Browsing "Indians and the West"

Lincoln’s Pecuniary Interests at Council Bluffs

Though popular histories portray Lincoln as a simple and self-educated man who rose from a lowly background to become president, he was in reality a shrewd politician and wealthy corporate attorney. His clients before 1860 included the Illinois Central Railroad, then the largest railroad in the world, and an annual income of about $5000, more than triple that of the Illinois governor. After the War, Lincoln’s heavy-handed policy of military might was continued by his generals sent to eradicate the Plains Indians in the way of government-subsidized transcontinental railroads.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Pecuniary Interests at Council Bluffs

“A year prior to his nomination to the presidency — to be exact, in August, 1859 — he had visited Council Bluffs, Iowa, to look after his real estate holdings there and incidentally see the country.

A contemplated railroad to extend westward from the Missouri River to the Pacific coast was a live, but no new topic. For years such a possibility had been discussed, and in the first national campaign conducted by the Republican Party in 1856, a Pacific railroad was made a rather prominent issue. Shortly before his trip to Council Bluffs, Abraham Lincoln had purchased several town lots from his fellow [Illinois Central] railroad attorney, Norman B. Judd, who had acquired them from the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad. Council Bluffs at this time was a frontier town, containing about fifteen hundred people.

General [Grenville] Dodge . . . relates that “during Lincoln’s visit, some of the citizens of Council Bluffs took him to a high bluff known as Cemetery Hill, just north of the town. He was greatly impressed with the outlook; and the bluff from that time has been known as Lincoln’s Hill . . .

From here he looked down upon the place, where by his order, four years later, the terminus of the first trans-continental railway was established.”

The platform of the Republican National Convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln for president in May 1860 at Chicago, declared in the sixteenth plank:  “That a railroad to the Pacific Ocean is imperatively demanded by the interests of the whole country; that the Federal Government ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construction . . . ”

General Dodge [said]: “There is great competition from all the towns on both sides of the Missouri River for fifty miles above and below Council Bluffs, Iowa, for the distinction of being selected as [the] initial point. President Lincoln, after going over all the facts that could be presented to him, and from his own knowledge, finally fixed the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad where our surveys determined the practical locality — at Council Bluffs, Iowa.”

(Lincoln and the Railroads, John W. Starr, Jr., Arno Press, 1981 (original 1927), excerpts, pp. 196-202)

 

Sep 23, 2016 - Indians and the West, Lincoln and the Indians, Myth of Saving the Union, Race and the South    Comments Off on Indians of the Confederacy

Indians of the Confederacy

In early 1861, over four thousand slaves lived in the Southern Indian nations west of the Mississippi, with many found among the Cherokees, Chickasaws and Choctaws. In late February 1861, James E. Harrison, James Bourland and Charles A. Hamilton of Texas were appointed commissioners and instructed “to proceed to [the Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw Creek and Seminole Nations of Indians] and invite their prompt cooperation in the formation of a Southern Confederacy.” Excerpts of his April 23, 1861 report follows.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Indians of the Southern Confederacy

“. . . [Governor Sam] Houston gave as one good and sufficient reason for not withdrawing from the Union, the fear that should the Union be dissolved the wild tribes, who were now, in a measure, restrained from committing depredations and enormities by the very nature of their treaty guarantees, would be literally let loose upon Texas.

As far as the civilized tribes were concerned, all were of one mind and that took the form of the conviction that so great was the necessity of gaining and holding the confidence of the Indians, that Texas should not procrastinate in joining her fortunes with those of her sister States in the Confederacy.

James E. Harrison and his colleagues [found that the] “. . . Choctaws and Chickasaws are entirely Southern and are determined to adhere to the fortunes of the South. [They visited Gov. John Ross of] the Cherokee Nation . . . [whose] position is the same as that held by Mr. Lincoln in his inaugural . . .

The Creeks are Southern and sound to a man, and when desired will show their devotion to our cause by acts. They meet in council on the 1st of May, when they will probably send delegates to Montgomery to arrange with the Southern Government.

