BATTLE OF THE HOLY GROUND
ON the 10th of November, General Flournoy wrote to General Claiborne, ordering him to proceed to Weatherford's Bluff and there establish a depot of provisions for General Jackson, who had written that he was more in dread of famine than of Indians, and that without a supply he could not carry on the campaign. In accordance with this order, on the 13th General Claiborne broke up his camp at Pine Level and took up the line of march across Clarke County towards the Bluff. The troops manifested the greatest satisfaction on learning their objective point, and were greatly elated by the prospect, as they supposed, of an active campaign towards Pensacola. On the route, the Choctaw Battalion, under Pushmataha, camped for a day and night at Fort Madison, where twenty fine new rifles were distributed among them. On the 16th, the army arrived at the Alabama River, opposite Weatherford's Bluff, there camped for the night, and the next day, by means of rafts, the entire army was landed on the other shore. Here General Claiborne at once began the construction of "a strong stockade, two hundred feet square, defended by three block houses and a half-moon battery, which commanded the river." In about ten days these works were completed, and the place received the name of Fort Claiborne in honor of the commander. The town, where the fort stood, still bears his name.
We here quote from Claiborne's Mississippi a letter from General Claiborne to Governor Holmes, dated the 21st of November, 1813, which gives a brief account of the operations at Weatherford's Bluff.
"I am now on the east bank of the Alabama, thirty-five miles above Mims, and in the best part of the enemy's country. From this position we cut the savages off from the river, and from their growing crops. We likewise render their communication with Pensacola more hazardous. Here will be deposited for the use of General Jackson, a supply of provisions, and I hope I shall be ordered to co-operate with him. Colonel Russell of the Third U. S. Infantry has been ordered to co-operate with the Georgia troops, and is now on his march to this place. We have by several excursions alarmed the Indians, and the possession of this important position will induce them to retire. I have with me Pushmataha, who, with fifty-one warriors, accompanied by Lieutenant Calahan of the volunteers, will march this morning and take up a position to intercept more effectually the communication of the enemy with Pensacola."
A statement has been made to the writer by two contemporaries of the Creek War, that while the army was at Weatherford's Bluff, Pushmataha went on an excursion with some of his warriors to Burnt Corn Creek. There he discovered a Creek camp, upon which he made a night attack and killed several of the enemy, whose scalps his warriors bore in triumph back to Claiborne's camp. It is probable that this excursion may be the very one which General Claiborne, in the letter above speaks of Pushmataha's making with fifty-one warriors in the direction of Pensacola.
On the twenty-eighth Colonel Gilbert C. Russell, the commander at Mount Vernon, arrived at Fort Claiborne, with the Third Regiment of U. S. Infantry. Agreeably to General Claiborne's desire, Colonel Russell had, at last, been ordered to cooperate with him. Pickett tells us: "General Claiborne wrote [the fifth of December] to General Jackson, congratulating, him upon his victories, giving him an account of the operations in the Southern Seat of War, and acquainting him with the fact that an abundance of corn and other provision were to be obtained in the neighborhood of Fort Claiborne. He also wrote to Governor Blount, apprising him of the arrival of more English vessels in Pensacola, and added that he wished 'to God that he was authorized to take that sink of iniquity, the depot of Tories and instigators of disturbances on the Southern frontier.' He had, a few days before, dispatched Major Kennedy and others to Mobile, to learn from Colonel Bowyer the particulars of the arrival of the British at Pensacola. They reported, giving satisfactory assurances that a large quantity of Indian supplies, and many soldiers, had arrived there; and in addition, that the Indians were committing; depredations in Baldwin County, having recently burned down Kennedy's and Byrne's mills. Lieutenant Colonel George Henry Nixon had succeeded Russell in the command at Mount Vernon. At his request, Claiborne permitted him also to man Fort Pierce, in the neighborhood of the disturbances."
The year 1813 was now drawing to a close, and General Claiborne, at last, prevailed upon General Flournoy to authorize him to advance with his army into the Creek nation. He accordingly resolved upon an expedition to Ikana chaka, the Holy Ground, situated about one hundred and twenty miles above Fort Claiborne. Many of Claiborne's officers were opposed to this expedition into the heart of the Creek nation. A written memorial or remonstrance, signed by these officers, giving their objections against the expedition, was placed in General Claiborne's hands. We reproduce this memorial from Claiborne's Mississippi:
"The undersigned, volunteer officers as republican soldiers devoted to their government, and warmly attached to yourself, and disclaiming any authority to remonstrate or complain, nevertheless, respectfully ask permission to lay their opinions before you in relation to the movement into the Creek Nation. Considering that winter and the wet season have set in; the untrodden wilderness to be traversed; the impossibility of transporting supplies for the want of roads; that most of our men are without winter clothing, shoes or blankets; that a large majority of those ordered to march will be entitled to their discharge before the expedition can be accomplished; for these and other considerations, we trust that the enterprise may be reconsidered and abandoned, declaring at the same time that be your decision what it may, we shall cheerfully obey your orders and carry out your plans." Louis Painboeuf, C. G. Johnson, C. V. Foelkil, Ben Dent, Philip A. Engle, R. Jones, A. Wells, James Foster, H. Morrison, Captains; Alexander Calvit, Lieutenant and Aid-de-Camp; Ben. F. Harper, Surgeon; John Allen, John Camp, Wm. Morgan, R. Bowman, R. C. Anderson, Layson J. Lockridge, Theron Kellog, A. L. Osborne, Lieutenants; George Dougharty, B. Blanton, M. Calliham, H. O. Davis, E. Burton, Stephen Mayers, James Luckett, Ensigns.
Notwithstanding the truly forcible objections to the expedition presented in this remonstrance, General Claiborne adhered to his resolve. From Claiborne's Mississippi, we quote the following extract from a dispatch of General Claiborne himself, published in the Mississippi Republican, relative to this memorial:
"Their objections were stated with the dignity, feeling, and respect which these officers had always manifested. But these abused, calumniated defenders of their country, in a situation to try the stoutest heart, rose superior to privation and suffering. As soon as the order to march was issued, each man repaired promptly to his post. Many, whose term of service had expired, and who had not received a dollar of their arrearages, volunteered for the expedition, and with cheerful alacrity moved to their stations in the line." This includes every officer who signed the address. "Yes," continues the General, "when they were exposed in these swamps and canebrakes to an inclement winter, without tents, warm clothing, shoes or food; when every countenance exhibited suffering; when they were nine days without meat and subsisted chiefly on parched corn, these brave men won an important battle, and endured without a murmur the exigencies of the service."
On the thirteenth of December, the army left Fort Claiborne and took up the line of march towards the noted Holy Ground of the Creek Nation. The force consisted of the Third Regiment of U. S. Infantry, commanded by Colonel Russell, Major Cassel's Battalion of Cavalry, Major Smoot's Battalion of Militia, of which Patrick May was adjutant, and Dale and Heard Captains, the Twelve Month Mississippi Territory Volunteers, under Colonel Carson, and Pushmataha's Choctaw Battalion, numbering, according to Pickett, one hundred and fifty warriors. The entire army amounted to near one thousand men.
After several days' march in a north-eastern direction, the army reached the high lands south of Double Swamp, in the present County of Butler. Here General Claiborne built a depot, called Fort Deposite, where he left his wagons, cannon, baggage, and the sick with one hundred men as a guard. On the morning of the twenty-second, the troops again took up the line of march through the pathless forest, and late in the afternoon made their camp within ten miles of the Holy Ground.
