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Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Only two Native Americans on either side of the States’ War rose to the rank of brigadier general. Standhope Watie (Uwatie), fighting for the Confederacy, was one of those two. Yet, what makes this accomplishment so incredible is the fact that while he was fighting for the Confederate States of America, he was also fighting other Cherokee tribal leaders who held opposing political views and very different visions for the Cherokee nation.

Stand Watie commanded the Confederate Indian Cavalry of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. While the cavalry unit was comprised mainly of Cherokee, some Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole tribal members also served.

Born in Oothcaloga in the Cherokee Nation, State of Georgia, Uwatie (or Oowatie) was also known as Isaac. He was educated in a Moravian mission school. In his early adulthood, he occasionally wrote articles for the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper. The State of Georgia confiscated Cherokee lands in 1832 when gold was discovered, including the thriving plantation owned by Stand’s father and mother. Stand and his brothers, part of the powerful Ridge-Watie-Boudinot faction of the Cherokee council, stood in favor of the Cherokee Removal. Their signing of the Treaty of New Echota facilitated the removal of the Cherokee people to Indian Territory—what is now Oklahoma.

Another faction of Cherokees following John Ross refused to ratify the treaty signing. This segment was known as The Anti-Removal National Party. Members of this group targeted Stand Watie and his brother, Elias Boudinot, along with their uncle, Major Ridge, and cousin, John Ridge for assassination. Stand was the only one who survived the assassination attempt. Although Watie’s family had left Georgia before the forcible removal of all Cherokees in 1838, another brother, Thomas, was murdered by Ross’s men in 1845.

In October, 1861, Watie was commissioned as colonel in the First Mounted Cherokee Rifles. Besides fighting Federal troops in the States’ War, his men also fought opposing factions of Cherokee, as well as Seminole and Creek (Muscogee) warriors who supported the Union.

In 1862, Stand Watie was elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, through dissension continued among John Ross’s supporters.
< On June 15, 1864, Watie’s troops captured the Federal steamboat J. R. Williams on the Arkansas River off the banks of Pleasant Bluff near Tamaha, Indian Territory. The next morning, Colonel John Ritchie’s men, who were stationed at the mouth of the Illinois River near where the two rivers met, engaged Watie’s men as they attempted to confiscate the cargo. The river was rising, and they fought to a standoff. When Watie learned of the advance of Union troops from Fort Smith, Arkansas, (within about 40 miles), he burned the ship and much of the remaining cargo, then sank it. Watie surrendered a year later in June of 1865, the last Confederate general to lay down his arms.

In my debut novel, Fire Eyes, (recently re-released through Prairie Rose Publications) I weave this bit of history into my plot. The villain, Andrew Fallon, and his gang have come upon the site where the J.R. Williams was sunk four years earlier. Fallon speculates there could have been gold aboard, and sets his men to dive for it. As mercurial as his temper is, none of them dare question his order. Here’s what happens:


“Damn! I know where we are.” Dobie Perrin said.

Andrew Fallon turned in the saddle, glaring at Perrin, the afternoon sun dappling them through the leaves of the thick canopy of trees. “So do I, you idiot! So do we all, now.”

The secluded cemetery sat on a bluff, overlooking the Arkansas River. They had been wandering for two days, ever since retracing their steps to the first small creek they’d come to. The one Fallon felt sure would give them their bearings. Now, at last, he recognized where they were. He’d figured it out ten miles back.

“Tamaha,” Denver Rutledge muttered. “I was raised up over yonder.” He inclined his head toward the riverbank. “Over in Vian.”

“Then why didn’t you know where we were?” Fallon’s anger surged. “I am surrounded by idiots!”

“I shore ’nuff shoulda known, General,” Rutledge said apologetically. “Right yonder’s where we sunk the J.R. Williams. Rebs, I mean. Stand Watie’s bunch.”

Fallon jerked his head toward the other man. “Right where, soldier?”

Rutledge kneed his horse, coming abreast of Fallon. “Why, right yonder, General. It was in June of ’64. She was a Union ship, the Williams was.”

“What was she carrying?”

