Monday, November 30, 2015


[The Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory edited by Bradley R. Clampitt (University of Nebraska Press, 2015). Softcover, map, notes, index. 197 pp. ISBN:978-0-8032-7727-4. $25]

Between the publication of Annie Abel's early twentieth century classic series and today, Civil War in Indian Territory coverage in the literature has been both sparse and qualitatively disappointing but a fine scholarly overview now exists in the form of Mary Jane Warde's When the Wolf Came (2013)1. Whether or not Warde's award-winning study will spark more specialized scholarly attention remains to be seen but another broad approach is revealed in The Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory. Edited by Bradley Clampitt, the volume is the first published collection of original essays dealing with the war in what is now the state of Oklahoma (at least in true book form2). In addition to Clampitt's subject introduction, there are eight essays by historians Richard McCaslin, Clarissa Confer, Brad Agnew, F. Todd Smith, Christopher Bean, Linda Reese, Amanda Cobb-Greetham, and Whit Edwards.

Richard McCaslin begins the anthology with a very brief overview of military events in Indian Territory during the war. The essay offers a fairly thorough introduction (with some helpful further reading ideas in the chapter notes) but it's too bad no specific battle articles made it into the collection, given that only a tiny handful of these distinctive clashes are adequately covered in the literature. A good opportunity to introduce a wider range of readers to unique units like the Indian Home Guard regiments was missed, too.

Clarissa Confer delves into the various means of destruction that the war brought to the territory. With intra-tribal conflicts, frequent invasions, mass robbery and plundering, guerrilla violence, property and crop destruction, commerce disruption, famine and disease, the home front experience in Indian Territory closely mirrored that of the worst affected sections of the Border States. Many tribes experienced frightful population losses from all causes.

Like whites in Kentucky and Missouri, residents of Indian Territory quickly found out that Civil War neutrality was out of the question. Exploring many themes common with Confer's chapter, Brad Agnew looks specifically at the "Five Civilized Tribes" (or the currently more favored term "Five Nations," the Cherokee, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles) that occupied most of the eastern half of the territory. Abandoned by the U.S. army and with treaty promised subsidies suspended, some bloc of each tribe entered into new agreements with the Confederacy. Dissent between pro-Union and pro-Confederate factions was rife, especially among the powerful Cherokee and Creek nations. Citing this existing disunity, Agnew challenges earlier views that the period between removal and Civil War was something of a golden age of recovery for many tribes.

With much of the literature focused on the eastern half of Indian Territory and the Five Nations, F. Todd Smith instead takes readers to the Wichita Agency (populated by the Wichita, Caddo, Tonkawa, and Penateka Comanche) in the far southwest, between the Red and Canadian rivers. Squeezed between hostile Texas and aggressive Kiowa and Comanche raiders, the agency tribes were similarly enticed into an alliance with the Confederacy and they suffered just as much as their eastern counterparts when supply and protection agreements broke down. Analogous in raw and proportional numbers to Bear River and Sand Creek, the 1862 Tonkawa Massacre perpetrated by a mixed-tribe force of Union-armed attackers has received comparatively scant attention and is only briefly mentioned in the essay.

Reconstruction in the territory is the subject of Christopher Bean's chapter. The federal government used the war as an excuse to erase prior treaty obligations and impose or negotiate new agreements. Pro-Union factions were dismayed to find that they had little if any leverage on issues of sovereignty, treaty protections, and land. However, negotiation was still possible as those tribes, ironically the pro-Confederate Choctaws and Chickasaws, who came to the table with a united front and effectively used the tools of the system (ex. powerful lawyers, lobbyists, public relations, etc.) were able to forge better deals. Emancipation and railroad right of way concessions were the only ironclad requirements at the time, with programs of assimilation and the creation of a single government to be implemented later. Tribal citizenship and other rights considerations for the territory's freedmen were bitterly contested and often violently disputed issues and, in the following essay, Linda Reese charts the decades long battles for freedmen's rights among the ex-slaves of the Five Nations.

Finally, Amanda Cobb-Greetham examines Cherokee and Creek women's home front oral histories and public historian Whit Edwards, lamenting the territory's general lack of coverage in both popular histories and lower level Civil War courses, promotes the idea of using historical reenactment as a way to involve today's public in learning more about the Civil War in Indian Territory.

Seemingly designed for both serious students and more general readers, the essays anthologized in The Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory together offer a solid overview of the range of social and political themes related to the internal and external challenges imposed by the Civil War. They also effectively highlight key post-war concerns, some of which are ongoing, over tribal sovereignty and the rights of freedmen.

1 - When the Wolf Came: The Civil War and the Indian Territory by Mary Jane Warde (Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 2013).
2 - A case could be made that The Civil War Era in Indian Territory edited by LeRoy H. Fischer (Lorrin L. Morrison, 1974) fits the bill but its content is composed of previously published journal essays. More recent is Kepis and Turkey Calls: An Anthology of the War Between the States in Indian Territory edited by Mark L. Cantrell and Mac Harris (Western Heritage Books, 1982), but that pamphlet also collects its material from another publication (in this case, the journal Chronicles of Oklahoma).

More CWBA reviews of UNL Press titles:
* A Scientific Way of War: Antebellum Military Science, West Point, and the Origins of American Military Thought
* Spring 1865: The Closing Campaigns of the Civil War
* Busy in the Cause: Iowa, the Free-State Struggle in the West, and the Prelude to the Civil War
* Manassas: A Battlefield Guide
* Standing Firmly by the Flag: Nebraska Territory and the Civil War, 1861-1867 (Bison)
* The Enemy Never Came: The Civil War in the Pacific Northwest (For Caxton Press)
* The Settlers' War: The Struggle for the Texas Frontier in the 1860s (for Caxton Press)
* Of Duty Well and Faithfully Done: A History of the Regular Army in the Civil War
* Antietam, South Mountain, and Harpers Ferry: A Battlefield Guide
* Counter-Thrust: From the Peninsula to the Antietam
* Shenandoah Summer: The 1864 Valley Campaign
* The Peninsula & Seven Days: A Battlefield Guide
* Wilson's Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide, with a Section on Wire Road

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