A full description of the Holy Ground of the Creeks may, perhaps, be an acceptable digression to the reader of these pages. We quote from A. B. Meek: "The Holy Ground proper was situated along the south bank of the Alabama, between Pintlala and Big Swamp Creeks, in the present County of Lowndes. It received its name from being the residence of the principal prophets of the nation, and having been by them consecrated from the intrusion of white men. Wizard circles were described around its borders, and the credulous inhabitants were assured that no enemy could tread upon its soil without being blasted. It was emphatically called the 'Grave of White Men.' A more fertile and beautiful tract of country, especially when clothed with the vegetation of springtime, does not exist in our State; and it was thickly populated by the aborigines. Near the mouth of Pintlala, stood a village of eighty wigwams. The chief town, a few miles below, contained two hundred houses and here the council house of the Alibamo tribe was situated." It is with this chief town, to which the name, Holy Ground, will be restricted, that the main interest of our narrative is concerned. At the outbreak of the war many of the Indians carried their families into this town. After the massacre of Fort Mims, it became the headquarters of Weatherford, Hossa Yohola, Josiah Francis, and other chiefs. The town was designed by these chiefs, not only as a place of refuge for their women and children, but as a depot for provisions and military supplies, and a point to which those discomfited in battle might retreat,--in short, the base of Creek military operations. The site of Holy Ground Town is about two miles north of the present town of White Hall. Holy Ground Creek rises near White Hall and flows northward to the Alabama River. On nearing the river, which here runs nearly west, the creek deflects somewhat to the northeast before emptying into the river. Within this horse shoe or peninsula formed by the creek and the river stood Holy Ground Town. About half a mile above the mouth of the creek, and on its west side, is a small spring branch emptying into the creek. It is now locally known as Sprott's Spring Branch. About midway between this spring branch and the mouth of the creek, also on its west side, is another spring. This latter spring doubtless furnished the main supply of water to the people of the Holy Ground. Between the two springs is a low hollow emptying into the creek, which may have been a small branch in primitive days, but now shallow from the washings of the cultivated soil. On the western border of the Holy Ground are two ravines, each about two hundred yards long, and emptying into the Alabama River. The course of one ravine is to the north, the other to the northwest, and their mouths unite on the banks of the river. Meek states that the Holy Ground was enclosed with pickets. If so, we conjecture that the pickets must have extended across the neck of the land from the lower spring on Holy Ground Creek to a point on the river just above the two ravines. The enclosed area would embrace about fifty acres. In addition to the pickets, a long low pile of finely split lightwood was laid, on the outside of the town, extending entirely across the neck of land. The prophets assured their credulous people, that should the white people ever come and attempt to make an assault on their town, they would fire this consecrated fuel, whereupon every white man would at once fall lifeless to the earth.
Such was the Creek Holy Ground, and its ignorant and fanatical warriors no doubt deemed that its sacred precincts would be forever secure from the intruding footsteps of an invading foe.
Notwithstanding all their vaunted professions of belief in the impregnability of their town, the authorities of the Holy Ground, early on the morning of the twenty-third, when they became aware of the approach of Claiborne's army, had the good sense to take the precaution to convey their women and children across the river and lodge them securely in the thick forests of what is now known as the Dutch Bend of Autauga County. About eleven o'clock, the same morning, the army arrived within about two miles of the Holy Ground. Here General Claiborne ordered a short halt,--we conjecture a few hundred yards north or northwest of the present town of White Hall--and made his disposition for attack on the place. His plan was to surround the town in such a manner that the enemy could not escape. He divided his troops into three columns. The centre, commanded by Colonel Russell, at the head of which was Claiborne himself, consisted of the Third Regiment of U. S. Infantry, with Lester's Guards and Wells' Dragoons acting as a corps of reserve. The right column consisted of the Twelve Months Mississippi Territory Volunteers, commanded by Colonel Carson. The left was composed of Major Smoot's Battalion of Militia and Pushmataha's Battalion of Choctaw warriors, both under the command of Major Smoot. Colonel Carson was instructed to attack the Creeks upon the upper side of the town while Major Cassel's mounted riflemen were ordered to take a position on the river bank, west of the town, to prevent their escape down the river. The plan of battle now arranged, the army was put in motion towards the town. The central column, after marching a short distance, halted for a while so as to give the right and left columns time to reach their respective places on the upper and lower sides of the town. We follow the fortunes of Carson's column. It was evidently General Claiborne's instruction or at least his desire, that Carson's column should cross Holy Ground Creek and march down along its right bank so as to strike the upper side of the town. But in consequence of an impassable reed-brake, this could not be done, and Carson was compelled to march down along the left bank. It was a very cold day, and for nearly a mile, Carson's men, with great difficulty, marched, or rather waded, over a level piney woods country, covered with water from six inches to two feet deep. Upon emerging from the chilly waters to firmer land, the troops heard, issuing from the Holy Ground, the loud shouts and yells of the Creek warriors and the roll of their war drums, showing that the Indians were advised of their approach. Carson's men were the first troops to strike the enemy. About mid-day they came within sight of the town. A short distance from the town, and athwart Carson's line of march, was a branch emptying into Holy Ground Creek. At this lapse of time, it is impossible to determine whether this branch was the Spott's Spring Branch, or the hollow beyond, both referred to above. Our opinion inclines to the latter. In this branch, and behind a large, long log lying parallel with it and on the side towards Carson, was posted a large body of warriors. As Carson's men, now in line of battle, came within gun shot, they were suddenly greeted with a volley of rifle bullets from the Creek ambuscade and the battle began. The soldiers returned the fire and pressed steadily forward. Taking advantage of every tree and stump, they moved nearer and nearer the enemy, who under the lead of Weatherford, stubbornly held their ground. On the west side of the branch, immediately in the rear of the Creek gun men, were many warriors equipped with bows, who sent an incessant shower of arrows towards the American line; but the missiles, shot too high, fell mostly harmless in Carson's rear. A prophet was seen in the midst of the Creek bowmen, frantically rushing to and fro, waving a red-dyed cow's tail in each hand and uttering most appalling yells. Sometimes he would rush behind a cabin, that stood near by, and then would return at full speed, with his never-ceasing wild and frenzied gesticulations. Some of the soldiers finally making an oblique movement passed around the log and gave the Indians a severe enfilading fire, whereby several were killed and wounded. At the same time some of the whites were wounded. But this fire caused the Creeks to retreat across the branch. Still from other points, from behind trees, and among the fallen timbers, they continued to resist their enemies. The battle had now lasted about half an hour, when the other troops began to make their appearance upon the field. Major Cassels had found it impossible to reach the position assigned him on the western side of the town, on account of the extensive marsh connecting with Big Swamp, which lay in front of his line of march. This unforeseen obstacle caused him to fall back on the head of Carson's regiment. The Third regiment, Major Smoot's battalion, and Pushmataha's warriors had now taken a position in front of the Holy Ground, and the enemy began to give way. About this time, a soldier of Carson's command, named Gatlin, resting his musket against a tree and taking deliberate aim, stretched the prophet lifeless upon the earth, the ball shattering his arm and piercing his breast. Colonel Carson who had up to this time endeavored to restrain the ardor of his men, wishing merely to keep the enemy engaged until the town could be completely in vested from the creek to the river, now saw that this object could not be effected; so he shouted to his men, "Boys, you seem keen! go ahead and drive them!" The eager soldiers took their Colonel at his word and rapidly pressed the retreating foe back into the town. The Indians now fled in all directions, many casting away their arms. In accordance with the laudable custom peculiar to the Creeks, they bore off all the wounded warriors that were unable to make their escape. Carson's men pursued the Indians through the town to a bluff near the mouth of Holy Ground Creek. The fugitives here crossed, and some fled to the neighboring cane-brake, while others crossed the river, some in boats, others, by swimming. One of the last retreating warriors received a mortal wound and fell upon the very edge of the bluff. Here he tossed to and fro for a few moments in mortal agony and then rolled headlong down the slope. The mouth of Holy Ground Creek was not the only avenue of escape to the discomfited Creek warriors. According to Pickett, hundreds of them made their escape, along the Alabama River, by the western border of the town. These warriors evidently made their escape at this point before the close of the battle.
Weatherford was the last man to retreat from the Holy Ground, the defence of which he had conducted with judgment and courage. We here introduce from Major J. D. Dreisback's sketch of the noted chieftain, the story of his escape and his wonderful leap as received by Major Dreisback from William Hollinger, a friend of Weatherford's, to whom it was related by Weatherford himself.
