Official Records Reports related to Fort Washita

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March 27, 1861 May 14, 1861 May 19, 1861 May 21, 1861 February 10, 1862
May 6, 1862 October 8, 1862 October 16, 1862 November 3, 1862 November 19, 1862
Washington, March 27, 1861.


  The letter of Hon. Charles B. Mitchell, U.S. Senator from Arkansas, dated the 17th instant, in relation to the military posts in Arkansas, having been submitted to Lieutenant-General Scott, he has the honor to report, speaking not from documentary information but rather from oral testimony, as follows:
  Fort Smith is an old established post, from which the troops had been for a time withdrawn, but which has been lately used as a depot to supply the advanced posts soon to be named.
  The honorable Senator proposes that the troops at Fort Smith shall be transferred to a point called "Frozen Rock," about fifteen miles southeast of Fort Gibson, on the Arkansas River, which is said to be a suitable position for a post. If this idea is to be entertained, a preliminary examination of the site should be made by a competent officer, and the title to the land, the sources of supply, lines of communication, &c., should be ascertained. By act of March 3, 1859, "No permanent barracks and quarters shall hereafter be constructed unless detailed estimates shall have been previously submitted to Congress, and shall have been approved by a special appropriation for the same." Until these previous steps are taken, no movement can be taken to transfer the troops from Fort Smith.
  Fort Washita, also an old-established post, is about 160 miles from Fort Smith. It is a highly important military point. The public buildings are good and in repair. Orders were given Lieutenant-Colonel Emory, First Cavalry, the 18th instant, to proceed there and establish his headquarters as commander of his regiment, with discretionary power to concentrate at or in the vicinity of the post two companies of cavalry and five of infantry, now at Forts Arbuckle and Cobb, in addition to the two companies of cavalry already at Fort Washita. Orders were transmitted the same day, by telegraph and express, to move in advance one company of infantry from Fort Arbuckle to Fort Washita, in consequence of a report, dated the 3d instant, from the commanding officer of the latter post, referring to rumors of a contemplated attack from Texas.
  Fort Arbuckle, about 60 miles west, a little north of Fort Washita, has a garrison of two companies of cavalry. It is of no importance as a military point, and will, no doubt, be broken up under the discretionary orders to Lieutenant-Colonel Emory.    Fort Cobb, about 160 miles northwest of Fort Washita, was first occupied by troops October 1, 1859. The site is on a portion of the Choctaw country, leased as a reserve for several detached bands of Comanche and other Indians, which were moved there from points within the limits of Texas. This arrangement was made for the convenience of the State of Texas, and Fort Cobb was designed for the double purpose of protecting these friendly bands against incursions from the hostiles of their own tribes and to restrain the latter in their descents upon Texas. The attitude now assumed by Texas changes the relations of Fort Cobb to that State, whilst present maintenance is no doubt necessary for the protection of the Indians of the reserve. But in connection with this point must be considered the safety of the garrison in case of attack by a superior force and the possibility of supplying it. The post is at such a distance from the base of co-operation as to leave it unsupported; the retreat of its garrison would be easily cut off; hence it requires a powerful garrison, if any. The supply trains must pass over a section of country so open to incursions from Texas as to make strong escorts necessary to guard them. Subsistence and forage are said by the chiefs of the staff departments to be difficult to obtain and very high.
  These are the main subjects for the large discretion devolved upon Lieutenant-Colonel Emory, and it is not doubted he will appreciate them and decide with judgment.
  Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War.
  By command of Lieutenant-General Scott:

Assistant Adjutant-General General.    Top

Report of Capt. S. T. Benning, Texas Troops, of the abandonment of the U. S. posts in the Indian Territory.

BONHAM, May 14, 1861.

