Mary Jane Warde. When the Wolf Came: The Civil War and the Indian Territory. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2013. xi + 404 pp. $34.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-55728-642-0.
Reviewed by Clarissa Confer (Department of History - California University of Pennsylvania)
Published on H-AmIndian (June, 2014)
Commissioned by F. Evan Nooe (University of North Carolina, Charlotte)
The Civil War Transforms the Indian Territory
This new volume is a welcome addition to T. Michael Parrish and Daniel Sutherland’s The Civil War in the West series at University of Arkansas Press. Previous volumes have analyzed aspects of the war in Texas, Missouri, and Mexico so the attention tothe Indian Territory is overdue. In this sesquicentennial period Civil War scholars are leaving few stones unturned in their quest for new material so Native Americans have finally gained their attention. A longtime scholar of the Five Nations, Mary Jane Warde was well placed to meet this interest.
The book jacket synopsis is an unfortunate lead-up to this book. It promises a discussion of a conflict that natives could not “escape” so they had to “suffer its consequences.” This tone ignores the recent decades of historiography which focuses on Native American agency and sovereignty. Indeed, that sovereignty is really the whole point of the Indian Territory story. Five native nations dealt with the Confederacy as allies, not subjects, by signing treaties and raising military forces.
Fortunately, this tone does not permeate the book. Early on the author refers to the native nations “tackling” the problem with clear agency.
The series editors’ preface points to the episodic nature of past writing on the Indian Territory, which has generally focused on narrow areas. Warde tries here to offer a “sweeping narrative” to modernize part of Annie Abel’s classic trilogy on Indian participation in the Civil War. Most of the chapter titles are creative rather than illuminating and propel the narrative chronologically through the war. Each chapter covers about a year of the conflict and the book ends with a short postwar wrap-up chapter.
Warde takes chapter 1 to bring the reader up to speed on the background of the Five Nations in the Indian Territory. No war takes place in a vacuum and the Civil War especially erupted out of centuries-old tensions. In the Indian Territory the trauma of 1830s removal led directly into 1860s issues. Warde has to accomplish in one chapter what Abel covered in a whole volume. That book’s title, Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist (1915), was far more informative than this chapter’s “Men and Things are Changing Fast,” but Warde does get the reader to 1861 with a general understanding of the forces operating in the Indian Territory.
The title of the book and the second chapter come from a quote by Creek leader Opotheyahola when he tried to describe the terror and dislocation the war brought to his people. The flight of these loyal Creeks to Kansas and their pursuit by Creek and Cherokee Confederate forces is one of the most compelling threads in the saga of war in the Indian Territory. This early civil conflict between tribal members, which played out in a national context, reopened internal divisions that altered the course of the conflict among the nations. The willingness of these loyal refugees to serve in the U.S. military in order to regain their homes allowed the Federal expedition into the Creek and Cherokee Nations. This show of force prompted Cherokee John Ross and his followers to return to the Union side. A long struggle for control in the region ensued.
The suffering in the Indian Territory began in earnest during the winter of 1862-63. Shortages, uncertainty, and dislocation resulted from the seesawing of control between Confederate and Federal forces. With no side able to decisively rule the area, chaos often reigned. The major military activity in 1863 occurred at Honey Springs and remained the territory’s largest engagement of the war. A few other raids, like Cabin Creek, stand out; however, no engagements compared to the carnage in the other theaters of the war. The losses in the Indian Territory, although more like death by a thousand cuts, challenged native residents to hold together body and soul. That became increasingly difficult as the Confederacy weakened and lost the ability and will to support its native allies. The last years of the war passed in increasing hardship.
As the Five Nations struggle to the end of the war chapter 6 veers off in a different direction. Here Warde includes some of the story of the Plains nations during the national conflict. The story of Confederate dealings with the Kiowas, Comanches, Kickapoos, and others is a familiar mix of treaties, raids, broken promises, and mistrust. Within a decade dozens of Plains people had been crammed into the Indian Territory. The book concludes with a brief look at the aftermath of the war, which for the Five Nations, meant political wrangling that set the stage for their loss of sovereignty by the end of the century.
In this volume Mary Jane Warde has achieved a balanced, straightforward narrative of the war years in the territory. Warde’s earlier work on George Washington Grayson established her as a sympathetic, fair researcher with a deep interest in the history of the Five Nations. She has long been connected to the Oklahoma Historical Society and draws much of her primary source base from this invaluable resource. Many of the fourteen period photos come from the archive. There are two maps which are too crowded to be very useful, but the inclusion of a bibliographic essay is helpful. Overall, the book is a complete study of the Civil War in the Indian Territory that should have a place on your bookshelf.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-amindian.
Clarissa Confer. Review of Warde, Mary Jane, When the Wolf Came: The Civil War and the Indian Territory.
H-AmIndian, H-Net Reviews.
|This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.|