"When Weatherford found that most of his warriors had deserted him, he thought of his own safety. Finding himself hedged in above and below on the river, he determined to cross the Alabama River. He was mounted on a horse of almost matchless strength and fleetness; he turned down a long hollow that led to the bank of the river; on his arrival he found the bluff about twelve feet high; he took in at rapid glance the situation, and determined to make the leap; he rode back about thirty paces and turned his horse's head towards the bluff, and then, with touch of the spur and the sharp 'ho ya' of his voice, he put the noble animal to the top of his speed and dashed over the bluff full twenty feet into the flashing waters below, which opened its bosom to receive the dauntless hero, who sought its sparkling waters as a barrier between him and the pursuing foe. He did not lose his seat; his horse and the lower part of his own body went entirely under the water, he holding his rifle high above his head. The gallant horse struck out for the opposite shore with his fearless rider upon his back. When he had advanced some thirty yards from the shore, the balls from the guns of the troopers who were above and below him began to spatter around him like hail, but it appeared that the 'Great Spirit' watched over him, for not a shot struck either man or horse. As soon as he reached the further shore he dismounted and took off his saddle, and examined his brave and noble horse to see if he had been struck; one shot bad cut off a bunch, or lock of the horse's mane just in front of the saddle. Finding his noble 'Arrow' (the horse's name) unhurt, he re-saddled him and mounted, and sending back a note of defiance, rode off, to fight again on other ensanguined fields."
A digression may here be permitted. A Mr. Sprott, a man of great intelligence, was the first American settler on Holy Ground Creek. According to a tradition coming down from him, and still current with the people of the vicinity, the ravine that runs northwest was the ravine down which Weatherford rode when he made his wonderful leap. General Woodward, in his Reminiscences, has attempted to cast discredit upon the reality of this incident. We quote his language: "Weatherford was among the last to quit the place. He made an attempt to go down the river--that is, down the banks of the river--but found that the soldiers would intercept his passage, and he turned up [the stream] keeping on the bluff near the river until he reached the ravine or little branch that makes into the river above where the town used to be. There was a small foot path that crossed the ravine near the river; he carried his horse down that path, and instead of going out of the ravine at the usual crossing, he kept up it towards its head until he passed the line of the whites. So, now you have the bluff-jumping story."
General Woodward was evidently unfamiliar with the topography of the Holy Ground. There are only two ravines at the Holy Ground--the two already described--both of which are only two hundred yards long and quite shallow towards their heads. Weatherford could not have gone to the rear of the American lines by riding up the bottom of either of these ravines. And as to "the ravine or little branch that makes into the river above where the town used to be,"--this was Holy Ground Creek, which was certainly full of water on the day of the battle, as it was a rainy season. Weatherford could not have made his escape by riding or leading his horse up the channel of this creek. In addition to this, Carson's men already had possession of the mouth of Holy Ground Creek at the time when Weatherford was making his escape. These facts should be sufficient to show the absurdity of General Woodward's position.
As a rejoinder to General Woodward's unwarrantable skepticism and as evidence corroborating Major Dreisback's narrative, we quote from the manuscript notes of the Rev. John Brown of Mississippi: "In early life, I was well acquainted with James Bankston, who was a member of Cassel's cavalry. I have often heard Bankston say that he was of the party that pursued Weatherford at the Holy Ground, when he made his horseback leap into the Alabama River. And that when he was crossing the river, his pursuers fired their guns at him. On reaching the other shore, and thus being beyond the range of gunshot, Bankston said that Weatherford dismounted, unsaddled his horse, wrung the water out of his blanket and other articles, then again resaddling, he mounted and rode off This was Bankston's statement of Weatherford's exploit, of which he was an eyewitness, and I believe that his statement is true in every particular."
The whole army was now in the Holy Ground, and the battle was over. It had been fought almost exclusively by Carson's men, the remaining troops only reaching the field of battle in time to participate in the closing scenes. If Major Cassels could have reached at the proper time, the place assigned him, on the lower side of the town, there is little doubt but large numbers of the Creek warriors would have been forced to surrender, or else as was the case at Tallasseehatchee, to accept the alternative of fighting until the last warrior was slain.
General Claiborne forbade his white soldier's pillaging the Holy Ground, but gave all the spoils of the place to Pushmataha's warriors. The Choctaws made a complete sack of the town, loading themselves with provisions, clothing, blankets, and many silver ornaments. Much of this booty--the clothing and blankets--is said once to have been the property of the ill fated inmates of Fort Mims. From twelve to fifteen hundred bushels of corn were found, a sufficient part of which was appropriated for the use of the army, and the remainder destroyed. The most interesting trophy of the Holy Ground was a letter found in Weatherford's house, written by Governor Manique to the Creek chiefs, congratulating them on the victory of Fort Mims.
During the general search which engaged the attention of many of the soldiers, John Brown, one of Carson's men, entered a cabin, after it had been plundered, and a Creek woman, who had strangely escaped the notice of the Choctaw pillagers, came forth from her hiding place, and by signs, appealed to him for mercy and protection. The soldier conducted her to General Claiborne, who ordered that she should be well cared for, and that whenever practicable she should be restored to her friends.
In the middle of the Public Square of the Holy Ground, the soldiers took down a tall pine pole, standing at an angle of about sixty degrees, on which were hung three hundred scalps which the Creeks had taken at Fort Mims. They were of every description, from the infant to the gray head. This ghastly sight, as we may well imagine, filled the spectators with emotions of horror and revenge.
When the Choctaws had secured all their booty, Claiborne ordered the place to be burned. As a group of soldiers were standing idly gazing on the burning town, they saw a cabin door suddenly fly open, and a large mulatto negro bounded forth. He had scarcely cleared the threshold when a dozen rifles and muskets blazed forth and the negro fell dead. He was supposed to be a runaway slave, who had taken refuge among the Creeks, and wishing to avoid being captured, had secreted himself, as he supposed, safely in this cabin; but the fire drove him from his lair and he sprang forth only to meet the quick doom of death.
The American loss at the Holy Ground was one man killed, Ensign Luckett, and twenty wounded. This extremely slight loss, considering the bravery with which the enemy fought, must doubtless be ascribed to the scarcity of ammunition among the Creeks, which compelled many of them to have recourse to bows and arrows, the primitive weapons of their race. The Creeks had thirty-three killed, of whom twenty-one were Indians and twelve negroes, for on this occasion the Creeks forced their negro slaves to help bear the brunt of battle. The number of their wounded is not known, as they succeeded in bearing them all off the field. "Among the slain of the Indians," writes Dr. Neal Smith, "was found one of the Shawnee prophets, who was said to have first raised the disturbance with the whites, a singer in the Creek nation; and the leading prophet of the Creeks is said to have been mortally wounded and dropped a noted gun, which was well known." The Shawnee prophet was probably the man that was killed by Gatlin.
The Choctaws scalped all the Creek warriors slain at the Holy Ground. But with that contempt for the negro, which has always been a noted Choctaw characteristic, they scorned to appropriate the scalps of the dead negroes. They simply stripped off their wooly scalps and then instantly and disdainfully cast them aside, considering them trophies unfit for Indian warriors.
It may be well here to state that the Holy Ground was the only battle in the terrible Creek war in which negroes bore arms in behalf of their red owners. In all other engagements, Muscogee valor alone sustained the tug of war. Kinnie Hadjo, a Creek warrior at the Holy Ground, speaking of this battle in after years, censured his countrymen severely for making use of negroes in this engagement. He said that the proud and warlike Muscogees on this occasion had compromised the dignity of their nation in stooping so low as to call to their aid the services of such a servile and degraded race as negroes to assist them in fighting the battles of their country; that this act, too, was especially exasperating to the whites and tended to increase the bitterness of their prejudices against the Creeks.
The army camped, the night following the battle, near the ruins of the Holy Ground. The next day was devoted to the destruction of the enemies' towns, farms, and boats. General Woodward states that after the massacre of Fort Mims, many of the Creeks returned to a village, situated on a place afterwards embraced in Townsend Robinson's plantation. This and every other settlement in the Holy Ground territory was that day destroyed. A. B. Meek relates an incident which must have been a part of this day's work: In writing of Major Austill, he says that "he, in particular, distinguished himself [at the Holy Ground] by crossing the river in a canoe, with Pushmataha, the great Choctaw chief and six warriors in front of the enemy's fire, putting a large party to flight, and capturing a considerable quantity of baggage and provisions."
There is a tradition current among some of the aged Choctaws of Mississippi, that the day after the battle of the Holy Ground, in some manner, a Creek camp was discovered on the west side of the river. Pushmataha took some of his warriors in the afternoon, crossed over in a boat and approached this camp, without being seen. Pushmataha then gave the signal to his men by shouting, "Husa! husa! moma abi! moma abi!" "Shoot! shoot! kill all! kill all!"--whereupon his warriors opened fire and killed two or three of the enemy. The remainder fled. The Choctaws secured the booty of the camp and then returned across the river to the army. This tradition, no doubt, commemorates the same exploit recorded by Judge Meek, but perhaps embellished with some aboriginal exaggeration.
