A Brief Introduction to the Creek Indian War

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Creek Indian War
1813-1814

    In the early part of the sixteenth century, white explorers who visited the territory now forming the southeastern United States found it occupied by tribes of American Indians who had lived there for centuries. The Creek, Cherokee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw Indians saw the land they inhabited become an object of desire for the visitors. Inevitably, this interest in the southeastern Indian land caused contention, conflict, and the eventual forced removal of the tribes to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma.

     As white settlers began to move into the region at the start of the nineteenth century, the Creeks became increasingly hostile. Many did not wish to adopt the ways of whites as government agents urged them to do under a new Indian policy instituted by President George Washington. Indian agents were supposed to instruct Indians how to plow, raise cotton, weave, spin, care for domestic animals, and become skilled in carpentry or black smithing. Indians also wanted to keep their lands. Unfortunately for them, they had granted the American government the right to maintain horse paths through their territory over which white pioneers were allowed to travel to the region around Mobile. These horse paths became highways of settlement.

     As white population increased, the Creeks began to divide among themselves, into those who held more traditional views and those who were more assimilated through contact with whites. The traditionalists responded to Tecumseh, the great Shawnee Indian leader. Just before the start of the War of 1812 between England and the United States, Tecumseh traveled south from the Great Lakes to try to unite all Indians against white Americans. After Tecumseh's visit, the Creeks divided. Most Upper Creeks, called Red Sticks because of their bright red war clubs, wanted to resist white encroachment. Most Lower Creeks, more accustomed to whites, were inclined toward peace. This division led to the Creek War of 1813-14, which was a part of the War of 1812.

     The first engagement in the war with the Creeks (The name given the Muscogees by the traders because of the numerous streams within their territory, and applied by the whites generally) or Muscogees was on Burnt Corn creek, in the present county of Conecuh. Col. Caller, with 180-armed settlers from the vicinity of St. Stephens, attacked double that number of the enemy, who were returning from Pensacola with ammunition and supplies. Though surprised in their bivouac, the savages rallied and repulsed the whites, the mass of whom acted discreditably.

     Apprehensive of attacks on their exposed homes, the settlers abandoned them and sought safety in the stockades with which the country now became dotted.

     A month after the fight at Burnt Corn, Aug. 30, 1813, Fort Mimms, a stockade defence near the east bank of the Alabama, in the present county of Baldwin, was surprised at midday by one thousand warriors, led by Weatherford, Peter McQueen, and the prophet Francis. In the fort were 245 men under arms, commanded by Major Daniel Beasley of the volunteers from the Natchez country; and 308 women and children, negroes, and friendly Indians. A heroic defence was made, but, unprepared and overpowered, the men were slain in fight, and the non-combatants were butchered in a revolting manner. Less than fifty escaped, and the fort was left a smoking ruin. It exceeded in atrocity and barbarity any massacre that has ever occurred within the limits of the United States.

     Almost simultaneously the savages fell upon the settlers in "the fork," and killed twelve persons near Fort Sinquefield. These frightful deeds of blood filled the whole frontier country with consternation, and thrilled the Southern States with horror.

     The intelligence reached Gov. Blount and Gen. Jackson in Nashville, by a dispatch from Mr. George S. Gaines, near St. Stephens. Such was the energy of these officers and the patriotism of the people of Tennessee that, within forty days from the date of the disaster at Fort Mimms, Gen. Jackson reached Huntsville with nearly two thousand volunteers. Crossing the Tennessee, he established Fort Deposit on the elbow of that river. Nov. 3, Gen. Coffee made a reconnaissance in force of the Indian town of Tallaseehatchee, in the present county of Calhoun. The conflict was brief but bloody, and all the warriors were killed-186 in number. “We have retaliated for Fort Mimms," wrote Jackson to Gov. Blount.

     Jackson moved southward to the Ten Islands, and, on the north bank of the Coosa, constructed Fort Strother.

     November 9, he surrounded the savages again at the town of Talladega, and routed them with much slaughter. The Indians left two hundred and ninety-nine warriors dead on the field, while the loss of the whites was fifteen killed and eighty wounded.

