Unidentified Native American: Civil War Era Portrait by : Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes-Brady National Photographic Art Gallery (Washington, D.C.
Why Did Native Americans Fight For The Confederacy?
At a time when fear of removal from tribal homelands permeated Native American communities, many native people served in the military during the Civil War. These courageous men fought with distinction, knowing they might jeopardize their freedom, unique cultures, and ancestral lands if they ended up on the losing side of the white man’s war.
Approximately 20,000 Native Americans served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War, participating in battles such as Pea Ridge, Second Manassas, Antietam, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and in Federal assaults on Petersburg. By fighting with the white man, Native Americans hoped to gain favor with the prevailing government by supporting the war effort. They also saw war service as a means to end discrimination and relocation from ancestral lands to western territories. Instead, the Civil War proved to be the Native American’s last effort to stop the tidal wave of American expansion. While the war raged and African Americans were proclaimed free, the U.S. government continued its policies of pacification and removal of Native Americans.
Earning the good graces of their neighbors was an attractive benefit of involvement, but it wasn’t a predominate factor motivating participation. What was? Many tribes in the south also happened to be slave owners; the Choctaw alone had about 6,000 slaves at the time of the Civil War. Because a Confederate loss could jeopardize their ability to own slaves and, with that, the tribe’s economy of the time, slave-owning tribes (including Cherokee, Choctaw and the Chickasaw people) typically sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Another contributing factor for Native Americans siding with the south, particularly for the Chickasaw people, was a general and growing distrust of the Federal government who had forced tribes off their ancestral lands into an area that another tribe claimed and then failed to protect them against that tribe. Part of Confederate recruitment included suggestions of an Indian state in the Confederate States of America as well as full citizenship and government representation. These were appealing offers for many Native Americans.
At War’s End
At the end of the war, it was a member of the Seneca tribe, Gen. Ely S. Parker, who drew up the articles of surrender which Gen. Robert E. Lee signed at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Parker, a trained lawyer who was once rejected for army service because of his race, served as Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s military secretary.
At Appomattox, Lee is said to have remarked to Parker: “I am glad to see one real American here,” to which Parker replied, “We are all Americans.”
Sources:- See more at: http://alexandriava.gov/historic/fortward/default.aspx?id=40164 Source: http://www.historyinanhour.com/2013/06/09/native-americans-and-the-civil-war/#sthash.MI4MyWAw.dpuf