The same afternoon of this Choctaw exploit while the cavalry were on their way up the river to destroy the town at the mouth of the Pintlala Creek, they encountered, not far from the town, three Shawnees, who retreated into a reed-brake. The troopers surrounded the brake, and, through an interpreter, called upon them to surrender, offering to spare their lives. But the Shawnees resolutely rejected every overture. Both sides then opened fire and a fight of two hours ensued. The Shawnees would load their guns, come to the edge of the brake, deliver their fire, then return to their covert, and there reloading, would again return to the post of danger. The soldiers at last prevailed, and the Shawnees were slain.
The firing of this slight engagement being heard in Claiborne's camp, he marched in that direction during the early part of the night and then camped on Weatherford's plantation, where the troops passed the remainder of the night, exposed to a cold drenching rain. A part of the next day, which was Christmas, was passed in still further laying waste the country, after which, there being nothing further to be done, the army marched back to Fort Deposite, and thence in three or four days to Fort Claiborne.
Tradition relates that while the army was on its returns the artillery men, on several occasions, fired off their cannon, supposing that this would strike terror into any revengeful party of Creeks, that might be dogging their march.
"On General Claiborne's arrival at Fort Claiborne," writes J. F. H. Claiborne, "Carson's Mississippi Volunteers and the calvary were mustered out of service, and there were only sixty men left, whose term would expire in a month. These troops, the General complains, had been permitted to serve without clothing or shoes, and had been disbanded with eight months' pay due them! What a commentary on the War Department of that day! What an illustration of the patience and patriotism of the volunteers of Mississippi !
The volunteers had served over and above their time; had remained from attachment to their General, and started on their weary journey for their distant homes on the Pearl, the Amite, and the Mississippi, without a cent of their pay. Their General soon followed, as poor as themselves, and, with a constitution broken by exposure, soon died."
In chronicling the disappearance of Claiborne's army from history, it may be but just to add that his red allies, under Pushmataha, were likewise mustered out of service at Fort Claiborne, and at once began their march to their homes beyond the Tombigbee. They bore upon their scalp poles the tokens of Muscogee defeat and disaster, and in every Choctaw village they entered they sang their savage war song and danced their exulting scalp-dance over the ghastly trophies of the Holy Ground.
The joy and enthusiasm with which the news of the defeat of the Creeks at the Holy Ground was received by the people of the Alabama frontier may be realized from the following extracts from a letter, dated December 31, 1813, written from St. Stephens by Thomas Vaughn and addressed to General Claiborne:
"Sir:--Ensign Burton arrived here last night about ten o'clock with the pleasing intelligence that you gained a complete victory at the Holy Ground. I made the communication to Captain Davis, and we had the fort illuminated, and gave you three cheers at the front gate, and the rear gate, and on grand parade, with appropriate music--an air named by Captain Davis, 'Claiborne's Victory.' The citizens by this time, had discovered the cause of our rejoicing, and illuminated generally. We then marched through the town with music, amid the joyful acclamations of the citizens. On every countenance the gleam of joy appeared to beam, and the name of Claiborne, his gallant officers and men, resounded from one end of the town to the other; and the night was passed with a general rejoicing, such as was never before experienced at St. Stephens."
The defeat of the Creeks at the Holy Ground practically closed their military career in South Alabama. Elsewhere, on other fields, against the armies of Floyd and Jackson, and in the Swamps of Florida, the struggle was still continued by this heroic race of red men with a courage, patience, and patriotism that have elicited the wonder and admiration of the historians of Mississippi and Alabama. "The achievements of the Creeks," writes Claiborne, "rival the prodigies of antiquity." Only a brief outline of the story of the remainder of this unparalleled struggle against the boundless military resources of the white man will be recorded in the subsequent pages. And now we flatter ourselves that we have fully redeemed our promise to our readers in giving them a full and exhaustive history of the Creek War in South Alabama.
The authorities used in writing the chapter on the Holy Ground campaign are the histories of Meek, Pickett, and Claiborne; a letter published in Alabama Historical Reporter, July, 1880, written January 8th, 1813, to Rev. James Smiley by Dr. Neal Smith, giving a short sketch of the battle; and manuscript notes on the Holy Ground by the Rev. John Brown, of Lauderdale County, Mississippi; giving facts derived from his father, who was a soldier in that battle. In addition to these sources of information must be mentioned some Choctaw traditions received from aged sons of two of Pushmataha's warriors.
In 1894 the writer visited the battle-field of the Holy Ground and thoroughly familiarized himself with its topography.
It may not be amiss in these notes to refer to a statement in Pickett's History of Alabama, that the Creek prophets had caused many white persons and friendly Indians to be burned to death at the Holy Ground, and that when General Claiborne's army was "almost in sight of the town, Mrs. Sophia Durant and several other friendly half-breeds were mustered in the square and surrounded by lightwood fires designed to consume them." We have no desire to cast discredit upon this statement, yet it is singular that no contemporary records make mention of this matter. No reference is made to it in General Claiborne's official report of the battle of the Holy Ground, nor in N. H. Claiborne's Notes on the War in the South, published in 1819, nor in the letter referred to above, of Dr. Neal Smith, who was a participant in the battle. We will also add that no reference is made to it in the manuscript notes of the Rev. John Brown, which are, in reality, the recollections of another participant in the battle.
Some years ago this statement of Pickett's was brought to the notice of General Pleasant Porter, of the Creek nation, who is well informed on the ancient usages of his people. The General utterly disbelieved the statement. He said that he never heard a hint as to the Creeks' burning prisoners at the stake. He said that, on the contrary, such a practice would be a direct violation of their superstitious or religious beliefs; that dead bodies were shunned, as among the Jews, and that when a person was killed, there was a special detail of men to bury the corpse as soon as possible, as the spirits of the dead were regarded as disquieting or dangerous agents around them as long as their bodies remained unburied. And they would fear to torture the dying, lest their spirits should take revenge on them before their bodies could be buried. H. S. H.
The following letter was received from Mr. W. A. De Bardelaban after this chapter was completed. This letter shows how utterly untenable is General Woodward's statement in regard to Weatherford's escape at the Holy Ground. H. S. H.
"White Hall, Jan. 24th, 1895.
"MR. H. S. HALBERT: Dear Sir:--Yours of 21st at hand. Will state in regard to the Holy Ground Creek, that it is now about twenty or thirty feet deep in water for at least half a mile up, taking in the crooks in the creek. In my best judgment it would have been utterly impossible for Weatherford to have made his escape that way, as the bluffs of the creels do not seem to be any deeper now than when I first knew the creek thirty years ago. Yours very respectfully,
"W. A. DE BARDELABAN."
THE WAR IN THE INDIAN COUNTRY
The "Creek War," as waged by the whites against the Indians, has been very fully treated in those works that give an account of the life of General Andrew Jackson. Of these, twelve or more are in the Chicago City Library, written by Snelling, Eaton, Goodwin, Parton, Stoddard, Jenkins, Irelan, Waldo, Frost, and others, and some of them are very reliable in regard to the battles in the Indian country, now North and Central Alabama.
As on this part of the war such full accounts are accessible to general readers, but little more than a summary of the principal battles will here be given.
After the fall of Fort Mims, and that massacre was not then regarded as a "philosophic historian," (quoting Gibbon), would regard it now--for the real facts concerning it were not then made known--the feeling among the whites was, Fort Mims must be avenged. The tidings went up into Tennessee and Andrew Jackson, with Middle and West Tennessee volunteers and militia, soon started for the Creek country. General Jackson is reported to have said in regard to the Creek warriors, "Long shall they remember Fort Mims in bitterness and in tears."
The following is the Creek War paragraph in Venable's School History of the United States, one of the best of the school histories which I have examined. T. H. B. "In the year 1813, the South became the scene of Indian war. The Creeks of Alabama and Georgia had in August, attacked Fort Mims, situated on the left bank of the Alabama River, and massacred nearly four hundred persons of both sexes, who had flocked to that stockade for safety. The vengeance which followed was swift and bloody. General Andrew Jackson, the commander of the expedition against the Creeks, expressed himself as resolved to exterminate them. A large force of Southern militia, aided by Choctaw and Cherokee allies, carried havoc from village to village, and finally, having cooped up about one thousand of the Creeks at Horseshoe Bend, on the Tallapoosa River, charged upon them with such effect as to kill or drown six hundred and capture the rest. Nothing was left for the remnant of the broken nation but to sue for peace." Paragraph 189, page 153.
