Watch Out! I See Mary Jane!

Photo by Vanessa Georgiou on

During your writing, have you ever stumbled upon Mary Jane? Who is she? Why, she’s an absolutely beautiful character (forgive the unnecessary adverb). Everything about her is flawless – her hair, her makeup, her clothes. She’s so smart, she never makes a mistake. Because she’s the epitome of perfection, she always gets along with other characters. Why, she has the answers for every situation.  I suggest we all watch out for her. Why’s that? It’s simply this. Mary Janes are so perfect, readers cannot identify with them and, worst of all, they’re boring.

A Few Tips on How to Avoid Mary Janes

Give Characters Weaknesses/Flaws/Fears

One of my favorite authors is C.S. Forrester. In his series about the fictional Napoleonic War naval hero, Horatio Hornblower, Hornblower sometimes gets seasick. This adds to his humanity. One wouldn’t expect a naval hero to get seasick, but Captain Hornblower does. Although I’ve never been seasick because I grew up on the Gulf Coast and did lots of saltwater fishing in my younger years, my friends who do get seasick can identify with him.

Let Our Characters Make Mistakes

If they’re our story’s protagonist, mistakes go a long way toward gaining reader sympathy for him/her. If they’re the villain, readers will rejoice at the villain’s error.

Hercule Poirot may be one of the mystery genre’s greatest detectives. Want to know how he died in Agatha Christie’s last Poirot novel, Curtain? He made a mistake many people, unfortunately, make. He died of a heart attack because he didn’t take his heart medicine

Give Our Character a Unique Physical Appearance

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A character may walk with a limp due to an old injury. Or, perhaps, he’s missing a finger from a chainsaw accident.

Mary Janes may wear petite size dresses and always promenade in designer clothes. However, although a more believable female character may wear a size petite dress in our story, she might also wear lots of frumpy clothes and battered tennis shoes.

A Final Word

It’s important to spend quality time thinking about our characters. Make an outline of their strengths and weaknesses and portray them as original, and believable, as we can.

Photo by Vanessa Georgiou on

And hey, watch out for Mary Jane! She lurks everywhere within manuscripts and in the pages of certain books.

The Creek War (1813-1814), Part 14, Horseshoe Bend

Tohopeka, a Creek village consisting of three hundred hastily built cabins, sat on the toe of a sharp bend in the Tallapoosa River that resembled a horseshoe. The village was temporary, meant to protect Red Stick women and children. Some one-thousand warriors guarded it under the leadership of a fearless chief, Menawa.

Across this peninsula’s four-hundred-yard-wide neck, the Red Sticks had erected a log barricade five to eight feet high, with loopholes for muskets. It was built in such a way that their guns could catch the Americans in a cross-fire if, and when, they attacked. These warriors were the Red Sticks’ best, the last great hope for victory over General Jackson.

With his army now reinforced with regular soldiers—the Thirty-ninth Infantry, Tennessee militia, friendly Cherokees and Creeks (under the command of William McIntosh) and two small cannon. Jackson left his base on the Coosa River on March 21, 1814. To get to Horseshoe Bend, his men cut a road over fifty miles long across ridges. His force consisted of 2,000 infantry, 700 cavalry, and 600 Indians. Lieutenant Sam Houston, later of Texas Revolution fame, was an officer in the Thirty-ninth. Also, Major Lemuel P. Montgomery, for whom Alabama’s Montgomery County would be named.

By March 26, Jackson’s army camped within six miles of the Bend. On March 27, he gave his orders and his men prepared for their attack.

Jackson’s Battle Order

  1. Coffee’s Cavalry and Indians: positioned three miles below Tohopeka, surrounding it to cut off the Red Sticks’ retreat.
  2. Jackson’s artillery: positioned on a hill to pound the breastworks. 
  3. Jackson’s infantry: make a frontal assault after the artillery’s bombardment.

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend

By 10:30 A.M. Jackson arrived at the Horseshoe. Soon after, Coffee’s troopers and Indians positioned themselves across the Tallapoosa.

