I saw two mistakes immediately. The Oklahoma portion of the famous trail known as "The Chisholm Trail," was actually blazed in May 1861, not 1867, Further, it was the famous Delaware Indian Chief and U.S. army scout named Black Beaver who blazed the trail, not Jesse Chisholm. Black Beaver, Jesse Chisholm's good friend, led 750 Union soldiers and some civilians (including Jesse Chisholm) on a dangerous route north out of Indian Territory at the beginning of the Civil War. Four years later, Jesse Chisholm followed Black Beaver 's Trail south as he left Wichita to return to Council Grove (Oklahoma City) to open again his trading business with the Indians. The story of how Black Beaver came to blaze this trail in May 1861 is the culmination of The Civil War's First Secret Mission.
After the Confederate bombing of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, which officially began the Civil War (1861-1865), President Abraham Lincoln and United States General-in-Chief Winfield "Old Fuss and Feather's" Scott, sent U.S. Cavalry Lieutenant William Averell to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) with orders to evacuate the 750 Union officers and troops stationed in Indian Territory. The soldiers were to evacuate to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and then move to Washington Capital. Lincoln needed these troops - the finest in the United States military - to protect the vulnerable nation's capital from what the President called "the insurrection."
Dressed as a Confederate, Lieutenant Averell made his way from the nation's capital to Arkansas, and then entered Indian Territory (Oklahoma) through Fort Smith. The Union fort called Fort Smith had been captured just hours earlier by the Confederates. Observed by a Confederate commander who thought he was up to no good, Averell was chased by Confederate cavalry through Oklahoma Territory in one of the greatest horse rides in American history. Averell eventually made it to Fort Arbuckle, the Union's headquarters in Oklahoma Territory, where he presented to Colonel William H. Emory the order from Lincoln and Scott to evacuate.
|The Cherokee Outlet (Yellow)|
On May 4, 1861 the flag was lowered at Fort Arbuckle. For the next 27 days, Black Beaver guided a mile-and-a-half long train of troops, supplies, dependents and livestock on their way to U.S. Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Black Beaver knew exactly where to stop along the route north, allowing for the people and horses to drink deeply from the natural springs that dotted the landscape. Black Beaver also knew where to ford major east/west rivers in Oklahoma (Washita, North Canadian, Salt Fork, and the Arkansas). The Union troops made it safely to Fort Leavenworth on Friday, May 31, 1861. Of the 750 troops that Black Beaver led to Fort Leavenworth, at least seven went on to become Union Generals during the Civil War, leading the United States to ultimate victory against the Confederate States of America. In addition, two of the men would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism and valor.
Black Beaver would not return to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) until after the Civil War. He couldn't. The Confederates placed a bounty on his head - dead or alive. In addition, news reached Black Beaver while in Kansas that the Confederates who had come north from Texas into Indian Territory and had destroyed his crops, burned down his house, and taken his family as prisoners. Black Beaver stayed in Wichita for the remainder of the Civil War with his good friend Jesse Chisholm. Black Beaver and Chisholm had been friends for more than thirty years/ Both of them had been part of the historic Leavenworth-Dodge Expedition of 1834, the first meeting between whites and the southern Plains Indian tribes, which occurred at the present site of United States Army Military Post Fort Sill.
|Wade with Black Beaver's family|
On August 10, 1975, the United States military exhumed the body of Black Beaver and with full military honors, reburied Black Beaver on the grounds of U.S. Army Military Post Fort Sill, Oklahoma. As Black Beaver's coffin was lowered into the ground, a 21-gun salute fired. Then, Lieutenant General David Ott, base commander, gave a moving tribute to Black Beaver's legacy, closing with these words:
"It is with a great deal of pride that Sill accepts Chief Black Beaver."Unfortunately, the name Black Beaver is mostly unknown to Americans. Were the Chisholm Trail properly named, Black Beaver's contributions to our nation's heritage would be front and center.