Archive for March, 2010

The Indian Territory

I went on a cruise last week and completed one book on the Cherokee  Nation and most of a second on the American Indian in the Civil War. The perspective from the Indian has changed slightly, but not as much as I would have thought. One lady was more from the Union view and thus skewed the Indian. The second book seems more balanced but does not seem complete.

When reading several books on the regiments and their fights in the IT, the view of the Indian seemed to be one of co-fighter. They worked together to fight an enemy. The Texans had fought Indians, Comanche and other Indians in Texas. The Rangers used Indian guides and knew all the Indians that did not fight the whites.  When General McCullogh sent word to give Colonel Cooper help at Fort Gibson. The 3rd Texas Cavalry responded from Arkansas with a detachment. The 6th was passing through southern IT and it sent a detachment. The 9th was the last unit and it was just leaving Texas when it rushed a detachment. The Whitfield Battalion arrived at Fort Gibson just after the Battle of Chustenahlah. This battle was described in the first book as the White Texans and Stand Waite’s Indians picking on the women and children who hung around Chief Opoeth-le-yo-ho-la for protection. Also in the crowd were several hundred warriors who were the basis that chiefs were evaluated. No Warriors, not much chief.  The Indians set a trap and surprised the Texans. Next they chose good defensive land to fight from. They were good soldiers. Part of their problem was they put their women and children in the area of the fight. They thought they would win. Lieutenant Colonel Griffith of the 6th Texas had orders to wait for the Command to begin the battle, but he saw a chance and charged his detachment up a steep rise and started a route of the Indians. In a very short times the women, horses, cattle and supplies had been captured and the braves and Chief Opoeth-le-yo-ho-la were on the way to Kansas. One Hundred were dead. The women were latter released and followed on to Kansas.

The next major battle was the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern, Arkansas. The Indians had no treaties to fight outside the IT, but General Pike ask them to come and they came. The Indians did well in their first battle with the full noise of battle. Cannons were their first target and they captured a battery. Latter they retreated with the Army and provided rear protection.  Critical comments came when they fought like Indians. It was the only way that they knew. To think that they were paid by the English and French to bring in scalps, and then complain when they took scalps, is absolutely stupid. It may have been politically correct, but stupid.

The Texans had cut their teeth fighting Indians. Sul Ross had two major battles just before he came into the Army. One he won but was severely wounded. He and Earl Van Dorn, his General at Elkhorn, were both drug from the field behind horses on litters. Both were close to death. In Ross’ last battle he killed Chief Nacona in a hand to hand battle. They knew how to fight Indians.

They came to know how to fight wars. In Corinth the 6th and 9th did extremely well. Had their efforts been exploited, the Confederates would have won. Their spirit was above reproach. The 3rd and 27th had done well at Iuka against extremely bad odds. They did well to survive.

As I develop better notes, I will rewrite the battles in the Indian Territories.

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The Sesquicentennial

One hundred and fifty years ago there was a War. The various states are in the process of putting together events that will show off the Civil War. The Sons of Confederate Veterans in Texas plan to showcase the events leading up to Texas joining the Confederacy. I am looking at the Texas Brigade and trying to come up with ideas for telling the world about the Texas Brigade.

Mile for mile they covered more terrain than any other unit in the war. They may have conducted more “Charges” than any other, though that would be hard to prove. There are probably several more categories that they would lead the pack. They were probably the most difficult to lead, probably the most unclean. They carried more weapons, less food, moved faster and did more battle with less.  One article in the Detroit Free Press later printed in the Dallas paper described them in a delaying action with 500 men holding off a whole Union Corps while General Johnston built a new defense line.

In their first big battle in the Indian Territory they Charged.

How can you display four separate units working together covering a large area, while finding their own food and maintaining good results in their operations. They fought as Cavalry, as Infantry, as Skirmishers as Sharpshooters. They conducted all out charges, pickets, raids, fast moves.  For some units they rode a train or boat to Virginia and were there for the whole war. The Whole Brigade started in Texas, went to the Indian Territory, some made it into Missouri, all into Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee (three times), Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee again and back to Alabama and Mississippi. And then were told to ride or walk home to Texas. Some died making that trek home after the war.

Many were captured, escaped or were paroled and returned to fight again. Some died in the bad Union prisons, because their enemy did not think it necessary to feed them.  In the South the Union Prisoners ate as did the Southern Army, except the commanders did not make them have fast days as did the Southern command did the Southern Army.

They fought at Wilson’s Creek, Chustenahlah, Elkhorn Tavern, Corinth I, Iuka, Corinth II, Hatchie Bridge,  Holly Springs, Thompson Station, demonstrated at Franklin & Knoxville, and then returned to try and help Vicksburg from the outside. Ross raced across Tennessee to stop a Union Raid into Alabama, and returned in late 1863. They fought at the siege of Jackson, delayed Sherman’s move to Meridan, stopped shipping on the  Yazoo River. They then started across Mississippi into Alabama. Their first battle of the Atlanta Campaign was at Rome, Georgia, then New Hope Church, Dallas, Kennesaw Mountain. They next were pitched against the raids of McCook and Kilpactrick. Both raids failed in their mission, but had bad effects on the Brigade.

From Rome to Atlanta is about an hour drive. It took Sherman 110 days and about 35,000 deaths in his Army to reach Atlanta. With nothing in front of him he then burned a path to the coast fighting against civilians. He made the War Ugly. He made it an UnCivil War.

In spite of that they were picked to lead the Army into Tennessee. Hood wanted no problems before he reached Franklin and Nashville. The Brigade made sure none occurred by rolling up the forces they met. After Hood lost the battles of Franklin and Nashville, the Brigade was then asked to provide the blocking force for the retreat. Ross ask for a Brigade of Infantry and insured his success. The Army was able to return to Mississippi and Alabama to relative safety. Only small battles occurred after that, before the end of the War.

Which battle do you showcase?  How do you show the fortitude and courage of these men? Where do you start? Some say the South lost the War, but do not say that to a Brigade member. After the war they returned to Texas as proud men. They shouldered the civilian life as they had Fought.  Ross was a Sheriff, a Legislator, a Governor and a University President. Many officers and men did well in education and government.

What do you showcase?  The basic problem is they did not fight in Texas, Their blood is spread far and wide. Ross is not here to lead the crusade. I wish the Ross Brigade Association still existed. By now it would be large from the births of a hundred and fifty years. We would have an Army that could spread the word. Groups could go into Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia and shout on every corner. The Brigade was here and fought for you.

A Lieutenant sitting against a tree with a large wound in his chest was approached by General McCook of the Union Cavalry. He asked the Lieutenant if he needed anything. He ask for medical aid. McCook said he was traveling light and had none. McCook then ask who he was fighting. The Lieutenant said the Ross Brigade, Jackson and Wheeler’s Divisions and two Infantry Brigades. McCook said, “My God! we have to get out of here!” This might describe the type of men who were in the Brigade. This one lived to return home and lead a good life. History at least shown General McCook that the combined forces against him were less than half his Divisions size.

The search goes on! Perhaps I can recruit a Brigade Association in 5 years.  The 5000 men of the brigade would have had 50,000 offspring by now, maybe more. It might be a good adventure.

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