Some Cherokees under the command of Colonel Gideon Morgan swam across the river without orders and stole the enemy’s canoes. To compensate for this, Coffee shifted part of his force to the tip of the Bend and kept other men in reserve.

Using the stolen canoes, the Cherokees and friendly Creeks began crossing the Tallapoosa in increasing numbers. Three hundred men, including some Indians, attacked Tohopeka during Jackson’s artillery barrage. Fierce fighting ensued. Tohopeka was burned.

Meanwhile, for two hours, Jackson’s cannons kept roaring and pounding the barricade to no effect. Then he ordered a frontal assault. The Thirty-ninth Infantry led the attack, Lemuel P. Montgomery and Sam Houston running toward the barricade ahead of everyone else. Montgomery scaled the barricade and was shot down. Houston scaled it next. An arrow flew into his thigh, two rifle balls smashed his shoulder later.

Although the Thirty-ninth did most of the fighting, the Tennessee militia supported it. It was a brutal battle—hand to hand, musket to musket.

At last, Jackson gained control of the situation and headed toward the Bend. After five hours of conflict, with darkness settling over the battlefield, the fighting ended.

Coffee’s men shot those who’d tried to escape across the river.


Chief Menawa, though wounded seven times in the battle, survived by playing dead till nightfall. He then crawled to the river and made his escape in a canoe. During Jackson’s presidency, he was sent to Oklahoma on the infamous Trail of Tears.

To get a proper casualty count after the battle, Jackson ordered his men to cut off the tips of the dead Red Sticks’ noses after the battle.

Fighting continued in other sectors, but the war was won. This fight vaulted Andrew Jackson to national prominence. It was the first step on his road to the Presidency of the United States.


Bunn, Mike and Clay Williams. Battle for the Southern Frontier: The Creek War and the War of 1812. Charleston: History Press, 2008.

Holland, James W. Victory at the Horseshoe: Andrew Jackson and the Creek War. Eastern National with the cooperation of the University of Alabama Press and Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, 2004

Waselkov, Gregory A. A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-14. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2006.

The Discipline of Writing

The trade of authorship is a violent, and indestructible obsession– George Sand, penname of Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin (1804-1876), French novelist.

When I was a youngster my sister, who is five years older than me, wanted to learn how to play the piano. So, my parents bought her an upright. At around the age of nine, she began taking lessons. Me? I got tired of hearing her practice her scales and songs. She did this most every weekday. All the way through her senior year in high school, she continued playing and practicing.  Because of her discipline and hard work, she became an excellent pianist.

Likewise, we writers require self-discipline if we want to improve. This is true in every art form.

Sadly, I’ve known talented people who’ve lacked the discipline to do much, if anything, with their literary gifts. After all, we don’t have a boss leaning over our shoulder screaming, “Write! Write!” Self-discipline is a must if we want to get better. If we don’t have the “really want to” we don’t have the “really must do” in order to succeed.

Five Marks of a Self-disciplined Writer

  1. Self-disciplined writers approach their craft like a regular job –because it is. They “clock in and clock out” on a regular schedule, even on days when they don’t feel like writing. Ever worked a regular nine-to-five job when you didn’t want to but had to? That’s what self-disciplined writers do, even if for an hour or two a day.
  2. Self-disciplined writers persevere despite disappointments, such as when an editor rejects a manuscript.
  3. Self-disciplined writers cut out distractions. Some write well in noisy environments while others, such as me, don’t. Whatever environment a self-disciplined writer chooses, he/she focuses totally on their work.
  4. Self-disciplined writers live a balanced life. They know when to say no to certain activities without feeling guilty and when to say yes. I’ve learned from experience that not everyone will understand when I say no, but I’ve also learned to accept that fact. Most non-writers don’t understand serious writers, anyway.
  5. Self-disciplined writers are driven. They don’t just want to write, they have to write. True writers write because they have no choice.

