Friday, March 09, 2012

"John Ross's Big Mistake"

This grossly inaccurate Currier and Ives print of the Battle of Pea Ridge
shows members of the Five Nations decked out in Plains Indians regalia. 
Speaking of Pea Ridge, this NY Times Opinionator column, by Gregory D. Smithers, explores the calculated gamble by Cherokee leadership in aligning with the Confederacy. The Cherokee were the largest of the Five Civilized Tribes, and the most assimilated into the ways of the White Man. Many Cherokee, particularly mixed-blood individuals, were slave-owners and deemed to have common cause with the secessionist states. The American Civil War was an especially tragic war-within-a-war for the Five Tribes -- a continuation of the bloody feuding that had split the nations prior to the Trail of Tears, when the Ridge/Watie/Boudinot faction signed away ancestral lands in the East, leaving the remaining Cherokee under John Ross to square off with Andrew Jackson.
As organized Indian units went in the Civil War, those fighting for the Confederacy were chiefly mixed-blood Indians, like Stand Watie, a three-quarter Cherokee, and members of the Five Tribes who fought for the Union were principally pure-blood. John Ross himself was only 1/8th Cherokee, and a owned a great many slaves. 

The Opinionator. . .   From John Ross’s perspective, the news from Pea Ridge was a disaster. Stories soon appeared in Northern and Southern newspapers reporting that Cherokee troops had scalped, tortured and desecrated the bodies of Union soldiers. These reports prompted newspaper editors to characterize Cherokee soldiers as “barbarous,” ill-disciplined drunkards. Albert Pike also attracted newspaper criticism. The New York Tribune accused him of leading an “Aboriginal Corps of Tomahawkers and Scalpers.” [see full essay here]

1 comment:

Hoe said...

If the 5 tribes had united against a common enemy, that would change the world's history.