Why the Cherokees Sided With the Confederacy in 1861

CHEROKEE NATION (X drawn thru Lincoln)

(Excerpted from Mike Scruggs’ book, THE UN-CIVIL WAR; Chapter 8: “The Cherokee Declaration of Independence”)

Most Americans have been propagandized rather than educated on the causes of the War Between the States (aka, The War of Northern Aggression; aka, The War to Prevent Southern Independence; aka, the Civil War) in order to exonerate the perpetrators and victors and justify their actions. But the truth is out there for anyone willing to take the time to do some reading.

The true perspective comes from the South, for it was the Confederate states who were the ones standing up and fighting for principle. If the truths and ideals articulated in the Declaration of Independence were still going to mean anything, the Confederacy would have to fight for them. In Chapter 8 of his book, THE UN-CIVIL WAR, Mike Scruggs discusses the views of the Cherokees with respect to the splitting of the country in 1860-61 uses those views to support the truth of the war.

In 1861, there were two principal groups of Cherokees in the United States – the Western Band, with a population of slightly over 20,000, and the smaller Eastern Band, located in North Carolina, with a population of only about 2000. Both sided with the Confederacy, but the larger Western Band made a formal Declaration of Independence from the United States.

On August 21, 1861, the Western Cherokee Nation, by a General Convention in Tahlequah (Oklahoma), declared its common cause with the Confederate States against the Northern Union. A treaty was concluded on October 7 between the Confederate States and the Cherokee Nation and on October 9, John Ross, the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation called into session the Cherokee National Committee and National Council to approve and implement that treaty and a future course of action.

The Cherokee had much more in common with their Confederate neighbors than with the North, but their treaties had been with the government of the United States (now the Northern Union). At first they thought best to honor those treaties. But with the invasion of its neighbors, the repression of free speech and press by Lincoln, the complete trampling of the US Constitution, and the support the North had given to individuals and groups leading up to the war (such as John Brown) who urged violence against the South, the Cherokee soon changed their mind.

The Cherokee were perhaps the best educated and literate of the American Indian tribes. They were also among the most Christian. Learning and wisdom were highly esteemed. They revered the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution as particularly important guarantees of their rights and freedoms, just as Southerners did.  It is not surprising therefore that on October 28, 1861, the National Council of the Western Cherokee Nation issued its own Declaration of Independence –  Declaration of the People of the Cherokee Nation of the Causes Which Have Compelled Them to Unite Their Fortunes With Those of the Confederate States of America.

The introductory words of this Declaration strongly resembled the 1776 Declaration of Independence:

       “When circumstances beyond their control compel one person to sever the ties which have long existed between them and another state or confederacy, and to contract new alliances and establish new relations for the security of their rights and liberties, it is fit that they should publicly declare the reasons by which their action is justified.”

In the next paragraph, the Council noted the Cherokee Nation’s faithful adherence to  treaties with the United States its attempts at neutrality in the face of the hostilities between the North and the South. But the seventh paragraph began to articulate their alarm at the North’s aggression and their sympathy with the South: “But Providence rules the destinies of nations, and events, by inexorable necessity, overrule human resolutions.”

Comparing the relatively limited objectives and defensive nature of the Southern cause to the aggressive actions of the North, the Declaration included this observation:

       “Disclaiming any intention to invade the Northern States, they (the Southern States) sought only to repel the invaders from their own soil and to secure the right to govern themselves. They claimed only the privilege asserted in the Declaration of American Independence, and on which the right of the Northern States themselves to self-government is formed, and altering their form of government when it became no longer tolerable and establishing new forms for the security of their liberties.”

The next paragraph noted the orderly and democratic process by which each of the Confederate States seceded. This was without violence or coercion and nowhere were liberties abridged or civilian courts and authorities made subordinate to the military. The following (ninth) paragraph contrasted this with the ruthless and totalitarian trends in the North:

      “But in the Northern States, the Cherokee people saw with alarm a violated Constitution, all civil liberty put in peril and all rules of civilized warfare and the dictates of common humanity and decency unhesitatingly disregarded. In the states which still adhered to the Union, a military despotism had displaced civilian power and the laws became silent with arms. Free speech and almost free thought became a crime. The right of habeas corpus, guaranteed by the Constitution, disappeared at the nod of the Secretary of State or even a general of the lowest grade. The mandate of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was at naught (negated) by the military power and this outrage on common rights was approved by a President sworn to support the Constitution. War on the largest scale was waged and immense bodies of troops called onto the field in the absence of any warranting it, all under the pretense of suppressing a rebellion.”

