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Capt. Steuart’s Agency
In the year 176, it was thought advisable by the English government to appoint a general agent and superintendent of Indian affairs at the south. Partly through the earnest intervention of Attakullakulla, but especially be cause of his known sagacity and influence over the native tribes, this office was conferred upon Captain John Steuart. Upon entering on the duties of his appointment, he called a great council of deputies, from all the southern tribes, at Mobile. Addressing the assembled chiefs in their own style of oratory, he explained to them the relations then existing between France and England, impressing upon them the idea that all residing east of the Mississippi, must now look to the English for supplies and protection. He directed his harangue to the several nations in separate succession, promising entire amnesty to all who had taken up the hatchet in behalf of the French; commending those who had remained faithful to the English; and excusing those who had sided with the enemy, as the victims of deception.
It was proposed to adopt, at this time, a more just and equable policy towards the Indians than had heretofore been used, and to take the necessary steps to secure them against the deception of unprincipled speculators. Affairs, accordingly, looked peaceful and prosperous for some years. The natives made over a large additional tract of land to the growing colony of Georgia, to be sold, and the avails applied to the discharge of the heavy debts they had incurred for supplies of ammunition, clothing, &c. The following circumstance sufficiently evinces the policy of mild measures towards the Indians: In 1767, the whites having made encroachments upon the Indian lands, some of the Creek warriors began to retaliate by stealing horses which they found upon their own territory. A party of them also attacked a store at Trader’s Hill, on the St. Mary’s, belonging to one Lemmons, and after plundering it of its contents, burned the buildings. Some of the whites pursued these marauders; recovered the stolen horses; laid hands upon what valuable goods they could discover, and destroyed the villages of the offenders. Far less important affairs have often led to long and bloody wars with the natives; but, in this instance, Governor Wright, at Savannah, restored perfect quiet by decreeing mutual restorations and compensation.
No events of very striking interest connected with the Indians of the Southern States, call for our attention from this period to that of the wars with the western tribes in the early part of the present century. Until they became, to a certain extent, involved in those hostilities, they remained in comparative peace with the American whites. After the termination of the Revolutionary War, and the establishment of the independence of the United States, the intrigues of opposing parties no longer operated to foment disturbance, or to tempt the unfortunate savages to engage in quarrels where they had nothing to gain, and which ever resulted in their final discomfiture.
By a steady increase of numbers, and the adventurous spirit of pioneers, the white settlers every where made advances upon the Indian territory. Sometimes large acquisitions would be made by a government purchase; but to no small extent, the opinion that the occupation of a few roving savages could give no natural title to lands, as op posed to the claims of those who had reclaimed, enclosed, and improved the wilderness, satisfied the consciences of the encroachers. The argument in favor of this conclusion is by no means without force; but who can take upon him self to draw the line of demarcation, which shall decide, upon any principle of universal application, the bounds of so artificial a right as the ownership of land?
Visit of Tecumseh to the Southern Tribes
In the autumn of 1811, the great Shawanee chief Tecumseh, in pursuance of his bold and extensive plans for a universal association of the Indians against the whites, made a tour among the southern tribes. His eloquent appeals, and the overpowering energy which distinguished this truly great man, proved successful in the winning over to his views of no small number of the Indian warriors, even among those who had long maintained a friendly intercourse with the Americans and the government of the United States.
At the time of the declaration of war with England, (June 18th, 1812,) the whole western border of the United States was in a position of the greatest danger and insecurity. The machinations of Tecumseh and the Prophet had roused an extensive flame of vindictive ferocity throughout the Indian nations, while British agents, it is said, were widely dispersed, and, by munificent promises and artful persuasions, had still farther widened the breach between the savages and their white countrymen. Frightful scenes of depredation and murder called for a prompt and decisive check. Many minor forays are recorded, but the destruction of Fort Minims in the Tensau settlement of Mississippi, in the summer of the year following, may be considered the first important part taken by the southern tribes in the wars of this period. We shall not under take, in our brief account of the Indian campaign of 1813, to keep up a distinction between the different tribes of Creeks, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Cherokees, &c., who were drawn into hostilities.
