[Footnote 887: Official Records, vol. 22, part ii, 1055-1056.]
[Footnote 888:—Ibid., 1065.]
broken. But Steele was neither aggressive nor venturesome. His task was truly beyond him. Discouraged, he asked to be relieved and he was relieved, Brigadier-general Samuel B. Maxey being chosen as his successor. Again Cooper had been passed over, notwithstanding that his Indian friends had done everything they could for him. They had made allegations against Steele; in order that a major-generalship might be secured for Cooper and brigadier-generalships for some of themselves. Boudinot was believed by Steele to be at the bottom of the whole scheme; but it had been in process of concoction for a long time and Steele had few friends. General Smith was the stanchest of that few and even Holmes was not among them.
Obviously, with things in such a chaotic state, military operations in the Indian country, during the autumn and early winter were almost negligible. Steele expected that the Federals would attempt a drive from Fort Smith to the Red River and he collected what forces he could for that contingency. Little reliance was to be placed upon the Cherokees since they were intent upon recovering Fort Gibson; but the Choctaws through whose country the hostile force would proceed, were the drive made, aroused themselves as in the first days of the war. They recruited their regiments anew
[Footnote 889: Special Orders, no. 214, December 11, 1863, Official Records, vol. xxii, part ii, 1094.]
[Footnote 890: Steele to S. Cooper, December 19, 1863, Ibid., 1100-1101.]
[Footnote 891: Boudinot to Davis, December 21, 1863, Ibid., 1103.]
[Footnote 892: Steele contended that between the very natural fear that the Indians entertained that the white troops were going to be withdrawn from their country and Magruder’s determination to get those same white troops, it was impossible to make any move upon military principles [Steele to Anderson, November 9, 1863, Ibid., 1064-1065]. Steele refused to recognize Magruder’s right to interfere with his command [Steele to Cooper, November 8, 1863, Ibid., 1063-1064].]
and they organized a militia; but the drive was never made.
The only military activity anywhere was in the Cherokee country and it was almost too insignificant for mention. Towards the end of November, the Federal force there was greatly reduced in numbers, the white and negro contingents being called away to Fort Smith. The Indian Home Guards under Phillips were alone in occupation. With a detachment of the Third Indian, Watie had one lone skirmish, although about one half of Phillips’s brigade was out scouting. The skirmish occurred on Barren Fork, a tributary of the Illinois, on the eighteenth of December. Late in November, Watie had planned a daring cavalry raid into the Neosho Valley. The skirmish on Barren Fork arrested him in his course somewhat; but, as the Federals, satisfied with a rather petty success, did not pursue him, he went on and succeeded in entering southwest Missouri. The raid did little damage and was only another of the disjointed individual undertakings that Steele deplored but that the Confederates were being more and more compelled to make.