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Native Americans fought on both sides of the Civil War at The Battle of Honey Springs

Early in the Civil War, the Confederacy took control of portions of the Federal forts in Indian Territory and signed alliances with most of its Native American tribal nations. Pro-Union Creeks and Seminoles were forced into refugee camps in pro-Union Kansas.

In 1862, American Indian refugees in Kansas volunteered to fight for the Union. The First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment, composed of African American soldiers and led by Col. James Williams, who was injured, and then by Lt. Col. John Bowles, joined the American Indians in a Union victory at the 1863 Battle of Honey Springs.

"On July 17, 1863, the Union and the Confederacy clashed at Honey Springs in the largest engagement to occur in Indian Territory," said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the society. "The diversity of what would become Oklahoma was on display even on the battlefield. White and American Indian soldiers were involved on both sides, and African American soldiers in the First Kansas Colored Infantry were integral to the Union victory."

The Battle of Honey Springs, which was fought near the Honey Springs watering stop along the Texas Road (near Elk Creek and what is now Rentiesville and U.S. 69), involved 9,000 troops. These included 6,000 Confederates under the command of Gen. Douglas H. Cooper, who was planning an attack on Fort Gibson.

Union Gen. James Gilpatrick Blunt decided to march his 3,000 troops, mostly American Indians and African Americans, to head off the Confederates. The American Indians included 1,000 Cherokee, Creek and Seminole families who had made the long trip from Kansas back to Indian Territory.

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