To quote the Roman poet Juvenal (c. 70-c. 150): Writing is the incurable itch that possess many.

The Creek War (1813-1814), Part Thirteen, Jackson Struggles

After his November victories, Andrew Jackson fought a battle–to keep his army intact. Many of his men’s enlistments had either expired or were about to expire, so they wanted to return home. He pleaded with them, threatened them, and assured them they’d get the needed supplies.

Albert J. Pickett writes: Since the battle of Talladega, Jackson had encountered innumerable difficulties and mortifications, owing to the failure of contractors and the mutiny of his troops, who were finally reduced to one hundred men by the expiration of their times of service.

Finally, he headed his army north, toward another supply base that was situated on the Tennessee River. Coming south, however, on the same road, were the supply wagons they’d been waiting for. After they met, Jackson returned to Fort Strother, warning his men that he’d shoot any, and all, deserters.

Upon the arrival of eight hundred reinforcements in early January, and upon hearing a rumor about a British plan to land troops in Spanish West Florida, Jackson set out again. Before he could defeat the British, he needed to eliminate the Red Sticks. And, he was determined to do just that.

Albert J. Pickett writes: Well understanding the character of minute men like these, who must constantly be employed, Jackson immediately marched them across the Coosa to the late battleground of Talladega, where he was joined by two hundred Cherokees and Creeks, who evinced great alarm at the weakness which the command presented.

Battle of Emukfau Creek

On January 16, Jackson camped at a Hillabee village. The next day, his army followed trails that indicated a large force ahead of him, toward the Tallapoosa River and the hostile village of Tohopeka. He halted on the twenty-first, on Emukfau Creek, to reconnoiter.

Albert J. Pickett writes: Before dark his (Jackson’s) encampment was formed, his army thrown into a hollow square, his pickets and spies sent out, his sentinels doubled, and fires lighted some distance outside of the lines … at the hour of eleven the spies reported a large encampment three miles distant, where the savages were whooping and dancing, and, being apprised of the approach of the Americans, were sending off their women and children.

The next day, close to sunrise, one thousand Red Sticks commanded by Peter McQueen attacked Jackson’s camp. For a half hour, they fought, General Coffee and his troopers leading the charge, chasing them for two miles. Although Coffee intended to burn the Red Sticks’ camp, he found it too strongly fortified, so he retreated to bring up the artillery–a six-pounder cannon.

Suddenly, McQueen launched another attack from all sides. More fierce fighting ensued, the hostiles withdrew and despite McQueen’s pleas, they refused to attack a third time.

Albert J. Pickett writes: The brave Creeks had now been repulsed in every attempt, but they exhibited a ferocity and courage which commanded the serious consideration of Jackson, whose force was weaker than he desired …..

The next day, Jackson buried his dead then marched back toward Fort Strother, his wounded carried on litters made of deer hide.

Fight at Enitachopca Creek

During his march back to Fort Strother, Jackson engaged in another battle on January 24 when he tried to cross Enitachopca Creek. His wounded and soldiers in the advance guard made it across safely, but then, the Red Sticks attacked. Jackson’s rear guard panicked before the painted warriors. A fierce struggle for Jackson’s artillery ensued.

Albert J. Pickett writes: Discovering that, in separating the gun from the limbers, the rammer and pricker had been left tied to the latter … while Indian bullets rattled like hail around them, Constantine Perkins and Craven Jackson, two of the gunners, supplied the deficiency. Perkins took off his bayonet and rammed the cartridge home with his musket, and Jackson, drawing his ramrod, employed it as a pricker, priming with a musket cartridge. The six-pounder was thus twice charged, pouring grape among the savages, then only a few yards distant … after the second fire, the little artillery company furiously charged on the assailants, who became more cautious in their approaches ….

Finally repelling the enemy and saving the cannon, Jackson’s men, at last, reached Fort Strother. The general allowed the sixty volunteers who’d participated to go back to Huntsville, in north Alabama, for an honorable discharge.