  DEAR SIR: I hereby inclose an inventory of all the goods and property found and taken at Fort Arbuckle, all of which I turned over to the Chickasaw Indians, by order of William C. Young, who is State regimental colonel. Said Indians are at present taking care of said post and all property therein contained. The United States Government troops under Emory had abandoned said fort a few days previous to my entering and taking command of the same. I am solicitous that you send me a captain's commission to occupy said post as one of the posts belonging to the Southern Confederacy. I have a company of cavalry in readiness for that post or any other that it may please your honor to assign us. Fort Washita and Fort Cobb, both being situated in the Chickasaw Nation, were also abandoned, leaving considerable property in each.
  Colonel Young has formed a treaty of peace with the Reserve Indians, conditioned that the Southern Confederacy feed and protect them, as heretofore done by the United States Government at a very heavy expense, and that, too, without the approval of but very few of the people in this State. It is considered by the sovereigns here as a worse than needless expense.
  Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain, with respect, yours, &c.,

Captain of Fannin County Company.

Hon. L. POPE WALKER.   Top

Report of Lieut. Col. William H. Emory, First U. S. Cavalry, of the abandonment of Forts Arbuckle, Cobb, and Washita, Ind. T.

West of the Arkansas River, May 19, 1861.

  SIR: I had the honor to receive the instructions of the General-in-Chief, dated April 17,(*) by the hands of Lieutenant Averell, of the Rifles, two days' march from Washita.
  The seizure of supplies for this command, which I suppose was known sooner at Washington than it was to me; the known fact that it was only supplied to the 31st of May, and the failure of the command at Arbuckle and Cobb to concentrate as directed, caused me to anticipate the instructions of the General-in-Chief, so far as withdrawing the troops from Washita in the direction of Arbuckle and Cobb.
  The day after I left Washita [April 16] the Texans occupied that place in force. The troops at Arbuckle and two companies from Cobb joined me five miles from Arbuckle, on the east bank of the Washita River, May 3. I then marched to relieve Cobb, taking the road which lies on the open prairie to the north of the Washita River, so as to render the cavalry available.
  On the 5th, finding myself followed, I halted, and sent Captain Sturgis with his company and Lieutenant Averell to the rear, to bring into my camp the advance guard of the pursuing forces, which he did happily without having to shed blood. The same day Arbuckle was occupied by a large force of white people from Texas. The next morning the above-mentioned guard, mostly composed of gentlemen acting under erroneous impressions, retraced its steps, and I followed my course to relieve the command at Cobb, for the safety of which I had reasons to entertain serious apprehensions, and which I had ordered to meet me.
On the 9th I found the command from Cobb (two companies of foot) thirty-five miles northeast of that post, and on the same day I took the most direct course to Leavenworth that the nature of the ground would permit. I am now in Kansas, on the north side of the Arkansas River, with the whole command--eleven companies, 750 fighting men, 150 women, children, teamsters, and other non-combatants. Nothing has been left behind but what would have been left in time of peace. Contracts were made to bring such stores as were left and were worth transporting (chiefly clothing of soldiers and officers' baggage), but I understand the clothing has been seized. If this be the tact, these soldiers, who have not mixed in the politics of the country, who stand to their colors, and do their duty faithfully, should be reimbursed.
  It is my duty to call attention to the unworthy conduct of the governor of the Chickasaw Nation, which country, I apprehend, he too faithfully represents. He busily joined in an attempt to disarm and disgrace the soldiers, whose only occupation for years past was to defend the rights and property of the people he represents and who were, to my own knowledge, invited by the agent and representatives of this people to re-enforce Fort Washita.
  There is no money with this command, which has been a source of great embarrassment; and I beg to call attention to the estimates, and request that funds be immediately sent, to enable me to discharge useless persons I have been compelled to bring along, and also to pay off the faithful Delaware guides.
  Of the three staff officers stationed at Fort Smith, and who, it is presumed, had possession of the funds, if there were any in this country, Paymaster Brown is the only one who shared the fortunes of the troops, but he joined the command without a dollar.
  I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Lieutenant-Colonel First Cavalry, Commanding.

