By: DENISE WILLIAMS , The Civil War Courier
A ceremony was held June 26 in Tahlequah, Okla. to rededicate the original Southern Iron Cross Medal belonging to Brigadier Gen. Stand Watie, a member of the Cherokee Nation and the only Native American to attain the rank of general in either Army during the Civil War. Watie was the last Confederate General to surrender after Appomattox.
Called "A Matter of Honor Ceremony," the event began with a procession led by a riderless horse with boot reversed in stirrups led by Arkansas Division Commander, W. Danny Honnell, who reenacted the part of Maj. Gen. Samuel Bell Maxey of Texas, one of the Commanders of the Indian Nation Troops. Next came a wagon carrying Watie’s Iron Cross.
Widows in black dresses and the Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi brought up the rear.
Following an invocation by Terry Bandy, Chaplain of the Arkansas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, participants recited the Pledge of Allegiance and the Salute to the Confederate Flag and sang "Dixie."
Several guest speakers addressed the attendees, including Bill John Baker and Troy W. Poteete of the Cherokee Nation.
Becky Redwine, great-great-great-grandniece of Gen. Stand Watie, dressed in a black widow’s dress, thanked everyone on behalf of the Watie family.
During the presentations, Poteete, Richard Fields, director of the museum at Tahlequah, Baker and Chief Chadwick "Corntassle" Smith were given honorary colonel promotions in the General Stand Watie Brigade, Maxey Division.
Several members of Watie’s family were named honorary Arkansas Travelers.
During the cross presentation, Loy Mauch, Commander of the Keller Camp of Hot Springs, Ark. took the Watie cross from the wagon, turned and walked toward Honed, who gave a slow hand salute to the cross. After receiving the cross from Mauch, Honnoll paused briefly for a few moments of silence.
He then raised the cross to present it to the gathering, and then lowered it chest high. He then called the muster roll one last time for Watie.
"Gen. Stand Watie, Gen. Stand Watie, Gen. Stand Watie. In vain we call. Gen. Watie has crossed over the river and rests under the shade of the trees with Jackson and Lee, and waits you and me with our ancestors that wore the gray."
Honnoll then turned slowly, walked up the steps to the stage, and presented the Watie Cross to Oklahoma Division Adjutant Wayne Coleman, saying "By the authority vested in me as Commander of the Arkansas Division SCV, I present you with this Southern Iron Cross in honor of Gen. Stand Watie to be passed to the Indian Nation so that future generations can pay honor to a true icon of the south."
Coleman accepted the cross and presented it to Susan Railsback and Ruth Faulkner of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who then presented it to Baker for the museum and the Cherokee Nation. Coleman thanks the SCV and all who had anything to do with the return of this piece of Cherokee history and pride.
The medal was originally installed in 1913 by Watie’s niece, Mabel Washburn Anderson, president of the Chapter 1450 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. At some point between 1915 and 1920, the medal disappeared from the cemetery.
For more than 80 years, the location of the cross was unknown. During the summer of 2003, due to a lucky sequence of events, the James M. Keller Camp #648 of Hot Springs, Ark., recovered the iron cross in southeast Kansas. It was part of a private collection belonging to an individual who purchased the medal years earlier at a flea market.
Camps and individuals from the Arkansas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a camp from Texas and members of the B. Leon Davis, Camp #648 raised enough donations to purchase the medal, with plans of returning it to the Cherokee Nation.
©The Civil War Courier 2004