Camejo on Indians and Civil War

Mark Lause MLause at
Thu Jul 10 22:03:53 MDT 2003

This stuff on the Indians is really riddled with neo-Confederate
regional boosterism.  I'll just talk about this in relation to the
so-called "Five Civilized Nations" which had been removed to present
Oklahoma.  They were removed by Jacksonian
Democratic--Southern--policies.  The Democrats ran the Office of Indian
Affairs for a generation and made it the most notoriously corrupt part
of a particularly corrupt regime.

The Republican coalition entered this area with very mixed and dynamic
views on Indians.  Seward was very explicitly antislavery and also very
anti-Indian, but Lincoln had moderately antislavery views and talked
about the need to reorder Indian relations.  The incoming administration
assigned Augustus Wattles in 1861 to function as a kind of de facto
Republican commissar to handle army relations with the Indians.  Wattles
was not only an abolitionist but a veteran Fourierist.

Initially, Indian allegiances had more to do with internal factional
divisions than the national conflict.  Most clearly hoped to stay out of
the war, but small factions in each of the nations saw a Confederate
alliance as a means of taking control from the dominant faction--or
remaining a dominant faction.  Clearly, most of the Indian leaderships
were quite happy not to be involved in the war.

Still, the Unionists were content to have the Indian nations remain
neutral, while the Confederates simply occupied the Indian nations.  The
Confederates moved in, drafted the Indian men, in effect, and created a
massive refugee problem as much of territory's population fled north
into Kansas and Missouri.  The Federals initially armed the Indians of
the territory as a Home Guard not for military service elsewhere.

The war was a great tragedy for the native peoples caught between the
two sides.  After Lincoln's murder, the Johnson administration did what
Lincoln said repeatedly should not be done--they recognized the
secessionist juntas that had taken power in the nations as the
legitimate governments.  This was a way to abrogate the treaties in the
interests of turning much of the land over to the railroads and to
redraw tribal boundaries to permit more tribes to be resettled there.

Later, after the territory was opened to the whites, the territory
became overwhelmingly Democratic and rediscovered its Confederate
heritage...without noting that it had been imposed upon it.  Annie
Abel's trilogy from the 1910s and 20s is still the most accurate account
of what happened in the territory, though I'd add Wiley Britton's UNION
INDIAN BRIGADE, recently reprinted by Kansas.

Mark L.

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