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That the fate of the outlying colonies of the United States should have aroused grave concerns at the beginning of the Civil War is not surprising. California and Oregon, Carson City, Denver, and the other mining camps were indeed on the same continent with the contending factions, but the degree of their isolation was so great that they might as well have been separated by an ocean.

Their inhabitants were more mixed than those of any portion of the older states, while in several of the communities the parties were so evenly divided as to raise doubts of the loyalty of the whole. "The malignant secession element of this Territory," wrote Governor Gilpin of Colorado, in October, 1861, "has numbered 7,500. It has been ably and secretly organized from November last, and requires extreme and extraordinary measures to meet and control its onslaught." At best, the western population was scanty and scattered over a frontier that still possessed its virgin character in most respects, though hovering at the edge of a period of transition. An English observer, hopeful for the worst, announced in the middle of the war that "When that 'late lamented institution,' the once United States, shall have passed away, and when, after this detestable and fratricidal war--the most disgraceful to human nature that civilization ever witnessed--the New World shall be restored to order and tranquility, our shikaris will not forget, that a single fortnight of comfortable travel suffices to transport them from fallow deer and pheasant shooting to the haunts of the bison and the grizzly bear. There is little chance of these animals being 'improved off' the Prairies, or even of their becoming rare during the lifetime of the present generation." The factors of most consequence in shaping the course of the great plains during the Civil War were those of mixed population, of ever present Indian danger, and of isolation. Though the plains had no effect upon the outcome of the war, the war furthered the work already under way of making known the West, clearing off the Indians, and preparing for future settlement.

Like the rest of the United States the West was organized into military divisions for whose good order commanding officers were made responsible. At times the burden of military control fell chiefly upon the shoulders of territorial governors; again, special divisions were organized to meet particular needs, and generals of experience were detached from the main armies to direct movements in the West.

Among the earliest of the episodes which drew attention to the western departments was the resignation of Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding the Department of the Pacific, and his rather spectacular flight across New Mexico, to join the confederate forces. From various directions, federal troops were sent to head him off, but he succeeded in evading all these and reaching safety at the Rio Grande by August 1. Here he could take an overland stage for the rest of his journey. The department which he abandoned included the whole West beyond the Rockies except Utah and present New Mexico. The country between the mountains and Missouri constituted the Department of the West. As the war advanced, new departments were created and boundaries were shifted at convenience. The Department of the Pacific remained an almost constant quantity throughout. A Department of the Northwest, covering the territory of the Sioux Indians, was created in September, 1862, for the better defence of Minnesota and Wisconsin. To this command Pope was assigned after his removal from the command of the Army of Virginia. Until the close of the war, when the great leaders were distributed and Sheridan received the Department of the Southwest, no detail of equal importance was made to a western department.

The fighting on the plains was rarely important enough to receive the dignified name of battle. There were plenty of marching and reconnoitring, much police duty along the trails, occasional skirmishes with organized troops or guerrillas, aggressive campaigns against the Indians, and campaigns in defence of the agricultural frontier. But the armies so occupied were small and inexperienced. Commonly regiments of local volunteers were used in these movements, or returned captives who were on parole to serve no more against the confederacy. Disciplined veterans were rarely to be found. As a consequence of the spasmodic character of the plains warfare and the inferior quality of the troops available, western movements were often hampered and occasionally made useless.

The struggle for the Rio Grande was as important as any of the military operations on the plains. At the beginning of the war the confederate forces seized the river around El Paso in time to make clear the way for Johnston as he hurried east. The Tucson country was occupied about the same time, so that in the fall of 1861 the confederate outposts were somewhat beyond the line of Texas and the Rio Grande, with New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado threatened. In December General Henry Hopkins Sibley assumed command of the confederate troops in the upper Rio Grande, while Colonel E. R. S. Canby, from Fort Craig, organized the resistance against further extension of the confederate power.