Jackson would soon receive reinforcements from the commander of the Sixth Military District, Major General Thomas Pinckney, and Tennessee’s governor, Blount. Among these men was Sam Houston, who’d later become famous in the Texas Revolution. With these men, Jackson prepared to fight his final and most decisive battle at Horseshoe Bend.


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.

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

Contented as a Dog

One day this past summer, I watched my dog lay beneath my fig tree. She rested her gold-colored head between her forepaws and shut her eyes. I laughed to myself, thinking how easy she had it. I fed her every day, gave her water, took her on walks, played with her–essentially, I provided for her every need, and she was contented.

We who know God have it made, too, if we would just learn to be content. But it’s hard to be content with the world hawking its luxuries. Every time we visit a shopping mall or turn on the TV, we’re bombarded with temptations to buy things we don’t need. Don’t misunderstand me. Nothing’s wrong with owning a few luxuries, so long as we’re not discontented with God’s provision. It’s the grasping hand God frowns upon, the compulsion to want more. “And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content,” Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:8 (NAS). If this is true of animals like my dog, how much more should it be true of us.

Copyright Jack Cunningham. Originally published in Evangel, August 9, 1999. Free Methodist Church, Light and Life Communications.

The Creek War (1813-1814): Part Twelve, The Holy Ground

General Claiborne’s Offensive Begins

On a high limestone bluff overlooking the Alabama River, two hundred cabins and eighty wigwams provided a refuge for the Red Sticks after the Fort Mims massacre as well as a headquarters for Chief William Weatherford and other chiefs. In the center of the town stood a pole from which hundreds of scalps hung, trophies from Fort Mims’s dead.

Surrounded by the river, two creeks, a swamp and forests, not a single road or path led into it. Called Ecunchate (Ikanachaki) in the Creek language and the Holy Ground in the Americans’ English, Josiah Francis and his prophets did incantations over it, putting a magical barrier around it, they believed. They claimed it would protect them from every white man who dared set foot on its sacred soil. If only for a few months, the Holy Ground was a haven for them. It would soon become General Ferdinand Claiborne’s objective when he launched his offensive to avenge the massacre.

Holy Ground Battlefield Park, photo by Rivers Langley

When General Thomas Flournoy, commander of the Mississippi Territory’s Seventh Military District, ordered General Claiborne to march up the Alabama River to Weatherford’s Bluff, named for William Weatherford’s father Charles, Claiborne’s offensive started.

On November 17, Claiborne arrived at the bluff then crossed the Alabama on rafts, built another stockade (Fort Claiborne), and awaited reinforcements from Generals Floyd and Jackson. A small detachment of Choctaws under Pushmataha, who’d been given the rank of lieutenant colonel, accompanied him.

When Colonel Gilbert Russell’s Third U.S. Regiment arrived, Claiborne sought General Flournoy’s permission to advance against the Holy Ground. Although eager to attack it, many of his officers, respectfully, signed a petition in protest. The reasons they cited: no winter clothes, no shoes, no blankets, no roads. Eventually, however, Claiborne persuaded them to his way of thinking.

Sam Moniac, Weatherford’s brother-in-law who’d whacked Josiah Francis with Francis’s warclub months earlier, served as Claiborne’s guide. Due to Moniac’s service during the Creek War his son, David, would be accepted into West Point and become one of its first minority graduates.

On December 13, Claiborne resumed his march for eighty miles, built another stockade, and on December 22 headed deeper into the Creek nation. Upon spotting Claiborne’s army, Weatherford hastened back to the Holy Ground to prepare for the pending attack.  Francis and some other Creeks fled at the news, reducing the number of Creeks and escaped slaves to defend the town.

