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The assignment of General Maxey to the command of Indian Territory invigorated Confederate administration north of the Red River, the only part of the country in undisputed occupancy. Close upon the assumption of his new duties, came a project[897] for sweeping reforms, involving army reorganization, camps of instruction for the Indian soldiery, a more general enlistment, virtually conscription, of Indians--this upon the theory that "Whosoever is not for us is against us"--the selection of more competent and reliable staff officers, and the adoption of such a plan of offensive operations as would mean the retaking of Forts Smith and Gibson.[898]

To Maxey, thoroughly familiar with the geography of the region, the surrender of those two places appeared as a gross error in military technique; for the Arkansas River was a natural line of defence, the Red was not. "If the Indian Territory gives way," argued he, "the granary of the Trans-Mississippi Department, the breadstuffs, and beef of this and the Arkansas army are gone, the left flank of Holmes' army is turned, and with it not only the meat and bread, but the salt and iron of what is left of the Trans-Mississippi Department."[899]

Army reorganization was an immense proposition and was bound to be a difficult undertaking under the most favorable of auspices, yet it stood as fundamental to everything else. Upon what lines ought it to proceed? One possibility was, the formation of the two brigades, with Stand Watie and Cooper individually in command, which had already been suggested to General Smith and favored by him; but which had recently been found incompatible with his latest recommendation that all the Indian troops should be commanded, _in toto_, by Cooper.[900] One feature of great importance in its favor it had in that it did not ostensibly run counter to the Indian understanding of their treaties that white troops should be always associated with Indian in the guaranteed protection of the Indian country, which was all very well but scarcely enough to balance an insuperable objection, which Cooper, when consulted, pointed out.[901] The Indians had a strong aversion to any military consolidation that involved the elimination of their separate tribal characters. They had allied themselves with the Confederacy as nations and as nations they wished to fight. Moreover, due regard ought always to be given, argued Cooper, to their tribal prejudices, their preferences, call them what one will, and to their historical neighborhood alliances. Choctaws and Chickasaws might well stay together and Creeks and Seminoles; but woe betide the contrivance that should attempt the amalgamation of Choctaws and Cherokees.

It seems a little strange that the Indians should so emphasize their national individualism at this particular time, inasmuch as six of them, the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, and Caddo, professing to be still in strict alliance with the Southern States, had formed an Indian confederacy, had collectively re-asserted their allegiance, pledged their continued support, and made reciprocal demands. All these things they had done in a joint, or general, council, which had been held at Armstrong Academy the previous November. Resolutions of the council, embodying the collective pledges and demands, were even at this very moment under consideration by President Davis and were having not a little to do with his attitude toward the whole Maxey programme.

In the matter of army reorganization, Smith was prepared to concede to Maxey a large discretion.[902] The brigading that would most comfortably fit in with the nationalistic feelings of the Indians and, at the same time, accord, in spirit, with treaty obligations and also make it possible for Cooper to have a supreme command of the Indian forces in the field was that which Cooper himself advocated, the same that Boudinot took occasion, at this juncture, to urge upon President Davis.[903] It was a plan for three distinct Indian brigades, a Cherokee, a Creek-Seminole, and a Choctaw-Chickasaw. Maxey thought "it would be a fine recruiting order,"[904] yet, notwithstanding, he gave his preference for the two brigade plan.[905] The promotion of Cooper, implicit in the three brigade plan, was not at all pleasing to General Smith; for he thought of it as reflecting upon Steele, whom he loyally described as having "labored conscientiously and faithfully in the discharge of his duties."[906] With Steele removed from the scene[907]--and he was soon removed for he had been retained in the Indian country only that Maxey might have for a brief season the benefit of his experience[908]--the case was altered and Boudinot again pressed his point,[909] obtaining, finally, the assurance of the War Department that so soon as the number of Indian regiments justified the organization of three brigades they should be formed.[910]

The formation of brigades was only one of the Indian demands that had emanated from the general council. Another was, the establishment of Indian Territory as a military department, an arrangement altogether inadvisable and for better reasons than the one reason that Davis offered when he addressed the united nations through their principal chiefs on the twenty-second of February.[911] Davis's reason was that as a separate department Indian Territory could not count upon the protection of the forces belonging to the Trans-Mississippi Department that was assured to her while she remained one of its integral parts. A distinct military district she should certainly be.