It was considered needful also by those in the Mississippi Territory and in Georgia that active measures should be taken against the Creeks for their own self-protection.
That the facts really warranted the action taken may be fairly questioned. It is to be feared that the American people, in their treatment of Indians, will have not a little for which to answer at the bar of the enlightened public sentiment of future generations.
It is a historian's duty to give facts and not to make pleas; but it may be added here that Colonel Hawkins, the Government Agent, residing among the Creeks, did not think it certain that the counsels of the war party would finally prevail. His views probably influenced General Flournoy, who, under date of August 10, 1813, wrote to General Claiborne, "Your wish to penetrate into the Indian country, with a view of commencing the war, does not meet my approbation, and I again repeat, our operations must be confined to defensive measures." Had General Flournoy's policy been strictly carried out, had there been no Burnt Corn and a different officer at Fort Mims, the probability is great that there would have been very little Creek war. Pickett speaks of Colonel Hawkins as being "strangely benighted," but it is by no means certain that he was not correct in his forecast of events, for neither Colonel Hawkins nor the Indians could have anticipated the Burnt Corn engagement (which seems to have precipitated rather than checked the war upon the whites), nor the attack on Fort Mims terminating so unexpectedly as it did to both Indians and whites, which led to the destructive campaign now before us. Brewer says, and his language seems to be that of a candid, truthful historian, "The savages highly incensed at the attack made on them at Burnt Corn, July 27, 1813, resolved to avenge themselves on the Tensaw and Tombigbee settlers." Thus he accounts for the attack on Fort Mims. And so it was one vengeance after another vengeance.
But whatever "might have been," the white settlers bordering on the Creek nation thought it was time to strike a heavy blow. They saw strong reasons for action. Three bodies of troops therefore, it may be said four, marched as speedily as possible in the circumstances, into the Creek country. One was from the river settlements, Mississippi volunteers; one from Georgia; and two from Tennessee. The Middle Tennessee troops met at their place of rendezvous October 4th, and on October 7th General Jackson joined them at Fayetteville.
Associated with Jackson was General Coffey, and leading the East Tennessee troops was General Cocke, and with him General White. General John Floyd commanded the Georgians, and General Claiborne the Mississippians.
1. Tallussahatchee or Talluschatchie town.
This battle was fought November 3, 1813, General Coffee, with nine hundred Tennessee troops, conducting the attack. From General Jackson's official report.
"November 4, 1813.
"GOVERNOR BLOUNT.--Sir: We have retaliated for the destruction of Fort Mims." He reports "186 dead on the field," and about "80 prisoners," women and children. General Coffee says in his report made the same day, that "not one of the warriors escaped to carry the news, a circumstance unknown heretofore."
2. Battle of Talladega, Nov. 9, 1813.
In this Indian town were friendly Indians besieged by a force of hostile warriors, the strongest fact found to indicate any real war among the Creeks themselves. A noted chief had made his way out through the besiegers in the disguise of a hog skin and requested aid from the Tennessee troops. General Jackson was now at Ten Islands, on the Coosa. which was about thirteen miles above Tallussahatchee Creek. Talladega was about thirty miles below. At Ten Islands was built Fort Strother. Jackson himself, with some twelve hundred infantry and eight hundred cavalry, marched to the relief of the friendly Creeks. The siege was raised. Perhaps four hundred of the besiegers were slain.
Under date of December 18, 1813, at Ten Islands, General Jackson wrote to General Claiborne a long letter, given in full in Claiborne's "Mississippi," from which the following extracts are taken: "Before this reaches you, you will have heard of our battle at Talladega. It was fought on the 9th of November, and was indeed a severe blow to the enemy."
"It is impossible to tell, with any precision, the loss they sustained. We counted, however, two hundred and ninety-nine dead on the field; but this is known to fall considerably short of the number really killed. Could I have followed up that victory immediately, the Creek war, before this, had been terminated. But I was compelled by a double cause,--the want of supplies and the want of cooperation from the East Tennessee troops, to return to this place." Near the close of the letter is this suggestive statement: "It is not understood by the Government that this war is to be confined to mere temporary incursions into the enemy's country--such movements might distress them, but would produce none of those lasting and beneficial effects which are designed to be produced. Perhaps, too, there are ulterior objects, not yet avowed, which may be within the contemplation of Government."
Before leaving Talladega it may be stated that within were one hundred and fifty-four warriors with their families and a thousand hostile Creeks without, around them. But it was no Fort Mims. In all, it is said the Creeks had in the field, in the war party, three thousand warriors; and in every engagement they fought with what the narrators call a "religious frenzy." Perhaps it might as appropriately have been called "Spartan valor." Weatherford had told the war chiefs, if we accept General Woodward's statements, that going to war with the whites would prove their ruin; the Cherokee interpreter had warned them that they would lose their lands: and now, that the Americans were actually at war with them, perhaps they felt that the time had come for them to dare, to do, or to die.*
*Some of the remarks made by writers on Indian affairs seem singular, as though Indians were not expected to share in ordinary human rights, as though they should tamely submit to whatever the white man exacted. The following is one of these remarks. It is needless to name the writer. After saying that some of the Creeks were friendly to the whites he adds: "but the main body of the nation fought as if their salvation depended on defeating the Americans." One would hardly expect a man to use the word salvation, here, in a religious sense, and if it means their self-preservation, how else could they be expected to fight? They did not wish, as a people, to be wiped off from the earth because they were found to be in the way of the white settlers, because the whites wanted their hunting grounds. With what is called "religious frenzy," with determined resolution, was the only way for them to fight. T. H. B.
3. The Hillabee Massacre.
This deplorable action took place Nov. 18, 1813.
A body of volunteers from East Tennessee had marched to the seat of war under Major General John Cocke. General White, with a thousand men of General Cocke's division, marched to Turkey Town and there reported to General Jackson that he would receive his orders. General Jackson sent him to Fort Strother at Ten Islands. The Hillabee Indians had opened negotiations with General Jackson for terms of peace, offering to surrender. While these negotiations were pending and the Indians were waiting for a favorable answer from Jackson, and General White was on his march to Fort Strother, he received orders from General Cocke, which orders he chose to obey, to attack these Hillabee towns. He fell upon and destroyed the very town that had already proposed to surrender to General Jackson, the inhabitants of which were waiting for the return of their messenger and had no thought that they would be attacked by Tennessee troops. It was a massacre and not a battle. "We lost not a drop of blood," General White reported to General Cocke, and Brewer adds "and Fort Mims was again avenged." It was a fearful mistake made by General Cocke or General White or by both--it is putting it too mildly to apply Tennyson's expression, "somebody blundered;" and it illustrates the danger of having in the same field two commanders, one not co-operating, as Jackson wrote, with the other. Pickett says that "Jackson was generally considered the commander-in-chief of all the troops from Tennessee," and the trusting Hillabees could look to no other. The surviving Hillabees could not learn that the attack was not made by his order; and, as one result, in the succeeding engagements, they fought with a vindictive fierceness They considered that the attack made on their town; in the circumstances, was an outrage, and when they fought afterwards BLOOD WAS SHED.
4. The Battle of Autossee, Nov. 29, 1813.
Autosse was on the south bank of the Tallapoosa, near the mouth of the Calabee Creek, eighteen miles from the Hickory Ground, and twenty miles above the junction with the Coosa.
(The Hickory Ground, named above, was a large Indian town, one of the residence places of General McGillivray. The noted Tookabatchee was east from the Hickory Ground on the Tallapoosa.) General Floyd, with nine hundred and fifty Georgia militia, and four hundred friendly Indians, among them the chief Mad Dog, and the friendly Tookabatchees, made the attack on Autossee. The Indians were driven out, about two hundred were killed, the town was set on fire, and some four hundred houses burned, some of them being fine specimens of Indian architecture.* At the same time, or about the same time, Tallassee was also destroyed. Little Tallassee, called the "Apple Grove," was on the east bank of the Coosa, five miles above the Hickory Ground. It was the birth place of McGillivray. After destroying these towns the Georgia troops returned to Fort Mitchell.
