Ransom Kimbell and Abner James and their families took shelter at Fort Sinquefield with many other settlers and friendly Creeks. They waited with the others for the Indians to attack. There were so many people in the stockade and it was so crowded that Ransom and Abner decided to take there chances and went to the Kimbells' home. After all, no attack had come. Kimbell's spacious plantation house in Bassett's Creek Valley, was about 2 miles from Fort Sinquefield.
On August 31, 1813, Mary James, daughter of Abner James, was up late caring for a sick family member. Young Isham Kimbell was helping her. The dogs outside began to bark furiously. Mary blew out the candles. They could hear the sound of running feet.
Yet, the next day, inexplicably, the families still didn't return to Fort Sinquefield.
At 3:00 pm on September 1, 1813, Ransom Kimbell was away from the house. Abner James and a man named Walker who was visiting were near the house. Suddenly, the house was surrounded by Red Sticks! Hostiles led by the Prophet Francis descended on the house in a fury. James and Walker were shot at but untouched. They managed to get Abner's son Thomas age 14, and his daughter Mary away from the melee and the four of them fled to Fort Sinquefield.
Young Isham Kimbell had seen what the Indians were doing to his family and immediately ran way, grabbing a younger brother who was in blacksmith's shop. The boys stayed away from the road. Indians saw them and fired at them but both were untouched. They made it to a creek and while crossing, Isham fell. When he gathered his senses, he realized his brother was no longer there. Nothing more was ever known of what happened to that child. Isham continued on to the stockade. He heard the hostiles but was able to conceal himself from them. Meanwhile, two me at Sinquefield, on hearing shots, had ventured out; they were Thomas Matlock and John O'Gwynn. They found the exhausted teenager and took him to the Fort.
Everyone else -- 14 people in all -- in the Kimbell house was savagely clubbed and scalped. The house was pillaged and burned.
Ransom Kimbell had heard the shots and hurried home. Too late. The Indians had completed their brutal work and were sacking the place. Ransom, heartsick, went to Sinquefield. He set about helping others prepare for attack.
That night, back at the Kimbell home, Sarah Merrill, Abner's married daughter, came to surrounded by dead bodies. She crawled around and miraculously found her year-old baby boy still alive. She made her way out of the horror and struggled through the woods towards Fort Sinquefield. Bleeding and in pain for after all, she had been scalped, she was weak and when she felt she couldn't go on, she placed the baby in a hollow log, and continued on to the fort. Once there, she told her neighbors about leaving the baby. Men hurried to the area and after searching, found the child safe and sound; they took the toddler to Sinquefield and to the arms of his wounded mother. Both survived.
Ransom Kimbell did not last long after the attack; he sutained a horrendous personla loss. He died at Fort Madison. His son Isham lived to become an important citizen of Clarke County. He was a clerk of the Circuit Court.
The next engagement was The Attack on Fort Sinquefield
back to The Creek War main page
"Old Times" by Joel D. Jones, originally published July 18, 1935.
Subject: Indian wars
The Creek Indians were a rebellious tribe, and a lot of trouble existed below the boundary line. In Clarke County were many forts built and attacks were made, and a lot of white settlers were slain by the Creeks. The forts in Clarke County were, Cato's Fort, near Coffeeville, Easley Fort at Baker's Bluff, Glass' fort on the Tombigbee River, Gallett's Bluff Fort, Landrum's Fort near Grove Hill, Lavier Fort, Madison Fort, Mott's Fort, Turner Fort and Fort Sinquefield.
A brutal massacre, September 1, 1813, in which the Creeks under the Prophet Francis murdered 12 members of the Kimball and James families. Ransom Kimball and Abner James became dissatified with life at Fort Sinquefield and in August moved their families to the home of Kimball. On September 1, 1813 a band of Creek warriors surrounded the house, and 12 of the inmates were killed. A few escaped to the fort. During the attack, Mrs. Sarah Merrill, a daughter of Abner James was struck down, together with her infant son. Both were supposed to be dead. Mrs. Merrill was scalped. She was revived by the falling rain, recovered her child from among the bodies, and with it succeeded in making her way to the fort also. She and the child eventually recovered. Mrs. Merrill died in Clarke County in 1869.