Lieutenant-Colonel TOWNSEND,
Assistant Adjutant-General,
Headquarters Army, Washington, D. C.    Top

Report of Maj. Samuel D. Sturgis, Fourth U. S. Cavalry, of the seizure of Fort Smith, Ark.


  SIR: I avail myself of the first opportunity which has occurred since leaving Fort Smith, Ark., to inform you that I evacuated that post at 9 o'clock p.m. on the 23d ultimo, and marched with my command for Fort Washita, where we arrived on the 30th ultimo, and reported for duty to Col. W. H. Emory, First Cavalry. All the available transportation at the post, amounting to some twenty wagons and teams, was taken along. The ordnance sergeant, hospital steward, chief bugler, sick, and laundresses were left at the post, to be shipped to Jefferson Barracks by Capt. A. Montgomery, A. Q. M.
  The causes which induced me to evacuate the post I presume are known to the department commander from general notoriety. After the supplies were cut off by the State of Arkansas the post, of course, became untenable, and we could have occupied it in any case but a few more days. One hour after we left, two boats arrived with three hundred men and ten pieces of artillery. To have contended against this force with two companies of cavalry, and that, too, while the entire population of the surrounding country were ready at a moment's warning to take up arms against us, could only have resulted eventually in our being taken prisoners and the loss to the Government of all the arms, horses, means of transportation, &c., at the post.
  I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Captain, First Cavalry.

Asst. Adjt. Gen.,
Headquarters Department of the West, Saint Louis, Mo.    Top

CAMP DARDENNE, February 10, 1862.

Brig. Gen. ALBERT PIKE, Fort Smith, Ark.

  GENERAL: I have to inclose letter from Col. John Drew, addressed to me as colonel commanding department. You having virtually relieved me from that position by your order printed and published at Little Rock, I can only advise the parties, which I have done to-day, to use all their power to preserve peace and order in the Cherokee Nation. It is apparent to everybody that we are in great danger of civil war among the Cherokees. Indeed, nothing will probably prevent it but the presence of a large body of white troops. I have ordered the only regiment of white men in the department (Colonel Taylor's Texas cavalry, at Fort Washita) to North Fork, so as to place them within reach. There is little or no forage to be had at Fort Gibson. The Secretary of War, in his letter to me authorizing the First Choctaw and Chickasaw Regiment, stated and required me to say to the Choctaw Council that six regiments--three white, from Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, and three Indian--were raised for the protection of the Indian Territory. Under that written pledge the Choctaws turned out. Colonels Hebert's. Churchill's, and Greer's regiments were ordered out for service in the Indian Territory, but were taken into Arkansas and there remained. The only regiment of white men now in it I took the responsibility of raising. Unless the Government complies with its promises to the Indians in every particular, and especially in giving them the aid of a sufficient body of white troops, the Indian Territory will assuredly be lost. I do not presume to advise, but simply state what I know to be true.
  I am, general, your obedient servant.

Colonel, Commanding Choctaw and Chickasaw Regiment.    Top


Maj. Gen. EARL VAN DORN, C. S. A., Memphis, Tenn.

  GENERAL: I take the liberty of inclosing copy of report of a skirmish between Cherokee troops, under Col. Stand Watie, and the Federals. General Pike being near Fort Washita, at Nail's Bridge, miles southwest, I have thought it might be well to advise you direct of Col. Stand Watie's movements.
  As we are likely to resort to guerrilla warfare, at least those who are outside the new lines of defense, it would, in my opinion, be advisable to confer additional rank upon Col. Stand Watie, with authority to receive into the service all the reliable Indian force north of the Canadian rivers. The Indians have great confidence, and justly, in Col. Stand Watie's patriotism, prudence, and courage, and I think would rally to his standard. His thorough knowledge of the country renders him eminently suitable to direct the movements of guerrilla bands along the border of the Cherokee country, and the Indians will make the very best guerrillas. White troops should also be sent into the Cherokee country. As matters now stand, if a Federal force should advance into the Cherokee country I think Stand Watie would be driven out and a large majority of the Cherokees go over to the Federals. They complain that by treaty they were promised protection; but instead of protection they have been involved in a war with the Federal Government and then left to shift for themselves.
  I am ordered to fall back to the neighborhood of Boggy Depot, and shall march day after to-morrow.
  I am, general, yours, respectfully and truly,


Little Rock, Ark., October 8, 1862.

