The Creek War (1813-1814), Part Four: Causes of the Creek War

The causes of Alabama’s Creek War are complex. It started as a civil war between the Lower Creeks, who lived close to the white settlements, many of whom had adopted the white man’s ways, and the Upper Creeks, who lived in a region around and near present-day Montgomery, Alabama and wanted to keep their traditional ways. Inevitably, though, the settlers got drawn into this conflict.

In this blog, I’ll try to keep the reasons as simple and concise as possible.

Westward Movement

After the American Revolution, settlers began moving into Alabama country. Many settled in the Tombigbee-Tensaw River Region just north of Spanish Mobile. These settlements put pressure on the Indians and their way of life. Indians ceded some of their lands to the settlers by treaty, but the settlers wanted more, whereas the Indians depended on the land for survival, such as deer hunting and trading deerskins.

Benjamin Hawkins

Benjamin Hawkins and the Creek Indians, circa 1805 oil on canvas, 35 7/8 x 49 7/8 inches Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville S.C.

As the Indian agent to the Creeks during this era, Benjamin Hawkins sought to assimilate them into white culture. Though some did assimilate, others refused. This furthered the division between the tribal bands. 

The Federal Road

In late 1811, the Federal government opened a road through Creek country. It began at Milledgeville, Georgia and was built down to Fort Stoddert, on the Mobile River, with New Orleans its intended destination. Originally, it had been a post road that, in the Treaty of Washington (1805), the government had obtained permission to build. However, it was widened for military purposes in 1811 as another war with Great Britain grew imminent. This road expedited the influx of thousands of settlers into Alabama, increasing the strain between the Creek factions.


Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief who had familial ties in Alabama, visited the area in 1811 to form a pan-Indian alliance against the settlers. Though he failed to persuade the Choctaws and Chickasaws, he succeeded with many of the Upper Creeks.

At the Upper Creek capital, Tuckabatchee (near present-day Tallassee, Alabama), he gave an impassioned speech, prophesied about an earthquake and a comet and left a prophet there, Seekaboo, to train other prophets.

After he left for home, in Ohio, the earthquake and comet came to pass. This frightened and convinced many to follow their prophets and go to war. The earthquake’s epicenter was New Madrid, Missouri, the largest quake in U.S. history. It was so powerful and huge, Alabama felt its tremors. This earthquake, though, happened by chance. Regarding the comet, British scientists in Canada had told Tecumseh they expected one to pass over.

The warriors who followed the prophets and fought the settlers would become known as the Red Sticks for their red warclubs. Red was the color of war. Twenty-nine towns sided with the Red Sticks. Five towns, under the leadership of William McIntosh and Chief Big Warrior, sided with the settlers.

The War of 1812

While the British impressed sailors off American ships into their Navy and threatened the United States from Canada, Spain, a British ally, threatened settlers in the Old Southwest. Tecumseh allied himself with the British, and the Red Sticks allied themselves with Spain. When some journeyed to Spanish West Florida’s capital, Pensacola, it would be the spark that caused settlers to, at last, get involved in the conflict. But, before the war started, the Red Sticks had already killed a few settlers.

Next Week, War Begins: The Battle of Burnt Corn Creek


Bunn, Mike and Clay Williams. Battle for the Southern Frontier: The Creek War and the War of 1812. Fourth Printing. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2013.

McMillan, Malcolm C. The Land Called Alabama, Austin, TX:: Steck-Vaughn Company 1968.

Southerland, Henry DeLeon Jr, and Jerry Elijah Brown. The Federal Road through Georgia, the Creek Nation, and Alabama, 1806-1836. Tuscaloosa and London: The University of Alabama Press, 1989.

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