While the northern sympathizers were enduring the horrors of cold, starvation, and sickness, Albert Pike had returned to Indian Territory to establish himself at his headquarters post of Cantonment Davis. He had hardly had time to survey the situation, however, when he received an order to march his Indians eastward into Arkansas to help defend that state from invasion. Pike's treaties had specified that the Indians would not be called upon to fight outside Indian Territory except by their own consent. Nevertheless, he obeyed orders like a true soldier, and led his forces to northern Arkansas, arriving just in time to take part in the Battle of Pea Ridge.
His troops were poorly armed and equipped; some of them were said to have fought with primitive weapons in the old Indian fashion and even to have scalped the dead on the battlefield. The Confederates suffered a disastrous defeat and General Ben McCulloch was killed in this battle. Pike and his Indians fell back in disorderly fashion to Indian Territory, where he built and garrisoned a fort far down in the Choctaw country, only about thirty miles from Red River. This post he called Fort McCulloch. He left Colonels Stand Watie and John Drew to defend the Cherokee country. To these leaders Pike sent assurances that he had not abandoned their country but had merely fallen back to an advantageous position where he could draw supplies from Texas and from which he placed in their own countries. Their commanding officers, together with Drew and Stand Watie, were ordered to check and harass any enemy force which might invade the Indian Territory from the north, to give notice of its approach, and finally, if necessary, to fall back and join forces with Pike. He would then be strong enough, he believed, to meet and defeat in battle an enemy force which had already been weakened by those harassing movements and which would by that time be far removed from its base of operations.
Though Pike was the object of considerable criticism, his plans were not without merit, and his reasons for choosing a position so far south seem fairly logical. Certainly Drew and Stand Watie, especially the latter, were admirable fitted for the task assigned them. Raiding and harassing the enemy was the type of work which Stand Watie and his soldiers could do best, and not only during the summer of 1862 but throughout the entire war he repeatedly proved himself a master in the art of waging this kind of warfare.
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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.
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