Baptists and the American Civil War: September 8, 1865

Lewis Downing, Baptist Minister and Cherokee Chief

Lewis Downing, Baptist Minister and Cherokee Chief

Today in Fort Smith, Oklahoma, a preliminary post-war, intertribal peace conference between the Cherokee nation and United States commissioners begins.

While most Cherokees allied with the United States during the second half of the war, some remained with the Confederacy, thus creating competing leadership factions within the nation. Representing the Cherokee nation today is Chief Lewis Downing (1823-1872), a Baptist minister. Downing urges the U.S. commissioners to recognize Unionist John Ross as chief of the Cherokee nation. A final decision is not made this day.

A chaplain and lieutenant colonel during the war, after Ross’ death Downing in 1867 is elected chief, with the support of both factions of the Cherokee nation. He serves as chief until 1872, the year of his death.

Sources: John Bartlett Meserve, “Chief Lewis Downing and Chief Charles Thompson,” Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 16 No. 3, September 1938 (link); Lewis Downing (link)