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Selocta, Creek Chief
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One of the most unhappy circumstances attending the late war between the United States and Great Britain, was its effect upon the Indian tribes residing within our limits. That all of these tribes have grievances to complain of, there can be no question; it would be impossible for two distinct races, differing so widely in character and in power, to inhabit the same country without frequent collisions, in which the weaker would generally be the injured and oppressed party. We have said elsewhere, and we take pride in repeating, that the American nation and government have acted towards that unfortunate race with great magnanimity. The intentions of our people, and the official action of our government towards them, has been decidedly benevolent; but irritating causes have continually occurred to thwart the generous intentions entertained towards them; dishonest agents have diverted the liberality of the government from its intended direction; and the selfishness or violence of unprincipled individuals have kindled hatred, jealousy, and bloodshed. Naturally prone to war, and habitually vindictive, the passions of the Indians are easily aroused, and those who have tampered with them, for sinister purposes, have ever been but too successful in the accomplishment of their detestable ends.
When the war of 1812 was about to break out, the British government availed itself of the precarious relations existing between the American government and the Indian tribes within its boundaries; and the agents of that power traversed the whole frontier upon the fatal errand of discord. The famous Tecumthe was the missionary sent to excite the Southern tribes, by inflammatory harangues and lavish promises of assistance. Bribes were scattered among their influential men, and their prophets were seduced to utter predictions such as were but too well calculated to mislead an ignorant and inflammatory people. Inferior as the Indians were in numbers, and in all the elements of physical power surrounded by the white population and dependent as they were upon us for their very existence we can hardly conceive a more cruel project, than that which would lead them into a hopeless and ruinous contest with the only power which could at pleasure protect or destroy them.
The Creek Indians, the most powerful of the Southern tribes, were, on this occasion, divided into two parties, one of which adhered to the United States, and proposed to take no part in the expected war, while the other madly engaged in the conspiracy against their own best interests. The latter were called Redsticks, because, in preparing for hostilities, each individual armed himself with a war-club which was painted red.
The first demonstration of this spirit betrayed itself in a series of murders and other outrages which were committed upon the white settlements, attended by the most atrocious circumstances of savage cruelty. The massacre at Fort Mimms was the earliest act of open war. This was a frontier post, in the Mississippi territory, containing about one hundred and fifty men, under the command of Major Beasley, besides a number of women and children, who had fled to it for protection. Weatherford, a distinguished chief of the hostile Creeks, having procured a supply of ammunition from the Spaniards at Pensacola, and assembled a force of six or seven hundred warriors, surprised this place on the 30th of August, 1812, and slaughtered nearly three hundred persons, including women and children, in cold blood, and with every aggravation of deliberate cruelty. None were spared; the mother and child fell under the same blow; seventeen individuals only escaped.
The news of this unprovoked outrage carried terror and indignation throughout the south-western frontier, and in all the neighboring states the people flew to arms. In Tennessee, large bodies of gallant men volunteered their services, and Andrew Jackson, a citizen already distinguished for his abilities and patriotism in civil life, was placed at their head. It is not our purpose to follow this distinguished leader through the perils, difficulties, and embarrassments of this war, to its brilliant victories and successful result.
Among the Creek warriors who adhered to the United States in this war, and rendered efficient services in the field, were Chinnaby, a principal chief of that people, and his son Selocta, the subject of this notice. The former occupied a fort on the Coosa river a rude primitive fortress of logs, surrounded by a stockade, such as are commonly resorted to in our border wars. Upon General Jackson’s first advance into the savage territory, he was met by Selocta, who sought his camp to fight under his banner, and to solicit aid for his father, whose decided measures had already excited the vengeance of the war faction, by whose forces his fort was surrounded and threatened. From this time until the close of the Indian war, Selocta’ continued with our army, an intelligent and sagacious guide during its marches, and a brave warrior and leader in battle.