Sibley's manifest intentions against the upper Rio Grande country, around Santa Fé and Albuquerque, aroused federal apprehensions in the winter of 1862. Governor Gilpin, at Denver, was already frightened at the danger within his own territory, and scarcely needed the order which came from Fort Leavenworth through General Hunter to reënforce Canby and look after the Colorado forts. He took responsibility easily, drew upon the federal treasury for funds which had not been allowed him, and shortly had the first Colorado, and a part of the second Colorado volunteers marching south to join the defensive columns. It is difficult to define this march in terms applicable to movements of war. At least one soldier in the second Colorado took with him two children and a wife, the last becoming the historian of the regiment and praising the chivalry of the soldiers, apparently oblivious of the fact that it is not a soldier's duty to be child's nurse to his comrade's family. But with wife and children, and the degree of individualism and insubordination which these imply, the Pike's Peak frontiersmen marched south to save the territory. Their patriotism at least was sure.

As Sibley pushed up the river, passing Fort Craig and brushing aside a small force at Valverde, the Colorado forces reached Fort Union. Between Fort Union and Albuquerque, which Sibley entered easily, was the turning-point in the campaign. On March 26, 1862, Major J. M. Chivington had a successful skirmish at Johnson's ranch in Apache Cañon, about twenty miles southeast of Santa Fé. Two days later, at Pigeon's ranch, a more decisive check was given to the confederates, but Colonel John P. Slough, senior volunteer in command, fell back upon Fort Union after the engagement, while the confederates were left free to occupy Santa Fé. A few days later Slough was deposed in the Colorado regiment, Chivington made colonel, and the advance on Santa Fé begun again. Sibley, now caught between Canby advancing from Fort Craig and Chivington coming through Apache Cañon from Fort Union, evacuated Santa Fé on April 7, falling back to Albuquerque. The union troops, taking Santa Fé on April 12, hurried down the Rio Grande after Sibley in his final retreat. New Mexico was saved, and its security brought tranquillity to Colorado. The Colorado volunteers were back in Denver for the winter of 1862-1863, but Gilpin, whose vigorous and independent support had made possible their campaign, had been dismissed from his post as governor.

Along the frontier of struggle campaigns of this sort occurred from time to time, receiving little attention from the authorities who were directing weightier movements at the centre. Less formal than these, and more provocative of bitter feeling, were the attacks of guerrillas along the central frontier,--chiefly the Missouri border and eastern Kansas. Here the passions of the struggle for Kansas had not entirely cooled down, southern sympathizers were easily found, and communities divided among themselves were the more intense in their animosities.

The Department of Kansas, where the most aggravated of these guerrilla conflicts occurred, was organized in November, 1861, under Major-general Hunter. From his headquarters at Leavenworth the commanding officer directed the affairs of Kansas, Nebraska, Dakota, Colorado, and "the Indian Territory west of Arkansas." The department was often shifted and reshaped to meet the needs of the frontier. A year later the Department of the Northwest was cut away from it, after the Sioux outbreak, its own name was changed to Missouri, and the states of Missouri and Arkansas were added to it. Still later it was modified again. But here throughout the war continued the troubles produced by the mixture of frontier and farm-lands, partisan whites and Indians.

Bushwhacking, a composite of private murder and public attack, troubled the Kansas frontier from an early period of the war. It was easily aroused because of public animosities, and difficult to suppress because its participating parties retired quickly into the body of peace-professing citizens. In it, asserted General Order No. 13, of June 26, 1862, "rebel fiends lay in wait for their prey to assassinate Union soldiers and citizens; it is therefore ... especially directed that whenever any of this class of offenders shall be captured, they shall not be treated as prisoners of war but be summarily tried by drumhead court-martial, and if proved guilty, be executed ... on the spot."