*McKenney and Hall in their large work, call this also a massacre rather than a battle, for the Indians, they say, were "surprised in their lodges, and killed before they could rally in their defense."
5. Battle of the Holy Ground, Dec. 23, 1813.
This action, as belonging especially to the Mississippi Territory conflicts, has already been fully described.
6. January 22, 1814, about six in the morning, near Emuckfau Creek, General Jackson with nine hundred men and two hundred Cherokees and Creeks, marching southward, was attacked by five hundred Indians. "The fight lasted all day, both sides suffering severely; but the assailants were driven off." Jackson determined to return to Fort Strother.
7. January 24, 1814, having reached a Hillabee village, Enitachopco, "he was suddenly assailed with great vigor by the pursuing red men. After an obstinate combat they were repelled, though the invading army was at one time in great peril."* The Indians said, as their report of these engagements, "we whipped Captain Jackson and ran him to the Coosa River." He certainly fell back; and the Americans acknowledged that it was a severe engagement.
* Brewer's "Alabama."
8. The Calabee Valley Fight, Jan. 27, 1814.
We return to the Georgia troops. Having his force increased to about seventeen hundred men and with his four hundred Indians, General Floyd moved into the Calabee Valley and when about seven miles from the present Tuskegee, "the savages suddenly sprang, from their lair in the undergrowth of the creek and made a furious assault about daylight." "A charge soon drove them into the recesses of the swamp, with severe loss. But the cautious Floyd was effectually checked, and his campaign brought to a premature close." Says Brewer, from whom these statements are taken, "The practical results of the fight were wholly with the brave natives."
9. Tohopeka or the Battle of the Horse Shoe, March 27, 1814.
This was the great decisive battle. The place was a noted bend in the Tallapoosa River, which from its shape took the name of Horse Shoe. Here a thousand warriors made their final stand. It was fortified in the Indian style. If the breastworks were taken it is supposed the warriors expected to cross the river and escape. When Jackson looked upon this chosen spot with its Muscogee defences, he is reported to have said, they have "penned themselves up for slaughter." A flag of truce sent by him was fired upon, whether through ignorance or design is not known. The Hillabee warriors might have been expected to fire upon it. The slaughter here, when the action began, was fearful. Not many of the thousand escaped. This battle may well be placed along side of that destruction that came upon the Pequods in New England. Of that, Martyn says, "it was not a battle--it was a massacre." The well informed reader will note more than one point of similarity between the old Pequod war and the Creek war. Perhaps the one was as needful as the other. The one blotted out a small tribe; the other subdued a great people. And Brewer says, "And the combined power of the whites, the Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Choctaws, assisted by a large portion of their own people, was required to subjugate them; and only then when the superior weapons of modern warfare had almost annihilated the fighting population."
The following extracts from General Jackson's report are dated March 28, 1814.
"Battle Ground, bend of Tallapoosa." Referring to the warriors, "Expecting our approach they had gathered in from Oakfuskie, Oakahoga, New Yorcau, Hillabees, The Fish Pond, and Eufaulu towns, to the number, it is said, of 1,000."
"Determining to exterminate them I detached General Coffee * * * to cross the river," which was to cut off retreat.
After describing the action and the little effect produced for some time upon the Indian defences, having determined at last to take the place "by storm," for which order the men were impatient, the report proceeds: "The history of warfare, I think, furnishes few instances of a more brilliant attack "
"The enemy were completely routed." "It is believed that not more than twenty have escaped."
Before leaving Tohopeka perhaps truth and justice require that another, a very unpleasant record should be made. It concerns the barbarity of some of Jackson's troops.
Jackson himself, although determining to exterminate the thousand warriors, made in this war, a good record for humanity in caring for the women and children and in saving the life of a motherless Indian infant, when even the Indian mothers would give it no nourishment; but the same cannot be said of all of his men.
Mr. Warren Wilbanks of Noxubee county, Mississippi, who died in 1882, ninety years of age, is authority for the statement that many of the Tennessee soldiers cut long strips of skin from the bodies of the dead Indians and with these made bridle reins. Also that when the Horse Shoe village was set on fire some of the soldiers noticed a very old Indian, a non-combatant, sitting on the ground, pounding corn in a mortar, as though unaware of the tumult and danger around him, and that a Tennessee barbarian, though called a soldier, deliberately shot him dead, assigning as his reason for so doing that he might be able to report when he went home that he had killed an Indian.
Mr. Archibald McArthur, an aged man of Winston county, Mississippi, is authority for this statement, that in the heat of the fight a lost, bewildered, little Indian boy, five or six years of age, came among the soldiers, when one of them struck him on the head and killed him with the butt of his musket. When reproached by an officer for barbarity in killing so young a child, he replied, that the boy would have become an Indian some day. An aged man, Mr. Evans, of Neshoba county, Mississippi, is authority for the statement that the party detailed to count the dead warriors found on the battle field of Tohopeka, so as to make no mistake in the count, cut off the tip of each dead Indian's nose so soon as the count was made. They counted up, says Pickett, five hundred and fifty-seven warrior bodies found on the field. The Indians take off the scalps. These soldiers took off the nose.
Surely it was not needful, in avenging Fort Mims, as it was called, that the whites should imitate the barbarity of the Creeks.
It is claimed that the truly brave are nearly always humane, but many a sacked city and many a war-ravaged region can show that white soldiers may equal in atrocity and barbarity and far exceed in licentiousness the North American Indians
War at the best is ever terrible, and too many whites despise more or less what they call the inferior races of mankind. "Only an Indian" is a poor excuse for justifying a barbarity.
CLOSING EVENTS. 1814
At Fort Jackson, the old Toulouse, the treaty of peace, by some called "Treaty of Conquest," was concluded August 9, 1814. By this treaty there was ceded to the United States Government, to defray the expenses of the war,--which, of course, the vanquished must pay--a large domain west of the Coosa; which was, says Brewer, "a very important event in the annals of Alabama, for it threw open to the whites half the present area of the State." But although the treaty was signed "by the leading chiefs and warriors," and thus it terminated formally the war on the Tallapoosa, which had been virtually terminated, March 27th, by that bloody battle on the Horse Shoe Bend; many of the Indians fled to Pensacola. The British were permitted by the Spanish authorities to land some three hundred men here August 25, 1814, and the British officers were permitted by these same authorities to equip and discipline these fugitive Creek warriors that they might aid the British in an aggressive movement which they planned against Mobile and New Orleans. General Jackson went down the Alabama to Mobile, reconstructed Fort Bowyer, which was attacked September 15th by a sea and land force from Pensacola, the land force mainly Indians, the sea force the British; but the fort was successfully defended. Then General Jackson, with about four thousand men, marched across the strip of country lying between the Cut Off of the Alabama and Pensacola and captured Pensacola, the 7th of November. Leaving Major Blue to scour the coast and drive out the Indians from the swamps of the Escambia and the Choctahatibee, he started back on the 9th of November for Fort Montgomery--a new fort a mile or two north of the destroyed Fort Mims, erected by Colonel Thomas H. Benton, who had command there in the fall of 1814--and went down the river to Mobile, and on the 21st he left Mobile for New Orleans. Major Blue, with a force of one thousand men, successfully accomplished his dangerous work. So that, as the year 1815 opened, a year that was to cover Jackson with glory at New Orleans, the last fighting, for that time, with these fierce Creek warriors was over. As Brewer, Alabama's later historian, says:
"Thus was ended a war so glorious to the brave Muscogees, and yet so fatal! Their formidable strength was shorn forever."
That neither Tohopeka nor the treaty at Toulouse actually ended the Creek War is quite certain. Latour says, that the Creek Indians had been defeated and a treaty made, and he gives as its date August 10th. But he adds, that a part of the Creeks refused to join in it and remained still at war, committing depredations on the Alabama, Tombigbee, and Mobile Bay, aided and abetted by the Spaniards who supplied them with arms and ammunition.
He says, that General Jackson demanded satisfaction from the Spanish, and as this was not furnished, Jackson took Pensacola. When this was done, the war was soon closed. See Latour's "Memoirs of the War in West Florida and Louisiana, 1816."
