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The Creek Indian War of 1813-14

Ft. Mims
The first major battle of the Creek Indian War, also located at Burnt Corn, led to the massacre at Fort Mims, which resulted in the U.S. going to war with the Creek Indians.

By Don & Diane Wells
Between the time when Tecumseh left the Creeks in late 1811 and the start of the Creek Indian war in 1813, the Indian war plans became a reality. By May of 1813, Pickett wrote in his “History of Alabama” that “The hostile spirit increased fearfully, and the whole (Creek) nation was soon agitated with quarrels, fights, murders, and robberies, and everything foreboded a direful civil war.”

He went on to say that “Alarmed at this unusual state of things, the chiefs friendly to the United States frequently dispatched runners to Benjamin Hawkins, who urged them to return to adhere to the cause of the Federal Government, and to take all means to avert a civil war.” Pickett considered Hawkins to be in a state of benightedness, lacking any understanding that a civil war was about the break out and thus doing nothing toward defusing the situation.

Although there were many signs of a pending civil war, the first real evidence occurred in June 1813 when a mail carrier following the Federal Road was attacked near Burnt Corn, Alabama. He was severely beaten and left for dead. This event raised concerns with the people living along the Federal Road as well as those who lived to the west of the Tombigby River in Alabama.

They began to improve their security by building forts to surround their buildings in order to provide some protection for their families and slaves. The first major battle of the Creek Indian War, also located at Burnt Corn, led to the massacre at Fort Mims, which resulted in the U.S. going to war with the Creek Indians. Pickett reported in his book, “History of Alabama”, that a large force of Red Stick Creek Indians, those who had decided to join Tecumseh, were spotted heading for Pensacola with pack-horses to acquire guns and ammunition.

General Flournoy who had taken over from General Wilkinson for the southern U.S. territory in Mississippi and Alabama refused to call out troops to support the settlers so Colonel James Caller ordered out the militia. He positioned his troops on the Pensacola Trail and intercepted the band of Creek Indians returning with munitions. The Creek Indians led by Peter McQueen, High-Head Jim and Josiah Francis were attacked by the militia.

Colonel Caller’s force, although not totally successful, did manage to capture most of the munitions, which forced the Creeks to return to Pensacola for replacement supplies. The retaliatory attack by the Creeks on Fort Mims came within 45 days of the Battle of Burnt Corn.

FtMims
Fort Mims was one of the sites the settlers had built for protection after the battle at Burnt Corn. Fearing retaliation, they had poured into the fort with their possessions. A total of 553 people were in the fort when the Creek Indians attacked.


Samuel Mims was a wealthy mixed-blood Indian who was one of the very early settlers in the territory of southern Alabama. He owned the ferry and many other enterprises along the Alabama and Tombigby Rivers. Fort Mims was one of the sites the settlers had built for protection after the battle at Burnt Corn. Fearing retaliation, they had poured into the fort with their possessions. A total of 553 people were in the fort when the Creek Indians attacked.

General Claiborne, the local commander, visited the fort after it was built and placed Major Beasley in charge of the militia protecting the fort. As directed by General Claiborne, Major Beasley made improvements to the fort but was lackadaisical in managing the fort defenses. At noon on August 30,1813, a drum beat was sounded to call the officers and soldiers to dinner. The large gates to the fort had been left open and through them poured 1,000 Creek Indian warriors known as the Red Sticks. These Indians massacred practically all of the people in the fort and carried out atrocities on those that they killed that are almost unspeakable. Most of the dead were scalped. The Indians needed the scalps in order to collect the five dollar bounty offered by the British in Pensacola.

On learning the results of the battle at Fort Mims, General Claiborne dispatched a detachment of troops on September 9, 1813 to bury the dead. The ones who were given this task described the horrible scene as an unbelievably gruesome job. The atrocity of Fort Mims and the need to avenge those that died became the clarion call of the U.S. military in fighting the Creek Indians.
After the Battle at Fort Mims, the U.S. government began assembling a large fighting force of regulars, volunteers and even some friendly Indians. General Andrew Jackson was put in charge of directing this force against the Creek Indians. These forces were assembled in Tennessee and Georgia and marched to Alabama along exiting Indian Trails and new roads that had been built by the government.

The Federal Road, no longer a horse path, had become a major thoroughfare. From September 1813 to March 1814, numerous battles took place between the U.S. forces and the Red Stick Creek Indians. The final battle site was at Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River. There the Red Sticks had built extensive fortifications to protect their warriors and families. However, Jackson’s forces were not stopped by the fortifications. They killed over half of the warriors and their family members. When the battle was over, there were only about 200 Creek warriors left and many of those had multiple wounds that incapacitated them. The Creek war, for the most part, was over.

Following the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, any remaining Red Stick Creek Indians sought safety in Florida or turned themselves in. Jackson and his forces retired to the area where the Coosa and the Tallapoosa Rivers meet to form the Alabama River and built Fort Jackson.

Next month, the series will finish with the ending of the Creek occupation of Georgia.

 

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