Tag: Stand Watie

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH STAND WATIE AND A GIVEAWAY–BY CHERYL PIERSON

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I am fascinated by Cherokee leader Stand Watie. I’ve used him as a character in many of my stories. I think the reason I can’t seem to get enough of him is because of his remarkable life and accomplishments. Here’s a little bit about Stand Watie and what he did–and then I’ll tell you about my stories he appears in.

 

 

 

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Only two Native Americans on either side of the States’ War rose to the rank of brigadier general.  Standhope Watie (Uwatie), fighting for the Confederacy, was one of those two.  Yet, what makes this accomplishment so incredible is the fact that while he was fighting for the Confederate States of America, he was also fighting other Cherokee tribal leaders who held opposing political views and very different visions for the Cherokee nation.

Stand Watie commanded the Confederate Indian Cavalry of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi.  While the cavalry unit was comprised mainly of Cherokee, some Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole tribal members also served.

Born in Oothcaloga in the Cherokee Nation, State of Georgia, Uwatie (or Oowatie) was also known as Isaac.  He was educated in a Moravian mission school.  In his early adulthood, he occasionally wrote articles for the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper.  The State of Georgia confiscated Cherokee lands in 1832 when gold was discovered, including the thriving plantation owned by Stand’s father and mother.  Stand and his brothers, part of the powerful Ridge-Watie-Boudinot faction of the WA040Cherokee council, stood in favor of the Cherokee Removal. Their signing of the Treaty of New Echota facilitated the removal of the Cherokee people to Indian Territory—what is now Oklahoma.

Another faction of Cherokees following John Ross refused to ratify the treaty signing.  This segment was known as The Anti-Removal National Party.  Members of this group targeted Stand Watie and his brother, Elias Boudinot, along with their uncle, Major Ridge, and cousin, John Ridge for assassination.  Stand was the only one who survived the assassination attempt.  Although Watie’s family had left Georgia before the forcible removal of all Cherokees in 1838, another brother, Thomas, was murdered by Ross’s men in 1845.

In October, 1861, Watie was commissioned as colonel in the First Mounted Cherokee Rifles. Besides fighting Federal troops in the States’ War, his men also fought opposing factions of Cherokee, as well as Seminole and Creek (Muscogee) warriors who supported the Union.

In 1862, Stand Watie was elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, through dissension continued among John Ross’s supporters.

On June 15, 1864, Watie’s troops captured the Federal steamboat J. R. Williams on the Arkansas River off the banks of stand_watie_memorial_editedPleasant Bluff near Tamaha, Indian Territory.  The next morning, Colonel John Ritchie’s men, who were stationed at the mouth of the Illinois River near where the two rivers met, engaged Watie’s men as they attempted to confiscate the cargo.  The river was rising, and they fought to a standoff.  When Watie learned of the advance of Union troops from Fort Smith, Arkansas, (within about 40 miles), he burned the ship and much of the remaining cargo, then sank it.

Watie surrendered a year later in June of 1865, the last Confederate general to lay down his arms.

In my debut novel, Fire Eyes, I weave this bit of history into my plot.  The villain, Andrew Fallon, and his gang have come upon the site where the J.R. Williams was sunk four years earlier.  Fallon speculates there could have been gold aboard, and sets his men to dive for it.  As mercurial as his temper is, none of them dare question his order.  Here’s what happens:

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FROM FIRE EYES:

“Damn! I know where we are.” Dobie Perrin said.

Andrew Fallon turned in the saddle, glaring at Perrin, the afternoon sun dappling them through the leaves of the thick canopy of trees. “So do I, you idiot! So do we all, now.”

The secluded cemetery sat on a bluff, overlooking the Arkansas River. They had been wandering for two days, ever since retracing their steps to the first small creek they’d come to. The one Fallon felt sure would give them their bearings. Now, at last, he recognized where they were. He’d figured it out ten miles back.

“Tamaha,” Denver Rutledge muttered. “I was raised up over yonder.” He inclined his head toward the riverbank. “Over in Vian.”

“Then why didn’t you know where we were?” Fallon’s anger surged. “I am surrounded by idiots!”

