Choctaw Museum of the Southern Indian
Many earnest friends and comrades insist that the Choctaw Indian as a Confederate soldier should receive his proper place on the scroll of events during the War between the States. This task having been so nearly ignored, I send some reminiscences that will be an exponent of the extraordinary merit of the Choctaw Indian on the American Continent. My connection with the Choctaw Indians was brought about incidentally: Maj. J.W. Pearce, of Hazelhurst, Miss., organized a battalion of Choctaw Indians, of Kemper, DeKalb, Neshoba, Jasper, Scott, and Newton Counties, Miss., known as "First Battalion of Choctaw Indians, Confederate army." He established two camps--a recruiting camp in Newton County and a drill camp at Tangipahoa--just beyond the State boundary line in Louisiana in the fall of 1862. New Orleans at that time was in the hands of the Federal Gen. B.F. Butler. Without notice a reconnoitering party of the enemy raided the camp, and captured over two dozen Indians and several noncommissioned white officers and carried them to New Orleans. All the officers and several of the Indians escaped and returned to the Newton County camp; but all the balance of the captured Indians were carried to New York, and were daily paraded in the public parks as curiosities for the sport of sight-seers. This catastrophe so chagrined the officers of the entire command and so demoralized the Indians that a council for advisement was resolved upon, the result of which was that a messenger should be sent forthwith to Richmond, bearing a full report of this unfortunate escapade, and insisting that the battalion be transferred to Spann's Battalion of Mounted Scouts, then being formed by the authority of the Secretary of War under the immediate auspices of Gen. Dabney H. Maury, Commander of the Department of the Gulf. The petition was readily granted, and a recruiting camp was immediately established at the foot of Stone Street in Mobile, adjoining the grounds occupied by Spann's Battalion of White Mounted Cavalry. In the meantime the Newton County camp was maintained under the personal charge of Lieut. Thomas H. Gresham, now of Heidelberg, Miss., and Lieut. Ben Duckworth, of Mississippi City, Miss. The Mobile camp continued to fill up rapidly under the personal charge of Lieut. Robert Welch, of Marion, Ala., and Capt. R. Lewis, of DeKalb County, Miss.
Enthusiasm again animated the proud-hearted young braves, and the whole tribe seemed once more to be fired with the true war spirit. Among the recruits came a fine, stalwart, intelligent-looking young brave known among his comrades as Eahantatubbee, grand-nephew of the great Chief Pushmataha and familiarly known to his white friends as Jack Amos. I at once utilized Jack Amos as my interpreter, and provided comfortable quarters for his adjacent to my own tent. When in the midst of our brightest prospects, recruiting daily accessions to our ranks, Jack Amos discovered that some mutterings and dissensions prevailed among the women and noncombatant Indians. Further investigations led him to discover that Percy Walker, Esq., a prominent lawyer of the Mobile bar, had informed the noncombatants that the Indians were not liable to do Confederate service, and therefore exempt from conscription; and if they would pay him one dollar per capita, he would procure papers of exemption for the whole tribe for the war. Jack Amos, knowing the nature of the Indians, and that this temptation might lead to mutiny and general insubordination, reported the affair to me. I went immediately with him to Gen Dabney H. Maury, and had the facts related to Gen. Maury, who lost no time in giving the matter a vigorous coup de grace. In the meantime my white companies, under Capt. J.M. Tindel (now residing in New Orleans), Capt. M.M. Burke (late of Columbus, Miss.), Capt. S.A.D. Steel (then a lawyer at Enterprise, Miss.), and Capt. J.C. Moore (of Chattanooga, Tenn.), were actively progressing. At this juncture, with my interpreter, Jack Amos, I went up to the Newton County camp. While there in the early part of June, 1863, rain fell in torrents, flooding the streams, the roads became impassable, and country bridges were washed away. Vicksburg was being besieged by Grant, and reenforcements were ordered to the assistance of Pemberton. Chunkey River intervened, and the bridge across the river was submerged and the water far out of the river banks. The engineer was under military orders, and his long train of cars was filled with Confederate soldiers, who, like the engineer, were animated with but one impulse-to Vicksburg! to victory or death!
Onward rushed the engineer. All passed over except the hindmost car. The bridge had swerved out of plumb, and into the raging waters with nearly one hundred soldiers the rear car was precipitated. "Help!" was the cry, but there was no help. The cry reached the camp. "Fly to the rescue!" was the command, and in less time that I can tell the story every Indian was at the scene. It was there that Jack Amos again displayed his courage and devotion to the Confederate soldiers. I must not omit to say, however, that with a like valor and zeal Elder Williams, another full-blood Indian soldier, proved equal to the emergency. Jack Amos and Elder Williams both reside now in Newton County. Williams is now an ordained Baptist minister, having been a gospel student under the venerable and beloved Rev. Dr. N.L. Clark, now living in Decatur, Newton County, and father of our Dr. Clark, of Meridian. Led by these two dauntless braves, every Indian present stripped and plunged into that raging river to the rescue of the drowning soldiers. Ninety-six bodies were brought out upon a prominent strip of land above the water line. Twenty-two were resuscitated and returned to their commands, and all the balance were crudely interred upon the railroad right of way, where they now lie in full view of the passing train, except nine, who were afterwards disinterred by kind friends and given a more honorable burial. Officiating at this terrible calamity were Lieut. TH Gresham, Lieut. Ben Duckworth, and Corporal John Blakeley, who was at that time at home on a furlough from Spann's Battalion of Cavalry at Mobile. This lonely burial spot so far seems unkept by the tender care of any friendly hand. At no time as yet have these unmarked graves been numbered among those who share the wreaths and bouquets of flowers by the hand of our kind and loving Daughters on Decoration Day, yet this sad neglect will, it is hoped, soon have its end. It is the purpose of Camp Dabney H. Maury to erect a twin shaft upon the spot where these dead martyrs repose, commemorating alike the memory of these Confederate heroes and perpetuate the testimonial of the patriotic devotion exhibited by the Choctaw Indian braves, whose prowess and fidelity to the Confederate cause entitle them to the respect of our Confederate soldiery everywhere and to all lovers of the true and the faithful wherever found.
