Gilliam, Colonel Cornelius
b. 1798-04-13
d. 1848-03-24
Colonel Cornelius “Neal” Gilliam was born on 13 April 1798 in Buncombe County, North Carolina to Epaphroditus Gilliam and Sarah Ann Israel. Gilliam was selected to lead and act as colonel on 9 December 1848 in the Cayuse War.1 Prior to the war, Gilliam worked in law enforcement and the military. He was elected Sheriff to Clay Country, Missouri in 1830 and fought in the Black Hawk War in Illinois in 1832.2 Gilliam's military experience continued in 1837 when he joined and served as captain with the Missouri Volunteers in the Seminole War, in which he played a leading role in the expulsion of the Mormon community -- he was subsequently promoted to colonel.3
By 1843, his experience expanded when he was elected to the Missouri legislature and was ordained as a Free-Baptist preacher; during this time he was described as having a bad temper when his authority was challenged and uneducated, obstinate, and impetuous.4 Gilliam's short temper was further revealed in the year after when he acted as the captain leading immigrants traveling from the Missouri River to Oregon. After two months of dissatisfaction in his position, he resigned as captain in an angry, bitter speech.5
However, it was Gilliam's overarching experience that earned him his eventual position as colonel in the 1848 Cayuse War. Gilliam's premature death on 24 March 1848 was not due to the war itself, rather it was in the aftermath of the war in an accidental discharge of a gun.6 Gilliam was labeled a “hero” for his leadership in the war against the Cayuses; nonetheless, he also opposed change and believed the Indigenous surrender to be a ruse, seeing violence as the main solution.7
Mentions of this person in the documents