Stand Watie (1806-1871) – Also known as Standhope Oowatie, Degataga, and Isaac S. Watie, he was a
leader of the
Nation and a brigadier general of the Confederate States Army during the
He was born in Oothcaloga,
Nation (Calhoun, Georgia) on December 12, 1806, to David Uwatie, a
and Susanna Reese, who was of
and European heritage, and first called Isaac Uwatie. Later, when he grew
up, he preferred the English translation of his
name, Degataga, meaning "Stand Firm," and the "U" was dropped from "Uwatie."
Watie was educated at the Moravian Mission
School in Spring Place,
Nation (now Georgia) and by the time he grew up, his father had become a
wealthy slave-owning planter. He would later write for the Cherokee
Phoenix newspaper, which led him into the dispute over the Georgia
When gold was discovered on
lands in northern Georgia in 1828, thousands of white settlers
encroached on Indian lands. In spite of federal treaties that
protected them from actions of individual states, Georgia confiscated
most of the
land and the Georgia militia destroyed the Cherokee Phoenix in
The Federal Government soon stepped in,
move to Indian Territory
and the Treaty of New Echota was signed in January, 1836, which
established terms under which the entire
Nation was expected to move west to the Indian Territory.
Although it was signed by a minority
political faction and not approved by the
National Council, it was ratified by the U.S. Senate and became the
legal basis for the forcible removal known as the
Trail of Tears.
The Watie brothers stood in favor of the
removal of the
Cherokee to Oklahoma
and were members of the group that signed the Treaty of New Echota.
The Anti-Removal National Party following
John Ross refused to ratify the treaty, putting him at odds with
the Waties. The family, along with many other
soon emigrated to the West, where Stand Watie, a slave holder, started
a successful plantation on Spavinaw Creek in Indian Territory.
following John Ross remained on their
tribal lands for two years until they were forcibly removed by the
U.S. government in 1838 in a journey known as the "Trail of Tears,"
during which thousands died.
The following year, many of the members
who had signed the treaty were targeted for execution and in June,
1839 Stand’s brother Elias Boudinot was murdered outside his home. His
cousin and uncle, John and Major Ridge, fell to
assassins on the same day.
In 1842 Watie encountered James Foreman,
one of his uncle's assassins and shot him dead. He was tried for
murder in Arkansas and acquitted as acting in self defense, even
though Foreman was unarmed. Stand Watie's brother Thomas Watie was
also murdered by Ross partisans in 1845. At least 34 politically
related murders were committed among the
1845 and 1846.
From 1845, Stand Watie served on the
Council, part of that time as speaker.
broke out, a majority of the
Nation voted to support the Confederacy and Watie organized a regiment
of cavalry. In October 1861, he was commissioned as colonel in the
First Cherokee Mounted Rifles. In December, 1861, he was engaged in a
battle with some hostile Indians in the Battle of Chusto-Talasah in
present day Tulsa County, Oklahoma.
Later, he would participate in the
Battle of Pea
Ridge, Arkansas in March, 1862, after which General Albert Pike, in
his report of this battle, said: "My whole command consisted of about
1,000 men, all Indians except one squadron. The enemy opened fire into the
woods where we were, the fence in front of us was thrown down, and the
Indians charged full in front through the woods and into the open grounds
with loud yells, took the battery, fired upon and pursued the enemy
retreating through the fenced field on our right, and held the battery,
which I afterward had drawn by the
into the woods."
Though the Battle of Pea Ridge was a Union
victory, Watie's command of his troops was well noted and there was
considerable fear by the Union that
Indian Territory would be entirely
lost to the Confederacy.
The same year, though he was serving in the
Confederate Army, Watie was elected principal chief of the
Nation. Though former Chief John Ross had
fled to Washington D.C., his supporters, who by this time were in the
minority, refused to recognize Watie’s election and open warfare broke out
between the "Union Cherokee" and the "Southern Cherokee."
Confederate General William Steele, in his
report of the operations in the Indian Territory,
in 1863, said of Colonel Watie that he found him to be a gallant and
daring officer. On April 1, 1863, Watie was authorized to raise a large
In May, 1864 Colonel Watie was commissioned a brigadier-general, the only
Native American to achieve that rank in the Civil War.
In June, he captured the federal steamboat
J.R. Williams with 150 barrels of flour and 16,000 pounds of bacon, which Watie
would later say was actually a disadvantage to the command, because a
great portion of the Creek and Seminole soldiers immediately broke off to
carry their booty home. In September, 1864 he attacked and captured a Federal
train of 250 wagons on Cabin Creek and repulsed an attempt to retake it.
the end of the year 1864 General Watie's brigade of cavalry consisted of
the First Cherokee regiment, a Cherokee battalion, First and Second Creek
regiments, a squadron of Creeks, First Osage battalion, and First Seminole
battalion. To the end of the
General Watie stood by his colors, becoming the last Confederate general
in the field to stand down. When the leaders of the
Indians learned that the government in Richmond, Virginia had fallen
and the Eastern armies had been surrendered, most began making plans for
The chiefs convened the Grand Council June 15, 1865 and passed resolutions calling for Indian commanders to lay
down their arms. However,
Stand Watie refused until June
23, 1865, a full 75 days after Lee's surrender in the East. Finally
accepting the futility of continued resistance, he surrendered his
Indians to Lieutenant Colonel Asa C. Matthews at Doaksville.
ended the "Union Cherokee" and the "Southern Cherokee" sent delegations to
Washington D.C., where Watie pushed for recognition of a separate
"Southern Cherokee Nation."
Watie was refused; however, and the government
negotiated a treaty with the “Union Cherokee” in 1866, declaring
John Ross as the rightful Principal Chief.
It seemed that open hostilities would break out again in the
Nation, but, when John Ross died in August,
1866, hostilities calmed down. In the election in 1867, full-blood
Lewis Downing, was elected Principal Chief and was able bring about
peaceful reunification, though tensions lingered under the surface into
the 20th century.
In the meantime, Watie had returned from the
to find his home burned to the ground by Federal soldiers. In financial
ruin, he spent his final years farming and trying to restore his
once-beautiful Grand River bottomland.
All three of Watie’s sons preceded him in
death and in his last years he watched as colossal tracts of land legally
deeded to the
were taken from them as punishment for their support of the Confederacy
and given to other tribes. Many believe that Stand Watie died of a broken
heart. In one of his last letters to his daughter, he would say “You can’t
imagine how lonely I am up here at our old place without any of my dear
children being with me.” He died on September 9, 1871 and was buried in
the Polson Cemetery in Delaware County, Oklahoma.
of America, June 2016.