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The Novel is Now in Print

December 6, 2011

Here is a great and very positive review of the new novel “Secret History of the Cherokees” by the Osage critic/journalist Wilhelm Murg… the book is available as a nice looking easy to read oversized trade paperback on amazon, signed copies are on Ebay for the same price $14.99 = shipping Search the Title…  Kendall and Nook copies are at Amazon and Barnes-Noble—- instant downloads are $9.99 Read the amazon reviews and please please write your own—- Thanks for your input and interest— here’s the Indian Country Today review link— you are welcome to comment show the book to your friends and local booksellers as we have an ad budget of $0 at this point but the book is selling well and getting a lot great reviews    http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2011/12/04/cherokees-secret-history-revealed-65226 Thanks again for all your much appreciated help and support. Murv Jacob

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The Great Slave Revolt (Two chapters and a note from Sequoyah)

July 20, 2010

1841 – The Great Slave Revolt

Cassius watched as Rich Joe Vann ran out the back door of his mansion to the sizable outhouse. “Lookit ol Ranjo run! Deys shittin like turkeys!” he laughed to Ol Buck.
“Jes preten you doan see him,” the older man warned, “and look over dat way, where you spose to be workin.” Ol Buck looked down at his new shoes and grinned. When Rich Joe shut the outhouse door Ol Buck sat down on a stump and looked around. The overseer Petite was nowhere in sight. “Tell me again, Jack,” Ol Buck had begun to laugh, “bout dat senna.”
“Well,” Cassius said, “dem two gals dat Mista Alligator tole us bout. Dey name Sadie an Betty. Firs dey takes dem senna leaves and puts em in a grindin stone til deys like dust. De dust melts right in de soup and de gravy. Dey shake it on de hawg meat fore dey serve it up. It doan take much to do de trick!”
As if on cue, a miserable moan escaped from behind the closed door of the outhouse. Rich Joe thought he and his family had all contracted a stomach bug or some other such malady that tore at the guts. Sadie and Betty had heard him say that his family had all caught the same sickness a couple of days after he got his first dose of the senna. They gradually increased the dosage as the white Indians became more dysfunctional and less likely to detect a strange taste in their food. Sadie had told Cassius how the senna did not affect the stomach or the appetite but only the bowels, and this allowed the Vanns to ingest a continuous supply of the herb as they desperately tried to eat their meals and regain their strength. Cassius reckoned it was a lucky thing for Ranjo that his slaves had their belongings bundled and hidden off in the woods, that tonight they would be leaving him for good – else he might just shit himself to death!

Late that night, Rich Joe, feverish and dehydrated, woke from an awful nightmare to the sound of someone hammering, nailing shut the door of his upstairs bedroom. Wild shadows flickered on his walls from people outside running with torches. He could hear a negro voice barking orders, dogs howling, children screaming, horses and mules sounding off. Feebly he rose out of the sweat-soaked sheets and made his way to that window where he oft surveyed his lands.
“Goddammit to hell!! They’re takin my brood mares! Those black bastard-sons-a-bitches!” Rich Joe’s face contorted with rage, his voice shook from sickness and force. “Those ungrateful African savage niggers are runnin oft … takin my best livestock….I’ll have them whipped to death’s door fer this outrage. Ohhhh, my beautiful thoroughbreds…in their stupid paws…”
Rich Joe ceased his rant as a huge rumble shook his innards. He tiptoed gingerly across polished floorboards toward the big brass pot in the corner. As he passed the oak wardrobe he grabbed a clean towel, but before he could reach the pot, his weakened sphincter let go. Watery feces shot from his rectum explosively, drenching his lower body and the waxed loblolly pine floor with nasty-smelling muck.
The man drug himself back to the window and watched the bobbing torches, now some distance away, and not a soul in pursuit. How could anyone pursue them? Everyone else on the place was just as sick as he. At that moment, Rich Joe realized for the first time that no illness had caused his gastric duress. The witchy nigra bitches had poisoned him, in his own house. He cursed, screaming at the retreating lights, until he was forced to run yet again to the chamber pot.

Principal Chief John Ross sat at a big old oak desk covered with papers. He loved the snug feeling he got in his new log office. It sat on the northwest corner of the Capital Square in Tahlequah. An hour before, he had shooed everyone away so that he could work on urgent Nation business. A young, tan-skinned girl knelt, completely hidden, beneath the fine piece of furniture. As instructed, she had left all her clothes on the floor in the other room – a room lined with books on every wall. From there she had crawled naked under his desk until she crouched in front of him on the Persian rug. Moaning softly, she serviced the sage chief with her mouth in the specific way he had taught her, and Johnny Ross lost himself in the sweet intimate act. He sweated and tensed as the floodgates opened, and she shuddered and swallowed. His body emitted that familiar unmistakable odor, musky and dark. He’ll fall asleep now, she thought. Then she could slip away to the little nearby creek.
The girl took a small gold coin from a black box Ross kept atop his desk. He always put one there for her when he summoned her to his office. The yellow United States coin had old Chief Tammany’s Indian face and feathered headdress stamped on it. As she left the drowsy Ross, he took no notice. She locked the door with her own key and walked east across the square. The November sun cast blue and green sparks off her straight black hair. She strolled past the Lighthorse guard with his shiny rifle, suppressing an urge to reach out and touch the weapon. The tall full-blood nodded at her gently, intimately. She walked the few steps on east to Bear Creek and began to purify herself as her family had taught her. First she plunged Chief Tammany’s head under the cool running water until she felt the tangible evil vanish, leaving just a little golden coin. She hid it down deep in her pocket.

Ross, the dozing patriarch, jerked instantly awake when an iron-shod horse galloped along the brick sidewalk right up to his office door. He grasped a dragoon pistol in one hand and the door key in his other. “Chief Ross!” he heard the rider cry. “I have an urgent message from Master Joseph Vann.” Ross opened the door, pistol at hand, and grabbed the message from the disheveled rider. The rider tried to speak, to tell Ross the reason he had ridden the lathered horse hard for hours; but Ross simply tossed him a silver coin, turned wordlessly on his heel and retreated to the sanctuary of his little office.
When Ross read the crudely written missive, he stamped his foot three times and said aloud to himself, “Damn! Damn! Oh, Damn it!” As his mind cleared, he read the message again, studying each word.

J.R. – MY NIGERS HAVE RUN OFF WITH ARMS, MY BEST MARES AND SUPPLIES. THE NIGER BITCHES HAVE POISONED ME. HAVE LIGHTHORSE EN MASSE SENT TO MY FARM AT PORT CITY TO PURSUE THE RUNAWAYS.

YOUR COUSIN – J.V.

Ross sat down again at his desk, that time-worn symbol of his power, and groaned. His brains were still down in his balls, and he felt numb and somewhat overwhelmed at this unpleasant news. But as he strode around the room and shook himself awake, his anger grew. He grabbed a sheet of fine vellum paper, his quill pen and ink. Within the hour he wrote out the order in his firm stylish script.

Whereas the Natl. Council has this day been informed that negroes belonging to Joe Vann of the Canadian District have plundered their owners and absconded, be it therefore resolved by the Natl. Council, that Captain John Drew be, and he is, hereby appointed to command a Company of one hundred men to pursue, arrest and deliver over said negroes to the commanding officer of Cantonment Gibson.
Be it further resolved that if any or all of the said negroes so pursued shall resist the Company, and one or all of them be killed, neither the Cherokee Nation, the said Company, nor members therein shall be accountable for such an act. – John Ross, Principal Chief

A PAGE FROM SEQUOYAH’S JOURNAL

The slaves who revolted in 1841 moved some distance south into Choctaw country. They were actually in the sparsely settled Wichita and/Caddo lands given by the United States to the Choctaws in exchange for their homes in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. This is the area that I have long referred to as the Ghost Lands or Lost People Lands. For centuries, the tribes that hunted the bison lived in these beautiful hills.
When Spain invaded Mexico, accompanied by horses, fierce dogs, steel armor and powerful iron weapons, they ravaged the land in search of gold and slaves. In a vain attempt to get rid of these monsters, the Aztec priests told the conquerors about the Cibola, the seven cities of gold, far to the north.
In the mid 1500s, a huge mounted expedition was launched from the Ciudad Mexico, with over a hundred heavily armed men, many Indian slaves, six hundred swine and a large herd of cattle. The dreaded Coronado led the expedition. His evil Christian crusade made a large sweep that encompassed these future ghost lands. Diseases the people had no resistance to spread everywhere. Plagues of cholera, smallpox and influenza ravaged the villages and decimated the people until only the most shy and isolated Indian people survived.
The survivors, who fled deep into the woods at the mere sight of strangers, would slay any European stragglers with their coral snake poison-tipped arrows. I always told young warriors, “Wear a feather in your hair while crossing the ghost lands so the hidden people will recognize you as Indians!’

1841 – The Slaves’ Flight South

The runaways rendezvoused with their Seminole guides and traveled south by southwest for two days. Along the way, they joined more slaves who had escaped from their Creek owners. They too had been assisted by Blue Alligator and his friends. They numbered seventy, and every adult rode a horse or a mule. More mules served as pack animals. It had been a dry November, and Blue Alligator worried that the large group might stir up enough dust to attract unwanted attention. He directed everyone to stop for a while in a patch of cedar brush.
Cassius had been riding ahead of the others, operating as a lookout. He reined in his mule atop a high ridge and scanned the hills with Rich Joe’s brass spyglass. A sudden movement caught his eye and he watched figures entering a distant clearing. He focused the glass in on them and saw two mounted men with at least a dozen slaves, shackled and head-locked, marching between them. He hurried back to the others and found Blue Alligator.
“Deys two men, one injun an one white, an deys comin dis way,” Cassius said breathlessly as he jumped down from the mule beside the Seminole. “Deys got a line a nigras tied up an walkin.”
“Dem’s slave ketchers,” said Blue Alligator. He stroked the little curly patch beneath his lip. “Reckin we jes hasta take care of dem.”

At the crossroads of two trails, the slave catchers rode up on a group of negro women and children, sprawled in a brown meadow. The men smiled at each other when they heard their cries and saw their defenseless position. They ordered their prisoners on the chains to halt while they advanced on the wailing women. The men pointed their rifles and the women held up their hands. Just then a sudden a flurry of shots rained down on the two slave catchers, and they tumbled from their saddles, dead.
Blue Alligator, Cassius and some others left their hiding places and approached the downed men warily. Blue Alligator rolled the dead man over with his foot and commented on his appearance. “Look at dis white man,” he mused. The man was dressed from head to toe in filthy buckskin. “Wearin dat necklace wit ol grizz claws.” The wind drifted the dead man’s hair and beard. “Look at dis curly red hair. He was a full-blood Scot. And he was prob’ly married to dis Delaware’s sista!”
Blue Alligator rolled the Delaware Indian over and showed Cassius the dead man’s distinctive garb and make up. “Dis one got dese roun painted spots,” Blue Alligators said. The Delaware’s head was shaved and tattooed, with a long topknot. Red round spots of paint stood starkly on the points of his cheeks. “Look at de voodoo tattoos on his body. Delaware warriors doan wear no shirts.” He turned the man’s leg displaying fringed buckskin leggings. “Shit.” Braided into the fringe they saw human scalps of various colors and sizes. “Dis here is a heap big muckety-muck Delaware warrior. Bet dat rifle cost forty dollar.” Blue Alligator hefted the man’s handmade rifle. “Find dem bullets,” he said.
Lizzie, one of the runaways who had helped lay the trap, was already searching the dead men. She held up a key on a thong next to an old rusty crucifix hung round the white man’s neck. She ran to the dead men’s prisoners who remained shackled and released them. For a time there was great rejoicing, but Blue Alligator cut that short. “We gotta keep goin’ south,” he told them. Blue Alligator rode his horse to the front of the group. His eyes were filling with tears, but he shook them away in order to scan the horizon. He knew that with the addition of a dozen more runaways, he could not provide enough horses for everyone to ride. Now they would be forced to move much more slowly. He shook his head, trying to deflect sudden doubts. Maybe we should have stayed hidden, let the slave catchers go on about their business, he thought. But then those prisoners would still be chained together. No, we did right. He just hoped the price would not be too dear. “We got no daylight to waste,” he said out loud and with their numbers now expanded, the runaways moved again to the south.

Three days later Captain John Drew and his Lighthorse posse saw buzzards circling in the distance on the trail south. They rode up on the shredded corpses of two men. A coffle and chains were laid across what was left of their chests.
A young Cherokee rider asked Drew, “Do you want to give these men a decent Christian burial, sir?”
“No, I doubt these two slave ketchers were ever Christians.” Drew spat at the horrible sight and smell and told his subordinates, “Now our fugitives are not just runaways… they’re murderers as well. They’ve killed a white man. We must hasten our pursuit. Leave the bodies…bring the chains.”

A few days passed before the fleeing runaways noticed a cloud of dust in the north and soon realized it came from a troop of pursuers on horseback. Blue Alligator knew the area well. He led the people to the ruins of an ancient walled village, now completely overgrown with oaks and hickories. The little copse of woods was surrounded by the remnants of an ancient earth wall that would hopefully afford some protection for the weary travelers. They led their horses into the center of the trees where a bubbling spring ran clear. The men loaded their weapons, taking positions around the old earth wall, and prepared to defend the site.
Drew’s Indian trackers had no difficulty following the slaves to the old village. They cautiously surrounded the area and Drew called for the runaways to surrender. He was answered by a hail of bullets from the heavily-armed slaves. In the shady thicket, Blue Alligator handed Cassius the dead slave catcher’s big Hawken rifle.
“Lean dat rifle in de crotch of de tree to steady it,” he said. “If you’se shootin dat far, aim de sights at de man’s head. Den you hits his belly.”
Just then Cassius saw a young soldier next to Drew climb up on a stump for a better view of the village wall. Cassius looked at Blue Alligator who nodded encouragement.
“Jes squeeze dat trigger when you’s ready, High John,” the Seminole said.
Ka-boom! The rifle flexed in Cassius’ hands and the young soldier disappeared from view into the brush, mortally wounded. Both sides suffered casualties that day. In the late afternoon, White Alligator fell dead in the thicket. A stray bullet had found its way into his brain. The runaways fought back successive advances by Drew and his men upon their position.
Drew realized that he would need more men and arms if he hoped to defeat the negroes. He took his wounded and withdrew to the trail north. Cassius helped Blue Alligator bury his brother. Blue Alligator never spoke while they dug the grave, or when they laid White Alligator down and covered him with soil and stones.
As dusk fell in the ancient village, Blue Alligator sat eating a small bite of salt pork with Cassius. He suddenly decided to speak. “See dis ole place here?” he asked. “Dem Caddos tole me dis place was built by people who came here long time ago in sky canoes.”
“Where dey come from?” Cassius said.
“Doan know,” replied Blue Alligator. “Dey come from de stars, I reckon. Dey say when dey’s done wit dere business here, dey left out in dem same sky canoes. And dey say dey took some young Caddos and Wichitas with em.”

The runaways kept moving south, nearing the very banks of the Red River on the border with Texas. Thieves, they thought most likely Comanches, stole all their horses one black night. Soon after, the last of the salt pork and meal ran out. The exhausted slaves were forced to hide in a forest of river cane and willows near the river, without food, in a freezing winter rain.
One dark cloudy morning, the runaways woke to find themselves surrounded by Captain Drew and a hundred Cherokee Nation Lighthorse riders. The slave catchers had crept right up on them in the rainy night. The male runaways were clubbed senseless, then chained into neck coffles. The women, hands tied behind them, were lashed by their necks onto a long rope, and each one was whipped. One of the children tried to run off. He was chased down by Lighthorse riders and shot. They left the child’s body where it fell. The soldiers cooked themselves some breakfast and then marched the slaves off into a miserable driving sleet. They were headed for the Cantonment Gibson.

When the grueling march was over, those who survived it straggled into Cantonment Gibson. A crowd of onlookers were gathered there, jeering and booing at their arrival. The ones accused of killing the white catcher were chained up outside. The crowd beat them with clubs, breaking bones and knocking out teeth. Joe Vann’s overseer Petite came up and told the crowd to go home – these captured runaways were Rich Joe Vann’s property. He inspected the slaves against a list of those who had run off or been killed since and soon discovered that their number had increased. Drew reported to Petite that the runaways had apparently killed slave catchers in the Choctaw Nation and coerced the slaves they found in bondage to accompany them.
Rich Joe arrived and claimed ownership of all the captured slaves. While inspecting them, Petite discovered that Blue Alligator was covered with old bullet and knife scars and tribal tattoos. “Mr. Vann,” Petite said, “I think this here is a goddamn Seminole zambo!”
“My bloody Christ!” Vann yelled and stepped closer. “He could well be one of those treacherous nigger savages.”
“You want to keep him, bring him home?” asked Petite.
“Hell, no.” Vann turned away. “Shoot the son of a bitch.”
Vann walked away and Petite drew his pistol and placed it against Blue Alligator’s skull. He pulled the trigger. They unchained his corpse from the line of slaves. Cassius stood a few feet away and bits of his friend’s brain landed on his own cheeks. Try as he did to hold them back, his own bitter tears washed the specks away.

After a hasty drumhead trial, Rich Joe authorized Petite to pick out a handful of the older and less valuable runaways and to make them an example for the others. Due to the inclement weather, the slaves were marched into a large room in the main fort in order to witness the spectacle. Other guests and witnesses, both white and Cherokee, were in attendance. The room stunk of pipe and cigar smoke and the bodies of the unwashed slaves. The five runaways selected for execution were marched over to five makeshift hangman’s nooses, hurriedly suspended from beams in the ceiling. Old tarps were laid on the wood floor under their feet to catch any mess.
While the other slaves watched in terror, the five were hoisted up to their tiptoes. Ol Buck, two older women , another old man, and a younger man, so badly injured by one of Drew’s bullets he could barely stand alone, were the doomed. An officer came out and read final orders to the five while they stood on their toes, stretched by the ropes around their necks. Petite pulled out a skinner’s knife and cut Ol Buck’s shirt away so that his back, chest and shoulders were bared. A man with a cat-o-nine tails was ordered to whip him.
The watching runaways tried to turn away or cover their eyes. The whip snapped across his naked skin and brought blood streaming. Ol Buck looked at Cassius over in the crowd of runaway and gave him a weak smile. Then he began, between lashes, to sing.
“Ranjo, oh, oh, oh, oh.” Snap! The whip hit him.
“Ranjo, oh, oh, oh, oh!” The lash fell again.
“When Ranjo die, when old Ranjo die, I be ridin his hoss, to de city in de night.”
The man with the cat-o-nine tails hesitated, listening to the words of Ol Buck. Petite produced a dirty rag and ordered it be stuffed into the old slave’s mouth. The whip blows came harder and harder. By the time Ol Buck collapsed into the noose, he was thankfully unconscious. Petite ordered him hoisted up. As Ol Buck swayed in the air, the only sound in the room was crying. Slowly, one by one, the other four bodies joined his and they too were hoisted up for all to watch their final throes of death.

Two new chapters on the Battle of the Caving banks

June 10, 2010

1861 – At Opotheyahola’s Camp

Cassius rode the red mule at an easy pace through open woods and meadows toward the Creek Nation. He passed many groups of refugee Indians, women and children in wagons, who pointed out the way to the Creek chief’s house. When stopped by Cherokee home guards and questioned, he stated in Cherokee that he was delivering an urgent message for his master, Principal Chief John Ross. He showed them a folded document from his shirt, one of the chief’s old letters taken from the big desk at Rose Cottage, and presented it to the man who looked at it briefly and handed it back. The man, like many Cherokees, could read, but not English.

As he neared the sprawling camp at Opotheyahola’s house, Cassius saw smoke rising from a hundred fires. He was met by Creek warriors, faces painted, bare-chested despite the cold, wearing cotton turbans, and armed to the teeth. Cattle, sheep and ponies wandered loose.

“Who you be, boy?” asked one of the Creeks.

“Dey calls me Cassius.”

“Where you from?”

“I left off de Ross place in de Cherokee Nation.”

“John Ross know you’re gone?”

“I reckon he know it now.” Cassius laughed and the Creek laughed, too.

“Go on over there and talk to Bowlegs,” the warrior said, pointing out a figure leaning over a fire in the distance.

“Who dat?” Cassius asked.

“Heap big warrior for Opotheyahola.”

Cassius made his way to the designated spot where he found a group of Creeks and Seminoles huddled around the fire. Away from the crowd, several people waited to speak to Bowlegs, who Cassius learned was a Seminole chief. Among them stood a tall black Seminole. Cassius recognized Blackberry, a fellow survivor of the slave revolt. Blackberry had been out hunting when the slaves were captured in the Canadian cane breaks so long ago. Cassius watched while Blackberry talked to the two Indians, then stepped out of line and approached him.

Blackberry looked him up and down and tears welled up in his dark eyes. He made some quick hand signs to the Creeks and moved toward Cassius. “High John,” he said, and they embraced each other, both weeping.

“You here jes in time, my brother. Wese movin north. De grass here is gone, de forces of evil is comin, and we is Kansas bound.”

“Reckon I be goin wit you and watchin yer ol sorry back,” Cassius said, wiping his eyes.

“Firs, les git you fed and git you some weapons. Wese roastin up a beef over at dat big fire. And de guns are over dere at dat wagon.”

An exodus of four thousand Creeks, Seminoles and negroes had already begun to drift north and was crossing into the Cherokee lands. The people traveled in carriages, wagons, two-wheeled carts, riding horses and mules. Many were on foot. Thousands of cattle, sheep and horses were herded into columns. The families went first, then the animals, flanked on all sides by armed warriors.

Albert Pike, who had been commissioned as General of all the Confederate forces in Indian Territory, was immediately alerted that Opotheyahola’s loyal Creeks and a huge armed rabble of Seminoles and runaway slaves were heading north, apparently to rendezvous with Union forces in Kansas. The retreating Creeks were being pursued at a distance by Texas cavalry. Pike ordered Colonel Drew’s regiment of Cherokees to intercept Opotheyahola’s forces and refugees.

Drew’s Mounted Rifles, in pursuit from the east, were mostly all Pin Indians who had been drafted unwillingly into the Confederate ranks when Ross had signed on with the south. The southern leaders thought they could control them and force their loyalty, but Stand Watie had warned Drew not to trust them, to use caution with them. Watie’s men, on the other hand, were die-hard rebels who whistled Dixie while they rode. They were a fierce crew of nigra-hating white Cherokees and many of them owned slaves. Watie stole what he needed to keep them well-armed and well-fed, and he slapped them down if they got too drunk. Drew’s men, in contrast, were solemn, morose, lackluster, and much more dangerous than they looked. They eyed their officers with a primordial hatred that the officers could feel and that had led them to make stupid, careless decisions more than once.

From the south came the Third Texas Cavalry, led by Colonel Douglas Cooper. The Texans were a dangerous, battle-hardened army a generation younger than Sam Houston’s valiant men. Some were Rangers, accustomed to fighting the wild tribes of Comanche and many had seen action in the 1845 American invasion of Mexico.

Opotheyahola was like a Creek Moses parting the Red Sea of the Cherokee Nation’s Coo-wee-scoo-wee District. In his seventh decade of life, he was a strong man. He let Bowlegs command the warriors, while he appeared here, there, and everywhere guiding, urging, and assisting the entire assemblage forward. At a place on Bird Creek called Caving Banks, Opotheyahola called a halt. He stopped the throng of refugees and regrouped his warriors. His scouts had warned him of the approach of the Texans and Drew’s Cherokees. He called his men around him.

“I know this place. With the Caving Banks around us, we are in a very defensible position,” Opotheyahola said, explaining how the steep broken terrain and soft sand made a cavalry assault from the south a risky proposition. “But the white Texans are relentless,” he said. “They will cover the ground. Bowlegs, take your men and be ready to slaughter them. Take your boys. Fill the sky with your black-feathered arrows. I want my Creeks on the east, the Seminole braves on the south, and the freed slaves will hold the center. Make the sky dark with lead.”

The Pin Indian, Watt Christie, was among the shivering and still-damp men who had just crossed the Verdigris River with Colonel Drew’s Mounted Rifles, and who now pulled blankets around their shoulders. They had been warned to keep their campfires low because Opotheyahola and the Loyal Creeks were camped but a few miles away through the rugged woodland. They inched close to the fire, their cheeks burning while toes and fingers stung from the chill as the temperature began to drop. Watt looked around him at the sullen, miserable faces of his companions.

“This is not right,” he told them. “We have now been forced on the warpath against our own people – people who believe as we do.”

Just then Colonel Drew and some officers walked up on them. “I need some scouts to get the lay of the land around the enemy’s camp,” Drew said. Several of the Indians stood up and so did Watt. He was not sleepy and he wished to move about. Mostly, he wanted to find out for himself what was going on. Drew chose Watt and two other men, Tadpole and Billy Sunday, to do the job. All three were Keetoowahs, and Tadpole was married to a Creek woman who had many relatives in Opotheyahola’s camp.

Sunlight drained rapidly from the winter sky as the three walked into the forest toward the Caving Banks. In the last rays of the afternoon, Watt and the others encountered Creek sentries, a pair of warriors with long rifles. Watt glanced at Tadpole and Sunday and then stepped out to reveal himself. He touched his hat in salute and held the lapel of his coat, drawing it away from his body and giving a motion as if he was wrapping it around his heart.

“Who are you?” a Creek warrior shouted.

“Tahlequah,” Watt answered. “And who are you?”

The Creek smiled. “I am Keetoowah’s son.”

Minutes later, the men stood in Opotheyahola’s camp, surrounded by Creeks, Seminoles and Cherokees. They passed a pipe and conversed in several languages.

“There’s nothing stopping you,” Bowlegs told them. “You should come over.”

Watt nodded his agreement.

“Tell your friends to tie corn husks in their hair so we can recognize them. We will all go to Kansas together.”

“When should we do this?” asked Watt.

“Dawn,” Bowlegs said. “Tell the others there are two thousand well-armed warriors here, ready to fight, willing to send them to the Darkening Land. But we will welcome them into our ranks. Tell them to bring all the lead and rations they can gather, and meet us here at dawn.”

Watt, Sunday and Tadpole returned to camp and told Drew the story he was wishing to hear. They described a huge enemy force, knowing that the fearful Drew would not attack. Then the word was spread quietly among the other Pin Indians and plans were laid to leave Drew’s camp before dawn.

A cheer rose among the Creeks and their allied forces as the pin-wearing Cherokees with cornhusks in their hair streamed around the abandoned farm, now being used as a headquarters for Bowlegs. Bowlegs moved among the Cherokees wearing a long shirt and plumed hat and he welcomed them heartily. “Brothers,” he told them, “we are undefeatable now!” The Cherokees tied their horses to trees and began dividing themselves into small groups of warriors, according to clan affiliation and blood ties.

Cassius mingled with the Cherokees and, speaking their tongue, he introduced himself to Watt Christie. “I jes run offa Johnny Ross’s place a few day ago,” he said and Watt laughed.

“How did you leave that reprobate?” Watt asked.

“Da girls in de house say he packin fo a long trip.”

“I would bet that he is.”

“I seen him wit my own eyes a-shakin hans wit Stan Watie.”

Watt shook his head bitterly. “Stay with us,” he said, “There’s a fight coming and it’s going to be thick.”

The next morning broke clear and bitter cold in John Drew’s camp. Well after sunup, the colonel still slept, wrapped up in blankets inside his canvas tent. The morning light and the strange silence brought him out of a deep sleep. He opened the tent flaps, stepped out and surveyed the camp. All was quiet. A few of his officers sat beside a fire. One of the captains brought over a cup of steaming coffee, handed it to him and saluted.

“They’re all gone,” the captain said. “They left while we slept, took munitions, food. The damned Republican Pins are gone!”

“Why wasn’t I wakened?” barked Drew.

“For what, sir? Out of six hundred men we have a few dozen officers left. If you had come shouting orders they’d have killed us every one, sir.”

Drew sipped his coffee while the gravity of his position made him shiver. Through the dull ringing in his ears, he realized the captain was speaking. He strained to hear.

“Your orders, sir?”

“What? Oh. Muster the men. Find me some food. Breakfast.” Drew’s hands and voice shook.

One of his officers who had tracked the deserters rode up quickly. “There’s a large force headed this way, sir!” he cried from horseback.

