BRIGADIER GENERAL ALBERT PIKE
Commander, Pike's Indian Brigade
Pike was a noted poet, educator and Masonic scholar from Arkansas. Although he opposed secession, he was loyal to his state. In August, 1861, he was commissioned a Brigadier General and negotiated several treaties between the "Five Civilized Tribes" and the Confederate States. Those treaties specifically stated that the Indian regiments would only be used for the defense of the Indian Territory.
When General Van Dorn took command of the Trans-Mississippi District, which included the Indian Territory, he ordered Pike to assemble his regiments and join the Army of the West. Pike protested, stating that this violated the treaties. Van Dorn ignored Pike's objections though. Pike led his brigade east, although many Indian troops refused to leave the Indian Territory.
Prior to Pea Ridge, Pike's "Indian Brigade" had about 1,000 soldiers, which included a unit of Texas cavalry. The Brigade played a limited role on the Leetown battlefield, protecting the Confederate right flank. After ambushing a company of the 3rd Iowa Cavalry, they came under fire from Federal artillery, which disorganized and scattered the Indian Brigade. Many of the troops left the battlefield and returned home.
The Indian Brigade's service at Pea Ridge was noted more for its propaganda value than for any military worth. When a number of Federal dead were found scalped and mutilated, the Indian troops were accused of the atrocity and Pike was vigorously denounced throughout the North. In July, 1862, he resigned his commission saying that the Confederate Government was violating the treaties with the Indians. After the war, Pike left Arkansas and moved to Washington, D.C. where he died in 1891.
Last updated: April 10, 2015