The Battle of the Holy Ground

General Claiborne’s Tactics

Claiborne planned a three-pronged attack, each column with a different objective, and he sent a fourth force across the river to cut off the Red Sticks’ retreat. Of these three columns, only the right column under Colonel Joseph Carson engaged in major fighting. He was ordered to cross Holy Ground Creek and then attack the Holy Ground’s upper town. The left column, under Major Benjamin Smoot, had the objective of capturing the Holy Ground’s lower town while General Claiborne and Colonel Russell held the center in reserve. Major Cassel’s men, the fourth force, was assigned the job of cutting off the Red Sticks’ retreat.

William Weatherford’s Tactics

When Josiah Francis ran away, Weatherford assumed command. First, he ordered that the women and children be taken across the river in canoes to the safety of the thick woods. Many prophets argued with him and protested, insisting their magic barrier would protect them. Fortunately, Weatherford asserted his authority and got his way, and the noncombatants were rushed to safety.

Next, since he anticipated an attack would come across Holy Ground Creek, he set up an ambush. Warriors with rifles, he posted behind a stream bank while others hid behind a fallen tree to await the Americans. A third body of men, wielding bows and arrows, he placed in the rear.

William Weatherford Becomes a Legend

Colonel Carson’s troops made the major attack across Holy Ground Creek. At first, due to the Red Sticks’ withering barrage and stiff resistance, their advance was slow. Men fought from behind trees and stumps, arrows flew high and beyond them to no effect. When the troops finally flanked the Red Sticks, the warriors beat a retreat back toward their town, many having fallen to the soldiers’ bullets.

Weatherford raced to his swift steed Arrow, mounted him and found himself facing Carson’s men practically alone. Surrounded. No escape. He was going to be captured. He galloped to the riverbank, to a bluff about fifteen feet high. Pretty long way down into the river. Could he make it? He had no choice. It was either leaping into it or else being captured or killed.

He turned Arrow back and moved quickly up a hollow to give his powerful horse a good running start. Then he galloped back down and leaped off the bluff, diving into the river. Arrow surfaced and swam to the other side amidst musket balls splashing around them. Both Weatherford and Arrow made it to shore, out of the range of Carson’s troops, unhurt.

Claiborne’s army spent a cold Christmas Eve camped on Weatherford’s plantation, in his cornfield, dining on boiled acorns and parched corn—all the food they had. By January 14, the general’s army had dwindled to sixty volunteers, for the other soldiers’ enlistments had expired. In Weatherford’s house, a letter from the Spanish governor of Pensacola was found, congratulating him on the victory at Fort Mims and a suggestion that he attack Mobile — clear evidence of Spain’s role in the war. What this governor did not know, however, is that Weatherford could neither read nor write because he’d had no desire to ever learn.

Did Weatherford and Arrow Really Make Their Legendary Leap?

Some people have questioned whether Weatherford and Arrow actually made their famous leap. No historian has been able to disprove it and according to Benjamin W. Griffith, Jr., in his book McIntosh and Weatherford, Creek Indian Leaders, the consensus among eyewitnesses, such as Sam Moniac and Sam Dale, and most of those who knew Weatherford is that a leap did occur. Because this feat moved William Weatherford into Alabama legend, some accounts have exaggerated certain aspects of it, such as the height from which he and Arrow jumped. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, fifteen feet is about the true height.


Griffith, Benjamin W. Jr. McIntosh and Weatherford, Creek Indian Leaders, Tuscaloosa and London: The University of Alabama Press, 1988.

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

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


Government Street is one of the oldest streets in Mobile and a main artery going through its downtown section.


  1. William Faulkner: In many of his works, Faulkner set his tales in fictional Yoknapatawpha County, inspired by the Mississippi county, Lafayette, in which he lived.
  2. Winston Groom: One of Winston Groom’s early works, Gone the Sun, is partially set in the town of Bienville. However, having grown up in Mobile the same as he did, and in the same era, it was obvious to me that his fictional Bienville is— actually – Mobile!

So, Faulkner and Groom show us that it’s perfectly fine to use a real setting but give it a different name. This allows writers lots of freedom—where their characters go, where events happen, and the types of characters they use.  