“Huhhh? Get your gear, men. We must depart this damnable spot and join up with Cooper’s Texans.” Suddenly Drew panicked. He saw himself as from a distance, a short, tawdry footnote to history. His command had deserted him. His career was over. He wished himself home again with his wife. His stomach growled while his ears rang. Breakfast, he thought. What a day.

Drew and his remaining officers mounted quickly and headed south, but after a few minutes one of them piped up, “We forgot about the powder, sir!”

“What? Oh, the powder,” Drew moaned. “We must retrieve the powder.”

They rushed back to the empty camp. There they found Major Pegg. He was still drunk from the night before and had been totally forgotten in the scramble to leave. Pegg was urinating on the trunk of a large oak tree, oblivious to all that had occurred.

“Pegg!” Drew shouted at the man.

“What in the world?” Pegg noticed for the first time the condition of the camp.

“We must flee, Pegg,” said Drew. “The enemy is upon us with four thousand men.”

Again his thoughts turned to breakfast.

Drew and his few loyal officers fled on to Cooper’s Texan camp without decorum. He reported to Cooper, “My men, my whole command, have gone over to the Union side. Those damnable nigra-loving Republican Lincolnites! God damn them all! Oh, Cooper, I am sick…and I must hasten to report, sir, that we are being pursued by a large Creek force – four thousand, I’d guess.”

Cooper frowned at Drew as he spoke softly, “You’ve been guessing wrong so far, Drew…Colonel Watie clearly predicted this very event, that your men would desert you. Go and sit yourself down and eat some breakfast. What a goddamn mess of Yankees and liars and traitors and fools. Shit fire!”

Cooper and his officers quickly ascertained there was no attacking force bearing down on them. John Drew finally sat down with his men to a belated breakfast of taters, biscuits, beans and beef. The Texans stood back and hee-hawed the dining Cherokees for their lack of valor. They grinned, laughed and elbowed each other till they cried. Cooper threw up a line of sentries and a watch was maintained throughout the morning, but the Loyal Creeks and their allies never appeared.

Young Captain Clement Rogers had been detached from Stand Watie’s force to act as a scout for Cooper’s Texas Cavalry. He stood there, that cold windy morning, watching the old man Drew and his few remaining men, all officers, huddled by the fire at Cooper’s camp. “Wretched fools,” he muttered to himself. “Do these blithering idiots even realize how deeply they have disgraced our Confederate Cherokee Nation? They have no order, no discipline. Now they have enriched chief Opotheyahola’s forces to the tune of many hundreds of warriors, horses and guns.” Clement Rogers looked at the deaf old Drew, white hair growing out of his ears and nose. “Damned disgusting choice old Ross picked as leader. I should shoot him in the head right now and save us more trouble.” He spat his tobacco on the icy ground.

Cooper’s Rebs rested in bivouac until just after noon. Then they were summoned by Cooper and his officers to receive orders and go over the battle plans. The Texans were saddled up and ready for a fight. Before they mounted, Cooper addressed them as though they were his own sons. “Boys, our enemy is composed of renegade niggers, cut throat Pins, and zambo trash. Beware…these black Lincolnites will have no compunction about killing you on sight. Cover your brother’s backs and fight like true sons of Texas! Let’s go finish this business and send those traitors to hell.” They mounted in the cold wind and headed into the dense thicket with solemn determination.

1861 – The Battle at the Caving Banks on Muddy Bird Creek

Billy Bowlegs and his Seminole warriors, their brown faces painted red and black, wore cornhusks braided in their thick hair so they would recognize each other even in the dark. They moved quietly south and established a firm position to protect Opotheyahola’s column from the Texas Rebel Calvary’s line of advance. In the center of the horseshoe bend on Muddy Bird Creek, they shored up the abandoned farmhouse and placed logs around on the ground for rifle positions. Bowlegs told his men, “If we don’t stop these Texan crackers here, we sho nuff gonna slow their white asses down a day or two. Shoot their horses – these Texans be walkin home, if they lives. Stay under cover and shoot careful, these tree branches will turn a bullet.”

Cassius looked up at Watt Christie. He wore the braided cornhusk in his long black hair and he seemed to be smelling the air. “They’s comin boys,” he said quietly. The men hunkered down in a brushy spot along the creek, high atop the tree-lined sand banks. The sand was crumbly and unstable and the color and texture of brown sugar.

A mighty fine spot for a swim on a hot August afternoon, Cassius thought, but this was December and a wet cold north wind blew down from Kansas where freedom waited. Across the creek a covey of quail went up with a rush of wings and then several deer bounded down the steep bank through the muddy creek and up toward them. Cassius felt fear grip his insides as he spied the grey-clad figures moving among the trees on the far shore.

“Hold back yer fire,” Watt whispered. An Indian word was hissed and hundreds of turkey calls were being made all around them. Cassius saw some of the Cherokee and Creek men stand up and slap their sides, barking and howling like wolves. Cassius flinched as he heard hundreds of bowstrings popping behind him. The sky darkened as the Creek boys began launching arrows to arc over their position and into the forest beyond the creek

Clem Rogers trotted forward on his horse, picking his way with Cooper’s southern officers and the remnant of Drew’s command. They rode through a prairie sprinkled with big oaks and pecan trees and then into a dense thicket of willows and river birches. The wind seemed to pick up behind them and they heard the rattling cries and taunts of Indian war whoops. Arrows sizzled, falling and cutting dead leaves and branches. Horses screamed and men who were wounded and cursing fell from their saddles into the dead grass. Clem saw Drew’s horse with an arrow through its neck, and watched the old man trying desperately to control the animal as it spun in a circle. Another soldier directly in front of him tumbled end-over-end off his horse, as the wounded beast plunged head-long into a ravine. In the confusion, some of the Confederate riders rode right off the high slippery sand banks and came crashing down through the overgrowth into the Muddy Bird Creek and into the sights of the loyal Indians.

The corn husk wearing Indians opened fire with rifles and shotguns. Horses and men shrieked horribly as they were raked with lead. The Confederates piled into the icy blood-stained creek over their own dead and wounded and withered under the gunfire emanating only dozens of yards away. Watt Christie saw Broom Baldridge, a one-time Keetoowah turned Confederate, struggling with his horse and attempting to lift a wounded man onto it. Watt drew a bead on the center of the rebel traitor’s grey uniform jacket and squeezed the trigger. The mortally wounded Lieutenant Baldridge looked up at Watt, right at him, and seemed to recognize him for a moment. He then fell heavily into the cold muddy water. The Confederate charge stalled and the rebels withdrew into the woods to regroup.

In the distant woods, Cassius could hear the clatter of rifle fire and he looked questioningly at Watt. “Alligator and the Seminoles are hitting their rearguard,” Watt told him. “They’re after the horses and supply wagons.” Movement on the sandy banks beneath them caught Watt’s attention. “Those are our people down there,” he warned. Despite the danger, several ex-field hands had rushed to the water’s edge. Half-naked and barefoot they rummaged for the dead men’s uniforms and boots. Cassius, Watt and the other Pins covered them, staring through rifle sights at the opposite bank. Cassius glanced down at the dead Confederates as several of their stripped, bleeding bodies began to drift slowly down the Muddy Bird Creek.

His horse riddled with lead and his skull bleeding, Clem Rogers stumbled on foot back through the bush with a Colt revolver in his hand. He came across Colonel Drew, sitting as if dazed by his horse as the downed animal kicked weakly on the ground, blood pumping from the arrow wound in its neck. Ignoring Drew, Clem walked over and pulled the arrow from the animal and examined it. “A metal-pointed Creek arrow,” Clem said, turning it over in his hand.

“What?” croaked Drew.

Clem glanced at the old wretch and cocked his revolver. He scanned the brush in every direction. They were alone. One shot would put an end to the man’s misery. But no, he heard a branch snapping behind him. Clem turned his revolver and shot the wounded horse through the brain. “Captain Rogers!” A voice rang out and Clem turned and saw Cooper, who stumbled forward holding an injured arm.

“Yes sir?”

“Captain, can you find a goddamn place to get at em along this creek?”

“I think so sir, yes.”

“How many men do you need?”

Rogers looked around him at the Texans and Cherokee officers who were gathering around Cooper. “Sir if it’s all the same to you I’ll take about twenty of them McIntosh Creeks and your Texans backing us up.”

“Make it happen, Captain Rogers.”

The north wind out of Kansas was bitter cold all that day, bringing freezing rain and sharp stinging sleet. Cassius looked down at his feet. They were cold and wet, but at least he had shoes. He pulled his old blanket up around his head and settled stiffly into the brown leaves. He watched Watt fiddling with a recently acquired Colt pistol. Bowlegs summoned them all back to the fortified farm house and corn cribs that occupied the center of the horseshoe bend. There they found Bowlegs bellowing orders in a mixture of languages. “The Texans have crossed the creek!” he shouted. “Our Chief is leading the people away.” Bowlegs raised his rifle above his head. “We fight them one more time. Here! We fight them very hard. Then we follow the people north!” Someone tossed Bowlegs a Creek spear. He raised it high, then thrust it point first into the sandy ground. Men shouted their assent.

Two hours later the Pins, allied Indians, and free negroes found themselves in a vicious crossfire. In bloody, close-quarter bush combat, the Texans had seized the high ground to the east of the farm and the McIntosh Creeks were holding a dense thicket to their north. Volley after volley was exchanged. The soft round balls splattered through the bush causing nasty flesh wounds by the dozens.

Cassius squatted near Watt behind a corn crib surrounded by black powder stained Pin Indians. Alligator rushed up behind them and placed his hand on Watt’s shoulder. “Not much light lef in de day,” he said hoarsely. “Dere’s a path cut through de brush. We gonna start pullin out. Ten men by ten men. When yo brothers run out – blast de Texans!” Watt nodded and spread the word and Alligator went on down the line giving instructions. Shots continued ringing out and bullets fell among them with increasing precision.

A dozen or more Texans rushed out of the underbrush, crouching low and carrying carbines. Watt and a score of Pins leaned up on one knee and fired a volley, causing some Texans to fall with bullets crashing through them and others to collapse behind trees. While Cassius made ready his shotgun, he saw one of the Pins, Billy Sunday, jerk and drop his gun. Watt held his rifle in one hand and fired a revolver rapidly at the Texans while Cassius grabbed Sunday’s foot and dragged the bleeding man behind the corn crib.

Crouching behind a tree in an elevated position, Clem Rogers watched the fight swirling around the farm house through the haze of black powder smoke. The woods around him were filling with wounded men. A young Texan lieutenant approached Clem and told him Colonel Cooper was holding an impromptu officer’s meeting further back in the woods. Clem followed the lieutenant and found the colonel and a few officers speaking in exhausted tones. They were a bedraggled but determined bunch, and every one had at least one bleeding wound.

Cooper spoke to Clem Rogers. “Do you think we can subdue these Yankee traitors?”

“Sir,” Rogers replied, “the enemy has a thousand or more warriors here in this bend and they appear to be holding their own whilst making an orderly retreat.” Cooper nodded grimly and Clem continued, “If we pursue them into this gathering dusk, we shall end the day by shooting our own men in the darkness.”

“Sir,” a Texas Captain addressed Cooper, “I’ve counted over fifty of our men killed, two hundred wounded and about a hundred downed horses.”

Cooper nodded again and said, “Goddamn those Indians.” Cooper glanced about at his worn and torn men. “We’ve given them as good as we’ve gotten. I’m confident of that.” The officers nodded and assured their colonel that was in fact the case. ”Gentlemen,” he said, “Git the boys that ain’t hurt too bad to start makin stretchers. Bring up the wagons. Let’s git these hurt men out of here.”

“Yes sir.”

“Shall we continue the pursuit sir?” The Texas captain wondered aloud.

“No, let them escape. We have taught them a lesson.”

Clem observed with few comments as the Texas Cavalry set about removing itself from the horseshoe bend. He carried his saddle and bedroll back to the morning’s camp. Sleet and hard specks of snow were falling about the weary men as they trudged back to the campfires. The Texans’ dreams of plunder – of cattle, slaves and glory – is vanishing into the sleet, smoke and darkness, Clem thought. But this land and its wealth is not their birthright, he considered, it is mine.

The next morning Clem awoke early amidst the groans of hundreds of wounded men and saddled a horse he took from the ad-hoc remuda. He rode east throughout the day, finally arriving at Colonel Watie’s camp in the early December darkness. Quickly he told the old man about the battle and how the Pins had defected and how Opotheyahola was still moving north to Kansas.

Stand Watie shook his head and laughed. “Let the black Republicans feed them then,” he said. “It is but one less concern.” Watie handed Clem a bottle and Clem drank and handed it back.

Captain William Penn Adair appeared out of the darkness, wrapped in a greatcoat and with a pained and ominous expression on his face. “Clem…cousin,” he said. “There’s been some very bad news.” He handed Clem a folded piece of paper. “It is from your wife.” Clem opened the letter and held a candle close as he read –

My Dearest Clement –

Our darling baby Elizabeth is no more. The journey from the farm to Mother’s house was too much for her to bear. She took a fever along the trail, and none among us could save her. She lies now in the cold ground, yet I live on, with a heart broken and empty arms that ache for my child. Father is sending me off to Texas in a week’s time, there to remain until this dreadful fighting is over. Until then, I live only to see your face again. May God keep you safe. Your loving wife – Mary America Rogers

1861 – At Opotheyahola’s Camp

Cassius rode the red mule at an easy pace through open woods and meadows toward the Creek Nation. He passed many groups of refugee Indians, women and children in wagons, who pointed out the way to the Creek chief’s house. When stopped by Cherokee home guards and questioned, he stated in Cherokee that he was delivering an urgent message for his master, Principal Chief John Ross. He showed them a folded document from his shirt, one of the chief’s old letters taken from the big desk at Rose Cottage, and presented it to the man who looked at it briefly and handed it back. The man, like many Cherokees, could read, but not English.

As he neared the sprawling camp at Opotheyahola’s house, Cassius saw smoke rising from a hundred fires. He was met by Creek warriors, faces painted, bare-chested despite the cold, wearing cotton turbans, and armed to the teeth. Cattle, sheep and ponies wandered loose.

“Who you be, boy?” asked one of the Creeks.

“Dey calls me Cassius.”

“Where you from?”

“I left off de Ross place in de Cherokee Nation.”

“John Ross know you’re gone?”

“I reckon he know it now.” Cassius laughed and the Creek laughed, too.

“Go on over there and talk to Bowlegs,” the warrior said, pointing out a figure leaning over a fire in the distance.

“Who dat?” Cassius asked.

“Heap big warrior for Opotheyahola.”

Cassius made his way to the designated spot where he found a group of Creeks and Seminoles huddled around the fire. Away from the crowd, several people waited to speak to Bowlegs, who Cassius learned was a Seminole chief. Among them stood a tall black Seminole. Cassius recognized Blackberry, a fellow survivor of the slave revolt. Blackberry had been out hunting when the slaves were captured in the Canadian cane breaks so long ago. Cassius watched while Blackberry talked to the two Indians, then stepped out of line and approached him.

Blackberry looked him up and down and tears welled up in his dark eyes. He made some quick hand signs to the Creeks and moved toward Cassius. “High John,” he said, and they embraced each other, both weeping.

“You here jes in time, my brother. Wese movin north. De grass here is gone, de forces of evil is comin, and we is Kansas bound.”

“Reckon I be goin wit you and watchin yer ol sorry back,” Cassius said, wiping his eyes.

“Firs, les git you fed and git you some weapons. Wese roastin up a beef over at dat big fire. And de guns are over dere at dat wagon.”

An exodus of four thousand Creeks, Seminoles and negroes had already begun to drift north and was crossing into the Cherokee lands. The people traveled in carriages, wagons, two-wheeled carts, riding horses and mules. Many were on foot. Thousands of cattle, sheep and horses were herded into columns. The families went first, then the animals, flanked on all sides by armed warriors.

Albert Pike, who had been commissioned as General of all the Confederate forces in Indian Territory, was immediately alerted that Opotheyahola’s loyal Creeks and a huge armed rabble of Seminoles and runaway slaves were heading north, apparently to rendezvous with Union forces in Kansas. The retreating Creeks were being pursued at a distance by Texas cavalry. Pike ordered Colonel Drew’s regiment of Cherokees to intercept Opotheyahola’s forces and refugees.

Drew’s Mounted Rifles, in pursuit from the east, were mostly all Pin Indians who had been drafted unwillingly into the Confederate ranks when Ross had signed on with the south. The southern leaders thought they could control them and force their loyalty, but Stand Watie had warned Drew not to trust them, to use caution with them. Watie’s men, on the other hand, were die-hard rebels who whistled Dixie while they rode. They were a fierce crew of nigra-hating white Cherokees and many of them owned slaves. Watie stole what he needed to keep them well-armed and well-fed, and he slapped them down if they got too drunk. Drew’s men, in contrast, were solemn, morose, lackluster, and much more dangerous than they looked. They eyed their officers with a primordial hatred that the officers could feel and that had led them to make stupid, careless decisions more than once.

From the south came the Third Texas Cavalry, led by Colonel Douglas Cooper. The Texans were a dangerous, battle-hardened army a generation younger than Sam Houston’s valiant men. Some were Rangers, accustomed to fighting the wild tribes of Comanche and many had seen action in the 1845 American invasion of Mexico.

Opotheyahola was like a Creek Moses parting the Red Sea of the Cherokee Nation’s Coo-wee-scoo-wee District. In his seventh decade of life, he was a strong man. He let Bowlegs command the warriors, while he appeared here, there, and everywhere guiding, urging, and assisting the entire assemblage forward. At a place on Bird Creek called Caving Banks, Opotheyahola called a halt. He stopped the throng of refugees and regrouped his warriors. His scouts had warned him of the approach of the Texans and Drew’s Cherokees. He called his men around him.

“I know this place. With the Caving Banks around us, we are in a very defensible position,” Opotheyahola said, explaining how the steep broken terrain and soft sand made a cavalry assault from the south a risky proposition. “But the white Texans are relentless,” he said. “They will cover the ground. Bowlegs, take your men and be ready to slaughter them. Take your boys. Fill the sky with your black-feathered arrows. I want my Creeks on the east, the Seminole braves on the south, and the freed slaves will hold the center. Make the sky dark with lead.”

The Pin Indian, Watt Christie, was among the shivering and still-damp men who had just crossed the Verdigris River with Colonel Drew’s Mounted Rifles, and who now pulled blankets around their shoulders. They had been warned to keep their campfires low because Opotheyahola and the Loyal Creeks were camped but a few miles away through the rugged woodland. They inched close to the fire, their cheeks burning while toes and fingers stung from the chill as the temperature began to drop. Watt looked around him at the sullen, miserable faces of his companions.

“This is not right,” he told them. “We have now been forced on the warpath against our own people – people who believe as we do.”

Just then Colonel Drew and some officers walked up on them. “I need some scouts to get the lay of the land around the enemy’s camp,” Drew said. Several of the Indians stood up and so did Watt. He was not sleepy and he wished to move about. Mostly, he wanted to find out for himself what was going on. Drew chose Watt and two other men, Tadpole and Billy Sunday, to do the job. All three were Keetoowahs, and Tadpole was married to a Creek woman who had many relatives in Opotheyahola’s camp.

Sunlight drained rapidly from the winter sky as the three walked into the forest toward the Caving Banks. In the last rays of the afternoon, Watt and the others encountered Creek sentries, a pair of warriors with long rifles. Watt glanced at Tadpole and Sunday and then stepped out to reveal himself. He touched his hat in salute and held the lapel of his coat, drawing it away from his body and giving a motion as if he was wrapping it around his heart.

“Who are you?” a Creek warrior shouted.

“Tahlequah,” Watt answered. “And who are you?”

The Creek smiled. “I am Keetoowah’s son.”

Minutes later, the men stood in Opotheyahola’s camp, surrounded by Creeks, Seminoles and Cherokees. They passed a pipe and conversed in several languages.

“There’s nothing stopping you,” Bowlegs told them. “You should come over.”

Watt nodded his agreement.

“Tell your friends to tie corn husks in their hair so we can recognize them. We will all go to Kansas together.”

“When should we do this?” asked Watt.

“Dawn,” Bowlegs said. “Tell the others there are two thousand well-armed warriors here, ready to fight, willing to send them to the Darkening Land. But we will welcome them into our ranks. Tell them to bring all the lead and rations they can gather, and meet us here at dawn.”

Watt, Sunday and Tadpole returned to camp and told Drew the story he was wishing to hear. They described a huge enemy force, knowing that the fearful Drew would not attack. Then the word was spread quietly among the other Pin Indians and plans were laid to leave Drew’s camp before dawn.

A cheer rose among the Creeks and their allied forces as the pin-wearing Cherokees with cornhusks in their hair streamed around the abandoned farm, now being used as a headquarters for Bowlegs. Bowlegs moved among the Cherokees wearing a long shirt and plumed hat and he welcomed them heartily. “Brothers,” he told them, “we are undefeatable now!” The Cherokees tied their horses to trees and began dividing themselves into small groups of warriors, according to clan affiliation and blood ties.

Cassius mingled with the Cherokees and, speaking their tongue, he introduced himself to Watt Christie. “I jes run offa Johnny Ross’s place a few day ago,” he said and Watt laughed.

“How did you leave that reprobate?” Watt asked.

“Da girls in de house say he packin fo a long trip.”

“I would bet that he is.”

“I seen him wit my own eyes a-shakin hans wit Stan Watie.”

Watt shook his head bitterly. “Stay with us,” he said, “There’s a fight coming and it’s going to be thick.”

The next morning broke clear and bitter cold in John Drew’s camp. Well after sunup, the colonel still slept, wrapped up in blankets inside his canvas tent. The morning light and the strange silence brought him out of a deep sleep. He opened the tent flaps, stepped out and surveyed the camp. All was quiet. A few of his officers sat beside a fire. One of the captains brought over a cup of steaming coffee, handed it to him and saluted.

“They’re all gone,” the captain said. “They left while we slept, took munitions, food. The damned Republican Pins are gone!”

“Why wasn’t I wakened?” barked Drew.

“For what, sir? Out of six hundred men we have a few dozen officers left. If you had come shouting orders they’d have killed us every one, sir.”

Drew sipped his coffee while the gravity of his position made him shiver. Through the dull ringing in his ears, he realized the captain was speaking. He strained to hear.

“Your orders, sir?”

“What? Oh. Muster the men. Find me some food. Breakfast.” Drew’s hands and voice shook.

One of his officers who had tracked the deserters rode up quickly. “There’s a large force headed this way, sir!” he cried from horseback.

“Huhhh? Get your gear, men. We must depart this damnable spot and join up with Cooper’s Texans.” Suddenly Drew panicked. He saw himself as from a distance, a short, tawdry footnote to history. His command had deserted him. His career was over. He wished himself home again with his wife. His stomach growled while his ears rang. Breakfast, he thought. What a day.

Drew and his remaining officers mounted quickly and headed south, but after a few minutes one of them piped up, “We forgot about the powder, sir!”

“What? Oh, the powder,” Drew moaned. “We must retrieve the powder.”

They rushed back to the empty camp. There they found Major Pegg. He was still drunk from the night before and had been totally forgotten in the scramble to leave. Pegg was urinating on the trunk of a large oak tree, oblivious to all that had occurred.

“Pegg!” Drew shouted at the man.

“What in the world?” Pegg noticed for the first time the condition of the camp.

“We must flee, Pegg,” said Drew. “The enemy is upon us with four thousand men.”

Again his thoughts turned to breakfast.

Drew and his few loyal officers fled on to Cooper’s Texan camp without decorum. He reported to Cooper, “My men, my whole command, have gone over to the Union side. Those damnable nigra-loving Republican Lincolnites! God damn them all! Oh, Cooper, I am sick…and I must hasten to report, sir, that we are being pursued by a large Creek force – four thousand, I’d guess.”

Cooper frowned at Drew as he spoke softly, “You’ve been guessing wrong so far, Drew…Colonel Watie clearly predicted this very event, that your men would desert you. Go and sit yourself down and eat some breakfast. What a goddamn mess of Yankees and liars and traitors and fools. Shit fire!”

Cooper and his officers quickly ascertained there was no attacking force bearing down on them. John Drew finally sat down with his men to a belated breakfast of taters, biscuits, beans and beef. The Texans stood back and hee-hawed the dining Cherokees for their lack of valor. They grinned, laughed and elbowed each other till they cried. Cooper threw up a line of sentries and a watch was maintained throughout the morning, but the Loyal Creeks and their allies never appeared.

Young Captain Clement Rogers had been detached from Stand Watie’s force to act as a scout for Cooper’s Texas Cavalry. He stood there, that cold windy morning, watching the old man Drew and his few remaining men, all officers, huddled by the fire at Cooper’s camp. “Wretched fools,” he muttered to himself. “Do these blithering idiots even realize how deeply they have disgraced our Confederate Cherokee Nation? They have no order, no discipline. Now they have enriched chief Opotheyahola’s forces to the tune of many hundreds of warriors, horses and guns.” Clement Rogers looked at the deaf old Drew, white hair growing out of his ears and nose. “Damned disgusting choice old Ross picked as leader. I should shoot him in the head right now and save us more trouble.” He spat his tobacco on the icy ground.

Cooper’s Rebs rested in bivouac until just after noon. Then they were summoned by Cooper and his officers to receive orders and go over the battle plans. The Texans were saddled up and ready for a fight. Before they mounted, Cooper addressed them as though they were his own sons. “Boys, our enemy is composed of renegade niggers, cut throat Pins, and zambo trash. Beware…these black Lincolnites will have no compunction about killing you on sight. Cover your brother’s backs and fight like true sons of Texas! Let’s go finish this business and send those traitors to hell.” They mounted in the cold wind and headed into the dense thicket with solemn determination.

1861 – The Battle at the Caving Banks on Muddy Bird Creek

Billy Bowlegs and his Seminole warriors, their brown faces painted red and black, wore cornhusks braided in their thick hair so they would recognize each other even in the dark. They moved quietly south and established a firm position to protect Opotheyahola’s column from the Texas Rebel Calvary’s line of advance. In the center of the horseshoe bend on Muddy Bird Creek, they shored up the abandoned farmhouse and placed logs around on the ground for rifle positions. Bowlegs told his men, “If we don’t stop these Texan crackers here, we sho nuff gonna slow their white asses down a day or two. Shoot their horses – these Texans be walkin home, if they lives. Stay under cover and shoot careful, these tree branches will turn a bullet.”

Cassius looked up at Watt Christie. He wore the braided cornhusk in his long black hair and he seemed to be smelling the air. “They’s comin boys,” he said quietly. The men hunkered down in a brushy spot along the creek, high atop the tree-lined sand banks. The sand was crumbly and unstable and the color and texture of brown sugar.

A mighty fine spot for a swim on a hot August afternoon, Cassius thought, but this was December and a wet cold north wind blew down from Kansas where freedom waited. Across the creek a covey of quail went up with a rush of wings and then several deer bounded down the steep bank through the muddy creek and up toward them. Cassius felt fear grip his insides as he spied the grey-clad figures moving among the trees on the far shore.

“Hold back yer fire,” Watt whispered. An Indian word was hissed and hundreds of turkey calls were being made all around them. Cassius saw some of the Cherokee and Creek men stand up and slap their sides, barking and howling like wolves. Cassius flinched as he heard hundreds of bowstrings popping behind him. The sky darkened as the Creek boys began launching arrows to arc over their position and into the forest beyond the creek

Clem Rogers trotted forward on his horse, picking his way with Cooper’s southern officers and the remnant of Drew’s command. They rode through a prairie sprinkled with big oaks and pecan trees and then into a dense thicket of willows and river birches. The wind seemed to pick up behind them and they heard the rattling cries and taunts of Indian war whoops. Arrows sizzled, falling and cutting dead leaves and branches. Horses screamed and men who were wounded and cursing fell from their saddles into the dead grass. Clem saw Drew’s horse with an arrow through its neck, and watched the old man trying desperately to control the animal as it spun in a circle. Another soldier directly in front of him tumbled end-over-end off his horse, as the wounded beast plunged head-long into a ravine. In the confusion, some of the Confederate riders rode right off the high slippery sand banks and came crashing down through the overgrowth into the Muddy Bird Creek and into the sights of the loyal Indians.