Capt. A. G. MAYERS,
Assistant Quartermaster, &c., Fort Washita, C. N.

  CAPTAIN: It appearing evident, from the information given by you, that the various Texas companies under Captains Marshall, Martin, and others, now at or near Forts Washita and McCulloch, are not needed in that region, General Hindman recommended and General Holmes made an order, which is sent open by the same courier who carries this letter, directing them all to march within forty-eight hours after receiving the order for Maysville, Ark. The order is intended to embrace all those unattached companies or battalions in that region of country. They are not all mentioned by name, for the reason that they never report and there is no definite knowledge here about them; but if any of them hesitate you will read to them this paragraph of this letter, with the information from me that they will be summarily dealt with if disobedient or slow to execute the order.
  General Hindman is of opinion that if at all practicable it would be best to use the companies of the provost-marshal's department for post guard duty at the places under your charge. He wishes you to write to General Holmes fully on that subject. Except when absolutely indispensable, it is believed best to keep white troops entirely out of the Indian settlement.

Assistant Adjutant-General    Top

FORT ARBUCKLE, C. N., October 16, 1862.


  SIR: Agreeably to the orders of Colonel Cooper, of date August 19, the Chickasaw battalion commenced reorganizing, and now have reorganized five companies, and, with the exception of a few, all members of the old battalion; but it is the fact, and I regret very much to say, that there is not one officer in all the companies that is capable to fulfill the duties of either quartermaster, commissary, or adjutant. Captain Cochran, whom you appointed commissary and assigned to duty for the battalion, says he considers himself no longer in the commissary department, and I have made a temporary appointment to act during the reorganization of the battalion. Captain Campbell still retains his office, and has told me that he will act until relieved. The battalion is in a bad condition--no shoes, hats, clothing, or tents; but I hope those things which they are in much need of will be furnished soon. With that hope before them they stick together. If it is in your power to do so could you not appoint a commissary for us and continue Captain Campbell in the quartermaster's department, and also appoint an adjutant for the battalion? If a citizen can be appointed I should recommend Mr. Davisse, who has formerly acted as such in the old battalion a few months. There is also Mr. Rennie, who acted as adjutant up to the time the re-enlistment commenced, and he, considering himself out of service, went home. All the officers of the old battalion took a stampede as soon as the day of reenlistment arrived, and Governor Harris, who was authorized to re-enlist, being sick and not able to attend to it, assigned me the duty. I have succeeded so far as to get five companies reorganized, as I said before. There were very little provisions in the commissariat, and I have made requisition on the quartermaster at Fort Washita for provisions. This was my only chance to keep the men together, and made a temporary arrangement for beef. If I was wrong in so doing I hope I may be excused, because I saw no other chance. The lieutenant-colonel of the old battalion having told them that the old battalion was disbanded, a great many of the men took it for granted that they were free to go when they pleased, and, sir, it required all my energy, by talking, explaining, persuading to remain, but a great many went home; but I hope to see you up here before long. Yours, respectfully,

Commanding Chickasaw Battalion    Top

Fort Smith, Ark., November 3, 1862.

Commanding Detachment Cavalry:

  CAPTAIN: In obedience to instructions from Maj. Gen. T. G. Hindman, commanding District of Arkansas, you are ordered to proceed with your detachment to Fort McCulloch, Fort Washita, or wherever else you deem necessary to find Brig. Gen. Albert Pike, whether in the Indian Territory, Texas, Louisiana, or Arkansas, and when you find him you will take Brig. Gen. Albert Pike into personal custody and conduct him without delay to the headquarters of Maj. Gen. T. H. Holmes, commanding the Trans-Mississippi Department, at Little Rock, Ark.
  You will treat Brigadier-General Pike with as much courtesy as the execution of this order will allow; but you will execute this order to the letter, using all necessary force even to the extent of taking life if resistance should be made. You will keep these instructions secret from all persons whatever until the moment for executing shall arrive.

