The Shawnee leader Tecumseh went to Creek and other Southeast Indian towns in 1811–12 to recruit warriors to join his war against American encroachment.
Then tribal tensions increased with the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain.
The Upper Creeks (or Red Sticks), were young men who wanted to revive traditional religious and cultural practices, and began to raid American frontier settlements.
When the Lower Creek began to help the United States forces capture and punish leading Red Sticks raiders, these tribal tensions grew into a Creek civil war.
Then on July 27, 1813 in present-day Alabama, U.S. militia troops intercepted a Red Sticks party returning from a trip to Pensacola to purchase arms.
The Americans scattered the Red Sticks, who fled to the nearby swamps.
Flush with victory, the Americans began looting the Red Sticks’ pack-horses. From the banks of Burnt Corn Creek, the Creeks noticed that the Americans had dropped their guard. The Creek re-grouped and launched a surprise attack of their own, which scattered the Americans in what today is known as the Battle of Burnt Corn.
Red Sticks raids on enemy settlements continued, and on August 30, 1813 they attacked Fort Mims in retaliation for the Burnt Corn attack. The Red Sticks killed almost all of the remaining Lower Creek, white settlers and militia soldiers.
This Fort Mims massacre became the official start of a conflict known today as the Red Sticks War or simply the Creek War.
Soon frontier settlers were appealing to the U.S. government for help as the Red Sticks continued to attack other forts in the area.
As Federal forces were devoted to the War of 1812, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama organized militias that were commanded by Colonel Andrew Jackson, together with Lower Creek and Cherokee allies, to go against the Red Sticks.
At most, the Red Sticks force consisted of 4,000 warriors, possessing perhaps 1,000 muskets. They had never been involved in a large-scale war, not even against neighboring American Indians.
“Econochaca,” the Red Sticks Holy Ground, was located near the junction of the Alabama and Coosa Rivers, and was the heart of the Red Sticks tribe.
It was located about 150 miles from the nearest supply point available to any of the three American armies.
Although Andrew Jackson’s mission was to defeat the Red Sticks, his larger objective was to move on Pensacola.
Jackson’s plan was to move south, build roads, destroy Upper Creek towns and then later proceed to Mobile to stage an attack on Spanish held Pensacola.
The easiest attack route was from Georgia through the line of forts on the frontier and then along a good road that led to the Upper Creek towns near the Holy Ground, including nearby Hickory Ground.
Another route was north from Mobile along the Alabama River. The most difficult route of advance, was south from Tennessee through a mountainous and pathless terrain.
Jackson had two problems: logistics and short enlistments.
When Jackson departed Fayetteville, Tennessee on October 7, 1813, the Tennessee River was low, making it difficult to move supplies, and there was little forage for his horses.
Jackson joined his cavalry in Huntsville and crossed the Tennessee, establishing Fort Deposit.
He then marched to the Coosa and built his advanced base at Fort Strother. Jackson’s first successful actions, the battles of Tallushatchee and Talladega, occurred in November of 1813.
Jackson then departed Fort Strother on January 17, 1814 and marched toward the village of Emuckfaw to cooperate with the Georgia Militia. However, this was a long march through difficult terrain against a numerically superior force, his men were inexperienced, undisciplined and insubordinate, and a defeat would have prolonged the war.
After two indecisive battles at Emuckfaw and Enotachopo Creek, Jackson returned to Fort Strother and did not resume another offensive until mid March.
Jackson then decided to move against the Red Sticks force concentrated on the Tallapoosa River at Tohopeka (called Horseshoe Bend) in central Alabama some 12 miles east of what is now Alexander City, Alabama.
He moved his men south along the Coosa, about half the distance to the Red Sticks position, and established a new outpost at Fort Williams.
After leaving a garrison and Fort Williams, Jackson then cut his way through the forest with a force of about 3,000 men augmented with 600 Cherokee and Lower Creek allies to within 6 miles of the Red Sticks camp of Tohopeka. At the top of a steep hill and a good vantage point, Jackson made camp for the night.
Then at 6:30 am on March 27, 1814, Andrew Jackson split his troops by sending General John Coffee with the mounted infantry and the Indian allies south across the river to surround the Red Sticks’ camp, while Jackson stayed with the rest of the 2,000 infantry north of the camp.
At 10:30 a.m., Jackson had his remaining troops begin an artillery barrage which consisted of two cannons firing for about two hours.
This caused little damage to the Red Sticks or their 400 yard long log-and-dirt fortifications.
In fact, Jackson was quite impressed with the measures the Red Sticks took to protect their position.
Then in early afternoon, Jackson ordered a bayonet charge.
The 39th U.S. Infantry, led by Colonel John Williams, charged the breastworks defending the camp and caught the Red Sticks in hand-to-hand combat.
Sam Houston (the future statesman and Texas politician) served as a third lieutenant in Jackson’s army. Houston was one of the first to make it over the log barricade alive and received a wound from a Creek arrow that troubled him the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, the rest of Jackson’s troops, under the command of General John Coffee, had successfully crossed the river and surrounded the encampment. They joined the fight and gave Jackson a great advantage. The Creek warriors refused to surrender, though, and the battle lasted for more than five hours.
At the end, roughly 800 of the 1000 Red Sticks warriors present at the battle were killed.
In contrast, Jackson lost fewer than 50 men during the fight and reported 154 wounded.
Chief Menawa was severely wounded but survived as he led about 200 of the original 1,000 warriors across the river and escaped into safety among the Seminole tribe in Spanish Florida.
The Battle of Horseshoe Bend was a decisive victory for Jackson, as it ended the Red Sticks resistance and effectively ended the Creek War.
Jackson then initiated construction of a Fort near the sacred Creek site known as the Hickory Ground and atop the site of the old French Fort Toulouse at the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers before temporarily traveling to Washington. In his absence, the Fort was named “Fort Jackson” in his honor.
Treaty of Fort Jackson
Upon his return on August 9, 1814, Andrew Jackson forced the Creek to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson.
With this treaty, the Creek Nation was forced to cede 23 million acres – half of central Alabama and part of southern Georgia – to the United States government for white settlement.
Ironically, this also included territory of the Lower Creek and Cherokee Nation, who had both been allies of the United States.
Andrew Jackson claimed he had determined the areas from his sense of security needs.
As a reward for the Treaty of Fort Jackson, Andrew Jackson was promoted to Major General.
This victory, along with the Battle of New Orleans, greatly contributed to Jackson’s national reputation and his popularity. He was well known when he ran successfully for president in 1828.
Today, the battlefield is preserved in the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.
Fort Jackson was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
Now WE know em