The tenth paragraph continued the indictment of the Northern political party in power (the Republican Party) and the conduct of the Union Armies:

      “The humanities of war, which even barbarians respect, were no longer thought worthy to be observed. Foreign mercenaries and the scum of the cities and the inmates of prisons were enlisted and organized into brigades and sent into Southern States to aid in subjugating a people struggling for freedom, to burn, to plunder, and to commit the basest of outrages on the women. While the heels of armed tyranny trod upon the necks of Maryland and Missouri, men of the highest character and position were incarcerated upon suspicion without process of law, in jails, forts, and prison ships, and even women were imprisoned by the arbitrary orders of a President and Cabinet Ministers. The press ceased to be free and the publication of newspapers was suspended and their issues seized and destroyed. The officers and men taken as prisoners in the battles were allowed to remain in captivity by the refusal of the Government to consent to an exchange of prisoners. They left their dead on more than one field of battle that had witnessed their defeat, to be buried and to have their wounded to be cared for by Southern hands.”

The eleventh paragraph of the Cherokee Declaration is a fairly concise summary of their grievances against the political powers then presiding over a new US Government:

      “Whatever causes the Cherokee people may have had in the past to complain of some of the Southern States, they cannot but feel that their interests and destiny are inseparably connected to those of the South. The war now waging is a war of Northern cupidity and fanaticism against the institution of African servitude, against the commercial freedom of the South, and against the political freedom of the States, and its objects are to annihilate the sovereignty of those states and utterly change the nature of the general government.”

Finally, appealing to their inalienable right to self-defense and self-determination as a free people, the Cherokee concluded their Declaration with the following words:

      “Obeying the dictates of prudence and providing for the general safety and welfare, confident in the rectitude of their intentions, and true to their obligations to duty and honor, they accept the issue thus forced upon then, unite their fortunes now and forever with the Confederate States, and take up arms for the common cause, and having complete confidence in the justice of that cause, and with a firm reliance upon Divine Providence, will resolutely abide the consequences.”

The Eastern Band of Cherokee made no such formal declaration, but considered themselves North Carolinians and were anxious to join Confederate forces in defending their state and the Southern cause. The Eastern Band Chief, Col. William H. Thomas, a North Carolina State Senator, gathered 416 Cherokee braves to form the core of what later became the Thomas Legion. They were joined by about 1,900 North Carolina mountain men. Thomas, of Welsh descent, was the adopted white son of the late Eastern Band Chief, Yanaguska (“Drowning Bear”). He is said to have spoken the Cherokee language better than any white man that ever lived. The Cherokees had come to have great respect for his wisdom and relentless hard work on their behalf in North Carolina. It should be noted that the Cherokee braves that served in the Thomas Legion represented almost every single male of military age in their small population. They served very faithfully with only about a dozen known to have deserted.

Both Cherokee bands proved their courage and loyalty. The last shot fired in the war east of the Mississippi was fired on May 6, 1865. This was in an engagement at White Sulfur Springs, near Waynesville, NC, in which part of Thomas’ Legion fought against Union Army Colonel George W. Kirk’s infamous Union Raiders. Kirk’s Raiders had engaged in a campaign of murderous terrorism and destruction on the civilian population of western North Carolina. It took some effort at the end of the war for Thomas to persuade his Cherokee braves to surrender rather than continue guerrilla warfare against the Union.

In the West, Confederate Brigadier General and Cherokee Chief, Stand Watie’s mounted infantry regiments became a legend for their guerilla cavalry tactics, baffling and diverting a great number of Union troops. On June 23, 1865, in what was the last land battle of the war, Brigadier General Watie finally surrendered his predominantly Cherokee (Oklahoma) Indian force to the Union.

