April 9, 1865
This day in History
General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant April 9, 1865, but that was not the end of the Civil War. Other factions were not ready to give up the fight.
The Southern Cherokee, who fought for their own independence along side the Confederacy, in fact, never 'surrendered'. On June 23, 1865, Brigadier General Stand Watie and the remnants of the Cherokee Mounted Braves formally ceased hostilities at Doaksville at Fort Towson near The Red River in the Choctaw Nation. Nearly sixty years old, he was the last general to lay down arms in the Civil War, two months after Lee surrendered to Grant.
Stand Watie, c. 1855
Cornelius Boudinot wrote to his uncle Stand Watie and the remaining troops of the Cherokee Volunteers on May 11, 1865 as the war was coming to it's fateful conclusion. He was dispatched as delegate, as he had been many times, to meet with the Confederacy leadership in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Elias "Cornelius" Boudinot, c. 1870
The surrender of Lee and Johnson virtually puts an end to the war on the other side of the river. The people from Virginia to the Miss. river are willing to try the experiment of absolute submission and return to the old Union. Gen. Smith, in my opinion will hold on if possible a month or two yet, until the hopelessness of further resistance is apparent to the world, before he will yield the contest. From all that I learn his army will fall to pieces. The war will close in some shape by the 1st day of August, unless the old story of foreign intervention should be verified. Our policy should be to remain still and watch the current of events.
Aff'ly Yr. Nephew, Cornelius"
For the next month, the refugee families waited for word of their men and wars end. Wars end was something they had dared not allow themselves to dream about.
Sarah Caroline Bell Watie..."Sally" c. 1855
Chapter 14 - "Peace" of the book, "Jesus Wept, An American Story
" tells the story, taken from family letters from Waties wife Sally and her brother James Madison Bell, who returned to the refugee camps of Texas near Indian Territory to find his wife gravely ill. .... He exited later with more determination than when he entered. Still he was consumed with the thought that the last day of this war and finally coming home to his family would be the worst day of it all. "Children, everybody, gather your things. Tomorrow, we prepare to go home." Sally couldn't have agreed more. "I don't believe I could live one year longer if I knew that we could not be settled...I am so perfectly sick of the world!" proclaimed Sally, who couldn't get out of the refugee camps of Texas soon enough. "I never knew so much of this world as I do since I came to this country. I used to think that everyone had some sort of a soul, but one half of them has only gizzards, and some only craws!" "Jim?" Sally looked worried. "Where is my husband and my son? Why aren't they with you?" "They're fine, Sister. They'll be along soon enough. General Watie commissioned me and Colonel Adair to meet with General Francis Herron and Brigadier-General Veatch in Shreveport to negotiate terms of surrender for the Confederate Cherokee. We prepared papers and agreement to cease hostilities. They and the others have probably signed by now. We agree only on our terms of no retaliation to us by the Federals and not relinquishing any of our lands except to provide for the Negroes. We've been reassured they will sign." He explained more of the meeting. "We begged for arrangements to be made for the Confederacy to feed all these indigent refugees. We told him the refugees are in a state of the greatest destitution and desperate from impending starvation. I think Veatch was impressed by our presentation, though he has no authority himself to appropriate funds for such a purpose, he sent our request to his superior with the recommendation that it would probably be cheaper to feed the refugees than to punish them for raiding and stealing."
General Ely S. Parker, a member of the Seneca tribe, drew up the articles of surrender which General Robert E. Lee signed at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
Gen. Parker, who served as Gen. Ulysses S. Grant' military secretary was an educated attorney who was once rejected for Union military service because of his race. At the meeting, Gen. Lee was at first taken aback at the presence of an Indian being in such a position. After he got to know Parker,Lee is said to have remarked to him, "I am glad to see one real American here."
Parker replied, "We are all Americans."
Retaliation, in fact, did fall upon the Southern Cherokee. Much of their land became white settlement. Ten years after war's end, Stand Watie had passed and Jim Bell would be arrested for 'Treason' against the United States. Acting as his own attorney, he was cleared.
Historians judge by the time the war was over, seven thousand Cherokees had lost their lives, accounting for a quarter to a third of the Cherokee Nation. Their properties were laid to waste and homes burned. The days of fortune, self rule and slave labor were halted and the Union Congress was none too happy with any of them, whether they had served the Confederacy or not. Those that fought for the Union lost land rights along with the Southern rights Cherokees in post war treaties.
James Madison Bell Colo-Gotte-Yon", c. 1860
Labels: cherokee, civil war, Eli Parker, jesus wept, Watie