     Gen. White's brigade of East Tennesseans captured and destroyed the town of Hillabee, November 18, killing sixty warriors. They made but little resistance, as they were negotiating with Gen. Jackson, who lay on the other side of the mountains. “We lost not a drop of blood," said White in his report to Gen. Cocke, and Fort Mimms was again avenged.

     Georgia was also aroused by the fearful character of the pending struggle. A brigade of her sons, and a body of friendly Creeks, were sent across the Chattahoochee, under Gen. Floyd. Erecting Fort Mitchell on the Chattahoochee, he proceeded into the hostile territory. Attacking the town of Autossee, in the present county of Macon, he routed the savages with a loss to them of two hundred men. He then fell back to Fort Mitchell for supplies. With an increased force he again approached the arena of the war. At Calabee creek, January 27, 1814, he was assailed, by the savages, and though he repulsed them with considerable loss, his army suffered severely. He again retired to Fort Mitchell, and the Georgians took no further active part in the struggle.

     JOHN FLOYD was born in Beaufort district, S. C., in 1769. At the age of sixteen years he was apprenticed to a carpenter. In 1791 he settled in Camden county, Georgia, where he became a Boat Wright. He was brigadier general of militia, and, as such, led the Georgians to Autossee and Calabee. He was in congress in 1827, and died in 1839.

     The operations on the lower Alabama were, meantime, of a predatory character. Col. McGrew had been worsted and killed in a skirmish on Barshi creek, Oct. 4, and the far-famed Canoe Fight occurred Nov. 12. However, Claiborne moved up from that quarter with about one thousand men, and a body of Choctaws, and, Dec. 23, 1813, assaulted the town of Econochaca, which was situated on the Alabama, in the present county of Lowndes. The savages were routed, and their town destroyed, but the loss on each side was light.

     The severity of the weather compelled Claiborne to fall back to Fort Claiborne.

     The devoted Muscogees were also assailed from the remaining point of the compass. Pushmataha, with a body of Choctaws, and Col. McKee, with a band of Chickasaws, marched to attack the town of Tuscaloosa, on the Warrior. But they found it deserted.

     Gen. Jackson had been delayed by the expiration of the term of service of his troops, and the want of supplies. Again moving southward with nine hundred whites and two hundred Cherokees and Creeks, he was fiercely assailed, Jan. 22, 1814, near Emuckfau creek, now in Tallapoosa county, by five hundred Indians. The number of his wounded, and the scant condition of his commissariat, determined Jackson to retreat to Fort Strother. Reaching Enitachopco, a Hillabee village in the southern part of what is now Clay county, January 24, he was suddenly assailed with great vigour by the pursuing red men. After an obstinate combat, they were repelled, though the invading. army was at one time in great peril. Jackson then retired without farther molestation.

     Reinforced by the 39th United States Infantry, and two brigades of Tennessee militia, Jackson moved for the third time into the enemy's country. March 21, he established Fort Williams at the mouth of Cedar creek, on the Coosa. March 27, he attacked the fight lasted all day, both sides suffering severely; but the assailants were driven off. Creeks in their fortification on the Horse-Shoe Bend of the Tallapoosa, where their town Tohopeka stood, in the present county of Tallapoosa. It was the most sanguinary battle of the war. Having surrounded them, and forced their works, the Indians were routed, and left 557 warriors dead on the field, besides others killed in the effort to cross the river. The whites and their savage allies lost 54 killed and 156 wounded. It was the finishing stroke to the war.

     Proceeding thence to Hickory Ground, in the present county of Elmore, Jackson built Fort Jackson on the ruins of Bienville's old fort, Toulouse. Detachments of his army scoured the adjacent country, and burned several villages, which they found deserted.

     A body of Georgia and South Carolina troops penetrated the country, and in March erected Fort Decatur on the Tallapoosa, in the present county of Macon. Major Gen. Thomas Pinckney, in command of the southern department, proceeded from this point to Fort Jackson, April 20. He ordered the militia to return to Tennessee, as their time was about to expire, and the remnant of the savages were suing for peace. They were scattered in the forests, without food or shelter, and, pending the negotiations, many flocked to the different posts for a refuge from starvation.

