Friday, March 25, 2011

The Comanche, 1858

          As I described in my post of March 15, the situation for the plains Indians changed rapidly during the 1840's and '50's. Their profitable trade in horses stolen from Texas settlements was virtually halted by the admission of Texas to the Union, and by the United States' victory over Mexico, which had been subsidizing their raids. Their hunting lands were rapidly diminishing with the immigration of the Indian settlers from the southwest. The discovery of Gold in California was attracting thousands of settlers to cross the Indians' land, and the slaughter of buffalo for fur, for meat and just for sport, was eliminating their main source of food, clothing and shelter. They had sought advice from the eastern tribes, the so called Five Civilized Tribes, who had told them to give up their nomadic life and to settle down on farms.

          There was a drought in 1854 and it was especially hard on the plains tribes. In March of 1855, 4000 were starving in camps west of the Creek settlements on the Arkansas River. The Comanche Chief Tibbalo came to the Creeks for assistance. He said that he had seen how prosperous they were on their farms, and he asked them to intercede for him with the United States' officials to obtain land for his tribe.

          The Creeks took Chief Tibbalo to Fort Smith where he delivered his request. Jefferson Davis, the Secretary of War, recommended that the Department of the Interior set aside land as a home for the plains tribes, and so the department negotiated a treaty with the Chickasaws and Choctaws to lease part of their land for this purpose. In spite of this agreement, raids into Texas by bands of Comanches and other tribes continued, sometimes by Indians living on reservations in Indian Territory. 

          The Texans had given up negotiating with Indians, and they had given up deciding which Indians were their friends and which foes. They just wanted them out of Texas. In 1858, Texas requested the permission of Congress to pursue horse thieves into Indian Territory. Their request was denied but in May of 1858 a unit of Texas Rangers under John S. Ford crossed the Red River into the Wichita Mountains anyway. When he came across a Comanche camp whose warriors were out hunting, he attacked, killing 76 men women and children. He took several prisoners and 300 horses. Among those killed was Iron Jacket, grandfather of Quanah Parker. (See post of Feb. 20, 2011)    

          This indiscriminate attack by the Texans enraged the Comanche. They had pursued Ford's force and recognized among them a Keechi warrior whom they had seen living with the Wichita, so they assumed that the Wichita had sided with the Texans against them. As a result, the Comanche began to steal horses from the Wichita, as well as from Chickasaw and Choctaw settlers, to prepare for war against the Texans.

          In April of 1858 when the troops stationed in Indian Territory were ordered to Utah to confront the Mormons (see post of March 19, 2011) the Comanche saw their opportunity. They began planning an attack on Fort Arbuckle, in order to obtain its store of guns, ammunition and other supplies. Smith and Ellen Paul, my great great grandparents, lived right next to the fort, now defended by only five soldiers.   

To be continued.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Mormons

                                          Joseph Smith
            An incident occurred in 1858 which could have proved disastrous to my great great grandparents, Smith and Ellen, and to their little family, and it started with the Mormons.
             The Church of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons, were founded by Joseph Smith, who had a revelation in the late 1820's, while Smith Paul was living with the Chickasaw Indians. Smith's revelation had a place for Native Americans. He said they were descendents of one of the twelve tribe of Israel, brought to North America by Jesus. Actually this theory wasn't original with Joseph Smith. In the 1700's James Adair, a trader who lived with the Chickasaws for many years wrote a book in which he went to great lengths to draw parallels between Native American and Jewish customs. Anyway, according to Smith's revelation, Jesus' chosen people had sinned and the world needed another prophet to set things straight. That's where he came in. 
            Smith's new religion advocated strong family values and a strict moral code and it attracted many followers. Its members tended to live apart from the rest of society though, and soon they became the victims of prejudice, like the Indians. Also, like the Indians they didn't back down peacefully. In Missouri the Mormons raised an army to defend themselves. In 1839, shortly after the Chickasaws were run out of Mississippi, the Mormons were run out of Missouri. They tried again to establish themselves in Illinois, where the congregation had grown to 12,000, but there they again came into conflict with the state government. Their leaders were arrested, and finally their founder, Joseph Smith, was murdered by an angry mob. That was the last straw for the Mormons. They decided to move west into Mexico, so far away that they would never again be persecuted. 

