Choctaw in the American Civil War
Choctaw in the American Civil War participated in two major arenas- East and West. Majors J. W. Pierce and S. G. Spann organized the Choctaws in Mississippi, and Albert Pike conducted treaty terms and later commanded a combined force of Choctaw; Cherokee; Chickasaw; Creek; and Seminole troops in Indian Territory.
At the beginning of the American Civil War, Albert Pike was appointed as Confederate envoy to Native Americans. In this capacity he negotiated several treaties, one such treaty was the Treaty with Choctaws and Chickasaws conducted in July 1861. The treaty covered sixty-four terms covering many subjects like Choctaw and Chickasaw nation sovereignty, Confederate States of America citizenship possibilities, and an entitled delegate in the House of Representatives of the Confederate States of America .
Soon Confederate battalions were formed in Indian Territory and later in Mississippi in support of the southern cause. The Choctaws, who were expecting support from the Confederates, got little. Webb Garrison, a Civil War historian, describes their response: when Confederate Brigadier General Albert Pike authorized the raising of regiments during the fall of 1860, Creeks, Choctaws, and Cherokees responded with considerable enthusiasm. Their zeal for the Confederate cause, however, began to evaporate when they found that neither arms nor pay had been arranged for them. A disgusted officer later acknowledged that "with the exception of a partial supply for the Choctaw regiment, no tents, clothing, or camp and garrison equippage was furnished to any of them."
In 1861, a Mississippi citizen attempted to raise a volunteer Choctaw company for the Confederacy. In the summer of 1862, eighty-two Mississippians filed a petition to Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus. The petitioners urged the conscription of the Indians. In that petition, John Harrisson, a white planter, was noted to have enrolled about two companies of the Indians. Harrisson's Indian companies likely merged with J. W. Pierce's unit. J. W. Pierce and S. G. Spann, both of whom were white planters, organized the Mississippi Choctaw as Confederates starting in 1862. Pierce and Spann created two distinct & separate units that had common members. The Indian troop's first mission was to track down deserters—most found in Jones County; however, S. G. Spann was aware of their potential for scouting and using guerrilla warfare. Pierce's troops were conscripted for tracking deserters in Jones County and surrounding areas, but Pierce's Indian troops were soon found in battles in Louisiana along the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad. After a train wreck in February 1863, referred to as the Chunky Creek Train Wreck of 1863, near Chunky, Mississippi, the Choctaw soldiers, who were recruited days/weeks earlier, led rescue and recovery efforts. Major S. G. Spann wrote many years later that "the passengers were rescued due to their heroic acts." As the war progressed, Indian troops were sent to Louisiana as reinforcements to Col. H. H. Miller's command at Ponchatoula in March 1863. The newspapers of the time gave the "Indian troops" credit for pushing back the Yankees. During or after Grierson's Raid in April/May 1863, over half of the Indian members of the 1st Choctaw Battalion deserted while the rest remained with the battalion. The 1st Choctaw Battalion under the command of Major J. W. Pierce was ordered to disband on May 9, 1863. After a number of Choctaw Indians were captured near Ponchatoula in May 1863, the troops petitioned government officials at Richmond to transfer to S. G. Spann's Battalion of Independent Scouts. As scouts in Spann's battalion, the Mississippi Choctaws served in the Tuscaloosa, Alabama area in fall 1863. Although Spann's Battalion of Independent Scouts was disbanded on November 6 of 1863, Spann may have continued service with his Battalion of Choctaw Indians, formerly called 1st Choctaw Battalion. Many Mississippi Choctaws served until they surrendered in May 1865. Major S. G. Spann, Commander of Dabney H. Maury Camp of Newton, Mississippi, wrote about the deeds of the Choctaw years after the Civil War had ended.
Many earnest friends and comrades insist that the Choctaw Indian as a Confederate soldier should receive his proper place on the scroll of events during the American Civil War. This task having been so nearly ignored, I send some reminiscences that will be an exponent of the extraordinary merit of the Choctaw Indian on the American Continent. My connection with the Choctaw Indians was brought about incidentally: Maj. J.W. Pearce, of Hazelhurst, Miss., organized a battalion of Choctaw Indians, of Kemper, DeKalb, Neshoba, Jasper, Scott], and Newton Counties, Miss., known as "First Battalion of Choctaw Indians, Confederate army.— Maj. S. G. Spann, Confederate Veteran Magazine Volume XIII
Mississippi Choctaws captured
During a massive Union offensive, soldiers, both white and Indian, of the 1st Choctaw Battalion were captured near Ponchatoula, Louisiana, and the Indian prisoners were soon shipped via steamship to Castle Williams near New York City. The Indian prisoners were displayed for the entertainment of New Yorkers at Madison Park. At least two Indian prisoners died while they were incarcerated at the Union prison on Governors Island. Spann describes the incident, "[Maj. J.W. Pearce] established two camps—a recruiting camp in Newton County and a drill camp at Tangipahoa—just beyond the State boundary line in Louisiana in the fall of 1862. New Orleans at that time was in the hands of the Federal Gen. B.F. Butler. Without notice a reconnoitering party of the enemy raided the camp, and captured around two dozen Indians and one commissioned white officer and carried them to New Orleans. Some of the officers and several of the Indians escaped and returned to the Newton County camp; but all the balance of the captured Indians were carried to New York, and were daily paraded in the public parks as curiosities for the sport of sight-seers."
In Choctaw Nation, Jackson McCurtain, who would later become a district chief, was elected as representative from Sugar Loaf County to the National Council in October 1859. On June 22, 1861, he enlisted in the First Regiment of Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles. He was commissioned Captain of Company G under the command of Colonel Douglas H. Cooper of the Confederate Army. In 1862 he became a Lieutenant Colonel of the First Choctaw Battalion in Indian Territory (Oklahoma), not to be confused with the 1st Choctaw Battalion in Mississippi.
The Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations were to organize ten companies. The units would participate in eight battles.
- First Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles
- Second Regiment of Choctaw Cavalry
- Third Regiment of Choctaw Cavalry
- First Choctaw Mounted Rifles
- Regiment of Choctaw Warriors
- Company of Choctaw Infantry
- Garrison, Webb (1995). "Padday Some Day". More Civil War Curiosities. Rutledge Hill Press.
- McIntire, Carl (July 20, 1980). "Choctaw Rebels tracked down deserters during Civil War". Clarion-Ledger Jackson Daily.
- Boggan, Greg (2005-02-06). "The Chunky Creek Train Wreck of 1863". Retrieved 2008-02-08.
- Kidwell, Clara (1995). "The Choctaws in Mississippi after 1830". Choctaws and Missionaries in Mississippi, 1818-1918. University of Oklahoma. p. 170. ISBN 0-8061-2691-4.
- Spann, S. G. (December 1905). "Choctaw Indians As Confederate Soldiers". Confederate Veteran Magazine. XIII (12): 560 and 561. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
- "Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma: 1880 - Jackson F. McCurtain". 1880. Archived from the original on February 2, 2009. Retrieved 2008-02-08.