150 Years Ago This Week: The last organized surrender

June 1865

Confederate Brig. Gen. Stand Watie
Confederate Brig. Gen. Stand Watie

On Wednesday, June 21, President Andrew Johnson appointed Lewis E. Parsons as provisional governor of Alabama; this was in keeping with the president’s policy of appointing provisional governors in the former Confederate States before the Radicals in the Congress could interfere with Johnson’s plans to initiate a “soft” Reconstruction program, as originally planned by Lincoln. The next day, the CSS Shenandoah captured two Union whaling vessels in the Bering Sea.

On Friday, June 23, Johnson declared the Federal blockade of the Southern states, in place since April 1861, at an end. On the same day, at Doaksville, near Fort Towson in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), Confederate Brig. Gen. Stand Watie, a full-blooded Cherokee and the only Indian to be appointed as a general officer in the Confederacy, surrendered the First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi to Union Lt. Col. Asa Mathews. The brigade was consisted entirely of troops from the Cherokee, Creek, Muskogee, Seminole, and Osage Indian tribes. As Gen. Watie signed the articles of surrender, with his picturesque long black hair falling to his shoulders, he represented the last sizeable body of organized Confederate troops to lay down their arms.

Gen. Watie (his Cherokee name was Standhope Uwatie or Degataga, meaning “stand firm”) was promoted to brigadier general on May 10, 1864. His troops had fought Union forces gallantly at the Battle of Pea Ridge or Elkhorn Tavern in Arkansas on March 6-7, 1862, and had covered the Confederate retreat when Federal forces overran the battlefield. Gen. Watie and his brigade are reported to have fought in more battles west of the Mississippi River than any other Confederate military unit. They served the Confederacy well in Arkansas, Texas, the Indian Territory, Missouri, and Kansas. At the Second Battle of Cabin Creek in the Indian Territory, fought on Sept. 19, 1864 — the same day as the Third Battle of Winchester, Va. — the Indian Brigade captured a Federal wagon train and more than $1 million worth of wagons, mules, commissary supplies and other materiel. The only other Indian serving as a general officer during the war fought for the Union. Lt. Col. Ely Parker, a full-blooded Seneca, served as military secretary for Lt. Gen. Ulysses Grant; it was he who wrote the final draft of the Confederate terms of surrender at Appomattox. He was promoted to brevet brigadier general the day that Gen. Lee surrendered to Gen. Grant, on April 9, 1865.

In Washington, the trial of the Lincoln conspirators continued in the Washington Arsenal Penitentiary courtroom. While on a trip to Philadelphia, on June 23, Union Rear Admiral Samuel F. DuPont died suddenly. He had been the first to command a flotilla of ironclad vessels, in 1862, and had spent the majority of his wartime service in the South Atlantic blockade squadron off the coast of Charleston, S.C.

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