| Following the outbreak of hostilities between the United States and the Confederate States of America in 1861, the inhabitants of Indian Territory had to decide which side they would support. Although the majority allied themselves with the Confederacy, many professed an allegiance to the Union. One such group was a band of Upper Creek Indians led by Opothleyahola, who organized his followers for an exodus to Kansas. In addition to Creek supporters, Opothleyahola gathered Unionists from among the Comanches, Delawares, Kickapoos, Seminoles, Wichitas, and Shawnees. African American slaves and freedmen also joined in hope of relocating in the north. The column of nearly seventeen hundred men, women, and children traveled in wagons, on horseback, and by foot carrying as many of their possessions as possible.|
Opposing Opothleyahola was Col. Douglas H. Cooper, whose Confederate command of approximately thirteen hundred troops consisted of Texas cavalry, Choctaw and Chickasaw mounted riflemen, a Creek regiment, and Seminole warriors. Cooper set out on November 15, 1861, with about 1,400 men to either compel Opothleyahola's submission or "drive him and his party from the country." Cooper's force rode up the Deep Fork of the Canadian River to find Chief Opothleyahola’s camp deserted. On November 19, 1861, when Confederate outriders were surprised by Opothleyahola's scouts north of the Red Fork (Cimarron) River. Unable to stand their ground, the Confederates executed a fighting retreat while awaiting reinforcements. The two sides battled before darkness, and the danger of a prairie fire concluded the engagement.
Having slowed the Confederate advance, Opothleyahola's force pushed further north during the night. Declaring the battle a victory, the Confederates did not pursue but instead withdrew to regroup and resupply. Exact casualty numbers are unknown, but Cooper claimed to have killed over one hundred Unionists while losing a handful of men.
Following Chief Opothleyahola and his Union force's defeat at Round Mountain, he retreated northeastward, in search of safety.
On December 9, 1861, the force was at Chusto-Talasah, or Caving Banks, on the Horseshoe Bend of Bird Creek when Colonel Douglas H. Cooper's 1,300 Confederates attacked Chief Opothleyahola around 2:00 pm. Chief Opothleyahola knew Cooper was coming and had placed his troops in a strong position at Horseshoe Bend.
For almost four hours, Cooper attacked and attempted to outflank the Federals, finally driving them east across Bird Creek just before dark.
Cooper camped there overnight but did not pursue the Federals because he was short of ammunition. The Confederates claimed victory. Chief Opothleyahola and his band moved off in search of security elsewhere.
Now, they wanted to finish them off by assaulting them in their camp at Chustenahlah in a well-protected cove on Battle Creek. Colonel James McQueen McIntosh and Colonel Douglas H. Cooper, commanding the Indian Department, planned a combined attack with each of their columns moving on the camp from different directions. McIntosh left Fort Gibson on December 22, with 1,380 men.
On the 25th, he was informed that Cooper's force could not join for a while, but he decided to attack the next day, despite being outnumbered. McIntosh attacked the camp at noon on the 26th.
The Union defenders were secluded in the underbrush along the slope of a rugged hill, but as the Confederate attack came forward, the Native Americans began to fall back, taking cover for a while and then moving back.
The retreat became a rout as the Federals reached their camp. They attempted to make a stand there but were forced away again. The survivors fled; many went all the way to Kansas where they found loyal Unionists.