The Steck-Carleton Controversy in Civil War
EDMUND J. DANZIGER, JR.*
R ESPONDING TO A CONGRESSIONAL QUERY ABOUT INDIAN AFFAIRS IN
the West, General James H. Carleton wrote in July, 1865:
In my opinion, the Indian Bureau should be placed under the War
Department, as it was before the Department of the Interior was created
and organized. My reasons for this are: When under the War Department,
which also controls the forces operating in Indian countries, there would
be no conflicts of opinion about what should be done in a given case;
for, as the fountain whence might emanate instructions, whether to com-
manders, superintendents, or agents, would be one, so the different streams
of authority and regulations, descending through these subordinates, would
be of the same character.'
"Conflicts of opinion" between the War and Interior departments
were a troublesome part of the Indian problem during the second
half of the nineteenth century. In 1849 general control of Indian
matters and the Office of Indian Affairs had been transferred from
the War Department to the newly created Department of the Interior.
No serious revision in Indian policy or machinery took place; the act
merely divided field work between military and civilian officials. The
United States army exercised authority over warring tribes, provided
logistic aid and protection for reservations in more settled areas, and
was the power behind the decisions and policies of Indian agents. Yet
the transfer of the Indian Office outraged many military men who
resented taking orders from mollycoddling civilian officials, and who
preferred the sword to the peace pipe in dealing with hostiles. With
the support of numerous frontier editors and politicians, who like-
wise considered the red man a military problem, they agitated for the
return of the Office of Indian Affairs to the War Department. The
two divisions of government should have cooperated in their duties;
*Mr. Danziger is an assistant professor of history at Bowling Green State University.
xCarleton to Senator James R. Doolittle, July 25, 1865, in Condition of the Indian
Tribes: Report of the Joint Special Committee, Senate Reports, 39th Cong., 2nd Sess.
(Serial 1279), Report No. 156, p. 435; references to this report are hereafter cited as
Condition of the Indian Tribes.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 74, July 1970 - April, 1971. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101200/. Accessed July 1, 2015.