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The Red Stick Creek

The Red Stick Creek went against their fellow tribesmen who believed that the colonizer could be trusted to keep his treaties. Instead the Red Stick decided to support the freedom of the enslaved in America and join forces to fight the murderous invaders of their land.


Tennessee militia Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, was upset he paced in his office wondering what to do to get retribution against the natives who had defied him in his own territories. He was particularly outraged by the May 1812 Duck River killings, Jackson had made a name for himself killing black Indians and thought it prudent to keep the tribes divided by telling the lighter Mongoloid tribes they would become citizens in time but they must sell their darker brothers into slavery in order to be accepted. The Battle of Burnt Corn Creek, was an encounter between United States armed forces and Creek Indians that took place July 27, 1813 in present-day southern Alabama. The battle was part of what would become the Creek War. The Redsticks were against aiding the colonizer in enslaving and turning natives into Europeans by giving up their tr

aditions and culture and made plans to attack Fort Mims that harbored Creeks who they viewed as traitors to the whole nation. Immediately Jackson wrote Tennessee Governor Willie Blount, insisting the Creeks “must be punished, and "our" frontier protected, and I have no doubt but they are urged on by British agents and tools, the sooner they can be attacked, the less will be their resistance.” To Jackson the natives were one step above the negro and eventually would have to be dealt with just as harshly in order for the country to prosper.


In mid-1813, as the Creek Nation disintegrated in civil war, the Red Sticks were determined to destroy a community of Creeks who had established plantations in the Tensaw District and had taken refuge at Fort Mims. The attack on July 27, 1813, near Burnt Corn Creek (in present-day Escambia County near Brewton), changed and escalated the nature of the war. In retaliation for the attack at Burnt Corn, the dissidents turned their fury on the fortified settlement of Samuel Mims. These dissidents were soon called Red Sticks because they had raised the “red stick of war,” a favored weapon and symbolic Creek war declaration.


The brutal attack on Fort Mims on August 30, 1813, by nearly 700 Red Sticks was a complete victory and left 250 of the defenders and civilian inhabitants dead, with perhaps 100 others taken captive by the Red Sticks. Sporadic attacks were likewise launched against American settlers along the Chattahoochee River, and among the Upper Towns, support for the Red Sticks expanded rapidly. Jackson requested 2,500 volunteers and permission to advance “and lay their towns in ashes.” Blount initially refused Jackson. But when the United States declared war on Great Britain the following month, the governor relented. Militia Maj. Gen. Jackson became U.S. Volunteers Maj. Gen. Jackson and began to recruit his army. The grim news from Fort Mims proved a great boost to recruitment.


When news of the Upper Creek massacre at the fort reached the Tennessee settlements, young Davy Crockett was among the first men on the recruiting lines. Crockett enlisted at Winchester on Sept. 24, 1813, as a 90-day volunteer in Captain Francis Jones’ company of Tennessee Volunteer Mounted Riflemen. He left wife Polly and their young children at his small farm 10 miles south of Winchester. She begged him not to go, but he was determined. “My countrymen had been murdered, and I knew that the next thing would be, that the Indians would be scalping the women and children all about there, if we didn’t put a stop to it,” he recalled in his memoir. “The truth is, my dander was up, and nothing but war would bring it right again.”


Jones’ company marched to a rendezvous point just south of newly settled Huntsville, where they joined with other mounted militia companies as part of Colonel John Coffee’s cavalry division, more than 1,000 strong. General Jackson was not yet with them, for he had been terribly wounded in a September 4 Nashville brawl with brothers Jesse and Tom Benton, in which Coffee had come to his defense. Jackson lay near death for several days, his left arm rendered useless by Jesse Benton’s pistol shot (he would carry the ball in his shoulder for 20 years before finally having it removed by surgeons in Washington when he was president), and he remained bedridden for weeks. Not until month’s end would he head south to join Coffee’s advance guard.


While waiting, Coffee decided to send a scouting party under Major John Gibson across the Tennessee River, and the colonel asked Captain Jones for the best woodsman in his company. Jones selected Crockett. Crockett brought young George Russell with him, and the party soon set off for Upper Creek country. The major split the group, sending Crockett and five others scouting south to the Coosa, where they discovered large numbers of Red Sticks moving north. Crockett and his men rode all night to inform Coffee. To the frontiersman’s chagrin his report made little impact on the colonel.


“When I made my report, it wasn’t believed, because I was no officer; I was no great man, but just a poor soldier,” he recalled. “But when the same thing was reported by Major Gibson! Why, then, it was all as true as preaching, and the colonel believed it every word.…It convinced me, clearly, of one of the hateful ways of the world.”


