The Civil War came. At first, the Chickasaws didn’t know which side to choose or if they should remain neutral. Then the U.S. government defaulted on the treaty payments the Chickasaws were owed for their homeland, and he U.S. abandoned the forts meant to protect the tribe.
The Confederacy moved into the forts and promised the tribe representation in the Confederate Congress as well as food, clothing and ammunition. Along with the Muscogee, Seminoles and Choctaws, most of the Chickasaws sided with the Confederacy. Some of the tribe moved to Texas. Governor Cyrus Harris approved Chickasaw secession from the Union on May 25, 1861. Those Chickasaws who supported the Union became refugees in Kansas and Missouri.
Confederate sympathizers among the Cherokee, Creek and Seminole sought refuge in the Chickasaw Nation, mainly in camps along the Red River. This strained our resources. Cholera and malnutrition were widespread. Even after the war, these refugees from other tribes postponed returning home, fearing retaliation by tribal members who had supported the Union.
Though the Confederacy guaranteed the tribe provisions, they were often not able to provide these to the troops- both non-Indian and Indian – as the war continued.
Most military activity occurred north of the Chickasaw country. The tribe mainly held a defensive position within Chickasaw territories. The First Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles was organized on July 31, 1861 and was placed under the command of Colonel Douglas H. Cooper, the former Choctaw-Chickasaw Indian agent for the U.S. government and a friend of the Chickasaw Nation.
The Chickasaw were responsible for the items they took into battle, the clothes they wore and their weapons.
The Chickasaws were the last tribe to settle at the close of the War. Their alliance to the Confederacy was costly. Treaty payments had been stopped and schools, homes and farms ruined. Lawlessness ensued. Governor Colbert requested Federal troops for protection in the southern part of the Chickasaw Nation.
The Confederate states were not punished in the same manner as the Native Americans. The former secessionist states underwent reparation, whereas sovereign nations could not receive support without new treaties.