Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

When the Wolf Came: The Civil War and the Indian Territory

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

When the Wolf Came: The Civil War and the Indian Territory

Article excerpt

When the Wolf Came: The Civil War and the Indian Territory. By Mary Jane Warde. The Civil War in the West. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2013. Pp. [xii], 404. $34.95, ISBN 978-1-55728-642-0.)

In this largely chronological account, Mary Jane Warde offers an authoritative analysis of the Civil War's devastating impact on the peoples of the Indian Territory. Focusing chiefly but not exclusively on the "Five Civilized Tribes"--the Cherokees, Muscogees (Creeks), Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles--Warde crafts a compelling narrative without oversimplifying the extraordinarily complex traditions, personalities, and pressures that influenced the events of the 1860s. Throughout the work she uses individual anecdotes effectively to highlight the suffering of those caught in the middle of a conflict they little understood, and she emphasizes the narrow range of options available to them.

The war, Warde demonstrates, was a "catastrophe" for the American Indians of present-day Oklahoma (p. 3). Although the diverse peoples there had fared reasonably well during the previous decade, internal conflicts over whether to seek complete assimilation, to remain separate but with some cultural adaptations (such as adopting black slavery, a written alphabet, and Christianity), or to retain strict adherence to traditional ways nonetheless precluded any easy consensus with the outbreak of war between North and South in 1861. Jealousies stemming from the terrible removals to the Indian Territory during the 1830s, along with suspicions between the politically influential mixed-bloods and their full-blood cousins, led to further divisions. Should they trust the United States government, which had been responsible for their earlier removal and quickly withdrew from the region with the onset of the Civil War, or should they acknowledge their cultural and traditional ties to the South and support the Confederacy?

Initially, most Indians of the region probably would have preferred neutrality, but Warde points out that such was not a particularly viable option in the face of intense pressure from the Confederacy and its allies, including federal Indian agents and missionaries. Taking heavy losses in the running battles of Chusto-Talasah (Bird Creek) and Achustenalah, many of the nations who favored the Union were driven into Kansas by late 1861. …

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