On September 2, Fort Sinquefield was reinforced by the arrival of eleven well armed men under Leut. James Bailey. They retrieved the bodies of the dead from the home of Kimball. During a burial ceremony about 70 yards southeast of the fort, about 100 indians were seen stealthily approaching the stockade. When the alarm was given
the indians rose and ran at full speed to cut off the burial party. At this moment of terror and confusion Issac Hayden leaped upon a horse, and calling to the dogs in the fort, set the yelping pack upon the indians. This delay enabled the women, with one exception to reach the fort in safety. Mrs. Sarah Phillips, when about half way to the fort, was overtaken and slain.
Josiah Francis, a Creek Chief, was born in 1770, in Autauga town, was the son of David Francis, a white trader and silversmith, who lived many years in Autauga Town. Josiah Francis learned the silversmith trade from of his father. The first recorded public fact of his life as being created a prophet, which was in 1812. Francis and a large number of followers camped on the bank of the Alabama River near the spot where Gossport is located, making preparations for war on the settlements in in Monroe and Clarke Counties. They were moved from this camp by general James Wilkinson of the U.S. Army, and they marched to Burnt Corn Creek, where they were attacked on July 27, 1813 by a body of Americans, under Colonel James Coller, and there was fought what is known as the battle of Burnt Corn. The victory was with the Creeks, this fact of American defeat, no doubt, prompted their attacks as stated above.
Next is The Attack on Fort Sinquefield
Based on statements by James Cornells in Halbert & Ball, "The Creek War of 1813 and 1814". I have paraphrased, but included all the names found in the piece. If searching for a particular name, use your browser's Find button.
Two weeks prior to the Fort Mims incident, a great council was held. The Red Sticks -- hostile Creeks -- gathered on the banks of the Alabama River to discuss plans for the attack. It was decided to divide the Creek into 2 sections and simultaneously attack the fort. Fort Mims was selected because a large number of people within were involved in the Battle of Burnt Corn. There was also a very special twist to the hatred -- many within the fort were of mixed blood. Many Red Sticks had relatives in the fort. But because those within had chosen to side with the whites, the warriors boiled with a particular venom.
A second attack was planned. There were 2 choices for object of attack -- Fort Madison or Fort Sinquefield. After much debate, Sinquefield was finally chosen. It was decided that Prophet Francis would take a force of 125 warriors against the stockade.
Late on August 31, the "Tory Creek" Nah-he, so-called because he sided with whites, returned to Fort Madison to report the horrors at Fort Mims. He also reported to Captain Sam Dale and the others that a large force of hostile Creeks, under Francis, had gathered on the Alabama. Those within Fort Madison made preparations for their own attack. Nah-hee scouted all that evening and into the next day, he discovered that more atrocities had ensued at Bassett's Creek. Nah-hee relayed this news to Fort Madison. Captain Joseph Carson sent 11 armed men under Lt. James Bailey to Fort Sinquefield to assist in burials of the Fort Mims dead and to learn what they could of coming attacks. Among those with Lt. Bailey were John Woods, Isaac Hayden, and James Smith.
At Ft. Sinquefield were families, mostly the refugees from Bassett's Creek, and 15 armed men. Charles Phillips was there, with his large family, some married of his children including Charles Phillips, Jr. There were also a few friendly Creeks.
When Lt. Bailey and his party arrived, some of the garrison went to Ransom Kimbell's house. They gathered the 12 bodies of the dead there, and put them into an ox cart. Meanwhile others at Sinquefield began to dig graves, on the side of the trail which later became Grove Hill road.
