On July 27, 1813 the battle that started the Creek War occurred at a bend on Burnt Corn Creek, located in present day Escambia County, Alabama. First of all, where did the name “Burnt Corn Creek” originate from? There are a few theories:
- The Creek Indians tried to drive the white settlers away from their land by burning their corn cribs.
- The white settlers burned the corn fields of the Creek Indians to drive them away.
- A group of Indians left an ailing tribe member behind with a supply of corn. When he was well enough to travel, however, he had no way to carry the corn away with him so perhaps he burned the corn in his campfire before departing. Others came along later, stayed at the nearby spring and noted that they stayed by the spring where “corn had been burnt.”
Any-who, it is a unique name and some historians theorize that the name and place may pre-date the Revolutionary War. If true, then Burnt Corn also pre-dated the formation of the Mississippi Territory in 1798 and Alabama’s founding in 1819. Like the list of reasons why the name, the theories of when the area first became known as “Burnt Corn” are unclear or unknown.
The Creeks (or Muscogee Creeks) had actually been mostly at peace with white settlers for many years, but when Tecumseh traveled south in 1811 to recruit (and stir up) allies among what were called the Five Civilized Tribes things changed. An excerpt from a speech to the Muscogees:
The Muscogee was once a mighty people. The Georgians trembled at your war-whoop, and the maidens of my tribe, on the distant lakes, sung the prowess of your warriors and sighed for their embraces. Now your very blood is white; your tomahawks have no edge; your bows and arrows were buried with your fathers. Oh! Muscogees, brethren of my mother, brush from your eyelids the sleep of slavery; once more strike for vengeance; once more for your country. The spirits of the mighty dead complain. Their tears drop from the weeping skies. Let the white race perish. (as reported by Captain Samuel Dale who was present at the speech)
At the time, Florida was still under Spanish control and Spaniards were also stirring up discord among the Creeks. In July of 1813 Peter McQueen led a band of Creeks called “Red Stick Warriors” to Pensacola, Florida. The “Red Stick Warriors”, so called because they used red-colored war clubs, were on a mission to buy weapons and ammunition from the Spanish.
McQueen and his warriors returned from Florida on July 27 and camped for the night on Burnt Corn Creek. White settlers had received word of the Creeks’ purchase and became alarmed, forming a militia of one hundred and eighty men. That night the militia, led by Colonel James Caller, ambushed the Red Sticks, causing them to scatter and flee into the nearby brush.
Mistakenly, Caller’s men thought they had routed the Creeks and began to plunder the Indian camp and take away their horses. However, McQueen rallied his warriors and mounted a fierce counterattack on the militia. Confusion and panic ensued and the militia scattered and fled, although some militia members stood their ground and prevented a complete rout. Colonel Caller and one of his men became disoriented and wandered in the woods for two weeks before being found in a delirious state.
The militia lost two men with ten to fifteen wounded. The Red Sticks lost perhaps as many as ten warriors and eight to ten wounded. The militia also captured some of the guns and ammunition as well, but the battle was considered a loss for Colonel Caller. Burnt Corn Creek emboldened the Creeks, for on August 30 about seven hundred Red Stick Warriors attacked Fort Mims and massacred two hundred and fifty people.
The governors of Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi Territory called for action. Governor William Blount put Generals John Cocke and Andrew Jackson in charge of two Tennessee regiments. Interestingly, Jackson’s forces were supplemented by a large contingent of Cherokee warriors. Tune in next week for more about the Creek War and Jackson’s role in the final battle of that conflict, the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.