The corn husk wearing Indians opened fire with rifles and shotguns. Horses and men shrieked horribly as they were raked with lead. The Confederates piled into the icy blood-stained creek over their own dead and wounded and withered under the gunfire emanating only dozens of yards away. Watt Christie saw Broom Baldridge, a one-time Keetoowah turned Confederate, struggling with his horse and attempting to lift a wounded man onto it. Watt drew a bead on the center of the rebel traitor’s grey uniform jacket and squeezed the trigger. The mortally wounded Lieutenant Baldridge looked up at Watt, right at him, and seemed to recognize him for a moment. He then fell heavily into the cold muddy water. The Confederate charge stalled and the rebels withdrew into the woods to regroup.

In the distant woods, Cassius could hear the clatter of rifle fire and he looked questioningly at Watt. “Alligator and the Seminoles are hitting their rearguard,” Watt told him. “They’re after the horses and supply wagons.” Movement on the sandy banks beneath them caught Watt’s attention. “Those are our people down there,” he warned. Despite the danger, several ex-field hands had rushed to the water’s edge. Half-naked and barefoot they rummaged for the dead men’s uniforms and boots. Cassius, Watt and the other Pins covered them, staring through rifle sights at the opposite bank. Cassius glanced down at the dead Confederates as several of their stripped, bleeding bodies began to drift slowly down the Muddy Bird Creek.

His horse riddled with lead and his skull bleeding, Clem Rogers stumbled on foot back through the bush with a Colt revolver in his hand. He came across Colonel Drew, sitting as if dazed by his horse as the downed animal kicked weakly on the ground, blood pumping from the arrow wound in its neck. Ignoring Drew, Clem walked over and pulled the arrow from the animal and examined it. “A metal-pointed Creek arrow,” Clem said, turning it over in his hand.

“What?” croaked Drew.

Clem glanced at the old wretch and cocked his revolver. He scanned the brush in every direction. They were alone. One shot would put an end to the man’s misery. But no, he heard a branch snapping behind him. Clem turned his revolver and shot the wounded horse through the brain. “Captain Rogers!” A voice rang out and Clem turned and saw Cooper, who stumbled forward holding an injured arm.

“Yes sir?”

“Captain, can you find a goddamn place to get at em along this creek?”

“I think so sir, yes.”

“How many men do you need?”

Rogers looked around him at the Texans and Cherokee officers who were gathering around Cooper. “Sir if it’s all the same to you I’ll take about twenty of them McIntosh Creeks and your Texans backing us up.”

“Make it happen, Captain Rogers.”

The north wind out of Kansas was bitter cold all that day, bringing freezing rain and sharp stinging sleet. Cassius looked down at his feet. They were cold and wet, but at least he had shoes. He pulled his old blanket up around his head and settled stiffly into the brown leaves. He watched Watt fiddling with a recently acquired Colt pistol. Bowlegs summoned them all back to the fortified farm house and corn cribs that occupied the center of the horseshoe bend. There they found Bowlegs bellowing orders in a mixture of languages. “The Texans have crossed the creek!” he shouted. “Our Chief is leading the people away.” Bowlegs raised his rifle above his head. “We fight them one more time. Here! We fight them very hard. Then we follow the people north!” Someone tossed Bowlegs a Creek spear. He raised it high, then thrust it point first into the sandy ground. Men shouted their assent.

Two hours later the Pins, allied Indians, and free negroes found themselves in a vicious crossfire. In bloody, close-quarter bush combat, the Texans had seized the high ground to the east of the farm and the McIntosh Creeks were holding a dense thicket to their north. Volley after volley was exchanged. The soft round balls splattered through the bush causing nasty flesh wounds by the dozens.

Cassius squatted near Watt behind a corn crib surrounded by black powder stained Pin Indians. Alligator rushed up behind them and placed his hand on Watt’s shoulder. “Not much light lef in de day,” he said hoarsely. “Dere’s a path cut through de brush. We gonna start pullin out. Ten men by ten men. When yo brothers run out – blast de Texans!” Watt nodded and spread the word and Alligator went on down the line giving instructions. Shots continued ringing out and bullets fell among them with increasing precision.

A dozen or more Texans rushed out of the underbrush, crouching low and carrying carbines. Watt and a score of Pins leaned up on one knee and fired a volley, causing some Texans to fall with bullets crashing through them and others to collapse behind trees. While Cassius made ready his shotgun, he saw one of the Pins, Billy Sunday, jerk and drop his gun. Watt held his rifle in one hand and fired a revolver rapidly at the Texans while Cassius grabbed Sunday’s foot and dragged the bleeding man behind the corn crib.

Crouching behind a tree in an elevated position, Clem Rogers watched the fight swirling around the farm house through the haze of black powder smoke. The woods around him were filling with wounded men. A young Texan lieutenant approached Clem and told him Colonel Cooper was holding an impromptu officer’s meeting further back in the woods. Clem followed the lieutenant and found the colonel and a few officers speaking in exhausted tones. They were a bedraggled but determined bunch, and every one had at least one bleeding wound.

Cooper spoke to Clem Rogers. “Do you think we can subdue these Yankee traitors?”

“Sir,” Rogers replied, “the enemy has a thousand or more warriors here in this bend and they appear to be holding their own whilst making an orderly retreat.” Cooper nodded grimly and Clem continued, “If we pursue them into this gathering dusk, we shall end the day by shooting our own men in the darkness.”

“Sir,” a Texas Captain addressed Cooper, “I’ve counted over fifty of our men killed, two hundred wounded and about a hundred downed horses.”

Cooper nodded again and said, “Goddamn those Indians.” Cooper glanced about at his worn and torn men. “We’ve given them as good as we’ve gotten. I’m confident of that.” The officers nodded and assured their colonel that was in fact the case. ”Gentlemen,” he said, “Git the boys that ain’t hurt too bad to start makin stretchers. Bring up the wagons. Let’s git these hurt men out of here.”

“Yes sir.”

“Shall we continue the pursuit sir?” The Texas captain wondered aloud.

“No, let them escape. We have taught them a lesson.”

Clem observed with few comments as the Texas Cavalry set about removing itself from the horseshoe bend. He carried his saddle and bedroll back to the morning’s camp. Sleet and hard specks of snow were falling about the weary men as they trudged back to the campfires. The Texans’ dreams of plunder – of cattle, slaves and glory – is vanishing into the sleet, smoke and darkness, Clem thought. But this land and its wealth is not their birthright, he considered, it is mine.

The next morning Clem awoke early amidst the groans of hundreds of wounded men and saddled a horse he took from the ad-hoc remuda. He rode east throughout the day, finally arriving at Colonel Watie’s camp in the early December darkness. Quickly he told the old man about the battle and how the Pins had defected and how Opotheyahola was still moving north to Kansas.

Stand Watie shook his head and laughed. “Let the black Republicans feed them then,” he said. “It is but one less concern.” Watie handed Clem a bottle and Clem drank and handed it back.

Captain William Penn Adair appeared out of the darkness, wrapped in a greatcoat and with a pained and ominous expression on his face. “Clem…cousin,” he said. “There’s been some very bad news.” He handed Clem a folded piece of paper. “It is from your wife.” Clem opened the letter and held a candle close as he read –

My Dearest Clement –

Our darling baby Elizabeth is no more. The journey from the farm to Mother’s house was too much for her to bear. She took a fever along the trail, and none among us could save her. She lies now in the cold ground, yet I live on, with a heart broken and empty arms that ache for my child. Father is sending me off to Texas in a week’s time, there to remain until this dreadful fighting is over. Until then, I live only to see your face again. May God keep you safe. Your loving wife – Mary America Rogers

1861 – At Opotheyahola’s Camp

Cassius rode the red mule at an easy pace through open woods and meadows toward the Creek Nation. He passed many groups of refugee Indians, women and children in wagons, who pointed out the way to the Creek chief’s house. When stopped by Cherokee home guards and questioned, he stated in Cherokee that he was delivering an urgent message for his master, Principal Chief John Ross. He showed them a folded document from his shirt, one of the chief’s old letters taken from the big desk at Rose Cottage, and presented it to the man who looked at it briefly and handed it back. The man, like many Cherokees, could read, but not English.

As he neared the sprawling camp at Opotheyahola’s house, Cassius saw smoke rising from a hundred fires. He was met by Creek warriors, faces painted, bare-chested despite the cold, wearing cotton turbans, and armed to the teeth. Cattle, sheep and ponies wandered loose.

“Who you be, boy?” asked one of the Creeks.

“Dey calls me Cassius.”

“Where you from?”

“I left off de Ross place in de Cherokee Nation.”

“John Ross know you’re gone?”

“I reckon he know it now.” Cassius laughed and the Creek laughed, too.

“Go on over there and talk to Bowlegs,” the warrior said, pointing out a figure leaning over a fire in the distance.

“Who dat?” Cassius asked.

“Heap big warrior for Opotheyahola.”

Cassius made his way to the designated spot where he found a group of Creeks and Seminoles huddled around the fire. Away from the crowd, several people waited to speak to Bowlegs, who Cassius learned was a Seminole chief. Among them stood a tall black Seminole. Cassius recognized Blackberry, a fellow survivor of the slave revolt. Blackberry had been out hunting when the slaves were captured in the Canadian cane breaks so long ago. Cassius watched while Blackberry talked to the two Indians, then stepped out of line and approached him.

Blackberry looked him up and down and tears welled up in his dark eyes. He made some quick hand signs to the Creeks and moved toward Cassius. “High John,” he said, and they embraced each other, both weeping.

“You here jes in time, my brother. Wese movin north. De grass here is gone, de forces of evil is comin, and we is Kansas bound.”

“Reckon I be goin wit you and watchin yer ol sorry back,” Cassius said, wiping his eyes.

“Firs, les git you fed and git you some weapons. Wese roastin up a beef over at dat big fire. And de guns are over dere at dat wagon.”

An exodus of four thousand Creeks, Seminoles and negroes had already begun to drift north and was crossing into the Cherokee lands. The people traveled in carriages, wagons, two-wheeled carts, riding horses and mules. Many were on foot. Thousands of cattle, sheep and horses were herded into columns. The families went first, then the animals, flanked on all sides by armed warriors.

Albert Pike, who had been commissioned as General of all the Confederate forces in Indian Territory, was immediately alerted that Opotheyahola’s loyal Creeks and a huge armed rabble of Seminoles and runaway slaves were heading north, apparently to rendezvous with Union forces in Kansas. The retreating Creeks were being pursued at a distance by Texas cavalry. Pike ordered Colonel Drew’s regiment of Cherokees to intercept Opotheyahola’s forces and refugees.

Drew’s Mounted Rifles, in pursuit from the east, were mostly all Pin Indians who had been drafted unwillingly into the Confederate ranks when Ross had signed on with the south. The southern leaders thought they could control them and force their loyalty, but Stand Watie had warned Drew not to trust them, to use caution with them. Watie’s men, on the other hand, were die-hard rebels who whistled Dixie while they rode. They were a fierce crew of nigra-hating white Cherokees and many of them owned slaves. Watie stole what he needed to keep them well-armed and well-fed, and he slapped them down if they got too drunk. Drew’s men, in contrast, were solemn, morose, lackluster, and much more dangerous than they looked. They eyed their officers with a primordial hatred that the officers could feel and that had led them to make stupid, careless decisions more than once.

From the south came the Third Texas Cavalry, led by Colonel Douglas Cooper. The Texans were a dangerous, battle-hardened army a generation younger than Sam Houston’s valiant men. Some were Rangers, accustomed to fighting the wild tribes of Comanche and many had seen action in the 1845 American invasion of Mexico.

Opotheyahola was like a Creek Moses parting the Red Sea of the Cherokee Nation’s Coo-wee-scoo-wee District. In his seventh decade of life, he was a strong man. He let Bowlegs command the warriors, while he appeared here, there, and everywhere guiding, urging, and assisting the entire assemblage forward. At a place on Bird Creek called Caving Banks, Opotheyahola called a halt. He stopped the throng of refugees and regrouped his warriors. His scouts had warned him of the approach of the Texans and Drew’s Cherokees. He called his men around him.

“I know this place. With the Caving Banks around us, we are in a very defensible position,” Opotheyahola said, explaining how the steep broken terrain and soft sand made a cavalry assault from the south a risky proposition. “But the white Texans are relentless,” he said. “They will cover the ground. Bowlegs, take your men and be ready to slaughter them. Take your boys. Fill the sky with your black-feathered arrows. I want my Creeks on the east, the Seminole braves on the south, and the freed slaves will hold the center. Make the sky dark with lead.”

The Pin Indian, Watt Christie, was among the shivering and still-damp men who had just crossed the Verdigris River with Colonel Drew’s Mounted Rifles, and who now pulled blankets around their shoulders. They had been warned to keep their campfires low because Opotheyahola and the Loyal Creeks were camped but a few miles away through the rugged woodland. They inched close to the fire, their cheeks burning while toes and fingers stung from the chill as the temperature began to drop. Watt looked around him at the sullen, miserable faces of his companions.

“This is not right,” he told them. “We have now been forced on the warpath against our own people – people who believe as we do.”

Just then Colonel Drew and some officers walked up on them. “I need some scouts to get the lay of the land around the enemy’s camp,” Drew said. Several of the Indians stood up and so did Watt. He was not sleepy and he wished to move about. Mostly, he wanted to find out for himself what was going on. Drew chose Watt and two other men, Tadpole and Billy Sunday, to do the job. All three were Keetoowahs, and Tadpole was married to a Creek woman who had many relatives in Opotheyahola’s camp.

Sunlight drained rapidly from the winter sky as the three walked into the forest toward the Caving Banks. In the last rays of the afternoon, Watt and the others encountered Creek sentries, a pair of warriors with long rifles. Watt glanced at Tadpole and Sunday and then stepped out to reveal himself. He touched his hat in salute and held the lapel of his coat, drawing it away from his body and giving a motion as if he was wrapping it around his heart.

“Who are you?” a Creek warrior shouted.

“Tahlequah,” Watt answered. “And who are you?”

The Creek smiled. “I am Keetoowah’s son.”

Minutes later, the men stood in Opotheyahola’s camp, surrounded by Creeks, Seminoles and Cherokees. They passed a pipe and conversed in several languages.

“There’s nothing stopping you,” Bowlegs told them. “You should come over.”

Watt nodded his agreement.

“Tell your friends to tie corn husks in their hair so we can recognize them. We will all go to Kansas together.”

“When should we do this?” asked Watt.

“Dawn,” Bowlegs said. “Tell the others there are two thousand well-armed warriors here, ready to fight, willing to send them to the Darkening Land. But we will welcome them into our ranks. Tell them to bring all the lead and rations they can gather, and meet us here at dawn.”

Watt, Sunday and Tadpole returned to camp and told Drew the story he was wishing to hear. They described a huge enemy force, knowing that the fearful Drew would not attack. Then the word was spread quietly among the other Pin Indians and plans were laid to leave Drew’s camp before dawn.

A cheer rose among the Creeks and their allied forces as the pin-wearing Cherokees with cornhusks in their hair streamed around the abandoned farm, now being used as a headquarters for Bowlegs. Bowlegs moved among the Cherokees wearing a long shirt and plumed hat and he welcomed them heartily. “Brothers,” he told them, “we are undefeatable now!” The Cherokees tied their horses to trees and began dividing themselves into small groups of warriors, according to clan affiliation and blood ties.

Cassius mingled with the Cherokees and, speaking their tongue, he introduced himself to Watt Christie. “I jes run offa Johnny Ross’s place a few day ago,” he said and Watt laughed.

“How did you leave that reprobate?” Watt asked.

“Da girls in de house say he packin fo a long trip.”

“I would bet that he is.”

“I seen him wit my own eyes a-shakin hans wit Stan Watie.”

Watt shook his head bitterly. “Stay with us,” he said, “There’s a fight coming and it’s going to be thick.”

The next morning broke clear and bitter cold in John Drew’s camp. Well after sunup, the colonel still slept, wrapped up in blankets inside his canvas tent. The morning light and the strange silence brought him out of a deep sleep. He opened the tent flaps, stepped out and surveyed the camp. All was quiet. A few of his officers sat beside a fire. One of the captains brought over a cup of steaming coffee, handed it to him and saluted.

“They’re all gone,” the captain said. “They left while we slept, took munitions, food. The damned Republican Pins are gone!”

“Why wasn’t I wakened?” barked Drew.

“For what, sir? Out of six hundred men we have a few dozen officers left. If you had come shouting orders they’d have killed us every one, sir.”

Drew sipped his coffee while the gravity of his position made him shiver. Through the dull ringing in his ears, he realized the captain was speaking. He strained to hear.

“Your orders, sir?”

“What? Oh. Muster the men. Find me some food. Breakfast.” Drew’s hands and voice shook.

One of his officers who had tracked the deserters rode up quickly. “There’s a large force headed this way, sir!” he cried from horseback.

“Huhhh? Get your gear, men. We must depart this damnable spot and join up with Cooper’s Texans.” Suddenly Drew panicked. He saw himself as from a distance, a short, tawdry footnote to history. His command had deserted him. His career was over. He wished himself home again with his wife. His stomach growled while his ears rang. Breakfast, he thought. What a day.

Drew and his remaining officers mounted quickly and headed south, but after a few minutes one of them piped up, “We forgot about the powder, sir!”

“What? Oh, the powder,” Drew moaned. “We must retrieve the powder.”

They rushed back to the empty camp. There they found Major Pegg. He was still drunk from the night before and had been totally forgotten in the scramble to leave. Pegg was urinating on the trunk of a large oak tree, oblivious to all that had occurred.

“Pegg!” Drew shouted at the man.

“What in the world?” Pegg noticed for the first time the condition of the camp.

“We must flee, Pegg,” said Drew. “The enemy is upon us with four thousand men.”

Again his thoughts turned to breakfast.

Drew and his few loyal officers fled on to Cooper’s Texan camp without decorum. He reported to Cooper, “My men, my whole command, have gone over to the Union side. Those damnable nigra-loving Republican Lincolnites! God damn them all! Oh, Cooper, I am sick…and I must hasten to report, sir, that we are being pursued by a large Creek force – four thousand, I’d guess.”

Cooper frowned at Drew as he spoke softly, “You’ve been guessing wrong so far, Drew…Colonel Watie clearly predicted this very event, that your men would desert you. Go and sit yourself down and eat some breakfast. What a goddamn mess of Yankees and liars and traitors and fools. Shit fire!”

Cooper and his officers quickly ascertained there was no attacking force bearing down on them. John Drew finally sat down with his men to a belated breakfast of taters, biscuits, beans and beef. The Texans stood back and hee-hawed the dining Cherokees for their lack of valor. They grinned, laughed and elbowed each other till they cried. Cooper threw up a line of sentries and a watch was maintained throughout the morning, but the Loyal Creeks and their allies never appeared.

Young Captain Clement Rogers had been detached from Stand Watie’s force to act as a scout for Cooper’s Texas Cavalry. He stood there, that cold windy morning, watching the old man Drew and his few remaining men, all officers, huddled by the fire at Cooper’s camp. “Wretched fools,” he muttered to himself. “Do these blithering idiots even realize how deeply they have disgraced our Confederate Cherokee Nation? They have no order, no discipline. Now they have enriched chief Opotheyahola’s forces to the tune of many hundreds of warriors, horses and guns.” Clement Rogers looked at the deaf old Drew, white hair growing out of his ears and nose. “Damned disgusting choice old Ross picked as leader. I should shoot him in the head right now and save us more trouble.” He spat his tobacco on the icy ground.

Cooper’s Rebs rested in bivouac until just after noon. Then they were summoned by Cooper and his officers to receive orders and go over the battle plans. The Texans were saddled up and ready for a fight. Before they mounted, Cooper addressed them as though they were his own sons. “Boys, our enemy is composed of renegade niggers, cut throat Pins, and zambo trash. Beware…these black Lincolnites will have no compunction about killing you on sight. Cover your brother’s backs and fight like true sons of Texas! Let’s go finish this business and send those traitors to hell.” They mounted in the cold wind and headed into the dense thicket with solemn determination.

1861 – The Battle at the Caving Banks on Muddy Bird Creek

Billy Bowlegs and his Seminole warriors, their brown faces painted red and black, wore cornhusks braided in their thick hair so they would recognize each other even in the dark. They moved quietly south and established a firm position to protect Opotheyahola’s column from the Texas Rebel Calvary’s line of advance. In the center of the horseshoe bend on Muddy Bird Creek, they shored up the abandoned farmhouse and placed logs around on the ground for rifle positions. Bowlegs told his men, “If we don’t stop these Texan crackers here, we sho nuff gonna slow their white asses down a day or two. Shoot their horses – these Texans be walkin home, if they lives. Stay under cover and shoot careful, these tree branches will turn a bullet.”

Cassius looked up at Watt Christie. He wore the braided cornhusk in his long black hair and he seemed to be smelling the air. “They’s comin boys,” he said quietly. The men hunkered down in a brushy spot along the creek, high atop the tree-lined sand banks. The sand was crumbly and unstable and the color and texture of brown sugar.

A mighty fine spot for a swim on a hot August afternoon, Cassius thought, but this was December and a wet cold north wind blew down from Kansas where freedom waited. Across the creek a covey of quail went up with a rush of wings and then several deer bounded down the steep bank through the muddy creek and up toward them. Cassius felt fear grip his insides as he spied the grey-clad figures moving among the trees on the far shore.

“Hold back yer fire,” Watt whispered. An Indian word was hissed and hundreds of turkey calls were being made all around them. Cassius saw some of the Cherokee and Creek men stand up and slap their sides, barking and howling like wolves. Cassius flinched as he heard hundreds of bowstrings popping behind him. The sky darkened as the Creek boys began launching arrows to arc over their position and into the forest beyond the creek

Clem Rogers trotted forward on his horse, picking his way with Cooper’s southern officers and the remnant of Drew’s command. They rode through a prairie sprinkled with big oaks and pecan trees and then into a dense thicket of willows and river birches. The wind seemed to pick up behind them and they heard the rattling cries and taunts of Indian war whoops. Arrows sizzled, falling and cutting dead leaves and branches. Horses screamed and men who were wounded and cursing fell from their saddles into the dead grass. Clem saw Drew’s horse with an arrow through its neck, and watched the old man trying desperately to control the animal as it spun in a circle. Another soldier directly in front of him tumbled end-over-end off his horse, as the wounded beast plunged head-long into a ravine. In the confusion, some of the Confederate riders rode right off the high slippery sand banks and came crashing down through the overgrowth into the Muddy Bird Creek and into the sights of the loyal Indians.

The corn husk wearing Indians opened fire with rifles and shotguns. Horses and men shrieked horribly as they were raked with lead. The Confederates piled into the icy blood-stained creek over their own dead and wounded and withered under the gunfire emanating only dozens of yards away. Watt Christie saw Broom Baldridge, a one-time Keetoowah turned Confederate, struggling with his horse and attempting to lift a wounded man onto it. Watt drew a bead on the center of the rebel traitor’s grey uniform jacket and squeezed the trigger. The mortally wounded Lieutenant Baldridge looked up at Watt, right at him, and seemed to recognize him for a moment. He then fell heavily into the cold muddy water. The Confederate charge stalled and the rebels withdrew into the woods to regroup.

In the distant woods, Cassius could hear the clatter of rifle fire and he looked questioningly at Watt. “Alligator and the Seminoles are hitting their rearguard,” Watt told him. “They’re after the horses and supply wagons.” Movement on the sandy banks beneath them caught Watt’s attention. “Those are our people down there,” he warned. Despite the danger, several ex-field hands had rushed to the water’s edge. Half-naked and barefoot they rummaged for the dead men’s uniforms and boots. Cassius, Watt and the other Pins covered them, staring through rifle sights at the opposite bank. Cassius glanced down at the dead Confederates as several of their stripped, bleeding bodies began to drift slowly down the Muddy Bird Creek.

His horse riddled with lead and his skull bleeding, Clem Rogers stumbled on foot back through the bush with a Colt revolver in his hand. He came across Colonel Drew, sitting as if dazed by his horse as the downed animal kicked weakly on the ground, blood pumping from the arrow wound in its neck. Ignoring Drew, Clem walked over and pulled the arrow from the animal and examined it. “A metal-pointed Creek arrow,” Clem said, turning it over in his hand.

“What?” croaked Drew.

Clem glanced at the old wretch and cocked his revolver. He scanned the brush in every direction. They were alone. One shot would put an end to the man’s misery. But no, he heard a branch snapping behind him. Clem turned his revolver and shot the wounded horse through the brain. “Captain Rogers!” A voice rang out and Clem turned and saw Cooper, who stumbled forward holding an injured arm.

“Yes sir?”

“Captain, can you find a goddamn place to get at em along this creek?”

“I think so sir, yes.”

“How many men do you need?”

Rogers looked around him at the Texans and Cherokee officers who were gathering around Cooper. “Sir if it’s all the same to you I’ll take about twenty of them McIntosh Creeks and your Texans backing us up.”

“Make it happen, Captain Rogers.”

The north wind out of Kansas was bitter cold all that day, bringing freezing rain and sharp stinging sleet. Cassius looked down at his feet. They were cold and wet, but at least he had shoes. He pulled his old blanket up around his head and settled stiffly into the brown leaves. He watched Watt fiddling with a recently acquired Colt pistol. Bowlegs summoned them all back to the fortified farm house and corn cribs that occupied the center of the horseshoe bend. There they found Bowlegs bellowing orders in a mixture of languages. “The Texans have crossed the creek!” he shouted. “Our Chief is leading the people away.” Bowlegs raised his rifle above his head. “We fight them one more time. Here! We fight them very hard. Then we follow the people north!” Someone tossed Bowlegs a Creek spear. He raised it high, then thrust it point first into the sandy ground. Men shouted their assent.

Two hours later the Pins, allied Indians, and free negroes found themselves in a vicious crossfire. In bloody, close-quarter bush combat, the Texans had seized the high ground to the east of the farm and the McIntosh Creeks were holding a dense thicket to their north. Volley after volley was exchanged. The soft round balls splattered through the bush causing nasty flesh wounds by the dozens.

Cassius squatted near Watt behind a corn crib surrounded by black powder stained Pin Indians. Alligator rushed up behind them and placed his hand on Watt’s shoulder. “Not much light lef in de day,” he said hoarsely. “Dere’s a path cut through de brush. We gonna start pullin out. Ten men by ten men. When yo brothers run out – blast de Texans!” Watt nodded and spread the word and Alligator went on down the line giving instructions. Shots continued ringing out and bullets fell among them with increasing precision.

A dozen or more Texans rushed out of the underbrush, crouching low and carrying carbines. Watt and a score of Pins leaned up on one knee and fired a volley, causing some Texans to fall with bullets crashing through them and others to collapse behind trees. While Cassius made ready his shotgun, he saw one of the Pins, Billy Sunday, jerk and drop his gun. Watt held his rifle in one hand and fired a revolver rapidly at the Texans while Cassius grabbed Sunday’s foot and dragged the bleeding man behind the corn crib.

Crouching behind a tree in an elevated position, Clem Rogers watched the fight swirling around the farm house through the haze of black powder smoke. The woods around him were filling with wounded men. A young Texan lieutenant approached Clem and told him Colonel Cooper was holding an impromptu officer’s meeting further back in the woods. Clem followed the lieutenant and found the colonel and a few officers speaking in exhausted tones. They were a bedraggled but determined bunch, and every one had at least one bleeding wound.

Cooper spoke to Clem Rogers. “Do you think we can subdue these Yankee traitors?”

“Sir,” Rogers replied, “the enemy has a thousand or more warriors here in this bend and they appear to be holding their own whilst making an orderly retreat.” Cooper nodded grimly and Clem continued, “If we pursue them into this gathering dusk, we shall end the day by shooting our own men in the darkness.”

“Sir,” a Texas Captain addressed Cooper, “I’ve counted over fifty of our men killed, two hundred wounded and about a hundred downed horses.”

Cooper nodded again and said, “Goddamn those Indians.” Cooper glanced about at his worn and torn men. “We’ve given them as good as we’ve gotten. I’m confident of that.” The officers nodded and assured their colonel that was in fact the case. ”Gentlemen,” he said, “Git the boys that ain’t hurt too bad to start makin stretchers. Bring up the wagons. Let’s git these hurt men out of here.”

