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Horseshoe Bend

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One of the most tragic moments in the Creek and Seminole Wars of the early 1800s was the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama.

The whole Creek War in 1813 to 1814 was a tragedy. It was an outgrowth of the War of 1812, of England inciting the Creeks against the United States. It was also influenced by Tecumseh, who came down and tried to recruit the Creeks for his pan-Native alliance against the United States expansion into the west. These fires were fueled by a Nativist movement or a religious extremism movement by the prophets.

It all came to a disastrous end at Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River on March 27, 1814. I have been to the national park there. If you ever want to research the Creek War, I highly recommend visiting both Fort Mimms and Horseshoe Bend.

Today the park is strangely quiet. Still in a fairly remote area, and not much built up around it. Walking around the park had both an eerie serene silence and a sadness of what happened here. Reaching the bottom of the bend in the river where the village was, I saw a group of wild turkeys. It is hard to imagine the horror that occurred here in 1814.

The Creek War was a Creek Civil War between the towns who supported the United States, and those who wanted to resist the Americans westward expansion. It started with the destruction of the settlement at Fort Mimms in late August 1813. That event gave Andrew Jackson the excuse he needed to enter the War of 1812, where he was previously ignored by senior officers before that time for being brash and uncontrollable; some say unstable as well. Jackson raised an army of 3,000 soldiers to rain destruction upon the Creek Confederacy, culminating in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend a few months later.

The Creeks had prepared for Jackson and constructed a breastwork across the neck of the horseshoe peninsula where their town Tohopeka sat. The prophets encouraged the warriors by saying that the medicine was so strong that the whitemen would drop dead approaching the town. They were wrong.

Jackson stationed his artillery on top of the hill over looking the town, and raked it with grapeshot. Then the soldiers charged over the breastwork. Young 3rd lieutenant Sam Houston was injured by an arrow in the leg. The Creek warriors fought fiercely and did not surrender. They fought to the death. The prophets were quickly killed by grapeshot from the artillery.

The Americans stormed over the breastwork with heavy fighting. What really gave the Americans the tactical edge was that at the same time, Cherokee allies on the American side had crossed the other side of the river and set fire to several huts on the town. This caused confusion among the Creek warriors of where the fighting was happening. Women and Children tried to escape across the south end of the river, but by that time, American riflemen had positioned themselves on the south side and shot those in the river.

(The above image is actually the Battle of Thames, but it looks like a good one to use here.)

At the end, Jackson had lost very few casualties; most from trying to cross over the breastwork. There were about 800-900 Creeks killed; the largest defeat of any Native American force killed in one battle in the history of the United States. Over 300 Creeks were taken prisoner, and about 200 escaped, including Chief Menawa. It was truly a sad event and would forever give Andrew Jackson the black honor of being the greatest killer of Native Americans in U.S. history.

Jackson went on to draft the Treaty of Fort Jackson, where much of the Creek land in Alabama was taken away. Next he took the Spanish town of Pensacola, and chased after refugee Creeks and Seminoles in Florida. Followed shortly after that with the Battle of New Orleans where Jackson forever earned his fame as a military commander. I am in no way taking his side, but his military career must be recognized, because 15 years later it would put him in the White House--and we know what happened because of that.
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On March 28th, 2007 02:28 am (UTC), troglophilic commented:
you know, for all my fancying myself more knowledgeable about history than the average bear, i was unaware of this battle. fascinating stuff, kimbat. :)

(river rats, ho!)
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