Like Fort Mims, Fort Sinquefield was a hastily built stockade on an acre of land with just one blockhouse. Unlike Fort Mims, just a few families sought refuge in it when the war broke out. Two of these families – the Ranson Kimbell and Abner James families – left the fort after the Fort Mims massacre in the mistaken (and fatal) belief that the Red Stick threat had ended.
On the afternoon of September 1, a party of Red Sticks attacked Ranson Kimbell’s home where these families had relocated. With the exception of Abner James’s daughter Sarah Merrill and her infant son, all who were present were killed. Other family members avoided death because they weren’t present during the attack. Although Sarah was scalped and left for dead and her son severely injured, she managed to make it back to the fort with him, survived her scalping and her son eventually survived his wounds.
The next day, September 2, some ladies went to a spring about three hundred yards from the stockade to wash clothes when, suddenly, Josiah Francis and one hundred whooping, painted warriors rushed them and the fort. Had it not been for Isaac Hayden’s hunting dogs, all of these ladies might have been killed. When he turned his hounds loose, they sprinted out the fort’s gate and into the attacking Red Sticks, which bought time for them to flee back into the fort. Only one lady was killed in this episode.
With its gate closed, Fort Sinquefield’s residents put up a stout and effective defense. After a two-hour battle, they repulsed the Red Sticks with only one man killed.
Young Jeremiah Austill, who’d soon gain a measure of fame, was sent to General Claiborne’s headquarters at Mount Vernon to deliver a report of the victory.
Reenactors “fighting” the Battle of Burnt Corn Creek, not far from the site of the actual battle. Photo Credit: The author of this blog.
In the spring of 1813, the Creeks’ civil war was drawing to a close with the Red Sticks on the verge of winning. Meanwhile, the United States was fighting Great Britain a second time and Britain’s ally, Spain, threatened settlers from West Florida. Though Mobile was now in American hands, the Spanish still held Pensacola as West Florida’s capital. Along the Tensaw, Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers, settlers began building stockades.
The Red Sticks, encouraged by their prophets and the earth’s tremors Tecumseh had prophesied would hit their land, raided the farms of those who opposed them. A party of hostiles under the leadership of Peter McQueen, head warrior of Tallassee, headed for Pensacola, the second such party that went to that town. On the way, when McQueen’s warriors burned plantations owned by métis planters Sam Moniac and James Cornells, word spread like a forest fire—the Red Sticks were going to get ammunition from the Spaniards to fight them!
Colonel James Caller, commander of the region’s territorial militia, called his men to action. Six companies of riflemen and Captain Dixon Bailey’s thirty métis from the Tensaw, a total of 180 militiamen, marched to find the enemy.
On July 26, they encountered McQueen’s men returning from Pensacola with their packhorses. At eleven o’clock, during the Creeks’ meal, Caller mounted a surprise attack.
McQueen’s warriors fled across Burnt Corn Creek into a marsh, but then counterattacked while the militiamen plundered what they’d captured. The undisciplined volunteers scattered. Not long after this, they disbanded.
Not many casualties to report in this brief battle but because of Burnt Corn Creek, panicked settlers fled into their stockades. One of these was built on an acre of land around the home of Samuel Mims. His fort, aptly named Fort Mims, would go down in history as one of America’s bloodiest massacres … and the bloodiest one in America’s Old Southwest.
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.
Waselkov, Gregory A. A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814, Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 2006
 This was the New Madrid earthquake that hit New Madrid, Missouri in December 1811. It was a coincidence, and it frightened settlers and Indians alike. Tecumseh also prophesied about a comet, something he knew would come because British scientists in Canada had told him he and others would see it. It came over Alabama in September of 1811.
Let’s take a brief look at six major figures involved in the Creek War: Chief William Weatherford, Chief Menawa, Chief William McIntosh, Generals Ferdinand Claiborne and Andrew Jackson and Chief Pushmataha.
