Stand Watie (12 December 1806 – 9 September 1871) (also known as Degataga "stand firm" and Isaac S. Watie) was a leader of the Cherokee Nation and a brigadier general of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He commanded the American Indian cavalry made up mostly of Cherokee, Creek and Seminole.
Watie was born near Rome, Georgia,on December 12, 1806, the son of Oo-watie (David Uwatie) and Susanna Reese, who was of Cherokee and white heritage. He was the brother of Gallegina "Buck" Watie (Elias Boudinot). The brothers were nephews of Major Ridge, and cousins to John Ridge.
The Watie brothers stood in favor of the Removal of the Cherokee to Oklahoma and were members of the Ridge Party that signed the Treaty of New Echota. The anti-Removal Ross Party (elected democratically by the majority) refused to ratify it. Watie, his family, and many other Cherokees emigrated to the West. Those Cherokees (and their slaves) who remained on tribal lands in the East were forcibly removed by the U.S. government in 1838 in a journey known as the "Trail of Tears," during which thousands died. The Ross Party targeted Stand and Buck Watie and the Ridge family for assassination and, of the four men mentioned above, only Stand Watie managed to escape with his life.
Watie, a slave holder, started a successful plantation on Spavinaw Creek in the Indian Territory. He served on the Cherokee Council from 1845 to 1861, serving part of that time as speaker.
Civil War service
Watie was the only Native American on either side of the Civil War to rise to a brigadier general's rank.
After Chief John Ross and the Cherokee Council decided to support the Confederacy (to keep the Cherokee united), Watie organized a regiment of cavalry. In October 1861, he was commissioned as a Colonel in the First Cherokee Mounted Rifles. Although he fought Federal troops, he also used his troops in fighting between factions of the Cherokee, as well as against the Creek and Seminole and others who chose to support the Union. Watie is noted for his role in the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, a Union victory, on March 6–8, 1862. Watie's troops captured Union artillery positions and covered the retreat of Confederate forces from the battlefield.
After Cherokee support for the Confederacy fractured, Watie continued to lead the remnant of his cavalry. He was promoted to Brigadier General by General Samuel Bell Maxey, and was given the command of two regiments of Mounted Rifles and three battalions of Cherokee, Seminole and Osage infantry. Watie was promoted to brigadier general on May 6, 1864.These troops were based south of the Canadian River, and periodically crossed the river into Union territory. A portion of Watie's command saw action at Oak Hills (August 10, 1861) in a battle that assured the South's hold on Indian Territory and made Watie a Confederate military hero. Afterward, Watie helped drive the pro-Northern Indians out of Indian Territory, and following the Battle of Chustenahlah (December 26, 1861) he commanded the pursuit of the fleeing Federals, led by Opothleyahola, and drove them into exile in Kansas. Although Watie's men were exempt from service outside Indian Territory, he led his troops into Arkansas in the spring of 1861 to stem a Federal invasion of the region. Joining with Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn's command, Watie took part in the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern (March 5-6, 1861). On the first day of fighting, the Southern Cherokees, which were on the left flank of the Confederate line, captured a battery of Union artillery before being forced to abandon it. Following the Federal victory, Watie's command screened the southern withdrawal.
All total Watie, or troops in his command, participated in eighteen battles and major skirmishes with Federal troop during the War Between the States, including Cowskin Prairie (April 1862), Old Fort Wayne (October 1862), Webber's Falls (April 1863), Fort Gibson (May 1863), Cabin Creek (July 1863), and Gunter's Prairie (August 1864). In addition, his men were engaged in a multitude of smaller skirmishes and meeting engagements in Indian Territory and neighboring states. Because of his wide-ranging raids behind Union lines, Watie tied down thousands of Federal troops that were badly needed in the East.
Watie's two greatest victories were the capture of the federal steam boat J.R. Williams on June 15, 1864, and the seizure of $1.5 million worth of supplies in a federal wagon supply train at the Second battle of Cabin Creek on September 19, 1864. He was the only Indian to achieve the rank of general in the Civil War. During the time of the War Between the States Watie would have been considered “a man of color”. Watie surrendered on June 23, 1865, (two months after Robert E. Lee Surrendered) at Fort Towson in the Choctaw Nations' area of Oklahoma Territory the last Confederate General to lay down his arms. Watie was given the mission of preventing Federal forces from crossing the Red River into Texas. Watie succeeded in his mission and in doing so also became the only Confederate General to successfully carry out his given mission to the end of the war. When Watie signed the cease-fire agreement with Union representatives he was the last Confederate general in the field to still command a Confederate Army.
After the war, Watie served as a member of the Southern Cherokee delegation during the negotiation of the Cherokee Reconstruction Treaty of 1866. He then abandoned public life and returned to his old home along Honey Creek. He died on September 9, 1871.