Coffin Scores the Military

William G. Coffin, superintendent of Southern Indians, in a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, dated August 31, 1863, says:

 “The contrariness and interference manifested by the military authorities in the Indian country towards those who are having charge of the Indians within the Cherokee Nation is so annoying and so embarrassing that it has become unpleasant, difficult and almost impossible for them to attend to the duties of their official capacities with success. If the military would only make it their business to rid the Indian Territory of rebels, instead of intermeddling with the affairs of the Interior department, or those connected with or acting for the same, the refugee Indians in Kansas might have long since been enabled to return to their homes. As early as in the fall of 1862 the military authorities took forcible possession of the Cherokee refugee Indians, then at Camp Dry Wood (near Fort Scott, Kan.) where I had made ample provision to feed and shelter them. They ran them off to Neosho, Mo., a district which was so thickly infested with rebels that it was dangerous for any loyal person or Union man to go outside of the town limits even a single mile, instead of wooing them (as the plea was) to their own country. For what purpose this was done I have never been able to ascertain. Early last spring, by the earnest recommendation of Colonel Phillips, I forwarded a supply of agricultural implements, seeds of various kinds, bread-stuffs, together with as much transportation as I was able to procure, to Neosho, for the purpose of removing these Indians to their homes in the Cherokee Nation, and to enable them, after their arrival there, to raise their own subsistence for the present year.

This movement as shown by previous reports sent to you, proved to be an entire failure, on account of the inability of the military authorities to furnish the promised protection to these Indians in the Cherokee Nation. Ever since that time I have been furnishing them with subsistence as regularly as I possibly could, considering the limited means at my command, the surrounding difficulties and dangers in transporting supplies over a distance of nearly three hundred miles, and the disappointments, annoyances and interference’s shown on the part of the military authorities of the Indian country. Indeed, cases have occurred where the latter have forcibly taken possession of such supplies as I sent to the Cherokee Nation for the use of the destitute Indians and distributed the same themselves, in the presence of Indian agents who were perfectly competent to attend to their own business.”

By September, 1862, 1,900 refugee Cherokee were camped about twelve miles south of Fort Scott, all of whom had been compelled to abandon their homes because of the activity of the Confederate soldiers and the inactivity of the Union forces.

Source: Benedict, John D. Muskogee and northeastern Oklahoma, including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. 3 v. illus., ports., facsims. 28 cm. Chicago, S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.

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