             In spite of the Native Americans' place in Mormons' version of world history, the Mormons didn't respect them any more than did other white settlers. Once they arrived in their Promised Land, the present state of Utah, Mormon missionaries went among the Ute, the most prevalent tribe in the Utah area, to educate "the despised and degraded sons of the forest," and eventually they used them to their advantage, much as the British, the Spanish, and the French had used the southwestern tribes during the 18th century.

              The Mormons weren't left in peace for long. In 1848, after the war with Mexico, their new home became a part of the United States, and in 1849 gold was discovered in California.  The Mormons were practical, however. In addition to befriending the Ute, they contributed a military unit to fight in the Mexican War, thereby collected $70,000 for the church's coffers. In 1849 they claimed a huge area, including Nevada, western Utah, southern Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and southern California, and lobbied for statehood. The United States compromised in 1850 by creating the Utah Territory, and President Fillmore appointed the Mormons' leader, Brigham Young, as its first governor.

            In 1856 the Republican platform denounced slavery, and also polygamy, now a well known practice of the Mormons. There was a public outcry against the Territory of Utah being controlled by polygamists, so the new president, James Buchanan, replaced Brigham Young as governor, and sent a force of 2500 troops to bring Utah under federal control. The Mormons armed themselves, fortified the mountain passes, and blocked caravans coming west on the Santa Fe Trail.

             In 1857 a force of 54 Mormons and 300 Ute attacked a wagon train headed to California and killed 120 of the settlers. This was called the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and it got the attention of the U. S. government. Virtually all the federal troops in Indian Territory were sent to Utah. My great great grandparents were then living next to Fort Arbuckle, the farthest west of the forts, and they  became vulnerable to attack. 
             About that time something happened to cause the Comanche to decide to take advantage of the situation.   
To be continued.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Changes in Indian Territory Brought About by the Mexican War and the Gold Rush.

          The following is just a little bit of historical information about the changes that went on after my great great grandparents were married in 1844. It was a time of change, and the Chickasaws were right in the middle of it. I don't have too much specific information about Smith and Ellen's lives during that time. I do know that they moved twice. In 1846 they moved nearer to Fort Washita for protection, and in 1851 they moved next to the newly constructed Fort Arbuckle which was located in the middle of the Chickasaw district and in the middle of the fertile Washita River valley. In spite of the protection offered by the forts, Smith and Ellen still faced repeated raids by plains Indian tribes, and in spite of that harassment they managed to have three children, my great grandfather Sam Paul, born in 1845, my great aunt Mississippia, and my great uncle Jessie.

          In 1846 the United States admitted Texas to the Union, and sent out an army under Zachary Taylor to guard the southern border. Taylor's troops went to the Rio Grande River, and were attacked by the Mexican army, who believed that the border should be further north, at the Nueces. Thus began the Mexican American War. As General Taylor fought his way down through Mexico, the U.S. Navy blockaded the coast, and General Winfield Scott landed at Veracruz. In 1847, Scott's troops occupied Mexico City, and in 1848 President Polk forced the Mexican government to cede all of their territory north of the Rio Grande River to the United States. The U. S. paid only $18 million. The area included, in addition to Texas, the present states of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming. It was a better deal then the Louisiana Purchase.

          The Mexican American War was a turning point for the plains Indians. During the previous decade the Texans had been systematically driving Indians out of their republic, and Mexican agents had been backing Indian raids on Texas settlements. The Mexicans had also spread the rumor that the Americans were planning to build a big town on the Canadian River, and to kill all the buffalo, a story that would prove to be close to the truth. Now the hated Texans were a part of the United States, and there was no longer any barrier to the westward expansion of American settlers. American agents were now trying to negotiate with the plains tribes for the safety of travelers on the Santa Fe Trail.

