About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Choctaw Confederates: The American Civil War in Indian Country

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s conversation with Fay Yarbrough about her new book, Choctaw Confederates.

Before we begin, I’d like to tell you about two programs coming up next month on our YouTube channel.

On Wednesday, December 8, at 1 p.m. Bruce A. Ragsdale will tell us about his new book, Washington at the Plow, which takes a fresh, original look at George Washington as an innovative land manager whose passion for farming would unexpectedly lead him to reject slavery.

And on Monday, December 13, at 1 p.m., Jeremy Dauber will be here to discuss his new book, American Comics, which is a history of cartoons, comic strips, and graphic novels over the past century.

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We often look at the American Civil War as a straightforward division between North and South. In Choctaw Confederates, Fay Yarbrough reminds us that other groups were involved, and the conflict spread west from the eastern theater of war. At the outbreak of the Civil War, several Native American tribes sided with the Confederacy, including the Choctaw Nation, and in the National Archives, you can find the names of soldiers in Choctaw units among Confederate military service records. Using these service records, Professor Yarbrough was able to extract enlistment information about the troops and gain insight into the experiences of individual soldiers.


In the decades before the Civil War, a series of treaties transferred Choctaw lands to the United States and relocated the Choctaw Nation to the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. These treaties—and more than 350 other treaties with Native peoples—have been digitized and are freely available online in the National Archives Catalog and through the Indigenous Digital Archive’s Treaties Portal.

When the Choctaw Nation were forcibly removed to the Indian Territory, they brought along hundreds of enslaved Black people. By 1860, the enslaved made up 14 percent of the Choctaw Nation. Protection of slavery made a powerful argument for Choctaw alliance with the seceding southern states.

Professor Yarbrough’s new book shows us the Civil War from a different perspective.

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Fay Yarbrough is professor of history at Rice University and a faculty affiliate of the Center for African and African American Studies. She is also the author of Race and the Cherokee Nation and the forthcoming The American Civil War in Indian Country. She has held national research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and is currently serving as visiting editor for the Journal of Southern History.

Now let’s hear from Professor Yarbrough. Thank you for joining us today.