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The Civil War Within the Civil War: The Cherokee Nation and the Third Indian Home Guard in the United States Civil War



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The U.S. Civil War, immortalized through innumerable books, museums, films and historical monuments, was one of the most historically significant periods in U.S. history. Much like the rest of America, the Cherokee Nation was divided, leading to Cherokee soldiers fighting for both the Confederacy and Union Armies at the same time. The participation of the Cherokee Nation had lasting effects for the Cherokee people that continue to be felt in modern times. While several scholarly books have been written about the Confederate Cherokees, there has been little to no scholarly work written about the Union Cherokee soldiers. This thesis brings to light the participation of the Union Cherokee soldiers through the examination of the Cherokee Third Indian Home Guard, a regiment that served under both Confederate and Union Armies. Using primary sources from the Cherokee Nation, United States Army records, and others who interacted with Cherokee soldiers, this thesis paints a picture of the Cherokee’s participation in the Union ranks. It addresses the motivations for the Union Cherokee to fight in the Civil War, as well as the role of Cherokee history and internal conflicts in their decision to enter the war. It will also discuss how their army superiors viewed the Cherokee, how they viewed themselves as soldiers, and how the aftermath of the Civil War affects the Cherokee Nation today. The Cherokee fought the war to advance their own agenda, regarding the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation within their own borders. The Cherokee fought in their own way, often clashing with the more systematic formula used by the Union army. Despite their service, the Cherokee found their sovereignty attacked during treaty negotiations following the Civil War. In the ensuing negotiations, the Cherokee were required to sell a portion of their territory to the U.S. Government and absorb the Delaware Nation and the Cherokee Freedmen into the Cherokee Nation. The inclusion of the Delaware and Cherokee Freedmen has still been a point of contention in the fight for sovereignty for the Cherokee Nation in recent history.



Cherokee Nation, Third Indian Home Guard, Civil War, John Ross, Stand Watie, Sovereignty



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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