          Two of the fiercest tribes on the plains were the Comanche and the Osage. They had joined in a peaceful alliance together after signing a treaty brokered by the United States in 1835. The treaty was supposed to guarantee safety for the immigrant tribes, but the Comanche and Osage took advantage of their alliance to steal horses from Texas. The Comanche would steal the horses, and the Osage would exchange guns and other supplies for them. Both tribes attacked travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. Without Mexican support, their system was breaking down, and they were also losing the buffalo, which they still relied on for food, clothing, and shelter. The Osage and Comanche both turned to the Five Civilized Tribes for advice.

          In 1849, Oh-he-wek-kee nephew of chief Tab-a-que-na of the Comanche, who had signed the treaty of 1835, sought out John Jumper, chief of the Seminoles, and also Wild Cat, their speaker. Jumper and Wild Cat were sympathetic with the Comanche's plight, having suffered at the hands of the Americans in Florida, but they knew that it was futile to fight. Wild Cat advised the chief to make peace, to settle down, and to raise corn and cattle. Oh-he-wek-kee also visited the Creek chiefs who gave him the same advice.

          In 1848, after the death of Black Dog, the great Osage Chief, the tribe split into two groups, one led by a young warrior called "The Wolf," and the other led by Black Dog's son, "Young Black Dog." The Wolf came to see John Ross, Chief of the Cherokee, to ask for advice. Ross informed him of the Americans' victory over the Mexicans, and he counseled him to settle down and make peace with the whites. Wolf's group followed Ross' advice, settled among the Cherokee, and took up farming. Young Black Dog's group continued to live as buffalo hunters.

          During the early 1800's many of the plains tribes had become fragmented into independent bands, so in spite of treaties, conferences and decisions on the part of some leaders, there were still plenty of raids on Chickasaw settlements. That is why my great great grandparents had to live near a fort.

          In 1848, not did the U. S. acquire Texas and the Mexican territory west to the Pacific, gold was also discovered in California. Soon thousands of settlers were heading south to Texas and west to California. Also trade through Santa Fe had grown to $2 million per year by 1854. All three trails went through Indian Territory, so the Chickasaws became innkeepers again, just like they had been in Mississippi along the Natchez Trace. Suddenly there was a market for their services and for their produce.

          The Gold Rush was good for the Chickasaws in another way too. It provided the political pressure for the building of another fort further west to protect the travelers. Fort Arbuckle was built in 1851 further up the Washita River, right in the middle of the Chickasaw domain. Smith and Ellen moved there right away, and they were followed by other Chickasaw families. In 1844 only 25% of the Chickasaws lived in their own district. In 1853 the figure was 90%.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sam Houston, Co-lon-neh

      File:SHouston 2.jpg

          I enjoyed Tom Brokaw's book, The Greatest Generation, about my parents' generation. Those who lived through the Depression and then fought in World War II were special, but after learning about the people of the early 19th century, I think a better name for Brokaw's book would be "The Greatest Recent Generation." The people of the early 19th century were also a cut above those who followed them. Their courage and self confidence created the world we live in, and in that time of strong men and strong personalities, Sam Houston stands out as one of the strongest.

          Sam Houston was born in Kentucky in 1793. His father died when he was 14, and his mother took him and her 8 other children to a homestead in Tennessee, where she managed a farm and a store. Sam didn't like farm work so he was put to work in the store. Soon tiring of that, he ran away and joined a band of Cherokee Indians, like my great great grandfather Smith Paul. Houston later commented that he preferred the freedom of the Indians to the tyranny of his brothers.

          In his autobiography, Sam Houston describes with great respect the simplicity and virtue of the Cherokee. He learned the Cherokee language and was adopted by their chief, Oo-loo-te-ka, who gave Sam the name Co-lon-neh, the Raven. After three years with the Cherokee Sam returned to his home, and for a while worked as a teacher.