     In July, Gen. Jackson returned to Fort Jackson, with authority to treat for peace. This was concluded, August 9, 1814, and signed by the leading chiefs and warriors. To reimburse the federal government for the expenses incurred in the war, all the country claimed by the Muscogees west of the Coosa, and south of a line running southeast from Wetumpka to a point on the Chattahoochee below the present town of Eufaula, was ceded. It was a very important event in the annals of Alabama, for it threw open to the whites half the present area of the State.

     This was the first cession the Muscogees made of their lands in what is now Alabama, and is the most famous of all the Indian treaties that relate to her present territory. The domain to which the title of the savages was thus extinguished is described in an article of the treaty as " beginning at a point on the eastern bank of Coosa river, where the south boundary line of the Cherokee nation crosses the same ; running from thence down the "said Coosa river with its eastern bank according to its various meanders "to a point one mile above the mouth of Cedar creek, at Fort Williams, " thence east two miles, thence south two miles, thence west to the eastern bank of the Coosa river, thence down the eastern bank thereof according " to its various meanders to a point opposite the upper end of the great "falls (called by the natives Wetumka); thence east from a true meridian "line to a point due north of the mouth of Okfuskee (or "Line" creek, as it is now usually called), thence south by a "like meridian line to the mouth of Okfuskee, on the south side of the Tallapoosa river, thence up the same [the Okfuskee, ] according to its various "meanders, to a point where a direct course will cross the same at a distance of ten miles from the mouth thereof, thence a direct line to the mouth of Summochico creek, which empties into the Chattahouchie river " on the east side thereof below the Elufaulau town ; thence east," &c., &c.

     Though the treaty of Fort Jackson terminated the war on the Tallapoosa, many of the Creeks fled to Pensacola. There they were harboured and protected by the Spaniards, who were incensed at the capture of Mobile. The contest between Great Britain and the United States continued, and the former power, the close ally of Spain in the war she was then engaged in with France, was permitted, August 25, 1814, to land three hundred men in Pensacola, and anchor an armed fleet in the harbour. The British officers were then permitted to equip and discipline the fugitive Indians, and to prepare for an aggressive campaign against Mobile and New Orleans.

     Apprised of these movements, Gen. Jackson, who had been assigned to the command of the new military department of the Southwest, left Fort Jackson, August 11, and floated down the Alabama with a portion of his troops. Making his headquarters in Mobile, he called for volunteers from Tennessee, and they were promptly furnished. He reconstructed the defence at Mobile Point, called Fort Bowyer, which had been dismantled by Gen. Flournoy.

     Fort Bowyer was attacked, September 15, by a large naval and land force from Pensacola, the latter consisting chiefly of Indians. But Major Lawrence, with one hundred and thirty men, beat off the assailants with a loss of one vessel and two hundred and thirty-four men; while his own loss was eight men.

     In October, Brig. Gen. Coffee reached the vicinity of St. Stephens with two thousand eight hundred mounted Tennesseans. Dismounting one thousand of these, and uniting them with his old command, Gen. Jackson marched across the country, and captured Pensacola and its defences November 7.

     The humiliating terms of this treaty were reluctantly acceded to by the Creeks. It was signed by "Andrew Jackson, major general commanding 7th military district,", on the one part; and by "Tustenuggoe Thlucco, [Big Warrior,] speaker of the Upper Creeks," " Tustenuggee Hoppoiee, speaker of the Lower Creeks," " Timpooechee Bernard, captain of Uchees," " Nomatlee Emautla, or Captain Isaacs of Coosada," "Alexander Grayson of Hillabee," and thirty-one other miccos and headmen. " Done at Fort Jackson " in presence of Charles Cassidy, acting secretary ; Benj. Hawkins, agent for Indian affairs; Return J. Meigs, A. C. Nation [Cherokee agent]; Robert " Butler, adjutant general United States Army," &c., &c.

     Major Uriah Blue, of the Thirty-ninth infantry, was then detached with one thousand men, to scour the coast corm , while the commander-in-chief repaired to the scene of his glory at New Orleans. Major Blue accomplished the dangerous task assigned to him very effectually. The savages were driven from their cover in the swamps of the Escambia and Choctahatchee, and quite a number were killed.