The issues as the Cherokees saw them were many-fold:

(1)  The Right of Self-Defense, against Northern aggression, both for themselves and their fellow Confederate neighbors and friends

(2)  The Right of Self-Determination by a free people, recognized in the Declaration of Independence

(3)  Protection of their Government of Law (their Rule of Law)

(4)  Preservation of their political rights under a constitutional government

(5)  A strong desire to retain the principles of limited government and decentralized power guaranteed by the Constitution

(6)  Protection of their economic rights and their welfare

(7)  Dismay at the despotism of the party (Republican Party) and leaders in command of the US government

(8)  Dismay at the ruthless disregard of commonly-accepted rules of warfare by the Union, especially their treatment of civilians and non-combatants

(9)  A fear of economic exploitation by corrupt politicians and their supporters based on observed past experience (harsh protective tariffs)

(10) Alarm at the self-righteous and extreme, punitive, and vengeful pronouncements on the slavery issue voiced by the radical abolitionists and supported by many Northern politicians, journalists, and social and religious leaders

The Cherokee Declaration of Independence of October 1861 uncovers a far more complex set of “Civil War” issues than most Americans have been taught. Rediscovered truth is not always welcome. Indeed, some of the issues addressed by the Cherokee Nation are so distressing that the general academic, media, and public reaction is to rebury them or to (intellectually) shout them down as politically incorrect.

The notion that slavery was the only real or even principal cause of the war is very politically correct and widely-held, but not historically correct. It amounts to historical ignorance. The version of the war taught to our children in the public schools and even in our universities – that slavery was the cause of the Civil War – has served, however, as a convenient ex-post facto justification for the North’s decision to instigate war on the Confederate States and its brutal conduct in prosecuting its war. Slavery was an issue, of course, but it was by no means the only issue, or even the most important underlying issue. It was not even an issue in the way most people think of it. Only about 25% of Southern households owned slaves. For most people, North and South, the slavery issue was not one that touched them in their personal or economic lives. The slavery issue was not so much whether to keep it or not, but how to phase it out without causing economic and social disruption and disaster. Unfortunately, since slavery was an institution in the Southern States and since it was protected in the US Constitution, those states believed that the decisions as to how to phase it out and to deal with the resulting economic and social issues should have been left to them – not to radical abolitionists or to the federal government.

After the (unconstitutional) Reconstruction Acts were passed in 1867, the radical abolitionists and radical Republicans, both equally evil-intentioned, were able to issue in a shameful era of politically-punitive and economic exploitative oppression in the South, the results of which lasted many years, including the birth of the Jim Crow/segregationist era.  The sins that the country often associate with the South are often, in reality, the policies and actions of the North.

The Cherokee were – and are – a remarkable people who have impacted the American heritage far beyond their numbers. As this commentary shows, they were remarkably patriotic as well. We can be especially grateful that they made a well-thought out and articulate Declaration of Independence in support of the Confederate cause in 1861 and in joining their defense.

 

To Purchase Lawrence (“Mike”) Scruggs’ book, THE UN-CIVIL WAR:  Amazon –  https://www.amazon.com/Civil-War-Shattering-Historical-Myths/dp/098343560X/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517505890&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=Lawrence+Scruggs%2C+The+Un-Civil+War

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Rethinking the Southern Secession Movement of 1861

SECESSION - Union is Dissolved

by Diane Rufino, July 23, 2017

The question is: Was the Civil War fought over the issue of Slavery?  I won’t deny that slavery was an issue that inflamed the passions of both sections of the country and put each at odds with one another, but it was NOT the cause of the conflict that I will refer to as the War of Northern Aggression, a war which claimed the lives of over 650,000 young Americans.

At the end of 1860, with the election of Abraham Lincoln as president, the Union was on the verge of dissolution. By the time Lincoln was inaugurated on April 4, seven states had already seceded and a new nation had been formed, the Confederate States of America (complete with a new constitution).  Following South Carolina’s lead (December 1860), Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and then Texas formally severed political ties with the Union. On April 4, Virginia held a state convention to consider secession but voted it down, 89-45. (North Carolina would do the same). Lincoln could not allow the Union to be split; he could not lose the tariff revenue supplied by the agrarian South which, in 1859, not only supplied approximately 80% of the federal revenue, but was used to enrich the industrialized North. And so, something had to be done to give Lincoln a “pretext” to restore the Southern states to the Union.

On April 12, 1861, Lincoln tricked South Carolina militia forces into firing on the federal garrison at Fort Sumter, even after South Carolina had demanded, and even tried negotiating for, the transfer of the fort to the Confederacy. The attack on Fort Sumter would provide the pretext he needed. He used the incident to characterize the southern states as being in a state of active rebellion and thus ordering troops to subdue them. On April 15, President Lincoln declared a state of insurrection and called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion and to defend the capital.  With that proclamation, four more Southern states left the Union. The first was Virginia.