          Houston tried for a while to further his education, but failing geometry he joined the Tennessee militia under Andrew Jackson. He joined just in time to take part in Jackson's massacre of the Creek Red Sticks at Horseshoe Bend in 1814 (see post of October 26, 2010). Unlike David Crockett, who was disgusted by the senseless slaughter, Houston was caught up in the excitement. When the first man over the breast works was shot in the head, Houston followed him and was shot with an arrow in the leg. When the arrow was removed Houston said he was ready to return to the battle. Andrew Jackson himself ordered him to remain in the rear, but Houston not only disobeyed Jackson's order, he volunteered to lead the charge against the Creeks' last bastion. He was shot twice in the shoulder, and then led the charge again. Houston survived in spite of his serious wounds, and his reckless heroism earned Jackson's respect.

          Sam Houston returned home after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, where he was nursed back to health by his mother. As soon as he was strong enough to ride a horse he went to Washington, DC, and asked to be commissioned into the army. Before he left Tennessee, his mother gave him a ring on which was engraved the word "honor." He wore the ring until his death. After a brief service in New Orleans at the end of the War of 1812 Houston was appointed Cherokee agent. He was able to convince his Cherokee "father," Oo-loo-te-ka or John Jolly, as he was known to white men, to move west to the Indian Territory with his followers. When the guns and blankets that were promised to the Indians weren't delivered, Houston led a group of Cherokees to Washington to complain. When he confronted John Calhoun, the secretary of War, Houston dressed as an Indian, in a blanket and a breechclout. Calhoun reprimanded him for not wearing his military uniform, and accused him of slave trading. Houston resigned his commission.

          Now unemployed, Houston decided to return to Tennessee and to become a lawyer. He may have failed at geometry, but he had always been an avid reader. Houston began to "read" the law in the office of James Trimble in Nashville, Tennessee, and after six months he passed the bar and set up his own law office in Lebanon, Tennessee. There he became a regular visitor of Andrew Jackson who was at home recovering from his own wounds. In Lebanon, Houston ran for the office of prosecuting attorney and won.

          Houston rose quickly in politics. He was elected Major General of the Tennessee militia and then senator. During his term in Congress he was involved in several conflicts including a duel. To remind John Calhoun, still secretary of War, of his previous insult, Houston presented him with a bill for $36 for his expenses as Cherokee agent. After his term in the Senate Houston returned to Tennessee, ran for governor, and won.

          Then something happened for which there has never been a satisfactory explanation. Near the end of his term as governor, Houston married a young woman named Eliza Allen. Three months later he resigned as governor and boarded a steamship for Indian Territory with no other explanation than Eliza had been cold to him.

          Once in Indian Territory, Houston rejoined his Cherokee father John Jolly, and began to drink heavily. Houston's friend Andrew Jackson was now president and Houston began writing letters to him complaining that the Indian agents were cheating the Cherokee out of their annuities, and white settlers were cheating them out of their land. He also was heard to boast that within two years he would conquer Mexico and become emperor of Texas. This sounds a little crazy, even for Sam Houston, but apparently Jackson took him seriously because he shot back a letter asking him not to go ahead with his plan.

          In Indian Territory Houston built a home he called his "wigwam;" he opened a trading post and married a Cherokee woman. In 1829 he became a member of the Cherokee tribe and made a trip to Washington as part of a Cherokee delegation. While he was there he was invited to the White House to visit Andrew Jackson. After recommending to Jackson's Secretary of War, John Eaton, that he fire several Indian agents, he submitted a contract to provide rations for the Removal of the Five Civilized Tribes to Indian Territory. Houston was not awarded the contract, and he returned to his home among the Cherokees.

          While operating his trading post, Houston was investigated by the commanding officer at Fort Gibson, Colonel Matthew Arbuckle, for selling liquor to the Indians, which was illegal. Houston himself had protested to Washington about the illegal liquor traffic to Indian Territory and its damaging effects among the Indians. When confronted with the enormous amount of liquor that he had purchased, Houston swore that all of it was for his personal use. Perhaps he was telling the truth. The Indians had given him a new name, it meant "big drunk" in Cherokee.

