Exploring Opothleyahola's Rebellion
These five Clio entries, arranged in chronological order, share the history of an important chapter of Native American history within the Civil War. As the Civil War loomed on the horizon in 1861, Confederate commissioner Albert Pike sought to create alliances with the Native tribes of Indian Territory (present Oklahoma). Particularly important were the Five Tribes—Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole—who possessed many aspects of American culture, including agriculture, representative government, and chattel slavery. By autumn, Pike secured alliances with all Five Tribes. Yet his diplomacy papered over serious resistance to the Confederacy, as many Natives desired neutrality. In response, thousands of Creeks, Seminoles, runaway slaves, and other Indians gathered under Creek Chief Opothleyahola in resistance to Confederate authorities; his followers included several thousand Indian warriors. The Confederacy dispatched over 1,000 men under Colonel Douglas Cooper to quash Opothleyahola’s Rebellion. The first clash, a small skirmish at Round Mountain on November 19, proved inconclusive [STOP 1]. So too did the second, much larger engagement at Chusto-Talasah on December 9 [STOP 2]. Unable to defeat Opothleyahola, Col. Cooper requested the aid of Colonel James McIntosh, who left Fort Smith [STOP 3] and decisively defeated Opothleyahola’s forces at Chustenahlah on December 26 [STOP 4]. The rebellion broken, thousands of Opothleyahola’s followers fled to refugee camps in Kansas. Eventually, however, many of these Loyal Indians served in the Union Indian Home Guard regiments in expeditions to liberate Indian Territory, for which Fort Scott was a central hub [STOP 5]. Often forgotten, Opothleyahola’s Rebellion constituted a significant event in local Native-American, Civil War, and Indian Territory/Oklahoma history.