TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Guide to the Stand Watie Letters, 1838-1865
Stand Watie (1806-1871) was born to an influential family near New Echota in the Cherokee Nation (near present day Calhoun, Georgia). His father, a full-blooded Cherokee, changed his name from Oo-wa-tie to David Watie after being baptized by the Moravian Church. He eventually became a wealthy slave-owning planter. His mother was a half-blood Cherokee named Susanna Reese. Stand Watie was originally named Degadoga, which means, “He stands”. After being baptized, his named was changed to Isaac S. Watie, which he later combined with his Cherokee name to Stand Watie. Stand had an older brother named Galagina “Buck” Watie, which he later changed to Elias Boudinot. Watie had two other relatives: the Ridge, later known as Major Ridge, and John Ridge. Together, the Watie brothers, Major Ridge, and John Ridge formed the Ridge-Watie-Boudinot faction within the Cherokee Nation.
Stand Watie was educated at the Moravian Mission School of Spring Place, Georgia, and occasionally helped write for his brother’s Cherokee Phoenix newspaper. When the discovery of gold led to white settlers encroaching on Cherokee lands, Watie and his brother signed the Treaty of New Echota and moved with the other supporters to Oklahoma. The U.S. government in a journey known as the “Trail of Tears” forcibly removed those who remained on their tribal lands.
By signing the Treaty of New Echota, the Ridge-Watie-Boudinot faction found itself in violation of Cherokee blood law and in forfeit of their lives. By June 1839, Elias Boudinot, Major Ridge, and John Ridge had all been assassinated. These deaths thrust Watie to the forefront of Cherokee politics and earned the lifelong enmity of Cherokee Chief John Ross.
When the Civil War began, Watie, now a wealthy slave-owner joined the Confederate Army as a colonel and raised a regiment of Cherokee volunteers. Ross reluctantly agreed to the Cherokee-Confederate alliance then fled to Washington, D.C., at the first opportunity. Watie eventually rose to the rank of Brigadier General and was the last Confederate general to surrender at the end of the war.
After the war, the U. S. officially recognized Ross as the Principle Chief, an act that threatened to split the Cherokee Nation. Ross’s death, however, led to the election of Lewis Downing, a full-blooded Cherokee who managed to bring the Union Cherokees and Confederate Cherokees together. Watie lived in exile in the Choctaw Nation until 1867 when he returned to Honey Creek, Oklahoma, to rebuild his home. He died on September 9, 1871 and was buried in the Ridge Cemetery, later renamed Polson’s Cemetery.
Franks, Kenny A., “Watie, Stand (1806-1871),” Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/W/WA040.html (accessed march 28, 2007).
Letters of Stand Watie, 1838-1865, relate to conditions in the Cherokee Nation and to military affairs before and during the U.S. Civil War.
This collection is open for research use.
Stand Watie Letters, 1838-1865, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.