About 11:00 AM, a large group of people was attending the burial ceremony. Some women were down the hill at the spring doing washing. At least one of the women was a black woman. Sarah Phillips, wife of Charles Phillips, Jr., and two other women, took buckets and walked down for water. There was with them a small guard detail. However, the guards did not go all the way down the hill to the spring, but held back in the shade, talking.
Charles Phillips, Sr. and Isham Kimbell were sitting at the gate, talking about the massacre too. Phillips glanced south and thought he saw a flock of turkeys coming towards the fort. He pointed them out to Kimbell, who saw at once that they were not turkeys, they were Red Sticks!!
Kimbell shouted the alarm. All who heard rushed to the gate. The women at the spring heard the alarm too and began to run up the hill to the fort.
At the alarm, the Indians, who had been walking in a crouch, stood up straight and began to run at full speed towards the fort to cut off the retreat of all they could. There were at least 100 of them, in paint and turkey feathers, with the Prophet Francis at their head, all with guns, tomahawks, and clubs. When they saw the terrified women, they immediately went for them.
Those inside the fort realized the women's fate, Isaac Hayden boldly leapt on a horse and drove all the dogs in the fort -- about 60 in all-- out and down the hill. The dogs attacked the Indians. There was much commotion. Hayden, upon seeing one woman being attacked, shot the Indian. Hayden was successful to the point that all but one woman made to the safety of the fort. One young girl, Winnie Odum, collapsed just outside the fort and a soldier reached out and grabbed her by the hair and dragged her inside.
Sarah Phillips was the woman left outside. Pregnant, she was unable to move swiftly. Francis and two other Indians sprang on her, giving a wild screech. Mercifully, Sarah fainted, because right away they scalped her. Hayden and the horse made a mad dash to the fort. The horse was shot in the neck as they went through the gate, though he recovered.
Now the gate was closed. The dogs were all still outside and they fled to the woods and were lost. The Red Sticks now surrounded the fort. The attack now began in earnest. Those inside were determined not let happen what had happened to their friend and neighbors at Ft. Mims. James Short, whose gun had been loaded with powder for a time, fired it and it sputtered. The Indians were made to think the whites were running out of powder. Their shouts of victory were heard inside and the Tory Creeks there shouted back, "Come on and we will show you whether we are almost out of powder!" Shots rang out! Prophet Francis waved a cow tail that wrapped his arm as decoration, and yelled to his warriors to attack. He was immediately shot dead!
The women and children began to scream and shriek in terror. The men moved them to the lower story of the block house. To keep busy, some of the women set about molding bullets.
The men positioned themselves at posts around the stockade. The Indians outside took shelter behind trees. Some stood behind Sinquefield's abandoned cabin, which was about 75 yards from the fort. Other hostiles were in the open. This is a description of how they worked: "These latter would rise from the earth, deliver their fire, then throwing themselves again on the ground, and while reloading, would roll to and fro, keeping their bodies in constant motion, so as to baffle the aim of the marksmen in the fort." Clearly the Indians fought bravely, covering for each other.
James Smith, Stephen Lacey, and some others were in the upper story of the block house and they fired a continuous barrage of shots on the Indians. Mrs. Lacey and Mrs. Thomas Phillips came up into the area, perhaps to help load. Stephen Lacey fell mortally wounded at the feet of his wife. Mrs. Lacey was cautioned to keep quiet her grief and so she did. Imagine! She held her dying husband as the life drained from him. The Laceys had been living 2 miles north of the fort and Stephen Lacey was well-respected. Now quietly mourned.
James Dubose, age ten, was shot and slightly wounded.
Charles Phillips, Jr. finally realized his Sarah was gone. Horrified and frantic, tried to run out of the fort, to kill the Indians, but was held back by friends.
The attack lasted but 2 hours. John Woods fired the final shot. The Red Sticks retreated, taking all the horses that they could find near the fort. Some of these horses were later recovered by soldiers of Lt. Bradberry's command.