These nations are in a rapid state of improvement. Pure slate granite, sandstone, blue limestone, and marble are found in abundance. All this they regard as inviting Northern aggression, and they are without arms, to any extent, or munitions of war.

They declare themselves Southerners by geographical position, by a common interest, by their social system, and by blood, for they are rapidly becoming a nation of whites. They have written constitutions, laws, etc., modelled after those of the Southern States.

They can raise 20,000 good fighting men, leaving enough at home to attend to domestic affairs, and under the direction of an officer from the Southern Government would deal destruction to an approaching army from that direction, and in the language of one of their principal men:

“Lincoln may haul his big guns about our prairies in the daytime, but we will swoop down upon him at night from our mountains and forests, dealing death and destruction to his army.”

(The Indian and Slaveholder and Secessionist, Annie Heloise Abel, University of Nebraska Press, 1992 (original 1915), excerpts, pp. 90-95)

 

Sheridan Hastens the Indians’ Demise

Grant, Sherman and Sheridan applied the same hard hand of war used on the American South to the Plains Indians. Sheridan endorsed the slaughter of western buffalo herds as a way to subjugate the Indians and break their will to fight – the same as he had done earlier in the Shenandoah Valley. Notably, one of the most successful western hunters was “New England Yankee Josiah W. Mooar, who killed nearly 21,000 buffalo in three years . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sheridan Hastens the Indians’ Demise

“At the same time they were going hungry [on reservations], the Indians watched with impotent disgust as growing numbers of white hunters set up their forked rifle sticks on ancestral hunting grounds and slew the animals in staggering numbers with their .50 caliber Sharps buffalo guns.

In 1872-73 alone, 1,250,000 hides were shipped east to fashionable furriers. By the end of 1874, an estimated 4,373,730 buffalo had been slain, of which a grand total of 150,000 had been taken by the Indians.

The hunters’ intrusion on tribal lands was patently illegal, but the army did little to stop it. Despite the Medicine Lodge Treaty, which had outlawed white intrusion on Indian land, the unofficial attitude of the government toward the hunters was one of de facto cooperation.

Secretary Columbus Delano, whose department was charged with looking out for the Indian’s welfare, stated bluntly in his annual report, “I would not seriously regret the total disappearance of the buffalo from our western prairies, in its effects upon the Indians, regarding it as a means of hastening their sense of dependence upon the products of the soil.”

Sheridan, who had rather less confidence in the farming capabilities of the Indians, nevertheless looked upon the slaughter of the buffalo as an effective means of subjugating the tribes and breaking their wills.

When the Texas legislature briefly considered passing a bill outlawing buffalo poaching on native lands, Sheridan made a personal appearance before the lawmakers in Austin. Rather than penalize the hunters, he said, the legislature ought to give them each a medal, engraved with a dead buffalo on one side and a discouraged-looking Indian on the other.

In an attempt to keep closer watch on the wide-ranging Sioux, Sheridan received permission from Grant in late 1873 to mount an expedition into the Black Hills to scout locations for a new fort in the area. Custer and the Seventh Cavalry spent the better part of eight weeks exploring the sacred territory. As usual, Custer turned the expedition into a combination picnic, big-game hunt, and public relations extravaganza, sending back glowing reports of the region’s vast animal and mineral resources.

Injudiciously, he also fanned the flames of public greed by claiming, with some exaggeration, that pieces of gold could be plucked up from the very ground one walked on. At the first mention of gold, hundreds, then thousands, of ears pricked up. It was, after all, the Gilded Age, and fortune-making was the national sport.

[Though the 1868 treaty with the Sioux] “virtually deeds this portion of the Black Hills to the Sioux,” [Sheridan suggested] that miners and homesteaders try their luck further west in the unceded lands of Wyoming and Montana. The Sioux had hunting rights there, too, but Sheridan hoped to nullify these rights by encouraging the further depopulation of buffalo and other game. When there was nothing left to hunt, he reasoned, the Indians would have no more hunting rights to lose. Needless to say, the Sioux were unamused by this line of reasoning.”