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Prominent among the chiefs and leaders of the southern confederacy, was the celebrated Weatherford. His mother was said to have been a Seminole, but he was born among the Creeks. He was, beyond question, possessed of many noble and commanding qualities, but these were combined with cruelty, avarice, and degrading vices. A party of about one thousand warriors, led by this popular chief, fell upon the devoted Fort Minims, on the 30th of Au gust, 1813. The post was garrisoned by one hundred and sixty efficient soldiers; the rest of its occupants, to the number of one hundred and fifteen, consisted of old men, women and children. The forces were under the command of Major Beasly. No regular preparations had been made for the reception of so powerful an enemy, and al though the soldiers did their duty manfully, they were overpowered, and all slain except seventeen. The women and children having ensconced themselves in several blockhouses, met with a more terrible fate. The savages set fire to the buildings, and consumed them, together with their inmates.
The settlers inhabiting exposed districts were now obliged to fly for safety to places of protection, and the hostile hordes of Indians were collecting their warriors for further inroads upon the frontier. To resist them, a large force was called into requisition in Tennessee, and the command bestowed upon General Andrew Jackson. Colonel Coffee, at the head of a considerable body of troops, and such volunteers as could be immediately collected, hastened forward to defend the country in the vicinity of Huntsville. General Jackson, although disabled at this time, by a broken arm, determined to take the field in person, and pushed on the necessary preparations with all that zeal and energy which marked his character through life.
News was brought by some runners from the establishment of the friendly old Creek chief Chinnaby, that the enemy was approaching Huntsville, or Fort Hampton, in full force. The report was erroneous, but, as other rumors seemed, at the time, to confirm it, the general hurried his army on to relieve the post. This was on the 10th of October (1813). From Huntsville, Jackson, with his forces, crossed the Tennessee, and joined Colonel Coffee, who was posted upon a high bluff on the south bank of the river.
From this place, Colonel Coffee was dispatched, with seven hundred men, to beat up the enemies quarters on the Black Warrior river, while the commander of the army turned all his attention to securing some supplies of provision for his famishing troops. Encamped in the enemies country, whither they had arrived by forced marches, the troops were necessarily exposed to great hard ship and want. While awaiting supplies at this encampment, General Jackson had an interview with Shelocta, a son of Chinnaby, who had come to request assistance for his father and friends, blockaded in their fort by the hostile Creeks. He said that a considerable force of the enemy was now in the vicinity of the Ten Islands, on the Coosa.
The news was confirmed by other messengers, and the commander proceeded towards the Coosa, to protect his Indian allies, notwithstanding the straits to which his men were reduced from want of provisions. The troops reached the Islands without encountering an enemy. On the route, Colonel Dyer was detached, with two hundred mounted men, to fall upon Littafutchee, at the head of Canoe Creek, a western tributary of the Coosa. He accomplished the service, destroyed the town, and brought back to the camp twenty-nine prisoners.
While encamped at the Ten Islands, the general ascertained the real rendezvous of the enemy to be upon the Tallussahatchee Creek, emptying into the Coosa about thirteen miles below the encampment. Colonel Coffee, with nine hundred men, was promptly ordered upon the duty of engaging them. He forded the Coosa at the Fish-Dams, and approaching the Indian camp, so disposed his forces as to partially surround it, while several companies, under Captain Hammond and Lieutenant Patterson, were marched in to beat up the enemies quarters. The savages fought boldly and desperately, but were overpowered and driven into their buildings, where one hundred and eighty-six of their number perished, fighting hand to hand. Eighty-four women and children were taken prisoners, and a number were killed, as is said, by accident, during the melee. This battle was fought on the 3d of November (1813).
A species of fortification was now prepared at the islands, and named Fort Strother. On the 7th of the month, in formation was received that the enemy was collecting in force to attack Talladega, a post about thirty miles be low, occupied by friendly Indians, and General Jackson, with nearly his whole army, consisting of twelve hundred infantry and eight hundred mounted men, hastened to its relief. The baggage, the sick, and the wounded, were left, under a guard of protection, at Fort Strother.
The river was forded by the mounted men, each carrying one of the infantry behind him, a process which was continued till the whole army was safely landed on the opposite shore. It was about midnight when the march commenced, and on the evening of the ensuing day, a spot only six miles from Talladega was reached. By four o’clock, on the following morning, the troops were again in motion; and, acting upon intelligence obtained by reconnoitering during the night, General Jackson was enabled so to dispose his troops as partially to surround the camp before the action commenced. It is unnecessary to give the details of this battle. The Indians displayed both courage and firmness, and by the impetuosity of their attack, broke through the line of the advancing forces at a point occupied by General Roberts brigade. They were driven in again by a body of reserved troops, but succeeded in making their escape to the mountains, three miles distant, through an opening left by some miscalculation in the direction of the Americans advance. “In this battle,” according to Cobbett, “the force of the enemy was one thousand and eighty, of whom two hundred and ninety-nine were left dead on the ground; and it is believed that many were killed in the night, who were not found when the estimate was made. Their loss, on this occasion, as stated since by themselves, was not less than six hundred. That of the Americans was fifteen killed and eighty wounded, several of whom afterwards died.”