“I shore ’nuff shoulda known, General,” Rutledge said apologetically. “Right yonder’s where we sunk the J.R. Williams. Rebs, I mean. Stand Watie’s bunch.”

Fallon jerked his head toward the other man. “Right where, soldier?”

Rutledge kneed his horse, coming abreast of Fallon. “Why, right yonder, General. It was in June of ’64. She was a Union ship, the Williams was.”

“What was she carrying?”

Rutledge shrugged. “Don’t rightly know. Supplies, maybe.”

“Payroll? Gold?” Fallon fingered his curling moustache. “Could be anything, eh, Rutledge? But the Yankees were known to cache their gold profits in casks. Maybe that’s what the J.R. Williams was carrying. Casks that weren’t really supplies, but were filled with gold.”

“Could be, I ‘spect.” Rutledge’s voice was hesitant.

Fallon nodded toward the river. “I think maybe we’ll try to find out.”

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prp-meant-to-be-1-webThe next story Chief Watie was included in was my time-travel western novella, MEANT TO BE.  Here’s a little bit about this Civil War story:

Robin Mallory is facing another Christmas all alone when she decides to surprise her aunt and uncle several hours away. A flat tire leaves her stranded near a desolate section of interstate. With a snowstorm on the way, Robin has no choice but to walk, hoping to find shelter before the storm hits full force. But the road she chooses leads her back in time, to a battleground she’s only read about in history books.

Confederate Jake Devlin, an officer in Stand Watie’s Cherokee forces, is shocked when the spy he captures turns out to be a girl. She’s dressed oddly, but her speech and the ideas she has are even stranger than her clothing. Where did she come from, and what is he going to do with her? Will he be able to hold on to his heart? Is it possible for a love this strong to span centuries? It is, if it was MEANT TO BE…

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My most recent story that Stand Watie appears in is my first venture into “alternate history” in the alternate history anthology, TALES FROM THE OTHERVERSE released through Rough Edges Press. If you aren’t familiar with alternate history, it’s fascinating to read and to write–because you can change history to suit the story you want to tell. My novella is called MRS. LINCOLN’S DINNER PARTY–a very different story about how the Civil War ended, thanks to Varina Davis, Mary Lincoln, and of all people, Stand Watie. Hmmm…let’s just see what’s going on at this odd dinner party of Mrs. Lincoln’s, shall we?

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“If you’ll excuse me, sir,” Mary said, “I must return to the receiving line. You’ve had a long journey—if you’d like a moment to freshen up, Mr. Pennington can show you to your quarters—” She nodded at the guard standing behind the general.

“Yes, please. I’d like to know where I need to place my bag,” the general said.

Mary glared at Mr. Pennington, who squirmed uncomfortably.

“Thought maybe there was a mistake, Mrs. Lincoln—”

Mr. Pennington. There is no mistake. And I will not tolerate rudeness. Please, show General Watie to his quarters—and you carry his bag.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Pennington answered. “This way, sir.”

General Watie gave Mary a rare smile. “Thank you. I will see you at dinner, Mrs. Lincoln.”

Mary felt Abe’s eyes boring into her as she moved across the floor, back into her place in line.

“I’m…surprised at you, Mary.”

Mary felt the hot flush creep up her neck, into her cheeks.

“I’m wondering, what other—guests—you may have invited without my knowledge.”

Oh, how she did wish he’d keep his voice down! She didn’t want the children to see the discord between them—especially here in public, where it was so easy for others to read between the lines, pick up on any issues that were best kept private. As Robert had said earlier, they could all find themselves on the front page of the papers along with unflattering descriptions and comments if they weren’t careful.

She didn’t answer Abe’s prodding, becoming suddenly resentful of being placed in such a predicament. She wouldn’t have had to resort to this if Abe and the others who had started this war had been more reasonable.

And though, in her heart, she believed fathers loved their children dearly…she couldn’t yet reconcile how fathers could call for sons to go to war. War! Where the children mothers had fought so hard to keep safe and whole all their childhood years could—in one moment—be maimed, or left to die a horrific death at the hands of their enemy…The enemy—people who had, just two scant years earlier, been their neighbors, their friends—even their own families!