In this post, we’ll look at two Red Stick leaders. Red Sticks were those Creeks who opposed the settlers, so-called for their red warclubs, a deadly weapon. Red was the color of war in Creek society.
In 1780 Charles Weatherford, a Scotsman and Loyalist to Britain, rode into Alabama with his friend Samuel Mims to escape the violence and bloodshed of America’s revolution against Great Britain. Eventually, Sam Mims headed south, toward the Tensaw River and Spanish Mobile while Charles continued west to the Creek town of Coosada on the Alabama River, not far from present-day Wetumpka and Montgomery, Alabama. Here, in either 1780 or 1781, he married Sehoy, a wealthy Creek woman of the Wind clan. In 1781, Sehoy gave birth to a son who would become a legend—William Weatherford.
Nine clans (families) comprised Creek society, with the most powerful and privileged clan being Sehoy’s. Charles established a plantation, was a slave owner and slave trader, and also traded in cattle and deerskins. William Weatherford inherited this wealth.
As he grew to adulthood, Weatherford gained a reputation as a good leader as well as an excellent athlete. He was friendly to all who visited him, white men and Indian. In fact, though raised as a Creek, he dressed like a white man and adopted many of the white man’s ways.
Before the war, he advised his people to stay neutral because he knew the Creeks couldn’t win. Most of his relatives sided with the settlers, so why did he choose the Red Sticks’ side? His descendants say he joined to limit violence and save lives. Others say he was devoted to the cause. Two conflicting stories have tried to explain his decision.
Story Number One
Weatherford was returning home with his brother-in-law Sam Moniac after trading cattle when he found his wife and children being held by the Red Sticks. Their leaders, the prophet Josiah Francis and Chief Peter McQueen, told them they’d kill them in front of their families if they didn’t join their cause.
Moniac seized Francis’s warclub and whacked him on the head, stunning him long enough to gallop away. Weatherford, after warning them their fight was lost before it began, joined them because, as he was reputed to have said, “you are my people.”
Story Number Two
He returned from Pensacola and found that his family had been taken to a Red Stick village, so he went there with the intent of sneaking them out if an opportunity arose. That opportunity never came, the war’s first battle was fought and everyone assumed he’d become their leader. Thus, he joined them because he saw no other way out.
A Little-Known Fact
Gregory Waselkov, in his recent work A Conquering Spirit, writes that when Weatherford and Moniac drove their cattle to a Choctaw town, Weatherford held a “secret interview” with the town’s leader and tried to persuade him to fight in the coming war, but the Choctaw refused. Waselkov, then, is one historian who believes Weatherford was totally devoted to the Red Sticks’ cause.
Creek House, Fort Toulouse State Park, Wetumpka, Alabama Photo by Author
Whatever the truth, Weatherford would play a major role in the Creek War’s early battles and would lead one of the bloodiest massacres in American history, at a stockade built around Sam Mims’s house on the Tensaw.
Because of Fort Mims, Weatherford’s life was in constant danger from settlers who’d lost loved ones there. Till the day he died in 1824, he suffered from nightmares about the event but thanks to his family’s prominence, he was able to stay in Alabama and prosper as a plantation owner in Baldwin County, thus avoiding the infamous Trail of Tears.
Circa 1765, Menawa was born to a Creek woman and a Scottish father in the Creek town of Okfuskee. The name given him in his youth was Hothlepoya, “Crazy War Hunter,” for his raids and exploits in Tennessee where he stole American horses. These exploits made him famous.
In 1811, he became the second chief of Okfuskee. He acquired wealth through trade, cattle and hog raising, and trading horses. During the Creek War, he lost his wealth but his political prominence and influence within the tribe continued. He died in 1836 on the Trail of Tears.
Griffith, Benjamin W. Jr. McIntosh and Weatherford, Creek Indian Leaders, Tuscaloosa and London: The University of Alabama Press, 1988.
