Stand Watie, born on December 12, 1806 with the Cherokee name, Degadoga, meaning, “he stands”, became one of the most prominent Native Americans during the Civil War era. Born near New Echota, Georgia, Watie combined his Christian name, Isaac Watie, with his Cherokee name and was known by many as Stand Watie. Along with other Cherokee leaders such as Major Ridge, Watie signed the Treaty of New Echota, thereby forfeiting Cherokee lands in the East and agreeing to move to new land allotted by the Federal government in Indian Territory. After moving west in 1837, Watie built a home near Honey Springs. A lifelong enemy of Chief John Ross, Stand Watie became active in tribal politics. During the secession crisis of mid-century, Watie, along with many other western Cherokees, sided with the Confederacy.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Watie accepted a commission as a colonel in the Confederate army and raised the First Regiment of Cherokee Mounted Volunteers. After Ross fled to Federal territory, Watie became the principal chief of the Cherokee nation.
In March of 1862, Colonel Stand Watie led the 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles at the Battle of Pea Ridge. Confederate Brigadier General Albert Pike led a coalition of Indian troops to fight under the command of Major General Earl Van Dorn. Watie’s 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles were one of only a few of Pike’s Indian commands to arrive in time to participate in the Battle of Pea Ridge. Arriving on the night of March 6, 1862, Watie’s Cherokee’s were placed under Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch’s command. When the Southern army split and McCulloch’s division moved east on the Ford Road, Pike’s Indians were placed in the rear. When Federals attacked McCulloch’s command near Foster’s Farm, Brigadier General McIntosh led a cavalry charge across the field and routed the outnumbered Federals. Pike had dismounted Watie’s troops so they did not participate in this cavalry charge. During this engagement, the Cherokee units, which made up the extreme right flank of McCulloch’s division, encountered Iowan troops under Colonel Henry H. Trimble. According to battle accounts, Cherokee Indians murdered most of Trimble’s wounded Iowans during this fighting and scalped at least eight Federal soldiers. The only other action of note regarding Watie’s Cherokee’s during the Battle of Pea Ridge was their role in covering the Confederate retreat on the morning of March 8.
By winter of 1862, Confederate control of the Cherokee nation, as well as other Indian nations, was beginning to wane. Watie and his Confederates, however, continued to harass Federals. The most successful operations Watie’s troops were involved in include the capture of Union steamboat J.R. Williams and the Second Battle of Cabin Creek, Indian Territory. In May of 1864, Watie is promoted to Brigadier General in the Confederate Army and in February 1865, he iss placed in command of the Indian Division of Indian Territory.
On June 23, 1865, Stand Watie surrendered his command to the Federals and was the last Confederate general to do so. He remained in exile in the Choctaw Nation until 1867 when he returned to his home at Honey Springs on Cherokee land. Stand Watie died on September 9, 1871 at his home in Honey Springs and is buried in Polson’s Cemetery, Delaware County,