TwHP Lessons

The Battle of Honey Springs:
The Civil War Comes to the
Indian Territory

[Cover photo] Foundation of the Confederate powder magazine at Honey Springs Battlefield.
(National Register of Historic Places)


ungry and tired, Union troops marched south through early morning rain, July 17, 1863. Despite their weary state, they trekked through Indian territory knowing that just two weeks earlier their fellow soldiers had triumphed at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Yet as they halted their march behind a ridge in order to rest and eat, the soldiers prepared for what would become a crucial Civil War battle. A battle that would help determine whether the Union or the Confederacy would control the West beyond the Mississippi River.

The Confederate troops that these soldiers would face in the Battle of Honey Springs concealed themselves among the trees lining a nearby water source after which the battle is named. They too had heard of the two recent Confederate defeats which were results of President Abraham Lincoln's "Grand Strategy" to "turn back the Rebels at every opportunity."

The Battle of Honey Springs is important because of its setting in the rolling prairie of what is now eastern Oklahoma, versus the famed theaters of the East. Also significant were the divided Native Americans who fought and died there for both the North and South. The Battle of Honey Springs illustrates how the most destructive conflict in American history moved into what was then Indian Territory and into the lives of its residents who fought to preserve their way of life.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Indian Territory
 2. Tribal and slave populations

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. A View from Indian Territory
 2. Choosing Sides
 3. The Battle of Honey Springs

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Northeastern Oklahoma
 2. Military units involved
 3. The Battle of Honey Springs
 4. The Battle of Honey Springs
 5. A sketch of the battle

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. What shall we do?
 2. The Great Equalizer
 3. Working Together Across Ethnic Lines

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This lesson is based on Honey Springs Battlefield, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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