“Yes sir.”

“Shall we continue the pursuit sir?” The Texas captain wondered aloud.

“No, let them escape. We have taught them a lesson.”

Clem observed with few comments as the Texas Cavalry set about removing itself from the horseshoe bend. He carried his saddle and bedroll back to the morning’s camp. Sleet and hard specks of snow were falling about the weary men as they trudged back to the campfires. The Texans’ dreams of plunder – of cattle, slaves and glory – is vanishing into the sleet, smoke and darkness, Clem thought. But this land and its wealth is not their birthright, he considered, it is mine.

The next morning Clem awoke early amidst the groans of hundreds of wounded men and saddled a horse he took from the ad-hoc remuda. He rode east throughout the day, finally arriving at Colonel Watie’s camp in the early December darkness. Quickly he told the old man about the battle and how the Pins had defected and how Opotheyahola was still moving north to Kansas.

Stand Watie shook his head and laughed. “Let the black Republicans feed them then,” he said. “It is but one less concern.” Watie handed Clem a bottle and Clem drank and handed it back.

Captain William Penn Adair appeared out of the darkness, wrapped in a greatcoat and with a pained and ominous expression on his face. “Clem…cousin,” he said. “There’s been some very bad news.” He handed Clem a folded piece of paper. “It is from your wife.” Clem opened the letter and held a candle close as he read –

My Dearest Clement –

Our darling baby Elizabeth is no more. The journey from the farm to Mother’s house was too much for her to bear. She took a fever along the trail, and none among us could save her. She lies now in the cold ground, yet I live on, with a heart broken and empty arms that ache for my child. Father is sending me off to Texas in a week’s time, there to remain until this dreadful fighting is over. Until then, I live only to see your face again. May God keep you safe. Your loving wife – Mary America Rogers

1861 – At Opotheyahola’s Camp

Cassius rode the red mule at an easy pace through open woods and meadows toward the Creek Nation. He passed many groups of refugee Indians, women and children in wagons, who pointed out the way to the Creek chief’s house. When stopped by Cherokee home guards and questioned, he stated in Cherokee that he was delivering an urgent message for his master, Principal Chief John Ross. He showed them a folded document from his shirt, one of the chief’s old letters taken from the big desk at Rose Cottage, and presented it to the man who looked at it briefly and handed it back. The man, like many Cherokees, could read, but not English.

As he neared the sprawling camp at Opotheyahola’s house, Cassius saw smoke rising from a hundred fires. He was met by Creek warriors, faces painted, bare-chested despite the cold, wearing cotton turbans, and armed to the teeth. Cattle, sheep and ponies wandered loose.

“Who you be, boy?” asked one of the Creeks.

“Dey calls me Cassius.”

“Where you from?”

“I left off de Ross place in de Cherokee Nation.”

“John Ross know you’re gone?”

“I reckon he know it now.” Cassius laughed and the Creek laughed, too.

“Go on over there and talk to Bowlegs,” the warrior said, pointing out a figure leaning over a fire in the distance.

“Who dat?” Cassius asked.

“Heap big warrior for Opotheyahola.”

Cassius made his way to the designated spot where he found a group of Creeks and Seminoles huddled around the fire. Away from the crowd, several people waited to speak to Bowlegs, who Cassius learned was a Seminole chief. Among them stood a tall black Seminole. Cassius recognized Blackberry, a fellow survivor of the slave revolt. Blackberry had been out hunting when the slaves were captured in the Canadian cane breaks so long ago. Cassius watched while Blackberry talked to the two Indians, then stepped out of line and approached him.

Blackberry looked him up and down and tears welled up in his dark eyes. He made some quick hand signs to the Creeks and moved toward Cassius. “High John,” he said, and they embraced each other, both weeping.

“You here jes in time, my brother. Wese movin north. De grass here is gone, de forces of evil is comin, and we is Kansas bound.”

“Reckon I be goin wit you and watchin yer ol sorry back,” Cassius said, wiping his eyes.

“Firs, les git you fed and git you some weapons. Wese roastin up a beef over at dat big fire. And de guns are over dere at dat wagon.”

An exodus of four thousand Creeks, Seminoles and negroes had already begun to drift north and was crossing into the Cherokee lands. The people traveled in carriages, wagons, two-wheeled carts, riding horses and mules. Many were on foot. Thousands of cattle, sheep and horses were herded into columns. The families went first, then the animals, flanked on all sides by armed warriors.

Albert Pike, who had been commissioned as General of all the Confederate forces in Indian Territory, was immediately alerted that Opotheyahola’s loyal Creeks and a huge armed rabble of Seminoles and runaway slaves were heading north, apparently to rendezvous with Union forces in Kansas. The retreating Creeks were being pursued at a distance by Texas cavalry. Pike ordered Colonel Drew’s regiment of Cherokees to intercept Opotheyahola’s forces and refugees.

Drew’s Mounted Rifles, in pursuit from the east, were mostly all Pin Indians who had been drafted unwillingly into the Confederate ranks when Ross had signed on with the south. The southern leaders thought they could control them and force their loyalty, but Stand Watie had warned Drew not to trust them, to use caution with them. Watie’s men, on the other hand, were die-hard rebels who whistled Dixie while they rode. They were a fierce crew of nigra-hating white Cherokees and many of them owned slaves. Watie stole what he needed to keep them well-armed and well-fed, and he slapped them down if they got too drunk. Drew’s men, in contrast, were solemn, morose, lackluster, and much more dangerous than they looked. They eyed their officers with a primordial hatred that the officers could feel and that had led them to make stupid, careless decisions more than once.

From the south came the Third Texas Cavalry, led by Colonel Douglas Cooper. The Texans were a dangerous, battle-hardened army a generation younger than Sam Houston’s valiant men. Some were Rangers, accustomed to fighting the wild tribes of Comanche and many had seen action in the 1845 American invasion of Mexico.

Opotheyahola was like a Creek Moses parting the Red Sea of the Cherokee Nation’s Coo-wee-scoo-wee District. In his seventh decade of life, he was a strong man. He let Bowlegs command the warriors, while he appeared here, there, and everywhere guiding, urging, and assisting the entire assemblage forward. At a place on Bird Creek called Caving Banks, Opotheyahola called a halt. He stopped the throng of refugees and regrouped his warriors. His scouts had warned him of the approach of the Texans and Drew’s Cherokees. He called his men around him.

“I know this place. With the Caving Banks around us, we are in a very defensible position,” Opotheyahola said, explaining how the steep broken terrain and soft sand made a cavalry assault from the south a risky proposition. “But the white Texans are relentless,” he said. “They will cover the ground. Bowlegs, take your men and be ready to slaughter them. Take your boys. Fill the sky with your black-feathered arrows. I want my Creeks on the east, the Seminole braves on the south, and the freed slaves will hold the center. Make the sky dark with lead.”

The Pin Indian, Watt Christie, was among the shivering and still-damp men who had just crossed the Verdigris River with Colonel Drew’s Mounted Rifles, and who now pulled blankets around their shoulders. They had been warned to keep their campfires low because Opotheyahola and the Loyal Creeks were camped but a few miles away through the rugged woodland. They inched close to the fire, their cheeks burning while toes and fingers stung from the chill as the temperature began to drop. Watt looked around him at the sullen, miserable faces of his companions.

“This is not right,” he told them. “We have now been forced on the warpath against our own people – people who believe as we do.”

Just then Colonel Drew and some officers walked up on them. “I need some scouts to get the lay of the land around the enemy’s camp,” Drew said. Several of the Indians stood up and so did Watt. He was not sleepy and he wished to move about. Mostly, he wanted to find out for himself what was going on. Drew chose Watt and two other men, Tadpole and Billy Sunday, to do the job. All three were Keetoowahs, and Tadpole was married to a Creek woman who had many relatives in Opotheyahola’s camp.

Sunlight drained rapidly from the winter sky as the three walked into the forest toward the Caving Banks. In the last rays of the afternoon, Watt and the others encountered Creek sentries, a pair of warriors with long rifles. Watt glanced at Tadpole and Sunday and then stepped out to reveal himself. He touched his hat in salute and held the lapel of his coat, drawing it away from his body and giving a motion as if he was wrapping it around his heart.

“Who are you?” a Creek warrior shouted.

“Tahlequah,” Watt answered. “And who are you?”

The Creek smiled. “I am Keetoowah’s son.”

Minutes later, the men stood in Opotheyahola’s camp, surrounded by Creeks, Seminoles and Cherokees. They passed a pipe and conversed in several languages.

“There’s nothing stopping you,” Bowlegs told them. “You should come over.”

Watt nodded his agreement.

“Tell your friends to tie corn husks in their hair so we can recognize them. We will all go to Kansas together.”

“When should we do this?” asked Watt.

“Dawn,” Bowlegs said. “Tell the others there are two thousand well-armed warriors here, ready to fight, willing to send them to the Darkening Land. But we will welcome them into our ranks. Tell them to bring all the lead and rations they can gather, and meet us here at dawn.”

Watt, Sunday and Tadpole returned to camp and told Drew the story he was wishing to hear. They described a huge enemy force, knowing that the fearful Drew would not attack. Then the word was spread quietly among the other Pin Indians and plans were laid to leave Drew’s camp before dawn.

A cheer rose among the Creeks and their allied forces as the pin-wearing Cherokees with cornhusks in their hair streamed around the abandoned farm, now being used as a headquarters for Bowlegs. Bowlegs moved among the Cherokees wearing a long shirt and plumed hat and he welcomed them heartily. “Brothers,” he told them, “we are undefeatable now!” The Cherokees tied their horses to trees and began dividing themselves into small groups of warriors, according to clan affiliation and blood ties.

Cassius mingled with the Cherokees and, speaking their tongue, he introduced himself to Watt Christie. “I jes run offa Johnny Ross’s place a few day ago,” he said and Watt laughed.

“How did you leave that reprobate?” Watt asked.

“Da girls in de house say he packin fo a long trip.”

“I would bet that he is.”

“I seen him wit my own eyes a-shakin hans wit Stan Watie.”

Watt shook his head bitterly. “Stay with us,” he said, “There’s a fight coming and it’s going to be thick.”

The next morning broke clear and bitter cold in John Drew’s camp. Well after sunup, the colonel still slept, wrapped up in blankets inside his canvas tent. The morning light and the strange silence brought him out of a deep sleep. He opened the tent flaps, stepped out and surveyed the camp. All was quiet. A few of his officers sat beside a fire. One of the captains brought over a cup of steaming coffee, handed it to him and saluted.

“They’re all gone,” the captain said. “They left while we slept, took munitions, food. The damned Republican Pins are gone!”

“Why wasn’t I wakened?” barked Drew.

“For what, sir? Out of six hundred men we have a few dozen officers left. If you had come shouting orders they’d have killed us every one, sir.”

Drew sipped his coffee while the gravity of his position made him shiver. Through the dull ringing in his ears, he realized the captain was speaking. He strained to hear.

“Your orders, sir?”

“What? Oh. Muster the men. Find me some food. Breakfast.” Drew’s hands and voice shook.

One of his officers who had tracked the deserters rode up quickly. “There’s a large force headed this way, sir!” he cried from horseback.

“Huhhh? Get your gear, men. We must depart this damnable spot and join up with Cooper’s Texans.” Suddenly Drew panicked. He saw himself as from a distance, a short, tawdry footnote to history. His command had deserted him. His career was over. He wished himself home again with his wife. His stomach growled while his ears rang. Breakfast, he thought. What a day.

Drew and his remaining officers mounted quickly and headed south, but after a few minutes one of them piped up, “We forgot about the powder, sir!”

“What? Oh, the powder,” Drew moaned. “We must retrieve the powder.”

They rushed back to the empty camp. There they found Major Pegg. He was still drunk from the night before and had been totally forgotten in the scramble to leave. Pegg was urinating on the trunk of a large oak tree, oblivious to all that had occurred.

“Pegg!” Drew shouted at the man.

“What in the world?” Pegg noticed for the first time the condition of the camp.

“We must flee, Pegg,” said Drew. “The enemy is upon us with four thousand men.”

Again his thoughts turned to breakfast.

Drew and his few loyal officers fled on to Cooper’s Texan camp without decorum. He reported to Cooper, “My men, my whole command, have gone over to the Union side. Those damnable nigra-loving Republican Lincolnites! God damn them all! Oh, Cooper, I am sick…and I must hasten to report, sir, that we are being pursued by a large Creek force – four thousand, I’d guess.”

Cooper frowned at Drew as he spoke softly, “You’ve been guessing wrong so far, Drew…Colonel Watie clearly predicted this very event, that your men would desert you. Go and sit yourself down and eat some breakfast. What a goddamn mess of Yankees and liars and traitors and fools. Shit fire!”

Cooper and his officers quickly ascertained there was no attacking force bearing down on them. John Drew finally sat down with his men to a belated breakfast of taters, biscuits, beans and beef. The Texans stood back and hee-hawed the dining Cherokees for their lack of valor. They grinned, laughed and elbowed each other till they cried. Cooper threw up a line of sentries and a watch was maintained throughout the morning, but the Loyal Creeks and their allies never appeared.

Young Captain Clement Rogers had been detached from Stand Watie’s force to act as a scout for Cooper’s Texas Cavalry. He stood there, that cold windy morning, watching the old man Drew and his few remaining men, all officers, huddled by the fire at Cooper’s camp. “Wretched fools,” he muttered to himself. “Do these blithering idiots even realize how deeply they have disgraced our Confederate Cherokee Nation? They have no order, no discipline. Now they have enriched chief Opotheyahola’s forces to the tune of many hundreds of warriors, horses and guns.” Clement Rogers looked at the deaf old Drew, white hair growing out of his ears and nose. “Damned disgusting choice old Ross picked as leader. I should shoot him in the head right now and save us more trouble.” He spat his tobacco on the icy ground.

Cooper’s Rebs rested in bivouac until just after noon. Then they were summoned by Cooper and his officers to receive orders and go over the battle plans. The Texans were saddled up and ready for a fight. Before they mounted, Cooper addressed them as though they were his own sons. “Boys, our enemy is composed of renegade niggers, cut throat Pins, and zambo trash. Beware…these black Lincolnites will have no compunction about killing you on sight. Cover your brother’s backs and fight like true sons of Texas! Let’s go finish this business and send those traitors to hell.” They mounted in the cold wind and headed into the dense thicket with solemn determination.

1861 – The Battle at the Caving Banks on Muddy Bird Creek

Billy Bowlegs and his Seminole warriors, their brown faces painted red and black, wore cornhusks braided in their thick hair so they would recognize each other even in the dark. They moved quietly south and established a firm position to protect Opotheyahola’s column from the Texas Rebel Calvary’s line of advance. In the center of the horseshoe bend on Muddy Bird Creek, they shored up the abandoned farmhouse and placed logs around on the ground for rifle positions. Bowlegs told his men, “If we don’t stop these Texan crackers here, we sho nuff gonna slow their white asses down a day or two. Shoot their horses – these Texans be walkin home, if they lives. Stay under cover and shoot careful, these tree branches will turn a bullet.”

Cassius looked up at Watt Christie. He wore the braided cornhusk in his long black hair and he seemed to be smelling the air. “They’s comin boys,” he said quietly. The men hunkered down in a brushy spot along the creek, high atop the tree-lined sand banks. The sand was crumbly and unstable and the color and texture of brown sugar.

A mighty fine spot for a swim on a hot August afternoon, Cassius thought, but this was December and a wet cold north wind blew down from Kansas where freedom waited. Across the creek a covey of quail went up with a rush of wings and then several deer bounded down the steep bank through the muddy creek and up toward them. Cassius felt fear grip his insides as he spied the grey-clad figures moving among the trees on the far shore.

“Hold back yer fire,” Watt whispered. An Indian word was hissed and hundreds of turkey calls were being made all around them. Cassius saw some of the Cherokee and Creek men stand up and slap their sides, barking and howling like wolves. Cassius flinched as he heard hundreds of bowstrings popping behind him. The sky darkened as the Creek boys began launching arrows to arc over their position and into the forest beyond the creek

Clem Rogers trotted forward on his horse, picking his way with Cooper’s southern officers and the remnant of Drew’s command. They rode through a prairie sprinkled with big oaks and pecan trees and then into a dense thicket of willows and river birches. The wind seemed to pick up behind them and they heard the rattling cries and taunts of Indian war whoops. Arrows sizzled, falling and cutting dead leaves and branches. Horses screamed and men who were wounded and cursing fell from their saddles into the dead grass. Clem saw Drew’s horse with an arrow through its neck, and watched the old man trying desperately to control the animal as it spun in a circle. Another soldier directly in front of him tumbled end-over-end off his horse, as the wounded beast plunged head-long into a ravine. In the confusion, some of the Confederate riders rode right off the high slippery sand banks and came crashing down through the overgrowth into the Muddy Bird Creek and into the sights of the loyal Indians.

The corn husk wearing Indians opened fire with rifles and shotguns. Horses and men shrieked horribly as they were raked with lead. The Confederates piled into the icy blood-stained creek over their own dead and wounded and withered under the gunfire emanating only dozens of yards away. Watt Christie saw Broom Baldridge, a one-time Keetoowah turned Confederate, struggling with his horse and attempting to lift a wounded man onto it. Watt drew a bead on the center of the rebel traitor’s grey uniform jacket and squeezed the trigger. The mortally wounded Lieutenant Baldridge looked up at Watt, right at him, and seemed to recognize him for a moment. He then fell heavily into the cold muddy water. The Confederate charge stalled and the rebels withdrew into the woods to regroup.

In the distant woods, Cassius could hear the clatter of rifle fire and he looked questioningly at Watt. “Alligator and the Seminoles are hitting their rearguard,” Watt told him. “They’re after the horses and supply wagons.” Movement on the sandy banks beneath them caught Watt’s attention. “Those are our people down there,” he warned. Despite the danger, several ex-field hands had rushed to the water’s edge. Half-naked and barefoot they rummaged for the dead men’s uniforms and boots. Cassius, Watt and the other Pins covered them, staring through rifle sights at the opposite bank. Cassius glanced down at the dead Confederates as several of their stripped, bleeding bodies began to drift slowly down the Muddy Bird Creek.

His horse riddled with lead and his skull bleeding, Clem Rogers stumbled on foot back through the bush with a Colt revolver in his hand. He came across Colonel Drew, sitting as if dazed by his horse as the downed animal kicked weakly on the ground, blood pumping from the arrow wound in its neck. Ignoring Drew, Clem walked over and pulled the arrow from the animal and examined it. “A metal-pointed Creek arrow,” Clem said, turning it over in his hand.

“What?” croaked Drew.

Clem glanced at the old wretch and cocked his revolver. He scanned the brush in every direction. They were alone. One shot would put an end to the man’s misery. But no, he heard a branch snapping behind him. Clem turned his revolver and shot the wounded horse through the brain. “Captain Rogers!” A voice rang out and Clem turned and saw Cooper, who stumbled forward holding an injured arm.

“Yes sir?”

“Captain, can you find a goddamn place to get at em along this creek?”

“I think so sir, yes.”

“How many men do you need?”

Rogers looked around him at the Texans and Cherokee officers who were gathering around Cooper. “Sir if it’s all the same to you I’ll take about twenty of them McIntosh Creeks and your Texans backing us up.”

“Make it happen, Captain Rogers.”

The north wind out of Kansas was bitter cold all that day, bringing freezing rain and sharp stinging sleet. Cassius looked down at his feet. They were cold and wet, but at least he had shoes. He pulled his old blanket up around his head and settled stiffly into the brown leaves. He watched Watt fiddling with a recently acquired Colt pistol. Bowlegs summoned them all back to the fortified farm house and corn cribs that occupied the center of the horseshoe bend. There they found Bowlegs bellowing orders in a mixture of languages. “The Texans have crossed the creek!” he shouted. “Our Chief is leading the people away.” Bowlegs raised his rifle above his head. “We fight them one more time. Here! We fight them very hard. Then we follow the people north!” Someone tossed Bowlegs a Creek spear. He raised it high, then thrust it point first into the sandy ground. Men shouted their assent.

Two hours later the Pins, allied Indians, and free negroes found themselves in a vicious crossfire. In bloody, close-quarter bush combat, the Texans had seized the high ground to the east of the farm and the McIntosh Creeks were holding a dense thicket to their north. Volley after volley was exchanged. The soft round balls splattered through the bush causing nasty flesh wounds by the dozens.

Cassius squatted near Watt behind a corn crib surrounded by black powder stained Pin Indians. Alligator rushed up behind them and placed his hand on Watt’s shoulder. “Not much light lef in de day,” he said hoarsely. “Dere’s a path cut through de brush. We gonna start pullin out. Ten men by ten men. When yo brothers run out – blast de Texans!” Watt nodded and spread the word and Alligator went on down the line giving instructions. Shots continued ringing out and bullets fell among them with increasing precision.

A dozen or more Texans rushed out of the underbrush, crouching low and carrying carbines. Watt and a score of Pins leaned up on one knee and fired a volley, causing some Texans to fall with bullets crashing through them and others to collapse behind trees. While Cassius made ready his shotgun, he saw one of the Pins, Billy Sunday, jerk and drop his gun. Watt held his rifle in one hand and fired a revolver rapidly at the Texans while Cassius grabbed Sunday’s foot and dragged the bleeding man behind the corn crib.

Crouching behind a tree in an elevated position, Clem Rogers watched the fight swirling around the farm house through the haze of black powder smoke. The woods around him were filling with wounded men. A young Texan lieutenant approached Clem and told him Colonel Cooper was holding an impromptu officer’s meeting further back in the woods. Clem followed the lieutenant and found the colonel and a few officers speaking in exhausted tones. They were a bedraggled but determined bunch, and every one had at least one bleeding wound.

Cooper spoke to Clem Rogers. “Do you think we can subdue these Yankee traitors?”

“Sir,” Rogers replied, “the enemy has a thousand or more warriors here in this bend and they appear to be holding their own whilst making an orderly retreat.” Cooper nodded grimly and Clem continued, “If we pursue them into this gathering dusk, we shall end the day by shooting our own men in the darkness.”

“Sir,” a Texas Captain addressed Cooper, “I’ve counted over fifty of our men killed, two hundred wounded and about a hundred downed horses.”

Cooper nodded again and said, “Goddamn those Indians.” Cooper glanced about at his worn and torn men. “We’ve given them as good as we’ve gotten. I’m confident of that.” The officers nodded and assured their colonel that was in fact the case. ”Gentlemen,” he said, “Git the boys that ain’t hurt too bad to start makin stretchers. Bring up the wagons. Let’s git these hurt men out of here.”

“Yes sir.”

“Shall we continue the pursuit sir?” The Texas captain wondered aloud.

“No, let them escape. We have taught them a lesson.”

Clem observed with few comments as the Texas Cavalry set about removing itself from the horseshoe bend. He carried his saddle and bedroll back to the morning’s camp. Sleet and hard specks of snow were falling about the weary men as they trudged back to the campfires. The Texans’ dreams of plunder – of cattle, slaves and glory – is vanishing into the sleet, smoke and darkness, Clem thought. But this land and its wealth is not their birthright, he considered, it is mine.

The next morning Clem awoke early amidst the groans of hundreds of wounded men and saddled a horse he took from the ad-hoc remuda. He rode east throughout the day, finally arriving at Colonel Watie’s camp in the early December darkness. Quickly he told the old man about the battle and how the Pins had defected and how Opotheyahola was still moving north to Kansas.

Stand Watie shook his head and laughed. “Let the black Republicans feed them then,” he said. “It is but one less concern.” Watie handed Clem a bottle and Clem drank and handed it back.

Captain William Penn Adair appeared out of the darkness, wrapped in a greatcoat and with a pained and ominous expression on his face. “Clem…cousin,” he said. “There’s been some very bad news.” He handed Clem a folded piece of paper. “It is from your wife.” Clem opened the letter and held a candle close as he read –

My Dearest Clement –

Our darling baby Elizabeth is no more. The journey from the farm to Mother’s house was too much for her to bear. She took a fever along the trail, and none among us could save her. She lies now in the cold ground, yet I live on, with a heart broken and empty arms that ache for my child. Father is sending me off to Texas in a week’s time, there to remain until this dreadful fighting is over. Until then, I live only to see your face again. May God keep you safe. Your loving wife – Mary America Rogers

1861 – At Opotheyahola’s Camp

Cassius rode the red mule at an easy pace through open woods and meadows toward the Creek Nation. He passed many groups of refugee Indians, women and children in wagons, who pointed out the way to the Creek chief’s house. When stopped by Cherokee home guards and questioned, he stated in Cherokee that he was delivering an urgent message for his master, Principal Chief John Ross. He showed them a folded document from his shirt, one of the chief’s old letters taken from the big desk at Rose Cottage, and presented it to the man who looked at it briefly and handed it back. The man, like many Cherokees, could read, but not English.

As he neared the sprawling camp at Opotheyahola’s house, Cassius saw smoke rising from a hundred fires. He was met by Creek warriors, faces painted, bare-chested despite the cold, wearing cotton turbans, and armed to the teeth. Cattle, sheep and ponies wandered loose.

“Who you be, boy?” asked one of the Creeks.

“Dey calls me Cassius.”

“Where you from?”

“I left off de Ross place in de Cherokee Nation.”

“John Ross know you’re gone?”

“I reckon he know it now.” Cassius laughed and the Creek laughed, too.

“Go on over there and talk to Bowlegs,” the warrior said, pointing out a figure leaning over a fire in the distance.

“Who dat?” Cassius asked.

“Heap big warrior for Opotheyahola.”

Cassius made his way to the designated spot where he found a group of Creeks and Seminoles huddled around the fire. Away from the crowd, several people waited to speak to Bowlegs, who Cassius learned was a Seminole chief. Among them stood a tall black Seminole. Cassius recognized Blackberry, a fellow survivor of the slave revolt. Blackberry had been out hunting when the slaves were captured in the Canadian cane breaks so long ago. Cassius watched while Blackberry talked to the two Indians, then stepped out of line and approached him.

Blackberry looked him up and down and tears welled up in his dark eyes. He made some quick hand signs to the Creeks and moved toward Cassius. “High John,” he said, and they embraced each other, both weeping.

“You here jes in time, my brother. Wese movin north. De grass here is gone, de forces of evil is comin, and we is Kansas bound.”

“Reckon I be goin wit you and watchin yer ol sorry back,” Cassius said, wiping his eyes.

“Firs, les git you fed and git you some weapons. Wese roastin up a beef over at dat big fire. And de guns are over dere at dat wagon.”

An exodus of four thousand Creeks, Seminoles and negroes had already begun to drift north and was crossing into the Cherokee lands. The people traveled in carriages, wagons, two-wheeled carts, riding horses and mules. Many were on foot. Thousands of cattle, sheep and horses were herded into columns. The families went first, then the animals, flanked on all sides by armed warriors.

Albert Pike, who had been commissioned as General of all the Confederate forces in Indian Territory, was immediately alerted that Opotheyahola’s loyal Creeks and a huge armed rabble of Seminoles and runaway slaves were heading north, apparently to rendezvous with Union forces in Kansas. The retreating Creeks were being pursued at a distance by Texas cavalry. Pike ordered Colonel Drew’s regiment of Cherokees to intercept Opotheyahola’s forces and refugees.

Drew’s Mounted Rifles, in pursuit from the east, were mostly all Pin Indians who had been drafted unwillingly into the Confederate ranks when Ross had signed on with the south. The southern leaders thought they could control them and force their loyalty, but Stand Watie had warned Drew not to trust them, to use caution with them. Watie’s men, on the other hand, were die-hard rebels who whistled Dixie while they rode. They were a fierce crew of nigra-hating white Cherokees and many of them owned slaves. Watie stole what he needed to keep them well-armed and well-fed, and he slapped them down if they got too drunk. Drew’s men, in contrast, were solemn, morose, lackluster, and much more dangerous than they looked. They eyed their officers with a primordial hatred that the officers could feel and that had led them to make stupid, careless decisions more than once.

From the south came the Third Texas Cavalry, led by Colonel Douglas Cooper. The Texans were a dangerous, battle-hardened army a generation younger than Sam Houston’s valiant men. Some were Rangers, accustomed to fighting the wild tribes of Comanche and many had seen action in the 1845 American invasion of Mexico.