When Davis wrote, the ambition of Cooper had, in a measure, been satisfied; for he had been put in command of all "the Indian troops in the Trans-Mississippi Department on the borders of Arkansas."[912] It was by no means all he wanted or all that he felt himself entitled to and he soon let it be known that such was the state of affairs. He tried to presume upon the fact that his commission as superintendent of Indian affairs had issued from the government, although never actually delivered to him, and, in virtue of it, he was in military command.[913] The quietus came from General Smith, who informed Cooper that his new command and he himself were under Maxey.[914]

It was hoped that prospective Indian brigades would be a powerful incentive to Indian enlistment and so they proved. Moreover, much was expected in that direction from the reassembling of the general council at Armstrong Academy, and much had to be; for the times were critical. Maxey's position was not likely to be a sinecure. As a friend wrote him,

    Northern Texas and the Indian Department have been neglected so long that they have become the most difficult and the most responsible commands in the Trans-Mississippi Department. I tremble for you. A great name is in store for you or you fall into the rank of failures; the latter may be your fate, and might be the fate of any man, even after an entire and perfect devotion of all one's time and talent, for want of the proper means. In military matters these things are never considered. Success is the only criterion--a good rule, upon the whole, though in many instances it works great injustice. Good and deserving men fall, and accidental heroes rise in the scale, kicking their less fortunate brothers from the platform.[915]

With a view to strengthening the Indian alliance and accomplishing all that was necessary to make it effective, Commissioner Scott was ordered by Seddon to attend the meeting of the general council.[916] Unfortunately, he did not arrive at Armstrong Academy in time, most unfortunately, in fact, since he was expected to bring funds with him and funds were sadly needed. Maxey attended and delivered an address[917] that rallied the Indians in spite of themselves. In council meeting they had many things to consider, whether or no they should insist upon confining their operations henceforth to their own country. Some were for making a raid into Kansas, some for forming an alliance with the Indians of the Plains,[918] who, during this year of 1864, were to prove a veritable thorn in the flesh to Kansas and Colorado.[919] As regarded some of the work of the general council, Samuel Garland, the principal chief of the Choctaws, proved a huge stumbling block, and Cooper was forced, so he said, to "put the members of the grand council to work on" him.[920] It was Cooper's wish, evidently, that the council would "insist under the Indian compact that all Choctaw troops shall be put at once in the field as regular Confederate troops for the redemption and defense of the whole Indian Territory." The obstinacy of the Choctaw principal chief had to be overcome in order "to bring out the Third Choctaw Regiment speedily and on the proper basis." In general, the council reiterated its recommendations of November previous and so Boudinot informed President Davis,[921] it being with him the opportunity he coveted of urging, as already noted, the promotion of Cooper to a major-generalship.

In January and so anterior to most of the foregoing incidents, the shaking of the political dice in Washington, D.C., had brought again into existence the old Department of Kansas, Curtis in command.[922] Its limits were peculiar for they included Indian Territory[923] and the military post of Fort Smith as well as Kansas and the territories of Nebraska and Colorado. The status of Fort Smith was a question for the future to decide; but, in the meantime, it was to be a bone of contention between Curtis and his colleague, Frederick Steele, in command of the sister Department of Arkansas; for Steele had control over all Federal forces within the political and geographical boundaries of the state that gave the name to his department except the Fort Smith garrison.[924] The termination of Schofield's career in Missouri[925] was another result of political dice-throwing, so also was the call for Blunt to repair to the national capital for a conference.[926]

