Exploring the North Georgia Mountains
The Creek Indians - Part 3
By Don and Diane Wells
The Period Leading up to the Creek Indian War
After the Revolutionary War, the British lost control of lands that had been ceded to them by the Choctaw Indians in the Mississippi and Southwestern part of the Alabama territory.
|Tecumseh, the Shawnee Chief and warrior, visited the southern Indian Tribes in 1811 to entice them to join with the Shawnee to oppose further expansion by the U.S. into Indian Territory.|
In late 1805, the Choctaws ceded an additional five million acres of land to the U.S. government, which included the whole southern portion of the present state of Mississippi. This new frontier, 300 miles from the current U.S. frontier at Fort Hawkins on the Ocmulgee River in Macon Ga., was thrown open to settlement. Additionally, the Chickasaw Indians ceded large tracks of land along the Tennessee River in the upper Alabama and Mississippi territory. Settlers from the U.S. poured into this new territory following pathways granted by the Indians to the U.S. government in treaties. The Federal Road, supposedly only a Horse Path, became a much traveled road. Families in wagons transported their worldly possessions including livestock down the road. The militia also traveled the road to resupply forts in the new territory and to move troops to those locations to protect the people who had moved there. By 1811, the horse path has been widened far beyond its originally authorized four feet. With this great increase in use, the Creek Indians became increasingly angry about the illegal encroachment on their territory.
When the settlers began growing cotton, there was a need to start building cotton gins. Several of these were built in the new U.S. territory along the Tombigby River at McIntosh’s Bluff and at the Boat Yard on Lake Tensaw in the same area. The Creek Indians could not complain about the building of cotton gins in the new U.S. territory. However, some of the Creek Chiefs gave consent, along with support from Benjamin Hawkins, for a cotton gin to be built at Weatherford’s Race Track on an eastern bluff below the junction of the Tallapoosa and Coosa Rivers north of present day Montgomery, Ala. and the Federal Road. This expanding use of Indian Territory by settlers added to the anger of those Creeks who objected to the rapid settlement on their lands.
Albert James Pickett in 1878 wrote a voluminous and detailed account of the history of Alabama entitled; History of Alabama and incidentally of Georgia and Mississippi from the Earliest Period. In his account, he captured the feeling of the majority of Creek Indians. He wrote that the thoroughfare, called the Federal Road, which ran from Mim’s Ferry, upon the Alabama River to the Chattahoochee River (actually it went all the way to the Ocmulgee), was filled, from one end to the other, with emigrants going to the western part of the territory. He said, “The Creeks, with their usual sagacity, foresaw that they would soon be hemmed in by the Georgians on the one side and the Tombigby people on the other, and many of them contemplated the expulsion of the Tombigby people in the not so distant future.”
Tecumseh and the British fuel the fire
On the Indian side, Tecumseh, the Shawnee Chief and Warrior, whose parents were born on the Tallapoosa River in Alabama, visited the southern Indian Tribes in 1811 to entice them to join with the Shawnee to oppose further expansion by the U.S. into Indian Territory. He visited the Chickasaws and the Choctaws who listened but did not join his cause. He then visited the Seminoles who sided with him and finally visited the Creek Indians. While the Chiefs listened to his speeches they for the most part did not agree with him. However, the festering resentment of the settler’s impacts on the Creek Indian way of life rang a bell for many of the Creek Indian warriors who were known as the “Red Sticks” or Upper Creek Indians.
After the Creek Indian Chiefs refused to join him (Lower Creeks refused; Upper Creeks in general agreed) in his proposed war with the United States, Tecumseh left Tukabatchee, Ala. in October of 1811 to return home. Before he left, he told the Creeks that when he got home he would stomp his foot and cause a rumble to be heard all the way to the Creek lands as a sign of his anger with them. Indeed, three major earthquakes, collectively known as the New Madrid Earthquakes, occurred on December 16, 1811 (7.7 Richter), January 23, 1812 (7.5 Richter) and February 7, 1812 (7.7 Richter). The earthquakes caused significant damage to occur across the area of now Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee. Chimneys fell as far away as Maine and the Mississippi River even ran backwards. Many Indians took this as a sign of the truth of Tecumseh's talk.
The war of 1812
The War of 1812 between the British Empire and the U.S. is almost a foot note in American History. It lasted only 32 months and occurred mostly at sea and along the eastern boundary of the U.S. The U.S. declared war because of English interference with the U.S. merchant fleet delivering trade goods to France, which was also at war with the British Empire. Added to the acts of war on the high seas against the U.S. fleet, was the fact that the British were inciting the American Indians to take up arms against the U.S. in order to stop American expansion to the west.
When the Spanish regained control of what is now Florida in 1781, they allowed Panton, Leslie and Company, a British trading firm, to remain in what is now the Pensacola area in order to trade with the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole Indians. The company, still angry after having had their property confiscated during the Revolutionary War, saw the War of 1812 as an opportunity to strike back at the United States. The company not only played on the anger of the Indians toward the white man by inciting them to take up arms against the United States, but also sold arms and ammunition to them. Paton, Leslie and Company even offered the Creek Indians a bounty of $5.00 for any white scalp the Indians brought back to Pensacola.
Part 4 will explore the Creek Indian War of 1813-1814 caused by the opening of the Federal Road.