November 28, 2011
STAND WATIE—A MOST UNCOMMON SOLDIER
by Cheryl Pierson
Only two Native Americans on either side of the States’ War rose to the rank of brigadier general. Standhope Watie (Uwatie), fighting for the Confederacy, was one of those two. Yet, what makes this accomplishment so incredible is the fact that while he was fighting for the Confederate States of America, he was also fighting other Cherokee tribal leaders who held opposing political views and very different visions for the Cherokee nation.
Stand Watie commanded the Confederate Indian Cavalry of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. While the cavalry unit was comprised mainly of Cherokee, some Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole tribal members also served.
Born in Oothcaloga in the Cherokee Nation, State of Georgia, Uwatie (or Oowatie) was also known as Isaac. He was educated in a Moravian mission school. In his early adulthood, he occasionally wrote articles for the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper. The State of Georgia confiscated Cherokee lands in 1832 when gold was discovered, including the thriving plantation owned by Stand’s father and mother. Stand and his brothers, part of the powerful Ridge-Watie-Boudinot faction of the Cherokee council, stood in favor of the Cherokee Removal. Their signing of the Treaty of New Echota facilitated the removal of the Cherokee people to Indian Territory—what is now Oklahoma.
Another faction of Cherokees following John Ross refused to ratify the treaty signing. This segment was known as The Anti-Removal National Party. Members of this group targeted Stand Watie and his brother, Elias Boudinot, along with their uncle, Major Ridge, and cousin, John Ridge for assassination. Stand was the only one who survived the assassination attempt. Although Watie’s family had left Georgia before the forcible removal of all Cherokees in 1838, another brother, Thomas, was murdered by Ross’s men in 1845.
In October, 1861, Watie was commissioned as colonel in the First Mounted Cherokee Rifles. Besides fighting Federal troops in the States’ War, his men also fought opposing factions of Cherokee, as well as Seminole and Creek (Muscogee) warriors who supported the Union.
In 1862, Stand Watie was elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, through dissension continued among John Ross’s supporters.
On June 15, 1864, Watie’s troops captured the Federal steamboat J. R. Williams on the Arkansas River off the banks of Pleasant Bluff near Tamaha, Indian Territory. The next morning, Colonel John Ritchie’s men, who were stationed at the mouth of the Illinois River near where the two rivers met, engaged Watie’s men as they attempted to confiscate the cargo. The river was rising, and they fought to a standoff. When Watie learned of the advance of Union troops from Fort Smith, Arkansas, (within about 40 miles), he burned the ship and much of the remaining cargo, then sank it.
Watie surrendered a year later in June of 1865, the last Confederate general to lay down his arms.
Stand Watie fascinates me, probably because he's part of the history of Oklahoma, my home state. I wove the burning of the J.R. Williams into my debut novel, FIRE EYES. Most recently, I used his character in my short story, MEANT TO BE, that appears in A 2011 CHRISTMAS COLLECTION.
Robin Mallory is facing another Christmas all alone when she decides to surprise her aunt and uncle several hours away. She becomes stranded near a desolate section of interstate. With a snowstorm on the way, Robin has no choice but to walk, looking for a house to provide shelter.
Jake Devlin is shocked when the "spy" he jumps turns out to be a girl. She's dressed oddly, and talks like a Yank. Where did she come from, and what is he going to do with her?
EXCERPT FROM MEANT TO BE:He turned to motion toward one of his men, calling to him in Cherokee. “We’ll get some food in you, Miss Mallory,” he said to her. “You’ll be warm in no time.”
“Thank you, General.”
He nodded. “Lieutenant, would you be so kind as to go fetch the extra cup I have in my quarters for the young lady? She’d like some coffee, I’m sure.”
Jake saluted and turned to go, but not before he gave Robin a reassuring look.
The feeling of safety crumbled in the next instant, as the general gave her a look of his own, one that clearly let her know all pretence was over.
“Where do your aunt and uncle live, Miss Mallory?”
“Oh…uh…not—not very far from here. I mean, as the crow flies. It’s just a few miles—”
He smiled, as if at some private joke. “There have been…others…like you. The portal opens and it closes. But it doesn’t remain forever, Miss Mallory. So you have a life-altering decision to make.” His eyes bored into hers. “You either stay…or you go. But my advice, although you haven’t asked, is this: Don’t let time make the decision for you. Make it for yourself, because it’s what you want to do.”
“I—I don’t know anyone here. It was all a mistake. My truck had a flat tire—”
“Listen to me, because time grows short. Follow your heart, Miss Mallory. Make your own choice. I don’t know what or who you left behind in that other world, but if you decide to stay in this one, I’ll see you get to safety. After that…your future is your own.” His gaze held hers, then moved to where Jake would be returning soon from his quarters with the cup.
“How—long do I have? Do you know?”
“Let’s hope you have until midnight, Christmas night. I…can’t let you go anywhere before then.”
Robin drew herself up, his words like a slap in the face. “You can’t—but—why not?”
“For your own safety, Miss Mallory. We’re carrying out a mission here—”
“But—it’s Christmas! No fighting. Truce.”
“I’m afraid the holiday doesn’t preclude troop movement. Now, the subject is closed.”
Just then, Jake stepped out of the General’s tent, stopping by the coffee pot to pour a cup full of the dark liquid. General Watie’s expression was suddenly shuttered, the kindness Robin had seen there earlier, gone. As Jake neared with the cup, the General turned back to her. “This will be a very cold night, Miss Mallory. I’m quite sure you aren’t accustomed to sleeping out in the elements, and you are, of course, not equipped with your own bedroll. I’m putting Lieutenant Devlin in charge of your well-being. Though I know it’s not proper, you will share his bedroll tonight.”
When she started to protest, the General held up a silencing hand. “Pride does you no good if your fingers and toes are taken by frostbite, young lady. In these times, we do what we must to survive. I assure you, Lieutenant Devlin is completely trustworthy. If he were not, I would not give you into his keeping. That is all there is to be said.”
He turned away abruptly and walked toward the coffee pot himself, leaving Robin speechless. Jake was silent a moment, then reached for her hand.
“Here. Take this. It’ll warm your hands up to hold the cup.”
I hope you have enjoyed this look into a "most uncommon" soldier. To purchase any of my novels, stand alone short stories, or anthologies, please visit my website at www.cherylpierson.com or click HERE from my Amazon page.