May 30, 2008

General Stand Watie's Confederate Indians

In this uncommon book, author Frank Cunnibgham tells the tale of Stand Watie, the only American Indian to attain the rank of general in the Confederate Army. He was born in 1806 near present-day Rome, Ga. and later learned to speak English at a mission school. In 1835, Watie and other Cherokees signed a treaty agreeing to the removal of the Cherokee to Oklahoma. This act split the tribe into two factions which resulted in Watie becoming the leader of the minority, "mixed blood," or treaty faction.

Once civil war came, the Cherokees wished to remain neutral, but ultimately divided along the same lines as the treaty decades before. Watie and his minority faction pledged allegiance to the Confederacy with the majority of the tribe declaring for the Union. According to this online biography of Watie, he aligned himself with the South "because he feared the consequences of Lincoln's election and the Republican Party's free soil promises to open the west and the Indian Territory to white settlement. The Union abandoned all Indian Territory military posts in the spring of 1861, violating treaty pledges and making the area vulnerable to Confederate attack." Watie was an aristocratic, prosperous slave-owning planter that shared many values of the Old South. When Albert Pike and Douglas Cooper recruited Indian soldiers for the Confederacy in 1861, Watie agreed to form a Cherokee cavalry unit to fight on the western front. He organized the First Cherokee Rifles on July 29, 1861, and was commissioned a colonel. In 1864, after battling at Wilson's Creek and Pea Ridge, he became brigadier general. Watie was purportedly the last Confederate general to lay down his arms in surrender, two months after Appomattox. Watie died in 1871 at his home in Oklahoma.

A brief 1959 review in the Mississippi Valley Historical Review noted that the book was "written for popular consumption" but was otherwise uncritical. Nevins described the book similarly, painting it as "a popular, undocumented but interesting story of the use of Indians by the Confederates in the Southwest."

The book itself was first published by the Naylor Company of San Antonio, Texas in 1959. It was bound in blue cloth with black print on cover and spine, with scenes of the Civil War battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas on the endpapers. First edition copies are not difficult to come by though with any book of this age, condition and the presence of a dust jacket are key variables. Pictured copy offered here. In fact, it appears that a good number of copies available are part of a signed edition though the number of copies so offered is unknown. One such copy even offers an inscription from the author which reads, "To General Braxton Bragg Chapter, UDC .Though the cause was lost, the dream was bold -- and honor's flag still flies." Not very PC by today's standards.

The book was reissued by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1998 and is still in print. In a new foreword, Brad Agnew discusses Watie's role in the Civil War and his reception by later historians.


dw said...

It's interesting that so many 1st editions from 1959 can still be had. I wonder what kind of a print run it had.

Does Cunningham's book put Watie at Wilson's Creek? I think that claim has been pretty much discredited by Piston, and others.

Anonymous said...

Hello Paul

I've been enjoying your blog since I've found it. I've posted you a couple times and I'm hoping you don't mind a post regarding another book. Wanted to get your opinion.

I've been collecting for over 20 years and still have problems once in a while identifying first edition, first printings. I try to only collect these editions if possible.

I recently was offered:

Which was described as a 1st edition. I probably should have asked a few more questions.

On the copyright page of the copy I purchased it has:
Printing Number
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
First Edition

Based on this, I do think it is the first edition, but not sure if first printing?

I believe U.T. Press recently did a reprint. I guess my bottom line question is do you think this is a 1st/1st?
Do you have a copy of the book?

It seems a little difficult to find?

as a sidenote, I do believe Savas is planning on releasing more Civil War titles in near future. I've found all their books very well done.

Best Regards
Don Hallstrom

Paul Taylor said...

Don, Thanks for writing and I certainly don't mind posts! Unfortunately, I'd say you have a 1st edition, second printing. My copy, though signed and inscribed, also reads like yours. Basically, what we own are reprints as far as collectors are concerned. I have a number of other Savas titles and all show the #1 in the printing line.

That's the key. Even if it states "first edition" on the copyright page, always make sure the #1 is present in the printing row IF the publisher displays it.


Anonymous said...

Hello Paul

Thanks for your opinion on this question. I've contacted seller. I should know better that if in doubt ask the question about the number line.

What is interesting to me know, is why are the 1st printings so rare? Probably a very small number printed? This makes the book that more desirable.

Don Hallstrom