Virginia did not leave the Union because of slavery; same with North Carolina. We should take particular note of this piece of history.

Virginia looked at President’s Lincoln’s Proclamation and demand for troops, and just as her leaders did when President John Adams passed the Sedition Act, she saw serious constitutional violations and contemplated how she needed to respond.

In reading the responses by Virginia’s Governor John Letcher below, you will see that he exercised all the remedies implied in the concept of State Sovereignty, Tenth Amendment, and even the Declaration of Independence:  First, he refused to comply with Lincoln’s decree – Virginia would not supply troops. That is Nullification and Interposition. And then, because the proclamation evidenced the will of a maniac, a tyrant, and an enemy of the Constitution, and evidenced the transformation of the federal government into something Virginia could no longer trust her sovereignty with and no longer wanted to be associated with, her people decided to sever the bonds which held her in allegiance. Virginia seceded.

On April 16, Virginia’s Governor John Letcher made the following dispatch to Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Simon Cameron:

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT.RICHMOND, Va., April 16, 1861.

HON. SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War:

SIR: I received your telegram of the 15th, the genuineness of which I doubted. Since that time (have received your communication, mailed the same day, in which I am requested to detach from the militia of the State of Virginia “the quota designated in a table,” which you append, “to serve as infantry or riflemen for the period of three months, unless sooner discharged.”

In reply to this communication, I have only to say that the militia of Virginia will not be furnished to the powers at Washington for any such use or purpose as they have in view. Your object is to subjugate the Southern States, and a requisition made upon me for such an object — an object, in my judgment, not within the purview of the Constitution or the act of 1795 — will not be complied with. You have chosen to inaugurate civil war, and having done so, we will meet it in a spirit as determined as the Administration has exhibited towards the South. Respectfully,

JOHN LETCHER.

The following day, Governor Letcher issued the following proclamation, which was published for the people of Virginia to read:

Whereas, Seven of the States formerly composing a part of the United States have, by authority of their people, solemnly resumed the powers granted by them to the United States, and have framed a Constitution and organized a Government for themselves, to which the people of those States are yielding willing obedience, and have so notified the President of the United States by all the formalities incident to such action, and thereby become to the United States a separate, independent and foreign power; and whereas, the Constitution of the United States has invested Congress with the sole power “to declare war,” and until such declaration is made, the President has no authority to call for an extraordinary force to wage offensive war against any foreign Power: and whereas, on the 15th inst., the President of the United States, in plain violation of the Constitution, issued a proclamation calling for a force of seventy-five thousand men, to cause the laws of the United states to be duly executed over a people who are no longer a part of the Union, and in said proclamation threatens to exert this unusual force to compel obedience to his mandates; and whereas, the General Assembly of Virginia, by a majority approaching to entire unanimity, declared at its last session that the State of Virginia would consider such an exertion of force as a virtual declaration of war, to be resisted by all the power at the command of Virginia; and subsequently the Convention now in session, representing the sovereignty of this State, has reaffirmed in substance the same policy, with almost equal unanimity; and whereas, the State of Virginia deeply sympathizes with the Southern States in the wrongs they have suffered, and in the position they have assumed; and having made earnest efforts peaceably to compose the differences which have severed the Union, and having failed in that attempt, through this unwarranted act on the part of the President; and it is believed that the influences which operate to produce this proclamation against the seceded States will be brought to bear upon this commonwealth, if she should exercise her undoubted right to resume the powers granted by her people, and it is due to the honor of Virginia that an improper exercise of force against her people should be repelled.

Therefore I, JOHN LETCHER, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, have thought proper to order all armed volunteer regiments or companies within this State forthwith to hold themselves in readiness for immediate orders, and upon the reception of this proclamation to report to the Adjutant-General of the State their organization and numbers, and prepare themselves for efficient service. Such companies as are not armed and equipped will report that fact, that they may be properly supplied.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Commonwealth to be affixed, this 17th day of April, 1861, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth.

JOHN LETCHER.

On April 17, in a newly-called convention, Virginia, the traditional leader of the South, made the decision to secede – 88 to 55, on the condition of ratification by a statewide referendum. Neither Virginia nor any of the other later-seceding states understood the federal government to authorize violence against member states.

Virginia’s ordinance of secession was ratified in a referendum by a vote of 132,201 to 37,451 on May 23.