  1. Research: If a writer knows his/her setting well, he or she doesn’t have to do lots of research. However, detailed research is essential if stories have a real setting with which writers aren’t familiar. That said, it’s also permissible to create fictional neighborhoods and streets in real places.
  2. Readers: Real settings help writers create places readers recognize. For example, Andy Andrews’s book, The Heart Mender, is set in Gulf Shores, Alabama, located along a peninsula at the mouth of Mobile Bay. I instantly recognized the places in his book, for I’ve visited them many a time. It is a popular tourist resort these days. Because it was so well written and recognizable, it drew me deep into his story, a true story he wrote using fiction techniques.


  1. Fictional settings: Creating these is great fun! It releases a writer’s imagination!
  2. Research Again: If a fictional town is set in a real place, writers need to be sure the topography, vegetation, wildlife, and similar things are accurate.


Lawsuits. If we use real people in our stories and portray them in a negative way, or if we’re critical of a real place such as a library or restaurant, we could be asking for a lawsuit. In my opinion, it’s safer legally to keep as much as possible fictional, even in real settings. Take Sherlock Holmes’s fictional address, for example—221B Baker Street. Although Baker Street does exist in London, and in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s day, the street didn’t go that far.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

The Creek War (1813-1814): Part Eleven, Battle of Autossee

While Generals Andrew Jackson and Ferdinand Claiborne were on the march in November of 1813 messengers from Coweta, a Lower Creek town on the Chattahoochee River, brought word to General John Floyd that Peter McQueen’s Red Sticks were besieging it. Through them, Chief William McIntosh and other chiefs asked him for help.

With a force of 950 militia, Floyd marched toward Coweta via the Federal Road. Arriving at the Chattahoochee, he learned the siege had been lifted and Peter McQueen’s warriors had fallen back to the village of Autossee, on the Tallapoosa River. After he built Fort Michell (near present-day Phenix City, Alabama) as a supply base, he continued into Alabama. Joined by friendly Creeks commanded by Chief William McIntosh, his army marched toward Autossee.  Alabama’s first recorded Jewish settler, Abraham Mordecai, served as their guide. Historian Albert J. Pickett described the event:

Brigadier General John Floyd crossed the Ocmulgee, Flint and Chattahoochie, and advanced near the Tallapoosa with an army of nine hundred and fifty militia and four hundred friendly Indians …

Though Floyd intended to surround the town, daybreak revealed a different situation which caused him to change his plan. What was it he saw? Another Red Stick camp about five hundred yards downstream from Autossee. Pickett continues:

It was now necessary to change the plan of attack, by advancing three companies of infantry to the lower town, accompanied by Merriweather’s rifles, and two troops of light dragoons commanded by Captains Irwin and Steele. The remainder of the army marched upon the upper town, and soon the battle became general. The Indians at first advanced … but the fire from the artillery, with the charge of bayonets, drove them into the out-houses and thickets, in the rear of the town. Many concealed themselves in caves cut in the bluff of the river, here thickly covered with cane.

Floyd sent McIntosh’s warriors to cross over to the Tallapoosa’s west side to cut off the Red Stick retreat, but frigid weather and high waters prevented them from doing it, so McIntosh posted his men on Calabee Creek to achieve his goal. McIntosh’s warriors fought well. By nine o’clock in the morning, the Red Sticks had abandoned the field, their homes set ablaze and the friendly Creeks pillaged the town. Peter McQueen wasn’t present at this fight. He’d left with his warriors before the battle.

Floyd suffered a wound in his kneecap, and nine of his men were killed. Three others died later from wounds. Somewhere from one hundred to three hundred Red Sticks were killed. The battle was bloodier than expected and he suffered from a shortage of supplies,, so Floyd retreated to his base at Fort Mitchell to regroup.



Griffith, Benjamin W. Jr. McIntosh & Weatherford, Creek Indian Leaders. Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 1988.

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

Wilson, Claire M. “Battle of Autossee,” Encyclopedia of Alabama. Updated October 8, 2014.

John Floyd (1769-1839)

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.