Baptiste Peoria acting as a “Special Agent” of the US Government
The Request / Appointment
Commissioner of Indian Affairs to BAPTISTE PEORIA
LEAVENWORTH, Kansas, February 10, 1862.
SIR: You are hereby appointed an agent of the government of the United States to visit such tribes in the Indian Territory, west of Missouri and Arkansas, as you can safely reach, for the purpose of ascertaining the condition of said tribes, and especially the extent of their loyalty or disloyalty to the government of the United States.
You are authorized to assure the Indians you may visit of the friendly disposition towards them of the people and the government of the United States; that they are disposed to abide by and carry out all the treaty stipulations entered into with them, and that nothing has prevented this from being done during the past year, as heretofore, except the hostile attitude adopted by the people on their eastern and southern borders, united with a portion of their own tribes.
You may also say to such of them as have been induced by evil counsel to take up amis against their Great Father, the President, and his people, that although much aggrieved at the wickedness and ingratitude of their course, yet that, in consideration of the circumstances by which they have been surrounded, their Great Father is disposed to pardon their transgressions if they will now lay down their arms and return to their allegiance to that government which has so long exercised a protecting care over them.
You are yourself fully aware of the terrible consequences that must befall these people should they continue to act with the enemies of the Union in their efforts for the destruction of a government the best the world ever saw, and which government is as necessary for their security and happiness as it is for the white children of their Great Father. And in giving you this appointment it is expected that you will use this knowledge, as well as the great influence which your excellent character has given you with the various Indian tribes, to induce them to remain quietly at home, and not to engage with the enemies of your country.
You may also assure these people that should they adopt the course you advise, their Great Father will send his army to protect them from his enemies.
For your services you will be paid a reasonable compensation for your time, and your personal expenses.
Your obedient servant,
WILLIAM P. DOLE,
Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
The dispatch of the Baptiste Report
Office Superintendent Of Indian Affairs,
St. Joseph, July 24, 1862.
Sir: 1 have the honor herewith to transmit a letter from Agent Colton of the 30th ultimo, enclosing a communication from Baptiste Peoria, reporting the results of his mission as special agent to visit and observe the state of feeling among the several Indian tribes residing west of Missouri and Arkansas. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. B. BRANCH, Superintendent of Indian Affairs.
Hon. William P. Dole,
Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington, D. C.
Osage River Agency, Jvnc 30, 1862. Dear Sir: Enclosed you will find the report of Baptiste Peoria, special agent of the United States to visit the Cherokee Indians. As soon as Baptiste returned in the spring, I reported with him to the general commanding in this department, at Fort Leavenworth, full particulars of the result of his mission.
G. A. COLTON, United States Indian Agent.
Hon. H. B. Branch.
The Report produced by Baptiste Peoria
G. A. Colton, Esq.,
Paola, Kansas, May 1, 1862
I desire to report through you to the honorable Commissioner of Indian Affairs the result of my recent visit to the several Indian tribes residing west of Missouri and Arkansas. In the somewhat difficult mission with which I was intrusted. I endeavored to proceed with caution, with celerity, and with as much certainty as the state of the country would admit, to ascertain the true condition of the various Indian tribes, the extent of their loyalty or disloyalty to the government of the United States, and to give them such assurances of friendship and protection as I was authorized by the honorable Commissioner, in behalf of the government of the United States, to offer them.
I found the whole country, as might have been expected, in a very troublous, disturbed condition—in fact, a reign of lawlessness, violence, and terror existing. Suspicion had taken the place of confidence. Spies were watching during daytime, and hired assassins during night, to pick off those whom neither money could buy nor threats silence.
Emissaries from the rebel confederacy, with treason in their hearts and lies on their lips, with a bribe in one hand and a threat in the other, have been busy among them for a long time, seducing them by the glitter of false promises from loyalty to their country, and culminating at last in the blackest of treason. Even the agents of the government, while fattening on its bounty, with pockets filled with its gold, have been equally industrious in sowing the seeds of treason. These emissaries and agents united in assuring the Indians that the United States government would take their negroes and ponies from them, burn their houses, and drive them from the country; that they would get no more money; but, on the other hand, if they would make common cause with the south, they should have money and lands without stint, and be protected in the possession of negroes and all
Statements like these, indorsed by the agents of the government, came to them with the full weight of authority. That the poor Indian, who for years has received whatever has fallen from the lips of these agents as gospel-truth, been educated to respect and obey them, and who cannot reason with unerring certainty from cause to effect—that he should have listened and believed is nothing strange; and in proof of all this they were pointed to the course of the federal armies in Missouri. Influenced by considerations mainly of those enumerated, a large majority of the various tribes living in the Indian Territory are open and avowed secessionists. John Ross, when he heard that there T*is a general disturbance in the country, called a great council of the Creeks, Choctaws, Seminoles, Chickasaws, Wichitas, Caches, Kickapoos, Shawnees, Delawares, Quapaws, Osages, and Scnecas, to take into consideration what coures they oughl to take.