(Sheridan: The Life and Times of General Phil Sheridan, Roy Morris, Jr., Crown Publishers, 1992, pp. 342-343; 348-349)

Lincoln's Indian Affairs

William P. Dole was Lincoln’s hand-picked Commissioner of Indian Affairs, appointed to office on March 8, 1861. Dole “had made the necessary bargains that swung the votes of the Pennsylvania and Indiana delegations to Lincoln,” and thus won the new president’s first federal appointment. As Republican party railroad support and homesteading policy was attracting white settlers to the West, many tribal lands and previous Indian treaties got in the way of progress.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Indian Affairs

“Dole began working closely with [Wisconsin Republican] Senator James R. Doolittle, chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, to conclude treaties with all Indian tribes not yet covered by binding agreements. Nearly every treaty contained the Indian Bureau’s careful description of tribal lands, along with an equally careful disclaimer inserted by senators to eliminate any possibility that the treaty might be interpreted as a recognition of Indian title to the land.

When a few Southern tribes joined the Confederacy, Dole began to press for confiscation of their lands in present Oklahoma so that other tribes might be settled on them after the war. This idea had a great deal of appeal, since it seemed to solve the problem of where to put the Indians of Kansas and Nebraska whose land was coveted by white settlers and speculators.

[Episcopal] Bishop Henry B. Whipple had called for an end to whiskey smuggling on the reservation . . . [and] During the fall of 1862. Bishop Whipple visited Lincoln to plead for mercy for the 303 Indian warriors sentenced to death by [General John Pope’s] military court for their part in the Sioux uprising.

Dole interpreted Pope’s [draconian resettlement] proposal to mean that the general wanted to herd all Indians together in one vast reserve where white civilization could not intrude. He . . . wondered just how Pope proposed to bring hostile warriors onto his reservation without involving the nation in a bloody Indian war.

Something very much like Pope’s policy was being tried in New Mexico with disastrous results. During 1862 and 1863, the army moved several thousand Navajos and Mescalero Apaches onto a reservation . . . both groups rebelled at the harsh surroundings and the strict control imposed by the military. Indians fled from the reservation faster than troops could find them and return them to captivity.

[It was] a military operation that brought Dole’s tenure to an end. Colonel John M. Chivington and his volunteer militiamen massacred a sleeping camp of Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians at Sand Creek, Colorado Territory, in late November 1864.   An outraged Congress immediately demanded the removal of the army officers, Indian agents and politicians who were in any way involved in the events leading up to the episode.

Lincoln tried to save the career of old his friend from Illinois, but a few weeks after Lincoln’s assassination President Andrew Johnson removed Dole without much ceremony.”

(The Commissioners of Indian Affairs, 1824-1977, Kvasnicka & Viola, editors, University of Nebraska Press, 1979, pp. 91-95)

 

Nov 29, 2014 - Indians and the West    No Comments

No Dakota Soldiers for Lincoln

For two hundred years the Dakota and whites lived side by side among what seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of animals to hunt and trap. This and the fur trade helped bridge the cultural gap, but two separate and distinct views of the world they lived in was a stern reality.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

No Dakota Soldiers for Lincoln

“What was frontier to whites, the expanding edge of possibility, was to the Dakota just the opposite: the center of their world, growing smaller. Farms that signaled civilization to settlers were to many Dakotas, even to some who kept small acreages, a tool designed to fence them in, the symbol of a permanent halt to centuries of seasonal migration.

White churches brought a message of peace but were unable to absorb other beliefs, always suspicious and dismissive of the complex polytheism of the Dakota spirit world. Whites wrote everything down, mesmerized by tables of numbers; Dakotas lived by a language of spoken tales, remembered and repeated across hundreds of years.