Rutledge shrugged. “Don’t rightly know. Supplies, maybe.”

“Payroll? Gold?” Fallon fingered his curling moustache. “Could be anything, eh, Rutledge? But the Yankees were known to cache their gold profits in casks. Maybe that’s what the J.R. Williams was carrying. Casks that weren’t really supplies, but were filled with gold.”

“Could be, I 'spect.” Rutledge’s voice was hesitant.

Fallon nodded toward the river. “I think maybe we’ll try to find out.”


“What’s he doing, Tori?” Lily whispered. She moved closer to her sister. The night had turned colder, and the girls’ clothing was becoming threadbare and ragged.

Tori shook her head. “Fallon’s plumb crazy, Lily. Making his men dive for that ship! What’s he think he’s going to do if he finds it? Pull it up with his bare hands?”

“Or a rope, maybe,” Lily said innocently.

Tori didn’t say anything. She reminded herself that Lily was, after all, only eight years old. And she, at eighteen, knew how the world worked much better than little Lily did. At least Lily had stopped crying all the time. Now, Tori wasn’t sure if that was an improvement.

Lily sometimes scared her, the way her eyes looked hollow. Like there was no feeling left in her. Tori had no mirror, but her little sister looked like she herself felt. Older than she should be. And sad. But Lily didn’t seem to be afraid any longer, and Tori supposed that was a good thing.
Tori knew what Fallon intended to do with her and Lily. But the initial shock and fear of Fallon’s intent was overshadowed by other things that had actually happened. The violent deaths of their parents and younger brother, the endless days of riding with scant food and water, the bone-deep weariness that never let up, not even when she slept on the hard ground at night next to Lily.
She was responsible for Lily, now that her parents were gone. She squared her thin shoulders, her gentle eyes turning hard for a moment. She would protect her sister, no matter what.

Tori watched as Fallon ordered three of his men back into the water yet another time. Even if they could see what they were diving for, it would be too deep to reach. But the scene helped Tori realize just how unstable Andrew Fallon was. Once or twice, she’d caught herself thinking he was almost a nice man. He’d brought her and Lily a blanket one cold night. And he’d given them extra rations another time. But she knew he was not nice, not even sane.

Evil, was what Andrew Fallon was. Evil, and most insane.

She watched him, posturing and screaming at his men, who were so terrified of him that they were making fools of themselves trying to dive for an unreachable goal, a ship that may contain treasure, but just as well may not. A vessel that was impossible to get to, all the same. Especially in the pitch-black night. Lily leaned against her, her weight heavy with sleep. They sat beside a tree, their backs propped against the rough bark. The night was cool, and Tori had drawn the blanket close around them. She sagged against the tree trunk, her arm around her little sister, as Lily’s eyelids drooped.

I will be giving away a pdf copy of FIRE EYES to one commenter today! Just leave a comment with your contact info to be entered in the drawing.

To see all my work, go here:


  1. Cheryl,

    Loved this! I am currently 'reading' the biography of Black Hawk. The stories of these men is endlessly fascinating and far from the usual accepted fare. For some reason I did not connect Watie's exploits with that scene. (Bad me *grin*). Doris

    1. Doris, my sister and I took an elderly man to a cemetery one Memorial Day to lay flowers on his mother's grave--it was in Tamaha, OK. I had never heard of the place. I did a whole blog about it after it happened, because of so many "coincidences" that happened. Anyhow, while we were there, one of the townspeople came by and stopped to see if we needed help. He gave us all kinds of history of the town, and pointed out the very location where the J.R. Williams was sunk--the cemetery is on a bluff between where the Arkansas River and the Illinois River meet. SO interesting! I knew I had to put it in a story.

    2. Cheryl, I truly do believe we are given those gifts to use. That is such a great story. It gave me goosebumps reading it and of course cemeteries are such a big part of the research I do. Doris

    3. This old man had 3 cemeteries he needed to visit. He was about 90 and my sister told him she'd take him rather than him out driving alone. She asked me to come go with them. I was so glad I did--he talked the entire time, about his growing up years in eastern OK, and how Pretty Boy Floyd had come their house one night when he was a young boy, and his mom got up and fixed a meal in the middle of the night for him and his men that were with him. So interesting!

