Must redeem within 90 days. See full terms and conditions and this month's choices. Tell us what you like, so we can send you books you'll love. Sign up and get a free eBook! Price may vary by retailer. Add to Cart Add to Cart. It was fought not just by the whites of the North and South, and by the blacks who mostly came in after Emancipation. It was also fought by Indians, I as many as 30, of them, from the Seneca and Shawnee of the Northeast to the Creeks and Seminoles in the Southwest, nineteen tribes altogether.
But most of their battles were fought west of the Mississippi, beyond the range of the eastern newspapers that covered the war. While the Indians were skilled as scouts, trackers, horsemen, and sharpshooters, their greatest value may have been their fighting skills. Shaped by a warrior culture, most were used to violence, and they took to battle.
Their long black hair spilling out from under their caps, their shoddy uniforms ill-fitting, their faces painted in harsh war colors, they surged into battle with a terrifying cry, equipped not just with army-issue rifles but also with hunting knives, tomahawks, and, often, bows and arrows. Even when mounted on horses, they exhibited a deadly aim, and their arrows sank deep, leaving their victims as much astonished as agonized. The natives killed as Indians, and they often died as Indians, too. When one dwindling band of sharpshooters, fighting for the Union at Petersburg, Virginia, in the yearlong siege at the close of the war, found themselves out of bullets, surrounded by a tightening ring of Confederates, they lifted the blouses of their uniforms over their heads and chanted their tribal death song until the end came.
If that is the last big surprise, another one lies hidden within it—about the mysterious behavior of the Cherokee in the conflict. Of all the tribes that fought in the Civil War, the Cherokee were one of the very few to come in on both sides, and, of those few, by far the most notable. The internal nature of their own conflict doubled the slaughter, and also drew the fight into their territory, bringing more sweeping devastation. Nearly a dozen battles were fought on Cherokee land, more than on any other Indian territory, starting with Caving Brooks in and Cowskin Prairie the following year; continuing through Pea Ridge just outside it, the greatest pitched battle in the West; and running through other battlegrounds that have been ignored by history.
By the time of the surrender in , the war had devastated the Cherokee Nation.
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At first, virtually all the Cherokee sided with the Confederacy, identifying with the Southern plantation owners, and proud of the black slaves they themselves had bought to pick their cotton. And, complicit with the state of Georgia, the Union had been responsible for the land theft that had cost them their ancestral territory and packed them west in the forced migration known as the Trail of Tears three decades before.
But why did the Cherokee not stay united against a common enemy? How could they have divided against themselves? To answer this, we need go back three decades to the terrible winter of and the issue that would never go away. Removal—the cruel shorthand for the Trail of Tears—was to the Cherokee Nation what slavery was to America, an issue so profound as to be bottomless and unending.
To the Cherokee themselves, the matter was more complicated and far more divisive. The Cherokee Nation did not stand as one against the threat of removal; it stood as two, one side agreeing that, given the relentless white encroachment, the Cherokee had to go, and the other insisting that they stay forever, come what may. Stay or go—the question could not have been more essential or more agonizing. On this, there could be no compromise. Follow the past, or chase the future? Hold to tradition, or start afresh? Only flag lists that clearly need our attention. As a general rule we do not censor any content on the site.
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