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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter VI. — Hostilities with the Creeks. Massacre at Fort Mimms. Battles of Tullushatches, Talladega, Hillabee, and Attasee.

WE must now turn our attention to the southern tribes. The fallacy of concluding treaties with an ignorant, wild, and nomadic people, destitute of sound moral principles, was never more fully demonstrated, than in the case of the Appalachian group of tribes. The Creeks, a full delegation of whom, with M'Gillivray at its head, visited New York, in 1790, and, amid great ceremony, entered into solemn compacts with General Washington, renewing the same in 1796, and again in 1802, as well as in 1805, were, all the while, only carrying out a diplomatic scheme. They hated the Americans, and the more so, it seems, because they had, as colonies, prevailed over the British. This great tribe had, in early days, subdued the once proud Utches and Natches, and other Florida tribes, and in truth wielded the power of a confederacy, which they averred to consist of seven tribes or elements. 504 But in a confederacy of savages, it was necessary to keep the tomahawk ever lifted. Destitute of political compactness, and its leaders lacking the power of mental combination, as well as moral steadiness, this league was powerful only against savages like themselves, but proved to be an utter failure when opposed to the policy of industrial and civilized nations.

Tecumseh had harangued in their councils early in his career. His mother having been a Creek, they listened to his words with peculiar favor, more especially as he was fresh from the banks of the Wabash, where he had heard the voice of inspiration. In common with the western tribes, the Creeks believed they were on the eve of a great revolution, through which the Indians would once more regain their ascendency in America. At the commencement of hostilities with them in 1815, the residents along the Mobile and Alabama rivers sought protection within the walls of Fort Mimms. A battalion of militia garrisoned it; and its huts and stockades formed a refuge for a large number of families. It, was not a position of much military strength, and such laxity of discipline was tolerated in its garrison, that in a few months after its erection, the Indians observing the carelessness with which it was guarded, suddenly surrounded

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the fort and captured it by stratagem. A frightful scene ensued; men, women, and children being indiscriminately butchered. Such an incident, so early in the war, betokened the sanguinary character of the rest of the contest.

The northern tribes were, to a considerable extent, controlled by climatic influences. They could not continue together in large bodies, without being furnished with regular supplies of food, and some of the requisites of a military camp. When, therefore, their white allies and supporters were defeated, they were dismayed; but when their own great leaders and captains were killed, they were placed entirely "hors du combat." There were no reserves from which to recruit defeated Indian armies; there was, in truth, no recuperative power in the Indian character. To some extent, the tribes south of latitude 40° north, were an exception to this rule. From 40° to 46° north, the snow falls to a greater or less depth between the months of November and March. North of 46°, corn, on which the Indian relies for his supply of vegetable food, must be purchased from the Indian traders who visit his villages during the winter; but a war with Europeans, whose armies can operate either in winter or summer, is adverse to hunting and destructive of his means, as the northern Indian can neither raise corn in summer, nor hunt deer, nor search the streams for beaver in winter. It is far otherwise with the tribes located between the latitudes of the capes of Florida and the Appalachian Mountains. A large part of this territory, lying between the longitudes of the Atlantic coasts of Georgia and Florida, and the banks of the Mississippi, have a tropical climate, and produce tropical vegetation. Here is produced not only the indigo plant, cotton, rice, and sugar (transplanted species), but also the orange, banana, plum and other native fruits. 505 The forests are redolent with the aromatic odors of "groves of illicium, myrtle, laurel, and bignonia." 506 The Indian spreads his simple mantle here, and lies down on the ground without a tent, or a fire. The forests are filled with the deer and wild turkey. Its soil yields the arrow-root, and betata; and its sea-coasts, as well as its lakes, abound with the most delicious shell-fish, and the various species of water-fowl. These tribes had not yet been circumscribed in their movements by the onward progress of the emigrant; and no such idea had mingled in their dreams, as that the fertile and extensive territories on the Chattahootchee, the Alabama, and the Tuscaloosa, were designed for nobler pursuits than the mere hunting of deer. Antiquity of opinion, manners, and arts, is what the native, unsophisticated Indian loves; novelty is distasteful, progress unwise, agriculture regarded as servitude, letters and religion detested, and Christ not considered as comparable to Manito, Aba Inka, Owayneo, Wakondah, or Hiawatha.

