Cherokees and the American Civil War
Declaration by the People of the Cherokee Nation of the Causes Which Have Impelled Them to Unite
Their Fortunes With Those of the Confederate States of America.
When circumstances beyond their
control compel one people to sever the ties which have long existed between them and another state or confederacy, and to
contract new alliances and establish new relations for the security of their rights and liberties, it is fit that they should
publicly declare the reasons by which their action is justified.
people had its origin in the South; its institutions are similar to those of the Southern States, and their interests identical
with theirs. Long since it accepted the protection of the United States of America, contracted with them treaties of alliance
and friendship, and allowed themselves to be to a great extent governed by their laws.
peace and war they have been faithful to their engagements with the United States. With much of hardship and injustice to
complain of, they resorted to no other means than solicitation and argument to obtain redress. Loyal and obedient to the laws
and the stipulations of their treaties, they served under the flag of the United States, shared the common dangers, and were
entitled to a share in the common glory, to gain which their blood was freely shed on the battlefield.
the dissensions between the Southern and Northern States culminated in a separation of State after State from the Union they
watched the progress of events with anxiety and consternation. While their institutions and the contiguity of their territory
to the States of Arkansas, Texas, and Missouri made the cause of the seceding States necessarily their own cause, their treaties
had been made with the United States, and they felt the utmost reluctance even in appearance to violate their engagements
or set at naught the obligations of good faith.
Conscious that they were a people
few in numbers compared with either of the contending parties, and that their country might with no considerable force be
easily overrun and devastated and desolation and ruin be the result if they took up arms for either side, their authorities
determined that no other course was consistent with the dictates of prudence or could secure the safety of their people and
immunity from the horrors of a war waged by an invading enemy than a strict neutrality, and in this decision they were sustained
by a majority of the nation.
That policy was accordingly adopted and faithfully
adhered to. Early in the month of June of the present year the authorities of the nation declined to enter into negotiations
for an alliance with the Confederate States, and protested against the occupation of the Cherokee country by their troops,
or any other violation of their neutrality. No act was allowed that could be construed by the United States to be a violation
of the faith of treaties.
But Providence rules the destinies of nations, and
events, by inexorable necessity, overrule human resolutions. The number of the Confederate States has increased to eleven,
and their Government is firmly established and consolidated. Maintaining in the field an army of 200,000 men, the
war became for them but a succession of victories. Disclaiming any intention to invade the Northern States, they sought only
to repel invaders from their own soil and to secure the right of governing themselves. They claimed only the privilege asserted
by the Declaration of American Independence, and on which the right of the Northern States themselves to self-government is founded, of altering their form
of government when it became no longer tolerable and establishing new forms for the security of their liberties.
the Confederate States we saw this great revolution effected without violence or the suspension of the laws or the closing
of the courts. The military power was nowhere placed above the civil authorities. None were seized and imprisoned at
the mandate of arbitrary power. All division among the people disappeared, and the determination became unanimous that there
should never again be any union with the Northern States. Almost as one man all who were able to bear arms rushed to the defense
of an invaded country, and nowhere has it been found necessary to compel men to serve or to enlist mercenaries by the offer
of extraordinary bounties.
in the Northern States the Cherokee people saw with alarm a violated Constitution, all civil liberty put in peril, and all the rules of civilized warfare and the dictates of common humanity
and decency unhesitatingly disregarded. In States which still adhered to the Union a
military despotism has displaced the civil power and the laws became silent amid arms. Free speech and almost free thought
became a crime. The right to the writ of habeas corpus, guaranteed by the Constitution, disappeared at the nod of a Secretary of State or a general of the lowest grade. The mandate of the Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court was set at naught by the military power, and this outrage on common right approved by a President
sworn to support the Constitution. War on the largest scale was waged, and the immense bodies of troops called into the field
in the absence of any law warranting it under the pretense of suppressing unlawful combination of men. The humanities of war,
which even barbarians respect, were no longer thought worthy to be observed. Foreign mercenaries and the scum of cities and
the inmates of prisons were enlisted and organized into regiments and brigades and sent into Southern States to aid in subjugating
a people struggling for freedom, to burn, to plunder, and to commit the basest of outrages on women; while the heels of armed
tyranny trod upon the necks of Maryland and Missouri, and men of the highest character and position were incarcerated upon
suspicion and without process of law in jails, in forts, and in prison-ships, and even women were imprisoned by the arbitrary
order of a President and Cabinet ministers; while the press ceased to be free, the publication of newspapers was suspended
and their issues seized and destroyed; the officers and men taken prisoners in battle were allowed to remain in captivity
by the refusal of their Government to consent to an exchange of prisoners; as they had left their dead on more than one field
of battle that had witnessed their defeat to be buried and their wounded to be cared for by Southern hands.
