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Cabin Creek Book Review

by Robert D. Norris, Jr.

This detailed and exhaustively researched book is an encyclopedic study of the greatest Confederate victory in Oklahoma during the Civil War, and is by far and away the most detailed and comprehensive treatment of any battle in Oklahoma history. It is a scholarly labor of love that recommends itself to students of the Civil War and of Oklahoma history

The book details the cavalry raid conducted by Confederate Brigadier Generals Richard Gano of Texas and Stand Watie of the Cherokee Nation against a Federal supply train of 300 wagons on its way from Fort Scott, Kansas, to Fort Gibson in the Indian Territory. It was the second battle of the war fought at Cabin Creek in Mayes County south of the present day town of Vinita: The first battle was fought in July of 1863 and was a Union victory.

The Rebel Redmen and the Texans launched a daring night attack against the bivouacked wagon train and its escort of over 600 Kansas cavalrymen and Indian troops, who were outnumbered by the 2000 Texas cavalrymen and Rebel Indians, who were supported by a
battery of field artillery. The teamsters and Waggoner's, who were civilians, deserted, which doomed the Union force, and after hours of hard fighting, the Federals, despite a gallant resistance, were defeated.

The capture of the supply train, with its cornucopia of materiel - clothing, shoes, medical supplies, food, arms, etc. - was a godsend to the Confederate troops, especially Stand Watie's Indians, who were ill-equipped and indifferently armed even by Confederate Trans-Mississippi standards. The victorious Rebels made off with some 130 fully-laden wagons, the rest were burned. Outdistancing pursuing Union troops, they crossed the Arkansas River at Tulsa
- they made their escape to southern Oklahoma.

It was a resounding victory for Southern arms. It was one of the most successful raids of the Civil War; both houses of the Confederate Congress passed acts of special commendation for Gano's and Watie's commands in January of 1865.

The author, who has written the award-winning documentary, "Last Raid at Cabin Creek," has established himself as the outstanding authority on both of the two Battles of Cabin Creek. He has obviously mastered a great mass of documentation to write this impressive book, and he has also employed hitherto unused materials in writing his magnum opus.

At $49.95, the book may seem just a bit expensive, but it must be borne in mind that prosaic and (truthfully) uninteresting (not to mention unreadable) books on the Civil War published by university presses now routinely bear a price of $35 to $45 for very much less of a book.

In sum, a tour de force of Civil War and Oklahoma history; meticulously researched and well-written, interesting and informative, scholarly and readable. A real contribution to the literature of this state.

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Page Last Updated: July 13, 2015

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