Campaign against Opothleyoholo

archieclement

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#1
Over several posts in the following days, I'll detail the campaign, for simplicity's sake Opothleyoholo will be simply Chief O:D

At the beginning of the war the CSA sent Albert Pike to negotiate alliances with the Indian Nations in the Indian Territory, as many were slaveholding tribes and obviously had a checkered history in relations with the USA he was very successful. By October Pike returned with treaties he had obtained, He had got the Creek Nation on July 10 1861, the Choctaws and Chickasaws on July 12, Seminoles on Aug 1st, Shawnees, Delaware, Wichita, and affiliated tribes in the leased territory Aug 12th, the Comanches of the prairie on Aug 12th, The Great Osages on Oct 2nd, the Seneca's and Shawnees of the Neosho agency Oct 4th, the Quapaw's Oct 4th, and finally the Cherokees Oct 7th

Chief O was a Creek chief in the minority of dissenters, many tribes already had divisions before the war between mixed/pure bloods or treaty/non treaty factions. He was cautioned early on to remain neutral by John Ross and the Cherokee, which he apparently misread as support from the Cherokee, when Ross and the Cherokee signed with the CSA, Chief O realized he was in a precarious position. With his support failing amongst the tribes he calls to the free blacks and Indian slaves to join him and he would provide freedom and protection, and some did with some traitors of the other nations.

Chief O had reached out to the Union for help and they told him if he reached Kansas, aid and help would be provided, so this how the campaign begins with the 80 yr old chief taking the treasury he has in a barrel up to the hills to bury, then tradition has he had the slave killed to ensure secrecy. Then he and his followers abandon his plantation to start a westward trek.
 
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archieclement

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#2
A note on going forward, the numbers from now on will vary, and I suspect in many cases are estimates made by historians. It seems the only real accounts are from the CSA side as they had Texans and most the Indians on their side were mixed bloods who had adopted white mans ways and could speak and write English. Chief O couldn't, nor many of his followers as they had they favored the traditional indian ways, nor would many of slaves be able to. And many wont survive the campaign or the war. Next post will be the first skirmish of the campaign, Round Mountain
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#3
If there's a hint as to what happened in the words " ... they told him if he reached Kansas, aid and help would be provided ", this will be an awful story? Stories of how we kept promises made to Native Americans would fill the top half of one page.
 

archieclement

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#4
The first skirmish of the campaign is round mountain or battle of the round mounds. At this point accounts vary Chief O has 3500-4500 followers of whom 1000-1500 are warriors. After initially retreating west he turns to the northwest, this battle is in the NW corner of Creek territory.

Douglas Cooper has taken up pursuit with about 1400 men, 500 men of the 9th Texas and the rest mainly Creek, Chickasaw and Choctaw and some Seminole. as they near the 9th is ordered in the lead to pursue, at about twilight the 9th charges what it thinks is the main camp which seems to have been an ambush set by Chief O. Theres skirmishing for an hr or two with Chief O abandoning the field. Cooper gives his losses 6 killed, 4 wounded, 1 missing. The only account I've seen of O's forces casualties is 100 on wiki which seems high, imagine is more in line with Coopers. Afterwards Cooper is ordered to break off as this is during the time Fremont advanced to push Price out of Missouri, and it was feared Fremont would continue into either Arkansas or the Indian Territory, and they are gathering forces to oppose Fremont. And Chief O continues to the NW to a unionist camp of Cherokee on Bird Creek who had invited him.

Takeaways- It seems to me many authors have taken dramatic license in some of the descriptions of the skirmish. the number causalities show this was just minor skirmish, Quayles Texans charging at twilight while foolhardy was hardly a disaster based on the low number of causalities. Also the next morning as the confederates loot the deserted camp, accounts mention finding Texans who had been taken prisoners, murdered and mutilated by O's forces......this policy of no quarter will be returned to him later on in the campaign.

Also its demonstrated repeatedly the Confederates can break off, as they are organized military forces and mounted, O's forces are largely on foot encumbered with women and children and moving pitifully slow. And can be brought back to bear by the CS forces easily
 
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archieclement

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#5
If there's a hint as to what happened in the words " ... they told him if he reached Kansas, aid and help would be provided ", this will be an awful story? Stories of how we kept promises made to Native Americans would fill the top half of one page.
Dont want to jump ahead of the sequence, but O and those who followed him will pay a heavy price for doing so, from both sides
 
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#6
If there's a hint as to what happened in the words " ... they told him if he reached Kansas, aid and help would be provided ", this will be an awful story? Stories of how we kept promises made to Native Americans would fill the top half of one page.
I've done a lot of reading about this story, and tragically it's not a particularly happy one.
 

archieclement

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#7
When I left off Chief O had made the trek to camp with unionist Cherokee on Bird Creek by the Arkansas river in the SE corner of the Cherokee nation. Here he faces two new problems, geographically this is the divide from the hills and timber of that they knew to open rolling prairie....remember this is the onset of winter, many of O's followers had never seen prairie before, and prospect of nothing to block the cold wind wasnt appealing. His mish mash of followers are starting to fracture, Some Kickapoo had stole horses from Yuchis, the Alabamas wouldn't camp near the Wichitas…..opinion also was dividing some thought they should move on quickly as winter was only get to worse, others thought they should dig in and wait for Kansas forces to come to them, while others were turning around and heading back home.