The Indians gone, Charles Phillips, Jr. went in search of his wife and found her mutilated body. Sarah Phillips was said to have been a "kind-hearted, religious woman, and universally beloved." She and Lacey were buried that night.
Some men followed the Indians' trail for a time, fearing another attack. They returned to Sinquefield and it was decided that the fort should be abandoned and all should move to Fort Madison. The short distance between the fort was a fearful trek for them. They moved in small groups. George Bunch was so frightened , he left his poor wife and children and the coward was the first to arrive at Madison. Mrs. Bunch put her most prized belongings into a sack and set out for safety with her 2 young children; moving slowly, and it took them all the terrifying night to get to Madison, they were the last to arrive and, safe at last, Mrs. Bunch fell in a swoon into the ministering hands of her friends and neighbors.
Some of the Fort Sinquefield men brought a war trophy with them, the cow tail that Francis had worn. Eleven of the Red Sticks had died in the attack. All but Francis were dragged to the bushes near the spring and left partially buried; their bones could be seen there for years after. The surviving Red Sticks fled to Burnt Corn Spring. Several of Mr. Kimbell's' slaves had been captured; they later reported that many wounded Indians had later died.
Notes: Halbert and Ball used many source for the account of the
Fort Sinquefield attack. Rev. Josiah Allen, of Mississippi,
knew many of the people who had fought-- Isaac Hayden, James Smith, John
Woods, and Isham Kimbell-- and had often listened to the stories
they told. He also knew James Cornells and had talked many times
with him of the events. Clement Phillips, a son of Sarah and
Charles, Jr. gave the story of his lost mother as he had heard it
from his family; he also told the turkey story. Presly Odum told
about his sister Winnie; all the Odum family was at the fort
that day. Rev. John Brown had a sister at the fort. Halbert and Ball
also used Pickett's History of Alabama and Alexander Meek's
history, as well a a letter by Gen.. F. L. Claiborne. The Halbert
and Ball book "The Creek War of 1813 and 1814" is just
one of the many fine reprints available from University
of Alabama Press at its online site.
Go next to The Battle of Tallaseehatchee
The news of the Fort Mims Massacre was spreading. By October 11, 1813, upon receiving dispatched from George S. Gaines and a plea for aid from Governor Willie Blount, General Andrew Jackson sent General John Coffee to Huntsville, at Ditto's Landing, to gather forces and wait for him to catch up. Jackson had been injured in a fight and was recovering. Many volunteers had joined the effort, including Sam Houston and David Crockett. There was much exciement and resolve to staunch the brutality of the Red Sticks.
Coffee and his troops were encamped opposite the upper end of an island on the south side of the Tennessee River, three miles above Ditto's Landing. After a time, the troops advanced to Thompson's Creek to await the arrival of much needed supplies, ordered from East Tennessee.
Coffee then marched his forces to the abandoned Black Warrior's town, on the Black Warrior River, 100 miles away. He burned the town and took as much corn as he could find. He established there Fort Deposit as a defensive depot.
Jackson, now fit to travel, cut his way through the mountains to Wills' Creek and there encamped. He allowed the men to forage for provisions as the supplies were yet to be seen, the contractors who were to procure the supplies, having failed to do their job.
General Jackson sent Colonel Dyer to attack Littlefuchee on Canoe Creek. They burned the town and took about thirty prisoners -- men, women, and children. Chinnabbee and his son Selocta took charge of the prisoners and sent them to Huntsville. Meanwhile, all the food in the village was taken -- corn stores and meat.
The hostile Creeks were now gathered at Tallasseehatchee about 13 miles from the camp. Coffee, now a Brigadier General, was dispatched by Jackson to attack; he took 1000 men for the task. Half of these he reaserved for the attack, half to cover the operation. Richard Brown, a Creek, was in a company of friendly Creeks and Cherokees; they all wore deertails and white feathers in their hair to signify that they were friendly Indians.
