Sam Bell Maxey and the Confederate Indians

By John C. Waugh

McWhiney Foundation Press, 1998
100 pages

General Sam Bell Maxey, dignified, articulate, and confident, arrives in Indian Territory in the Trans-Mississippi West in 1863 to assume command of a diverse and motley army of Confederate Indians. The troops are in disarray; they are suspicious of tribal alliances, weakened by malnutrition, their crops have been pillaged, and they are discouraged by a series of battlefield setbacks at the hands of the Union army invading from Kansas.

Maxey, a non-Indian, calls upon all of his leadership and administrative skills and his insight into Indian culture to win the confidence and loyalty of these soldiers. Desperately he struggles to secure badly need munitions and provisions from a Confederate bureaucracy that is focused on the plight of its eastern armies. All the while he must deal with his own field commander, the able and ambitious Douglas Cooper, friend of Jefferson Davis, who is eager to supplant him.

Yet Maxey perseveres and succeeds in molding this horseback “army without infantry” (no Indian will fight on foot) into an effective fighting force that plays an important role in the Red River and Arkansas campaigns and ultimately helps prevent a Union invasion of north Texas.

It is a little-known story dramatically told.