I first learned of Native American allegiance to the Confederacy from my father. Years later, I plowed through civil war days in Oklahoma for the exact setting book three in my current series required, but came upon this history of Indian suffering that surpasses anything I’d learned from my family.
Doakstown, late 1890's
Although the drought of 1860 was widespread in Kansas (which had sided with the anti-slave States) and farmers and ranchers were greatly weakened, secessionist influence raged. Many of the events that took place in Indian Territory leaked across the Kansas line, but thousands of Native Americans -- entire towns -- of American Indian farmers fled to Kansas, abandoning their homes, crops and livestock as refugees.
When recruiters, southern governmental and private, came to In Indian Territory, the slave holding Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations were especially enthusiastic about the Confederacy. Their adult men were recruited into mounted rifle units, which later fought in Arkansas and Missouri. Civilian recruiters toured Indian Territory and Kansas, getting promises of Native American soldiers as early as April 1861 “with astonishing ease.”
The recruiters’ first promise came from the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, promising 5,000 men, fully outfitted, for the Civil War. Later letters to Jefferson Davis described the methods these soldiers could use for scouring everything of value from the Missouri line to the Pacific Coast. From Kansas, a separate battalion of Indians was recruited. Unlike the Choctaw and Chickasaw soldiers, these Union men weren’t slave owners.
The list seems endless, and much of the heartbreaking poverty in Oklahoma resulted from these decisions. The five tribes that had been forcibly settled in Indian Territory had recovered before the Civil War. Unfortunately, the Union was silent during the waves of recruitment for garnering Indian support. Using their own judgment, the Cherokee Nation’s leaders counseled moderation and neutrality, but they were silenced by factions within the tribe.
Other tribes, such as the slave-owning Creek Indians, finally rebelled against the Confederacy. The leader Opothleyahola guided seven thousand Creek Indians with their wealth, cattle, and everything they could bring away from their reservation lands and outside the territory; war soon resulted. Finally, the remains of the Creek Nation went as refugees into Kansas.
Indian Territory was seen by both sides, Union and Confederacy, as a buffer territory. Unfortunately, violence was used to express individual opinions, or possibly incite still more outrageous violence, in Indian Territory without regard to whether people or properties were military or civilian; the rule of law was extinguished.
At the end of the War, the tribes were ripped apart, many leaders moving to Washington, others throughout the Union. One by one, the Nations were divided, with similar histories. Although recruiters had promised resounding victories to the newly-formed Indian divisions of the Confederate military, defeats came during the War. During the Civil War, high Confederate officials’ promises of victorious battles in Arkansas and Missouri were finally defeats and thousands of Indian soldiers died.
My personal search for my heroine's area settled on the capitol of the Choctaw Nation before the Civil War. Doakstown was also where the Cherokee Confederate general Stand Watie, who owned one hundred slaves -- which back then, indicated an extremely wealthy person -- surrendered in 1865. (Cherokee Stand Watie, born Degataga -- Stand Firm -- was the only Native American fully promoted to the rank of General on either side in the Civil War. After the war, he returned to his life as a tribal leader, planter and businessman.)
I was most interested in Doakstown, Indian Territory, with its dramatic, sharp decline after the Civil War. Doakstown’s history was very different from that of the rocky foothills of southeastern Oklahoma and our ranch, though the Kiamichi River influenced both areas. In fact, cotton plantations were plentiful near prosperous Doakstown.
The Choctaw and Chickasaw peoples practiced cotton plantation agriculture here, with market connections to New Orleans. Doakstown was originally a trading post at the mouth of the Kiamichi River, near Arkansas; today it’s a ghost town and National Heritage Site.
The effects of the Civil War on what came to be called Oklahoma were vital to my novels, especially the lawlessness the War created and nourished. Many of my characters moved from Confederate-dominated areas to homestead on the peacefulness of the northern plains.
References include Oklahoma Historical Society and The American Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist by Annie Heloise Abel
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08C9T8YXQ (for my book about Doakstown)
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08FMM7HYP (the series link)