point eighteen pieces of artillery, twelve of which are Parrott guns, 100 rockets, what rifle powder I had procured, a small quantity of buck-shot, a supply of percussion caps, a little lead, about 1,900 pairs of shoes out of 8,000, some 900 suits of clothing out of 7,000, a small portion of the socks and drawers I had obtained, about 1,000 shirts out of 4,000, about 75 tents out of 1,000, and none at all of the small-arms I had purchased in Arkansas and North Carolina.

Part of my tents and small-arms were issued to volunteers going up to join Price before the actions. Other tents were issued to the Louisiana regiment to replace theirs, wantonly burned during the retreat of the train by order of somebody not of the regiment. Of everything else of mine, even my private stores, whatever any one wanted was taken at Fort Smith and Van Buren after the retreat. Hardly a box comes here that has not been opened and part of the contents abstracted. All my cannon powder, the caissons of the Parrott guns, and many other things were sent off to Little Rock and have never been returned. Part of the artillery was sent to Pocahontas, all the medicines procured for the command (the first that had been procured) were ordered off, but the medical director with some difficulty rescued them. Much of what I have received, including all the percussion caps, was ready for shipment to Little Rock, and part of it actually on board boat, when it was rescued by Assistant Adjutant-General Hewitt. At the same time trains coming here were ordered to be loaded with wet brown sugar in hogsheads that cost 10 cents a pound in Fort Smith. That could be sent me. Captain Hewitt took the responsibility of sending it down the river, for which I cannot too much thank him.

Besides the Indian troops, I now have at this post two regiments of Texan mounted men, under Gels. Robert H. Taylor and Almarine Alexander, one company of the same and one from Arkansas with the Nineteenth Regiment and one company of infantry from Arkansas, commanded by Col. C. L. Dawson, and two companies of artillery, commanded by Capts. William E. Woodruff, jr., and Henry C. West.

The number of sick, owing to bad weather and bad cooking, is very large, so that in all there are but a little over 1,000 men present for duty.

I am dividing the fragments of my supplies as fast as I receive them proportionally between the white and Indian troops. The latter continue loyal. There is no enemy now in the country, and it is perfectly safe to travel in it anywhere. Having received the moneys promised them by treaties, all the tribes have confidence in the ability of the Government  to perform its premises and in its good faith. The Cherokee and Creek troops are in their respective countries. The Choctaw troops are in front of me, in their country, part on this side of Boggy and part at Little Boggy, 34 miles from here. These observe the roads to Fort Smith and by Perryville toward Fort Gibson. Part of the Chickasaw battalion is sent to Camp Mcintosh, 11 miles this side of the Wichita Agency, and part to Fort Arbuckle, and the Texan company is at Fort Cobb.

I have ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Jumper with his Seminoles to march to and take Fort Larned, on the Pawnee Fork of the Arkansas, where are considerable stores and a little garrison. He will go as soon as their annuity is paid.

The Creeks under Colonel McIntosh are about to make an extended scout westward. Stand Watie, with his Cherokees, scouts along the whole northern line of the Cherokee country from Grand Saline to Marysville, and sends me information continually of every movement of the enemy in Kansas and Southwestern Missouri.

The Comanches, Kiowas, and Reserve Indians are all peaceable and quiet. Some 2,000 of the former are encamped about three days' ride from Fort Cobb, and some of them come in at intervals to procure provisions. They have sent to me to know if they can be allowed to send a strong party and capture any trains on their way from Kansas to New Mexico, to which I have no objection. To go on the war-path somewhere else is the best way to keep them from troubling Texas. I hear no complaints now from the Texan frontier, but Agent Leeper informs me that some Anadarkos have lately been over there and stolen some horses. I mean soon to invite the Reserve and Comanche chiefs to visit me, and let them see the troops here and the great guns and witness the effect of a rocket or two, that they may know we have the power either to protect or punish them.

I propose also to send at intervals bodies of cavalry of 150 or 200 men each into the Cherokee and Creek country and perhaps to the west, to assure those tribes that the Confederate States are ready to assist them and do not mean to abandon their country.

At this point I hold the roads to Fort Smith and Fort Gibson, to Forts Washita, Arbuckle, and Cobb, and to Sherman, Bonham, and Preston, in Texas, all of which here cross the Blue by a bridge. The field works planned here will command the roads and the country around. A way of retreat to Red River at different points will be opened to me, and I can procure ample supplies of forage and subsistence. I could not have procured either on the Arkansas or Canadian.

I hope to be able by means of the works here and with the artillery I have, even if my other forces are not increased, to hold the Indian country against any force that can invade it. A force invading Texas from the north cannot leave us in its rear. If I can prevent the Indian country from being occupied by the enemy I shall be content. To do so I am striving to have my small force here drilled and disciplined, to which and to working with the spade and pick-axe the volunteers I have are much averse, but I think I shall overcome their aversion to it and still not lose their good-will. I had some trouble at first, but what discontents existed have disappeared, and all seem willing to do their duty.

I have sent requisitions to Memphis and New Orleans, and hope to be able to supply the deficiencies in the ammunition and quartermaster stores procured by me for the command. I hardly expect to receive any more infantry from Arkansas, since the two regiments raised for the service have been marched to General Van Dorn.

Money is absolutely requisite. The people who have provisions and other supplies are very unwilling to sell and take certified accounts. With Confederate notes I can purchase an abundance at fair prices.

A sum of money intended for the service ($160,000, I believe), which was at Little Rock, has been taken for the service of General Van Dorn's command, and my department quartermaster and commissary have no funds at all. I have advanced for different purposes $20,000 of my own means and have drawn no pay. What funds of my own remain will soon be exhausted, and then I shall have infinite trouble if funds do not reach us soon.

The President will, I hope, allow me all the discretion in his power. I will not abuse it. If much is not left me in many matters I can do little good with the Indians. I have very little assistance and the Indian officers know nothing about forms and little about reports and returns. Above all, if the control and disposition of their troops is not left to me and if they are not encouraged by the presence of a small force of white troops the consequences may be very serious. The superintendent and agent do little that avails anything, and all that concerns our relations with the Indians devolves on me. I am willing to be responsible for the peace of the country if I have the necessary powers and discretion; without them I should be powerless. Infinite trouble has been caused and great inefficiency of administration here by the necessity of transacting all the quartermaster and commissary business through officers at Fort Smith, who were regarded by another general as under his orders, and by the making of contracts at Richmond, which gave one man the monopoly of supplying all the fresh beef and bacon for two armies; a contract under which of course no beef was furnished when it began to get scarce and we needed it most and not a pound of bacon has been heard off The reason for the latter is obvious: the contract prices of bacon being 15 cents and it being now worth 26; while the beef delivered, being delivered by a hundred head at a time, costs the Government 10 or 12 cents a pound, when an abundance could have been had at 3 1/2. It is necessary the quartermaster and commissary of this department should purchase their own supplies and draw their funds direct from Richmond. I protest against their having to estimate through Maj. George W. Clark at New Orleans. I am endeavoring to put an end to swindling by contract, and prefer to purchase corn, flour, and meat of the provider himself. It is fortunate also that we are no longer compelled to rely for transportation on scarecrows, that could be used nowhere else, paid for by the Government as mules, and considered good enough for the Indian service. I hope to be able to correct abuses in time. They have existed here long enough.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

ALBERT PIKE, Brig. Gen.,
Comdg. Department of Indian Territory.

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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Category: Civil War | Subcategory: Indian Territory | Tags: Cherokee , Seminoles , Mississippi , North Carolina , Louisiana , Texas , New Mexico , Washington , Kansas , Iowa , Missouri
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