- When the Civil War broke out, the so-called Five Civilized Indian Tribes, which included the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole, had to decide if they would maintain the treaties they had with the Union or if they would side with the new Confederacy.
- Many powerful Indians enslaved other people. In addition, the Indian officials who had worked with the tribes were largely Southern men. This led many to align themselves with the Confederacy when the war started.
- Many other Indians, however, had begun to see the Union as an ally. They had signed treaties with the Federal government, which had maintained stability in the tribes for a long time. This fact encouraged many to remain loyal to the Union.
- The split in allegiance resulted in Indians fighting for both sides. Within Missouri, only Confederate Indians participated in the conflict, serving under the leadership of Confederate general Stand Watie.
Confederate Gen. Stand Watie and the Cherokee Mounted Rifles
- Stand Watie was born December 12, 1806, in what is now Georgia.
- He was educated at the Moravian Mission School and supported the Cherokee removal to Oklahoma. Eventually, those who opposed the removal were forcibly removed in the event known as the Trail of Tears.
- In May 1861, Gen. Benjamin McCulloch was put in charge of the Military District of Indian Territory. He was instructed to raise three regiments from the Five Civilized Indian Tribes.
- Watie volunteered to lead a regiment of Cherokees. On July 29, 1861, the first Cherokee regiment was organized and would become known as the Cherokee Mounted Rifles.
- They would fight at the battles of Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, and Newtonia in Missouri. Watie was the last Confederate general to surrender, on June 23, 1865, after the Battle of Doaksville.