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General Blunt's decision to restore the Indian refugees in Kansas to their own country precipitated a word war of disagreeable significance between the civil and military authorities. The numbers of the refugees had been very greatly augmented in the course of the summer, notwithstanding the fact that so large a proportion of the men had joined the Indian Expedition. It is true they had not all stayed with it.

The retrograde movement of Colonel Salomon and his failure later on to obey Blunt's order to the letter[548] that he should return to the support of the Indians had disheartened them and many of the enlisted braves had deserted the ranks, as chance offered, and had strayed back to their families in the refugee camps of southern Kansas.[549]

Then the numbers had been augmented in other ways. The Quapaws, who had been early driven from their homes and once restored,[550] had left them again when they found that their country had been denuded of all its portable resources. It was exposed to inroads of many sorts. Even the Federal army preyed upon it and, as all the able-bodied male Quapaws were gradually drawn into that army, there was no way of defending it. Its inhabitants, therefore, returned as exiles to the country around about Leroy.[551]

It was much the same with near neighbors of the Quapaws, with the Senecas and the Seneca-Shawnees. These Indians had been induced to accept one payment of their annuities from the Confederate agent[552] but had later repented their digression from the old allegiance to the United States and had solicited its protection in order that they might remain true. Some of them stayed with Agent Elder near Fort Scott,[553] others moved northward and lived upon the charity of the Shawnees near Lawrence.[554] But those Shawnees were doomed themselves to be depredated upon, especially that group of them known as Black Bob's Band, a band that had been assigned a settlement in Johnson County, adjoining the Missouri border.[555] In August[556] and again in the first week of September[557] guerrillas under Quantrill,[558] crossed over the line and raided the Black Bob lands, robbing the Indians of practically everything they possessed, their clothing, their household goods, their saddles, their ponies, their provisions, and driving the original owners quite away. They fired upon them as they fled and committed atrocities upon the helpless ones who lagged behind. They then raided Olathe.[559] Somewhat earlier, guerrillas had similarly devastated the Kansas Agency, although not to the same extent.[560] The Black Bob Shawnees found a refuge in the western part of the tribal reserve.[561]

Some Wyandot Indians, who before the war had sought and found homes among the Senecas,[562] were robbed of everything they possessed by secessionist Indians,[563] who would not, however, permit them to go in search of relief northward.[564] When all efforts to induce them to throw in their lot with the Confederacy proved unavailing, the strict watch over them was somewhat relaxed and they eventually managed to make their escape. They, too, fled into Kansas. And so did about one hundred Delawares, who had been making their homes in the Cherokee country. In the spring of 1862, they had begun to return destitute to the old reservation[565] but seem not to have been counted refugees until much later in the year.[566] The Delaware Reservation on the northern bank of the Kansas River and very near to Missouri was peculiarly exposed to ravages, horses and cattle being frequently stolen.[567] For that reason and because so much urged thereto by Agent Johnson,[568] who was himself anxious for service, the Delawares were unusually eager to enlist.

The Osages had been induced by Ritchie and others to join the Indian Expedition or to serve as independent scouts.[569] Their families, consequently, found it safe and convenient to become refugees.[570] In July, they formed much the larger part of some five hundred from Elder's agency, who sought succor at Leroy. That did not deter the Osages, however, from offering a temporary abiding-place, within their huge reserve, to the homeless Creeks under Opoeth-le-yo-ho-la.[571]

During the summer the wretched condition of the Indian refugees had, thanks to fresh air, sunlight, and fair weather, been much ameliorated. Disease had obtained so vast a start that the medical service, had it been first-class, which it certainly was not, would otherwise have proved totally inadequate. The physicians in attendance claimed to have from five to eight thousand patients,[572] yet one of them, Dr. S.D. Coffin, found it possible to be often and for relatively long periods absent from his post. Of this the senior physician, Dr. William Kile, made complaint [573] and that circumstance marked the beginning of a serious estrangement between him and Superintendent Coffin.[574]

In August, General Blunt announced his intention of returning the Indian families to their homes.[575] He was convinced that some of the employees of the Indian Office and of the Interior Department were personally profiting by the distribution of supplies to the refugees and that they were conniving with citizens of Kansas in perpetrating a gigantic fraud against the government. The circumstances of the refugees had been well aired in Congress, first in connection with a Senate resolution for their relief.[576] On July fifth, Congress had passed an act suspending annuity appropriations to the tribes in hostility to the United States government and authorizing the president to expend, at discretion, those same annuities in behalf of the refugees.[577] At once, the number[578] of refugees increased and white men rushed forward to obtain contracts for furnishing supplies.

