Saturday, November 17, 2012

1880: From Choctaw Nation to the US Government: A Bill to Adopt the Freedmen

Choctaw Memorial of 1880
Source:  University of Oklahoma:  Western History Collection, Native American Collections
Box 12, Folder 15

On November 2, 1880 a memorial was sent to the US Government from the Choctaw, proposing to adopt the Freedmen of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations as citizens. The language says both Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen but the origins of the record is the Choctaw Nation. The bill was passed and approved on November 2, 1880.

The document in its entirety is presented below.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Choctaw & Chickasaw Freedmen Civil War Soldiers

From the Service Record of Simon Clark, from the Choctaw Nation and who served in the 83rd US Colored Infantry

The Civil War in Indian Territory was complicated. There were many critical battles fought in the Territory, and like other parts of the south, among the issues that prevailed was the issue of black chattel slavery. Close to 10,000 slaves were held in the Territory by 1860, and many of those men who were enslaved enlisted in the Union Army when opportunity presented itself.

It is known that in early 1861, many people from the Creek and Cherokee Nations fled northward into Kansas. By 1862 several black men had joined the Union Army as part of the 1st and 2nd Kansas Colored Infantries. Those regiments would later be re-designated as the 79th and 83rd US Colored Infantries, respectively.  Many of the men in those two regiments were slaves from Indian Territory. Most were known to be either formerly Creek or Cherokee slaves.

However, little is known of the Choctaw & Chickasaw ex-slaves who also enlisted. They were far fewer in number, partly because they were geographically not as close to Kansas where they could have freely enlisted. There were a few who did however, manage to escape to Kansas and to join  the Union Army and join the same regiments as their comrades from the Creek and Cherokee Nations. But there were also a few Choctaw and Chickasaw slaves who had access to nearby Arkansas. When recruitment was at its heaviest in Ft. Smith, a few of those men from Indian Territory also managed to get across the border and enlist. They  joined the 11th US Colored or the 54th US Colored from Arkansas.

A friend and colleague Terry Ligon, host of the Black and Red Journal blog recently began posting a few names of Choctaw and Chickasaw black men, who were Civil War soldiers several days ago. He started sharing these names in the Facebook group Oklahoma/Indian Territory Reader. Now I have seen a few Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen who were Union soldiers, but I decided to take a closer look to see if there were additional names that could be found. Although they were scarce they were still there and I am glad to share a few that have been found from the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nation.

54th US Colored Infantry

Boynton Colbert of the 54th US Colored, was later known as Bynum Colbert, 
who also served as a US Deputy Marshal under Judge Isaac C. Parker.
Source: NARA M2000. Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers who served with the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT): Infantry Organizations, 47th through 55th.

79th US Colored Infantry

Isaac Alexander, from the Chickasaw Nation
Source: (for all images) Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging to the 56th through 138th infantry units, United States Colored Troops (USCT), 1864-1866.

 83rd  US Colored Infantry

Simon Clark, Choctaw Nation

Phillip Fulsom, Choctaw Nation

Austin Geary, Choctaw Nation

Ceasar Hall, Skullyville, Choctaw Nation

William Hall, Skullyville, Choctaw Nation

Aaron Newberry, Choctaw Nation

Richmond LeFleur, Choctaw Nation

Duncan Walker Choctaw Nation

(As more men from these two nations are identified, their names will also be shared.)