Halbert, Henry S. and Timothy H. Ball. The Creek War of 1813 and 1814. 1895. Reprint edited by Frank L. Owsley Jr. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995.
Waselkov, Gregory A. A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2006.
When explorers roamed the southeastern region of North America in the 1500s, they encountered five indigenous tribes more culturally advanced than others. Collectively, they were called the Civilized Tribes. Four resided in Alabama: the Chickasaws, Choctaws, Cherokees, and Creeks (aka Muscogees) while the fifth tribe—the Seminoles— lived in Florida. Of the four in Alabama, the Creek Confederacy dominated.
One indigenous band still resides in my state. In fact, they have a reservation not far from where I live. But didn’t President Andrew Jackson send all the state’s tribes to Oklahoma after the Indian Removal Act of 1830? Yes, he did. Well, almost. We’ll get into that later.
The tribal band that avoided the Removal Act are the Poarch Creeks. More about them later.
The Creeks lived in permanent towns, either in cabins with clay floors and thatched roofs or in wigwams. Each town had a square in the middle of four surrounding sheds, long and low, which served as government buildings and housing for its warriors. Inside them, tribal issues were debated and discussed, and decisions made.
As one walked off the square and past these large sheds, he/she would come upon the residential district—cabins scattered about and clustered together according to families. Some houses were built along rivers and creeks.
By the eighteenth century, the Creek Confederacy had grown to fifty towns with a population close to 20,000 people.
The Creek War (1813-1814)
Without going into detail because it’s beyond the scope of this post, war broke out in Alabama Country in 1813. The United States was already engaged in a second war against Great Britain. But this war was fought against a band of warrior Creeks called the Red Sticks, so-named because their war clubs were red. These Creeks were prophets and mystics who claimed supernatural powers.
Why did this war begin? Several factors contributed.
Settlers were pouring into the Alabama country, then part of the Mississippi Territory. This caused friction between the white men and some of the tribes.
A civil war between the tribes was starting between those who supported the white man and his culture and those who wanted to keep their ancient culture and traditions.
A Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, was an ally of the British. They sent him down from Canada to rouse the tribes in the southeast to attack settlers on the frontier. A great orator and persuader, twenty-nine Creek towns rallied to his call to eliminate the white man from their land. Five Creek towns remained peaceful, however, as did most of the Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Cherokees.
Before he went back to Canada, Tecumseh gave a prophecy: “When I return home and stamp my foot, a comet will appear in the sky and the earth will shake.” Well, both things came to pass, for British scientists in Canada had told him about the comet. As for the earth shaking, a minor earthquake did occur where these Red Stick Creeks were, but it was just a coincidence. .
The mystical Red Sticks preached war and prophesied to their people. In February of 1813, war broke out. The Creek War was a small war within the context of the larger War of 1812. It ended with a surrender to General Andrew Jackson in 1814, after his decisive victory at Horseshoe Bend. An interesting bit of trivia regarding this battle: two famous figures in the future Texas Revolution fought with Jackson here. Their names? Sam Houston, who was wounded in the battle, and Davy Crockett. On August 9, 1814, Creek chiefs signed a treaty at Fort Jackson (in present-day Wetumpka), ending the war and ceding 20 million acres of land.
The Poarch Creeks
In 1830, Congress passed the Relocation Act. This forced the Creeks and other Civilized Tribes, except the Cherokees, to leave their native land for a new territory that would one day become the state of Oklahoma. The Cherokees began getting forced out of Alabama in 1838, after Congress passed the Treaty of New Echota in 1835. All of these tribes suffered horribly, and many members perished, along the 1,000 + miles they walked. It is aptly called the Trail of Tears and it’s one of American history’s saddest episodes.
Along Alabama’s Tensaw River, however, north of Mobile, a band of Creeks loyal to the white man were allowed to remain. These had worked as traders and scouts. However, they were eventually forced to move further north. They eventually called themselves the Poarch Creeks, named for their reservation in Poarch, Alabama. They’ve lived in that state for over 200 years.