In August, 1863, occurred Quantrill's notable raid into Kansas to terrify the border which was already harassed enough. The old border hatred between Kansas and Missouri had been intensified by the "murders, robberies, and arson" which had characterized the irregular warfare carried on by both sides. In western Missouri, loyal unionists were not safe outside the federal lines; here the guerrillas came and went at pleasure; and here, about August 18, Quantrill assembled a band of some three hundred men for a foray into Kansas. On the 20th he entered Kansas, heading at once for Lawrence, which he surprised on the 21st. Although the city arsenal contained plenty of arms and the town could have mustered 500 men on "half an hour's notice," the guerrilla band met no resistance. It "robbed most of the stores and banks, and burned one hundred and eighty-five buildings, including one-fourth of the private residences and nearly all of the business houses of the town, and, with circumstances of the most fiendish atrocity, murdered 140 unarmed men." The retreat of Quantrill was followed by a vigorous federal pursuit and a partial devastation of the adjacent Missouri counties. Kansas, indignant, was in arms at once, protesting directly to President Lincoln of the "imbecility and incapacity" of Major-general John M. Schofield, commanding the Department of the Missouri, "whose policy has opened Kansas to invasion and butchery." Instead of carrying out an unimpeded pursuit of the guerrillas, Schofield had to devote his strength to keeping the state of Kansas from declaring war against and wreaking indiscriminate vengeance upon the state of Missouri. A year after Quantrill's raid came Price's Missouri expedition, with its pitched battles near Kansas City and Westport, and its pursuit through southern Missouri, where confederate sympathizers and the partisan politics of this presidential year made punitive campaigns anything but easy.

Carleton's march into New Mexico has already been described in connection with the mining boom of Arizona. The silver mines of the Santa Cruz Valley had drawn American population to Tubac and Tucson several years before the war; while the confederate successes in the upper Rio Grande in the summer of 1861 had compelled federal evacuation of the district. Colonel E. R. S. Canby devoted the small force at his command to regaining the country around Albuquerque and Santa Fé, while the relief of the forts between the Rio Grande and the Colorado was intrusted to Carleton's California Column. After May, 1862, Carleton was firmly established in Tucson, and later he was given command of the whole Department of New Mexico. Of fighting with the confederates there was almost none. He prosecuted, instead, Apache and Navaho wars, and exploited the new gold fields which were now found. In much of the West, as in his New Mexico, occasional ebullitions of confederate sympathizers occurred, but the military task of the commanders was easy.

The military problem of the plains was one of police, with the extinction of guerrilla warfare and the pacification of Indians as its chief elements. The careers of Canby, Carleton, and Gilpin indicate the nature of the western strategic warfare, Schofield's illustrates that of guerrilla fighting, the Minnesota outbreak that of the Indian relations.

In the Northwest, where the agricultural expansion of the fifties had worked so great changes, the pressure on the tribes had steadily increased. In 1851 the Sioux bands had ceded most of their territory in Minnesota, and had agreed upon a reduced reserve in the St. Peter's, or Minnesota, Valley. But the terms of this treaty had been delayed in enforcement, while bad management on the part of the United States and the habitual frontier disregard of Indian rights created tense feelings, which might break loose at any time. No single grievance of the Indians caused more trouble than that over traders' claims. The improvident savages bought largely of the traders, on credit, at extortionate prices. The traders could afford the risk because when treaties of cession were made, their influence was generally able to get inserted in the treaty a clause for satisfying claims against individuals out of the tribal funds before these were handed over to the savages. The memory of the savage was short, and when he found that his allowance, the price for his lands, had gone into the traders' pockets, he could not realize that it had gone to pay his debts, but felt, somehow, defrauded. The answer would have been to prevent trade with the Indians on credit. But the traders' influence at Washington was great. It would be an interesting study to investigate the connection between traders' bills and agitation for new cessions, since the latter generally meant satisfaction of the former.

Among the Sioux there were factional feelings that had aroused the apprehensions of their agents before the war broke out. The "blanket" Indians continually mocked at the "farmers" who took kindly to the efforts of the United States for their agricultural civilization. There was civil strife among the progressives and irreconcilables which made it difficult to say what was the disposition of the whole nation. The condition was so unstable that an accidental row, culminating in the murder of five whites at Acton, in Meeker County, brought down the most serious Indian massacre the frontier had yet seen.