     Thus was ended a war so glorious to the brave Muscogees, and yet so fatal! Their formidable strength was shorn forever.

     West Florida, as far east as the Perdido, was ceded to the United States, and thus the bay and town of Mobile came into the possession of the United States.

     Important treaties were made with the Indian tribes in 1816; treaties which led to an immediate and steady flow of immigration into the country.

     At the Chicasa council-house, September 14, a treaty was entered into between the federal government and the Cherokees, which was ratified at Turkeytown the 4th of October following. The tribe relinquished all claim to the country south of the Tennessee river and west of a line near the western boundary of the present county of Marshall, for the sum of $65,000. This treaty was signed by Gen. Jackson, of Tennessee, Hon. Jesse Franklin of North Carolina, and Gen. Merriweather of Georgia on the part of the federal government; and by George Guess, Richard Brown, and twenty-two other chiefs, in behalf of the tribe.

     This amount does not include $150 each paid to " Chinnubbv, King of the Chickasaws," Levi Colbert, and the eight other " Chicasa chiefs," and the interpreter ; or the $100 each paid to " Colonel George Colbert " James Colbert, "Major Wm. Glover," and ten other ''military leaders ;" nor, to the life annuity of $100 given to " Gen. William Colbert..' The gold of the white men could secure the lands of the brave Chickasaws ; their steel could not.

     The line is described in the writing as follows :. The Cherokee nation acknowledge the following as their western boundary : South of the Tennessee river, commencing at Camp Coffee on the south side of the Tennessee river, which is opposite the Chicasa Island, running from thence a due "south course to the top of the dividing ridge between the waters of the "Tennessee and Tombikbee rivers; thence eastwardly along said ridge, leaving the head waters of the Black Warrior to the right hand, until opposed by "the west branch of Will's creek ; down the east bank of said creek to the Coosa river, and down said river. The Cherokee nation relinquish to the "United States all claim, and cede all title, to lands lying south and west of "the line as described, &c., &c. This treaty was witnessed by "James Gadsden,, secretary of the commissioners;" "Arthur P. Hayne, inspector general, division of the South ; John Rhea of Tennessee, Return J Meigs, and others.

     At the Chicasa council-house, September 20, 1816, that tribe sold all their lands " east of a line commencing at the "mouth of Caney creek," [now in the county of Colbert] "running up said creek to its source, thence a clue course to the ridge path, or commonly called Gaines' road., along said road "south-westward to a point on the Tombikbee, well known ,,as Cotton Gin Port, and down the western bank of the "Tombikbee to the Choctaw boundary," at the mouth of the Oktibbeha river, for the sum of $124,500. This treaty was signed by Gen. Jackson, Mr. Franklin, and Gen. Merriweather, and by twenty-three chiefs and leaders of the tribe. The small strip of territory in Alabama reserved by the Chickasaws in this treaty was ceded in 1831.

     A third treaty of primary importance was concluded with the Choctaws, at the trading house near Jones' Bluff, on the Tombikbee, whereby they ceded to the federal government " all their title and claim to lands lying east of the following "boundary : beginning at the mouth of Oktibbeha, the Chicasa "boundary, and running from thence down the Tombikbee "river until it intersects the northern boundary of a cession " made to the United States by the Choctaws, at Mount Dexter, on the 16th of November, 1805." This was a deed to all the first tier of counties lying east of the Tombikbee and Tuscaloosa rivers, and north of the present boundary of Pickens. The consideration was the sum of $130,000, in instalments, as usual. Gen. John Coffee, Hon. John Rhea, and Col. John McKee were the federal commissioners; and Mushulatubbee, Puckshenubbee, Pushmataha, and ten other chiefs on the part of the Indians. Thomas H. Williams, R. Chamberlain, Silas Dinsmore, John Pitchlynn, Turner Brashear, and M. Mackey witnessed this treaty.

      The Indian had now been pushed across the Tombikbee and to the Big Bear on the west, behind the elbow of the Tennessee on the north-east, out of the Tennessee valley proper, beyond the Coosa on the east, cut off from contact with the Spaniard at Pensacola, and driven from his hunting grounds on the lower Chattahoochee. Three-quarters of the present magnificent domain of Alabama lay at the will of the Anglo-American.

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