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The Osage Nation During the War on the Western Border

Just as the families of settlers in Kansas and Missouri were divided during the War on the Western Border, so too were the Osage People divided.

Typical Buffalo Hunt on the Osage Prairie

Geographically, the Osages were in a unique position. Located in two primary areas, just west of the Missouri (a slave state) border on the Neosho River, with only the Cherokee Neutral Lands as a buffer, and just west of the Arkansas (also a slave state)border on the Verdigris and Arkansas Rivers.(1)
Kansas, however, joined the union as a free state, and to the North of the Osage Reserve in Kansas were the towns of Humboldt and Fort Scott, which leaned considerably toward Abolition.
With Rebels to the South and East, and Abolitionists to the North, the Osages were physically torn apart.


Not only were the Osages physically influenced to join in the Civil War, they were influenced by many whom they respected. Perhaps in the best position to influence the Osage was their agent, A.J. (Andrew Jackson) Dorn, who distributed allotments to the Osage.
In a letter written shortly after the election of Lincoln as President, he, like many, expressed his loyalties to Indian Commissioner Greenwood:
"Dear Judge:
The election is over and the result is now known as who is to be head of the next administration and it is regretted by all the true friends of our glorious Country (sic)- I fear for the results that is to follow..." (2)
Shortly after this letter he resigned his post and obtained a similar position for the Confederacy.
Dorn was replaced by agent P.P. Elder, who stayed only a very short time among the Osage at the Neosho Agency because of growing hostilities in the area. No sooner had he fled the agency for Franklin County Kansas than a band of armed men appeared at the agency asking for "that abolitonist Superintindent and Agent."(3)
Southern Kansas seemed surely lost to the Confederacy, and with it, the Osages.

woman chief

Perhaps in the best position to influence the Osages for the Union were the Jesuit Priests at Osage Mission, who had labored among them since 1849. Throughout the bloody years preceding the War the Jesuits made an earnist attempt to remain neutral, but by 1862 all pretense of neutrality had been abandoned. Every boy who was old enough left the mission and enlisted in the Union Army. A longtime resident of the area later attributed "the loyalty of the bands of White Wing and Little Bear... to the influence of Father Schoenmaker."(4)

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