Friday, July 19, 2013

Remembering Isaac Alexander an Oklahoma Freedman Who Fought At Honey Springs

Document from Service Record of Isaac Alexander, an Indian Territory Freedman who
enlisted in the Kansas Colored and who fought at Honey Springs.

This week marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Honey Springs, sometimes called the Gettysburg of the west. This battle was won by Union soldiers and the actions of the Kansas Colored were particularly noted when they charged through and pushed confederate regiments away and helped to save Ft. Gibson.

I became interested in learning the names of some of the Indian Territory Freedmen from either the Choctaw or Chickasaw Nation, as their contribution to this important battle should be known. I looked at the name of Isaac Alexander, because this man later distinguished himself during the post-Civil War years when he and others fought for the rights of Freedmen as citizens, especially in the Chickasaw Nation.

The surprise is that Isaac Alexander was a man of mature years, and was allowed to enlist in the Union Army in spite of his age. One cannot help but ask, what inspired this man to enlist to fight? How was he allowed to be mustered in? Was he physically up for the job? And of course how did he fare as a soldier?

Quite simply Isaac Alexander was born in the Chickasaw Nation and enlisted in the spring of 1863. He was promoted to the rank of Sgt, which suggests that there were some skills that merited this promotion. By looking at other soldiers in the regiment, he has to be clearly one of the oldest men to not only serve, but also to see battle as a Union Army soldier.

As I looked at his Civil War service record, I realized that he was present and actively serving when the 1st Kansas Colored fought at Honey Springs. However, in addition, I also noticed that his story was significant for another reason. 

By most standards, Isaac Alexander was "too old to fight.". Yet, he was allowed to enlist, and to serve. He would be with the regiment as Island Mound, Poison Springs, Cabin Creek and Honey Springs. He was elevated to Sergeant and clearly had important duties as a leader. Though committed to three years of service, age eventually caught up with Isaac Alexander and he was allowed be discharged a year early, in 1865.

Image Source: Fold 3

The unique story of this old man who was an active Freedom Fighter should be studied and told. Though forgotten by many, the descendants of this man are urged to learn how an old man yearning to be free would be proactive, and chose to fight for his own freedom when the chance came to do so. He is part of the large clan of Kemps and Alexanders in Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. He is an unsung and forgotten hero. Perhaps his is a story whose time has come.

Enlisting in Kansas, and having seen battle at Island Mound Missouri, Poison Springs Arkansas, Cabin Creek and Honey Springs, the toll of war had to take its toll on his body. His age was the primary reason he was discharged early, as the document above illustrates.The the actions of a courageous man of advanced years, clearly illustrate the determination and spirit of the men of the Kansas Colored. It also reflects the spirit of all of the men of the US Colored Troops. 

This is a story of a man determined to breathe free air before he died, and when he could, he seized the moment, and became his own man. He would emerge in the following years as a leader in the Freedmen community as he continued to fight for equality and status of Indian Territory's Freedmen.

Isaac Alexander is one of many unsung heroes of the Civil War.. Let us keep his legacy alive as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of  Honey Springs.

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