There was a failure of the corn crop in southern Kansas that year and Dr. Kile, appreciating certain facts, that the Indian pony is dear, as is the Arabian horse, to his master, that the Indian ponies were pretty numerous in spite of the decimation of the past winter, and that they would have to be fed upon corn, advised a return to Indian Territory before the cold weather should set in.[579] He communicated with Blunt[580] and found Blunt of the same opinion, so also Cutler[581] and Coleman.[582] Contrariwise was Superintendent Coffin,[583] whose view of the case was strengthened by E.H. Carruth, H.W. Martin,[584] and A.C. Ellithorpe.[585]

In the contest that ensued between the military and civil authorities or between Blunt and Coffin,[586] Coffin triumphed, although Blunt made no concealment of his suspicions of graft and peculation[587] and the moment, following the defeat of the Confederates at old Fort Wayne, seemed rather auspicious for the return of the refugees. In reality, it was not, however; for the Federals were far from possessing Indian Territory and they had no force that they could devote to it exclusively.

Aside from pointing out the military inadequacy, Coffin had chiefly argued that provisions could easily be obtained where the refugees then were; but his opposition to Blunt's suggestion was considerably vitiated by recommendations of his own, soon given, for the removal of the refugees to the Sac and Fox Agency upon the plea that they could not be supported much longer to advantage in southern Kansas. The drouth was the main reason given; but, as Kile had very truly said, the settlers were getting pretty tired of the Indian exiles, whose habits were filthy and who were extremely prodigal in their use of timber. The Sac and Fox Agency was headquarters for the Sacs and Foxes of Mississippi, for the Ottawas, and for the confederated Chippewas and Munsees. C.C. Hutchinson was the agent there and there Perry Fuller, Robert S. Stevens, and other sharpers had their base of operations.

The removal northward was undertaken in October and consummated in a little less than two months; but at an expense that was enormous and in spite of great unwillingness on the part of most of the Indians, who naturally objected to so greatly lengthening the distance between them and their own homes.[588] The refugees were distributed in tribal groups rather generally over the reserves included within the Sac and Fox Agency. At the request of Agent Elder, the Ottawas consented to accommodate the Seneca-Shawnees and the Quapaws, although not without expressing their fears that the dances and carousals of the Quapaws would demoralize their young men[589] and, finally, not without insisting upon a mutual agreement that no spirituous liquors should be brought within the limits of their Reserve under any circumstances whatsoever.[590] The Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws found a lodgment on the Sac and Fox Reservation and the Seminoles fairly close at hand, at Neosho Falls. That was as far north as they could be induced to go.

Of the Cherokees, more needs to be said for they were not so easily disposed of. At various times during the past summer, Cherokees, opposed to, not identified with, or not enthusiastic in the Confederate cause, had escaped from Indian Territory and had collected on the Neutral Lands. Every Confederate reverse or Federal triumph, no matter how slight, had proved a signal for flight. By October, the Cherokee refugees on the Neutral Lands were reported to be nearly two thousand in number, which, allowing for some exaggeration for the sake of getting a larger portion of relief, was a goodly section of the tribal population.[591] At the end of October, Superintendent Coffin paid them a visit and urged them to remove to the Sac and Fox Agency, whither the majority of their comrades in distress were at that very moment going.[592] The Cherokees refused; for General Blunt had given them his word that, if he were successful in penetrating the Indian Territory, they should at once go home.[593] Not long after Coffin's departure, their camp on Drywood Creek, about twelve miles south of Fort Scott, was raided by guerrillas;[594] but even that had no effect upon their determination to remain. The Neutral Lands, although greatly intruded upon by white people, were legally their own and they declined to budge from them at the instance of Superintendent Coffin.

Arrangements were undertaken for supplying the Cherokee refugees with material relief;[595] but scarcely had anything been done to that end when, to Coffin's utter surprise, as he said, the military authorities "took forcible possession of them" and had them all conveyed to Neosho, Missouri, presumably out of his reach. But Coffin would not release his hold and detailed the new Cherokee agent, James Harlan,[596] and Special Agent A.G. Proctor to follow them there.

