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  • The Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian TerritoryHistoriography and Prospects for New Directions in Research
  • Bradley R. Clampitt (bio)

During the closing scenes of the Civil War, the authors of the Camp Napoleon Compact, an extraordinary document, concluded that "an Indian shall not spill an Indian's blood" and promised, "The tomahawk shall be forever buried. The scalping knife shall be forever broken." Delegates pledged peace between Plains tribes and Confederate-allied Indians, while the compact lamented the decline of Native populations and called for a united front among all Indians to protect against common enemies. Those powerful sentiments resulted from a diplomatic conference that took place May 25–27 at a traditional Native American meeting place near the Washita River in Indian Territory. Confederate-allied Indians, Plains Indians, and Confederate officials gathered to face the reality of the war's conclusion. Confederate officials sought peaceful relations with all Native groups and vowed to honor Indian demands for the right to surrender their own forces. Confederate Indians also turned their attention to their postwar fate. Before the meeting, one Native leader had revealed those concerns when he insisted on separate surrenders for Indian forces, "that we may be enabled to take steps for our own safety and welfare." The intriguing gathering at Camp Napoleon, the emotional language that emanated from the compact, and the problematic peace that followed highlight interpretive dilemmas that continue to challenge Civil War scholars. Historians grapple with the meaning of the war in Indian Territory and the legacy of the nation's bloodiest crucible in a region where most people identified with the Confederacy, some supported the Union, a relative few pursued neutrality, and some actually changed sides during the conflict.1 [End Page 121]

Research into the Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory offers numerous opportunities for historians in search of original topics with the potential to make substantial historiographical contributions. The recent publication of books by Mary Jane Warde (2013) and Bradley R. Clampitt (2015) suggests ongoing, or perhaps rejuvenated, scholarly interest in the subject and also demonstrates legitimate potential for the publication of such scholarship by major academic presses. In an attempt to build on those developments and to encourage further research, this essay summarizes certain basic trends in the secondary literature on the war and Reconstruction in Indian Territory and, more important, points the way to numerous opportunities for future work. The suggestions for prospective study are divided into five broad categories: Native American motivation for participation in the war; military history, including studies of Indian units and common soldiers; Indian Territory home front; intersection of home front and battlefield; and Reconstruction in the territory.2

Serious academic scholarship on the war and Reconstruction in Indian Territory began during the early twentieth century with the work of Annie Heloise Abel, who produced three volumes that still provide the starting point for research on the topic. During the early 1990s, the University of Nebraska Press published reprints of Abel's books with updated introductions. The decision to reprint the volumes is itself a testament to their ongoing value to historians. The studies' age presents certain limitations; Abel published her work before decades of more sophisticated scholarship on the war and Reconstruction overall, and of course, a historian who wrote in the 1920s brought a perspective very different from that of a twenty-first-century scholar. Despite these drawbacks, the books offer a detailed timeline of major and minor events and personalities, and the conclusions are grounded in deep archival research.3

In the decades since Abel's work, relatively few authors have produced significant general studies of the war and Reconstruction period in Indian Territory. The most complete modern monograph, by Warde, is particularly strong on the wartime home [End Page 122] front but also provides an excellent discussion of the war itself. Warde does not devote significant attention to Reconstruction. Clampitt's recent anthology offers essays written by various scholars who address military and diplomatic events, the home front, Reconstruction, freedpeople, gender, and memory. Those essays reflect the latest scholarship on their respective topics. A strong narrative study published in 1975, by Lary C. Rampp and Donald L. Rampp, is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 121-145
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-23
Open Access
No
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