But politics had nothing whatever to do with an event more notable still. With the first of February began one of the most remarkable expeditions that had yet been undertaken in the Indian country. It was an expedition conducted by Colonel William A. Phillips and it was remarkable because, while it professed to have for its object the cleaning out of Indian Territory,[927] its incidents were as much diplomatic and pacific as military. Its course was only feebly obstructed and might have been extended into northern Texas had Moonlight of the Fourteenth Kansas Cavalry chosen to coöperate.[928] As it was, the course was southward almost to Fort Washita. Phillips carried with him copies of President Lincoln's Amnesty Proclamation[929] and he distributed them freely. His interpretation of the proclamation was his own and perhaps not strictly warranted by the phraseology but justice and generosity debarred his seeing why magnanimity and forgiveness should not be extended betimes to the poor deluded red man as much as to the deliberately rebellious white. To various prominent chiefs of secessionist persuasion he sent messages of encouragement and good-will.[930] More sanguine than circumstances really justified, he returned to report that, for some of the tribes at least, the war was virtually over.[931] What his peace mission may have accomplished, the future would reveal; but there was no doubting what his raid had done. It had produced consternation among the weaker elements. The Creeks, the Seminoles, and the Chickasaws had widely dispersed, some into the fastnesses of the mountains. Only the Choctaws continued obdurate and defiant. It was strange that Phillips should have arrived at conclusions so sweeping; for his course[932] had led him within hearing range of the general council in session at Armstrong Academy and there the division of sentiment was not so much along tribal lines as along individual. Strong personalities triumphed; for, as Maxey so truly divined, the Indian nations were after all aristocracies. The minority really ruled. At Armstrong Academy, in spite of tendencies toward an isolation that, in effect, would have been neutrality and, on the part of a few, toward a definite retracing of steps, the southern Indians renewed their pledges of loyalty to the Confederacy. Phillips's olive branch was in their hands and they threw it aside. Months before they might have been secured for the North but not now. For them the hour of wavering was past. Maxey's vigor was stimulating.

The explanation of Phillips's whole proceeding during the month of February is to be found in his genuine friendship for the Indian, which eventually profited him much, it is true, but, from this time henceforth, was lifelong. He stood in somewhat of a contrast to Blunt, whom General Steele thought unprincipled[933] and who in Southern parlance was "an old land speculator,"[934] and to Curtis, who was soon to show himself, as far as the Indians were concerned, in his true colors. While Phillips was absent from Fort Gibson, Curtis arrived there. He was making a reconnoissance of his command and, as he passed over one reservation after another, he doubtless coveted the Indian land for white settlement and justified to himself a scheme of forfeiture as a way of penalizing the red men for their defection.[935] Phillips was not encouraged to repeat his peace mission.

Blunt's journey to Washington had results, complimentary and gratifying to his vanity because publicly vindicatory. On the twenty-seventh of February he was restored to his old command or, to be exact, ordered "to resume command of so much of the District of the Frontier as is included within the boundaries of the Department of Kansas."[936] His headquarters were at Fort Smith and immediately began the controversy between him and Thayer, although scornfully unacknowledged by Thayer, as to the status of Fort Smith. Thayer refused to admit that there could be any issue[937] between them for the law in the case was clear. What Blunt and Curtis really wanted was to get hold of the western counties of Arkansas[938] so as to round out the Department of Kansas. To them it was absurd that Fort Smith should be within their jurisdiction and its environs within Steele and Thayer's. The upshot of the quarrel was, the reorganization of the frontier departments on the seventeenth of April which gave Fort Smith and Indian Territory to the Department of Arkansas[939] and sent Blunt back to Leavenworth. His removal from Fort Smith, especially as Curtis had intended, had no change in department limits been made, to transfer Blunt's headquarters to Fort Gibson,[940] was an immense relief to Phillips. Blunt and Phillips had long since ceased to have harmonious views with respect to Indian Territory. During his short term of power, Blunt had managed so to deplete Phillips's forces that two of the three Indian regiments were practically all that now remained to him since one, the Second Indian Home Guards, had been permanently stationed at Mackey's Salt Works on the plea that its colonel, John Ritchie, was Phillips's ranking officer and it was not expedient that he and Phillips "should operate together."[941] Blunt had detached also a part of the Third Indian and had placed it at Scullyville as an outpost to Fort Smith. There were to be no more advances southward for Phillips.[942] Instead of making them he was to occupy himself with the completion of the fortifications at Fort Gibson.[943]

