Judge J. M. Keys’ Tribute to Stand Watie and His Men Extract from Life of General Watie

By Mrs. Mabel W. Anderson

“Looking backward down the corridor of time through the dim vista of more than half a century of departed years I see again the warlike spirit of the southern Cherokee, from the years of 1861 to 1865. I hear again the blast of Dutch Billy’s bugle. I see the muster, the march and the encounter. I see the brave and fearless Gen. Stand Watie, as colonel of the famous first Cherokee cavalry as he directs and leads his victorious charge at Pea Ridge, Ark. I see Col. William Penn Adair with his long flowing black hair on the bloody field of Wilson Creek, Mo. I also see that other gallant soldier and brilliant statesman Elias C. Boudinot, on this same field with his long black hair floating on the breeze as we charged to victory. I see Col. James M. Bell, as he bravely led his men to victory at Mazzard Prairie, Ark. I see Col. Thomas Fox Taylor with his dark waving plume as he selects his own kith and kin to check the Federal advance at the Ford of Spavinaw, near General Watie ‘s mill. I see that fearless soldier, Col. Robert C. Parks, as he defeats a Federal force with artillery, on Greenleaf Creek near Braggs; a deep ravine alone, saved the Federal battery from the onward and victorious rush of Parks and his men. I see Col. O. H. P. Brewer, then a captain, as he drove the Federal picket into the fortifications of Old Fort Gibson, and rounded up the vast herd of horses and mules,, and drove them south of the Arkansaw River. I see Major General Bryan as he charged the Federals at Short Creek, Mo., and drove them into the timber. I see Col. C. N. Vann as he charged the Negroes at Negro Creek almost annihilating them. I see Maj. John S. Vann, at Cabin Creek, that brave and aggressive soldier. I see that valiant young soldier Maj. Moses Frye, ever ready to answer to the call of duty. I see Maj. Joseph L. Thompson in many battles and skirmishes, always displaying the highest qualities of a soldier. I see that daring soldier, Maj. R. W. Lindsey, at the battle of Honey Springs take his battery across Elk Creek Bridge amid the storm of shot and shell and roar and din of the conflict. I see Major Howland hold the bridge across Elk Creek at Honey Springs against superior numbers until the Federals were about to envelope him and his command. I see Maj. Joseph A. Scales as he leads the Confederate advance above the Webber Falls, that resulted in the capture of a train. I see Capts. C. V. Rogers and J. G. Schrimsher as they pilot the victorious forces of McIntosh and Watie at Hominy Creek. I see hundreds of brave men, Indians and whites, too numerous to mention in this brief sketch, who followed the flag and leadership of the matchless Gen. Stand Watie. Less than one hundred of General Watie ‘s brigade have withstood the ravages of time. Feeble, aged and gray they will soon be gone to live only in song and story. They are waiting for the Master’s call to cross the dark mysterious river separating life from death, to be with Lee and Jackson, Price and McCulloch, Cooper and our own beloved Stand Watie.”

The Fort Gibson National Cemetery

One of the interesting historic spots of this section of the country is the National Cemetery located about two miles east of Fort Gibson. It was established by the Federal government many years prior to the Civil war as a last resting place of soldiers in the service of the Government. It consists of about five acres of land occupying a gently sloping ridge and is enclosed in a solid stone wall. The Stars and Stripes are kept floating at the top of a staff in the center of the cemetery. An overseer, usually a veteran of the Civil war, is in charge of the grounds, ready at any time to point out to visitors the graves of noted personages. A few old cannon, relics of war times, are scattered through the grounds. On one stone slab is. engraved the name of “John P. Decatur, died November 12, 1832.” Decatur was a brother of Commodore Decatur, the noted naval commander who figured so prominently in the War of 1812 with England.

Another slab contains this inscription : “Flora, wife of Daniel Rucker, died at Fort Gibson, June 19, 1845, aged 21 years.” General Rucker was commander of the post at Fort Gibson, and during the Civil war was appointed quartermaster general. Mrs. Rucker, of Cherokee descent, was related to the family of Chief William P. Ross.

Another slab of stone contains the modest inscription: “Maj. J. H. Elliott, U. S. A.” Major Elliott belonged to General Custer’s famous Seventh Cavalry Regiment and met his death in 1867 in a battle in the Comanche country.

Among the many noted Indians buried here is: “Billy Bowlegs.” He was a noted Indian fighter and it is claimed that he was associated with Chief Black Hawk in some of his raids. Bowlegs was one of the Seminole chiefs and was with the unfortunate refugees who went to Kansas during the early days of the Civil war. About twenty-five hundred soldiers are buried here.

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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