Sunday, February 27, 2011


Only two Native Americans on either side of the States’ War rose to the rank of brigadier general. Standhope Watie (Uwatie), fighting for the Confederacy, was one of those two. Yet, what makes this accomplishment so incredible is the fact that while he was fighting for the Confederate States of America, he was also fighting other Cherokee tribal leaders who held opposing political views and very different visions for the Cherokee nation.

Stand Watie commanded the Confederate Indian Cavalry of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. While the cavalry unit was comprised mainly of Cherokee, some Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole tribal members also served.

Born in Oothcaloga in the Cherokee Nation, State of Georgia, Uwatie (or Oowatie) was also known as Isaac. He was educated in a Moravian mission school. In his early adulthood, he occasionally wrote articles for the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper. The State of Georgia confiscated Cherokee lands in 1832 when gold was discovered, including the thriving plantation owned by Stand’s father and mother. Stand and his brothers, part of the powerful Ridge-Watie-Boudinot faction of the Cherokee council, stood in favor of the Cherokee Removal. Their signing of the Treaty of New Echota facilitated the removal of the Cherokee people to Indian Territory—what is now Oklahoma.

Another faction of Cherokees following John Ross refused to ratify the treaty signing. This segment was known as The Anti-Removal National Party. Members of this group targeted Stand Watie and his brother, Elias Boudinot, along with their uncle, Major Ridge, and cousin, John Ridge for assassination. Stand was the only one who survived the assassination attempt. Although Watie’s family had left Georgia before the forcible removal of all Cherokees in 1838, another brother, Thomas, was murdered by Ross’s men in 1845.

In October, 1861, Watie was commissioned as colonel in the First Mounted Cherokee Rifles. Besides fighting Federal troops in the States’ War, his men also fought opposing factions of Cherokee, as well as Seminole and Creek (Muscogee) warriors who supported the Union.

In 1862, Stand Watie was elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, through dissension continued among John Ross’s supporters.

On June 15, 1864, Watie’s troops captured the Federal steamboat J. R. Williams on the Arkansas River off the banks of Pleasant Bluff near Tamaha, Indian Territory. The next morning, Colonel John Ritchie’s men, who were stationed at the mouth of the Illinois River near where the two rivers met, engaged Watie’s men as they attempted to confiscate the cargo. The river was rising, and they fought to a standoff. When Watie learned of the advance of Union troops from Fort Smith, Arkansas, (within about 40 miles), he burned the ship and much of the remaining cargo, then sank it.

Watie surrendered a year later in June of 1865, the last Confederate general to lay down his arms.

In my debut novel, Fire Eyes, I weave this bit of history into my plot. The villain, Andrew Fallon, and his gang have come upon the site where the J.R. Williams was sunk four years earlier. Fallon speculates there could have been gold aboard, and sets his men to dive for it. As mercurial as his temper is, none of them dare question his order. Here’s what happens:


“Damn! I know where we are.” Dobie Perrin said.
Andrew Fallon turned in the saddle, glaring at Perrin, the afternoon sun dappling them through the leaves of the thick canopy of trees. “So do I, you idiot! So do we all, now.”

The secluded cemetery sat on a bluff, overlooking the Arkansas River. They had been wandering for two days, ever since retracing their steps to the first small creek they’d come to. The one Fallon felt sure would give them their bearings. Now, at last, he recognized where they were. He’d figured it out ten miles back.

“Tamaha,” Denver Rutledge muttered. “I was raised up over yonder.” He inclined his head toward the riverbank. “Over in Vian.”

“Then why didn’t you know where we were?” Fallon’s anger surged. “I am surrounded by idiots!”

“I shore ’nuff shoulda known, General,” Rutledge said apologetically. “Right yonder’s where we sunk the J.R. Williams. Rebs, I mean. Stand Watie’s bunch.”

Fallon jerked his head toward the other man. “Right where, soldier?”

Rutledge kneed his horse, coming abreast of Fallon. “Why, right yonder, General. It was in June of ’64. She was a Union ship, the Williams was.”

“What was she carrying?”

Rutledge shrugged. “Don’t rightly know. Supplies, maybe.”

“Payroll? Gold?” Fallon fingered his curling moustache. “Could be anything, eh, Rutledge? But the Yankees were known to cache their gold profits in casks. Maybe that’s what the J.R. Williams was carrying. Casks that weren’t really supplies, but were filled with gold.”

“Could be, I ‘spect.” Rutledge’s voice was hesitant.

Fallon nodded toward the river. “I think maybe we’ll try to find out.”



“What’s he doing, Tori?” Lily whispered. She moved closer to her sister. The night had turned colder, and the girls’ clothing was becoming threadbare and ragged.

Tori shook her head. “Fallon’s plumb crazy, Lily. Making his men dive for that ship! What’s he think he’s going to do if he finds it? Pull it up with his bare hands?”

“Or a rope, maybe,” Lily said innocently.