Brigadier-General, Commanding Troops in Indian Country.    Top

WARREN, TEX., November 19, 1862.


  SIR: I am here a prisoner, in the custody of a captain and 48 men of Shelby's brigade of Missouri troops, on my way to Little Rock, by virtue of the order from Brig. Gen. John Selden Roane, of which I inclose a copy, marked A.
  I was seized near Tishomingo, in the Chickasaw country, on the 14th instant, when returning to Fort Washita from Fort Arbuckle, where I had gone expecting to march to the Wichita Agency to repel an invasion of hostile Indians.
  From a previous order of General Hindman to Colonel Cooper, a copy of which was sent me by Col. Sampson Folsom, and of which I inclose a copy, marked B, I conclude that the cause of my apprehension is that I had reassumed the command of the Indian country. I did so with the greatest reluctance and for the reasons stated by me in my letter of the 23d of October to the assistant adjutant-general of General Holmes, a copy of which I inclose, marked C.
  For these reasons I felt constrained to do so in obedience to the will of the President, and it seems to me that my letter required some response very different from that which it has received, since my apprehension is the only reply with which I have been honored.
  I have received but one order from General Holmes since he granted me leave of absence. That order was that if I had detained any ammunition in Texas I should at once forward it to its destination and then report at Little Rock. I had not detained any, and if it was intended that I should go in any event to Little Rock, not to say so without equivocation was to set a trap to ensnare an unwary man.
  The course pursued by Generals Holmes and Hindman in regard to the Indian troops and country has produced the results which I long ago predicted. The Cherokee country is lost; the reserve is broken up and abandoned; the loyal Creeks are fleeing to Texas; the Choctaw troops, disgracefully routed under Colonel Cooper, are disbanding; the Chickasaws will soon do the same. The money and clothing procured by me for them have been diverted from their legitimate destination by General Holmes in defiance of your orders. Their troops remain unpaid, unshod, half naked. The people all over the Indian country are destitute of food, and to ascertain how many need to be fed we may take the whole census. No Confederate troops are left in the country to protect them. The Federal officers are making them propositions of peace and alliance at the moment when our promises are being shamelessly violated; and at this moment, when I had returned to the country in the hope of being able to still do something to save it, I am pursued as a felon by 250 Missourians, who, by their own confessions, to leave nothing undone that can alienate the Indians, break open and plunder the houses of the Choctaws on their march to arrest me, and I am seized and carried by force out of the country. If immense rewards had been offered to induce the doing of all that could be done to lose the Indian country nothing more could be done to that end than has been done by Generals Holmes and Hindman.    The charges and specifications which I to-day forward against General Holmes will show what has been done to alienate the Indians. The success of these efforts will soon prove their efficiency. In my opinion the Indian country is lost.
  At any rate, Mr. President, it is too late for me to save it. Some other man may perhaps be found who can do so. The only purpose for which I accepted the appointment of brigadier-general has failed, and my commission has as little served to shield me from the indignities I am enduring as have my constant efforts to carry out the wishes of the President. This is the second time that General Hindman has sent an armed force to arrest me.
  At the first moment when I shall be no longer in custody I shall repair to Richmond to account for the public moneys placed in my hands, to demand that justice be administered upon the criminals who have set the orders of the President at naught and incited the Indians to revolt, and imperiled the welfare of the Republic, and to show how the Indian country, worth more to the Confederacy than the State of Virginia, has been wantonly thrown away.
  I am, the President's most obedient servant,

ALBERT PIKE, Brigadier-General Provisional Army, C. S. A.    Top

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