First Indian Expedition

As spring came on in 1863, green grass began to clothe the prairies of Kansas, and the wretched Indian refugees in Kansas began to grow restless. They were eager to return to their homes, to find out what property, if any, still remained to them, to plant their gardens, and to re-establish themselves once more amid the familiar scenes of their beloved homeland. Accordingly, it was decided to form two regiments from these refugees and other Indians in Kansas. Two regiments of white soldiers were to be stationed with them in order to form a force strong enough to invade the Indian Territory and to drive those Indians who sympathized with the south out of the Cherokee and Creek countries. It was not difficult to secure the enlistments. Two regiments were quickly formed which consisted largely of Creeks, Seminoles, and Cherokees, though there were also Delawares, Quapaws, Kickapoos, and various other components, including one unit of Osage troops. Vexatious delays occurred and difficulties arose as to who should be placed in command. As a result, it was not until late in June that the Indian expedition under the command of Colonel William Weer crossed the line of the Indian Territory just south of Baxter Springs, Kansas, and moved south through the Cherokee Nation toward Tahlequah.

Stand Watie and Drew fell back before the advance of this overwhelming force. The Cherokee civilian population also fled south, evidently fearing that the Indian troops and stragglers in their rear would seek revenge for the suffering of the preceding winter. Minor skirmishes occurred, but no general engagement. With little opposition but with considerable detachment of soldiers was sent out to Park Hill to seize Chief Ross as a prisoner of war. Ross had refused to receive an envoy sent under a flag of truce to demand that he repudiate his alliance with the Confederacy and again ally his people with the north.

Since the Chief was an old man, however, and since there could be no possible object in retaining him as a prisoner, he was quickly released on parole. Soon afterward he left the Indian Territory and journeyed to Philadelphia, where he remained most of the time until the close of the war--until his death, in fact, in 1866.

Although the Confederate forces were gathering to oppose it, the Indian expedition had been up to this time quite successful. It seemed as though it might continue its march and eventually overrun nearly all the Indian Territory. On July 18, however, came a strange and unexpected turn of events. Colonel Frederick Salomon, second in command, placed his superior officer, Colonel William Weer, under arrest and took command of the expedition. The following day he ordered a retreat and the white troops began to return march toward Kansas.

Salomon gave as reasons for this action that he believed Colonel Weer to be either insane or to be contemplating treason. Salomon asserted that he was deep in a hostile country with no line of communications open behind him. He stated also that the army was almost destitute of rations, that nothing could be heard from their expected supply train, and that the enemy was gathering in force. He asserted that the only safety for troops lay in his assuming command and extricating them from their dangerous situation before it was too late. The Indian troops lingered for a little while, but with the white regiments rapidly falling back toward Kansas, the Indians could do nothing but follow them. In a short time the entire force had left the Indian Territory. Once more the refugee Indians found themselves doomed to spend a horrible winter in Kansas and across the line in Missouri.

Even though they had some time to prepare, their sufferings were hardly less severe than during the preceding winter. Some had added to their food supply by planting gardens small fields, and most of them had sought to prepare better shelters than they had formerly had. Even so, their situation was miserable in the extreme, and although their agents were able to secure some subsistence, clothing, and other supplies, the needs of the army were so great that it was difficult to induce the government of the United States to make any adequate provisions for the welfare of the Indians.

OKGenWeb Index Page | USGenWeb Index Page | WorldGenWeb Project Index Page | USGenWeb Archives | OkGenWeb Archives | Twin Territories Project of the OkGenWeb | State and Unknown County Queries | The Civil War in Indian Territory Index Page | Civil War Battle Sites in the Indian Territory | The Civil War in Indian Territory - The Story in Brief | The Shadow of War | The Mission of Albert Pike | Civil War and the Kansas Refugees | The Military Operations of General Pike | The First Indian Expedition | Difficulties of the Southern Indians | Division of the Cherokees | Occupation of the Cherokee Country by the Union | Waning Fortunes of the South | Last Phases of the War | Bibliography

This information has been gathered from research done in several areas. Source information is available on the bibliography page. This page has been designed and put together by Ann Maloney, Bartlesville, OK. If you would like to add anything, please contact me at the address below.

luvcats@ionet.net

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