Before the treaty of Fort Jackson was signed, Big Warrior, in the name of the friendly chiefs, tendered to General Jackson and Colonel Hawkins a reservation of land, three miles square for each, to be chosen by themselves; and to the two interpreters, George Mayfield and Alexander Cornells, one square mile each. Colonel Hawkins, in a nominal acceptance of this gift, spoke of it as not originating in any intimation from themselves, but as the spontaneous act of the chiefs, as an expression of their respect for Jackson and himself. It is needless to say that by this kindly offer General Jackson was not enriched.
Surely some readers would like to see the text of the treaty made with these vanquished Muscogee warriors a treaty to the terms of which they could scarcely refuse to agree, yet which they very reluctantly signed.
A generous, powerful, civilized government should not force a treaty that is unjust upon the helpless and unresisting. It may be questioned whether our Government has been accustomed to deal as did William Penn and Roger Williams and the Pilgrim Fathers, with the American Indians.*
* Of the Pilgrim Fathers it has been well said, "They were uniformly gentle and obliging to the savage tribes, and they were invariably and inflexibly just in treatment and in requisition."
In 1636 a lone Indian trader was murdered and his goods taken by some white men. Three of the murderers were caught tried at Plymouth, found guilty, and hung."
"It was as certain death to kill an Indian in the forest of America, as to slay a noble in the crowded streets of London." "Pilgrim Fathers," pages 871, 872.
Such justice pleased the Indians well. They respected and trusted the Pilgrims. It would not be safe to say that the Puritans kept up the kind and just treatment commenced by the Pilgrim Fathers.
"TREATY OF FORT JACKSON.
"Articles of agreement and capitulation made August 9, 1814, between Major General Andrew Jackson on behalf of the President of the United States and the Chiefs of the Creek Nation.
"WHEREAS, An unprovoked, inhuman, and sanguinary war, waged by the hostile Creeks against the United States, hath been repelled * * X in conformity with principles of national justice, * * * be it remembered that prior to the conquest of that part of the Creek nation hostile to the United States, numberless aggressions have been committed against the peace, the property, and lives of citizens of the United States and those of the Creek nation in amity with her, at the mouth of Duck River, Fort Mims, and elsewhere, etc., etc., wherefore:
ARTICLE: 1. The United States demand an equivalent for all expenses incurred in prosecuting the war to its termination by the cession of all the territory belonging to the Creek nation within the territory of the United States lying west, south, and southeastwardly of a line to be run and described by per sons duly authorized, etc. * * * beginning at a point on the easterly bank of the Coosa River where the south boundary line of the Cherokee nation crosses the same, etc., etc.
Provided friendly chiefs are entitled to their improvements, land, etc.
ARTICLE 2. The United States guarantee the Creek nation all their territory east and north of said lines.
ARTICLE 3. The United States demand the Creeks to abandon all communication with British or Spanish posts, etc.
ARTICLE 4. The United States demand right to establish military posts, roads, and free navigation of waters in territory guaranteed the Creeks.
ARTICLE 5 The United States demand a surrender of all persons; property, friendly Creeks, and other Indians, etc., taken.
ARTICLE 6. The United States demand the capture and surrender of all the prophets and instigators of the war, whether foreign or native, who have not submitted to the United States, if any shall be found in territory guaranteed to the Creeks.
ARTICLE 7. The Creeks being reduced to extreme want, etc., the United States, from motives of humanity, will continue to furnish the necessaries of life until crops of corn can yield the nation a supply, and will establish trading posts.
ARTICLE 8. A permanent peace shall ensue from the date of these presents forever between the Creeks and the United States, and between the Creeks and the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations.
ARTICLE 9. If in running the lines east, the settlement of the Kinnards falls within the boundaries of the ceded territory the line shall be run so as to leave it out, etc.
The parties to these presents agree to ratify and confirm the preceding articles and do hereby solemnly bind themselves to a faithful performance, etc., etc.*
* The treaty of Ghent, which declared peace between Great Britain and the United States, was signed December 24. 1814; but as the treaty of Fort Jackson did not actually terminate the war with the Creeks, so neither did this European treaty actually terminate the "War of 1812," of which the Creek War became a part. Pensacola had first to be captured and New Orleans to be defended.
The surrender of Weatherford to General Jackson has been described very fully by some of the writers who have been considered well informed. But from what source did they derive their information? The sifting process which has been found needful in all these Creek war researches leaves here a few quite well attested facts.
Eggleston, who wrote an interesting work called The Red Eagle, a name applied to Weatherford. whose Indian name was Hoponika Futsahia, in English, according to Woodward, Truth Maker, represents Weatherford as having been the great leader in the whole Creek war, a kind of general or commander-in-chief of all the Indian forces. But no evidence for anything of this kind has been found. There is no evidence of his presence in any conflict, only for a short time at Fort Mims and in defending the Holy Ground.*
* See Woodward's Reminiscences.
It is sure that Weatherford made a voluntary surrender of himself to General Jackson; not as Waldo says, after exhausting his vocabulary in describing his terrible ferocity, then at last "flung himself into the hands of General Jackson and demanded his protection:" but coming with no demands, he placed his life at the disposal of the conquering general. He requested relief for starving women and children and for the deluded Indians who had followed their chiefs and their prophets. In reply to the charges of General Jackson, Weatherford claimed to be innocent of much that had been charged to him; "that he regretted the unfortunate destruction of Fort Mims as much" as did Jackson himself. "He said it was true he was at Fort Mims when the attack was made, and it was but a little while after the attack was made before the hostile Indians seemed inclined to abandon the undertaking; that those in the fort, and particularly the half-breeds under Dixon Bailey, poured such a destructive fire into their ranks as caused them to back out for a short time. At this stage of the fight he advised them to draw off entirely. He then left to go some miles" away, to look after the negroes of his half brother, David Tate. He also said to General Jackson that he joined the war party, for one thing, to save bloodshed, and that "but for the mismanagement of those that had charge of the fort he would have succeeded" there. These statements Woodward says were given to him by General Jackson himself. The speech attributed to Weatherford lacks sufficient evidence of genuineness to insure its credibility. It is out of harmony with the well attested facts of his actual part in the war. It seems evident, and such is Woodward's statement, that Jackson formed the opinion that he was a brave, fair-minded, truthful man, whom circumstances had forced into the war party. Jackson spared his life, gave him such protection as was needful, and his plantation life afterward on Little River as a good citizen is abundantly attsted.
We learn from the records of the Department of the Interior that in February, 1814, a Choctaw force of seventy-five warriors, under the command of Pushmataha, made an expedition across the Tombigbee, just below the mouth of the Black Warrior. Neither history nor tradition has preserved any details of this expedition, the bare fact alone being revealed by the records of the Government.
We here copy the roll of the field and staff of a detachment of Choctaw warriors in the service of the United States from March the 1st to May the 29th, 1814: Pushmataha, Lieutenant-Colonel; Humming Bird, Lieutenant-Colonel; Louis Leflore, Major; John Pitchlyn, Jr., First Lieutenant and Quartermaster; Samuel Long, Quartermaster-Sergeant; Middleton Mackey, Extra Interpreter.
On the 17th of August, 1814, a Choctaw company of fifty-three warriors, commanded by Pushmataha, with Moshulitubbee as second in command, was mustered into the service of the United States. This company of Indian warriors formed part of the detachment under the command of Major Uriah Blue, and assisted in bringing the Creek War to a close. They were mustered out of service at Fort Stoddart January 27, 1815.
The record of the Choctaw warriors during the Creek War was, in a high degree, honorable. Their nation proved itself a true friend of the American Government. Let us hope that posterity will never permit the name of their great and patriotic chieftain to pass into oblivion.
"A historian dare not have a prejudice, but he cannot escape a purpose--the purpose, conscious or unconscious, of unfolding the purpose which lies behind the facts which he narrates."
IT was stated in the '"Introduction" that the authors of this work proposed to do justice to the Indians and justice to the whites; which meant that they proposed and expected to state the facts, if they could reach them, concerning both the Indians and the whites, fairly, truly; without coloring; without unduly extenuating the blunders or the wrongs committed on either side; allowing only the ordinary and just feelings of a true humanity to influence them in any sympathy or feeling for the Indians, in any sympathy or feeling for the white settlers; holding themselves as impartial and friends to all, while following the white thread of truth, whether it should lead into the crowded stockade, or was found at the red man's camp fire. All this, and it is much, they hope the readers will feel that they have accomplished with fair success. There is another line, another thread, the golden thread of an even-handed justice, which they would like to trace by giving a brief summing up or review of this border war. Of course every reader of mature judgment will do this for himself, but as we both have had many years of experience in life and are no longer young, perhaps even such a reader would not object to take a look for a moment through our eyes.
