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Oklahoma Journeys

Battle of Round Mountain

2009-11-07

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The Civil War came to Oklahoma or Indian Territory relatively early in the time frame of the war. Less than eight months after it began, the lives of territorial residents were in chaos. Most historians agree that the first Civil War battle to occur in Indian Territory was at Round Mountain, and that's the topic of this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Although they were technically not a part of the United States at the time, the residents of Indian Territory in the 1860s were just as affected by the US Civil War as anyone else in the country. The nations of the Creeks, Cherokees, Chickasaws and others divided and split themselves between choices of the northern and southern causes. Most of the larger tribes in Indian Territory were splintered from the conflict and their homes and lives were thrown into chaotic state of anarchy, death and destruction. The first Civil War battle to occur in what is today Oklahoma took place as a band of Creeks and Seminoles remaining loyal to the union and under the command of a Creek Chief attempted to make their way to Kansas and safety. As the Creeks and their federal forces made their way north, they were pursued by a Confederate Cavalry force made up of members of the various tribes and Texans, led by Confederate Colonel Douglas Cooper. The two groups played a cat and mouse game until November 19, 1861.

It was in this week of 1861 that Southern forces finally caught up with the Creeks, engaging them in a skirmish near Round Mountain. The fighting started late in the afternoon of November 19th and ended at nightfall. In the morning the pursuing Confederates found the northern faction had vanished during the night making their way further north. The two groups fled and chased their way north engaging in two other fights, none, however, as large or substantial as the action at Round Mountain. In an interesting side note, after the war, Oklahoma historians attempted to relocate the site of the Battle of Round Mountain but never could reach a consensus. Two groups emerged from this investigation, one claiming that the Round Mountain Site lay a few miles east of Stillwater; the other emphatically arguing for a site closer to Tulsa and the present-day Lake Keystone dam. This debate raged through the fifties and sixties and a number of friendships ended because of it. Archaeological evidence emerged from both sites and the official war records leave the issue in an inconclusive state. Eventually it appeared the majority of opinions sided with the location near Stillwater; however, the issue to this day still raises a bit of contention.

Most of the material relating to the Battle of Round Mountain resides within the collections of the Oklahoma Historical Society research division and is open to the public. You can do the investigating yourself and perhaps you can unravel the mystery of Round Mountain. This is one of the many stories of the Civil War we tell at the Oklahoma History Center, located just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.