by Maggie Brendan
Having lived the last twenty years or so in Atlanta, GA, I’m always interested in facts about our state and historical characters. I have some Cherokee in my genealogy so when I heard that the actual final surrender of the Confederacy was not by General Lee at Appomattox, I did some investigating. It is true that General Lee surrender on April 9, 1865 but during the next two months, other commanders surrendered. On June 23, 1865, the last Confederate General to surrender was Brig. General Stand Watie, Chief of the Cherokee Nation.
No other Indian on either side of the Civil War had achieved this high rank. On June 23, 1865, following the Battle of Doaksville, at Fort Towson in the Choctaw Nation's area of the Indian Territory, Watie signed a cease-fire agreement with Union representatives for his command, the First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi, becoming the last Confederate general in the field to stand down.
Even more interesting to me is that Stand Watie was born in the Oothcaloga Valley south of what is presently Calhoun, GA, about an hour from where I now live in Marietta. He was a Christian and very well educated.
His given name was Issac Oowatie, son of Uwatie, but he preferred the English translation of his name, Takertwaker (Stand Firm). Later, the family dropped the “U” from Uwatie and their name became Watie. He became commander of the Cherokee Regiment of Mounted Rifles and did so well that he was commissioned as brigadier general. Most of the battles he led were along the eastern part of the Indian Territory, southeastern Kansas, and western Arkansas.
On June 29, 1995, the U.S. Post Office issued a set of 20 commemorative stamps showing 16 individuals and 4 battles of the Civil War. Official first day of issue ceremonies were held in front of the Cyclorama Center at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. One of the stamps shows Stand Watie on horseback after a raid on a Union river boat that can be seen burning in the background.
Once when his men raided a Federal supply train filled with Union uniforms, his wife wrote, “I thought I would send you some clothes, but I hear that you have done better than to wait on me for them.”
During his time serving in the Civil War, he was elected as the principal chief of the Southern Bank of Cherokee. After the war, he returned to his western reservation and lived out his life like any ordinary Indian. His sons died before he did on September 9, 1871 and two young daughters followed him in 1873. He never had a harsh word for his family and never gave in to despair and fought hard for his beliefs. The name Watie and Stand became common Cherokee names in his honor.
Happy Trails…Maggie Brendan