Among the southern Indians, Maxey's reconstruction policy was all this time having its effect. It was revitalizing the Indian alliance with the Confederacy, but army conditions were yet a long way from being satisfactory. In March Price relieved Holmes in command of the District of Arkansas.[944] A vigorous campaign was in prospect and Price asked for all the help the department commander could afford him. The District of Indian Territory had forces and of all the disposable Price asked the loan. Maxey, unlike his predecessors, was more than willing to coöperate but one difficulty, which he would fain have ignored himself--for he was not an Albert Pike--he was compelled to report. The Indians had to be free, absolutely free, to go or to stay.[945] The choice of coöperating was theirs but theirs also the power to refuse to coöperate, if they so desired, and no questions asked. The day had passed when Arkansans or Texans could decide the matter arbitrarily. Watie was expected to prefer to continue the irregular warfare that he and Adair, his colonel of scouts, had so successfully been waging for a goodly time now. Formerly, they had waged it to Steele's great annoyance;[946] but Maxey felt no repugnance to the services of Quantrill, so, of course, had nothing to say in disparagement of the work of Watie. It was the kind of work, he frankly admitted he thought the Indians best adapted to. The Choctaws under Tandy Walker were found quite willing to cross the line and they did excellent service in the Camden campaign, which, both in the cannonade near Prairie d'Ane on the thirteenth of April and in the Battle of Poison Spring on the eighteenth of April, offered a thorough test of what Indians could do when well disciplined, well officered, and well considered. The Indian reinforcement of Marmaduke was ungrudgingly given and ungrudgingly commended.[947] The Camden campaign was short and, when about over, Maxey was released from duty with Price's army. His own district demanded attention[948] and the Indians recrossed the line.

Price's call for help had come before Maxey had taken more than the most preliminary of steps towards the reorganization of his forces and not much was he able to do until near the end of June. Two brigades had been formed without difficulty and Cooper had secured his division; but after that had come protracted delay. The nature of the delay made it a not altogether bad thing since the days that passed were days of stirring events. In the case of Stand Watie's First Brigade no less than of Tandy Walker's Second were the events distinguished by measurable success. The Indians were generally in high good humor; for even small successes, when coupled with appreciation of effort expended, will produce that. One adventure of Watie's, most timely and a little out of the ordinary, had been very exhilarating. It was the seizure of a supply boat on the Arkansas at Pheasant Bluff, not far from the mouth of the Canadian up which the boat was towed until its commissary stores had been extracted. The boat was the Williams, bound for Fort Gibson.[949]

It was under the inspiration of such recent victories that the southern Indians took up for consideration the matter of reënlistment, the expiration "of the present term of service" being near at hand. Parts of the Second Brigade took action first and, on the twenty-third of June, the First Choctaw Regiment unanimously reenlisted for the war. Cooper was present at the meeting "by previous request."[950] Resolutions[951] were drawn up and adopted that reflected the new enthusiasm. Other Choctaw regiments were to be prevailed upon to follow suit and the leading men of the tribe, inclusive of Chief Garland who was not present, were to be informed that the First Choctaw demanded of them, in their legislative and administrative capacities "such co-operation as will force all able-bodied free citizens of the Choctaw Nation, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, and fitted for military service, to at once join the army and aid in the common defense of the Choctaw Nation, and give such other coöperation to the Confederate military authorities as will effectually relieve our country from Federal rule and ruin."