Tori didn’t say anything. She reminded herself that Lily was, after all, only eight years old. And she, at eighteen, knew how the world worked much better than little Lily did. At least Lily had stopped crying all the time. Now, Tori wasn’t sure if that was an improvement.

Lily sometimes scared her, the way her eyes looked hollow. Like there was no feeling left in her. Tori had no mirror, but her little sister looked like she herself felt. Older than she should be. And sad. But Lily didn’t seem to be afraid any longer, and Tori supposed that was a good thing.

Tori knew what Fallon intended to do with her and Lily. But the initial shock and fear of Fallon’s intent was overshadowed by other things that had actually happened. The violent deaths of their parents and younger brother, the endless days of riding with scant food and water, the bone-deep weariness that never let up, not even when she slept on the hard ground at night next to Lily.

She was responsible for Lily, now that her parents were gone. She squared her thin shoulders, her gentle eyes turning hard for a moment. She would protect her sister, no matter what.

Tori watched as Fallon ordered three of his men back into the water yet another time. Even if they could see what they were diving for, it would be too deep to reach. But the scene helped Tori realize just how unstable Andrew Fallon was. Once or twice, she’d caught herself thinking he was almost a nice man. He’d brought her and Lily a blanket one cold night. And he’d given them extra rations another time. But she knew he was not nice, not even sane.

Evil, was what Andrew Fallon was. Evil, and most insane.

She watched him, posturing and screaming at his men, who were so terrified of him that they were making fools of themselves trying to dive for an unreachable goal, a ship that may contain treasure, but just as well may not. A vessel that was impossible to get to, all the same. Especially in the pitch-black night. Lily leaned against her, her weight heavy with sleep. They sat beside a tree, their backs propped against the rough bark. The night was cool, and Tori had drawn the blanket close around them. She sagged against the tree trunk, her arm around her little sister, as Lily’s eyelids drooped.

FIRE EYES and other Cheryl Pierson short stories and novels are available through The Wild Rose Press here:


  1. Cheryl, I loved this post. My great grandmother was Cherokee from Georgia, and her family somehow escaped the removal. Thanks for sharing. Now I have to read the rest of your story!

  2. Cheryl--loved the tidbit of Indian history and the fact that you weave some of that history into your stories...I think that's why I first fell in love with historical romances way back when--I felt as if I learned something valuable at the end of the book.

  3. Hi Caroline!

    My grandmother was, too, but of course they wound up out here in Oklahoma. We are Cherokee on my dad's side and Cherokee and Chickasaw on my mom's side. I'm hoping maybe this summer I can work on my genealogy and try to start the long slow process of getting added to the tribal rollbooks.Glad you enjoyed the post!


  4. Hi Marin!

    I feel the same way, Marin, about learning something--that's why I try to be really careful about my research and naming of places, etc. and PEOPLE! There is a lot of difference in the names given to individuals in different tribes. Though they might have been anglicized to a point, they are still different. And I really researched the J.R. Williams. A few years ago--probably during the last decade or so, the bell of that ship washed up on the shore there at the base of the bluff. A man found it, and it had been engraved with the name of the ship before it had been captured by the northerners. It had been a southern ship first and was named something like the Rebel or something like that--an old man told us the history of it when we went there to research it all. But it's hard to find all the tidbits like that in accounts of it--I guess it was in the newspaper at the time it happened. SO INTERESTING! Thanks so much for coming by and commenting!


  5. Awesome post, Cheryl. I always love learning about native American histori. oxoxox

  6. Of course I meant historY. I can spell LOL.

    Thanks so much for coming by--I know you are busy as heck with deadlines looming! Glad you enjoyed the post--I knew what you meant! LOL

  8. Cheryl--this brings back the memories of readiing Fire Eyes. When Fallon says, "I am surrounded by idiots," it reminded me of Lonesome Dove, when Robert Duval says, "Damn, we 'air surrounded by idjits!" Cracks me up, and I love to say it--especially when I watch the evening news.
    Stand Watie is truly a hero for more than one group. What a man he was. I remember clearly the story of the Cherokee run off their Georgia plantations--their women even wore hoop skirts!--and driven to Oklahoman. How heartbreaking. Good job, my friend--Celia


    I'm in and out today--trying to get the bedroom cleaned and reorganized, and this is DR APPT. week, it seems like. LOL I feel that way about our evening news, too--I wonder where some of these reporters come from.LOL Yes, the Cherokee had a very sophisticated society that they were forced to leave behind to walk the Trail of Tears. One of the most shameful times in our history. Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for your kind words!

  10. Cheryl,
    Fascinating post. I would enjoy learning more about their culture in Georgia, and especially how it came about that they had plantations. What interesting history. Thanks so much!

  11. Hi Jeanmarie,

    Thanks so much for commenting! The Cherokee actually had a society equal to what the anglos had as far as plantations, dress, and so on. Many of them owned slaves and were wealthy. The history of Stand Watie/Elias Boudinot/Major Ridge and all the fighting amongst them was very interesting--the outcome tragic as the relatives killed each other and accused one another of treachery.



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