In effect, the laying down of the war-club by the northern tribes, who had been led on by Tecumseh in their crusade against civilization, had little or no effect on the Southern tribes. On the 3d of November, within one month after the decisive battle

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of the Thames, in the north, the Creeks assumed such an attitude of hostility at Tullushatches, on the Coosa river, that General John Coffee marched against them with a brigade of cavalry and mounted riflemen. The Indian town was reached at sunrise, when the beating of the drums of the savages indicated that they were prepared to meet them. A sham attack and retreat, by a single company, effectually succeeded in decoying them from their houses in close pursuit. This sally was checked by their encountering the main body of Coffee's command, which charged them, and drove them back to their shelter, where they were in a very short time surrounded by superior numbers. They fought with great desperation, without "shrinking, or complaining; not one asked to be spared, but fought as long as they could stand or sit." 507 One hundred and eighty-six dead bodies were counted on the field, and eighty prisoners were taken, chiefly women and children. General Coffee's brigade lost five killed, and forty-one wounded. 508

Only a few days elapsed when the Creeks appeared in great force, at Talladega; but General Andrew Jackson advanced against them, and, by great exertions and night marches, reached the vicinity of that place at sunrise, on the 7th of November. He formed his militia in line on the left, his volunteers on the right, and his cavalry on the wings in a curve, so as to enclose the enemy, giving directions to pour in four or five rapid discharges, and then fall back. The Indians pursued them, and had well nigh thrown the entire force of infantry into confusion. The militia fled; but Jackson immediately ordering a corps of reserved cavalry, under Colonel Dyer, to dismount and fill up the gap, confidence was restored. The militia seeing this, rallied, and the fire became so hot, general, and destructive, that the Creeks fled. The right wing pursued them for three miles, until they reached the mountains. Two hundred and ninety dead bodies of the enemy, left behind on the field, proved that they had made a spirited resistance. Jackson had seventeen killed, and eighty-three wounded. 509

On the 11th of November, Brigadier-General James White marched against the Hillabee Creeks, a distance of about 100 miles from Fort Armstrong. He captured five Creeks on the Little Oakfuskee, and burned a town comprising thirty houses. The town of Genalgo, consisting of ninety-three houses, shared the same fate. Having arrived at a point within five or six miles of the Hillabee town, where, he was informed, the Indians would make a stand, he dismounted part of his forces, and prepared to make a night attack. It was, however, daylight, on the 18th, before the troops reached the town, which they succeeded in surrounding and surprising. 510 Sixty were killed on the spot, and 256 persons taken prisoners.

On the 29th of November, Brigadier-General John Floyd fought a general battle with the Creeks at Attasee, some eighteen miles from the Hickory Ground, on the

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waters of the Tallapoosa. His force was composed of 950 Georgia militia, between 300 and 400 friendly Cowetas, under M'Intosh, and the Tookabatchians, under their chief, Mad Dog. These fought with intrepidity when incorporated with the line of the troops. After some changes of plan, induced by ignorance of the local geography, the army approached the upper town, where the action became general. "The Indians presented themselves at every point, and fought with the desperate bravery of real fanatics." 511 By the use of artillery and the bayonet, the enemy were obliged to retreat, and take shelter in houses, thickets, and caves in a high bluff, on the river. The action terminated at nine o'clock in the morning, when the town was burned. The loss of the enemy is not definitely stated; but 400 buildings are estimated to have been consumed. 512 Floyd's loss was 7 killed, and 54 wounded.

On the 23d of December, General Claiborne, with a brigade of volunteers, and a part of the 3d regiment of United States troops, attacked the Creek town of Eccanachaca, on the Alabama, about eighty miles above the mouth of the Cahaba. Being advised of his approach, they were prepared for him, and immediately commenced an attack; but they were quickly repulsed, with the loss of thirty warriors killed. 513

On the northern frontier the Indians effected little, except as flankers and guerilla parties, in connection with the British armies. The most noted movement of this kind was the attack on Buffalo. A strong party of them, accompanied by the British troops, crossed the Niagara before daybreak on the 30th of December, and laid the village of Buffalo in ruins. 514

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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