Stand Watie (December 12, 1806 – September 9, 1871) (also known as Standhope Oowatie, 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 Confederate Indian cavalry of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi made up mostly of Cherokee, Muskogee and Seminole. He also served as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation 1862-1866.
Watie was born in Oothcaloga, Cherokee Nation (now Calhoun, Georgia) on December 12, 1806, the son of Uwatie (Cherokee for "the ancient one"), who went by his Christian name of David Uwatie, and Susanna Reese, who was of Cherokee and European heritage. He was the brother of Galagina "Buck" Watie (Elias Boudinot). The brothers were nephews of Major Ridge, and cousins to John Ridge. By 1827, David Uwatie had become a wealthy slave-owning planter. Stand Watie, who was also a Christian, was given the name of Isaac Uwatie; however, he preferred the English translation of his Cherokee name Degataga ("Stand Firm"). Later, the "U" was dropped from "Uwatie" and the family name became Watie.
Stand Watie learned to read and write English at the Moravian mission school in Spring Place, Cherokee Nation (now Georgia), and occasionally helped write for the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper, which led him into the dispute over the Georgia state repressive anti-Indian laws. Later, when gold was discovered on Cherokee lands in northern Georgia, thousands of white settlers encroached on Indian lands. In spite of federal treaties protecting Indians from state actions, in 1832 Georgia confiscated most of the Cherokee land and the Georgia militia destroyed the Cherokee Phoenix.
The Watie brothers stood in favor of the Removal of the Cherokee to Oklahoma and were members of the group that signed the Treaty of New Echota. The anti-Removal National Party following John Ross 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. Members of the National Party targeted Stand Watie, his brother Elias Boudinot, his uncle Major Ridge, and his cousin John Ridge along with several other Treaty Party men for assassination and, of the four men upon whom attempts were actually made on 22 June 1839, only Stand Watie managed to escape with his life. In 1842 Watie encountered James Foreman, one of his uncle’s assassins and shot him dead. He was tried for murder in Arkansas and acquitted as acting in self defense (however Foreman was unarmed). Stand Watie’s brother Thomas Watie was also murdered by Ross partisans in 1845. At least 34 politically related murders were committed among the Cherokee in 1845 and 1846.
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 one of only two Native Americans on either side of the Civil War to rise to a brigadier general’s rank. The other was Ely S. Parker, a Seneca who fought on the Union side.
General Stand Watie
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 colonel in the First Cherokee Mounted Rifles. Although he fought Federal troops, he also led his men 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 the First Indian Brigade, composed 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. They fought in 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. Watie was also a participant in what is considered to be the greatest Confederate victory in Indian Territory, which took place at Cabin Creek during mid-September, 1864, where he and General Richard Montgomery Gano led a raid that captured a Federal wagon train and netted approximately one million dollars worth of wagons, mules, commisary supplies, and other needed items.
During the war General Watie’s family remained with other Confederate Cherokees in Rusk and Smith Counties of east Texas. This community known at times as the Mount Tabor Community and also by the town name of Bellview, Texas, allowed warriors to stay out on campaigns, knowing that their wives and children were in relative safety. Although hardships in east Texas did exist, this knowledge helped form the Cherokee and allied warriors into the potent Confederate fighting force that held Union troops out of southern Indian Territory and large parts of north Texas throughout the war.
On June 23, 1865, following the Battle of Doaksville, at Fort Towson in the Choctaw Nation’s area of the Indian Territory, Watie signed a cease-fire agreement with Union representatives for his command, the First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi, becoming the last Confederate general in the field to stand down.
In 1862, after John Ross fled the Cherokee Nation for Washington, D.C., Stand Watie was elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. Ross’ supporters, who this time were in the minority, refused to recognize his election and open warfare broke out between the "Union Cherokee" and the "Southern Cherokee". After the bigger war ended, both factions sent delegations to Washington City. Watie pushed for recognition of a separate "Southern Cherokee Nation", but never got it. Instead, the government negotiated a treaty with the Union Cherokee in 1866, declaring Ross as the rightful Principal Chief. It seemed that open hostilities would break out again in the Cherokee Nation, but then Ross died, necessitating a new election. The election in 1867 of a compromise candidate, the fullblood Lewis Downing, who proved to be a shrewd and politically savvy Principal Chief, finally managed to bring about peaceful reunfication, though tensions lingered under the surface into the 20th century.
Stand Watie appears occasionally in Rifles for Watie, a novel by Harold Keith about a young Union soldier from Kansas and his experiences with Watie and his people in Tahlequah and in the surrounding areas.