causes the Cherokee people may have had in the past, to complain of some of the Southern States, they cannot but feel that
their interests and their destiny are inseparably connected with those of the South. The war now raging is a war of Northern
cupidity and fanaticism against the institution of African servitude; against the commercial freedom of the South, and against
the political freedom of the States, and its objects are to annihilate the sovereignty of those States and utterly change
the nature of the General Government.
The Cherokee people and their neighbors
were warned before the war commenced that the first object of the party which now holds the powers of government of the United
States would be to annul the institution of slavery in the whole Indian country, and make it what they term free territory
and after a time a free State; and they have been also warned by the fate which has befallen those of their race in Kansas,
Nebraska, and Oregon that at no distant day they too would be compelled to surrender their country at the demand of Northern
rapacity, and be content with an extinct nationality, and with reserves of limited extent for individuals, of which their
people would soon be despoiled by speculators, if not plundered unscrupulously by the State.
by these considerations, the Cherokees, long divided in opinion, became unanimous, and like their brethren, the Creeks, Seminoles,
Choctaws, and Chickasaws, determined, by the undivided voice of a General Convention of all the people, held at Tahlequah,
on the 21st day of August, in the present year, to make common cause with the South and share its fortunes.
now carrying this resolution into effect and consummating a treaty of alliance and friendship with the Confederate States
of America the Cherokee people declares that it has been faithful and loyal to is engagements with the United States until,
by placing its safety and even its national existence in imminent peril, those States have released them from those engagements.
Menaced by a great danger, they exercise the inalienable right of self-defense,
and declare themselves a free people, independent of the Northern States of America, and at war with them by their own act.
Obeying the dictates of prudence and providing for the general safety and welfare, confident of the rectitude of their intentions
and true to the obligations of duty and honor, they accept the issue thus forced upon them, unite their fortunes now and forever
with those of the Confederate States, and take up arms for the common cause, and with entire confidence in the justice of
that cause and with a firm reliance upon Divine Providence, will resolutely abide the consequences.
Tahlequah, C. N., October 28, 1861.
THOMAS B. WOLFE,
Rifles for Watie. Description: This is a rich and sweeping novel-rich in its panorama of history; in its details so clear that the
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It is a story of a lesser -- known part of the Civil War, the Western campaign, a part different in its issues and its problems,
and fought with a different savagery. Inexorably it moves to a dramatic climax, evoking a brilliant picture of a war and the
men of both sides who fought in it.
General Stand Watie's Confederate Indians (University of Oklahoma Press). Description: American Indians were courted by both the North and the South prior to that great and horrific
conflict known as the American Civil War. This is the story of the highest ranking Native American--Cherokee chief and Confederate
general--Stand Watie, his Cherokee Fighting Unit, the Cherokee,
and the conflict in the West...
Viewing: Indian Warriors - The Untold Story of the Civil War
(History Channel) (2007). Description: Though largely forgotten,
20 to 30 thousand Native Americans fought in the Civil War. Ely Parker was a Seneca leader who found himself in the thick
of battle under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant. Stand Waite--a Confederate general
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Carolina Indian, who became known as the Robin Hood of North Carolina. Respected Civil War authors, Thom Hatch and Lawrence
Hauptman, help reconstruct these most captivating stories, along with descendants like Cherokee Nation member Jay Hanna, whose
great-grandfathers fought for both the Union and the Confederacy. Together, they reveal a new, fresh perspective and the very personal reasons
that drew these Native Americans into the fray.