The massacre at Fort Mimms was by far one of the most tragic events in American history. The Creek War in 1813-1814 opens with this tragedy, and ended with another tragedy at Horseshoe Bend. Both of these are among the most tragic battles of the time because of the number of non-combatants killed, and the deaths of hundreds of people. The Creeks were undoubtedly influenced by outside forces that used war to further their end, from Great Britain, the United States, or the influence of the Prophet movement. They all clashed with the result of thousands of dead Creeks and the end of Muskogee culture dominating the southeast.
The eyewitness accounts at the time paint a horrid picture of what happened. I cannot do any better than what they said, so I would suggest looking up a few sources like Thomas Woodward or George Stiggins who were living at the time and wrote their memoirs in a series of letters years later. Another book I would recommend is "Sacred Revolt, the Muskogees Struggle for a New World" by Joel Martin, and theological professor who does an excellent job of tying together all the treads and putting it into perspective. One of the best books on the Creek War of 1813-14 that I have ever read.
Here is a romantic image of the attack on Fort Mimms. I think it dates from the 1890s.
One of my friends who is well known in the reenactment circuit adamantly says this was a battle and not a massacre. Well I would tend to disagree. Maybe it turned into a battle as the settlement was attacked, but there is no denying that it was a massacre. I don't think that anyone will claim that the Dade Battle was a massacre anymore, because both sides were armed and the group that was wiped out was conducting a military operation. But in contrast, Fort Mimms was full of non-combatants, women, children, and slaves. And even with the presence of militia and regulars, they had not prepared for the sudden attack.
This image of Fort Mimms from a book published in the 1850s seems to show that the Indians are losing and the soldiers are winning.
The militia commander Major Beasley ignored warnings of an impending attack and didn't make preparations for much of a defense. The gates at Fort Mimms had remained open for so long that sand had piled up in front of them and they could not even be closed. Soon after the fort was attacked, the roof was torched, and many of the people inside were burned alive.
Steve Abolt said that he once saw an artifact from Fort Mimms in the curator lab at Ft Toulouse. It is a cooking kettle that was inside one of the structures that was burned. The heat was so intense that the pot melted and was a heap of iron slag, except for the three legs on the bottom of the pot that were still recognizable. Steve said that if any item spoke words about what happened, this was it.
As far as the site of Fort Mimms, about 20 years ago it was cleared after being a local trash dump. It was saved as a historic site, a picnic pavillion was built, but nothing more. At one time you could see the outlines marked where the fort once stood, but those have begun to wash away. They have had a reenactment there for about 20 years, but the times I visited in 1995 or 2001, it was more like cowboys & indians than a real living history event. Let me show you a few photos of the event as a case study in good & bad living history events.
Since I have several photos, they are shown in no particular order, just as they appear in my old photo folder.
I don't even know if this reenactment event still goes on. These photos are from 2001, so hopefully it has greatly improved if it is still around. As an example of a living history event, this would be the very worst one that I have ever seen in 22 years. Poorly interpreted events give other reenactments and living history events a bad reputation like we don't know what we are doing and just playing cowboys and indians.
Not much needs to be said here. This reenactor needs to work on his outfit more. Besides wearing blue soldier pants, a rabbit pelt sticking in his waist, and a "Darth Mal" pattern of face paint.
As the battle started, a local kid is sitting in the center is playing the banjo. For some reason he is wearing a Seminole long coat, and during the battle changed sides from settler to Creek warrior participating in the massacre.
Unfortunately the battle reenactment included several participant local children who were on the field during the battle, like this young man wearing a long yellow scarf. Yes there were children in the fort who were killed, but this makes the reenactment have an appearance as playtime and not historical interpretation.
The audience is watching behind the "caution" tape. Maybe that says more than they intended.
This is the Indian camp, with soldier tents and a modern fancy dance bustle. Mixing obviously modern objects like this really stick out and are inappropriate.
This guy really should have put a shirt on, and I hate the tandy leather kit moccasin boots that are inaccurate for southeastern events.
A wash line in the middle of the audience viewing area does not add to the event. It only gets in the way of the people watching and does not add to the atmosphere at all. Wash lines belong in the background, not the foreground.
This militia solder does look good, but I wonder how many people know that he is wearing a civil war cartridge box and has a civil war rifle?
This guy was actually one of the better looking Creek warriors at the event. This was in 2001, and at the event that year I think he was the most correctly dressed one that I saw, which was unfortunately hard to find.
Hand-to-hand looks cool, but they are fighting with real steel-edged hatchets, a no-no for battle reenactments. Another big safety hazard is the musket firing to the right, only a few feet away from the participants. Then there is the U.S. infantry sergeant to the left who does not seem to be engaged in the battle. This is all pretty scary to me, since I am a state park trained reenactment & blackpowder safety instructor.
And this guy is wearing totally inappropriate dress for the time period, with modern trousers, shoes, and bunny fur hanging off his modern leather vest. And unfortunately he was in front of all the action during the battle. We usually hope that those who are not dressed correctly will hide in the back, but it never works out that way. For some reason during this event, a lot of the warriors were wearing those modern bunny pelts. Maybe they were the tribe of the great bunny hunters.