Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Civil War in the Indian Territory reading list

I recently sought out some advice on Civil War in the Indian Territory histories (I don't know if the guys want to be named but you can read the thread for yourself at Indian Territory in the Civil War message board - start with the one discussing the battles of Chusto-Talasah and Chustenalah).

Although there are some fine bits and pieces scattered around in journal articles and books, it appears my hunch was essentially correct that a scholarly, thorough, book length history of the war in the IT 1861-65 doesn't exist. As with other military figures who continue to receive a disproportionate amount of attention (i.e. Chamberlain at Gettysburg), Stand Watie appears to be 'that guy' for the IT. Me, I have a soft spot for Chilly McIntosh--love that name. I did get some opinions about a few books from a couple helpful avocational researchers. Although I don't feel the need to read one, it struck me that no one mentioned any of the many Albert Pike biographies. Overall, the general lack of impressive books really attests to the scholarly void for the region.

  • The American Indian As Participant in the Civil War by Annie Abel.
  • The American Indian in the Civil War, 1862-1865 by Annie Abel.
  • The American Indian and the End of the Confederacy 1863-1866 by Annie Abel.
comment: I've only glanced through Abel's many books, which look to have more breadth than detail.
  • The Civil War on the Border (2 vols) by Wiley Britton.
  • The Union Indian Brigade in the Civil War by Wiley Britton.
comment: These are valuable accounts by a participant who also consulted other contemporaries and official records.
  • Red Fox: Stand Watie and the Confederate Indian Nations During the Civil War Years in Indian Territory by Wilfred Knight.
  • The Civil War in the Indian Territory by Donald L. Rampp and Larry C. Rampp.
comment: I've been told Rampp covers the whole war, but isn't detailed. I'm reading Knight now. The consensus appears to be that, in relative terms, this is one of the better books covering military operations (and is thankfully less of a Watie worshipping work than some others). I was advised beforehand that Knight's work was far from perfect, but the errors and questionable assessments I found in the material I was most familiar with--the books first half--further attests to the need for modern scholarly attention to the IT.
  • The Prairie Was on Fire: Eyewitness Accounts of the Civil War in the Indian Territory by Whit Edwards.
  • The Confederate Cherokees: John Drew's Regiment of Mounted Rifles by W. Craig Gaines.
  • Embattled Arkansas by Michael Banasik.
  • Clarkson's Battalion (review) by David Haimerl.
comment: Both Banasik and Haimerl have very good material on units and 1862 operations. Banasik provides detailed accounts of the 1st and 2nd Indian Expeditions.
  • Brilliant victory: The second Civil War battle of Cabin Creek, Indian Territory, September 19, 1864 by Steven L. Warren.

[Thanks to the guys on the Indian Territory in the Civil War board for their input]


  1. Drew,

    Thanks for consistently posting great posts on the literature of the West and Trans-Mississippi.

    The Civil War in the Indian Territory is a subject that has always interested me. The Gaines book on Drew's Regiment (Confederate Cherokees) is great. The Annie Abel books are, as someone mentioned, dated, but so chock full of information, they're still worthwhile (worthy of Nebraska's Bison Books series).

    By contrast, the Knight book on Stand Watie was, for me, all but unreadable. My expectations were so high when that came out, that my disappointment was probably compounded. It's one of those books that's so rife with errors, you feel compelled to get out a pen and start marking up the pages.

    Two books that treat that theater briefly, but well, are Civil War in the American West, by the late Alvin Josephy, and Between Two Fires, American Indians in the Civil War, by Lawrence Hauptman.

    There are lots of good articles in The Chronicles of Oklahoma, now online at one of my new, favorite sites:


  2. Hi David,
    Yes, I was probably being too kind to Knight..LOL. I quit after the first half; I couldn't take it anymore.

    Another thing that I forgot was the Journal of the Indian Wars issue on the Civil War... I believe there was an article in there on 1st and 2nd Cabin Creek and maybe some more IT stuff.

    I am glad you mentioned the Chronicles of Oklahoma. I just found the website a couple days ago while researching this post and put it in my journal list in the sidebar. I applaud them for scanning so many of their articles for online viewing.

    Thanks for writing.

  3. Drew,

    Reading your post reminded me that I purchased a book called The Blue, The Gray, & The Red: Indian Campaigns of the Civil War on eBay for next to nothing several months ago. It was published by Stackpole Books in 2003 and was written by Thom Hatch. What are your thoughts on this one? Good, bad, so terrible it should never be spoken of again?


  4. Drew,

    I spoke too soon. After walking over to the bookshelf and reading over the inside cover of the dust jacket, it appears this one actually concentrates on the campaigns waged against the American Indians in the far west during the war, not any actual fighting in the Indian Territory or involving Indian units which participated in the war.


  5. Brett,
    Yes, it's mostly outside the IT. It didn't look detailed enough for me so I passed on it.


  6. On Stand Watie try "Cherokee Cavaliers." Many of Watie's letters to his wife written during the War of the Rebellion contained. Contents includes letters of his second in comand, Bell. Some of this information is in the OHS Chronciles. Edward Dale and Gasston Litton were the editors. Henry Franks, "Stand Watie," is worth connsidertion.

  7. wgibson,
    do you mean Kenny Arthur Franks' "Stand Watie and the Agony of the Cherokee Nation"? That's one I hadn't checked out before. Thanks for the tips.


  8. Drew,

    Please write some information about Red Fox: Stand Watie and the Confederate Indian Nations During the Civil War Years in Indian Territory. I want to buy a copy. Is this book useful?

    Thank You for your help!

    1. It's been almost ten years so I don't recall any specifics about it, but it was so riddled with errors that I didn't even finish it. I wouldn't bother with it. Unfortunately, there really isn't anything to recommend in its place. As a general history, you should try:


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