book report: Bitterly Divided (4) by David Williams
In my penultimate installment of this book report on David Williams' Bitterly Divided , about the rebellions in the rebellious South, I'm happy to report his coverage of the involvement of native Americans in the Civil War conflict. November is national American Indian Heritage Month. Please click the link if you never knew that. The tag at the bottom of this post will bring you to the posts I made last November with a focus on Native American history. I have a few books in the queue already focused on Native-American/Anglo conflict in the 17th century. By the start of the Civil War, most tribes had been kicked out of the South and were told to live in Oklahoma. Nevertheless, the Union focused all their energy on the war and stopped promised funding and support for the tribes. This provided opportunity for the Confederacy to come and seek treaties. The tribes wanted to be neutral but that wasn't an option. To most Cherokees assembled at Tahlequah, the path of wisdom seemed clear. Washington had abandoned them, and the Confederacy offered better terms. Already Indian Territory was bounded on three sides by the Confederacy, and hundreds of Cherokees under Watie were serving in the Confederate army. John Ross himself bowed to what seemed inevitable, pointing out that "the Indian Nations about us have severed their connection with the United States and joined the Confederate States. Our general interest is inseparable from theirs and it is not desirable that we should stand alone. " His overriding objective was unity among the Cherokees as well as the Nations. "Union is strength," he wrote, "dissension is weakness, misery, ruin." pp.215-6 Unfortunately, the Confederates were as honorable as most Americans, not at all. Confederate representative Albert Pike wrote to Jefferson Davis about
the Indian Territory's agricultural fertility and its mineral resources, and of how the Confederacy could use them to its advantage with or without Indian consent. The "concessions" made to the Indians, Pike wrote, "are really far more for our benefit than for theirs; and that it is we...who are interested to have this country...opened to settlement and made into a State" - a state to be populated mainly by free whites and enslaved blacks. p.213As within the Confederacy, so in Indian Territory, there were many who did not support the alliance and secession, so they tried to secede and head North to Kansas as refugees. A Creek leader named Opothleyahola tried to lead 9,000 Indians who were not interested in the war out of Oklahoma. But Confederate Colonel Douglas Cooper ambushed them. Less than half made it across the border in January, naked, frost bitten, starving, without shelter, traumatized. Even in Union territory, exploitation was the norm. Lincoln's cronies were rewarded jobs in Indian Affairs where they enriched themselves. One of Lincoln's friends, William Dole was appointed by Lincoln commissioner of Indian Affairs. Dole
lined his own pockets by speculating in Indian land. During he war, he arranged to be held in trust by the government, then sold them at inflated prices. Other Lincoln appointees, like Secretary of the Interior John Usher and Comptroller of the Currency Hugh McCulloch, also profited from corrupt Indian land deals. So did John G. Nicolay, Lincoln's personal secretary. p.230Information like this always takes the shine off Lincoln. It also takes the shine off politicians. Are there any that are thouroughly honest and do not have a shade of corruption? Why are our elections mostly about the least of two evils?