Battle at Cabin Creek Oklahoma
Cabin Creek is a small river in the northeastern part of Oklahoma. Today, the battlefield site is out in the middle of nowhere. In 1863, it was a prominent crossing along the very busy, Military Road, coming from Kansas into the Indian territory, which today is Oklahoma. Oklahoma would not become a state until 1907. The Five Civilized Tribes that made up a significant portion of the population did not want the US government to have anything to do with the management of their land. The discovery of oil meant that the US was going to take over the territory at some point. We will discuss more about this period in the last post of this series.
While Native American’s fought on both sides of the Civil War, most of the tribes in Oklahoma had sided with the Confederacy. This could be because when the Civil War began in 1861, more than 8,000 blacks were enslaved in Oklahoma, most of these slaves were owned by Native Americans. It could also be the lack of “affection” for the US government by the Native American tribes.
The previously mentioned, Military Road stretched from Leavenworth, Kansas, to Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. Cabin Creek was a significant bottleneck on the road due to the need to forge the river. The Union Army at Fort Scott has sent a supply train to Fort Gibson, the supply train was escorted by the Third Indian Home Guard, the First Kansas Colored Infantry and white soldiers from Kansas, Colorado, and Wisconsin. Union leadership had learned that Confederate Cherokee Indian Colonel Stand Watie, planned to attack the train near the Cabin Creek Crossing.
Stand Watie, had positioned his troops on the south side of river, on July 1, 1863. Upon their arrival, the Union sent a brigade of Native Americans across the flooded river to attack the Confederate army. The attack failed and thy retreated back to the north side of the river. The next day the water had receded, and the Union sent Native American and Colored troops to attack the Confederate position, while they pounded the Confederate position with artillery. This attack was successful, and the Union won the short battle and were able to take the supplies down to Fort Gibson.
This battle would be the first time in the war where Native American, Colored, and white troops would fight together. During the battle the Union Army lost 23 men, while the Confederates lost 65. The delivery of the supplies to Fort Gibson allowed the Union Army to remain in control of the Indian Territory at that point in the war.
The second battle of Cabin Creek was much the same situation. Stand Watie, now a respected General in the Confederate Army planned to attack a massive supply train, again headed to Fort Gibson. These supplies were meant to be used to manage the Native American tribes who now surrounded Fort Gibson and were dependent on supplies provided by the fort to survive.
This time, Stand Watie would get his revenge and win the battle taking all the supplies. Stand Watie had planned this attack and got it approved by Confederate leadership. He was to be supported by reinforcements coming from Texas. Some of the Texas commanders would not fight under Stand Watie and thus he decided to only command the Native American troops of around 800 men. He allowed the Texans, 1200 strong, to fight under one of their own generals. In reality, Stand Watie still masterminded the operation.
The Confederates attacked the supply train, protected by only about 400 men, now camped on the south side of the river at 1 am on the night of September 19, 1864. With the Texans flanking Stand Watie’s position the Confederates easily took the train and the supplies it carried. The haul included roughly $1 million worth of mules, wagons, and other supplies. Stand Watie and his men were commended by Confederate leadership for their valor on the day, but in the end the battle had little impact on the direction of the war, which the Confederates were losing.
The site a bit tricky to find, is not attended, and is free. There are many markers to show where each side was positioned during the two battles. Note the size of the creek in the images that accompany this post and think about getting over 100 wagons across it.
Next up, the Battle of Honey Springs, near Checotah, Oklahoma.