The argument of Clampitt, which is repeated in subsequent chapters, is that the Civil War and Reconstruction period in the history of the Indian Territory were complicated and always evolving. This series of eight essays and the editor's 'Introduction' focuses on the Civil War west of the Mississippi. As well, it focuses on an even more complicated topic: Native Americans' experiences in Indian Territory during the Civil War and Reconstruction era. Too often, historians have ignored or discounted the Civil War's impact beyond the Mississippi River.
Richard B. McCaslin gives a brief rundown of the Civil War's military aspects in Indian Territory. McCaslin essay is detailed and complex, but it is very concentrated. Soldiers and leaders like Stand Watie appeared during the Civil War, but their narrative seldom refers to the larger and more distant events of the conflict.
Clarissa Confer's study of the tough life for those on the home front accompanies McCaslin's military essay. The same unpredictable dynamics that plagued military leaders and soldiers often posed a threat to Indian Territory residents' personal lives. Even though the Confederacy had more authority than the Union, neither side was entirely in command, resulting in several control changes. Those who wished to remain uninvolved found it almost impossible to do so. And for women and families whose husbands, sons, and brothers fled or hid, staying alive and safe was a regular challenge. Although independence came to Indians and slaves after the Civil War, emancipation created as many problems as it solved.
Brad Agnew focuses on the complex ties that bind the Five Tribes, and their complicated path as they bounce between Confederate and Union forces. He emphasizes military operations, but also discusses the effect of these traumatic incidents on domestic relations. Then, we have F. Todd Smith's essay containing useful information on other Indian tribes, including the Wichita, Caddo, Tonkawa, and Penateka Commanches. Conflicts with Texans, conflicts with Civilized Tribes to the east, and drastic Civil War events forced these tribes into Indian Territory's far western reaches. The continued combat readiness of other Indian groups eventually pushed some of these tribes north toward Kansas in hopes of avoiding further confrontations.
Christopher B. Bean pointed out that the Reconstruction strategy is mainly aimed at the southern part of the Union to reform the Indian territory. Indian identity and sovereignty were radically reshaped, but specifically the intention to bind all Indians under one government. Slaves were emancipated, land holdings were reduced, and restricting personal freedoms in virtually all new treaties with Indian tribes. Railroads were also forced into the area by the federal government, which confiscated Indian lands. Bean discusses the troubles that Indian tribes faced during Reconstruction.
Linda Reece devotes most of her essay to comparing the treatment of former slaves by the tribes. The essay is dense and at times difficult to follow due to the various tribal acts surrounding freed slaves, but it contains a wealth of valuable knowledge. Amanada Cobb-Greetham reflects on Cherokee and Creek women's memories found in Oklahoma's New Deal Federal Writers' Project articles. These Indian-Pioneer Papers focused on family stories from the heart, rather than battles. Despite only studying a small number of oral interviews with Indian people, Cobb-Greetham demonstrates how their experiences differed from those of northern and southern states to the east.
Whit Edwards explains how community celebrations, especially historical reenactments, try to tell Native American stories from the Civil War period. However, he acknowledges that the reluctance of Native and African Americans to engage, the proliferation of rotund, well-to-do white reenactors, and the difficulty in dramatizing massive, sweeping conflicts are obstacles that public historians have yet to resolve.
This collection contains a lot of resources on Native American encounters in Indian Territory during the Civil War and Reconstruction years. We read a lot about crucial military wars, contests between the Confederacy and the Union for land possession, and the effects of the unpredictable, rapidly changing circumstances on Indians, slaves, and some whites.