Opotheyahola was like a Creek Moses parting the Red Sea of the Cherokee Nation’s Coo-wee-scoo-wee District. In his seventh decade of life, he was a strong man. He let Bowlegs command the warriors, while he appeared here, there, and everywhere guiding, urging, and assisting the entire assemblage forward. At a place on Bird Creek called Caving Banks, Opotheyahola called a halt. He stopped the throng of refugees and regrouped his warriors. His scouts had warned him of the approach of the Texans and Drew’s Cherokees. He called his men around him.

“I know this place. With the Caving Banks around us, we are in a very defensible position,” Opotheyahola said, explaining how the steep broken terrain and soft sand made a cavalry assault from the south a risky proposition. “But the white Texans are relentless,” he said. “They will cover the ground. Bowlegs, take your men and be ready to slaughter them. Take your boys. Fill the sky with your black-feathered arrows. I want my Creeks on the east, the Seminole braves on the south, and the freed slaves will hold the center. Make the sky dark with lead.”

The Pin Indian, Watt Christie, was among the shivering and still-damp men who had just crossed the Verdigris River with Colonel Drew’s Mounted Rifles, and who now pulled blankets around their shoulders. They had been warned to keep their campfires low because Opotheyahola and the Loyal Creeks were camped but a few miles away through the rugged woodland. They inched close to the fire, their cheeks burning while toes and fingers stung from the chill as the temperature began to drop. Watt looked around him at the sullen, miserable faces of his companions.

“This is not right,” he told them. “We have now been forced on the warpath against our own people – people who believe as we do.”

Just then Colonel Drew and some officers walked up on them. “I need some scouts to get the lay of the land around the enemy’s camp,” Drew said. Several of the Indians stood up and so did Watt. He was not sleepy and he wished to move about. Mostly, he wanted to find out for himself what was going on. Drew chose Watt and two other men, Tadpole and Billy Sunday, to do the job. All three were Keetoowahs, and Tadpole was married to a Creek woman who had many relatives in Opotheyahola’s camp.

Sunlight drained rapidly from the winter sky as the three walked into the forest toward the Caving Banks. In the last rays of the afternoon, Watt and the others encountered Creek sentries, a pair of warriors with long rifles. Watt glanced at Tadpole and Sunday and then stepped out to reveal himself. He touched his hat in salute and held the lapel of his coat, drawing it away from his body and giving a motion as if he was wrapping it around his heart.

“Who are you?” a Creek warrior shouted.

“Tahlequah,” Watt answered. “And who are you?”

The Creek smiled. “I am Keetoowah’s son.”

Minutes later, the men stood in Opotheyahola’s camp, surrounded by Creeks, Seminoles and Cherokees. They passed a pipe and conversed in several languages.

“There’s nothing stopping you,” Bowlegs told them. “You should come over.”

Watt nodded his agreement.

“Tell your friends to tie corn husks in their hair so we can recognize them. We will all go to Kansas together.”

“When should we do this?” asked Watt.

“Dawn,” Bowlegs said. “Tell the others there are two thousand well-armed warriors here, ready to fight, willing to send them to the Darkening Land. But we will welcome them into our ranks. Tell them to bring all the lead and rations they can gather, and meet us here at dawn.”

Watt, Sunday and Tadpole returned to camp and told Drew the story he was wishing to hear. They described a huge enemy force, knowing that the fearful Drew would not attack. Then the word was spread quietly among the other Pin Indians and plans were laid to leave Drew’s camp before dawn.

A cheer rose among the Creeks and their allied forces as the pin-wearing Cherokees with cornhusks in their hair streamed around the abandoned farm, now being used as a headquarters for Bowlegs. Bowlegs moved among the Cherokees wearing a long shirt and plumed hat and he welcomed them heartily. “Brothers,” he told them, “we are undefeatable now!” The Cherokees tied their horses to trees and began dividing themselves into small groups of warriors, according to clan affiliation and blood ties.

Cassius mingled with the Cherokees and, speaking their tongue, he introduced himself to Watt Christie. “I jes run offa Johnny Ross’s place a few day ago,” he said and Watt laughed.

“How did you leave that reprobate?” Watt asked.

“Da girls in de house say he packin fo a long trip.”

“I would bet that he is.”

“I seen him wit my own eyes a-shakin hans wit Stan Watie.”

Watt shook his head bitterly. “Stay with us,” he said, “There’s a fight coming and it’s going to be thick.”

The next morning broke clear and bitter cold in John Drew’s camp. Well after sunup, the colonel still slept, wrapped up in blankets inside his canvas tent. The morning light and the strange silence brought him out of a deep sleep. He opened the tent flaps, stepped out and surveyed the camp. All was quiet. A few of his officers sat beside a fire. One of the captains brought over a cup of steaming coffee, handed it to him and saluted.

“They’re all gone,” the captain said. “They left while we slept, took munitions, food. The damned Republican Pins are gone!”

“Why wasn’t I wakened?” barked Drew.

“For what, sir? Out of six hundred men we have a few dozen officers left. If you had come shouting orders they’d have killed us every one, sir.”

Drew sipped his coffee while the gravity of his position made him shiver. Through the dull ringing in his ears, he realized the captain was speaking. He strained to hear.

“Your orders, sir?”

“What? Oh. Muster the men. Find me some food. Breakfast.” Drew’s hands and voice shook.

One of his officers who had tracked the deserters rode up quickly. “There’s a large force headed this way, sir!” he cried from horseback.

“Huhhh? Get your gear, men. We must depart this damnable spot and join up with Cooper’s Texans.” Suddenly Drew panicked. He saw himself as from a distance, a short, tawdry footnote to history. His command had deserted him. His career was over. He wished himself home again with his wife. His stomach growled while his ears rang. Breakfast, he thought. What a day.

Drew and his remaining officers mounted quickly and headed south, but after a few minutes one of them piped up, “We forgot about the powder, sir!”

“What? Oh, the powder,” Drew moaned. “We must retrieve the powder.”

They rushed back to the empty camp. There they found Major Pegg. He was still drunk from the night before and had been totally forgotten in the scramble to leave. Pegg was urinating on the trunk of a large oak tree, oblivious to all that had occurred.

“Pegg!” Drew shouted at the man.

“What in the world?” Pegg noticed for the first time the condition of the camp.

“We must flee, Pegg,” said Drew. “The enemy is upon us with four thousand men.”

Again his thoughts turned to breakfast.

Drew and his few loyal officers fled on to Cooper’s Texan camp without decorum. He reported to Cooper, “My men, my whole command, have gone over to the Union side. Those damnable nigra-loving Republican Lincolnites! God damn them all! Oh, Cooper, I am sick…and I must hasten to report, sir, that we are being pursued by a large Creek force – four thousand, I’d guess.”

Cooper frowned at Drew as he spoke softly, “You’ve been guessing wrong so far, Drew…Colonel Watie clearly predicted this very event, that your men would desert you. Go and sit yourself down and eat some breakfast. What a goddamn mess of Yankees and liars and traitors and fools. Shit fire!”

Cooper and his officers quickly ascertained there was no attacking force bearing down on them. John Drew finally sat down with his men to a belated breakfast of taters, biscuits, beans and beef. The Texans stood back and hee-hawed the dining Cherokees for their lack of valor. They grinned, laughed and elbowed each other till they cried. Cooper threw up a line of sentries and a watch was maintained throughout the morning, but the Loyal Creeks and their allies never appeared.

Young Captain Clement Rogers had been detached from Stand Watie’s force to act as a scout for Cooper’s Texas Cavalry. He stood there, that cold windy morning, watching the old man Drew and his few remaining men, all officers, huddled by the fire at Cooper’s camp. “Wretched fools,” he muttered to himself. “Do these blithering idiots even realize how deeply they have disgraced our Confederate Cherokee Nation? They have no order, no discipline. Now they have enriched chief Opotheyahola’s forces to the tune of many hundreds of warriors, horses and guns.” Clement Rogers looked at the deaf old Drew, white hair growing out of his ears and nose. “Damned disgusting choice old Ross picked as leader. I should shoot him in the head right now and save us more trouble.” He spat his tobacco on the icy ground.

Cooper’s Rebs rested in bivouac until just after noon. Then they were summoned by Cooper and his officers to receive orders and go over the battle plans. The Texans were saddled up and ready for a fight. Before they mounted, Cooper addressed them as though they were his own sons. “Boys, our enemy is composed of renegade niggers, cut throat Pins, and zambo trash. Beware…these black Lincolnites will have no compunction about killing you on sight. Cover your brother’s backs and fight like true sons of Texas! Let’s go finish this business and send those traitors to hell.” They mounted in the cold wind and headed into the dense thicket with solemn determination.

1861 – The Battle at the Caving Banks on Muddy Bird Creek

Billy Bowlegs and his Seminole warriors, their brown faces painted red and black, wore cornhusks braided in their thick hair so they would recognize each other even in the dark. They moved quietly south and established a firm position to protect Opotheyahola’s column from the Texas Rebel Calvary’s line of advance. In the center of the horseshoe bend on Muddy Bird Creek, they shored up the abandoned farmhouse and placed logs around on the ground for rifle positions. Bowlegs told his men, “If we don’t stop these Texan crackers here, we sho nuff gonna slow their white asses down a day or two. Shoot their horses – these Texans be walkin home, if they lives. Stay under cover and shoot careful, these tree branches will turn a bullet.”

Cassius looked up at Watt Christie. He wore the braided cornhusk in his long black hair and he seemed to be smelling the air. “They’s comin boys,” he said quietly. The men hunkered down in a brushy spot along the creek, high atop the tree-lined sand banks. The sand was crumbly and unstable and the color and texture of brown sugar.

A mighty fine spot for a swim on a hot August afternoon, Cassius thought, but this was December and a wet cold north wind blew down from Kansas where freedom waited. Across the creek a covey of quail went up with a rush of wings and then several deer bounded down the steep bank through the muddy creek and up toward them. Cassius felt fear grip his insides as he spied the grey-clad figures moving among the trees on the far shore.

“Hold back yer fire,” Watt whispered. An Indian word was hissed and hundreds of turkey calls were being made all around them. Cassius saw some of the Cherokee and Creek men stand up and slap their sides, barking and howling like wolves. Cassius flinched as he heard hundreds of bowstrings popping behind him. The sky darkened as the Creek boys began launching arrows to arc over their position and into the forest beyond the creek

Clem Rogers trotted forward on his horse, picking his way with Cooper’s southern officers and the remnant of Drew’s command. They rode through a prairie sprinkled with big oaks and pecan trees and then into a dense thicket of willows and river birches. The wind seemed to pick up behind them and they heard the rattling cries and taunts of Indian war whoops. Arrows sizzled, falling and cutting dead leaves and branches. Horses screamed and men who were wounded and cursing fell from their saddles into the dead grass. Clem saw Drew’s horse with an arrow through its neck, and watched the old man trying desperately to control the animal as it spun in a circle. Another soldier directly in front of him tumbled end-over-end off his horse, as the wounded beast plunged head-long into a ravine. In the confusion, some of the Confederate riders rode right off the high slippery sand banks and came crashing down through the overgrowth into the Muddy Bird Creek and into the sights of the loyal Indians.

The corn husk wearing Indians opened fire with rifles and shotguns. Horses and men shrieked horribly as they were raked with lead. The Confederates piled into the icy blood-stained creek over their own dead and wounded and withered under the gunfire emanating only dozens of yards away. Watt Christie saw Broom Baldridge, a one-time Keetoowah turned Confederate, struggling with his horse and attempting to lift a wounded man onto it. Watt drew a bead on the center of the rebel traitor’s grey uniform jacket and squeezed the trigger. The mortally wounded Lieutenant Baldridge looked up at Watt, right at him, and seemed to recognize him for a moment. He then fell heavily into the cold muddy water. The Confederate charge stalled and the rebels withdrew into the woods to regroup.

In the distant woods, Cassius could hear the clatter of rifle fire and he looked questioningly at Watt. “Alligator and the Seminoles are hitting their rearguard,” Watt told him. “They’re after the horses and supply wagons.” Movement on the sandy banks beneath them caught Watt’s attention. “Those are our people down there,” he warned. Despite the danger, several ex-field hands had rushed to the water’s edge. Half-naked and barefoot they rummaged for the dead men’s uniforms and boots. Cassius, Watt and the other Pins covered them, staring through rifle sights at the opposite bank. Cassius glanced down at the dead Confederates as several of their stripped, bleeding bodies began to drift slowly down the Muddy Bird Creek.

His horse riddled with lead and his skull bleeding, Clem Rogers stumbled on foot back through the bush with a Colt revolver in his hand. He came across Colonel Drew, sitting as if dazed by his horse as the downed animal kicked weakly on the ground, blood pumping from the arrow wound in its neck. Ignoring Drew, Clem walked over and pulled the arrow from the animal and examined it. “A metal-pointed Creek arrow,” Clem said, turning it over in his hand.

“What?” croaked Drew.

Clem glanced at the old wretch and cocked his revolver. He scanned the brush in every direction. They were alone. One shot would put an end to the man’s misery. But no, he heard a branch snapping behind him. Clem turned his revolver and shot the wounded horse through the brain. “Captain Rogers!” A voice rang out and Clem turned and saw Cooper, who stumbled forward holding an injured arm.

“Yes sir?”

“Captain, can you find a goddamn place to get at em along this creek?”

“I think so sir, yes.”

“How many men do you need?”

Rogers looked around him at the Texans and Cherokee officers who were gathering around Cooper. “Sir if it’s all the same to you I’ll take about twenty of them McIntosh Creeks and your Texans backing us up.”

“Make it happen, Captain Rogers.”

The north wind out of Kansas was bitter cold all that day, bringing freezing rain and sharp stinging sleet. Cassius looked down at his feet. They were cold and wet, but at least he had shoes. He pulled his old blanket up around his head and settled stiffly into the brown leaves. He watched Watt fiddling with a recently acquired Colt pistol. Bowlegs summoned them all back to the fortified farm house and corn cribs that occupied the center of the horseshoe bend. There they found Bowlegs bellowing orders in a mixture of languages. “The Texans have crossed the creek!” he shouted. “Our Chief is leading the people away.” Bowlegs raised his rifle above his head. “We fight them one more time. Here! We fight them very hard. Then we follow the people north!” Someone tossed Bowlegs a Creek spear. He raised it high, then thrust it point first into the sandy ground. Men shouted their assent.

Two hours later the Pins, allied Indians, and free negroes found themselves in a vicious crossfire. In bloody, close-quarter bush combat, the Texans had seized the high ground to the east of the farm and the McIntosh Creeks were holding a dense thicket to their north. Volley after volley was exchanged. The soft round balls splattered through the bush causing nasty flesh wounds by the dozens.

Cassius squatted near Watt behind a corn crib surrounded by black powder stained Pin Indians. Alligator rushed up behind them and placed his hand on Watt’s shoulder. “Not much light lef in de day,” he said hoarsely. “Dere’s a path cut through de brush. We gonna start pullin out. Ten men by ten men. When yo brothers run out – blast de Texans!” Watt nodded and spread the word and Alligator went on down the line giving instructions. Shots continued ringing out and bullets fell among them with increasing precision.

A dozen or more Texans rushed out of the underbrush, crouching low and carrying carbines. Watt and a score of Pins leaned up on one knee and fired a volley, causing some Texans to fall with bullets crashing through them and others to collapse behind trees. While Cassius made ready his shotgun, he saw one of the Pins, Billy Sunday, jerk and drop his gun. Watt held his rifle in one hand and fired a revolver rapidly at the Texans while Cassius grabbed Sunday’s foot and dragged the bleeding man behind the corn crib.

Crouching behind a tree in an elevated position, Clem Rogers watched the fight swirling around the farm house through the haze of black powder smoke. The woods around him were filling with wounded men. A young Texan lieutenant approached Clem and told him Colonel Cooper was holding an impromptu officer’s meeting further back in the woods. Clem followed the lieutenant and found the colonel and a few officers speaking in exhausted tones. They were a bedraggled but determined bunch, and every one had at least one bleeding wound.

Cooper spoke to Clem Rogers. “Do you think we can subdue these Yankee traitors?”

“Sir,” Rogers replied, “the enemy has a thousand or more warriors here in this bend and they appear to be holding their own whilst making an orderly retreat.” Cooper nodded grimly and Clem continued, “If we pursue them into this gathering dusk, we shall end the day by shooting our own men in the darkness.”

“Sir,” a Texas Captain addressed Cooper, “I’ve counted over fifty of our men killed, two hundred wounded and about a hundred downed horses.”

Cooper nodded again and said, “Goddamn those Indians.” Cooper glanced about at his worn and torn men. “We’ve given them as good as we’ve gotten. I’m confident of that.” The officers nodded and assured their colonel that was in fact the case. ”Gentlemen,” he said, “Git the boys that ain’t hurt too bad to start makin stretchers. Bring up the wagons. Let’s git these hurt men out of here.”

“Yes sir.”

“Shall we continue the pursuit sir?” The Texas captain wondered aloud.

“No, let them escape. We have taught them a lesson.”

Clem observed with few comments as the Texas Cavalry set about removing itself from the horseshoe bend. He carried his saddle and bedroll back to the morning’s camp. Sleet and hard specks of snow were falling about the weary men as they trudged back to the campfires. The Texans’ dreams of plunder – of cattle, slaves and glory – is vanishing into the sleet, smoke and darkness, Clem thought. But this land and its wealth is not their birthright, he considered, it is mine.

The next morning Clem awoke early amidst the groans of hundreds of wounded men and saddled a horse he took from the ad-hoc remuda. He rode east throughout the day, finally arriving at Colonel Watie’s camp in the early December darkness. Quickly he told the old man about the battle and how the Pins had defected and how Opotheyahola was still moving north to Kansas.

Stand Watie shook his head and laughed. “Let the black Republicans feed them then,” he said. “It is but one less concern.” Watie handed Clem a bottle and Clem drank and handed it back.

Captain William Penn Adair appeared out of the darkness, wrapped in a greatcoat and with a pained and ominous expression on his face. “Clem…cousin,” he said. “There’s been some very bad news.” He handed Clem a folded piece of paper. “It is from your wife.” Clem opened the letter and held a candle close as he read –

My Dearest Clement –

Our darling baby Elizabeth is no more. The journey from the farm to Mother’s house was too much for her to bear. She took a fever along the trail, and none among us could save her. She lies now in the cold ground, yet I live on, with a heart broken and empty arms that ache for my child. Father is sending me off to Texas in a week’s time, there to remain until this dreadful fighting is over. Until then, I live only to see your face again. May God keep you safe. Your loving wife – Mary America Rogers

1861 – At Opotheyahola’s Camp

Cassius rode the red mule at an easy pace through open woods and meadows toward the Creek Nation. He passed many groups of refugee Indians, women and children in wagons, who pointed out the way to the Creek chief’s house. When stopped by Cherokee home guards and questioned, he stated in Cherokee that he was delivering an urgent message for his master, Principal Chief John Ross. He showed them a folded document from his shirt, one of the chief’s old letters taken from the big desk at Rose Cottage, and presented it to the man who looked at it briefly and handed it back. The man, like many Cherokees, could read, but not English.
As he neared the sprawling camp at Opotheyahola’s house, Cassius saw smoke rising from a hundred fires. He was met by Creek warriors, faces painted, bare-chested despite the cold, wearing cotton turbans, and armed to the teeth. Cattle, sheep and ponies wandered loose.
“Who you be, boy?” asked one of the Creeks.
“Dey calls me Cassius.”
“Where you from?”
“I left off de Ross place in de Cherokee Nation.”
“John Ross know you’re gone?”
“I reckon he know it now.” Cassius laughed and the Creek laughed, too.
“Go on over there and talk to Bowlegs,” the warrior said, pointing out a figure leaning over a fire in the distance.
“Who dat?” Cassius asked.
“Heap big warrior for Opotheyahola.”
Cassius made his way to the designated spot where he found a group of Creeks and Seminoles huddled around the fire. Away from the crowd, several people waited to speak to Bowlegs, who Cassius learned was a Seminole chief. Among them stood a tall black Seminole. Cassius recognized Blackberry, a fellow survivor of the slave revolt. Blackberry had been out hunting when the slaves were captured in the Canadian cane breaks so long ago. Cassius watched while Blackberry talked to the two Indians, then stepped out of line and approached him.
Blackberry looked him up and down and tears welled up in his dark eyes. He made some quick hand signs to the Creeks and moved toward Cassius. “High John,” he said, and they embraced each other, both weeping.
“You here jes in time, my brother. Wese movin north. De grass here is gone, de forces of evil is comin, and we is Kansas bound.”
“Reckon I be goin wit you and watchin yer ol sorry back,” Cassius said, wiping his eyes.
“Firs, les git you fed and git you some weapons. Wese roastin up a beef over at dat big fire. And de guns are over dere at dat wagon.”

An exodus of four thousand Creeks, Seminoles and negroes had already begun to drift north and was crossing into the Cherokee lands. The people traveled in carriages, wagons, two-wheeled carts, riding horses and mules. Many were on foot. Thousands of cattle, sheep and horses were herded into columns. The families went first, then the animals, flanked on all sides by armed warriors.
Albert Pike, who had been commissioned as General of all the Confederate forces in Indian Territory, was immediately alerted that Opotheyahola’s loyal Creeks and a huge armed rabble of Seminoles and runaway slaves were heading north, apparently to rendezvous with Union forces in Kansas. The retreating Creeks were being pursued at a distance by Texas cavalry. Pike ordered Colonel Drew’s regiment of Cherokees to intercept Opotheyahola’s forces and refugees.
Drew’s Mounted Rifles, in pursuit from the east, were mostly all Pin Indians who had been drafted unwillingly into the Confederate ranks when Ross had signed on with the south. The southern leaders thought they could control them and force their loyalty, but Stand Watie had warned Drew not to trust them, to use caution with them. Watie’s men, on the other hand, were die-hard rebels who whistled Dixie while they rode. They were a fierce crew of nigra-hating white Cherokees and many of them owned slaves. Watie stole what he needed to keep them well-armed and well-fed, and he slapped them down if they got too drunk. Drew’s men, in contrast, were solemn, morose, lackluster, and much more dangerous than they looked. They eyed their officers with a primordial hatred that the officers could feel and that had led them to make stupid, careless decisions more than once.
From the south came the Third Texas Cavalry, led by Colonel Douglas Cooper. The Texans were a dangerous, battle-hardened army a generation younger than Sam Houston’s valiant men. Some were Rangers, accustomed to fighting the wild tribes of Comanche and many had seen action in the 1845 American invasion of Mexico.

Opotheyahola was like a Creek Moses parting the Red Sea of the Cherokee Nation’s Coo-wee-scoo-wee District. In his seventh decade of life, he was a strong man. He let Bowlegs command the warriors, while he appeared here, there, and everywhere guiding, urging, and assisting the entire assemblage forward. At a place on Bird Creek called Caving Banks, Opotheyahola called a halt. He stopped the throng of refugees and regrouped his warriors. His scouts had warned him of the approach of the Texans and Drew’s Cherokees. He called his men around him.
“I know this place. With the Caving Banks around us, we are in a very defensible position,” Opotheyahola said, explaining how the steep broken terrain and soft sand made a cavalry assault from the south a risky proposition. “But the white Texans are relentless,” he said. “They will cover the ground. Bowlegs, take your men and be ready to slaughter them. Take your boys. Fill the sky with your black-feathered arrows. I want my Creeks on the east, the Seminole braves on the south, and the freed slaves will hold the center. Make the sky dark with lead.”

The Pin Indian, Watt Christie, was among the shivering and still-damp men who had just crossed the Verdigris River with Colonel Drew’s Mounted Rifles, and who now pulled blankets around their shoulders. They had been warned to keep their campfires low because Opotheyahola and the Loyal Creeks were camped but a few miles away through the rugged woodland. They inched close to the fire, their cheeks burning while toes and fingers stung from the chill as the temperature began to drop. Watt looked around him at the sullen, miserable faces of his companions.
“This is not right,” he told them. “We have now been forced on the warpath against our own people – people who believe as we do.”
Just then Colonel Drew and some officers walked up on them. “I need some scouts to get the lay of the land around the enemy’s camp,” Drew said. Several of the Indians stood up and so did Watt. He was not sleepy and he wished to move about. Mostly, he wanted to find out for himself what was going on. Drew chose Watt and two other men, Tadpole and Billy Sunday, to do the job. All three were Keetoowahs, and Tadpole was married to a Creek woman who had many relatives in Opotheyahola’s camp.
Sunlight drained rapidly from the winter sky as the three walked into the forest toward the Caving Banks. In the last rays of the afternoon, Watt and the others encountered Creek sentries, a pair of warriors with long rifles. Watt glanced at Tadpole and Sunday and then stepped out to reveal himself. He touched his hat in salute and held the lapel of his coat, drawing it away from his body and giving a motion as if he was wrapping it around his heart.
“Who are you?” a Creek warrior shouted.
“Tahlequah,” Watt answered. “And who are you?”
The Creek smiled. “I am Keetoowah’s son.”
Minutes later, the men stood in Opotheyahola’s camp, surrounded by Creeks, Seminoles and Cherokees. They passed a pipe and conversed in several languages.
“There’s nothing stopping you,” Bowlegs told them. “You should come over.”
Watt nodded his agreement.
“Tell your friends to tie corn husks in their hair so we can recognize them. We will all go to Kansas together.”
“When should we do this?” asked Watt.
“Dawn,” Bowlegs said. “Tell the others there are two thousand well-armed warriors here, ready to fight, willing to send them to the Darkening Land. But we will welcome them into our ranks. Tell them to bring all the lead and rations they can gather, and meet us here at dawn.”

Watt, Sunday and Tadpole returned to camp and told Drew the story he was wishing to hear. They described a huge enemy force, knowing that the fearful Drew would not attack. Then the word was spread quietly among the other Pin Indians and plans were laid to leave Drew’s camp before dawn.

A cheer rose among the Creeks and their allied forces as the pin-wearing Cherokees with cornhusks in their hair streamed around the abandoned farm, now being used as a headquarters for Bowlegs. Bowlegs moved among the Cherokees wearing a long shirt and plumed hat and he welcomed them heartily. “Brothers,” he told them, “we are undefeatable now!” The Cherokees tied their horses to trees and began dividing themselves into small groups of warriors, according to clan affiliation and blood ties.
Cassius mingled with the Cherokees and, speaking their tongue, he introduced himself to Watt Christie. “I jes run offa Johnny Ross’s place a few day ago,” he said and Watt laughed.
“How did you leave that reprobate?” Watt asked.
“Da girls in de house say he packin fo a long trip.”
“I would bet that he is.”
“I seen him wit my own eyes a-shakin hans wit Stan Watie.”
Watt shook his head bitterly. “Stay with us,” he said, “There’s a fight coming and it’s going to be thick.”

The next morning broke clear and bitter cold in John Drew’s camp. Well after sunup, the colonel still slept, wrapped up in blankets inside his canvas tent. The morning light and the strange silence brought him out of a deep sleep. He opened the tent flaps, stepped out and surveyed the camp. All was quiet. A few of his officers sat beside a fire. One of the captains brought over a cup of steaming coffee, handed it to him and saluted.
“They’re all gone,” the captain said. “They left while we slept, took munitions, food. The damned Republican Pins are gone!”
“Why wasn’t I wakened?” barked Drew.
“For what, sir? Out of six hundred men we have a few dozen officers left. If you had come shouting orders they’d have killed us every one, sir.”
Drew sipped his coffee while the gravity of his position made him shiver. Through the dull ringing in his ears, he realized the captain was speaking. He strained to hear.
“Your orders, sir?”
“What? Oh. Muster the men. Find me some food. Breakfast.” Drew’s hands and voice shook.
One of his officers who had tracked the deserters rode up quickly. “There’s a large force headed this way, sir!” he cried from horseback.
“Huhhh? Get your gear, men. We must depart this damnable spot and join up with Cooper’s Texans.” Suddenly Drew panicked. He saw himself as from a distance, a short, tawdry footnote to history. His command had deserted him. His career was over. He wished himself home again with his wife. His stomach growled while his ears rang. Breakfast, he thought. What a day.
Drew and his remaining officers mounted quickly and headed south, but after a few minutes one of them piped up, “We forgot about the powder, sir!”
“What? Oh, the powder,” Drew moaned. “We must retrieve the powder.”
They rushed back to the empty camp. There they found Major Pegg. He was still drunk from the night before and had been totally forgotten in the scramble to leave. Pegg was urinating on the trunk of a large oak tree, oblivious to all that had occurred.
“Pegg!” Drew shouted at the man.
“What in the world?” Pegg noticed for the first time the condition of the camp.
“We must flee, Pegg,” said Drew. “The enemy is upon us with four thousand men.”
Again his thoughts turned to breakfast.