On April 4, Virginia decided to remain in the Union. How did that decision preserve or extend slavery?  Virginians had been willing to endure a crushing protective tariff under President Lincoln, the likes of the Tariff of Abominations (1828). And they understood that remaining in the Union would mean that slavery would continue to be under attack by his administration. Virginia was loyal to the Union even when the government was antagonistic to her.  No, slavery wasn’t the reason the Southern states of Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina (and probably others), left the Union. It would be Lincoln’s demand for troops that would change their minds. To these states, remaining in the Union was to abandon every principle of confederation that they valued. Continued loyalty to a Union that would attack member states and being forced to take up arms against her neighbors was inconceivable and intolerable.

Slavery was the issue that caused the North to become aggressively hostile to the states of the South and to cause the South to question whether the two regions could ever have enough of a common interest to remain joined together with a government that was to serve each equally and fairly. But the independent ambitions of the federal government and the schemes and twisted ideology of its president were the direct cause of its violent course the division would take.

 

Reference:

“Governor Letcher’s Proclamation: His Reply to Secretary Cameron – State of Affairs Norfolk,” New York Times, April 22, 1861.  Referenced at:  http://www.nytimes.com/1861/04/22/news/gov-letcher-s-proclamation-his-reply-secretary-cameron-state-affairs-norfolk.html

 

Those Who are Tearing Down Confederate Monuments are Forcing Selective Amnesia on Americans

Image

ROBERT E. LEE - in front of door

by Diane Rufino, July 27, 2017

In this era when Southern (Confederate) leaders, symbols, generals, buildings, etc are being erased from our memory and history, and vilified in our conversations because of their connection to slavery, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind folks that they should really do some homework before jumping on this politically-correct bandwagon.  A history lesson is an opportunity for speech, for dialogue, for debate, for learning.  Erase history and you erase much more than the mere reminder than an event happened. Erase the memory of the Confederacy and you erase a time when states had the backbone to stand up for the principles in the Declaration of Independence (“Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness..”). Erase the memory of the Confederacy and you erase a time when states were willing to exert their natural rights of self-determination (aka, secession) rather than allow the federal government to subjugated them completely to its ambitious designs. Erase the memory of the Confederacy and you erase the last time in our nation’s history when states actually believed themselves to be the powerful sovereigns that they thought they would be under the US Constitution.

Be careful how you treat history.

Now many, it seems, are calling for the destruction of the monuments erected to Confederate leaders and Confederate generals, such as the great General Robert E. Lee.  There is no finer gentleman, no finer American, no finer human being than General Lee.  When President Lincoln tricked the South Carolina militia to fire on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1860, therefore giving him the reason he needed to raise troops to invade the South and force it back into the Union, he had some soul-searching to do. He was summoned to serve Lincoln and command the Northern Army, but then he would have to take up arms against the state he loved so much. Back in the day, one’s citizenship and one’s loyalties were first and foremost with one’s state (except, of course if you were a member of Congress). It was Lincoln’s Proclamation of April 15 that made Lee’s decision to fight for Virginia an easy one. Lincoln sent a dispatch to states such as Virginia and North Carolina, demanding that they send 75,000 troops to the Northern Army in order to invade the “rebelling states.”  Taking up arms, killing fellow Southerners, and imposing government force on his neighbors were things his conscience would not allow.  And so, he resigned the standing position he had with the government and joined the Confederate cause (Virginia voted to secede on April 17).

Lincoln had a tortured understanding of the Constitution and the South was right to resist.  Robert E. Lee, like so many other Southerns, was not a supporter of slavery and was looking forward to the day when the institution would either die a natural death (which it was on its way to doing) or would be abolished. He thought it an evil institution.  But slavery was not the cause of the hostilities that brought the War. It was government ambition, the disregard for States’ Rights, and the use of government force against member states (the ones who created the government in the first place) that initiated the violence that would claim more than 650,000 young American lives.  General Lee made the right choice. It may not have been the choice that best served our collective conscience regarding the enslavement of an entire race, but that’s not what the war was about. He made the right choice because only when states have the power to make their rightful decisions, including the decision to separate from an abusive government, can they effectively carry out the essential role that they play in our government system – to check the federal government when it oversteps its constitutional authority.

So, those who clamor to take down the statues of men like General Lee, or to erase his name from buildings and streets, take a moment to read what he had to say about slavery when the war was over: “I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained.”