It began with the largest massacre of non-combatants by Native Americans in United States history, and ended with the greatest number of Native Americans killed in one day by the United States military. The Creek Indian War raged through 1813 and 1814, but is now largely forgotten outside of Alabama.
In early 1813, war broke out between two factions of the Creek Nation in eastern Mississippi Territory, what would eventually become the State of Alabama. One faction was made up of mixed and full blood Creeks who had began to adopt a more European way of living, trading and farming. The other faction, known as the "Red Sticks" wanted a full return to the ways of their forefathers before the coming of the white men. This disagreement boiled into civil war among the Creeks, with both sides winning and losing skirmishes in lower Alabama.
On August 30, 1813 a large band of Red Sticks attacked a ramshackle stockade post called Fort Mims. By the end of the day, approximately 500 men, women and children; whites, mixed bloods, full bloods and black slaves, lay dead with the fort reduced to ashes.
Massacre at Fort Mims
Panic ensued through the white settlements in northern Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. For the first time, the United States became involved in a Native American civil war. The Tennessee militia marched into Alabama to subjugate the Red Sticks. The column under General Andrew Jackson was the most active and successful of the American forces who marched against the Red Sticks. Several defeats, and inadequate supply lines plagued Jackson and his men. In the Spring of 1814 he was reinforced with a regiment of United States Regulars and marched again towards the Red Stick strong hold on the Tallapoosa River. 199 years ago today, Jackson and his mixed force of Tennessee Militia, US Regulars, friendly Creek Indians and Cherokee allies attacked the Red Sticks at Horseshoe Bend.
By the end of the day, as many as 1,000 Red Stick warriors lay dead. 350 Red Stick women and children were handed over to the Cherokee allies as slaves. Red Stick resistance ceased and the "Creek War" was over. One of Jackson's biographers described Horseshoe Bend as "slow, laborious slaughter." Jackson, in a letter to a fellow officer reported, "The carnage was dreadful." In contrast, Jackson's army suffered only 50 killed and 154 wounded.
The victory at the Horseshoe won promotion of Jackson to Major General of Volunteers in the United States Army. He later commanded US troops at the Battle of New Orleans in a stunning one-sided defeat of a British invasion force. Jackson was catapulted to national Fame and was elected President in 1828. His rise as a national leader had its beginnings at Horseshoe Bend, Alabama.
|The 39th US Infantry scales the palisades. From a diorama at the Horseshoe Bend NPS visitor's center.|
Twenty Five years after the victory at Horseshoe Bend, President Andrew Jackson would betray those Creek and Cherokee allies who helped him win the Red Stick War, when he evicted them from their homes in Alabama and Georgia and sent them on the Trail of Tears to the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.
For more on Horseshoe Bend, I suggest this National Park Service video. This is shown at the NPS visitor center at the battlefield. I had the honor to help make this video (that's my cannon you will see in some scenes.) The film is narrated by Native American Hollywood actor, Wes Studie.
A three minute video on the battle produced by PBS.