Coffee sent a message by express rider to Jackson at Fayetteville, Tenn., to hurry south with his infantry, and the general reached Coffee on October 24 at Camp Deposit on the Tennessee River. Jackson soon learned of an Upper Creek force at nearby Tallushatchee and promptly ordered out Coffee with 900 men to attack them. Before dawn on November 3rd Coffee’s men surrounded the Creek village. But the braves were gone probably hunting and only enemy they faced were women and children who came forward hands in the air to surrender, but as they were being directed to the rear by soldiers, several old warriors suddenly opened fire. The volunteers returned a devastating fire on the Indians. “We now shot the women and children like dogs,” recalled Crockett with dismay of a battle that was really no more than a massacre of old men, women and children .


After nearly 40 warriors took shelter in a wooden house, the volunteers—no doubt with Fort Mims in mind—set it ablaze and burned the Creeks alive. The next day, as soldiers sifted through the ashes in that same charred house, they discovered a potato cellar. Crockett and the other famished men soon crawled down into it. “We found a fine chance of potatoes in it, and hunger compelled us to eat them, though I had a little rather not,” Crockett wrote, “for the oil from the bodies of the Indians we had burned up on the day before had run down coating them, and they looked and smelled like they had been stewed with fat meat.”



The carnage Crockett saw and inflicted as a Tennessee Volunteer Mounted Rifleman prompted him to leave the service, though he rejoined after Andrew Jackson’s victory at Horseshoe Bend. (according to the Library of Congress) The grim moment, related in searing detail in Crockett’s 1834 autobiography, left him feeling emotionally disturbed, in both a real and metaphorical sense, because he discovered that the pioneers were drawing sustenance from the dead Indians—cannibalizing (eating and feeding off their misery) to build a new nation. (In May 1830 Congressman Crockett would rise on the floor of the U.S. House on Representatives to denounce President Andrew Jackson’s notorious Indian Removal Bill, a position that helped doom Crockett’s political career.) Jackson was notorious for lies about battles that he had lost and grown famous for his tactics of murdering women and children when the warriors were away at hunting parties.


Within days word reached Jackson that Red Stick warriors were besieging the Lower Creeks at Talladega, and Crockett soon rode south with Coffee’s command to rescue their Lower Creek Indian allies. At least 1,000 Red Sticks encircled the Talladega stockade. They were in turn surrounded by Jackson’s 1,200 infantry and 800 mounted riflemen. In the bloody battle that followed on November 9 the soldiers killed more than 300 Red Sticks before the rest managed to break through the militia lines and flee. Jackson, with but 15 dead, might have pursued and crushed the Upper Creeks had he not run out of supplies. It was not Jacksons style to engage in battle where he did not have a clear advantage.


With his troops facing starvation and talk of mutiny spreading among both the militia and volunteers, Jackson had no choice but to retrace his steps to Camp Deposit. He ordered Coffee’s mounted volunteers back to Tennessee to refit and get fresh horses, while he remained to face down his increasingly insubordinate militiamen. Crockett happily returned to Polly and his children and, along with all the other volunteers, refused to return when recalled by Coffee, as they had less than two weeks left to serve. Paid $65.59, he was discharged on Christmas Eve.


Jackson lived up to his hard-nosed nickname “Old Hickory” in those trying days of December 1813 and January 1814 as he dealt with a total breakdown of logistical support, mutinous troops and the absence of promised reinforcements from Blount. He held out through dogged determination and was finally rewarded on January 14 when 850 recruits reached him at Fort Strother. Without hesitation the flinty general immediately marched the green soldiers into Red Stick Creek country, where he seasoned his troops and bled the enemy in two indecisive battles, at Emuckfau and Enotachopco creeks. The Americans, with nearly 100 casualties (including Coffee seriously wounded and Jackson’s nephew Alexander Donelson killed), retreated back to Fort Strother. At that dark moment in Jackson’s fortunes came a sudden turnaround.


On February 6 the 39th U.S. Infantry under Colonel John Williams reached the fort. Among the ranks of that regiment was young Ensign Sam Houston—future founding president of the Republic of Texas. Soon joining the growing force were more Tennessee volunteers sent south by Governor Blount, as well as 500 Cherokees under Chief Major Ridge and 100 Creeks under McIntosh. With his ranks swelled to more than 5,000 men, Jackson felt confident enough to advance against the main Red Stick village at Tohopeka, on the Horseshoe Bend of the Tallapoosa River.

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