The army carried out brutal military actions against the civilian population. Military authorities justified the actions because in their view it was the civilian population that provided the military with supplies and information.
When Gen William Steele took command of the Indian Territory Confederate troops at the beginning of 1863 he found the Indians “discouraged, dissatisfied and their country devastated and stripped of all supplies.”
Driving deep into the Chickasaw Nation, U S Col Phillips tried to crush the remaining resistance; indeed he took few prisoners. At the battle of Middle Boggy the Confederate outpost was wiped out; there were no prisoners and no surviving wounded. The Confederates who recovered their dead after the battle claimed many of the men had only superficial wounds but had their throats slit, and some were scalped.
Just like Sherman’s march to the sea, Philips burned every house and crop, confiscated or destroyed every food source, and captured women, children, slaves, and livestock. He traveled nearly 400 miles in a month, leaving a path of total destruction. His brutal treatment of the civilian population and the wounded only strengthened the resolve of the Confederates. While Phillips was rampaging through the Creek Nation and into the Chickasaw Nation, patrols from Ft Smith were probing into the Choctaw Nation.
At the end of the war, one writer described the Indian Territory as “a vast scene of desolation where only chimney monuments are left to mark the sites of once happy homes.” Houses had been burned, all movable property had been carried off or destroyed, the cattle had been stolen or slaughtered, and most of the fields had become covered over with bushes briars. The sick and starving Southern refugees of the Creek and Cherokee tribes, in camps along the Red River, were afraid to return to their homes.
The seminaries had been closed, the missions had been abandoned and most of the schoolhouses had been burned. Refugees who survived four years of displacement, disease, and deprivation trickled home in late 1865 and 1866, but their number was drastically reduced. The toll of the dead or missing ranged from one of nine Chickasaws to one of every four Creeks. Once home, they faced the daunting task of rebuilding homes, farms, and public buildings that had been stripped, if not destroyed, in their absence.