The Creek War (1813-1814), Part Seven, Massacre at Fort Mims

1858 Engraving of the Fort Mims massacre. Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

When I first saw this picture in a 4th-grade history textbook, it sparked my interest in this conflict. So, I’ve had an interest in it for a very long time

On August 29, 1813, two slaves owned by Josiah Fletcher were dispatched from Fort Mims to check on Samuel Mims’s cattle, but they weren’t gone long. They ran back to the fort and reported seeing Indians. However, when Major Beasley sent out a patrol to investigate, none were found. Consequently, he whipped one of the slaves for giving a false alarm.

The next morning, a similar thing happened. Fletcher’s slave, the one who’d been whipped, was sent out with another slave to check on the cattle. But instead, Fletcher’s slave went to nearby Fort Pierce, two miles southeast of Fort Mims and closer to Mobile. The other slave returned and said he’d seen Indians too.

Soon after this James Cornells, a métis, galloped into the fort alerting the garrison that the Creeks were on their way. Beasley, according to Cornells after the war, was drunk and said, “You saw red cows, man.”

At noon, Weatherford’s warriors attacked from the north, south, and east. They poured through the east gate, killing Beasley when he vainly tried shutting it. A militia company, guarding the gate, was wiped out.

Warriors from the northern sector rushed through the open west gate but encountered a locked inner gate. Upon capturing its guardhouse, they scaled the pickets and occupied the blockhouse.

From the south, warriors dominated the southern pickets’ rifle holes, felling one person after another.  

Along the northern sector, however, Captain Dixon Bailey, the garrison’s most competent officer, put up a stout defense. None of his pickets’ loopholes were captured, and his men were well-disciplined.

Then, suddenly, the Creeks retreated because some of their prophets, who’d boasted that no bullet could kill them, had indeed been killed. During this lull, Weatherford’s warriors conferred at a nearby house regarding their next move. In the meantime, Captain Bailey took command of the fort.

At the Red Stick conference, Weatherford advised against a renewed attack, but no one listened. So he and his slaves rode to his half-brother David Tate’s house not far from the tragic scene. He’d had enough of the fighting and bloodshed for the day. No one listened to him. Women and children had been killed. He knew what would come next. He hated it.

About an hour after their withdrawal, the Indians resumed their attack, slaughtering and scalping, and burning Mims’ house and surrounding buildings. When it was all over, 250 people inside the fort were killed and about 100 were captured.

A few defenders, however, managed to escape the carnage. Some went to Fort Stoddert. One of them, a slave named Hester, found a canoe on the Tensaw River. Despite being shot, she managed to row to the fort, the first person to bring news of the disaster.

This massacre led Andrew Jackson, up in Tennessee, to get involved. We’ll discuss his role in a later post.  


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.

Gregory A. Waselkov, “Fort Mims and Massacre,” updated January 11, 2018, Fort Mims Battle and Massacre | Encyclopedia of Alabama.

Waselkov, Gregory A. A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814, Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 2006.

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