Just to start with, the Civil War probably is a bit of a misnomer; a civil war is typically when two or more powers are fighting for control in a country. But America loves misnomers, honestly, so I’m going to leave that one alone.
As you all probably know, the Civil War was between the Confederate States of America (henceforth referred to as CSA) and ‘normal America’ aka the Union or the North, henceforth referred to as the Union.
What you probably don’t know is that there was a third party involved. No, not Mexico or Britain. This third party could be considered even more American than either side.
Back up a minute. Back when the Old South was settled, it wasn’t settled very thickly. Its little towns generally couldn’t compare to the North’s cities; centers such as there were in the North were few and far in between.
In the North, room had to be paved by not only clearing trees, but clearing Native Americans out. They were pushed further and further into other Native Americans’ territory, forcing fighting among groups that were already taking massive hits from disease.
But in the South, there was a lot of room for much longer than in the North. In the colonial times and a bit after, there were five Native American nations known as the Five Civilized Tribes by the Americans.
They were called such because they adopted a lot of European/Western ways, which, in the Americans’ eyes, made them civilized compared to other Native Americans. Interestingly, this was brought about mainly by George Washington, because he believed, unlike many Americans of the time, that Native Americans were equal. He believed it was their society that was inferior, which was progressive for the time, however backwards that is nowadays.
Anyway, so after these nations adopted Western ways, the appetite for more land seized America, as it often did during America’s history. This was because of a thing called Manifest Destiny, which basically said ‘We deserve the land because we’re special and God said so.’
So, most of these nations were forced out, moved to this place called Indian Territory (which would one day be the state Oklahoma). It was a horrific move, especially for the Cherokee; many died on the long forced march, and it is an episode in American history known as the Trail of Tears (All ordered by President Andrew Jackson, a guy with more prejudice against Native Americans than there are scales on a fish).
What does all this have to do with the Civil War?
The Confederacy was looking for an ally, any ally they could get their hands on, and the Native Americans in Indian Territory were perfect candidates.
A few of the Native American tribes owned slaves, and thus were in the same boat as the CSA economically. More importantly to most of the Native Americans in Indian Territory, the treaties offered by the CSA promised national sovereignty, possible, equal citizenship, a delegate in the House of Representatives, as well as goods such as livestock and rations, far more than they had ever received from the Union.
It was part of the Cherokee, the Choctaw, the Catawba, the Creek, and the Seminole that fought on the Confederate side. Other Native Americans fought on the Union side, or avoided it altogether.
But what the alliance brought the CSA was a winning streak; when the CSA was losing battles, the Native American forces were doing quite well for themselves in Indian Territory.
They captured forts, they fought Union Native American and Anglo-American forces, and quite frankly, if the CSA had been able to hold up their end, they might well have won.
Instead, all Native Americans in Indian Territory were stripped of the protections and promises that had been made when they had been forced there. This was a huge blow, and a lot of it led to the current situation we have today.
- BOOK: Krauthamer on Black Slaves and Indian Masters (africandiasporaphd.com)
- Help Prevent the Disappearance Of Native American Languages (ptbertram.wordpress.com)