Drew and his few loyal officers fled on to Cooper’s Texan camp without decorum. He reported to Cooper, “My men, my whole command, have gone over to the Union side. Those damnable nigra-loving Republican Lincolnites! God damn them all! Oh, Cooper, I am sick…and I must hasten to report, sir, that we are being pursued by a large Creek force – four thousand, I’d guess.”
Cooper frowned at Drew as he spoke softly, “You’ve been guessing wrong so far, Drew…Colonel Watie clearly predicted this very event, that your men would desert you. Go and sit yourself down and eat some breakfast. What a goddamn mess of Yankees and liars and traitors and fools. Shit fire!”
Cooper and his officers quickly ascertained there was no attacking force bearing down on them. John Drew finally sat down with his men to a belated breakfast of taters, biscuits, beans and beef. The Texans stood back and hee-hawed the dining Cherokees for their lack of valor. They grinned, laughed and elbowed each other till they cried. Cooper threw up a line of sentries and a watch was maintained throughout the morning, but the Loyal Creeks and their allies never appeared.

Young Captain Clement Rogers had been detached from Stand Watie’s force to act as a scout for Cooper’s Texas Cavalry. He stood there, that cold windy morning, watching the old man Drew and his few remaining men, all officers, huddled by the fire at Cooper’s camp. “Wretched fools,” he muttered to himself. “Do these blithering idiots even realize how deeply they have disgraced our Confederate Cherokee Nation? They have no order, no discipline. Now they have enriched chief Opotheyahola’s forces to the tune of many hundreds of warriors, horses and guns.” Clement Rogers looked at the deaf old Drew, white hair growing out of his ears and nose. “Damned disgusting choice old Ross picked as leader. I should shoot him in the head right now and save us more trouble.” He spat his tobacco on the icy ground.
Cooper’s Rebs rested in bivouac until just after noon. Then they were summoned by Cooper and his officers to receive orders and go over the battle plans. The Texans were saddled up and ready for a fight. Before they mounted, Cooper addressed them as though they were his own sons. “Boys, our enemy is composed of renegade niggers, cut throat Pins, and zambo trash. Beware…these black Lincolnites will have no compunction about killing you on sight. Cover your brother’s backs and fight like true sons of Texas! Let’s go finish this business and send those traitors to hell.” They mounted in the cold wind and headed into the dense thicket with solemn determination.

1861 – The Battle at the Caving Banks on Muddy Bird Creek

Billy Bowlegs and his Seminole warriors, their brown faces painted red and black, wore cornhusks braided in their thick hair so they would recognize each other even in the dark. They moved quietly south and established a firm position to protect Opotheyahola’s column from the Texas Rebel Calvary’s line of advance. In the center of the horseshoe bend on Muddy Bird Creek, they shored up the abandoned farmhouse and placed logs around on the ground for rifle positions. Bowlegs told his men, “If we don’t stop these Texan crackers here, we sho nuff gonna slow their white asses down a day or two. Shoot their horses – these Texans be walkin home, if they lives. Stay under cover and shoot careful, these tree branches will turn a bullet.”
Cassius looked up at Watt Christie. He wore the braided cornhusk in his long black hair and he seemed to be smelling the air. “They’s comin boys,” he said quietly. The men hunkered down in a brushy spot along the creek, high atop the tree-lined sand banks. The sand was crumbly and unstable and the color and texture of brown sugar.
A mighty fine spot for a swim on a hot August afternoon, Cassius thought, but this was December and a wet cold north wind blew down from Kansas where freedom waited. Across the creek a covey of quail went up with a rush of wings and then several deer bounded down the steep bank through the muddy creek and up toward them. Cassius felt fear grip his insides as he spied the grey-clad figures moving among the trees on the far shore.
“Hold back yer fire,” Watt whispered. An Indian word was hissed and hundreds of turkey calls were being made all around them. Cassius saw some of the Cherokee and Creek men stand up and slap their sides, barking and howling like wolves. Cassius flinched as he heard hundreds of bowstrings popping behind him. The sky darkened as the Creek boys began launching arrows to arc over their position and into the forest beyond the creek

Clem Rogers trotted forward on his horse, picking his way with Cooper’s southern officers and the remnant of Drew’s command. They rode through a prairie sprinkled with big oaks and pecan trees and then into a dense thicket of willows and river birches. The wind seemed to pick up behind them and they heard the rattling cries and taunts of Indian war whoops. Arrows sizzled, falling and cutting dead leaves and branches. Horses screamed and men who were wounded and cursing fell from their saddles into the dead grass. Clem saw Drew’s horse with an arrow through its neck, and watched the old man trying desperately to control the animal as it spun in a circle. Another soldier directly in front of him tumbled end-over-end off his horse, as the wounded beast plunged head-long into a ravine. In the confusion, some of the Confederate riders rode right off the high slippery sand banks and came crashing down through the overgrowth into the Muddy Bird Creek and into the sights of the loyal Indians.
The corn husk wearing Indians opened fire with rifles and shotguns. Horses and men shrieked horribly as they were raked with lead. The Confederates piled into the icy blood-stained creek over their own dead and wounded and withered under the gunfire emanating only dozens of yards away. Watt Christie saw Broom Baldridge, a one-time Keetoowah turned Confederate, struggling with his horse and attempting to lift a wounded man onto it. Watt drew a bead on the center of the rebel traitor’s grey uniform jacket and squeezed the trigger. The mortally wounded Lieutenant Baldridge looked up at Watt, right at him, and seemed to recognize him for a moment. He then fell heavily into the cold muddy water. The Confederate charge stalled and the rebels withdrew into the woods to regroup.

In the distant woods, Cassius could hear the clatter of rifle fire and he looked questioningly at Watt. “Alligator and the Seminoles are hitting their rearguard,” Watt told him. “They’re after the horses and supply wagons.” Movement on the sandy banks beneath them caught Watt’s attention. “Those are our people down there,” he warned. Despite the danger, several ex-field hands had rushed to the water’s edge. Half-naked and barefoot they rummaged for the dead men’s uniforms and boots. Cassius, Watt and the other Pins covered them, staring through rifle sights at the opposite bank. Cassius glanced down at the dead Confederates as several of their stripped, bleeding bodies began to drift slowly down the Muddy Bird Creek.
His horse riddled with lead and his skull bleeding, Clem Rogers stumbled on foot back through the bush with a Colt revolver in his hand. He came across Colonel Drew, sitting as if dazed by his horse as the downed animal kicked weakly on the ground, blood pumping from the arrow wound in its neck. Ignoring Drew, Clem walked over and pulled the arrow from the animal and examined it. “A metal-pointed Creek arrow,” Clem said, turning it over in his hand.
“What?” croaked Drew.
Clem glanced at the old wretch and cocked his revolver. He scanned the brush in every direction. They were alone. One shot would put an end to the man’s misery. But no, he heard a branch snapping behind him. Clem turned his revolver and shot the wounded horse through the brain. “Captain Rogers!” A voice rang out and Clem turned and saw Cooper, who stumbled forward holding an injured arm.
“Yes sir?”
“Captain, can you find a goddamn place to get at em along this creek?”
“I think so sir, yes.”
“How many men do you need?”
Rogers looked around him at the Texans and Cherokee officers who were gathering around Cooper. “Sir if it’s all the same to you I’ll take about twenty of them McIntosh Creeks and your Texans backing us up.”
“Make it happen, Captain Rogers.”

The north wind out of Kansas was bitter cold all that day, bringing freezing rain and sharp stinging sleet. Cassius looked down at his feet. They were cold and wet, but at least he had shoes. He pulled his old blanket up around his head and settled stiffly into the brown leaves. He watched Watt fiddling with a recently acquired Colt pistol. Bowlegs summoned them all back to the fortified farm house and corn cribs that occupied the center of the horseshoe bend. There they found Bowlegs bellowing orders in a mixture of languages. “The Texans have crossed the creek!” he shouted. “Our Chief is leading the people away.” Bowlegs raised his rifle above his head. “We fight them one more time. Here! We fight them very hard. Then we follow the people north!” Someone tossed Bowlegs a Creek spear. He raised it high, then thrust it point first into the sandy ground. Men shouted their assent.

Two hours later the Pins, allied Indians, and free negroes found themselves in a vicious crossfire. In bloody, close-quarter bush combat, the Texans had seized the high ground to the east of the farm and the McIntosh Creeks were holding a dense thicket to their north. Volley after volley was exchanged. The soft round balls splattered through the bush causing nasty flesh wounds by the dozens.
Cassius squatted near Watt behind a corn crib surrounded by black powder stained Pin Indians. Alligator rushed up behind them and placed his hand on Watt’s shoulder. “Not much light lef in de day,” he said hoarsely. “Dere’s a path cut through de brush. We gonna start pullin out. Ten men by ten men. When yo brothers run out – blast de Texans!” Watt nodded and spread the word and Alligator went on down the line giving instructions. Shots continued ringing out and bullets fell among them with increasing precision.
A dozen or more Texans rushed out of the underbrush, crouching low and carrying carbines. Watt and a score of Pins leaned up on one knee and fired a volley, causing some Texans to fall with bullets crashing through them and others to collapse behind trees. While Cassius made ready his shotgun, he saw one of the Pins, Billy Sunday, jerk and drop his gun. Watt held his rifle in one hand and fired a revolver rapidly at the Texans while Cassius grabbed Sunday’s foot and dragged the bleeding man behind the corn crib.

Crouching behind a tree in an elevated position, Clem Rogers watched the fight swirling around the farm house through the haze of black powder smoke. The woods around him were filling with wounded men. A young Texan lieutenant approached Clem and told him Colonel Cooper was holding an impromptu officer’s meeting further back in the woods. Clem followed the lieutenant and found the colonel and a few officers speaking in exhausted tones. They were a bedraggled but determined bunch, and every one had at least one bleeding wound.
Cooper spoke to Clem Rogers. “Do you think we can subdue these Yankee traitors?”
“Sir,” Rogers replied, “the enemy has a thousand or more warriors here in this bend and they appear to be holding their own whilst making an orderly retreat.” Cooper nodded grimly and Clem continued, “If we pursue them into this gathering dusk, we shall end the day by shooting our own men in the darkness.”
“Sir,” a Texas Captain addressed Cooper, “I’ve counted over fifty of our men killed, two hundred wounded and about a hundred downed horses.”
Cooper nodded again and said, “Goddamn those Indians.” Cooper glanced about at his worn and torn men. “We’ve given them as good as we’ve gotten. I’m confident of that.” The officers nodded and assured their colonel that was in fact the case. ”Gentlemen,” he said, “Git the boys that ain’t hurt too bad to start makin stretchers. Bring up the wagons. Let’s git these hurt men out of here.”
“Yes sir.”
“Shall we continue the pursuit sir?” The Texas captain wondered aloud.
“No, let them escape. We have taught them a lesson.”
Clem observed with few comments as the Texas Cavalry set about removing itself from the horseshoe bend. He carried his saddle and bedroll back to the morning’s camp. Sleet and hard specks of snow were falling about the weary men as they trudged back to the campfires. The Texans’ dreams of plunder – of cattle, slaves and glory – is vanishing into the sleet, smoke and darkness, Clem thought. But this land and its wealth is not their birthright, he considered, it is mine.
The next morning Clem awoke early amidst the groans of hundreds of wounded men and saddled a horse he took from the ad-hoc remuda. He rode east throughout the day, finally arriving at Colonel Watie’s camp in the early December darkness. Quickly he told the old man about the battle and how the Pins had defected and how Opotheyahola was still moving north to Kansas.
Stand Watie shook his head and laughed. “Let the black Republicans feed them then,” he said. “It is but one less concern.” Watie handed Clem a bottle and Clem drank and handed it back.
Captain William Penn Adair appeared out of the darkness, wrapped in a greatcoat and with a pained and ominous expression on his face. “Clem…cousin,” he said. “There’s been some very bad news.” He handed Clem a folded piece of paper. “It is from your wife.” Clem opened the letter and held a candle close as he read –

My Dearest Clement –
Our darling baby Elizabeth is no more. The journey from the farm to Mother’s house was too much for her to bear. She took a fever along the trail, and none among us could save her. She lies now in the cold ground, yet I live on, with a heart broken and empty arms that ache for my child. Father is sending me off to Texas in a week’s time, there to remain until this dreadful fighting is over. Until then, I live only to see your face again. May God keep you safe. Your loving wife – Mary America Rogers

An Essay: The battle of the Caving Banks

June 10, 2010

A Short History of the Battle of Chusto Talash by Murv Jacob, James Murray, and Deborah Duvall

Hardly a person alive has even heard of the Battle of the Caving Banks. The now hidden site where the dramatic battle was fought, nestled in a heavily wooded valley, hosts a few small oil wells pumping  alongside several old landfills.  The site bears only a stone marker as a remembrance of the many who bravely fought and died there. In early December, 1861, on a cold, wet and miserable day, the largest Civil War battle of Indian Territory was waged just north of what is now the city of Tulsa.

As the Five Tribes of Indian Territory were one by one signing treaties of alliance with the Confederacy, hundreds of escaped Negro slaves, free Black Indians, Creek and Seminole Indians were gathering at the Creek Chief Opotheyahola’s settlement on the north fork of the Canadian river. The Chief’s people included a number of intermarried and adopted Blacks, and Opotheyahola was known for his anti-slavery sentiments. It was becoming painfully obvious that a large group of armed and hostile Blacks and Indians would not be tolerated in the newly Confederate Indian Territory.

Opotheyahola’s band was joined by many more slave runaways and Seminole and Creek sympathizers as they began to trudge with great uncertainty towards the safety of Fort Scott, Kansas, the nearest Union fort outside Confederate territory. Opotheyahola’s warriors protected hundreds of the aged, children, mothers and other noncombatants who struggled to leave the war-stricken Territory and their oppressive White Indian masters. With them they carried their possessions and herded thousands of head of livestock.

When they learned of the huge refugee column moving north, the Confederate military authorities in Indian Territory hastened to prevent their escape. Orders were given for a force of Texan cavalry and various commands of Confederate Choctaw, Creek, and Cherokees to pursue the Loyal Indians and runaways. These Southerners were seeking booty – notably slaves and livestock.

A large-scale cross-country pursuit ensued. Opotheyahola and his warriors knew that they could never outdistance the Confederate forces with such a large group of non-combatants and animals in tow. Relying on centuries of Creek military tradition, Opotheyahola sought out a “horseshoe bend” on the water. He found it at the Chusto Talash – the “caving banks” of the Muddy Bird Creek. There with the help of Billy Bowlegs, the battle-tested Seminole war chief, Opotheyahola positioned his men along the inside of the Caving Banks and kept the refugees moving northward far behind them in the Osage Hills.

Soon Confederate forces converged upon the scene and both sides prepared for a fight. But the night before the battle an amazing and unforeseen event occurred. Six hundred Cherokee mounted riflemen, who had arrived with the Southern contingent under Colonel John Drew, decided to switch sides and joined forces with Opatheyahola and his allies. These “full-blood” traditional Cherokees, known as “Pin Indians,” were members of the Keetowah Society and were explicitly anti-slavery and pro-Union. They had been drafted into the Confederate Army by Cherokee Nation Chief John Ross after Ross had received a large amount of money from the Southern leaders.

The Keetoowah Cherokees balked at the idea of helping the Confederate government attack their fellow Indians. During the night, the Keetoowahs slipped away from Drew’s camp, leaving thirty-five pro-Southern White Cherokee officers peacefully slumbering in their tents. The addition of these brave 600 men, and the guns and horses they brought with them, made all the difference to Pro-Union forces in the battle that ensued.

The battle took place on December 9, 1861. Cooper and his Texans (battle hardened Comanche fighters) led the attack, backed up by Pro- Southern Choctaws, Chickasaws, McIntosh Creeks, and a few White Cherokee officers loyal to Drew. The battle raged all day with neither side able to gain an advantage in the thickly wooded valley. Horses were useless on the steep, crumbling sand banks of rain-swollen Muddy Bird Creek. Shotguns, pistols and rifles took an awful toll at such close range. At nightfall, the Southerners abandoned their plans of glory, slaves and free cattle and horses, took their wounded and withdrew into the freezing night.

When the Southerners returned the next day to gather their dead, the Black and Indian combatants had vanished, taking their dead and wounded. Each side lost 150-200 men, with at least twice that number wounded.

This battle was by far the largest ever fought in the history of Oklahoma, and by the very nature of the combatants, it was difficult to describe or define. Both sides claimed victory. One fact is certain; had these Keetoowahs or ”Pins” not valiantly joined the loyal Union Forces, the free Blacks, Black Indians and runaway slaves would have been driven back in chains to four more years of slavery at Confederate hands.

The mass of refugees proceeded north to Kansas and freedom, hindered on their journey by hit and run Southern guerilla raids (mostly on the livestock) and fierce winter storms. Many did not survive the harsh winter.

Selected Readings

‘The Cherokee Nation In The Civil War’ by Clarissa W. Confer, OU Press, 2007

‘The Confederate Cherokees – John Drew’s Regiment of Mounted Rifles’ by W. Craig Gaines, LSU Press, 1989 (Woefully mis-titled, this book tells the story of how the “full-blood” Keetowahs were drafted into the Cherokee Confederate army and were unwilling to fight their fellows among the Creek and Seminole. In Kansas these men would form the Indian Home Guard – known to their enemies as “Cut-throat Pin Indians.” A roster list is included as appendix, as close as we are liable to come for a membership list of the charter male members of the Keetowah Society.)

‘Opothleyahola and the Loyal Muskogee – Their Flight to Kansas in the Civil War’ by Lela J. McBride, McFarland and Co. 2000 (The story from the Creek perspective. How “Loyal” to the Union these people were is subject to debate, however they were anti-slavery in sentiment and unwilling to live peacefully under the newly Confederate-aligned Creek Nation.)

‘The American Civil War in the Indian Territory’ by John D. Spencer, illustrations by Adam Hook, Osprey 2006

Two Chapters: Wigwam Neosho, Morning at the Wigwam Neosho, and an entry to Sequoyah’s Diary

May 25, 2010

1829 -Sequoyah Visits The Wigwam Neosho

It was the autumn of the year and the best time to travel. Sequoyah slipped down from his buckskin mule to the ground. Following the mule were a team of oxen pulling a heavy old cart with two solid wooden wheels. It was laden with bags of salt from Sequoyah’s salt works. Ahead lay the Wigwam Neosho, home to Sequoyah’s beautiful niece, Diana Rogers, and her husband, Sam Houston. Every Cherokee girl knew that Sam, a white boy, grew up as the adopted son of Chief Joll-ee, the leader of the large village on Hiwassee Island in the Tennessee River. Sam grew up building fish traps and swimming with the Cherokee children in that river, hunting those forests with the boys, trading kisses with the girls.
Every Cherokee also knew that Sam Houston had been a great U. S. congressman, sent from the wild hills of Tennessee over to the nasty, turbulent little American capital of Washington City. In that great Senate he had famously fought for the Cherokees’ rights. He even went to Senate sessions dressed in the Cherokee fashion, with turban, buckskin leggings, and deerskin moccasins. Sequoyah was fascinated by Samuel Houston, who got his name Go-la-nu, or the Raven, from the young Cherokee girls on that river isle, because his moods were sometimes dark as night. Sequoyah laughed to himself as he remembered how just weeks earlier, the officers at Cantonment Gibson had been mortified to witness the famed Houston, dressed as a common Cherokee, sharing a bowl of porridge with old Chief Joll-ee in the ancient way, using only one spoon.

The Wigwam Neosho sat on a broad finger of land between the Grand Neosho and the Verdigris rivers. It was a fourteen mile ride north of the American frontier army post at Cantonment Gibson. Surrounded by gigantic trees, the Wigwam was a two-storied log structure that had been built by Diana’s first husband. Houston carried on his activities there as Indian trader, political exile and raconteur.

Sequoyah smiled as he saw the first tendrils of smoke from the chimneys of the Wigwam Neosho. Apart from the main house were a series of lean-tos and sheds. A large slave was shoeing a mule while a young dragoon tied his horse nearby, awaiting the same procedure. Sequoyah left his mule and the team of oxen under a draping sycamore and walked across the yard, scattering chickens in his wake. As he approached the house, Houston burst forth onto the porch. He wore deerskin trousers and a ruffled shirt, topped off with a resplendent red and blue hunting coat. Today his auburn hair was covered with an elaborate blue turban, twined around his skull.
“What honor upon my house!” Houston rushed down the two steps to stand in front of Sequoyah. Beer splashed over the side of his pewter mug. “The American Cadmus graces the Wigwam Neosho!” Houston announced. Sequoyah smiled and took his friend’s outstretched hand.
“Come brother Cherokee,” Houston said and pulled Sequoyah toward the porch, his great muscular arm around Sequoyah’s shoulders. “We shall feast and discuss great intricacies! Our friend Pierre August Chouteau has sent the Wigwam Neosho a canoe full of fresh killed buffalo!”
Sequoyah visualized all that buffalo meat, cooked to perfection by the lovely Diana, and realized how hungry he was. Houston led his friend to the steps with his arm around his shoulder. “And you bring salt! Outstanding.” Houston said.
The pair stepped onto the porch where Sequoyah noticed several barrels of whiskey. He looked at Sam, eyebrows lifted. “Do not worry, kind friend. I do not sell spirits to our countrymen. I assure you those are for my personal consumption.” Houston eyes glazed for an instant, then he clapped his friend on the shoulder.
As they entered the house, Sam gestured to an elaborately dressed slave, sprawled out on a couch near the huge fireplace. On closer inspection, Sequoyah could see that this slave wore an outfit identical to Houston’s, including the turban. “Shadow of the Raven,” Houston said, raising his glass, newly filled, to the slave, “do find that young Lieutenant Davis – he’s out there getting his horse shod – and tell him to come in here and join our embarrassment of riches.”
Sequoyah turned to the sound of lilting voices in the kitchen. Several young Cherokee girls were laughing and talking, at work preparing the evening meal. “Uncle George!” each cried in turn when Sequoyah poked his head inside. The first to embrace him was his niece, Diana Rogers, Sam’s wife and the best cook for fifty miles. “Uncle George, it is so good to see you,” she said. By the time he had kissed and hugged his nieces and cousins, Houston called Sequoyah back to the oaken dinner table, near the blazing fireplace. The young dragoon he had seen outside stood next to Houston.
Sam turned to Lieutenant Davis. “Surely, sir, you have met our distinguished guest.”
“I’m afraid not, sir.”
Houston glanced at the men in turn. “Lieutenant Jefferson Davis, meet our most famous Cherokee – George Guess.”
“Mr. Guess, how do you do?” said Davis. “I’m mighty proud to make your acquaintance.”
As they dined Sequoyah held his tongue and listened to Houston enthrall the young dragoon. Rarely did Sequoyah speak in English around white men. It was far more entertaining to feign no knowledge of that foreign tongue and listen to them blather in secret.
Sequoyah thought that the food tasted as marvelous as the wine that the Shadow of the Raven kept pouring into his glass. Suddenly Sam came up behind Sequoyah and covered his eyes with both hands while Diana lowered the tray to the table before him.
“Wa-du-li-si!” Sequoyah said, holding a rich golden slice of honeycomb up to the candlelight. “Now here is the perfect end to a splendid supper.” He much preferred the natural honeycomb to any handmade food he had yet encountered, as his niece Diana, who took pains to please all her guests, knew well. She had discovered the honey tree some days earlier, after she knew to expect Sequoyah. She had waited until this very afternoon to collect it.

Their fine meal ended, Sequoyah sat back to smoke his pipe while Houston and Davis drank bourbon between puffs of huge cigars. Shadow of the Raven stood silently nearby, ever watchful for an empty glass. Sequoyah looked up as he heard Sam speaking his name.
“As I was saying earlier, Lieutenant Davis, Guess here is none other than the esteemed inventor of the syllabary of the immortal Cherokee Nation.” Davis nodded stiffly in his high dragoon collar. “Not in the salons of Boston nor of New York is there a mind of such refinement and exactitude.”
“Yes, suh.” Davis seemed to stifle quietly in his uniform.
Houston relaxed into seriousness. “And what have you heard of me? I’m sure the wagging tongues of Cantonment Gibson have had much to say.”
“Sir you are known of course….It is said by some,” Davis weighed his words, “that perhaps you have aspirations in Mexico.”
Houston roared with laughter. “What is Mexico, Lieutenant Davis? That strange nearby place…that land of scorpions and orchids. That border is a few days ride from where we sit now.”
“Yes sir, of course. The frontier of Mexico is well-established.”
“Did you ever think, Lieutenant, that a border so recently established may change suddenly?”
Houston reached for his newly filled glass and rose from the table, weaving a little on moccasin-clad feet. He moved to a bench placed against the wall and settled on a buffalo rug.
“Gentlemen,” said Houston, “I must recline in the classical fashion to digest such eateries. Forgive me such a faux pas.” Davis and Sequoyah replied that it was no indiscretion and the conversation continued. Davis shed his coat and found himself a large chair and Sequoyah sat on the floor as was his custom.
“Suh,” Davis spoke to Houston.
“Yes, Lieutenant?”
“There is a subject I must address. It is a rare occurrence here on the frontier that I encounter educated gentlemen. When in the company of such I must inquire whether a literary discussion is possible.”
“I am a patron of all the arts, Lieutenant.”
“Your own literary tastes, suh?” Davis turned to face Houston.
“Well, they are of course classical. The writings of Caesar and such – as well the Greek experience – Sophocles and Thucydides. The story of Marius has always held great meaning for me.”
“Marius?” Davis asked.
“Yes, of humble origins and tested in battle, yet the subject of scorn and hounded by detractors. An army from rabble he did raise and win an empire.”
“Interesting,” Davis said.
“In truth, Lieutenant,” said Houston, “Such would be my own chosen fate.”
“To win an empire?”
“Perhaps you think I am no Marius,” Houston said. “Then I say that the Cherokee Indians are no rabble. I could assemble an army of ten thousand Indians and reign as the Cherokee Emperor of Texas!”
Sequoyah laughed inwardly, thinking of how that would be – an army of ten thousand Indians – his old friend Sam ruling over Texas like some kind of king. He rose stiffly up from the floor and bid his companions goodnight.

