Monday, May 27, 2013

The First Indian Home Guards Regiment: "I am much embarrassed..."

It is entertaining to read assessments of Civil War regiments contemporary to that time. Civil War regiments were a varied lot, and it was rare to have one that served well during their entire service. For example, the First Indian Home Guards, a unit comprised of refugee Creek and Seminole Indians from the Indian Territory, had served well at a skirmish at Locust Grove (3 July 1862) and during the Prairie Grove campaign, but their behavior in camp was another matter. The following is an assessment written on 19 January 1863 by Colonel William A. Phillips, the obviously frustrated commander of the Union Indian Brigade:

“The regiment did some service in June and July [1862]; it became badly demoralized for want of sufficient and competent officers; partially broke up in August; was collected in October, and had white first lieutenants mustered, under General Blunt’s order. Some 300 or 400 of the regiment, who had gone to Leroy [Kansas] in August, and who had refused to leave it, got down with the train just at the time the Army of the Frontier was rebrigaded. The regiment has drilled very little; are indifferently informed as to their duties.

These Creeks are about equal in scale of intelligence to the Delawares of Kansas; they are inferior to the Cherokees. They are now in bad shape, get out their details slowly, sometimes desert a post, or a party when sent on duty; yet I would be lacking in my duty to them or the Government if I failed to say that, with one or two good field officers, military men, and two, or even three, company officers, they could be made very effective. No party of them should be sent without a competent officer. Their own officers are, with few exceptions, useless, but there are one or two men of influence amongst the captains, brave fighters in the field, and of influence not to be overlooked. This Creek regiment gives me much more concern than either of the others….

Nothing but active steps to supply necessary orders can save the First Indian Regiment from utter demoralization. My orders to drill are disregarded. As I compel the regiments to draw on consolidated provision returns, I have difficulty in getting reports from them. I am much embarrassed, as arresting all the officers of a regiment is not to be thought of, and permitting it to run loose has a bad effect on the rest. I earnestly desire instructions and necessary authority to myself or some others. In the mean time I shall do the best I can” (Official Records, vol. 22, pt. 2, 57-58).

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