Battle of Chustenahlah, December 26, 1861

During the Civil War in Indian Territory Chustenahlah was the decisive battle of the Confederate pursuit of Creek Chief Opothleyahola. In November 1861 Indian Territory commander Col. Douglas H. Cooper set out to subdue Opothleyahola’s followers, who disputed the Creek and Seminole alliances with the Confederate States of America. Perhaps seventeen hundred refugees, many of whom were women and children, were with Opothleyahola following his defeat at Chusto-Talasa on December 9. The loss of horses and supplies and the arrival of ice forced Opothleyahola’s band to halt before it could reach the safety of Kansas. The members found shelter beside Shoal Creek (now Battle Creek, near Skiatook in Osage County) in what is now called the Patriot Hills. Cooper directed that two resupplied and reinforced Confederate columns converge on the refugees. On December 26, however, Col. James McIntosh’s force attacked alone immediately upon locating Opothleyahola’s camp. Opothleyahola’s men retreated slowly up a sheer, brushy hillside to purchase time for their families to escape. After four hours of close fighting McIntosh’s Texas and Arkansas troops routed the defenders. McIntosh reported forty-nine Confederate casualties at this “Battle of Chustenahlah” and over 250 Indian casualties, besides many women and children captured. Unknown hundreds of the pursued died from gunshots, starvation, and exposure during the campaign. Yet many male survivors returned with three U.S. Indian Home Guard regiments to again fight in Indian Territory.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. Craig Gaines, The Confederate Cherokees: John Drew’s Regiment of Mounted Rifles (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989). Arthur Shoemaker, “The Battle of Chustenahlah,” The Chronicles of Oklahoma 38 (Summer 1960). Muriel H. Wright and LeRoy H. Fischer, “Civil War Sites in Oklahoma,” The Chronicles of Oklahoma 44 (Summer 1966).

Michael A. Hughes, “Chustenahlah, Battle of,” Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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