The First Brigade was not behindhand except in point of time by a few days. All Cherokee military units were summoned to Watie's camp on Limestone Prairie.[952] The assemblage began its work on the twenty-seventh of June, made it short and decisive and indicated it in a single resolution:

    Whereas, the final issue of the present struggle between the North and South involves the destiny of the Indian Territory alike with that of the Confederate States: Therefore,

    _Resolved_, That we, the Cherokee Troops, C.S. Army, do unanimously re-enlist as soldiers for the war, be it long or short.[953]

No action was taken on the policy of conscription; but, in July, the Cherokee National Council met and, to it, Chief Watie proposed the enactment of a conscription law.[954]

As a corollary to reorganization, the three brigade plan was now put tentatively into operation. It was, in truth, "a fine recruiting order," and Commissioner Scott, when making his annual rounds in August, was able to report to Secretary Seddon,

    It is proposed to organize them into three brigades, to be called the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Creek Brigades; the Cherokee Brigade, composed of Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Osages, has already been organized; the Creek Brigade, composed of Creeks and Seminoles, is about being so, and the Choctaws anticipate no difficulty in being able to raise the number of men required to complete the organization of the Choctaw Brigade.[955]

Behind all this virility was General Maxey. Without him, it is safe to say, the war for the Indians would have ended in the preceding winter. In military achievements, others might equal or excel him but in rulings[956] that endeared him to the Indians and in propaganda work he had no peer. At Fort Towson, his headquarters, he had set up a printing press, from which issued many and many a document, the purpose of each and every one the same. The following quotation from one of Maxey's letters illustrates the purpose and, at the same time, exhibits the methods and the temper of the man behind it. The matter he was discussing when writing was the Camden campaign, in connection with which, he said,

    ... In the address of General Smith the soldiers of Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, and Louisiana are specially named. The soldiers from this Territory bore an humbler part in the campaign, and although they did not do a great deal, yet a fair share of the killed, wounded, captured, and captured property and cannon can be credited to them. I had a number of General Smith's address struck off for circulation here, and knowing the omission would be noticed and felt, I inserted after Louisiana, "and of the Indian Territory," which I hope will not meet General Smith's disapproval.

    I would suggest that want of transportation in this Territory will cripple movements very much....

    During my absence General Cooper urged General McCulloch to help him in this particular; General M. replies he can do "absolutely nothing." I am not disposed to complain about anything, but I do think this thing ought to be understood and regulated. Supplies of breadstuffs and forage, as well as clothing, sugar, etc., all having to be drawn from beyond the limits of this Territory, a more than ordinary supply of transportation is necessary. To that for the troops must be added that made necessary by the destitute thrown on the hands of the Government and who must be taken care of. I do not expect General Smith to investigate and study the peculiar characteristics of command here so closely as I have. He hasn't the time, nor is it necessary. In my opinion no effort should be spared to hold this country. Its loss would work a more permanent injury than the loss of any State in the Confederacy. States can be recovered--the Indian Territory, once gone, never. Whites, when exiled by a cruel foe, find friends amongst their race; Indians have nowhere to go. Let the enemy once occupy the country to Red River and the Indians give way to despair. I doubt whether many of the highest officials in our Government have ever closely studied this subject. It is the great barrier to the empire State of the South from her foe now and in peace. Let Federalism reach the Red River, the effects will not stop there. The doctrine of _uti possidetis_ may yet play an important part.

    I believe from what I have heard that Mr. Davis has a fair knowledge of this subject, and I think from conversations with General Smith he has, but his whole time being occupied with his immense department--an empire--I trust he will pardon me when I say that no effort of commissaries, quartermasters, or anybody else should be spared to hold this country, and I only regret that it has not fallen into abler hands than mine....[957]

Military reorganization[958] for the Indian troops had, in reality, come too late. Confederate warfare all along the frontier, in the summer and autumn of 1864, was little more than a series of raids, of which Price's Missouri was the greatest. For raiding, the best of organization was never needed. Watie, Shelby, Price were all men of the same stamp. Watie was the greatest of Indian raiders and his mere name became almost as much of a terror as Quantrill's with which it was frequently found associated, rightly or wrongly. Around Fort Smith in July and farther north in August the Indian raided to good effect. Usually, when he raided in the upper part of his own country, Federal supply trains were his objective, but not always. The refugees were coming back from Kansas and their new home beginnings were mercilessly preyed upon by their Confederate fellow tribesmen, who felt for the owners a vindictive hatred that knew no relenting.

