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Thu, 07.16.1863

The Battle of Honey Springs Occurs

*The Battle of Honey Springs occurred on this date in 1863. Also known as the Affair at Elk Creek took place during the American Civil War.

This was a significant victory for Union forces to gain control of the Indian Territory. It was the most crucial confrontation between Union and Confederate forces, eventually becoming Oklahoma. In the battle, white soldiers were the minority in both fighting parties. Native Americans comprised a significant portion of each opposing Army, and the Union force contained Black units.

At the start of the American Civil War, for cultural and economic reasons, all the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory opted to side with the Confederate States of America, raising native troops under the leadership of General Douglas H. Cooper. They drove out pro-Union Creek Indian forces after a short campaign. However, by 1863, Confederate fortunes in the region had sunk.

A Union campaign launched from Kansas drove Confederacy forces from the north of the area, and many of the Cherokee switched sides to support the Union. In April, Union forces led by Colonel William A. Phillips reoccupied Fort Gibson in Indian Territory, threatening Confederate troops at Fort Smith. However, Phillips' supply line stretched from Fort Gibson to Fort Scott, Kansas, 175 miles north along the old Texas Road cattle trail. Operating from Cooper's encampment at Honey Springs, Confederate cavalry frequently harassed Fort Gibson and attacked its supply trains.  

The Battle of Honey Springs was important for many reasons, among them: 

· The battle was the largest fought in the Indian Territory, based on the number of troops engaged.

Confederate forces, already operating on a shoestring budget and with inadequate equipment, would increasingly rely on captured Union war material to keep up the fight.

· The loss of the supplies at Honey Springs depot would prove disastrous. · Honey Springs was an important site along the Texas Road, a north-south artery between North Texas and Baxter Springs, Kansas, or Joplin, Missouri. The side that controlled this place could control traffic along the road.

· Honey Springs directly threatened Fort Gibson, which controlled shipping on the upper Arkansas River.

The battleground is about 4.5 miles northeast of Checotah, Oklahoma, and 15 miles south of Muskogee. It was also about 20 miles southwest of Fort Gibson.

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