She couldn’t sit by any longer and do nothing. Robert would be heading off to West Point in the fall…then Eddie and Willie would follow.

She was not going to lose her precious boys to this confounded idiocy.

“My God,” Abe swore, his tone calling her back to the present. “Is that—”

“Varina Davis. Yes. It is.” Mary turned to look up at her husband. “It looks as if Jefferson declined the invitation. Would you care to accompany me to greet her, or—”

“Yes, I’ll come,” he all but growled. “Mary, we have some talking to do.”

But Mary was already on her way across the floor to greet Varina Davis, Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s wife.

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I want to thank everyone for joining me today! Please leave a comment and you will be entered in my drawing for a copy (DIGITAL OR PRINT–YOUR CHOICE!) of FIRE EYES and I’m also giving away a copy of MEANT TO BE!

A TRUE LOVE STORY by CHERYL PIERSON

This love story starts many years before the lovers ever met. It begins with something that happened when John Rollin Ridge was an eleven-year-old boy, and witnessed his father’s bloody murder.

John Rollin Ridge, called Cheesquatalawny, or “Yellow Bird,” by his fellow Cherokee tribesmen, was the son of John Ridge, and the grandson of a prominent Cherokee leader, Major John Ridge. Major Ridge was one of the most powerful and wealthy members of the eastern Cherokee tribes in the early 1800s. By the time John Rollin Ridge was born in 1827, the State of Georgia had discovered gold on Cherokee lands and wanted them relocated. Cherokee leaders, at first, were opposed to signing treaties with the U.S. Government, refusing to go.

But the State of Georgia confiscated Cherokee lands in 1832, including the homes and thriving plantation owned by some members of the tribe, including another prominent family, the Waties. Major Ridge and his son John opposed the removal, but because of the inevitability of the outcome of the situation, they and some of the other leaders reversed their stance on negotiating with the federal government. Major Ridge, and John Ridge, along with Stand Watie and his brothers, formed the powerful Ridge-Watie-Boudinot faction of the Cherokee council, standing in favor of the Cherokee Removal. Their signing of the Treaty of New Echota sold Cherokee lands and facilitated the removal of the Cherokee people to Indian Territory—what is now Oklahoma—an act considered treasonous by many.

Another faction of Cherokees following John Ross refused to ratify the treaty signing.  This segment was known as The Anti-Removal National Party. The word was out—traitors were to be executed.

Blood Law (also called blood revenge) is the practice in traditional customary Native American law where responsibility for seeing that homicide is punished falls on the clan of the victim. The responsibility for revenge fell to a close family member (usually the closest male relative). In contrast to the Western notion of justice, blood law was based on harmony and balance. It was believed that the soul/ghost of the victim would be forced to wander the earth, not allowed to go to the afterlife, unless harmony was restored. The death of the killer (or member of the killer”s clan) restored the balance.  READ MORE HERE:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Law

Members of this group targeted Stand Watie and his brother, Elias Boudinot, along with their uncle, Major Ridge for assassination.  On the morning of June 2, 1839, John’s father, John Ridge, was dragged from his bed by some of the tribesmen of The Anti-Removal National Party and murdered as his wife and children, including young John, looked on. This event would color John’s life until the end.

Mrs. Ridge took her family to northwestern Arkansas. Young John’s thirst for vengeance was tempered only by a young woman he met and fell in love with, Elizabeth Wilson.

 

They first met when John was studying Latin and Greek with a local missionary. Elizabeth worked for the missionary. John wrote to his cousin, “There is a prettily shapely girl of about 16 or 17 years, who is very friendly and gives me a quantity of enjoyment in her company, whenever I get tired of dusty pages of legal technicalities.”

 

Elizabeth was part Native American, and John was half Cherokee. To her, he was the handsomest man she’d ever seen, and she believed him to be a talented writer—one of the most intelligent men in the country. John was not only entranced by Elizabeth’s beauty, but the sweet honesty and goodness of her character, and her brilliance. They married in May, 1847, and though they were happy, their love couldn’t overcome the bloody images that John tried to forget, the tragedy that consumed him.

