Tecumseh, the Shawnee chief, welded a confederacy of tribes
to block white man's expansion, arguing that the Indians must
return to their old life to preserve their national existence,
the Upper Creeks in Alabama eagerly accepted the doctrine.
When war was declared between the United States and England
in 1812, Tecumseh, at the head of 1,500 warriors, entered British
service with the rank of general.
The Creeks tried to enlist the Cherokees, and a medicine dance
was held at Ustanali, the national capital, where The Prophet,
Tecumseh's brother, warned the Cherokees they had broken the
road given their fathers at the beginning of the world.
They had taken the white man's clothes and trinkets, had beds
and tables and mills, even books and cats. All this was
bad, they were told, and must be thrown away so they could be
Of those present, only
expressed opposition, warning that such talk would inevitably
lead to war with the US and destruction. The followers
of The Prophet attacked him and he narrowly escaped with
The Prophet threatened to invoke a terrible storm, which would
destroy all but the true believers, who were told to gather
for safety on one of the mountains. Many Cherokees abandoned
their farms and slaves, and everything else that had come from
the white man, and went to the mountains. When the appointed
day came and passed, the movement died among the Cherokees.
As Upper Creeks raged war across Alabama, in a series of battles
that usually went bad for the Americans, the Cherokees and some
Lower Creeks joined the fight against them. About 400
Cherokee warriors became part of the army of
Andrew Jackson; the Cherokee homefront helped provision
the American troops. Cherokees garrisoned Fort Armstrong
on the upper Coosa River.
Among the places where battles involving Cherokees were fought
were Turkeytown, on the upper Coosa River; near the present-day
Jacksonville; on the site of today's Talladega; at Hillabee;
near present-day Tuskegee; at Holy Ground; near today's Benton;
and at Emukfaw Creek, on the northern bank of the Tallapoosa
River, where Jackson was badly mauled and had to retreat.
To the south, another American army, including another 400 Cherokees,
was badly beaten by the Upper Creeks at Caleebee Creek, near
All this lead up to the final event of the Creek war, the battle
of Horseshoe Bend, of which it can probably be said it was as
much a Cherokee victory as an American one, and has been called
as much a massacre as a battle.
Having received reinforcements, Jackson, with 200 men, including
about 500 Cherokee, and two small cannon marched on Horseshoe
Bend, where the Creeks held a fortified position on a peninsula
of the Tallapoosa River, some 100 acres containing 1,000 warriors
plus about 300 women and children.
Across the neck of the peninsula the Creeks had built a breastwork
of logs, behind which were their houses, and behind those canoes
for use if retreat became necessary.
On the morning of March 27, 1814, Jackson sent a mounted force
of 700 men, plus nearly all his Indian allies - 600, including
the 500 Cherokees - across the river to surround the bend and
block escape. Then he, with the rest of the army and cannon,
assaulted the breastwork head-on. The fortification was
5 to 8 feet high, with a double row of portholes, and so planned
that no enemy could approach without being caught in a crossfire.
Two hours of cannonading and rifle fire did little.
According to report of General Coffee, who headed the cavalry
"The firing of your cannon and small arms in a short time
became general and heavy, which animated our Indians, and seeing
about 100 of the warriors and all the squaws and children of
the enemy running about among the huts of the village, which
was open to our view, they could no longer remain silent spectators.
"While some kept up a fire across the river to prevent
the enemy's approach to the bank, others plunged into the water
and swam the river for canoes that lay at the other shore in
considerable numbers and brought them over, in which crafts
a number of them embarked and landed on the bend with the enemy.
"Col. Gideon Morgan, who commanded the Cherokees, Capt.
Kerr, and Capt. William Russell, with a part of his company
of spies, were among the first that crossed the river.
They advanced into the village and very soon drove the enemy
from the huts up the river bank to the fortified works from
which they were fighting you. They pursued and continued
to annoy during your whole action."
The Creeks had been fighting the Americans in their front at
such close quarters that their bullets flattened upon the bayonets
thrust through the portholes. This attack from the rear
by 500 Cherokee diverted their attention and gave opportunity
to the Tennesseeans, adopted Cherokee Sam Houston among them,
to swam over the breastwork.
With more than half their number dead upon the ground, the rest
of the Creeks turned and plunged into the river, only to find
the banks on the opposite side lined with enemies and escape
The men sent out to count the dead found 557 warriors dead within
the enclosure. Coffee estimated that another 250 to 300
were shot in the water.
Jackson himself said not more than 20 could have escaped.
There was no mention of any wounded. About 300 prisoners
were taken, of whom only three were men. On the other
side, 26 Americans were killed and 107 wounded, 18 Cherokee
killed and 36 wounded, 5 friendly Creeks killed and 11 wounded.
The loss of the Cherokee was out of all proportion to their
numbers, their fighting having been hand-to-hand work without
In view of the fact that Jackson had only a few weeks before
being compelled to retreat before the same enemy, and that two
hours of artillery and rifle fire had produced no result until
the Cherokee attacked the rear of the enemy by crossing the
river, this is considerable truth in the boast of the Cherokee
that they saved the day for Jackson at Horseshoe Bend.
In the number of men engaged and the immense proportion killed,
this ranks as probably the greatest Indian battle in the history
of the United States and effectively ended the war in Alabama.
However, when the Cherokee returned to their home, they found
them ravaged in their absence by disorderly white troops.
Two years later, the government agreed to reimburse them for
the damage. Among the Cherokee who fought with the United States
in this war were
(who was just The Ridge before getting his military title in
the campaign), Col. Taylor, Adjutant
Ross, Chief Kunnesee,
Junaluska and a private named
Besides Jackson, who later became the Cherokees' worst political
enemy, they had two great friends in this army - Houston and
a scout who later also opposed their removal westward, Davy
Source: Past Times Magazine Aug. 1997
Referencing Battle of Horseshoe Bend
of Horseshoe Bend
War of 1812