On this day in 1806, in Rome, Georgia one of the most remarkable figures of the American Civil War was born. On this date in history, the future Confederate General Stand Watie was born near Rome, Georgia. He was a truly remarkable figure because he was a Cherokee Indian who had survived the infamous ‘trail of tears’ in the 1830s. Despite this, he went on to become a general in the Southern Army and the only native American to achieve such a high rank on either side in the war.
Watie, came from a powerful family who played an important role in the Cherokee nation. In the 1830s the tribe came under a lot of pressure from white settlers. Watie although young was to play a prominent role in the fate of his tribe. He was a pragmatist and he believed that the tribe should move to the west as this might be the only way to preserve their independence and their culture. He was one of those Cherokees who signed the treaty in 1835, which resulted in the Cherokee ceding lands in Georgia in exchange for lands in Indian territory.
However, the journey to their new homeland was to be terrible. During the journey, many Indians were to die of hunger, cold or disease and as a result, the journey became known as the trail of tears. It is estimated that one-quarter of the tribe died on this journey. The Indians blamed those who signed the treaty and they were later all murdered except for Watie. The southerners had treated the tribe badly but the Indians blamed the Federal government for the tragedy that was the trail of tears. At the start of the Civil War, the tribe sided with the southerners. Watie was named a colonel and he personally raised a regiment of Cherokee and part Cherokee soldiers. This regiment was to distinguish themselves greatly. Watie’s first battle was against the pro-Union Creek Indians. The regiment later played a part in the battle of Pea Ridge in 1862 (see image above). This was a Confederate defeat but Watie and his men fought bravely that day. After this battle he defended his home territory as the Cherokee became bitterly divided at this time. Some even pledged loyalty to the Union cause and Watie was forced to fight against his own people. He spent the rest of the war involved in a guerrilla war with those loyal to the Unionist Cherokee John Ross. Despite this Watie was able to capture a Yankee supply train and a steamboat. After the end of the war he became a tobacco. Watie died in 1871 a hugely respected figure.