The friendly Indians, who had been besieged in their fort at this place, deprived even of water, expressed the liveliest gratitude and exultation at their release. The fatigue, exposure, and want, which the army were compelled to undergo, now began to arouse a spirit of discontent and mutiny. Few men have ever possessed that self-devotion and noble spirit of endurance, combined with an inflexibility of purpose never surpassed, which enabled Jackson to quell the disturbances which arose, and to preserve the forces under his charge in a condition for active and useful service.
Battles On The Tallusahatchee: At Talladega
After the battle at Talladega, the Hallibee Indians, who were largely concerned in that transaction, sued for peace. They were told by the American general that this should be accorded, upon condition of the restoration of plundered property, and the delivering up of those who had taken part in the massacre at Fort Mimms. Unfortunately, while these negotiations were pending, General White, acting under orders independent of General Jackson, attacked the towns of these Indians, destroyed many of their warriors, and carried off several hundred captives. Supposing that this was by Jackson s orders, they expected no further favor, and fought thereafter with the desperation of men to whom no quarter was to be given.
Defeat Of The Indians At Horse Shoe Bend
The result of this Indian campaign was the entire reduction of the hostile nations. We need not recount the various battles in which they were defeated and destroyed. The most noted of these were at Autossee, where some two hundred were massacred, on the 29th of November, and that of the great bend in the Tallapoosie, known as Horse-Shoe Bend. At this latter point, the Indians fortified themselves for a last and desperate stand.
They were supposed to be about one thousand in number, and had been, for some time, strengthening their position by every means within their reach. This was in the month of March 1814. On the 27th, General Jackson, with a force of whites and friendly Indians, three times the number of the enemy, commenced operations against the fort. General Coffee, with most of the cavalry and Indian allies, was directed to surround the bend, in order to cut off all retreat across the river. The place was then carried by storm, under a heavy fire from within. More than half the Indians were killed at the fort, and an unknown number perished in their endeavors to escape by crossing the river, beset as it was by the assailants. Some have asserted that probably not more than twenty ever reached a place of safety. At a time when it was evident that the fortune of the day was decided, General Jackson sent a messenger, with a flag of truce, to invite a surrender, but, from ignorance or desperation, the savages fired upon the bearer of the flag. After this, no mercy was shown: until night put an end to the work of destruction, they were shot or cut down wherever they could be found, and even on the following morning, a considerable number were ferreted out from the ff caves and reeds,” where they had sought concealment, and remorselessly put to death. Several hundred women and children were made captives. The loss of the attacking army in this battle was fifty-five killed, and one hundred and forty-six wounded.
In the ensuing month, (April,) General Jackson having affected a junction with the troops from Georgia, under Colonel Milton, received a deputation from the principal hostile tribes, expressing a wish for peace. The general demanded, as one condition upon which he would treat, and as a test of the sincerity of the proposal, that the great but notorious Weatherford should be delivered up for punishment. This chief, hearing of the requisition, and hopeless of further success in resistance, came voluntarily to the American camp, and presenting himself before the commander, with characteristic dignity and composure, requested peace for his people, and announced his own sub mission to his fate, whatever it might be.
End Of The War
His speech on this occasion is given as follows: “I am in your power do with me as you please I am a soldier. I have done the whites all the harm I could. I have fought them, and fought them bravely. If I had an army, I would yet fight I would contend to the last: but I have none. My people are all gone. I can only weep over the misfortunes of my nation.”
On being told that he was still at liberty to depart, and that no favor would be shown to him or his nation unless they should submit to whatever terms the whites should see fit to impose, he replied: “You can safely address me in such terms now. There was a time when I could have answered you there was a time when I had a choice I have none now. I have not even a hope. I could once animate my warriors to battle; but I cannot animate the dead. My warriors can no longer hear my voice. Their bones are at Talladega, Tallusshatchee, Emuckfaw, and Tohopeka. You are a brave man; I rely upon your generosity. You will exact no terms of a conquered people but such as they should accede to.”
This was the last important incident of the campaign. The Indians submitted to the dictation of the whites, and retired to the districts assigned them, eastward of the Coosa.