On June 23, 1865, Stand Watie, commander of the Cherokee Mounted Rifles and principal chief of the Cherokee, becomes the last Confederate general to surrender during the American Civil War when he surrenders to Union forces at Doaksville, Choctaw Nation (now a ghost town/historical site in Choctaw County, Oklahoma).
Born in Georgia on December 12, 1806, Stand Watie was a prominent figure in the politics and history of the Cherokee people. In 1835, Watie was among the signatories of the Treaty of New Echota, which enacted the removal of the Cherokee from Georgia and their relocation to the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Many who signed the treaty did so out of the believe that removal was inevitable and that the treaty might afford them better terms. However, the signatories of the Treaty of New Echota were sentenced to death by the Cherokee government as Cherokee law prohibited forfeiture of their tribal land. Of the men who signed the treaty, including Stand Watie's brother Elias Boudinot and cousin John Ridge as well as uncle Major Ridge, were killed by members of the Ross faction, loyal to principal chief John Ross. However, Stand Watie was the only one to evade execution.
Following the outbreak of the American Civil War, divisions broke out among the Cherokee just as they had the rest of the country. The pro-Confederate forces successfully pressured John Ross to side with the Confederacy; however, tensions still flared and Ross eventually fled to Union territory. In his absence, Watie was appointed principal chief. Watie would also assume command of the 1st Regiment of Cherokee Mounted Rifles with the rank of colonel. He was later promoted to the rank of brigadier general and eventually given command of the 1st Indian Cavalry Brigade consisting of two regiments of Cherokee Mounted Rifles as well as several Creek, Osage, and Seminole regiments and battalions. The successes of Watie and his troops, including the Confederate victory at the Second Battle of Cabin Creek and the ambush of the steamboat J.R. Williams, led to Watie being given command of the Indian Division by February of 1865. Watie and his troops persisted until Watie finally agreed to a cease-fire at Doaksville, placing Watie as the last Confederate general in the field to surrender at the end of the war.
After the war, the Union government refused to recognize the divisions among the Cherokee. They dealt only with John Ross and his faction and Ross was once again recognized as the sole chief of the Cherokee Nation. Following Ross's death in 1867, Lewis Downing was elected principal chief and reunification and reconciliation among the Cherokee was well underway. Watie returned home to Honey Creek (in present-day Delaware County, Oklahoma) at the end of the war and retired from public life. He passed away on September 9, 1871.
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24 Jun 2017 01:14 CEST
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