Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – The Indian Home Guard

Below the listing of Iowa’s summaries is this short section with the heading “Indian Brigade”:

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In earlier quarters, we’ve discussed the origins of the Indian Brigade, or more specifically the units in the Indian Home Guard. For the second and third quarters, only a section from 3rd Indian Home Guard Regiment appeared in the summaries. Here, we find two entries. The lower of the two is consistent with earlier quarters. But the upper line is a fresh field to consider:

  • Company E, 2nd Indian Home Guards: Actually reading “2nd Infy’ | Arty Stores|” or something along those lines. The unit is reporting from Fort Gibson… indicated as “Arkansas” but this should read “Cherokee Nation” or “Indian Territories.” During the war, the post was sometimes cited as Fort Blunt. The line reports two 12-pdr field howitzers. No leads as to who was in charge of this pair of howitzers. But in the time period we are reviewing, Major Moses B.C. Wright commanded the 2nd Indian Home Guards.
  • Company L, 3rd Indian Home Guards: And again to be precise this line reads “3rd Infy’ Indian Home Guard, Stores.” No location given, but the 3rd was also operating out of Fort Gibson/Blunt. The report indicates three 12-pdr mountain howitzers. We have connected Captain Solomon Kaufman with these cannon in previous quarters.

At the end of December, 1863, the Indian Home Guards were part of the First Brigade, District of the Frontier, Department of Missouri. Colonel William A. Phillips, who’d led the organization of these guards, led the brigade, with his headquarters at Fort Gibson/Blunt. In addition to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Indian Home Guards, the brigade included the 14th Kansas Cavalry. Their mission was to maintain the lines between Fort Gibson, Fort Smith, and other Federal strongholds in the district. With that charge, these regiments did a lot of patrolling, with much interaction with Confederate forces operating in the same area.

The details about the artillery use of these units remains an unclear and imprecise area of my studies. Certainly these cannon were employed to defend the post. And at times they are used to support patrols. As mentioned in the second quarter discussion, the mountain howitzers were used at Cabin Creek in July 1863. Beyond that, I can only speculate.

Turning to the ammunition reported, howitzers need shells and case shot:

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  • 2nd Home Guards: 130 shell and 124 case for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • 3rd Home Guards: 50 case for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

And canister on the next page:

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  • 2nd Home Guards: 19 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • 3rd Home Guards: 60 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

No rifled projectiles were reported on hand, of course. So we move to the small arms:

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  • 2nd Home Guards: Three .69-caliber musketoons, 31 Sharps’ .52-caliber rifles, and one Colt navy revolver.
  • 3rd Home Guards: One Sharps’ .52-caliber cabine and 33 Sharps’ .52-caliber rifles.

And those Sharps’ needed cartridges:

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  • 2nd Home Guards: 1,000 Sharps cartridges.

As for powder, not much reported:

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  • 3rd Home Guards: Two pounds of musket powder.

The presence of even a small number of howitzers at the advance post of Fort Gibson was an important resource in the hands of Federal commanders in this theater of war. On the Confederate side, several officers noted the lack of artillery supporting their allies from the tribes. And the Federals were keen to maintain their edge in regard to the artillery. In correspondence dated February 11, 1864, sent to Colonel Phillips in Fort Gibson, Major-General Samuel Curtis noted that more artillery was needed at that post. Underscoring that desire, three days later Curtis communicated to Major-General Henry Halleck, in Washington, his designs to strengthen the hold in the Indian Territories, pointing out, “Fort Gibson has been fortified by the volunteers, making it a pretty safe position; but some finishing and repairing are necessary, and two or three good siege guns would be a great additional strength.”

Yes, a couple of heavy guns in the blockhouses would ensure control of the Arkansas River. And with that a sizable portion of the territory beyond. However, there is no indication Halleck considered Curtis’ request.

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