There was no more occasion for a general uprising in 1862 than there had been for several years. The wiser Indians realized the futility of such a course. Yet Little Crow, inclined though he was to peace, fell in with the radicals as the tribe discussed their policy; and he determined that since a massacre had been commenced they had best make it as thorough as possible. Retribution was certain whether they continued war or not, and the farmer Indians were unlikely to be distinguished from the blankets by angry frontiersmen. The attack fell first upon the stores at the lower agency, twenty miles above Fort Ridgely, whence refugee whites fled to Fort Ridgely with news of the outbreak. All day, on the 18th of August, massacres occurred along the St. Peter's, from near New Ulm to the Yellow Medicine River. The incidents of Indian war were all there, in surprise, slaughter of women and children, mutilation and torture.

The next day, Tuesday the 19th, the increasing bands fell upon the rambling village of New Ulm, twenty-eight miles above Mankato, where fugitives had gathered and where Judge Charles E. Flandrau hastily organized a garrison for defence. He had been at St. Peter's when the news arrived, and had led a relief band through the drenching rain, reaching New Ulm in the evening. On Wednesday afternoon Little Crow, his band still growing--the Sioux could muster some 1300 warriors--surprised Fort Ridgely, though with no success. On Thursday he renewed the attack with a force now dwindling because of individual plundering expeditions which drew his men to various parts of the neighboring country. On Friday he attacked once more.

On Saturday the 23d Little Crow came down the river again to renew his fight upon New Ulm, which, unmolested since Tuesday, had been increasing its defences. Here Judge Flandrau led out the whites in a pitched battle. A few of his men were old frontiersmen, cool and determined, of unerring aim; but most were German settlers, recently arrived, and often terrified by their new experiences. During the week of horrors the depredations covered the Minnesota frontier and lapped over into Iowa and Dakota. Isolated families, murdered and violated, or led captive into the wilderness, were common. Stories of those who survived these dangers form a large part of the local literature of this section of the Northwest. At New Ulm the situation had become so desperate that on the 25th Flandrau evacuated the town and led its whole remaining population to safety at Mankato.

Long before the week of suffering was over, aid had been started to the harassed frontier. Governor Ramsey, of Minnesota, hurried to Mendota, and there organized a relief column to move up the Minnesota Valley. Henry Hastings Sibley, quite different from him of Rio Grande fame, commanded the column and reached St. Peter's with his advance on Friday. By Sunday he had 1400 men with whom to quiet the panic and restore peace and repopulate the deserted country. He was now joined by Ignatius Donnelly, Lieutenant-governor, sent to urge greater speed. The advance was resumed. By Friday, the 29th, they had reached Fort Ridgely, passing through country "abandoned by the inhabitants; the houses, in many cases, left with the doors open, the furniture undisturbed, while the cattle ranged about the doors or through the cultivated fields." The country had been settled up to the very edge of the Fort Ridgely reserve. It was entirely deserted, though only partially devastated. Donnelly commented in his report upon the prayer-books and old German trunks of "Johann Schwartz," strewn upon the ground in one place; and upon bodies found, "bloated, discolored, and far gone in decomposition." The Indian agent, Thomas J. Galbraith, who was at Fort Ridgely during the trouble, reported in 1863, that 737 whites were known to have been massacred.

Sibley, having reached Fort Ridgely, proceeded at first to reconnoitre and bury the dead, then to follow the Indians and rescue the captives. More than once the tribes had found that it was wise to carry off prisoners, who by serving as hostages might mollify or prevent punishment for the original outbreak. Early in September there were pitched battles at Birch Coolie and Fort Abercrombie and Wood Lake. At this last engagement, on September 23, Sibley was able not only to defeat the tribes and take nearly 2000 prisoners, but to release 227 women and children, who had been the "prime object," from whose "pursuit nothing could drive or divert him." The Indians were handed over under arrest to Agent Galbraith to be conveyed first to the Lower Agency, and then, in November, to Fort Snelling.

The punishment of the Sioux was heavy. Inkpaduta's massacre at Spirit Lake was still remembered and unavenged. Sibley now cut them down in battle in 1862, though Little Crow and other leaders escaped. In 1863, Pope, who had been called to command a new department in the Northwest, organized a general campaign against the tribes, sending Sibley up the Minnesota River to drive them west, and Sully up the Missouri to head them off, planning to catch and crush them between the two columns. The manoeuvre was badly timed and failed, while punishment drifted gradually into a prolonged war.