The council were unanimous in their opinion and determination to remain neutral, This was early in the spring of 1861. In the fall of the same year Albert Pike called a general council of the same tribes, to meet at Talloqua, and, in order to secure their attendance, stated that John Ross was to make a speech. Prior to this time he had managed, by bribes and threats, and a judicious distribution of appointments in the confederate army, to secure most of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek chiefs. He sent Dom, late United States Indian agent, to notify the Osages, Quapaws, Senecas, and Shawnees, that there was to be a council at Talloqua, and that Ross was going to talk; at the sumo time to tell that the United States government was breaking up; that they would get no more money, and that they were about to send an army to take their negroes and drive them from the country, and pointed to Missouri in proof of it.
When the council met at Talloqua, instead of Ross, the council was opened by Pike, who told them ” We are here to protect our property and to save our country; if we don’t fight we shall lose it; the north will take from us our negroes and our land. Those who go with the north can’t stay here another night; and I have come here to see how many are going with the north. If you go with the south, we will send an army here and protect you; but if you go with the north, yon must leave.” Then Ross took wampum and went over to Pike and shook hands with him; he was afraid to say anything—there were so many opposed to him he was afraid of being killed. A good many of the Indians complained because of the decision of the council; that they were compelled to dig up the hatchet and fight their Great Father, after they had agreed to remain neutral.
When Pike heard of this he had some of them arrested. Opothleyoholo said he would have nothing to do with it. When he returned home he called a council of the Creeks, and told them that the chiefs up at Talloqua had been bought; he reminded them that a long time ago they had made peace with their Great Father and agreed not to fight any more, and warned them over and over again that bad white men were getting them into trouble; that they had agreed to remain neutral, but they had taken the hatchet and gone over to the other side, and for his part he was not in. The majority of the Creeks were opposed to him ; they then commenced quarrelling and fighting. The Seminoles, Wichitas, Caches, Kickapoos, and Delaware?, and some of the Creeks joined Opothleyoholo, and, after two or three fights, were obliged to retreat north.
While on their way north they suffered a great deal; a good many were frozen to death, especially the women and children. When they arrived at Humboldt they were protected by the government. There are a good many left behind who are loyal, who will go over to the north as soon as the Union army gets there. The Osages are most all Union Indians. A part of the Clamos and Black Dog bands are secesh; these were influenced by agents and traders living among them. They were promised large payments of money last fall and spring, but did not get any. I told them they would never get any from the secessionists; that they were deceived.
I think most of them can be got back by explaining these things to them. The secessionists scared them; told them they could not get north; they would be driven back and killed. I told them if they would not take up arms against their Great Father, they could travel all over the north ; that their Great Father had told me to say to them that he would faithfully fulfil all his treaty obligations towards them; that nothing had prevented this being done but their attitude of hostility to the government. They said they were glad to see me, and to hear what I had said; it was different from that which had been told them.
The secession forces are distributed about like this: a Cherokee by the name of Stanwaite, together with a white man by the name of Coffee, have been occupying that portion of the Cherokee country along the line of Arkansas and Missouri and the southern line of Kansas for some six months.* Stanwaite was upon the neutral lands last March, threatening and driving off settlers, and burning their houses. Coffee has a scouting company of two or three hundred with which he watches the line. Some time in April Stanwaite learned of his scouts that there was a force of federal soldiers at Carthage, in Missouri, some sixty miles distant; he then retreated some thirty-five miles further south, on the other side of Cowskin river to what is called Cowskin prairie.
While stationed there a small company of Union troops came over. He then retreated back to Maysville. When the troops left he followed them back toward Carthage, somewhere in the edge of Missouri, overtook them, and after a short skirmish was driven back to Maysville, on the line between Arkansas and the Cherokee country. About the 1st of May Stanwaite and Coffee learned that the United States soldiers had left the southern and western part of Missouri. They then moved back to Cowskin prairie, taking a couple of Union Seneca Indians prisoners; after taking their horses they let them go.
The Cherokees are the most powerful tribe in the Indian Territory, and the smaller tribes are afraid of them. Stanwaite and Coffee are now watching the line between Kansas and the Cherokee country. Whenever a force moves down into that country they retreat down to Fort Gibson, where they claim to have large forces, some five or six thousand, composed in part of Texans and Arkansans. The country between the Neosho, Grand river, and the Verdigris is excellent for pasturing, has plenty of wood and water, and is the only desirable route over which the expedition can move to reach Port Gibson.
In concluding my report, which has become tediously lengthy, permit me to suggest that it is only necessary, in order to persuade the great majority of disaffected Indians to return to their allegiance, to convince them that they have been deceived; that the United States government will protect them in the possession of all their property; that the soldiers composing the expedition are careful to avoid jayhawking of every kind. They will then see for themselves that they have been deceived, and will throw down their arms and return to their allegiance.
I have succeeded beyond my expectations, and 1 believe the result will be found in a returning allegiance, and a much better state of feeling than has existed for some time towards the government of the United States.
Respectfully your obedient servant, his
BAPTISTE X PEORIA.