Camejo on Indians and Civil War

Richard Fidler rfidler at
Thu Jul 10 18:06:40 MDT 2003


>> The civil war was, in the first place, a war over which social
classes  would do the primitive accumulating (the social classes of the
North united  in this war against the Indians, or the slaveowners, big
and small, of the  south.)

How it affected the West, from the war between the USA and Indian
tribes,  to the way it affected relations among the tribes, would be an
interesting  contribution to this discussion. If anyone on the list
knows about these  things, and has time to make a contribution, I for
one would like to read it. <<


It certainly isn't the last word on the matter, but here is what Camejo
says in Racism, Revolution, Reaction, 1861-1877: The Rise and Fall of
Radical Reconstruction, in a passage immediately following the excerpt I
posted earlier (pp. 29-30):

A Note on Native Americans and the Civil War

Both the Union and the Confederacy sought to gain the support of the
Native Americans. Neither met with much success. The Confederates made
more headway because of a combination of factors. Most of the Indians
who became involved in the Civil War lived in areas contiguous to
Confederate territory. There were some Indian groups which owned Black
slaves and the alavocracy was able to appeal to them on that basis.
Another consideration favorable to the Confederates that carried weight
with some Native Americans was that a divided white world would make it
easier for them to protect their own lands.

The Kiowas, Comanches, Choctaws, Chickasaws, most Seminoles, and some
Cherokees fought for the Confederacy. Some 3,000 Indian troops,
including some Cherokees and over 600 Iroquois, fought for the Union.

Some Cherokees took advantage of the war to make their own declaration
of independence from the United States. The Apaches refused to support
either side and, like many other Indian peoples, took the offensive
instead against both sides to protect their own interests. In 1862
starvation conditions in Minnesota brought on by thieving white traders
and broken agreements by the Union government led to an uprising of the
Sioux. They fought to get supplies on which to survive the coming
winter. They killed 400 white settlers and drove off 20,000 others. The
Union army was forced to take troops from the Southern front and send
them against the Sioux.

In what is today called the Southwest, both Confederate and Union troops
raided the Indians, stealing cattle, other livestock, and crops. As the
Indians fought back, the Union found itself again forced to send troops
westward to fight the Navajos and Cheyennes, as well as the Apaches and

The Civil War historically began the last wave of the long genocidal war
against the Native Americans.

The Union offered Confederate prisoners freedom if they would volunteer
to fight the Indians. After the war many Union soldiers deserted to
avoid having to fight in the West. The army, drawing on both Union and
Confederate veterans, sent large numbers of troops, including even one
all-Black regiment, west. The generals involved in the westward turn of
the army after the Civil War included the top commanders, such as
Generals Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan. General W. S. Hancock, who stood
by while Blacks were murdered by terrorists in the region his troops
occupied in the South after the war, became notorious in 1867 for
burning Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Sioux villages. He topped off his record
by murdering workers back East in cold blood in the 1877 strikes and, as
a reward for all his services, was given the presidential nomination of
the Democratic Party in 1880.

In the general radicalization at the end of the Civil War, demands arose
for more humane treatment of the Indians, but not much came of this
reform movement. Later, as reaction triumphed throughout the country,
the drive for an openly genocidal policy gained momentum. From 1866 to
1876 some 200 military engagements, primarily with the Sioux, took
place. In 1877 the Nez Percé rose up under Chief Joseph and made their
heroic 1,000-mile retreat, pursued by three white armies, to within
fifty miles of the Canadian border and the hoped-for sanctuary, before
they were defeated. Thereafter there were fewer battles, most of them
against the Apaches. On December 29, 1890, came the brutal massacre of
Sioux at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

To the new industrial capitalist rulers, Native Americans, like the
slavocracy, represented an obstacle to their total triumph and
unrestrained exploitation of the entire country from one shore to the

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