The Cherokee Braves
General Stand Watie was born in the Oothcaloga Valley south of present-day
Calhoun, Ga. in 1806. His birth name was Tak-er-taw-ker meaning "Stands Firm" and later Degadoga for "He Stands On Two Feet".
Baptized as Isaac he later combined a portion of his Cherokee name with his father's name Oo-wat-ie to form Stand Watie in English. Little is known of his early years
in Georgia, he may have been educated in Georgia mission schools that were set up to Englishise the Cherokees. He was the
brother of Buck Oowatie who later took the name of Elias Boudinot and became a newspaper editor, and the nephew of the prominent
Cherokee Chief Major Ridge.
The Oowatie and Ridge families were two of the more prominent slave owning
aristocrat families of the Cherokees owning most of the estimated 1600 owned by Cherokees. Those in the lower classes, poorer
than the Ridge and Oowatie factions tended to be less pro slavery and were more traditionalist and less likely to favor a
move west from Georgia and the western Carolinas.
By 1820 one third of the tribe moved west of the Mississippi River. Those who remained began to split into factions. Those
who favored fighting removal to the west rallied behind John Ross, a Scottish Cherokee from Tennessee. Ross had only one eighth
Cherokee but considered them to be his people over his white counterparts and was extremely popular having support of the
On the opposing side
was the Oowatie Ridge faction who believed that the lower classes of the tribe would never make it in the white mans world,
believing that in years to come they would be decimated even lower to drunkenness and poverty and that moving west was in
the tribes best interest.
John Ross was elected to lead and represented them in their first centralized government to help them deal with the white
world around them. By 1832 the rivalry between those of the Ross faction and the Oowatie Ridge factions began to grow, and
in the next few years worsened. In 1835 it came to a head when the the Ridge faction supported a treaty with Washington that
would give the Cherokees 5 million dollars in return for their removal west of the Mississippi. The Ross side refused to sign
hoping to hold out for at least 20 million. It was clear that no treaty would be made at that time since the majority of Cherokees
sided with the Ross faction.
in December 1835 the Ridge Oowatie faction managed to sign the Treaty at New Echota Georgia receiving $15 million dollars
and 800,000 acres of land in Oklahoma for the Cherokees. They believed they had secured the best terms possible in the best
interest of the tribe while the Ross followers considered it an act of treason against them.
The Trail of Tears followed in 1838 with Federal and State militias enforcing the
removal. In 1839 the bitter animosity between the two tribes remained in Oklahoma. A hundred or so Cherokees from anti treaty
faction met in secret and decided on death for the the Ridge and Watie men. On June 22, 1839 John Ridge was dragged from his
home in Indian Territory and was stabbed to death. His father Major Ridge was ambushed and killed in Washington County Arkansas.
Elias Boudinot the brother of Stand Watie was attacked at his home and axed to death. Stand Watie also marked for death was
forewarned and escaped.
John Ross denounced the murders but did nothing in aiding the capture of the
killers. He was accused of hiding them in his home by the now Watie faction while Ross denied involvement in the murders.
President Andrew Jackson wrote to Stand Watie now the leader of the former Ridge Oowatie faction and denounced Ross. On March
7, 1862 Stand Watie was part of Earl Van Dorn's 16,000 man army in the area of Fayetteville Arkansas attempting to encircle
the right flanks of Major General Curtis's 12,000 troops. Curtis was on the defensive entrenched at Pea Ridge about thirty
miles northeast of Fayetteville. After two days of fighting Van Dorn was unable to penetrate and ended up withdrawing. Stand
Watie had distiquished himself by leading his command in capturing a Union artillery battery and by committing a skillful
rear guard action stopping a disaster.
It was here during this action that Stand Watie was noticed by his superiors for his bravery and exceptional
military abilities, which got him considered for a higher command in the Confederate Army. The First Cherokee Mounted
Rifles was formed on August 31, 1862 with Colonel Stand Watie commanding, with Lieutenant Colonel Calvin Parks second in command.
This unit along with others adopted the Cherokee Braves flag as their regimental colours. After Pea Ridge many of the Cherokees
left the war, but Stand Watie and his Cherokee Braves remained for the duration of the war scouring the region using guerilla
warfare, cutting Union supply lines and disrupting Federal operations throughout the Indian Territory.
He was feared by his loyal Cherokee counterparts for the next three years. On May 10, 1864 he was promoted
to the rank of Brigadier General, the only Native American to reach the rank of General. Along with this first, he was
also the last Confederate General officer to formally cease hostilities two months after Appomattox and Bentonville. His formal
agreement to end hostilities was issued on June 25, 1865 and like Col. Mosby of Virginia he never officially surrendered.
Watie had displayed unfailing devotion and bravery during his service to the Confederacy. He died on September 9, 1871 and
was laid to rest at Polson Cemetery in Delaware County, Oklahoma.
In 1995 the US postal Service issued a set of 20 commemorative stamps showing 16 individuals and 4 battles
of the Civil War. General Stand Watie was one of those honored along with others such as Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and