Meanwhile after a four days march north, word reached Cooper that Fremont after driving Price from Missouri had turned around and returned to the interior of Missouri, so he was free to pursue O. Nov 29th Cooper leaves camp at Spring Hill near Concharta on the Arkansas River, in 2 columns, Coopers leads one of Indian troops towards tulsey town, One of his mixed blood scouts Clem Vann Rodgers will later have a son Will Rodgers the world famous entertainer and humorist. The 2nd column was the 9th Texas who was supposed to met the 1st Cherokee mounted rifles of John Drew near a village called Coody's Bluff.

However because of confusion Drew goes on to camp on Bird Creek within 6 miles of O's camp with the rest are 24 hrs away. A lot of the pure blood Cherokee were uneasy or opposed to fighting O. The Keetoowah had been plotting since Ross joined the CSA, they started spreading rumors O had magic and was unstoppable, a large portion of Drews 480 desert, some joining O, others going home.

The next day Cooper starts the Battle of Chusto Talasah on Dec 9th, after a couple hours of skirmishing Finally the decisive action of the day happens as McIntoshs's Confederate Creek and Qualyes 9th texas charged breaking O's rebels. The battle lasted around 4 hours. O forces were driven out onto the prairie with snow falling and the temps dropping.

Cooper lost 15 dead, 37 wounded, the losses for O's forces vary from 412-500. After the 4hr battle/skirmish Cooper breaks off to resupply his powder and ammo after looting whats left of O's camp the next morning. While O is clearly being driven onto the prairie with his supplies becoming fast depleted with no chance of resupply and the weather worsening with little to no cover going forward.
 
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archieclement

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#9
Cooper after resupplying is also reinforced as their is no longer the threat from Fremont, He gets more Texas Cavalry and Stand Waties elite Indian forces enter the picture, meanwhile O is camped on Shoal Creek a tributary of the Verdigris River and the weather has turned miserably cold.

McIntosh leading the column of Texas Cavalry arrives first, and concludes little need to wait on the rest, here it becomes the classic confrontation of white cavalry and Indian warriors. Dec 26th 1861 the battle of Chustenahlah or Patriot Hills begins. McIntosh's cavalry crosses the creek and dismounts about 300 yards from the Indian line on the ridge, they exchange several volleys, advance some and become pinned down. skirmishing continues for bout 2 hours when Lt Col Walter P Lanes Texans charge and break the Indian line. It quickly becomes a rout, the Indians try to rally three times as they fall back over 5-6 ridges, only to crushed by the raging Texans.

Col Mcintosh reports his loss as 3 dead and 32 wounded, He estimates O lost about 250 dead, he also captures 160 women and children, 20 blacks, 30 wagons, 70 yoke of oxen, about 500 horses, 100 sheep and thousands of dogs. O loses most of his camp gear including great quantities of food and hundreds of buffalo robes.
 
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archieclement

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#10
On the 27th Mcintosh feels he has accomplished his goal of O is broken and scattered, and contemplates returning to base, but at sundown Stand Watie arrives and advocates pursuit, and Mcintosh decides why not, as Cooper also arrives with Choctaw and Chickasaw, at this point it becomes a turkey shoot of minor battles against O's scattered and beaten forces.

Watie wins a unnamed skirmish with a band of Union Creek and Seminole killing 15 warriors and capturing 75 women and children, another 30 packhorses, at no loss to themselves.

O's Indians are reduced to eating their horses, some of his women threw their babies into mudholes and stomped them to death on the approach of the CS forces. Alligator one of O's Seminole followers is cornered with a small band by Waties forces and given the ultimatum surrender or die, they died..... Probally 700 of O's followers die in the retreat/rout to Kansas. They finally reach safety at Leroy Ks. In the distance looking north was an endless frozen plain.....no forts.....no waiting tents, blankets, food or aid......It all had been another of the white mans lies, promises with no substance. One of the few doctors on the scene reported over a hundred amputations from frostbite the next few days, Few had provisions and slept on the ground, shoes were almost unknown and clothes in short supply as refugees wondered the camps almost naked in freezing conditions looking for food or clothing.

All together around 9000 Union Indians, dissenters from 20 nations joined O at various points of the campaign, maybe 6000 reached Kansas. Over the next four years many of those 6000 would also die of disease, exposure, and starvation, including O himself, who dies in 1863.
 
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archieclement

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#12
The Encyclopedia of Alabama website has a biography of Opothleyoholo which includes a portrait.
http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1606
I am always struck at the difference between O and Ross of the Cherokee. Ross seems as unionist as O, but he signs with the CSA to wait a more favorable time for his people to declare for the Union. The Cherokee were as divided as the Creek, Ross seems to have to tried caution O to take a more cautious course.

O declaring against the rest of his tribe and other nations, while basicly behind what will become enemy lines seems to have been foolhardy to me.
 

ErnieMac

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#13
I agree, but it doesn't seem that Chief O was a patient man. The civil wars between segments of the Cherokee and Creek nations concerning land sales and removals is pretty much a forgotten part of history.
 



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