K. has been pestering me for some time now to make ACW scenarios involving Native Americans. A couple of years ago, she even made me buy an Osprey on the subject. However, I never got the project going as I couldn’t find the right figures.
I’ve finally decided that if I can’t get the figures, I have to convert them. So what did they look like?
The so-called ‘Five Civilzed Nations’ (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee), and Seminole) were split between support for the Confederacy and loyalty to the Union. Officially, for various reasons they sided with the Confederates; however, a great number of warriors from those tribes also enlisted in the Union Indian Home Guard. In many tribes, the men of mixed heritage, who had adopted Southern culture (often including owning slaves), opted to join the Rebel forces. The more traditional ‘full-blooded’ members of the tribes stayed with the Union. Many were members of the influential Keetoowah Society, a secret society founded in the 1850 that not only stressed the preservation of ancient customs, but also had ties to abolitionism.
Though promised uniforms and weapons, Confederate Native Americans didn’t actually receive any, so they wore their civilian cloths and used their own weapons, mostly shotguns. Often mentioned by eyewitnesses are their long hair and the peacock feathers they stuck to their hats.
Native Americans on the Union side at first only got the navy blue 4-button sack coat and hardee hat. All other clothes, including the trousers, they provided themselves. Most of them were home-made. Only in 1863 would they be provided with army clothing. They did get decent weapons, though (various models of rifled muskets). They also wore their hair long, but – being more traditionalist – stuck eagle feathers to their hats. Interestingly, the Union Indian Home Guards also contained African-Americans, men who had escaped from plantations in the Indian Territory and had joined the loyal groups.
Looking from the perspective of 15mm figures, there are three main characteristics that would stand out: The basic clothing, the long hair and the feathers.
As the Confederates were a motley bunch, I grabbed a couple of spare figures with hats, some of them regular Confederate infantry, some from the useful Home Guard Militia pack from QRF/Freikorp15 and some from Peter Pig’s Western range.
I then took some green stuff and added long hair, a feather and an occasional scarf to the figures.
I’m far from proficient with green stuff, but this was easier than I thought.
I then painted the figures, trying to get a varied appearance and avoiding the grays I use for Confederates so as to give them a more unique look.
For the Union Indian Brigade, I used Peter Pig‘s Union infantry with hat and repeating rifles, mainly because they wear hats and I had them at hand. Of course the warriors were not armed with repeating rifles, but I decided no one will notice anyway.
I haven’t finished painting them, but you’ll still get a picture:
I mainly want to use them for Sharp Practice, so I intend to make four skirmisher groups of each side plus two groups of mounted warriors for the Confederates. Incidentally, both sided started out as mounted troops but also fought dismounted. Over time, the Union warriors lost their horses due to attrition and Confederate Raids, so in the end all Union Indian Brigade regiments were dismounted and fought on foot. I’ll do a post about a Sharp Practice Force List for Native Americans in the ACW some other time.
Academic historians have for a long time neglected the Western Theater of the ACW and especially the Indian Territory, so there is quite a number of substandard literature out there. For the wargamer, the most comprehensive and useful book is Mark Lardas’ Native American Mounted Rifleman 1861–65, published by Osprey. The best overall history of the Native American experience is Mary Jane Warde’s When the Wolf Came. The Civil War and the Indian Territory, University of Arkansas Press 2013. It includes a detailed analysis of the political conflicts as well as a solid and comprehensive overview of the campaigns, battles and skirmishes. For a military perpective, another good book is W. Craig Gaines’ The Confederate Cherokees. John Drew’s Regiment of Mounted Rifles (Louisiana State University Press 1989, with a new edition published in 2017), which has a broader focus than the title would suggest.
Some studies dedicated to specific persons or battles have been published, but as far as I have seen them they are of a decidedly mixed quality.