A Creek Warrior for the Confederacy: The Autobiography of Chief G.W. Grayson
Edited with an Introduction by W. David Baird
Published by University of Oklahoma Press, Norman and London
181 pages, including index
What do we do when locked up indoors during a dress rehearsal for the apocalypse as TV would have you think? Read books! At least that's what I do...most of the time. So here's a book to take you way back and get your mind out of the present as the author literally tells you the War Between the States and his life as he remembered it.
George Washington Grayson, went through the war as the Captain of Company K, 2nd Creek Mounted Rifles, made Captain almost exclusively because he went to college in Cane Hill, Arkansas leaving college as the storms of war began to sweep the nation. This book isn't your normal CW memoir, for example he wrote not on his service in the CW, but his whole life up till about 20 years before his passing, and wrote for his family and descendants, not publication. With him being appointed Chief of the Creek Nation by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917 upon the death of Moty Tiger, last elected principal Chief of the Creeks and Grayson serving until his own untimely death in 1920.
The book begins with an excellent introduction by the Editor, W. David Baird, and we get right into it with Grayson first explaining his ancestry, which reminds me before we get too far: NO THE CREEKS AND BY EXTENSION GRAYSON WERE NOT BUCKSKIN/LOINCLOTH WEARING SAVAGES!!!!!!!! I bring that up now before your minds wander into la la land like so many people I know when Indians/Native Americans of the pre-CW and CW eras are mentioned. There was a reason that Creeks and the other four tribes of the "Five Civilized Tribes" were called civilized. Sometimes they were more civilized than the whites they took fashions from. Plus the tribal governments having numerous tribal schools and paying for the students they felt most capable to white colleges in Arkansas ensured many of them had better educations than whites at the time. Which Grayson was one of those students.
After a long, if somewhat boring, chapter regarding his ancestry, (he was a mixed blood Creek, a very important distinction as mixed bloods and pure bloods seem to have not gotten along), he takes us through his childhood, and teenage years at the college at Cane Hill/Boonsboro Arkansas very near to Fayetteville. About the time his college sent its students home had closed its doors in fear of the coming war in 1861, Grayson got his first job at a mercantile store providing for his mother and his siblings in the wake of his father's death.
(August 2019 photo taken by myself of the 1880's college building at Cane Hill, Arkansas. The structures Grayson would have studied and lived in were burned during the CW by Kansas troops, the post-war replacement structure burning in the early 1880's before the brick structure that stands today was built. This NW Arkansas college closed its doors in 1891.)
Grayson relates in his memoir that he was not someone who rushed off to war in 1861 in search of glory, or intense patriotism for the Confederate Cause, but rather stayed at home working to take care of his family before enlisting and being elevated to Captain. His entire reason was because many people believed him a coward for not enlisting. Something he seemed to be still incensed at when writing many years later, and almost got him killed a few times during the war because he still out to prove them wrong. This reason alone makes for a very interesting read because its from a viewpoint in the Confederate military that we don't often see in books written by veterans of either side. A lot of which may be because the authors didn't always like to admit it. Be careful of peer pressure folks!
Grayson speaks on his war service as best to his memory, relating all he can remember and freely admits his memory may be flawed. This too is not a normal admission by the author of a book, but Grayson wrote this book for his family, not publication. Moving on, the Battle of Honey Springs, The Capture of the J.R. Williams, Cabin Creek and many other forgotten Indian Territory/Trans-Mississippi battles and skirmishes are presented here in this book by a man who lived through them. One hint from me here, Grayson's version of events during the Capture of the J.R. Williams is different from the version presented by the famous General Stand Watie, who doesn't mention Grayson at all in his reports, when it seems Grayson was the first on the field, and literally the last off it. Some may say "Oh maybe Grayson was glorifying himself in his book." but I don't see it within these pages. This book deserves reading for that alone by CW students because it shows official reports can be dead wrong. Oh and for those who don't know, the Capture of the J.R. Williams was Oklahoma's only naval battle in all its history.
After taking us through the war riding in the saddle beside him, Grayson tells of life in the Creek Nation during Reconstruction, with all its trials and scars from the war. Sometimes the war still being fought it seems. He takes us through his meeting his the woman he would marry and love the rest of their lives, and his path towards becoming Chief of the Creek Nation. This being an interesting read all on its own for those of us, myself included, who know nothing of tribal matters at the time.
I recommend this book for everyone here at CWT. Its by someone who was there, and the there is somewhere we all seldom read of or even hear about. Give it read, you may enjoy it.
"Rusk County Avengers" on CWT
P.S.-Here's an old thread I started regarding a very good excerpt from this book the first time I read it: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/a-dirty-revolver-saves-yankee-lives-indian-territory-1863.153998/