John Ross, his family, and a few friends were, meanwhile, constituting another kind of refugee in the eastern part of the United States.[597] and were criticized by some of their opponents for living in too sumptuous a manner.[598]

The removal, under military supervision, of the Cherokee refugees, had some justification in various facts, Blunt's firm conviction that Coffin and his instigators or abettors were exploiting the Indian service, that the refugees at Leroy were not being properly cared for, and that those on the Neutral Lands had put themselves directly under the protection of the army.[599] His then was the responsibility. When planning his second Indian Expedition, Blunt had discovered that the Indian men were not at all inclined to accompany it unless they could have some stronger guarantee than any yet given that their families would be well looked after in their absence. They had returned from the first expedition to find their women and children and aged men, sick, ill-fed, and unhappy.

It was with knowledge of such things and with the hope that they would soon be put a stop to and their repetition prevented by a return of the refugees to Indian Territory, that John Ross, in October, made a personal appeal to President Lincoln and interceded with him to send a military force down, sufficient to over-awe the Confederates and to take actual possession of the land. Lincoln's sympathies and sense of justice were immediately aroused and he inquired of General Curtis, in the field, as to the practicability of occupying "the Cherokee country consistently with the public service."[600] Curtis evaded the direct issue, which was the Federal obligation to protect its wards, by boasting that he had just driven the enemy into the Indian Territory "and beyond" and by doubting "the expediency of occupying ground so remote from supplies."[601]

General Blunt's force continued to hold the northeastern part of the Cherokee country until the end of October when it fell back, crossed the line, and moved along the Bentonville road in order to meet its supply train from Fort Scott.[602] Blunt's division finally took its stand on Prairie Creek[603] and, on the twelfth of November, made its main camp on Lindsay's prairie, near the Indian boundary.[604] The rout of Cooper at Fort Wayne had shaken the faith of many Indians in the invincibility of the Confederate arms. They had disbanded and gone home, declaring "their purpose to join the Federal troops the first opportunity" that presented itself.[605] To secure them and to reconnoitre once more, Colonel Phillips had started out near the beginning of November and, from the third to the fifth, had made his way down through the Cherokee Nation, by way of Tahlequah and Park Hill, to Webber's Falls on the Arkansas.[606] His return was by Dwight's Mission. His view of the country through which he passed must have been discouraging.[607] There was little to subsist upon and the few Indians lingering there were in a deplorable state of deprivation, little food, little clothing[608] and it was winter-time.

So desolate and abandoned did the Cherokee country appear that General Blunt considered it would be easily possible to hold it with his Indian force alone, three regiments, yet he said no more about the immediate return of the refugees,[609] but issued an order for their removal to Neosho. The wisdom of his action might well be questioned since the expense of supporting them there would be immeasurably greater than in Kansas[610] unless, indeed, the military authorities intended to assume the entire charge of them.[611] Special Agent Martin regarded some talk that was rife of letting them forage upon the impoverished people of Missouri as sheer humbug. The army was not doing that and why should the defenceless Indians be expected to do it. As it was, they seem to have been reduced to plundering in Kansas.[612] On the whole, it is difficult to explain Blunt's plan for the concentration of the Cherokee refugees at Neosho, since there were, at the time, many indications that Hindman was considering another advance and an invasion of southwest Missouri.

The November operations of the Federals in northeastern Arkansas were directed toward arresting Hindman's progress, if progress were contemplated. Meanwhile, Phillips with detachments of his Indian brigade was continuing his reconnoissances and, when word came that Stand Watie had ventured north of the Arkansas, Blunt sent him to compel a recrossing.[613] Stand Watie's exploit was undoubtedly a preliminary to a general Confederate plan for the recovery of northwestern Arkansas and the Indian Territory, a plan, which Blunt, vigorous and aggressive, was determined to circumvent. In the action at Cane Hill,[614] the latter part of November, and in the Battle of Prairie Grove,[615] December seventh, the mettle of the Federals was put to a severe test which it stood successfully and Blunt's cardinal purpose was fully accomplished.[616] In both engagements, the Indians played a part and played it conspicuously and well, the northern regiments so well,[617] indeed, that shortly afterwards two additional ones, the Fourth and the Fifth, were projected.[618] Towards the end of the year, Phillips, whom Blunt had sent upon another excursion into Indian Territory,[619] could report that Stand Watie and Cooper had been pushed considerably below the Arkansas, that many of the buildings at Fort Davis had been demolished,[620] that one of the Creek regiments was about to retire from the Confederate service, and that the Choctaws, once so deeply committed, were wavering in their allegiance to the South.[621]