The Cherokee Braves Battle Flag was presented to the Cherokees as a
confederate battle flag by a representative of the
Confederacy, "Albert Pike", at the signing of the treaty that brought
the Cherokee into the Confederacy on the 7th of October 1861.
The original flag was Stars and Bars with eleven white stars in a
circle in the blue field, representing the states in the Confederacy.
The Cherokee modified the flag to create one for battle of their own.
In the field of the white bar they added the words Cherokee Braves
and in the center of the circle of white stars in the blue field they
placed five red stars, representing the five civilized tribes, all in
the confederacy, with the larger red star in the center representing
The Confederate Indian troops, under the command of General Stand
Watie carried the flag as their banner, also used by the men as their
national flag. The Confederate Cherokee government was set up in the
Canadian District, in the southern part of the Cherokee Nation.
The dream of having a separate, independent and sovereign Cherokee
government was never realized. General Stand Watie was the only
Cherokee Native American to attain the rank of general in any
military and was the last one to surrender at the end of the war.
General Stand Waite and the Cherokee Braves
General Stand Watie was born in the Oothcaloga Valley south of
present-day Calhoun, Ga. in 1806. His birth name was Tak-er-taw-ker
meaning "Stands Firm" and later Degadoga for "He Stands On Two
Feet". Baptized as Isaac he later combined a portion of his Cherokee
name with his father's name Oo-wat-ie to form Stand Watie in English.
Little is known of his early years in Georgia, he may have been
educated in Georgia mission schools that were set up to Englishise
the Cherokees. He was the brother of Buck Oowatie who later took the
name of Elias Boudinot and became a newspaper editor, and the nephew
of the prominent Cherokee Chief Major Ridge.
The Oowatie and Ridge families were two of the more prominent
slave owning aristocrat families of the Cherokees owning most of the
estimated 1600 owned by Cherokees. Those in the lower classes, poorer
than the Ridge and Oowatie factions tended to be less pro slavery and
were more traditionalist and less likely to favor a move west from
Georgia and the western Carolinas.
By 1820 one third of the tribe moved west of the Mississippi
River. Those who remained began to split into factions. Those who
favored fighting removal to the west rallied behind John Ross, a
Scottish Cherokee from Tennessee. Ross had only one eighth Cherokee
but considered them to be his people over his white counterparts and
was extremely popular having support of the majority.
On the opposing side was the Oowatie Ridge faction who believed
that the lower classes of the tribe would never make it in the white
mans world, believing that in years to come they would be decimated
even lower to drunkenness and poverty and that moving west was in the
tribes best interest.
In 1827 John Ross was elected to lead and represented them in
their first centralized government to help them deal with the white
world around them. By 1832 the rivalry between those of the Ross
faction and the Oowatie Ridge factions began to grow, and in the next
few years worsened. In 1835 it came to a head when the the Ridge
faction supported a treaty with Washington that would give the
Cherokees 5 million dollars in return for their removal west of the
Mississippi. The Ross side refused to sign hoping to hold out for at
least 20 million. It was clear that no treaty would be made at that
time since the majority of Cherokees sided with the Ross faction.
Then in December 1835 the Ridge Oowatie faction managed to sign
the Treaty at New Echota Georgia receiving $15 million dollars and
800,000 acres of land in Oklahoma for the Cherokees. They believed
they had secured the best terms possible in the best interest of the
tribe while the Ross followers considered it an act of treason
The Trail of Tears followed in 1838 with Federal and State
militias enforcing the removal. In 1839 the bitter animosity between
the two tribes remained in Oklahoma. A hundred or so Cherokees from
anti treaty faction met in secret and decided on death for the the
Ridge and Watie men. On June 22, 1839 John Ridge was dragged from his
home in Indian Territory and was stabbed to death. His father Major
Ridge was ambushed and killed in Washington County Arkansas. Elias
Boudinot the brother of Stand Watie was attacked at his home and axed
to death. Stand Watie also marked for death was forewarned and
John Ross denounced the murders but did nothing in aiding the
capture of the killers. He was accused of hiding them in his home by
the now Watie faction while Ross denied involvement in the murders.
President Andrew Jackson wrote to Stand Watie now the leader of the
former Ridge Oowatie faction and denounced Ross. On March 7, 1862
Stand Watie was part of Earl Van Dorn's 16,000 man army in the area
of Fayetteville Arkansas attempting to encircle the right flanks of
Major General Curtis's 12,000 troops. Curtis was on the defensive
entrenched at Pea Ridge about thirty miles northeast of Fayetteville.
After two days of fighting Van Dorn was unable to penetrate and ended
up withdrawing. Stand Watie had distiquished himself by leading his
command in capturing a Union artillery battery and by committing a
skillful rear guard action stopping a disaster.
It was here during this action that Stand Watie was noticed by his
superiors for his bravery and exceptional military abilities, which
got him considered for a higher command in the Confederate Army. The
First Cherokee Mounted Rifles was formed on August 31, 1862 with
Colonel Stand Watie commanding, with Lieutenant Colonel Calvin Parks
second in command. This unit along with others adopted the Cherokee
Braves flag as their regimental colours. After Pea Ridge many of the
Cherokees left the war, but Stand Watie and his Cherokee Braves
remained for the duration of the war scouring the region using
guerilla warfare, cutting Union supply lines and disrupting Federal
operations throughout the Indian Territory.
He was feared by his loyal Cherokee counterparts for the next three
years. On May 10, 1864 he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier
General, the only Native American to reach the rank of General.
Along with this first, he was also the last Confederate General
officer to formally cease hostilities two months after Appomattox and
Bentonville. His formal agreement to end hostilities was issued on
June 25, 1865 and like Col. Mosby of Virginia he never officially
surrendered. Watie had displayed unfailing devotion and bravery
during his service to the Confederacy. He died on September 9, 1871
and was laid to rest at Polson Cemetery in Delaware County, Oklahoma.
In 1995 the US postal Service issued a set of 20 commemorative stamps
showing 16 individuals and 4 battles of the Civil War. General Stand
Watie was one of those honored along with others such as Jefferson
Davis, Robert E. Lee and Joseph Johnston.