Military History Monday: The Battle of Horseshoe Bend

Imacon Color ScannerThe Creek War of 1813-1814 broke out in the middle of what some historians call the “Second Revolutionary War,” or the War of 1812.  Although the Creek War was ultimately won by the Americans, it started out as a civil war among rival Creek factions.  Americans became involved to prevent one or more factions from joining the British, thus it became an American campaign to destroy Creek power, specifically the Red Sticks (see this recent article).  The volatility of the conflict increased when Cherokee and Choctaw factions allied with the Americans to defeat the Creeks.

The Battle of Burnt Corn Creek was followed by a massacre at Fort Mims at the hands of the Red Sticks.  Ironically, many of the civilian inhabitants killed were of Creek ancestry.  The Red Sticks continued their campaign with smaller scale attacks.  In October of 1813, Governor William Blount of Tennessee raised a militia of thirty-five hundred volunteers, divided into two armies, one led by John Cocke and the other by Andrew Jackson.

Jackson’s one thousand-man militia was supported by a cavalry unit of some thirteen hundred and additionally supplemented by Cherokee warriors.  In early November Jackson’s militia scored the first American victory at Tullusahatchee, killing two hundred Red Sticks, including several women and children.  In retaliation the Creeks attacked Talladega, and after Jackson arrived the militia again inflicted heavy casualties on the Red Sticks.

Following a lull in the fighting and fresh troops, Jackson’s militia was on the move again.  At the end of December troop numbers had dropped significantly (due to sixty-day enlistments).  To avoid another instance of massive troop exodus, the plan was to head south and confront the Red Sticks at their largest settlement – Tohopeka at the Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River.

HorseshoeBendOn March 27, 1814, the decisive battle of the Creek War (now intertwined with the War of 1812) was fought at Horseshoe Bend.  That day Jackson led over twenty-five hundred American troops, five hundred Cherokees and one hundred “White Sticks” (Creek allies) up a hill overlooking Tohopeka (Alabama).

At 6:30 a.m. Jackson’s troops were divided, ordering seven hundred of General John Coffee’s troops and six hundred Indian allies to cross the river about two and a half miles down river and surround the village of Tohopeka.  The village had about three hundred log houses and a log and dirt barricade some four hundred yards long fortifying it.  Jackson took the remaining two thousand men and proceeded to march toward the bend and barricade.

The first order of business was to blow a hole in the barricade.  At 10:30 a.m. the barricade bombardment began and continued for two hours.  Meanwhile, Coffee and his troops had crossed the river and were making their way to the village.  At 12:30 p.m. Jackson gave orders for all troops to commence their two-pronged attack.  After just a few minutes of fierce fighting, the Red Sticks were overwhelmed and attempted to escape.

The battle continued for six more hours resulting in 557 Red Stick deaths on the battlefield and 300 in the river.  Jackson lost 49 and 154 were wounded.  About three hundred and fifty women and children were taken as prisoners.  Creek Chief Menawa had been left for dead but he escaped after “playing dead.”  Although he remained a prominent Creek leader, he was forced with hundreds of other Indians to relocate to Oklahoma Territory in 1836.

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend was a decisive victory and effectively ended the Creek War.  It also made Andrew Jackson a national hero.  After receiving a promotion to Major General, he defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.  With an elevated national profile, he was nominated for President of the United States in 1824 but narrowly lost to John Quincy Adams.

In 1828 he successfully ran again and became the seventh President of the United States.  Following up on his aggressive Indian policy, having made it a signature issue in 1824 and 1828, he signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830.  Soon afterwards the process of removing southeastern Indians who refused to assimilate to Oklahoma Territory began, also known as the “Trail of Tears.”

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.


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