Publication Date

November 2019




Savas Beatie


The state of Arkansas seceded from the Union on May 6, 1861. Nervous about the political loyalties and strategic vulnerabilities of the Indian Nations that lay west of Fort Smith, the Confederate States of America crafted a military district that encompassed their region. Brigadier Ben McCulloch took command of the district with orders to “guard that territory against invasion from Kansas or elsewhere” with a force of “three regiments of volunteers.” CSA Indian commissioner Albert Pike set out to negotiate treaties of mutual support with the Nations, and soon had the Creeks, Seminoles, Choctaws, and Chickasaws in alliance. The Cherokees, however, under principle Chief John Ross, prolonged negotiations. Divisions within that nation, born of their complicated historical experiences with colonialism and slavery’s effects on racial descent, would tear their nation asunder, and shape much of what transpired across the region in the coming years. Ultimately the pro-Southern faction, led by mixed-descent slaveholder Stand Watie, would prevail, but the bitterness of that victory would haunt the nation through the war years, and for decades thereafter.