1829 – Morning at the Wigwam Neosho

After breakfast the next morning, Lieutenant Davis thanked the Houstons for their fine hospitality and mounted his horse. Sam and Sequoyah sat on benches on the east porch of the Wigwam Neosho, soaking up the mid-morning sun. The dark fabric of Sequoyah’s clothing drew the healing sun into his leg and onto his face. Autumn days like this, when the winds gave way to the sun, always took him back to his childhood. He would lie in the tall, dry grass in the field behind his home, the sky a blazing blue, the sun burning into his coat, warming him though the air was cold. He could smell the damp earth beneath the thickness of the grass. There he would read, in those choice hours of sunlight and warmth, the writings of his father’s people.
Sam Houston interrupted Sequoyah’s thoughts and said, “Old friend, it hurts to move my head, even after that fine breakfast. Too much whiskey.”
“Surely by now you have discovered some hangover cure.” Sequoyah smiled.
“You’re right,” Sam groaned. “Hand me that little pouch over there, the beaded one.”
Sequoyah reached into a shelf behind him and retrieved a folded pouch. He handed it to Sam who opened the pouch and removed a dark chunk of greenish stuff. He crumbled it into finer bits then emptied these from his fingers into Sequoyah’s ever-present clay pipe. Sequoyah immediately recognized the skunky aroma of the Mexican marijuana when Sam applied the match. After a few draws on the pipe, Sam declared his headache cured, and Sequoyah’s leg had never felt better.
Shadow of the Raven appeared, wearing the same green silk turban, fringed hunting coat, leggings and moccasins as Sam. He grinned widely when Sequoyah offered him the pipe. He smoked his fill of the magic herb, then leaned back to relax against the wall, looking into the sun.
Some slaves were working in the woods up the trail from the Wigwam Neosho and one of them called out, “Rider comin’ in!” From the porch the men watched as a dusty rider rode up at a clipping pace. The rider was mounted on a large red mule.
“I bet it’s Chisholm.” Houston re-filled the pipe and he and Sequoyah walked out into the yard.
Moments later, Sequoyah grasped the outstretched hand of his nephew, Jesse Chisholm. The men all greeted each other warmly. Houston watched as Chisholm tied his mule to a post and loosened the saddle. Chisholm’s father had been one of the full-blood Scots who had taken Cherokee wives in the old country. His family had come out to the frontier with the old settlers, and Jesse had grown up speaking a half a dozen languages and developing as a natural trader. Chisholm took mule trains out to the prairie and traded with the wild Indians there instead of having them come to him. He was known as a fair trader and even dangerous tribes like the Comanches welcomed Jesse Chisholm to their firesides. Chisholm asked the whereabouts of Diana.
“She’s around somewhere. Pretty soon she’ll be calling you in for lunch.” They all laughed and Chisholm went into the big house to surprise his relative. A few minutes later he joined Houston and Sequoyah again on the porch.
“So you’ve been out to the great prairie?” Houston offered the pipe to Chisholm.
“Comancheria,” Jesse answered.
“How long did you stay out, Jesse?” Sequoyah asked.
“Long enough to pick up some buffalo hides and horses.”
“Well, I’m glad to have you and Sequoyah here together,” Sam said. “I need Sequoyah’s advice, and I need help from you, Jesse.”
“I like talking,” Chisholm said, grinning. “But I like eating better.”
Houston laughed. “Then we shall speak of great things over lunch!”

While they ate, a serious and nearly sober Houston told Sequoyah and Chisholm of his plans to revolutionize Texas. He spread a purloined army map on the table and the men examined it as Houston sketched his plans. “A hundred years ago,” he explained, “the Spanish had missions on the Red River, but each year their frontier inches back. They cannot hold the entire of Texas against the Comanche and Kiowa in particular. The Spanish military forces are brutal but entirely reactive. The distances are immense.” Houston went on to say that many southern American whites were already settling in Texas and they chafed under even the nominal Spanish rule. He theorized that a multi-ethnic ad hoc army of civilized Indians, southern backwoodsmen and wild plains tribes could unite to smash the Spanish military presence in Texas and form a provisional government.
“Tell me, Jesse,” Houston asked Chisholm, “could the Comanche be induced to join such an effort?”
“Any man who says he can predict a Comanche is a fool or a liar,” Chisholm said and shrugged. “But I can tell you this – a Comanche don’t care about a white man one way or the other. But he hates a Mexican with all he’s got. God Almighty you should see the Mexican scalps Eschiti has hanging around his lodge.”
“But Eschiti respects you.”
“I reckon.”
“Do you think you could persuade him to enter a council with me and maybe some others concerning this matter?
“Sam I ain’t gonna lie to you. Eschiti and those other Comanche chiefs can be some bad Indians. They ain’t gonna do nothing for nobody unless there is something in it for them.”
“Of course. They have their statecraft, as I have mine.”
“What do you have to offer them?” Sequoyah asked.
“Nothing.” Houston shrugged. “Nothing but what they already have – freedom. Someday soon, Jesse, I’ll ask you to use your linguistic skills to rally up some support from several of the tribes in the west. Imagine us in Texas with them on our side…no one could stop us.”
“Now, Sequoyah, tell me your thoughts,” Sam said, “about Texas.”
Sequoyah took a deep puff from his pipe before he answered. “It won’t be many years before the Americans take this place. You see them everywhere. Yes, Texas. Perhaps their greed will not drive them that far.”
“Well, they’d never be able to take our land there,” Sam said. “All those tribes together… why even the US Army would run from us like scared rabbits. Think of it!”
Sequoyah did think of it, and he liked the idea – a real home for the Cherokees with Sam Houston to lead them. Together the three men mapped out a rudimentary plan for Texas. Supper that night was another fine feast, and Sequoyah thanked his hosts gratefully. His leg told him it was time to retire to his room and its candlelit desk.

Sequoyah stoked up the fire to warm the room, then reached into his bag, pulling out a leather satchel. It was filled with sheets of parchment. He looked at the top sheet, entitled simply The Cherokees. The pages beneath it contained the first chapters of Sequoyah’s personal history of the Cherokee people.
For years, Sequoyah had been writing down all the events and stories he could recall about the Cherokees, including those his mother had taught him. Those stories would never be found in the yellowed pages of the Cherokee Phoenix. Fame had made Sequoyah an active participant in the Cherokee government, mostly as an advisor, and often as a mediator. He had witnessed a good deal of recent history first hand, seeing things he should never have seen, hearing things he should never have heard. Soon it would be time for him to leave this place. He walked a thin line between the factions of the Cherokees. One day he might stumble too far onto either side. Maybe Texas is the place for me, he mused, and with that his thoughts turned to Sam, drinking and singing below, and how they had both been wounded in the Creek war. Sequoyah dipped his pen in ink and began to write.

Sequoyah’s Diary

Many of the Cherokees did not wish to go to war with the Creeks. It was a subject of much debate and heated discourse. A General Council meeting was held in which all sides could speak their minds. Deep into the night the discussion continued. In the light of the ancient fire the Ridge rose. Long and eloquent did he speak on the reasons the people should join with the whites to war against the Creeks.
Many who were skeptical were moved by his language and reasoning. When the Ridge sat back down Charly, the famous doctor and witch, rose and began haranguing the Council and those assembled. He spoke with great power – against the war, against the young people learning English, against reading and writing from pieces of paper, against cats in the house. “When our people live like whites they are no longer Real People.” Such were the words of Charly.
Charly held tremendous power among the people. Many were afraid to look at him as it was told he traveled with four magical hell-hounds, one who walked on each side of him. “Look upon me,” Charly urged the assembled, and as they did so they were drawn into his sphere of influence. Charly continued to speak, his emotive power holding the crowd to him. At great length he continued on, and the crowd then grew wild and frenzied.
“No war on the Creeks!” they cried, “We must go instead to war with the Americans!”
“Yes!” Charly urged them on. “The whites are soul-stealers. They must not live among us, or us among them!”
Throughout Charly’s speaking the Ridge had sat silent, his arms crossed. To this day I remember his brow furrowed. When Charly hushed for an instant the Ridge leapt like a cat onto the Council table. Charly looked up at him with disbelief.
“If you have such power,” the Ridge addressed him directly and from above, breaking two taboos at once, “then strike me dead!”
Charly hissed and his inflamed supporters rushed the Ridge and knocked him from the table. Two, then three then four and more men attacked him, and he fought them like a panther until he was overcome by the rushing and maddened people. Oo-Watie then joined the fray swinging a cane stick against the Ridge’s attackers.
The Council House became a chaotic churning brawl. All of this I witnessed with my own eyes. The Ridge fought his way up from the earthen floor and he and Oo-Watie cleared the attackers away from them. The Ridge climbed back on top of the table soaking in his own blood. He took the cane stick from Oo-Watie and banged on the table until all eyes were on him. He held his arms out and addressed the assembled. “See,” he said. “Witness it with your own eyes. Still I live!”
This story circulated from town to town amongst our people. We voted to go to war with the Creeks.

James Murray Essay on the Ulster Scots

May 13, 2010

A Short History of the Scots-Irish

“We ain’t never gonna change
We ain’t doing nothing wrong
We ain’t never gonna change
So shut your mouth and play along”
-Drive-By Truckers

The plow is a weapon to the earth. The lowland Scots held ground that was poor and they steadily degraded it for centuries. Torn between warring neighbors – highlander celts to the north and English anglos to the south they were habitually troubled. Depleted and exhausted by endless waves of guerrilla war the English saw these lowlanders as an intermediate race, although certainly without culture the Scot barbarians were still a step above the savages on the Irish island.

In 1602 King James launched upon a novel scheme – these disposable people could be moved en masse and resettled in Ulster and other Irish environs. There they could farm in their own primitive fashion on land grant plantations given by the King. To earn such privileges and prove their loyalty to the King they had but one task – subdue the wild Irish horde.

By 1641 the Irish resistance collapsed. Tens of thousands of their number lay dead by cudgel and sword. The lowlanders had a new home and an identity as paramilitary farmer stock. In Europe these people became known as the Ulster Scots.

The English had an Indian problem. One hundred years after their arrival in north America they had pushed the frontier only one hundred miles west. The indigenous inhabitants held their settlement of the hinterland in check. The two most troublesome tribes – the Iroquois in the north and the Cherokee in the south were so formidable that the anglo colonists preferred bribery and flattery to cajole them over open warfare.

This “Indian hindrance,” was well noted in London. In 1725 a colonial official commented that it was safer and faster for a Virginia planter to visit London than to travel to the western frontier,( roughly the present site of Knoxville, TN.) The colonial authorities mulled over these problems with great seriousness. They decided what was needed was a “border class,” of European emigrants. A hardy folk whose inevitable sacrifice would not be a great loss to the English-speaking establishment.The English then began bringing in large numbers of Germans to the colonies. Mostly they were settled in Pennsylvania. They were orderly, industrious, excellent farmers, but they were town-folk. They had little interest or inclination to move into the wilderness and fight Indians.

As a second choice in the 1720s emigration agents began openly recruiting the Ulster Scots to move to America. The deal was one they understood quickly. As their ancestors had brought the wild Irish to heel this generation would sail to America – subdue the natives – and farm in their own fashion.

In America these people became known as the Scots-Irish. Benjamin Franklin referred to them in print as, “White savages.” They were ignorant, indolent, unmannered and irreligious. They were also hard, brutal and well accustomed to violence and deprivation. In just a few years it became clear – the anglo elite had found their Indian fighters.

The Scots-Irish traveled and warred in their own clan formations, and they could more than match their woodland foes massacre for massacre and atrocity for atrocity. In the first one hundred years the anglo colonists and advanced their realm only one hundred miles. A century after the first Scots-Irish importation the only Indian resistance east of the Mississippi River was being conducted by the Seminoles in Florida.

It was in the American south that Scots-Irish culture reached it’s logical conclusion. As long-term antagonists so often do they and the Indians began to resemble each other. This process was a two-way exchange – they taught each other about scalping and log cabins and tobacco and alcohol and ambush and deerskin clothing and agriculture and the avoidance of civilization.(1.) And they both learned quickly to set themselves apart from the African slave laborers who toiled in the anglo’s fields. By 1800 the Scots-Irish and Indians might kill each other or intermarry as circumstances dictated. But the African slaves were too valuable to kill and too lowly to marry. It was better to catch them up if possible and sell them or claim the reward. This the Scots-Irish and southern Indians did equally with great zeal.

In the 1830s the southern Indians experienced their forced removal from the American south to the Indian Territory. The Scots-Irish champion ( and first non-anglo President) Andrew Jackson provided the impetus behind this scheme, and it was fulfilled. With the south now “ethnically cleansed,” the Scots-Irish either stayed at home with their plows, jugs, axes and fiddles and devoted themselves to primitive agriculture on the margins of the slave economy, or they continued their decades long trek west.

Sam Houston (mad man, classicist, drunkard, adopted Cherokee) was sojourning amongst his Indian kin and dreaming of revolutionizing Texas, which in 1834 was still a part of Mexico. Houston had been a part of a multi-ethnic army in the Creek War of 1812 and he envisioned an army of Scots-Irish southerners, “civilized tribes,” and wild plains Indians(2.) could smash the Spanish rule of Texas and set up a provisional government. Overall, the plan had real merit. Spanish rule in Mexico had been softened up by a century of warfare with the Comanche/Kiowa. By the 1830s the Indians were winning. The Mexican army (peasants led by noblemen) was potentially genocidal but they were no match for the well mounted and armed Comanche/Kiowa.

In due time Houston did revolutionize Texas, his dream, however, fell apart. The “Civilized Tribes,” had no interest in nation-building in Texas and both the Scots-Irish and Comanche/Kiowa were uncontrollable and convinced they could each defeat the other.

And so the pattern continued. The Comanche/Kiowa soon learned that these white southerners were nothing like the Mexican army. They were willing to ride their horses to death to overtake their prey, to go for days without sleep or food. They did not hesitate to kill women and children. They possessed the field craft and social memory necessary to wage a protracted race war. They could track, shoot expertly and live off the land just as well as their enemies.

The Texas Republic was founded in 1836 and less than forty years later the great tribes were eradicated from Texas. The Scots-Irish conquest of Texas however, came at a staggering cost – on the Texas frontier each mile of western advance cost seventeen white lives.(3)

In the interim, back in Dixie, the Scots-Irish had served en masse as foot soldiers for the Confederate slave state. And of course they would eventually taste the defeat they had visited upon so many other tribes. In response to this military defeat and occupation they abandoned their traditional irreligiosity and embraced fundamentalist Christianity. In 1865 this defeat appeared total, but the Scots-Irish southerners fell back upon their clan ties and paramilitary tradition. The Klu Klux Klan was formed and in a few years the Reconstructionist state governments were overthrown one by one. Yes, the American south would be thrown open to northern capital and industrial progress, and yes, it would maintain the classic southern social dynamic – white supremacy – with the Scots-Irish as prepared as ever to kick the asses and cut the throats.

By 1910 the map was closed and the frontier existed only in isolated pockets. The “occupation” of frontiersman became defunct. Indian fighters were no longer needed. The Scots-Irish occasionally rose to middle-class prosperity but far more often sunk to squalid unsustainable agriculture practices and muddled through decades of accepted poverty.(4.)

In 1917 the United States entered World War 1. At this time the Marine Corps was a tiny organization that did little more than police ships and form color guards. Scots-Irish southerners still harbored a healthy distaste for the U.S. Army, whom they associated with “Lincoln’s Black Republicanism” Grant, Sherman, et al and the fallen Reconstructionist state governments.

As a consequence the Marine Corps was flooded with southern recruits. This was the true beginning of the Marine Corps traditions of marksmanship, fierce fighting, racism and fundamentalist Christianity. To this day the vast majority of U.S. Marines (officers and enlisted men) are white southerners.

Back home after the war these men joined the second generation KKK and carried on their long march of interpersonal and collective violence. And they (we) march right up to the present day. Take a look at any demographic data – the southern states continue to elect lunatics like Reagan and Bush, they continue to lead the nation in murder, spousal abuse, alcoholism, church-going, ignorance, racial segregation, traffic deaths, illness, crime and vice.

What can one say? We came by it honest.

(1.) Scots-Irish culture was always elastic and would envelope any who fell among them. By 1810 Germans, Dutch, Cherokees, etc. would be acculturated as Scots-Irish. To be clear though – even in the 20th century most southern “poor whites” would remain genotypic ally Scots-Irish. (As an illustration of this trend – several years ago I attended a Cherokee Nation propaganda forum masquerading as a academic conference. Two doctoral candidates, both Cherokee, gave a power point presentation on “Traditional Cherokee Culture.” With no sense of irony they told us “Traditional Cherokees,” lived in log cabins, gathered ginseng, ate deer and rabbit, tended corn patches and let their hogs run loose in the forest. It soon became clear that what the presenters were describing was not “Traditional Cherokee Culture,” but traditional southern culture. Which then, as now is multi-ethnic when it is not mulatto.
(2.) “Negroes,” would however be excluded from such a state. Houston’s radicalism was limited, Indians wielding political power was acceptable to him. Africans would remain a permanent slave-laboring class.
(3.) The best single book on the Scots-Irish/Comanche race war remains, ‘Comanches: History of a People’ by T. R. Fehrenbach
(4.) Incorporating Scots-Irish (and Indians) into the industrial working class would be a long and uneven process. Italian, Polish, Czech, even Slovenian colonies usually sprung up around southern industrial centers. Physical labor under a supervisor would remain “Nigger work,” to the Scots-Irish commoner well into the postmodern era. When eastern Oklahoma suffered limited industrialization in the1960s and 70s management personnel from out of state would often express amazement at the local’s (Scots-Irish and Indian almost to the man) lack of a work ethic and refusal to submit to authority.

Selected Readings –
‘The Mind of the South,’ by W.J. Cash
‘The Scotch Irish’ : A Social History by James G. Leyburn
‘Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South’ by Grady McWhiney
‘Born Fighting: How The Scots-Irish Shaped America’ by James Webb

Chapter 2, Priber’s Account and Sam Houston in the Western Lands, Secret History of the Cherokees

April 25, 2010

 

From Sequoyah’s Journal

     These words are taken from the writings of my grandfather, Christian Priber, when first he came to live among the Cherokees in the early 1700’s:

 

     These people are not savages. They can be cruel, but in the most humane of ways. They derive clan identity from their mothers – the fathers exert but little influence upon their progeny. The fields are held in common and cultivated in a most unusual fashion – no rows are laid out, the seeds are tossed atop mounds to grow. The head warrior Moytoy has become my friend. Although thankfully untutored he is much the Great Wit. Certainly he is the intellectual equal and moral superior of any Prussian cavalry officer. Quickly have I learned their Native tongue.

     Their chief game is a small white-tailed deer, but the forest abounds with mammoth bison, fleet-footed elk and bear. The taking of small game is beneath the dignity of adult males but the boys slay hare by the score and never does any among these people suffer from want of food.

    

MOYTOY, EMPEROR OF PARADISE

 These people recognize individual identity along clan lines rather than on the lightness and darkness of skin. They do not understand the relationship between European masters and African slaves.

     Upon my first visitation in Tellico I was brought before the women in Council. We spoke in a mixture of Spanish and English and I was well received. They questioned me as to my motives and I answered honestly. Apparently they approved of my presence as after a water ceremony I was given foodstuffs and entreated to the most warm hospitality by women of good stature and not wanting at all of exquisite feminine charm.

     The Black Drink inspireth visions. Held in its thrall Moytoy saw himself with equipage and purpose such as an Emperor. And myself as his Chief agent of negotiation.

     Many hours I spent talking to the women in Council. I told them of the power European husbands had over their wives. I told them that if their husbands acquire Great Wealth as the European men do – that then such men of property would seek to overthrow the women’s position in Council. Some of the women could not conceive of such a thing ever happening. Others believed my proposition instantly…

 

 

Sequoyah continues—

      As my grandfather, Christian Priber predicted in 1740, the Cherokee Nation was created, by twelve angry men, in 1808.  These Indians who lived more like whites were all slave holders.  They saw the old clan system as the great hindrance to their amassing wealth and power.   To them, Clan rules were  outdated. The ancient law did not deal with the slavery issue, or with gathering and owning domestic animal herds.

     The clan system made the women the benefactors and leaders and these white-thinking men wished to be in complete control of a new order in the ancient land.  By marrying Indian women, many whites gave themselves a legal claim to their property and land and wished to pass the property on to their male heirs.  These white Indians believed that by clearing the primeval forest and by planting crops and pastures they could attain the highest status of the new American nation.

 

     At Broom Town on September 11, 1808, these legal eagles, calling themselves ‘chiefs and warriors’ assembled and enacted the first law of the Cherokees, written in English it read – 

Resolved by the chiefs and warriors and a national council assembled that it is hereby authorized that regulating parties be organized to consist of six men in each company – one captain, one lieutenant and four privates, to continue in service for the term of one year, whose duties it shall be to suppress horse stealing and robbery and to give their protection to children as heirs to their fathers’ property.

     Be it resolved by the council aforesaid when any person or persons be convicted of stealing a horse by one or two witnesses, that person shall be punished with one hundred stripes on the bare back, and be it further resolved that persons convicted of stealing other’s property should be punished in proportion to the value of the property stolen, and that if any person shall raise up arms in opposition to the regulating company, and should be killed as a result, the ancient custom of blood revenge shall not be invoked on any member of the regulating company by the clan of the person so killed.  Accepted – Black Fox, Principal Chief   Seconded – Path Killer Toochalar 

 1828 – Houston in the Cherokee Nation West

SAM HOUSTON

 On a clear moonlit night, the steamboat Facility chugged and splashed up the Arkansas River and approached a slate rock landing lit by torches.  Sam Houston gripped the wooden railing and stared intently towards the figure on shore as the Facility docked.  He saw that it was him, yes, his beloved old chief John Joll-ee. Houston stepped from the boat onto the black slate rock shore and there was Joll-ee, arms outstretched, flanked by negro slaves holding torches alight.

     “My son.”

     “My father.”

     The men embraced and Joll-ee held Houston at arm’s length.  “Raven,” Joll-ee said.  “Eleven years have passed.  But my heart has always been with you.  My wigwam is yours.  My people are yours.  Rest with us.”

    “Wa-do, thank you, Father.” Houston began weeping.

     The men talked until dawn over delicious food and glasses of apple brandywine. Household members came and peeked around the corner to hear the Lion of Tennessee speak, but no one dared disturb the two dreamers. 

     “When we came here to the Territories,” Joll-ee said, “we moved into the Osage domain and this has caused much trouble.”

     “I have heard, Father.”

     Joll-ee rubbed a peach on his sleeve and bit into it.  “There are war chiefs and peace chiefs, Raven, but I am a peach chief,” he said laughing.  “One time I warred and found it most unpleasant.”

     Houston nodded.  “War is always an unpleasant, ugly business.”

     Joll-ee swallowed a piece of peach.  “When we came here our young men had almost forgotten how to fight.  The Osage hurt us badly.  But then Dutch called himself a captain and he put together a group of gunmen.  What he did to bring the Osage to the treaty-making with us I do not even want to know. But now we enjoy peace with them.”

     Houston nodded through fever, pain and alcohol.  Joll-ee looked closely at his face and said, “You’re not well.”

     “That little arrow wound,” Houston said, grimacing.  “It never healed and now…it’s worse. I fear I may die very soon.”

     “Raven?” Joll-ee said.  “You believe that?”

     “That is how I feel.”

     “I’ll send for my doctor,” his adopted father said.

CHIEF JOLL-EE

     Two days later the wretched Raven was summoned downstairs.  In the kitchen stood the medicine woman, Annie Muskrat, and her two female helpers, boiling water laced with healing herbs that gave off a strange fragrance.

     “Have you been drinking?” Annie Muskrat asked him.

     “Yes, ma’am,” Houston murmured.

     “Then drink some more.”  She handed him an old bottle filled with grain alcohol tinctured with herbs.

     An hour later, Houston lay unconscious on a wooden table, atop a pile of clean cotton sacks.  Annie, puffing on her pipe, stuck him in the arm with her sharp knife.  Houston jerked, but did not awaken.  “We better tie him down.  Wrap his legs and arms with quilts, then tie him to the table legs with rope so he can’t move.”  Annie then explained the procedure to her assistants who brought forth boiled knives and clean wooden sticks of various lengths. 

     Annie opened the wound in Houston’s groin and grimaced at the smell. Houston groaned in his stupor while the peeled sticks held his wound apart and Annie probed the wound with a thin knife.  After a few tries she found something, carefully retrieving the solid object from the fevered flesh.

     “The Raven was wounded by a Creek bird point,” she said, and she dropped the small shiny flint arrowhead on a clean plate.  It remained attached to a rotted black piece of bois d’arc wood and a hard knot of slimy sinew and it smelled horrible.

     Annie explained to her helpers that the arrowhead had been lodged in such a position that if Houston’s watali should get hard, the sharp point would push into his inside penis root, causing instant pain and limpness. “I bet it hurt like hell when he rode a horse,” she pronounced to the giggling girls.

     Houston was lying in bed in a small upstairs bedroom of Joll-ee’s house. Through the open window, he could see a mile of the great Arkansas River and the vast wild expanse of forest and hills beyond. The woods were ancient and pristine and something blooming out there smelled like the Tennessee of his childhood. Houston was healing. The tiny arrowhead lay on the window sill, washed and rubbed with salt.

     He remembered the day the arrow had entered his life. He had been fighting in the Red Stick Creek War at Horseshoe Bend, and as he topped a parapet with the other Cherokee warriors, he beheld a young Creek Indian boy, face painted for combat. As bullets and arrows flew in every direction about them, the boy drew back his bow string and the arrow struck Houston, entering his groin. The pain was white-hot, and when he lost consciousness and fell, the arrow shaft broke off inside him. Doctors had probed him since with doubt, imprecision, and poisoned tools, leaving him worse than when they began. But now he was on the mend. Rachel, Joll-ee’s young daughter, brought his food, bathed him and changed his dressing. She read to him and she made him drink every drop of the Muskrat woman’s herbal tea.

     The midsummer was upon the land and Chief Joll-ee held a Green Corn Dance at Wigwam Illinois as he did every year. The festivities took place in a shaded valley meadow below the house where cattle and horses oft gazed. Houston sat alone on a hill above the dance area in the shade of a peach tree, thumbing through a weathered book. One of Joll-ee’s spotted curs was curled up next to Houston, enjoying the Raven’s quiet company.  Sam looked up to see Rachel come strolling up the orchard path, holding the hand of a shapely Cherokee woman named Diana Rogers, a niece of Sequoyah’s whose husband was two years dead, lost in the Osage wars.

     Rachel introduced Diana to Sam and he was stunned by her dark beauty. Houston stood weakly and was energized by her warm handshake. “What are you reading?” Diana asked.

     “An old book by Pliny the Roman,” Sam answered. The three sat in the shade and the day was spent in quiet rustic revelry. The women left Houston alone for a while, but Diana Rogers returned at dusk with two plates of the sacred food. Night fell and they watched from above as the dancers moved counterclockwise around the Fire, their shadows cast away like spokes of a wheel.

INTRODUCTION – Secret History of the Cherokees

April 13, 2010

           

           The Cherokees have fallen into a cultural abyss wherein they are neither white nor Indian—  Cecil Dick,      Keetoowah Traditionalist, 1980                         

 My name is Sequoyah. I was born in the Center of the World, in the small Cherokee Overhill village of Tamatly, or Tomato, where Ball Play Creek runs into the most beautiful of all moving waters, the Little Tennessee River.  My mother Wu-te-he and I lived in a small log cabin on the west end of the village and we raised some pigs and grew vegetables and tobacco.

      My father, Nathaniel Gist, was a German of Levantine descent.  Mother said he was bright-eyed and muscular with thick dark curls of hair that she and her sisters loved.  My father knew much about ledger books and surveying. He left our river in the year 1776, just months after I was born, to fight in the war against the British alongside his friend George Washington, but he would return to our Little Tennessee village again and again.

     The ancient Cherokee War Trail ran right past our cabin door. This trail linked all the villages so that help could be provided in times of trouble. Young messengers would run the trail, enlisting willing fighters.  We had our male war chiefs but they were appointed and held in strict check by the women. It was the women’s council that made final decisions in every matter of importance, especially one as final and irrevocable as war.

     The migratory path of the woods bison also ran nearby my mother’s house. Twice a year, with the changing seasons, these huge shaggy buffalo, more solitary and  larger than the plains bison, would clump up into large, dangerous herds and travel between the Bluegrass Hills of Kentucky in the north, where they summered, and the mild coastal savannahs of Georgia where they wintered . In the old days the Real People, as the Cherokees were then known, would hunt the beasts by herding them over buffalo jumps, high cliffs from which the animals would fall to be slain below. Since ancient days, the Cherokees had hunted the sacred creatures in that fashion. Once the bison were so numerous that the earth trembled announcing their arrival, but the herds had dwindled down steadily since my mother’s birth, and were by my childhood years a meager remnant of their former numbers.  The old women said the bison would soon be gone. There were many new hunters and more guns in our lands.

      I was born in the Center of the World, and my mother Wu-te-he was the niece of Moytoy, the first Cherokee Emperor, founder of the Kingdom of Paradise with his capital at Great Tellico, three villages upriver from Tamatly.  My friends and I would paddle our swift cypress canoes up and down the Little Tennessee where we knew almost everyone, through the myriads of forested islands, mindful of fish traps and deadfalls, past huts and gardens.  We stopped to swim naked with the beautiful girls, diving for crawdads and mussels in hidden places, sharing their little fires to grill a fish or roast a potato, telling each other jokes, the latest gossip or the persistent rumors of war.

