Stand Watie (12 December 1806-9 September 1871) (also known as Degataga “standing together as one,” or “stand firm” and Isaac S. Watie) was a leader of the Cherokee Nation and a brigadier general of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He commanded the American Indian cavalry made up mostly of Cherokee, Creek and Seminole.
Please forgive me if I mispronounce any of these names or places.
Stand Watie Born the son of Oo-watie (David Uwatie) and Susanna Reese, who was of Cherokee and white heritage at Oothcaloga in the Cherokee Nation, Georgia (near present day Rome, Georgia) on December 12, 1806 (also known as Degataga “standing together as one,” or “stand firm” and Isaac S. Watie) was a leader of the Cherokee Nation and a brigadier general of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He commanded the American Indian cavalry made up mostly of Cherokee, Creek and Seminole.
He attended Moravian Mission School at Springplace Georgia, and served as a clerk of the Cherokee Supreme Court and Speaker of the Cherokee National Council prior to removal. He was the brother of Gallegina “Buck” Watie (Elias Boudinot). The brothers were nephews of Major Ridge, and cousins to John Ridge. The Watie brothers stood in favor of the Removal of the Cherokee to Oklahoma and were members of the Ridge Party that signed the Treaty of New Echota in 1835, in defiance of Principal Chief John Ross and the majority of the Cherokees. The anti-Removal Ross Party believed the treaty was in violation of the opinions of the majority of the tribe and refused to ratify it. Watie, his family, and many other Cherokees emigrated to the West (present-day Oklahoma), in 1837 and settled at Honey Creek.. Those Cherokees (and their slaves) who remained on tribal lands in the East were forcibly removed by the U.S. government in 1838 in a journey known as the “Trail of Tears” during which thousands died. The Ross Party targeted Stand and Buck Watie and the Ridge family for assassination and, of the four men mentioned above, only Stand Watie managed to escape with his life.
Following the murders, Stand Watie assumed the leadership of the Ridge-Watie-Boundinot faction and was involved in a long-running blood feud with the followers of John Ross. He also was a leader of the Knights of the Golden Circle, which bitterly opposed abolitionism. Watie, a slave holder, started a successful plantation on Spavinaw Creek in the Indian Territory. He served on the Cherokee Council from 1845 to 1861, serving part of that time as speaker.
Watie was the only Native American on either side of the Civil War to rise to a Brigadier General’s rank. After Chief John Ross and the Cherokee Council decided to support the Confederacy (to keep the Cherokee united), Watie organized a regiment of cavalry. In 1861, he was commissioned as a colonel in the First Cherokee Mounted Rifles. Although he fought Federal troops, he also used his troops in fighting between factions of the Cherokee, as well as against the Creek and Seminole and others who chose to support the Union.
A portion of Watie’s command saw action at Oak Hills (August 10, 1861) in a battle that assured the South’s hold on Indian Territory and made Watie a Confederate military hero. Afterward, Watie helped drive the pro-Northern Indians out of Indian Territory, and following the Battle of Chustenahlah (December 26, 1861) he commanded the pursuit of the fleeing Federals, led by Opothleyahola, and drove them into exile in Kansas. Although Watie’s men were exempt from service outside Indian Territory, he led his troops into Arkansas in the spring of 1861 to stem a Federal invasion of the region. Joining with Maj. GEn. Earl Van Dorn’s command, Watie took part in the bAttle of Elkhorn Tavern (March 5-6, 1861). On the first day of fighting, the Southern Cherokees, which were on the left flank of the Confederate line, captured a battery of Union artillery before being forced to abandon it.
Watie is noted for his role in the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, a Union victory, on March 6-8, 1862. Watie’s troops captured Union artillery positions and covered the retreat of Confederate forces from the battlefield. After Cherokee support for the Confederacy fractured, Watie continued to lead the remnant of his cavalry. He was promoted to brigadier-general by General Samuel Bell Maxey, and was given the command of two regiments of Mounted Rifles and three battalions of Cherokee, Seminole and Osage infantry. These troops were based south of the Canadian River, and periodically crossed the river into Union territory. The troops fought a number of battles and skirmishes in the western confederate states, including the Indian Territory, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Texas. Watie’s force reportedly fought in more battles west of the Mississippi River than any other unit. Watie was elected principal chief of the Confederate Cherokees in August 1862.
Watie, or troops in his command, participated in eighteen battles and major skirmishes with Federal troop during the Civil War, including Cowskin Prairie (April 1862), Old Fort Wayne (October 1862), Webber’s Falls (April 1863), Fort Gibson (May 1863), Cabin Creek (July 1863), and Gunter’s Prairie (August 1864). In addition, his men were engaged in a multitude of smaller skirmishes and meeting engagements in Indian Territory and neighboring states. Because of his wide-ranging raids behind Union lines, Watie tied down thousands of Federal troops that were badly needed in the East.
Watie’s two greatest victories were the capture of the federal steam boat J.R. Williams on June 15, 1864, and the seizure of $1.5 million worth of supplies in a federal wagon supply train a the Second battle of Cabin Creek on September 19, 1864. Watie was promoted to brigadier general on May 6, 1864, and given command of the first Indian Brigade. He was the only Indian to achieve the rank of general in the Civil War.
On June 23, 1865, at Fort Towson in the Choctaw Nations’ area of Oklahoma Territory, Watie signed a cease-fire agreement with Union representatives, becoming the last Confederate general in the field to stand down.
As a tribal leader after the war, he was involved in negotiations for the 1866 Cherokee Reconstruction Treaty and initiated efforts to rebuild tribal assets. Watie and his nephew Elias C. Boudinot were arrested for evading taxes on income from a tobacco factory, and were plaintiffs in the Cherokee Tobacco Case of 1870, which negated the 1866 treaty provision establishing tribal tax exempt status. As a result of this case, Congress officially impeded further treaties with Indian tribes, delegating Indian policy to acts of Congress or executive order.
Waite then abandoned public life and returned to his old home along Honey Creek. Watie married four times, the first three before tribal relocation to the west. His fourth marriage in 1843, to Sarah Caroline Bell, produced five children. He died on September 9, 1871. He is buried in Polson Cemetery in Oklahoma, near southwest Missouri.
A special thank you to Christian A. and Jim W. for helping out with the information in this episode. The sources I used will be linked to on the website.
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- Scot from Carleton, Michigan
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- Skyler Jo from Columbia, Missouri
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