As an adult, he often dreamt of the morning of his father’s murder, awakening from sleep screaming.  Elizabeth was at his side, calming him. She promised to help him fulfill his desire for revenge any way she could.

“There is a deep seated principle of revenge in me which will never be satisfied, until it reaches its object,” he told her.

Eventually, they traveled to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) where they joined forces with other allies of the Ridge faction, all of them eager to track down and punish those responsible for the deaths of the Major Ridge, and members of Stand Watie’s family. In the end, thirty-two of the thirty-six men who had been responsible for the murders were found and killed.

John squared off against one of the four remaining assassins, Judge David Kell. When Kell advanced on John, John shot him, claiming it was done in self-defense. But John had no faith in getting a fair trial (Cherokee court) and he and Elizabeth ran to Missouri, settling in Springfield.

 

John became a freelance writer, selling articles to various newspapers to supplement his salary in the county clerk’s office.  He and Elizabeth now had a baby girl, Alice.

When news of the discovery of gold in California hit Springfield, John left his clerk’s position and joined a group of men heading west to seek their fortunes. He promised Elizabeth that he would send for her as soon as he could. During the time he was gone, he had no luck mining, although he loved the West. In 1853, he left mining in search of other work, accepting a clerk position in Yuba, California.

During this time he wrote for a New Orleans newspaper under the name “Yellow Bird.” About this time, he also contributed poetry and drawings to The Pioneer, a San Francisco  publication.

But in 1853, something else happened to John. He wrote a letter to his mother, describing an illness he’d come down with, “billious fever,” which caused “ulceration of the bowels.” He was alone, with no one to care for him, and was, in fact, dying. Leaving Alice in the care of John’s mother, Elizabeth headed west in the company of a family going to California.

John was near death when Elizabeth arrived, but through her constant care, she got him through it and back

on his feet. “You bless me with your love, dear Lizzie,” he told her.

Alice Ridge as a young woman

Elizabeth returned for their daughter, and once again traveled to California. John had, at her encouragement, sold several sonnets he’d written about the beauty of California. He seemed less angry, and gave credit for his improved temperament to his writing endeavors.

John wrote a book about the notorious outlaw, Joaquin Murieta, a crowning literary achievement. He never received any royalties, since his publisher went bankrupt, but because the book had been so popular, he was able to rise to full time editing jobs for such newspapers as the Marysville Democrat, the Grass Valley Union, and the Sacramento Bee.

After the Civil War, Ridge was invited by the federal government to head the Southern Cherokee delegation in postwar treaty proceedings. Despite his best efforts, the Cherokee region was not admitted as a state to the Union. In December 1866, he returned to his home in Grass Valley, California, where he and Elizabeth had made their home for more than fifteen years. Their daughter, Alice, married.

John Rollin Ridge and daughter Alice

The Ridges lived an idyllic life. But John’s health failed him at the age of thirty-nine. He became afflicted with “softening of the brain,” a disease that took its toll quickly through the spring and summer of 1867.John Rollin Ridge, Yellow Bird, died on October 5, 1867, leaving behind a collection of fine articles, sketches and poetry. In 1868, Elizabeth published an anthology of his poetry.

Elizabeth died in 1905 and was buried beside her husband in Grass Valley.

 

OF HER I LOVE

I READ but a moment her beautiful eyes,
I glanced at the charm of her snowy-white hand
I caught but the glimpse of her cheek”s blushing dyes
More sweet than the fruits of a tropical land;

 

I marked but an instant her coral-hued lips,
And the row of sweet pearls that glimmered between–
Those lips, like the roses the humming bird sips
On his bright wing of rainbows, when summer is green.

 

I timidly gazed on a bosom more white
Than the breast of the swan, more soft than its down–
To rest on whose pillows were greater delight
Than all else of rapture that heaven may own.

 

I gazed but a second on these, and on all
That make up the sum of her angel-like form,
And ere I could think I was bound in her thrall,
And peace fled my breast, as the birds flee a storm!

 

I am bound in love”s pain, and may never be free,
Till the bond is dissolved in her own melting kiss:
Till her loveliness, like the embrace of a sea,
Enclasps me, and hides me in the depths of its bliss.

 

John Rollin Ridge

John”s tombstone

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