Watie's last great raid was another Cabin Creek affair that reversed the failure of two years before. It occurred in September and was undertaken by Watie and Gano together, the former waiving rank in favor of the latter for the time being.[959] A brilliant thing, it was, so Maxey, and Smith's adjutant after him, reported.[960] The booty taken was great in amount and as much as possible of it utilized on the spot. Maxey regretted that the Choctaws were not on hand also to be fitted out with much-needed clothing.[961] It was in contemplation that Watie should make a raid into Kansas to serve as a diversion, while Price was raiding Missouri.[962] The Kansans had probably much to be thankful for that circumstances hindered his penetrating far, since, at Cabin Creek, some of his men, becoming intoxicated, committed horrible excesses and "slaughtered indiscriminately."[963]

Had the force at Fort Gibson been at all adequate to the needs of the country it was supposed to defend, such raids as Watie's would have been an utter impossibility. Thanks to Federal indifference and mismanagement, however, the safety of Indian Territory was of less consequence now than it had been before. The incorporation with the Department of Arkansas and the consequent separation from that of Kansas had been anything but a wise move. The relations of the Indian country with the state in which its exiles had found refuge were necessarily of the closest and particularly so at this time when their return from exile was under way and almost over. For reasons not exactly creditable to the government, when all was known, Colonel Phillips had been removed from command at Fort Gibson. At the time of Watie's raid, Colonel C.W. Adams was the incumbent of the post; but, following it, came Colonel S.H. Wattles[964] and things went rapidly from bad to worse. The grossest corruption prevailed and, in the midst of plenty, there was positive want. Throughout the winter, cattle-driving was indulged in, army men, government agents, and civilians all participating. It was only the ex-refugee that faced starvation. All other folk grew rich. Exploitation had succeeded neglect and Indian Territory presented the spectacle of one of the greatest scandals of the time; but its full story is not for recital here.

Great as Maxey's services to Indian Territory had been and yet were, he was not without his traducers and Cooper was chief among them, his overweening ambition being still unsatisfied. In November, at a meeting of the general council for the confederated tribes, Maxey spoke[965] in his own defence and spoke eloquently; for his cause was righteous. General Smith was his friend[966] in the sense that he had been Steele's; but there soon came a time when even the department commander was powerless to defend him further. Early in 1865, Cooper journeyed to Richmond.[967] What he did there can be inferred from the fact that orders were soon issued for him to relieve Maxey.[968] He assumed command of the district he had so long coveted and had sacrificed honor to get, March first,[969] General Smith disapproving of the whole procedure. "The change," said he, "has not the concurrence of my judgment, and I believe will not result beneficially."[970]

But Smith was mistaken in his prognostications. The change was not just but it did work beneficially. Cooper knew how to manage the Indians, none better, and the time was fast approaching when they would need managing, if ever. As the absolute certainty of Confederate defeat gradually dawned upon them, they became almost desperate. They had to be handled very carefully lest they break out beyond all restraint.[971]

Phillips was again in charge of their northern compatriots[972] and, at Fort Gibson, he, too, was handling Indians carefully. It was in a final desperate sort of a way that a league with the Indians of the Plains was again considered advisable and held for debate at the coming meeting of the general council. To effect it, when decided upon, the services of Albert Pike were solicited.[973] No other could be trusted as he. Apparently he never served or agreed to serve[974] and no alliance was needed; for the war was at an end. On the twenty-sixth of May, General E. Kirby Smith entered into a convention with Major-general E.R.S. Canby, commanding the Military Division of West Mississippi, by which he agreed to surrender the Trans-Mississippi Department and everything appertaining to it.[975] The Indians had made an alliance with the Southern Confederacy in vain. The promises of Pike, of Cooper, and of many another government agent had all come to naught.