  2. Sounds intriguing. The personal stories in our countries history always surprises me.
    And for Memorial day, we have an ages old tradition. We go into the mountains early in the morning and pick dogwood, redbud, ferns, and a wide variety of whatever wild flowers in bloom then 4 generations of our family goes to the cemetery and we decorate the graves.

    1. Jae, that is a wonderful tradition. Keeping the old ways alive. So many things seem to be forgotten anymore. I'm glad you do!

    2. Cheryl,

      Old cemeteries harbor such a wealth of 'story fodder' just waiting to be discovered... the dates, the names, why they were buried in that particular cemetery, etc. When I was a kid, I was really close to my maternal grandfather who worked part-time in his retirement years as the grounds keeper at our town's cemetery. During the summer, when school was out, I went with him a lot. To this day, I like to explore old cemeteries. A few years ago, I went on a university history excursion (teacher study program) to Philadelphia that included many other sight-seeing locations, but one of the stops along the study-way was the cemetery at Princeton and Aaron Burr's grave. In Philadelphia, we visited Benjamin Franklin's and Dr. Benjamin Rush's graves in the Christ Church cemetery. It was (and still is) fascinating.

    3. Kaye, I'm crazy about cemeteries. When we were kids, there was a cemetery right beside the park we always went to play in. We'd go under the chain link fence and roam the cemetery, reading tombstones, wondering about the people, etc. My favorite one now is the one at Ft. Sill. Actually the TWO at Ft. Sill. Quanah Parker and the "good Indians" are buried in the post cemetery along with others of good name. But Geronimo and his followers? They're in the POW cemetery, out in the middle of the woods--it's a drive from the base cemetery, but well worth the effort--not far, but you have to know where you're going. We go down there a couple of times each year. It's so tranquil, and beautiful...the last time we were there a hawk was circling over where we stood at Geronimo's grave. I get chill bumps thinking about it.

  3. Although the hero and heroine were magnificent in FIRE EYES, it was that mean and crazy Fallon that made the story one of the most exciting I have ever read. There's nothing that compares with a really vile villain.

    1. Oh, Sarah, I know what you mean! If the villain falls short, the story is not as good as it could have been. Fallon was soooo evil. Thanks for stopping by today! I'm so glad to know I have someone who hated Fallon as much as I did when I was writing about him. LOL

  4. Stand Watie was a fascinating historical figure. I don't think enough people realize how large a role in the "Late Unpleasantness" some of the Nations played. I understand quite a few Cherokee joined the Confederate cause because the Confederacy made all kinds of promises to "fix" things that upset them about their existing relationship with the federal government. (Based on what happened in the Northwest and Arizona after the Civil War, I doubt the promises were worth much from either side.)

    Didn't you use Stand Watie in a short story as well, Cheryl? It was a time-travel story, I believe, in which the heroine walked down a road into a forest after her car broke down on the highway. The next thing she knew, she was in the middle of Stand Watie's troops. Of course, a handsome Cherokee soldier rose to the challenge of keeping her safe. ;-)

    1. Kathleen, you have a mind like a steel trap. I had to get something up quick today for this post since it was Sara's day to blog and her grandpa is in the hospital. So I debated about changing the excerpt and using that story, MEANT TO BE, which is soon to be re-released through Prairie Rose Publications, but didn't, since I didn't have a cover, etc. yet for it. I loved Stand Watie in that story. He's every bit the commander, but he does end up putting his humanity before his soldier side at the end. LOL Can't wait to get it back out there.

      He is very fascinating. His education was unbelievable. And Stand Watie and John Ross had the going feud, so I imagine that being in the Confederate army also gave him some power he wouldn't have had otherwise to deal with the factions that were trying to oust him.

      Glad you enjoyed Meant To Be.

  5. And my winner is ....

    JAE HALL!!!

    Jae, I will be contacting you soon to send you your coupon for a free copy of FIRE EYES! Congratulations!