Stand Watie (1806/9-1871)

Stand Watie (12 December 1806-9 September 1871) (also known as Degataga "standing together as one," or "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 Cherokee, Creek and Seminole cavalries under the CSA.

Watie was born near Rome, GA, son of Oo-watie (David Uwatie) and the part-English Susanna Reese. 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 believed the treaty was in violation of the opinions of the majority of the tribe and refused to ratify it. Watie, his family, and many other Cherokees emigrated to the West. Those Cherokees (and their African 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, 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. These troops were based south of the Canadian River, and periodically crossed the river into Union territory. The troops fought a number of battles and skirmishes in the western confederate states, including the Indian Territory, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Texas. Watie's force reportedly fought in more battles west of the Mississippi River than any other unit.

On June 23, 1865, at Fort Towson in the Choctaw Nations' area of Oklahoma Territory, Watie surrendered the last significant rebel army, becoming the last Confederate general in the field to surrender.

Leadership of the Southern Cherokee

In 1862, during the war, Watie was elected principal chief of the Confederate or Southern Cherokee. As a tribal leader after the war, he was involved in negotiations for the 1866 Cherokee Reconstruction Treaty and initiated efforts to rebuild tribal assets. Watie and his nephew Elias C. Boudinot were arrested for evading taxes on income from a tobacco factory, and were plantiffs in the Cherokee Tobacco Case of 1870, which negated the 1866 treaty provision establishing tribal tax exempt status. As a result of this case, Congress officially impeded further treaties with Indian tribes, delegating Indian policy to acts of Congress or executive order.

Watie married four times, the first three before tribal relocation to the west. His fourth marriage in 1843, to Sarah Caroline Bell, produced five children. He is buried in Polson Cemetery in Oklahoma, near southwest Missouri.