      Occasionally, giant war canoes would pass us on the river — enormous vessels carved thin and sleek from single huge chestnut logs with fifty or sixty Cherokee warriors on board.  Pushing their paddles, armed with clubs, spears, longbows and rifles, they swept by on some somber mission, their bodies tattooed, their fierce faces painted red and black.  I can tell you our villages were safe in those days.  More often the big canoes passed slowly, noisily, bound to some celebration or festival, full of people, heaped with piles of food and cooking fires smoking, dogs onboard barking at dogs ashore, and squealing children hanging half overboard, their small but sharp weapons waving.

      There was always an abundance of fish of one kind or another running our river. Bass, catfish, sturgeons, eels, perch, and salmon overflowed the fish traps. Flocks of wildfowl darkened our skies.  The ducks, swans, geese, and wild pigeons were followed by the great hunters of the air, the hawks and falcons and white-headed eagles. 

      Our family was well known and we had numerous excellent friends and relations all through the Overhill villages and well beyond. We often gathered to revel in each other’s company, and finding no good reason to leave, we would stay, playing ballgames and marbles, singing and feasting, and hiding away with the girls in the nearby groves for days. 

     Few missionaries had dared venture so close to the Center of the World and as yet none of us had given up our ancient ways to those pale, sad interlopers who could neither sing nor dance properly. My father Nathaniel Gist and my grandfather Christian Priber were both Europeans by race — but both lacked any inclination toward religion and both sensibly seemed to prefer our wild ways, our lives in the forest. Possibly the vicious Jesuits or the heartless Spaniards would have converted a few of us if they could have lain their sharp swords to our necks. But before they got that close to the Center of the World, my uncle Moytoy’s Wolf Clan warriors would have put out their greedy eyes with well placed arrows and left their bodies by the dark water, a feast for the Uktenas.

     Yes, in those days we sang our own songs, both ancient and new, in that lovely forest world. We danced all night around our sacred Fire, and we danced the sunrise. 

Sequoyah continues: 

      My grandfather Christian Priber had come among the Cherokees with a consuming desire to learn and understand their ways – to try and unravel their Considerable Mysteries. Grandfather was a Saxon, he had been to universities and he spoke and wrote German, Latin, French, Spanish and some English. He made his way to South Carolina, gave away his possessions and journeyed deep into the interior of the forested continent, alone with just his good looks, wit and personality to sustain him and his leather bag of notebooks to detail his journey.

     Somewhere well inside the boundaries of the Cherokee lands he was swept up by the Wolf Clan guardians and he convinced them to escort him unharmed to the central village of Great Tellico. There in the large round council house on the Sacred Mound, Priber was allowed to meet the women’s leader, the Beloved Woman or the Pretty Woman as she is called.  The Beloved Woman was tall, muscular and fair-featured.  As they stood beside the Most Sacred Fire, she spoke to my grandfather and questioned his motives for his long journey to the Very Center of the World.

     The Beloved Woman was tattooed with sacred designs from head to foot.  Her face was decorated on both sides with the image of a rattlesnake, the rattles at her temples, and the bodies curved around her cheeks.  The mouths of the rattlesnakes were tattooed over the corners of her mouth, so that when she spoke, they spoke. Naked, except for jewelry of fresh water pearls, a swan feather cape, and a crown of green parrot and redbird feathers.  She smelled of fragrant oils and her breath was sweet.  As she spoke to Priber, she discerned that this stranger’s fate was inextricably linked to hers, and that of all the Cherokees.  And even before they had learned the words to speak properly, each knew each the other’s heart.

      By the Beloved Woman’s wish, Priber was sent off to the Deer Clan women’s lodge, and there he dwelled whilst the women transformed him and taught him their manners, their ways of dress, and their language. When he left their lodge he was considered a Deer Clan Cherokee warrior.  He learned the subtleties of the language and created a Cherokee dictionary that I still possess along with much of his writing. He befriended one of the most powerful of the warriors, Moytoy, a consort of the Beloved Woman. They hunted, traveled and warred together, and as Priber became confident of Moytoy’s political skills, he set an unconventional plan into action.

     Priber convinced the council of women that if the Cherokees had a single person acting as leader, a man, the Europeans would treat them with much more respect. The women agreed to try this non-traditional tactic. Moytoy became Emperor Moytoy, and Priber acted as his prime minister, but the women’s council, as always, made all the decisions and the Europeans were none the wiser.

     The plan succeeded. The Cherokees prospered. The French, English and Spanish backed away from the growing Cherokee unity and might. Moytoy renamed Tellico Paradise and the Cherokee’s surrounding lands were renamed the Kingdom of Paradise.

      The rule of law established in the Kingdom was considered outrageous by the European colonial leaders.  It was based on the ancient Cherokee Law, a complicated series of verbal edicts the Europeans neither knew nor understood.  Men and women were considered equals under those laws.   Slaves and servants who had run away from the Europeans were welcomed into the tribe and given towns where they could live. Children were raised communally under the old clan laws. Women owned their property and could divorce with ease. Traders coming to the Cherokee lands were scrutinized, and their measuring scales tested for accuracy by the Cherokees themselves.  Advantages such as these made running off to join the Cherokees a very attractive proposal, and the villages of runaways became die-hard Cherokee allies. The British colonial authorities became furious at such treachery, blaming the situation on Christian Priber, and a price was placed on his head.

     After Priber had spent ten years in the Kingdom of Paradise, a catastrophe befell the people of the Little Tennessee villages. Smallpox, the scourge of new white inhabitants, found its way to the Center of the World. No one was sure how the epidemic started.  Some said it had spread from an English ship with a slave cargo on a nearby river. Others swore that English traders had intentionally introduced smallpox by trading contaminated blankets with the Cherokees.  However this holocaust began, by the time the pox had finally subsided, over half the Cherokees were dead and our possessions, cabins and clothing had to be destroyed, cleansed by fire.

      Soon enemies moved in on the Cherokee lands.  Our greatly diminished numbers made keeping these enemies at bay a taxing job. White ruffians and criminals from the coastal penal colonies moved upland and established themselves in villages across the river, using African slaves to grow herds and crops. Calling themselves “Tennesseans,” they introduced new diseases and weakened the Cherokees further by hunting out the wild game and introducing the “deer hide” economy.

     The Wolf Clan’s job of protecting the passes became an endless, almost impossible task. Yet beset as they were, still the Cherokees flourished.  Although Priber was captured and died a prisoner, the seeds of unity and resistance he planted had already taken hold. The buffalo were nearly gone and tame cows were being bred. Could these strange spotted docile beasts replace the great ya-na-see, the bison?

     Talks began among the Real People, the Cherokees, about moving west to the French and Spanish lands, where white men were few and giant herds of bison, elk, and deer flourished.  The Americans coveted our ancestral home, and theirs was a force to be reckoned with. The Center of the World was shifting to the west.

           THANKS ONCE AGAIN FOR READING.  IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FIRST SAMPLE CHAPTERS, YOU CAN FIND THEM HERE:  

 https://murvsworld.wordpress.com/the-last-beloved-woman-chapter-from-the-novel-secret-history-of-the-cherokees/

          
https://murvsworld.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/races-in-tahlequah-first-murvs-world-blog-march-25-2010/
 

 

 

RACES IN TAHLEQUAH—First Murv’s World blog March 25, 2010

March 25, 2010

As most of you hippies and Indians already know, the dreaded Tahlequah triad (Debbie Duvall, James Murray, and me Murv Jacob) have been working on a novel for years now— here’s a chapter of this soon to be published work for you to read and discuss—any and all comments are so welcome

 

1841 – RACES IN TAHLEQUAH 

      Rich Joe Vann bought him out of the slave pens in Fort Smith in 1841 and he was without name on the sale bill. That document stated simply – Male, field hand, age about 19, can play banjar reasonably well. He went walking behind a wagon to the plantation at Webber’s Falls and it was several weeks before Rich Joe’s overseer, a white Indian named Petite, called him to the side of the field they were clearing. “I been hearin you play that banjo of a night. What’s your name?”  Petite asked and the slave seemed unsure.

     “I bin called lotsa things, mosely John or Jack.  I’se named fo High John the Conqueroo,” he answered.

     “Oh you were, were you?” Petite took a step back. “Well, that ain’t no good name for a slave around here.”  Petite thought for a moment and then quickly decided, “I shall call you Cassius. How does that strike you?”

     “Yes suh,” Cassius answered.

     Petite continued, “Now young Cassius, go about your business in a productive manner and obey my orders as though they were the word of Almighty God and no misfortune shall befall you.”

     Several weeks later Cassius and some other slaves were driving five beeves and ten fat hogs into Tahlequah. These animals were to be given from Rich Joe to the public dining halls in the capital town where all who were in need of supper or dinner could feast well at no personal expense. The slaves carried sticks and poked the beasts from behind, urging them forward to their demise.  When they forded a small creek, Cassius looked up to see three black men on horseback splash into the water, heading towards them.

     They were unlike any negroes Cassius had ever seen. These men wore wide-brimmed hats and tall boots, with colorful woven sashes tied around their waists into which were thrust long wicked knives and heavy dragoon pistols. Silver dangled from their ears. The riders pulled up to a halt and Cassius spoke before thinking of any decorum, “What kinda nigras is you-all?”

     The men laughed, dark eyes flashing, and one of them answered, “We is de Seminoles.”

     Cassius was processing this information when one of the negro Seminoles asked a question of his own. “To whom do you-all belong?”

     A slave named Ol Buck answered proudly, “Weese a bunch of Rich Joe Vann’s hands.”
     “Rich Joe Vann?” The dusky Seminole smiled.
     “Dat right,” Ol Buck said. “He de richest man in de world.”
     The riders laughed wildly. “De richest man in de world?”
     “Dat right. Rich Joe got de fastest hoss, de most steamboats, de tallest jackass, de biggest big house, de most cotton and de most nigras workin’ dan any man who ever lived! An he got a brother name Crazy James!”
     “Dem hogs is mighty fat,” noted one of the riders to his fellows.
     “A hog git mighty fat eatin’ Rich Joe’s slop!” Ol Buck’s eyes widened with his grin.

     “Is dis Rich Joe a white man or an Indian?” The riders inquired.
     “Ah, I reckon he about half a one and half a de other.”  Ol Buck turned back to tend the hogs. 
     The riders laughed again and rode away south. Cassius and the slaves continued poking the livestock towards Tahlequah. “Doan seem right,” Cassius commented, “Rich Joe is da richest man alive den whys we walkin? Why cain’t we ride hosses like dem boys? We ain’t even got no shoes.”
     “Hush yourn talk fool.” Ol Buck shot him a warning glance.
     “I’se jus wishin I wuz ridin a big hoss.”
     “Don’t git all high-headed or Trouble will be yo new name, fool.”  
     The slaves drove the stock into a holding pen at the communal cookhouse in Tahlequah.  The smell of that good food cooking had both the slaves and the hogs watering at the mouth.  An elderly woman with thick white hair drawn tightly back into a bun on her neck looked out of a window into the pens.  She quickly counted the animals and checked them against a piece of paper.  She smiled over at the slaves. 

     “Wait right there,” the white-haired woman said, and in minutes she reappeared, from a side door this time, followed by several young kitchen helpers who carried plates of food.  She wore a long blue dress gathered tight beneath her ample breasts.  “You men go there and sit,” she said.  She pointed to a tree a ways off from the main eating tables.  Beneath it was a wooden table, clean and long and surrounded by woven chairs.  When the slaves were seated, the youngsters laid a plate of food and a cup of sweet tea before each one.  “You boys enjoy your meal,” the woman said, taking her leave. 

     It had been a long time since anyone had said a kind word to Cassius.  Something about that old Cherokee woman reminded him of his grandmother.  He had lived on the same plantation with her after his mother was sold and his father was killed trying to find her.  He remembered how his grandmother had stood up proud and tall when the overseers had carried him away to the slave auction.  He had taken her cue, standing tall like she did, holding in the fear and the need to scream out his pain while they chained his arms and legs, willing back his tears.

     “Dat woman dere,” Ol Buck said to Cassius, interrupting his thoughts.  “She doan believe us nigras should live like dis, like we do.” His voice was a whisper.  “She always feed us good, if she workin dat day.”

     “So how you know what she believe?”  Cassius asked.

     “She done told it to me, jus like I said it.  ‘Ceptin she said ain’t no man should own another’n.” Ol Buck looked around to see if anyone heard.  “She said it sho-nuff.”

     Cassius concentrated on the delicious hog meat and beans, big chunks of purplish red tomatoes and hot corn cakes.  Secretly Ol Buck’s words cheered him, made him glad that the grandmotherly woman believed that way.  He tried to eat slowly, to enjoy it better, but soon found himself sopping up the last of the bean soup with the last bite of corn cake.  Everyone else finished just as quickly, but all were reluctant to leave those comfortable chairs. Ol Buck looked about ready to go to sleep when Cassius spoke up.  “Look, dere’s dem nigras with the hosses and guns.  Les go over dere.”  The black Seminoles hitched their horses under some shade and noticed Cassius and the others approaching.

     “Rich Joe Vann’s nigras,” said a tall man with a tiny patch of black curls in the cleft of his chin. “Where you all goin’?”  He laughed when Cassius leaned in to look at the silver chains around his neck.  “De chains I wear are of my own choosin,” he said.

     “So who yo massa is?” Cassius wanted to know.  “He shoe give you mighty fine hosses to ride and guns to carry.”

     “We got no massa,” the tall man said, “we is free nigras.”

     “You is?” Cassius did not believe it.  “Dem hosses belong to you, all you men?”

     “Dat right.”

     Cassius shook his head.  “How come dem Seminoles set you free?”

     “Because we fought for each other, against de white Americans.  Dat makes us brothers.”

      “I taint never heard of nuthin like dat,” Cassius shook his head with wonder, “Ya’ll is nigras an injuns?”

      The big Seminole just laughed. “Somethin like dat. Yes.”

       “Lawd. Lawd.” Cassius marveled.  “What dey call you?”

       “Blue Alligator,” the big Seminole answered.  “Who’re you and where you from, boy?”      

     “My name is High John, but de boss call me Cassius.  I come up from dis plantation in Louisiana. Dey wuz tryin to work us nigras to death. I sho am happy Rich Joe bought me up to live wit dese injuns.  He bought me a new banjar too.”

      “Dat so? It seem like a Cherokee got sense bout like a white man.”

     Across the street from where Cassius and Blue Alligator were speaking, three large Osage men leaned against posts. They stood head and shoulders taller than any Cherokee on the street. Their heads shaved clean except for a violent strip of hair down the center of the skulls, the men were the objects of much fascination. Various Cherokees stared openly at their one-time enemies. The Osages were dressed in their ancient fashion, buckskin leggings with blankets wrapped around their bare torsos. Geometric tribal tattoos delineated their faces and they wore silver and bone jewelry in their ears, noses and lips.  They stared back at the Cherokees and said nothing. Cassius saw them and turned to the Seminole. “Is dem wild injuns?”

     Blue Alligator laughed and said, “Doan be worried bout dem Osage boy. Dey much rather kill an uppity white Cherokee dan a field nigra.”

      “Dat so?”

      “Dat right boy. But dey made a peace. Doan do no killin back an forth no more, least not till afta dark.” Blue Alligator found his clay smoking pipe and stuffed it with tobacco. “What you gotta worry bout boy is wild Comanch.”

     “Comanch?”

     “Comanch take you to Texas on de back of a mule iffins dey git a chance.”

      “I doan wan to go to Texas wit no Comanch.”

      “No you doan boy.”

      Suddenly Joe Vann’s overseer Petite charged between Cassius and Blue Alligator.  In his rush, the ornate turban he wore went askew and he paused to right it on his head. “Goddamn you jabbering nigras.” He shoved Cassius away from the Seminole. “Stay away from those damnable zambos,” he told Cassius. “That bunch will get you tied to a post and whipped to ribbons.”

      “I’se sorry Mista Po-teet.”

      “I might just whip your sorry ass myself,” Petite said. 

       “But Mista Po-teet, he wuz tellin us bout wild Comanch.”

       “Tain’t no Comanche in the Territory, you durn fool.” Petite glowered at Cassius and the others.  “You nigras git over there to the stables and help those boys with Mr. Vann’s horses!” he barked his orders and the slaves scattered.  “Comanches can eat shit,” he muttered to himself and sauntered off.

     As Ol Buck led the way to the stables, Cassius looked back at the Seminoles who stood watching them depart.  Blue Alligator no longer seemed amused, and the look the tall negro gave the retreating Petite was a shot of pure hate.  Still he raised a hand of farewell to Cassius.

      Cassius turned his attention to the crowd in the street that seemed to be growing by the minute.  One fine carriage after another, complete with liveried drivers, passed by him.  They were filled with wealthy white Indians wearing the latest French fashions. 

     “Dey sho is a lot a rich people livin in dis here town,” Cassius commented to Ol Buck.

     “Naw, dey ain’t all from here, boy.  Today’s race day.  Deys comin in from all aroun. Ranjo’s hoss is runnin, Miss Lucy Walker, her name is.”

     “Ranjo? Who dat?”

     “Yo massa Rich Joe Vann, dat who Ranjo is. Dat his secret name – his nigras calls him dat.”

     “An his hoss is runnin in a race an we gits to watch it?”

     “Yes and we gits to clean up de hoss shit when it over, too.”  Ol Buck laughed. It was days like these that made his life bearable.  The one brief run-in with Petite was the only time he had suffered the overseer’s insults all day. 

     The festival atmosphere in Tahlequah was contagious and Cassius whistled while he busied himself raking straw and shoveling droppings.  He begged another slave to let him curry the race horse just one time.  Her black legs and hooves glistened and her sleek dark sides shone as he ran the curry comb over them.  He slid his hand down the rippling muscles and imagined how it must feel to stretch those powerful legs and run.  But even she, the beautiful Miss Lucy Walker, could only run so far.  She too is a slave, Cassius thought – a pampered slave, but a slave just the same.  Cassius held his ear to her chest, seeking out her powerful heart. 

     A commotion nearby brought all the slaves running out of the stable.  A crowd gathered around a white man who stood in the back of a wagon making announcements.  “Slave auction after the races!” he exclaimed.  “Octaroons and quadroons from New Orleans!  Field hands and young slave girls, and boys too!”  Cassius trudged back to his work, choosing to store the anger at hearing those words away for a better time.  Right now Miss Lucy Walker had a race to run and Cassius could hardly wait.  He had never seen a real horse race before.

     On the fenced-off infield paddock of the teeming race track grounds, two luxurious black carriages met at a prearranged spot under the shade of a large pecan tree. The drivers both tipped their fancy silk top hats and the carriages pulled up right alongside each other.  In the back of one of the carriages sat the most powerful politician the Cherokees had yet endured, Principal Chief John Ross.  His young Cherokee consort sat by his side. In the other carriage rode the richest man in the Territories, quite possibly the wealthiest man in all of America, the half-Scottish, half-Cherokee Joe Vann – Rich Joe Vann. He was attentively accompanied by a wide-eyed mulatto girl wearing a billowing red dress.  Chief Ross scooted across the waxed tan leather seat as close to Vann’s carriage as he could get so they could speak intimately.

      Vann spoke in earnest to Ross. “Goddamn it to bloody hell, ya li’l Scottish bastard! D’ ya see those goddamn Seminole Zambos on the main street?  Them half-nigra sons of bitches are carrying arms! Carrying arms Johnny!  We cain’t be letting our good niggers be seeing such a sight. The American army barely put a whipping on those arrogant black zambos, and now they’ve shipped em here right into our midst. You and your cock-sucking council need ta pass a law against such moral outrages. You need ta have your Washington City friends put them on their own land – as far from here as you can manage.  Hell-fire, man!”

     Vann looked intently at John Ross.  The man only resembles a Cherokee in the paintings he himself commissions, he thought.  His cousin in no way resembled an Indian, but looked rather like a well-groomed Scots-Irish attorney sitting beside the girl, who busied herself counting coins out of one carpetbag into another. He saw Ross as small, and darkly dangerous, and Rich Joe knew that, under his silk tie and velvet coat, John Ross was as skinny and tough as a monkey. He would certainly have several dragoon pistols lying hidden at hand’s reach.

   RICH JOE VANN

     Ross leaned closer to Vann’s ear, smiled faintly and spoke softly, “Indeed Joseph, I have been thinking, we definitely need a new code of legislation regarding those darker races in our midst.”

     “Well then! Goddamn it Johnny! Get it done. Pull those councilmen out from behind their fuckin whiskey bottles and have the lame bastards vote some strong new laws! That’s why we pay em.”

     “Rest assured. That will be done.” John Ross answered quietly. 

     “Tomorrow’s not soon enough, goddammit!”

JOHN ROSS, LAWYER AND CHIEF

     Ross flinched, his anger rising, and peered over at Vann’s fancy carriage.  He was lucky to inherit such wealth, Ross thought, and despite all his property, he remains rather coarse.  He noticed Vann’s dark fingernails and the kinks in his hair.  Could the rumor be true?  That he carries more than a drop of negro blood?

     Rich Joe called Petite, who was skulking nearby, over to his carriage. Petite approached swiftly and gave Vann a crisp nod. “Petite, I want you to grab a couple of Chief Ross’s Lighthorsemen and send those nigra Seminoes packing.  Send them straight out of town, and be careful ya don’t get cut up or shot by those savage black peckerwoods.”

     The crowd grew thick and milled around while races were being staged one after another. A mixed blood Cherokee wearing a huge top hat stood atop a makeshift platform in the bed of a wagon and hollered out to the rowdy assemblage, “This here race is fer a fine 5X Saint Louie beaver hat. One circuit of the track. Three hundred yards!”

     He tipped the huge grey hat to the crowd. They cheered and jeered loudly at him. He produced a large pistol and fired it off, black powder burning as loud as cannon fire, and the race began.  Horses scrambled and careened around the grassy track, steered by small brightly-dressed jockeys.  People leaned on the whitewashed fences and watched intently, and silver coins passed quietly hand to hand. When the horses hurtled past the finish mark, half the crowd celebrated, while the others mourned their loss of fortune.

     In the big carriages Vann leaned over close to Ross.  “I need your Cherokee tribal council to send me a bank draft for that last big herd of beeves.  When it appears I’ll have my man Petite bring you your twelve-and-a-half percent in coin of the realm.”

     Ross penciled a figure into a small notebook. He leaned in and smiled at Vann, barely whispering the words, “Gold, not silver.  I need some traveling coin.” Then Ross stood up in his carriage and said, “Look at this Joe, sent by my friends in Washington City,” He pointed at the new Ross hunting tartan kilt he was wearing.

     Vann laughed “Haw, haw, Johnny – ya know that kilt would look a helluva lot better if ya didn’t have those skinny yeller rooster legs. Haw, haw, haw.”

     Ross sat down, handing over a small silver flask of scotch to Vann, and stated, “Yer a rich bastard and a truly sorry son of a bitch my Scottish-Cherokee cousin.”

      Vann took a healthy snort of the fine single malt and returned the chief’s flask with a sly grin. Another race was being staged, and the announcer bellowed that “this race is for a long Hawken rifle, hand-made and hand-engraved, shiny, deadly, modern perfection.” The announcer waved to silence the crowd. “Two laps around. Six hundred yards.” He pointed the long slender gun high above the crowd, pulled the silver trigger and started the next race with a sudden loud blast. Both Vann and Ross jumped slightly at the sound. Then their leisurely talk continued.

      “Johnny,” Vann said, “I’m sorry the slate wasn’t wiped clean of all those goddamn Treaty Party bastards. Watie needs his throat cut to the backbone. And now that damned Irishman James Starr is breeding his own half-blood army over on the Baron Fork.  I heard he’s got four wives and twenty sons. He was on the goddamn list Johnny! Why the hell is that bastard still living?”

     Ross leaned in and said, “Starr could well become a problem.  His ambitions appear large.”

     “Have Starr killed then.”  Vann made a secret Masonic sign to Ross.  “This country can only support so many rich men.” They laughed and Vann continued, “I goddamn sure didn’t move to this Territory to share pieces of the pie with a common squaw-man like James Starr.”

     Ross nodded seriously and sadly. “If we let them gain wealth then they will want political power.”

     “Not in my lifetime.” Vann stuck a cigar in his mouth and the adolescent mulatto who shared his carriage struck a match and lit the tobacco for him. Vann smiled at the girl and rubbed her leg through the French plaited skirt she wore. He turned back to Ross. “And goddamn it Johnny,” he said, “do you know what these good niggers of ours need? And I’ll pay for it myself…”

     “And that would be, cousin?”

      “Some good Christian preaching. We need more goddamn preachers in this Territory! These niggers need Jesus like I need a woman! Morning, noon and twice at night!”

     Ross laughed. “Only twice at night?”

     “You get the goddamn point Johnny!”

     “Indeed.”

     Ross and Vann continued their bantering and suddenly Vann became excited. “There she is, goddamit!” Vann pointed over to where a spectacular black thoroughbred mare was being led across the paddock toward the starting line. Vann hopped down from the big cabriolet carriage and hurried across the field of onlookers to inspect his racehorse, Miss Lucy Walker.  He too wore a kilt with the top hat and velvet jacket of a southern planter. As Ross joined him, he scrutinized his horse from head to tail. A tiny young African jockey strode up and Vann himself boosted him aboard the fierce, snorting equine.  The boy wore Rich Joe’s colors, gold and blue. As the jockey shortened up the reins, the mare reared and twirled with such force the onlookers fell back in awe. The boy could barely control the raging mare, and additional attendants were sent to lead her to the starting line.

     Miss Lucy Walker lined up beside her challenger and the announcer stepped forward.  “Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! The last race of the day! Five laps around this fine racetrack! One mile! The Kentucky Legend, the fastest horse in all Kaintuck running against the Miss Lucy Walker, owned by the Cherokee Nation’s favorite son – Mister Joseph Vann!” The man stepped back and fired off his large handgun and the horses leapt wildly into a full gallop, barreling around the track. The crowd of onlookers cheered madly, some throwing hats into the air, some firing pistols at the flying hats.

     Miss Lucy Walker galloped at full speed, at first pulling slowly ahead of Kentucky Legend.  After long moments of pounding fury, the race ended as Miss Lucy Walker crossed the finish line well ahead of her challenger. The crowd cheered drunkenly at the tops of their lungs. Vann showed little emotion at the victory of his horse and Ross handed him a small gold coin with an Indian head on it. “For luck, Cousin,” he drawled softly.  The men tipped their top hats at each other and went their separate ways.

     Cassius, Ol Buck and the other slaves were celebrating Miss Lucy Walker’s victory along with the rest of the crowd when Petite bumped into them with his shoulder. “Come with me,” he said.  They followed him over to where Miss Lucy Walker was receiving her rub-down in preparation for the journey back to Spring Place – Vann’s plantation, so named in honor of the Vann family home back in Georgia.

     When the great mare was ready, the party moved off south.  Petite and a white man rode horses and the slaves walked. Miss Lucy Walker was led behind a wagon that carried a pet goat. Cassius sat in the wagon beside the goat and banged out a soft, somber tune on his new banjo. A worn out Petite rode nearby and seemed lost in the music. Cassius looked up as night fell and saw the full moon rising. He thought of the wild Comanches that Blue Alligator had warned him about – wild Indians who might drag him off to Texas. He stopped playing the banjo. “Mista Po-teet?” he asked out loud.

     “What is it fool?”

     “You tink deys any Comanch injuns out here?”

     “Hell no you crazy nigger. Ain’t no Comanch in this territory.”

     “Dat Seminole dey calls Blue Alligator say….”

     “To hell with those goddamn zambos! Don’t listen to those half-breeds!”

     From their vantage point on a wooded ridge above the trail to Spring Place, five Comanche warriors sat upon their mounts and watched in stillness as the weary travelers and Rich Joe’s valiant mare passed down the moonlit road below. 

Well folks there it is —we’ll be putting up more soon, so keep watching and email us if you wish to be on our contact  list let us know—-NOW, GET TO BLOGGIN’ your comments are important to us.

 

 Here’s the link to another chapter of the Secret History “The Last Beloved Woman”, click here, go there:  https://murvsworld.wordpress.com/the-last-beloved-woman-chapter-from-the-novel-secret-history-of-the-cherokees/

To sart at the beginning of the novel here’s a link to the intro

https://murvsworld.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/introduction-secret-history-of-the-cherokees/

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March 25, 2010

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