It was during this war, that the striking scene occurred between General Jackson and Weatherford, the leader in the atrocious butchery at Fort Minims. After a series of active hostilities, and several general engagements in which the Indians had been beaten, and their forces cut up and dispersed, a number of the chiefs of the hostile party sought the presence of General Jackson, and offered submission upon his own terms. The victor treated them with clemency, admonishing them to a pacific course of conduct for the future, but demanded as a preliminary to any amicable intercourse, that Weatherford should be delivered up to him. A few days afterwards, an Indian presented himself at the camp, and desired to be conducted to the General, to whom he announced himself as Weatherford. The American commander expressed his astonishment that one whose hands were stained with an inhuman murder of captives, should dare to appear in his presence, knowing, as he must, that his arrest had been ordered for the purpose of bringing him to punishment. The undaunted chieftain replied, “I am in your power; do with me as you please. I am a warrior. I have done the white people all the harm I could; I have fought them, and fought them bravely; if I had any warriors left, I would still fight, and contend to the last. But I have none; my people are all gone; and now I can only mourn over the misfortunes of my nation.” Struck with the magnanimity so nearly akin to his own high spirit, the General explained to his visitor the terms upon which his people might have peace, adding, that he should take no advantage of his voluntary surrender, that he was now at liberty to remain and be protected, or retire, and reunite himself with the war party; but that, if taken, his life should pay the forfeit of his crimes.
The undismayed savage, maintaining the self-possession which distinguishes his race, replied : ” I may well be addressed in such language now. There was a time when I could have answered you; I then had a choice, but now I have none even hope has ended. Once I could lead my warriors to battle; but I cannot call the dead to life. My warriors can no longer hear my voice; their bones are at Talladega, Talluschatchee, Emuckfaw, and Tohopeka. I have not surrendered myself without reflection. While there was a chance of success, I never left my post, nor asked” for peace. But my people are gone, arid I now ask for peace for my nation and for myself. I look back with sorrow upon the miseries and misfortunes brought upon my country, and wish to avert still greater calamities. Our best warriors are slain, our cattle and grain are destroyed, and our women and children are destitute of provisions. If I had been left to contend with the Georgia army, I would have raised my corn on one bank of the river, and fought them on the other; but your people have destroyed my nation. You are a brave man; I rely on your generosity. You will exact no terms from a conquered people but such as they should accept; whatever they may be, it would be madness in us to oppose them. If any oppose them, you will find me stem in enforcing obedience. Those who would still hold out, can be influenced only by a spirit of revenge, and to this they must not, and shall not, sacrifice the last remnant of their nation. You have told us where we must go, and be safe. This is a good talk, and they ought to listen to it. They shall listen to it.”
At the conclusion of the war, a council was held by General Jackson, at which the chiefs and warriors of both factions of the Creeks attended, and the subject of the removal of that people to the lands assigned them west of the Mississippi, was discussed. A majority w T ere opposed to the scheme, and several of the chiefs denounced it in bold and eloquent language. The speech of the Big Warrior on that occasion, has been quoted as a fine specimen of savage elocution. Major Eaton, in his Life of General Jackson, from which we have gathered the preceding facts, after describing the speeches of some of the chiefs, adds, “but the inflexibility of the person with whom they were treating, evinced to them, that however just and well founded might be their objections, the policy under which he acted was too clearly defined, for any abandonment of it to be at all calculated upon. Selocta, one of their chiefs, who had united with our troops at the commencement of the war, who had marched and fought with them in all their battles, and had attached to himself strongly the confidence of the commanding general, now addressed him. He told him of the regard he had ever felt for his white brothers, and with what zeal he had exerted himself to preserve peace, and keep in friendship with them; when his efforts had failed, he had taken up arms against his own country, and fought against his own people; that he was not opposed to yielding the lands lying on the Alabama, which would answer the purpose of cutting off any intercourse with the Spaniards, but the country west of the Coosa he wished to preserve to the nation. To effect this he appealed to the feelings of Jackson; told him of the dangers they had passed together, and of his faithfulness to him in the trying scenes through which they had gone.”
“There were, indeed, none whose voice ought sooner to have been heard than Selocta’s. None had rendered greater services, and none had been more faithful. He had claims growing out of his fidelity that few others had.”
The sequel of this interview has become matter of history, and is too well known to need repetition. The Creeks assented to the terms proposed by the American government, and, abandoning the graves of their fathers, sought a new home.
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