Civil retribution was more severe, and fell, with judicial irony, on the farmer Sioux who had been drawn reluctantly into the struggle. At the Lower Agency, at Redwood, the captives were held, while more than four hundred of their men were singled out for trial for murder. Nothing is more significant of the anomalous nature of the Indian relation than this trial for murder of prisoners of war. The United States held the tribes nationally to account, yet felt free to punish individuals as though they were citizens of the United States. The military commission sat at Redwood for several weeks with the missionary and linguist, Rev. S. R. Riggs, "in effect, the Grand Jury of the court." Three hundred and three were condemned to death by the court for murder, rape, and arson, their condemnation starting a wave of protest over the country, headed by the Indian Commissioner, W. P. Dole. To the indignation of the frontier, naturally revengeful and never impartial, President Lincoln yielded to the protests in the case of most of the condemned. Yet thirty-eight of them were hanged on a single scaffold at Mankato on December 26, 1862. The innocent and uncondemned were punished also, when Congress confiscated all their Minnesota reserve in 1863, and transferred the tribe to Fort Thompson on the Missouri, where less desirable quarters were found for them.

All along the edge of the frontier, from Minnesota to the Rio Grande, were problems that drew the West into the movement of the Civil War. The situation was trying for both whites and Indians, but nowhere did the Indians suffer between the millstones as they did in the Indian Territory, where the Cherokee and Creeks, Choctaw and Chickasaw and Seminole, had been colonized in the years of creation of the Indian frontier. For a generation these nations had resided in comparative peace and advancing civilization, but they were undone by causes which they could not control.

The confederacy was no sooner organized than its commissioners demanded of the tribes colonized west of Arkansas their allegiance and support, professing to have inherited all the rights and obligations of the United States. To the Indian leaders, half civilized and better, this demand raised difficulties which would have been a strain on any diplomacy. If they remained loyal to the United States, the confederate forces, adjacent in Arkansas and Texas, and already coveting their lands, would cut them to pieces. If they adhered to the confederacy and the latter lost, they might anticipate the resentment of the United States. Yet they were too weak to stand alone and were forced to go one way or other. The resulting policy was temporizing and brought to them a large measure of punishment from both sides, and the heavy subsequent wrath of the United States.

John Ross, principal chief in the Cherokee nation, tried to maintain his neutrality at the commencement of the conflict, but the fiction of Indian nationality was too slight for his effort to be successful. During the spring and summer of 1861 he struggled against the confederate control to which he succumbed by August, when confederate troops had overrun most of Indian Territory, and disloyal Indian agents had surrendered United States property to the enemy. The war which followed resembled the guerrilla conflicts of Kansas, with the addition of the Indian element.

By no means all the Indians accepted the confederate control. When the Indian Territory forts--Gibson, Arbuckle, Washita, and Cobb--fell into the hands of the South, loyal Indians left their homes and sought protection within the United States lines. Almost the only way to fight a war in which a population is generally divided, is by means of depopulation and concentration. Along the Verdigris River, in southeast Kansas, these Indian refugees settled in 1861 and 1862, to the number of 6000. Here the Indian Commissioner fed them as best he could, and organized them to fight when that was possible. With the return of federal success in the occupation of Fort Smith and western Arkansas during the next two years, the natives began to return to their homes. But the relation of their tribes to the United States was tainted. The compulsory cession of their western lands which came at the close of the conflict belongs to a later chapter and the beginnings of Oklahoma. Here, as elsewhere, the condition of the tribes was permanently changed.

The great plains and the Far West were only the outskirts of the Civil War. At no time did they shape its course, for the Civil War was, from their point of view, only an incidental sectional contest in the East, and merely an episode in the grander development of the United States. The way is opening ever wider for the historian who shall see in this material development and progress of civilization the central thread of American history, and in accordance with it, retail the story. But during the years of sectional strife the West was occasionally connected with the struggle, while toward their close it passed rapidly into a period in which it came to be the admitted centre of interest. The last stand of the Indians against the onrush of settlement is a warfare with an identity of its own.