          Houston led another Cherokee delegation to Washington in 1831. While he was there William Stanberry of Ohio accused John Eaton of conspiring to give Houston the contract to provide rations for the Removal. Houston challenged Stanberry to a duel, and when Stanberry didn't reply, Houston caught him on the street and beat him with his cane. Houston was six feet six and still a formidable man, in spite of his war injuries. Houston was put on trial by Congress for his attack. The trial lasted for a month and Houston was defended by Francis Scott Key. On the night before the trial's conclusion Houston went out and got drunk, then went to Congress the next morning and in spite of his hangover gave an eloquent speech in his own defense. Congress let Houston off with a $500 fine.

          In 1831, one of the issues which attracted attention in the United States was Texas. After Mexico had won their independence from Spain they had been inviting Americans to come to Texas to settle. The number of settlers had grown to 20,000. The Texans were more loyal to the United States than they were to Mexico and there was much sentiment there for independence. Jackson had made some diplomatic efforts to buy Texas from Mexico but had been rebuffed. While Sam Houston was in Washington going through his spectacular trial, he had also been visiting the President, and they had talked about Texas. There's no record of whether they discussed Houston going to Texas, but this time when Sam Houston left Washington, he didn't return to Indian Territory. He went to Texas and joined a settlement headed by Steven F Austin, apparently deserting his Cherokee wife.

          I think I'll skim over the details of Sam Houston's adventures in Texas. That part of his story is Texas history. He helped inspire Texas' fight for independence; he proved to be a shrewd general in his defeat of Santa Anna at San Jacinto, and when Texas became a republic in 1836, he was elected president. When Texas became a state of the Union, Houston served as a senator and also as governor. When Texas voted to join the confederacy, Houston resigned his position as governor and retired to private life, refusing to fight against the Union. Sam Houston continued to be a colorful character. He never gave up his independent spirit and he was always a friend of the Cherokees.

          Sam Houston made his home in Natchidoches, Texas, close to a peaceful settlement of his old friends, the Cherokees. There was a terrible prejudice among the Texans against Indians, because of the depredations made against them by the plains tribes. It didn't matter to them whether or not the Indians had taken up civilized ways; it didn't matter to them whether or not they were living peacefully with their neighbors. In 1836, Sam Houston went out to Bowles Village, named after the Cherokee leader who had sought safety for his people in Texas twenty years before, and he made a treaty guaranteeing the Cherokees safety on the land that they occupied. In 1837 the Texas legislature refused to ratify the treaty, and in 1839 after Sam Houston had been replaced as President by Mirabeau Lamar, several regiments of Texas militia fell on the 1500 peaceful Cherokees and drove them out of Texas. After all his many accomplishments Houston couldn't protect his lifelong friends, the Cherokees.
Advancing the Frontier, Forman, P 165.

          After I wrote the above summary of Sam Houston's escapades I began to doubt whether it belongs with a group of stories which try to look at history from the Native American point of view. I had first thought of putting it in because Houston's story has always been entertaining to me. He went recklessly from one adventure to another during his life, and he had the strength, the raw courage, and the intelligence to survive, even to succeed.

          But something about the story of Sam Houston bothers me, and maybe it's because his personality highlights the attitudes of the white America of his day. On the one hand he appreciated the Indians' "simplicity." That was the same kind of grudging admiration that was given to blacks at the time. Houston was taken in and protected by the Cherokees as a rebellious teenager, and then proudly took part in the greatest slaughter of Indians in the history of this country. Later when Houston was having marital problems he turned to the Cherokees again, and to alcohol. As the "big drunk" he showed off his celebrity by taking them to Washington, where he tried to take advantage of their misfortune by applying for a contract to provide rations for the Removal, which was second only to the slavery system as the greatest travesty of human rights in our country's history. Then as soon as he got an opportunity for glory in Texas, he abandoned his Indian wife without a second thought.

