The Creek War (1813-1814): Part Ten, Another Massacre and a River Fight

Hillabee Massacre

It was a good thing for Jackson that he didn’t wait for reinforcements from General John Cocke, because they never would’ve arrived.

General James White, under Cocke’s command, marched toward Jackson’s army to reinforce him prior to the battle of  Talladega, till Cocke recalled him to rejoin his East Tennessee army. Likely, Cocke, jealous of Jackson, feared losing his independent command to that fiery general.

What soon followed as a consequence? Another massacre, but not by Indians this time but by General White’s men. Today it’s known as the Hillabee Massacre.

The Hillabee Creeks were ready to surrender to Andrew Jackson, but on November 18 things changed when Cocke’s men attacked a Hillabee village, killing 60 Creeks, not all of them warriors, and taking 250 prisoners. “Not a drop of Tennessee blood was spilt,” historian Albert J. Pickett wrote in his famous work, The History of Alabama. “The other Hillabee towns, viewing this as flagrant treachery on the part of Jackson, became the most relentless enemies of the Americans, and afterwards fought them with fiendish desperation.”[1]

Needless to say, this tragic event outraged Andrew Jackson.

The Canoe Fight

Another incident, though of no strategic importance, brought fame to its participants: Sam Dale, Jeremiah Austill, James Smith, and a free black man named Caesar. This incident occurred during raids by  General Claiborne’s militia when he assumed the offensive against the Red Sticks. On November 12, eighty militiamen under the command of Captain Sam Dale went on a scouting mission across the Alabama River. Dale, along with Jeremiah Austill, James Smith, and Caesar, were among the last to cross it.

However, as they crossed in a dugout, they spotted a canoe loaded with Indians so they gave chase and overtook the enemy. Shots were fired. While Caesar held the two boats together, a brief, fierce fight ensued— paddles, war clubs, knives, and bayonets swung and stabbed at each other. Two Indians dove overboard and escaped, eight were killed. This incident made Dale and his men legends in Alabama.  

[1] Pickett, Albert J. The History of Alabama. Republished by Birmingham Book & Magazine Co. of Birmingham, Alabama, 1962. Copyright 1878 by Mrs. Sarah S. Pickett.

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