Exactly 154 years ago today, on June 23, 1865, the last Confederate forces surrendered to the Union. The army was made up of Native American soldiers, and was led by Cherokee General Stand Watie. Like many Native Americans, Watie regarded the federal government, which had stripped his people of its ancestral land, as their chief enemy. His army was renowned for its raids behind enemy lines, and on Native Americans who backed the Union. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories . Even after Confederate commander Robert E. Lee surrendered in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865, one Confederate army refused to acknowledge defeat and for months stubbornly fought on. It was led not by one of the wealthy white southerners who made up much of the Confederacy's officer class — but by a Native American chief called Stand Watie. So how did a leader of a people facing systematic persecution come to fight for a cause founded on racism and the right to own slaves? The story illustrates how in the Civil War, the presence of a common enemy caused unexpected alliances to be formed, including an alliance Paul Chaat Smith, a curator at the National Museum of the Native American, has characterised as a "mangy, snarling dog standing between you and a crowd-pleasing narrative." Watie was himself a plantation holder and slave owner, and had settled in Oklahoma after playing a central role in events that resulted in the eviction of thousands of Native Americans from their land in what is now Georgia.
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