          I'm not saying that Sam Houston wasn't sincere in his gratitude and admiration for the Cherokee, and I am still entertained by his story, but perhaps the appeal of Sam Houston can give us a little insight into how such men could become heroes in their time, and how such attitudes could be rationalized.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tustennuggee Emathla, Jim Boy

                                      Tustennuggee Emathla, Jim Boy

          In my last post I told the story of a panic that occurred in the Creek Nation in Indian Territory in 1845, the year my great grandfather was born. There had been a rumor that some of the Creek farms were being attacked by Pani Maha Indians (see post of Feb 28, 2011). The first to respond to the emergency was "Jim Boy" the Creek war chief. Jim Boy immediately left with a band of warriors to rescue the settlement. The report was a false alarm but the threat was real, and during the summer the Creeks acted boldly to negotiate with the hostile plains tribes and war was avoided.

          It's easy, I think, to concentrate on the exciting, dramatic stories of Indian history and forget that the characters in these dramas were just people, with families, doing their best to survive in almost impossible circumstances. I pieced together a few facts about the Creek Chief Jim Boy that illustrate some of the tragedies that he had lived through before the 1845 incident.  

          Jim Boy was born around 1790 or 95, probably in what was to become the state of Alabama. During his childhood white settlers were displacing his people from their homeland, taking their land, and pushing them out of their homes. In 1809 the Shawnee chief Tecumseh visited the Creek towns preaching a new Native American religion. Tecumseh's brother Tenskwatawa had been visited by the Great Spirit in a vision. The Great Spirit had told Tenskwatawa that He had punished the Indian people because they had taken up the ways of the white man. He said that if the Indians would return to the old ways He would help them drive the white man from their land. Tecumseh had left the Creeks with magic red sticks which would make them invincible in battle.

          This was the start of the Creek "Red Stick" movement. Several Creek towns including the one where Jim Boy lived, returned to the old ways by doing away with manufactured goods and returning to hunting. In their fervor the Red Sticks started raiding the homes of Creek nonbelievers who were living like white men. Some of these families fled to Fort Mims, joining white settlers living in the area. Jim Boy, a warrior in his teens called "High Head" in those days, belonged to a band of Red Sticks. The Spanish in Florida, eager to cause trouble for the new United States, were supplying the Red Sticks with ammunition, but at this time the Red Stick war was a civil war among the Creeks.

          When troops from Fort Mims found out about these trips to Florida they ambushed Jim Boy's band on their way home. Jim Boy escaped without harm but the Red Sticks decided to attack Fort Mims in retaliation. The result was a massacre. 300 people were killed, including soldiers, settlers as well as the Creek refugees, who were actually the Red Sticks' targets. Jim Boy was one of the attackers.

          This is when Andrew Jackson got involved. He had organized a band of Tennessee volunteers to fight against the British in the War of 1812, but had been told they weren't needed. The Fort Mims incident gave him an excuse to use his troops, and what resulted was the greatest slaughter of Native American people in the history of the United States. Jackson went from town to town through the Creek domain, slaughtering men, women, and children. Jim Boy and the other Red Sticks fought, but they were outnumbered and outgunned. Thousands of their people were killed. After concluding his rampage with the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (see post dated Oct 26, 2010) Jackson imposed a treaty on the Creeks which took 2/3 of their domain. Even though the majority of the Creeks opposed the Red Sticks, and actually fought with Jackson against their own people, their land was taken too.

          In 1835, when the Seminoles were fighting for their freedom down in the Florida Everglades, the U. S. government enlisted other Indian tribes to fight against them. At this time Jim Boy was known as Tustennuggee Emathla among his people. Tustennuggee was a title meaning task master, awarded to him because of his leadership, and Emathla was his family name. Jim Boy was now a farmer and he had a wife and 9 children. Settlers were threatening his home so he gathered a group of 900 warriors to fight the Seminoles, for the promise that his family would be protected.  

          When Jim Boy and his men returned from Florida, their land had been taken over by white settlers and their families had been rounded up and taken west to Indian Territory, in one of the most brutal of the Removal stories. Not only that, his family had been on the Monmouth, the Mississippi steamship which had blown up with 600 Creek emigrants on board, killing 300. Four of Jim Boy's 9 children were drowned.

          At the time of the Pani Maha incident in Indian Territory Jim Boy was in his 50's. He had led a long life filled with tragedy and disappointment.