By now it was Nonvember 3, 1813. They crossed the Coosa at Fish Dam, 4 miles above the islands. That morning, Coffee advanced his troops to Tallasseehatchee and surrounded the village, as the sun was rising. A great whoop went up. And drums. The prophets advanced. Quickly, the Americans slaughtered the hostiles. One hundred and eighty Creek dead were counted, though more lay concealed in the woods. Five Americans died. Eighty-four women and children were taken prisoner.
Coffee crossed back over the Coosa and returned to his camp that night. The prisoners were sent to Huntsville. It is believd that not a single hostile man survived. the attack.
Go next to The Battle of Talladega
In November, 1813, Andrew Jackson was commissioned to go to the Mississippi Territory. An offense was in the works. The news of the horroible massacres had spread. Jackson had been injured in a fight and was ill, however, too ill to go, so he sent General John Coffee on ahead with 1500 men. He later met them at Ditto's Landing, Huntsville. By that time, there were 3500 troops gathered, among them, the volunteers, Sam Houston and David Crockett.
Jackson dispatched Coffee to do battle at Tallahassehatchee, near Jacksonville, AL of today. Jackson headed towards Fort Strother. He was on an avenging crusade. Camped at Strother, Jackson was waiting for supplies. They were low on food and more and more forces were arriving. Fort Strother was at Ten Islands on the Coosa River, St. Clair County. Men went out into forests and shot game when possible, but there was never enough. There was even a mutiny.
General Coffee had destroyed the town of Tallahassehatchee. The Red Sticks were on a war path; they were determined to burn every friendly Creek town. The settlers who lived in Talladega heard of the burnings and they fled to Fort Leslie for protection. The fort was a stockade built around the house of Alexander Leslie, a mixed blood; the home was about a mile from nowadays Courthouse Square in Talladega of today. Leslie had ties to John Leslie of the great Panton, Leslie and Forbes trading company, and Leslie had a successful trading post.
The Red Sticks moved into the area and camped at Hogan Spring. There were over 1000 of them.
On November 7, 1813, word reached Jackson that citizens were under seige at Leslie's Fort in Talladega. It is thought someone had slipped out of Fort Leslie, found a horse, and made his way to Strother; Thomas Woodward believed that person was Selocta, son of Chinnabbee, the Natchez leader. The settlers at Leslie had moved swiftly and were ill-supplied. The need to get help was urgent. The messager, be it Selocta, arrived at Fort Strother with a deer tail in his hair -- the signal of a friendly Indian. Jackson made preparations to move hisforces to Fort Leslie, right away.By midnight, the troops were crossing the river and marching towards Talladega. Chinnabbee and Alexander Leslie arrived at Strother to bring a message from General White that he would not be joining the operation, though he was much needed to "hold the fort down" while Jackson took care of the Fort Leslie delimna. News also arrived that the much needed food supplies were not going to be delivered.
Just before dawn, Andrew Jackson, frustrated and hungry, roused his men, and moved them to within a mile of the enemy. The Red Sticks were hidden in thickets by a stream. Jackson ordered his men to form a crescent and to surround the enemy. An advance guard commanded by Colonel Carroll began to fire on the Indians. the hostiles rushed at Colonel Robert's brigade, and the crescent formation was breeched. Jackson ordered Colonel (or Lt., it is shown both ways) Bradly to fill the gaps, but Bradley failed, and consequently, due to his carelessness, many Creeks slipped through. Colonel Dyer's reserve forces stood their ground and met the enemy. Those who had scattered quickly reformed and fought bravely on. The hostile Creeks now were in a struggle to survive and all order lost. Many fled.
A charge was ordered and many Creeks died. In the end almost 300 hostile Creeks were dead and only 15 of Jackson's men (plus 2 that died later of wounds).
Grace Jemison reports in her book, "Historic Tales of Talladega", that dozens of skeletons were found, years later, on the hill known as Oak Hill, where the cemetery is today.
Coffee would pass through the area despite the fact that he was not part of the battle. He and his troops camped overnight. A street on the spot was named for him-- Coffee Street.