The sad plight of the Five Civilized Tribes -- the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek (Muscogee), and Seminole -- during America’s Civil War is both fascinating and often overlooked in the literature. From 1861-1865, the Indians fought their own bloody civil war on lands surrounded by the Kansas Territory, Arkansas, and Texas. Clint Crowe’s magisterial Caught in the Maelstrom: The Indian Nations in the Civil War reveals the complexity and the importance of this war within a war, and explains how it affected the surrounding states in the Trans-Mississippi West and the course of the broader war engulfing the country.
The onset of the Civil War exacerbated the divergent politics of the five tribes and resulted in the Choctaw and Chickasaw contributing men for the Confederacy and the Seminoles contributing men for the Union. The Creeks were divided between the Union and the Confederacy, while the internal war split apart the Cherokee nation mostly between those who followed Stand Watie, a brigadier general in the Confederate Army, and John Ross, who threw his majority support behind the Union cause. Throughout, Union and Confederate authorities played on divisions within the tribes to further their own strategic goals by enlisting men, signing treaties, encouraging bloodshed, and even using the hard hand of war to turn a profit.
Crowe’s well-written study is grounded upon a plethora of archival resources, newspapers, diaries, letter collections, and other accounts. Caught in the Maelstrom examines every facet of this complex and fascinating story in a manner sure to please the most demanding reader.
Dr. Clint Crowe is Assistant Professor of History and Political Science at Tulsa Community College. He was Dr. Daniel Sutherland’s student at the University of Arkansas. This book is based on his dissertation. He began this study with a Master’s thesis under Dr. Brad Agnew at Northeastern State University at Tahlequah, OK.