There are certainly some well established facts.
There had been some aggressions committed by the Creek Indians. The treaty preamble calls them "numberless." A figure of speech, of course.
A part of the Creek confederacy proposed to make war upon the white settlers, perhaps hoping even to exterminate them.
Some of the war party went to Pensacola to obtain war supplies. They were quietly returning. And here comes in the first real action of the war the Burnt Corn attack. Woodward declares that the Indian leader, "Jim Boy, said that the war had not fairly broke out, and that they never thought of being attacked." It was like saying, if they had been civilized: True, we were getting ready for war, but no declaration of war had been yet made on either side. As they were not civilized, and as the white settlers, not the United States authorities, considered it best to get the start of the Indians, they marched across their frontier line and issued their declaration of war in the first discharge of their muskets and rifles at Burnt Corn. The whites commenced the actual, the open war.
The next action, the first on the part of the Indians, but not the first of the war, was at Fort Mims. Brewer has surely stated the case fairly, when he says, (see Brewer's Alabama, p. 194), "A skirmish on Burnt Corn Creek, eight miles below Belleville, in this county, between the whites and Muscogees, July 27, 1813, was the commencement of the great Indian war." After briefly detailing the action, he says that the Indians were greatly elated by their success"; but he adds: "Inspired by revenge, a month later they fell upon Fort Mims."
And if the facts teach anything there they surely show that the Indians, as being Indians could do nothing less than take the fort and butcher the inmates: nothing less, when the commanding officer, on Claiborne's own testimony, "held the Indians in contempt," "and as a taunt and derision to the timid," (those cautious backwoodsmen, probably, who warned him of danger, those truly brave Baileys and others who wanted to be prepared to protect human life), "had the main gate thrown open." The Indians could do nothing less, without ceasing to be Indians, than enter, kill, burn, and destroy.
Now two questions arise here, in this review, as we seek for the golden thread of justice. The first is, passing over what bloodshed there was in Clarke county, why did not Weatherford with his victorious thousand, if indeed they yet, as Pickett expressed it, "thirsted for American blood," pass over the Alabama and fall upon the stockades of the real, aggressive white settlers, who had put their cattle and put themselves on the Alibamo hunting grounds? Why? Perhaps there were prudential reasons. It was not so easy for the Indians to take food along for a campaign of many days. It was not so easy for a thousand men to cross the Alabama in a body, and then to recross it in haste if they should need to retreat. And there were soldiers at Mount Vernon whom they probably did not care to meet. But perhaps there were stronger reasons. They had learned something of the exaction of justice by the whites in the Meredith and Lott and Duck River tragedies; and now that they had, beyond their own expectation, contrary to the wish certainly of some of them, in one single day swept off five hundred who could be classed, mostly, as Americans, they were, perhaps, startled, as they looked forward to the results. As the chiefs, the leaders, those who knew the Americans best, looked back upon Fort Mims, it seems probable they did not wish any further to incur the vengeance of the whites, they scarcely wished themselves to engage in such another butchery.
Reasons of some sort there must have been why Weatherford, if he was what the historians claim him to have been, did not lead his warriors across the Alabama. Is it not more than possible that Weatherford, who had joined the war party reluctantly, and many others like him, were already sick of the strife?
S. Putnam Waldo, in his memoirs of Andrew Jackson, published in 1818, bears down very heavily on Weatherford. He says that after the battle of the Holy Ground, "Weatherford continued to fight with the rage of a fanatic, the fury of a demon, and the diabolical ferocity of a devil incarnate, until saturated with the blood of Americans." Such was not the Alabama Weatherford. He was for a short time at Fort Mims; he defended the Holy Ground so long as he could; and where else did he fight? Weatherford was not thirsting for American blood. After August 30th he waited nearly four months, till attacked in his place of fancied security December 23d, without striking a blow. The other question that comes up is this: September having passed and October having passed, and no great acts of hostility having been committed by the war party of the Creeks, was it really needful and was it fitting that such a destructive campaign, almost to the verge of extermination of the war party of the nation, should have been visited upon them in November and December and January and March? Did the Fort Mims tragedy, provoked surely by the Burnt Corn action, justify that fearful retribution? And if, when the circumstances are considered, Fort Mims hardly justified the shedding in return of so much Creek blood, was it justice to require such an amount of land from the Creeks to pay the expenses, as claimed, of that subjugating war? Alas! We do not find that golden thread of an even-handed justice. And what did Jackson mean in his letter to Claiborne by those "ulterior objects" which he thought might be "within the contemplation of Government?"
There were land claims, and conflicting claims there had been, in the Mississippi Territory. Georgia had claimed, as granted by Charles II, king of England, all the land between the Savannah and the Mississippi rivers and between latitude 31ë% and latitude 35ë%, and this, so far as Charles was concerned, without regard to Indian rights. Congress bought, at length, the claim of Georgia for one million and a quarter of dollars. Was the Government looking forward to securing a more full title to some of this land? Since the first settlements on the Atlantic coast it has been true that many of the whites have always wanted the Indian lands, their hunting grounds, even their burial places; they are wanting their very reservations now. Indian wars end in the extinction of Indian titles to land, and it may well be feared that this is an "ulterior" object underlying many of these wars.*
* Furthermore, the United States in 1802, had entered into a compact with the state of Georgia to extinguish the Indian title in the bounds of that state so soon as they reasonably could, and the Georgians were in a hurry for their share of the Creek lands. They, after 1814, so crowded the Government that a treaty was made, purchasing lands, which cost the life of Major William McIntosh, and which Congress was obliged to set aside.
We reach now, in our review, having already implied it and looked at it, the fact of the war waged against the Creeks, in which the larger part of their three thousand hostile warriors seem to have perished. And the conclusion reached here is, that the "Creek War," as waged by the whites against the Creeks, was out of all fair proportion as compared with the "Creek War " as waged by the Creeks against the whites.
Burnt Corn, Tallussahatchee, Talladega, the Hillabee massacre, Autossee and Talassee, the Holy Ground, and Tohopeka, outweigh the few aggressive acts committed by the Creeks, before the war opened, the blood shed in Clarke, and Fort Mims.
It was surely not all justice that influenced the movements of the armies of Jackson and Claiborne and Floyd. Well does Venable call it "vengeance," and that "swift and bloody."
Well would it be if nations heeded more the meaning of the Bible statement: "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."
The remnant of the War Party and the friendly Lower Creeks, after the treaty of 1814, still held lands which were desired by the states of Georgia and Alabama, and in 1832 was ratified the treaty of Cusseta, the first article of which states: "The Creek tribe of Indians cede to the United States all their land east of the Mississippi River." They were not obliged to remove by the terms of the treaty, but by the crowding in of the whites upon them, and in 1836 war actually commencing, they were constrained to remove to the west side of the Mississippi. Here, in a part of what is known as the Indian Territory, they have found an abiding place. As nearly all of those among the Alabama pioneers who had any part in the events of 1813 and 1814 have passed away, so have the Creek warriors who passed over the great Father of Waters passed now, all or nearly all, over the viewless river which is to the white man and the red man alike the end of strife and of earthly sorrow and earthly joy. The descendants of these Creek warriors have adopted largely the civilization and the religion of the American white race, and they now have farms and mills, and books and papers, and schools and churches. It is to be sincerely hoped that the American Government will at length deal with them on the true principles of Christian equity, suffering no greedy white man to despoil them of their land, and according to them at all times that protection to which they are so justly entitled, And those who dwell along the bright waters which once were held by the free and brave warriors of the great Creek nation, should remember that the children of the forest and the wild had the first and best right to all those beautiful streams, that the white pioneers have nearly always been aggressors upon Indian hunting grounds and burial places, and that the least they can do is, cherishing no animosity for provoked massacres committed in the past, to imitate such virtues as the Creek warriors did possess, and to do their part as American citizens in having henceforth just treatment accorded to all the remaining American Indians.