Sep

19

 Next year, on this day, will be the 150th Anniversary of the "Battle of Flat Rock" in Oklahoma. That is how the wiki biography of General Gano describes it. The State of Oklahoma, to its credit, remembers it as the Hay Camp Action.

In their raid into what later became the State of Oklahoma Gano's Fifth Texas Cavalry Brigade and Stand Watie's First Indian Brigade (together, about 2300 men) found a foraging party of 3 companies of Union soldiers. They were cutting hay for the mules and horses of a large supply wagon train. At full strength 3 Union companies would have been 300 men; but it is likely that the 3 companies had no more than a hundred fifty men among them. (By 1864 the average size of a Union Company was 23 men.) The Union soldiers surrendered and 85 of them were taken prisoner; the rest were murdered because they had black skins.

Neither the Oklahoma State Sesquicentennial site nor Wikipedia article on Gano even touches on the truth of what happened in Wagoner County 151 years ago today. The article on General Stand Watie does acknowledge what happened but (surprise, surprise) leaves all the blame to be shouldered by the Cherokee and their Indian allies.

For the Federals the Civil War was never, even at its end, about abolishing slavery. Lincoln's words that we are all taught to revere - "Four score, etc." - were an embarrassment to men like Sherman and Sheridan, who never considered African-Americans to be capable of being or becoming their equals; and those men (and women) were always the large majority of Northern opinion. Even Grant, who had no doubt about blacks and (even worse) Indians deserving the natural rights of all citizens, thought Lincoln's words were stupidly sentimental and insulting to the citizenry. (How could Lincoln say that the nation needed a "new" birth of freedom when it had been the free choice of men to serve in the Union Army that had preserved "government of the people, by the people, for the people"?)

Yet, by 1864, even Sherman and Sheridan and almost everyone else in the western Union Armies who shared their opinions about the Negro inferiority had become "hard" on the subject of full abolition — i.e. the adoption of not only the 13th but also the 14th Amendment. They had seen too many "battles" like Flat Rock to have any other possible opinion.


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