Most of all, whites loved hierarchy, each man occupying a rung on the ladder that eventually rose to a single individual in the White House, while Dakotas operated within a shifting, dispersed power structure that defined leadership as the ability to guide a village, band, or tribe toward consensus.

Minnesota was still an infant State, only four years old but brimming over with belief in Manifest Destiny, living an irony typical of the western experience: the only true “Minnesotans” in 1862, the people who had been there first, the people whose language had given the place its name, didn’t care what it was called, where it began or ended, or how it had been made into a State.

For more than a year, white men had been killing other white men far to the south and east. A few Indian agency employees had offered to raise companies of Dakota soldiers for the Union army, but these offered had been quickly rejected at the State capital.

Many [Dakota] wondered why President Lincoln had already issued three calls for volunteer soldiers . . . unless a great many Minnesotans had already been killed. “The whites must be pretty hard up for men to fight the South,” said Big Eagle, “or they would not come so far out on the frontier and take half-breeds or anything to help them.”

(38 Nooses, Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier’s End, Scott W. Berg, Pantheon Books, 2012, pp. 9-10)

Nov 23, 2014 - Indians and the West    No Comments

Trading Guaranteed Indian Land for Rations

By 1875 the remaining sovereign Indian tribes were decimated by the relentless hordes of army soldiers; loss of food and shelter, and kept constantly on the move and in fear of surprise attacks, they ultimately preferred the detestable reservation life to cold and hunger. Sherman and Sheridan’s total-war strategy against the American Indian had been validated.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Trading Guaranteed Indian Land for Rations

“The national stage of the United States in 1877 held a great variety of actors and actions. The values of the Indians opposed the values of white men. The purposes of farmer and banker, of factory worker and industrialist, of railroad president and merchant, often clashed. [This era saw] industrial bureaucracies such as Standard Oil [clash with] the hunting cultures of some Indians.

Crazy Horse was a great war chief of the Ogala Sioux. About 35 years old in 1877, he had been the leader of the war party in Wyoming in 1866 that left behind the corpses of Captain William Fetterman and 80 other soldiers. Through the next decade he fought white troops, down to that glorious day in June 1876 when he helped to wipe out the entire detachment of Colonel Custer.

Most of the Sioux were already in government agencies, but not Crazy Horse. After the Battle of the Little Big Horn he and his lodges went to the Black Hills, sacred to the Sioux. Then to the Tongue River, where several couriers from the government came to urge them to lay down their arms. At noon on 5 May 1877 Crazy Horse rode into the Red Cloud agency in Nebraska with 1,100 former hostiles, including 300 warriors. They had only 117 guns.

Even the agency Indians were wary of the army. The Federal government had recently decreed that no more rations would be given to them until they agreed to surrender much of their land including the Black Hills region, even though it had been guaranteed to them in perpetuity by a treaty of 1868. They also had been given the choice of removing to the Missouri River or of going to the strange Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

Crazy Horse brooded. Rumors held that he planned to flee with his warriors. Spies were set on him. His words were distorted in translation. On 4 September a large military force and some agency chiefs started from nearby Fort Robinson [and taken there after capture]. Entering a guardroom there the next day with some other chiefs, he drew a knife from his clothing [and] Crazy Horse was bayoneted in the stomach [and] died that night in the camp hospital.

Another chief, his hand on the breast of Crazy Horse, said: “It is good; he has looked for death.”

An era had died. With the suppression of the Nez Perce, the last of the great Indian wars had been fought. Instead of hostile Indians streaming across the plains, grasshoppers came, across Dakota Territory, Kansas, Nebraska, south to Texas, eastward to Missouri, north to Minnesota. In 1874, and 1875, and 1876, and 1877, when the crops were half grown. The cumulative weight of hordes of grasshoppers broke the limbs form trees [and] they ate everything [and] mowed crops to the ground. Against them there was no defense.”

(Age of Excess, The United States from 1877 to 1914, Ray Ginger, MacMillan and Company, 1965, pp. 3-5)