The area in northeastern Oklahoma where I live is the site of two of the Civil War battles in Indian Territory...and probably the most interesting ones. Obviously there was not a lot of action this far west, but feelings ran just as deep on each side.
We attended the biannual re-enactment of the battle this past weekend...as always an interesting experience. Before I share those pictures, perhaps a bit of background is in order!
For many years the main thoroughfare through the wilds of Indian Territory was known as the Texas Road. From Fort Leavenworth in Kansas this road ran south through unsettled land to Fort Gibson, then on to Fort Washita on the border of the Mexican province of Texas. It was a supply route for the forts and a hopeful tomorrow for intrepid settlers looking for a new life on land of their own. They were willing to brave the Territory that was a refuge for outlaws, rustlers, and various Indian tribes to find a place of their own on the fertile rolling plains west of the Ozarks.
When the Civil War came to Indian Territory, that supply line became known as the Military Road, moving supplies to Fort Gibson from Kansas. Martin's homestead became a strategic location on the trail because of his blacksmith shop and stores, plus places for wagons to camp...close to that ford across Cabin Creek.
Most of the Cherokees joined the Confederate forces, led by one of their own, Stand Watie. Early in the War the Confederates attacked a contingent of soldiers from the Kansas forts but were defeated. Later in the War however, the Confederates, by then needing almost everything from shoes to uniforms to medicines, heard that another wagon train was on its way. This one consisted of over 100 wagons. This time it was a total rout.
A surprise attack created chaos for the Yankees who had not even bothered to unhitch the mules from the wagons that night. The noise of the resulting battle panicked many of the mules who stampeded over the cliffs with their wagons; others wagons were captured by the Rebels. Pursued by the Union forces, some of the Confederates escaped to the west driving the wagons loaded with supplies (valued at over $1.5 million, including a hefty payroll bound for Fort Gibson). The rest of the Southern forces managed to escape southward....across the ford at Cabin Creek.