As a fighter, the Indian is at his best in the skirmish and sharpshooter service. In open field fight the modern tactics present too many surprises for his manner of savage warfare. Not that he is afraid, for the Indian fears nothing; but he is overwhelmed with the terrible results of a conflict with disciplined soldiery, and especially the irresistible sweeping destruction by modern artillery. As scouts and pilots through pathless swamps and jungles and over boundless prairies, his instinct for courses and geographical precision is equal to the bee and surpasses the horse or other animals. His obedience to authority is commensurate to his confidence in his commander. None but the truly brave and purely honest at heart could command the Indian soldiers, but for such the Indian would die in the execution of a command.
At the organization of Camp Dabney H. Maury, No. 1312, in February, 1901, sixty-eight white veterans and eighteen Choctaw Indian veterans voluntarily enrolled their names; and to the credit ofour pension commissioner be it said that several of these veteran braves were enrolled for pensions, which they continued to receive until the great exodus, under the Dawes Bill, to the Territory in 1903. Jack Amos, to the manner born, refuses to emigrate, and still lives in Newton County, Chunkey Station his post office. He writes to me, saying that he is sure to attend the Reunion in New Orleans next year as he did in 1903, where he was feasted by the ladies and lauded by the press and honored by Confederate veterans every day.
When we reflect on the fact that the Confederate soldier, though a volunteer, was impelled by imperative duty to action which, if he shirked, was both a disgrace and punishable; when we consider that his home, his family, and his country were the considerations that compelled him to brave death and die at the front, how easy for us to accord to the Indian his true place in history! No compulsion by law, no defense of home or country or family obligations urged him to place his life in jeopardy on the issue. Naught save the proud instinct of personal devotion to the people of the South fired his heart with the spirit of war; no "promises to pay" ever allured him to enlist. In his fidelity to our cause the record of the Choctaw Indians stands above reproach.
On page 353, "War of the Rebellion," Series IV, Volume II, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Capt. S.S. Scott, in his elaborate report after he had visited all the Indian tribes and made a critical investigation and comparison, used this language: "It must not be supposed in the reference here made to the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole Nations that the idea is sought to be conveyed that all these have proven loyal to their treaty engagements with the Confederate states. Such is by no means the fact. Indeed, it is true only with regard to one of them. The Choctaws alone, of all the Indian nations, have remained perfectly united in their loyalty to this government. It was said to me by more than one influential and reliable Choctaw during my sojourn in their country that not only had no member of that nation ever gone over to the enemy but that no Indian had ever done so in whose veins coursed Choctaw blood." Has as much ever been published of the soldiers of either the Confederate or Federal army? Let it fall to the lot of others to revile the poor Indian with insolence and sneers; but may no Confederate veteran ever stoop beneath the dignity of a Southern soldier to ever so far belittle himself as to scorn a Choctaw Indian. Be it ever remembered that as a Confederate soldier he never betrayed a trust, nor did one of them ever desert our flag.
-from Confederate Veteran Magazine Volume XIII, Number 12, December 1905, pages 560 and 561.
First Mississippi Choctaw Battalion
This battalion of Choctaw Indians, was made up from the surrounding counties of Neshoba, Jasper, Scott, and probably some others having Indians in them, Newton furnishing her quota, about one-third, or one company. This battalion had three companies of about sixty men each; contained one hundred and eighty men. They were camped at Newton and drilled for service. J.W. Price was major of the battalion; B.R. Duck worth was captain of the Newton company; C.H. Doolittle was first lieutenant; Wm. Robinson second lieutenant. This battalion was sent to Camp Moore, near Tangipaho, La., where they were being instructed. They were in close proximity with the enemy, and they were suddenly surrounded and taken prisoners before they had ever seen any service. Most of the officers, who were white men, escaped. They were taken to New Orleans and Mr. Wm. Robinson, who was in command of the Newton company, captured with the Indians, says the men were separated from the officers, and nothing is known of what became of the Indians. Some suppose they were sent to the Choctaw Nation and have never returned.
Mr. C.H. Doolittle, who was the 1st Lieutenant of this company, was first a member of the Newton Rifles, the first company to leave Newton county, was detailed from the 13th Mississippi Regiment, than in Virginia, to come and join the Choctaw Battalion. He states that the day of the capture he and some others had gone to search for some of the Indians who had left it and consequently escaped capture. There was not enough of the Choctaws left to be of any service, and Mr. Doolittle reported to Gen. Johnston at Morton, Miss., who advised him to join some other company, and then he joined the 2d Mississippi Cavalry, become a member of Capt. Blelack's company. Thus he was a member of three companies during the war.
-from History of Newton County, Mississippi, From 1834 to 1894 by A.J. Brown
CHOCTAW MUSEUM OF THE SOUTHERN INDIAN