Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814)
The Battle of Horseshoe Bend (also known as Tohopeka, Cholocco Litabixbee or The Horseshoe), was fought during the War of 1812 in central Alabama. On March 27, 1814, United States forces and Indian allies under Major General Andrew Jackson defeated the Red Sticks, a part of the Creek Indian tribe who opposed American expansion, effectively ending the Creek War.
The battle is considered part of the War of 1812. The Creek Indians of Georgia and Alabama had become divided into two factions: the Upper Creeks (or Red Sticks), a majority who opposed the American expansion and sided with the British and Spanish during the War of 1812, and the Lower Creek, who were more assimilated, had a stronger relationship with the US Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins, and sought to remain on good terms with the Americans.
The Shawnee leader Tecumseh went to Creek and other Southeast Indian towns in 1811–12 to recruit warriors to join his war against American encroachment. The Red Sticks, young men who wanted to revive traditional religious and cultural practices, were already forming, resisting assimilation. They began to raid American frontier settlements. When the Lower Creek helped United States forces capture and punish leading raiders, they were punished by the Red Sticks.
In 1813, militia troops intercepted a Red Stick party returning from obtaining arms in Pensacola. While they were looting the material, the Red Sticks returned and defeated them, at what became known as the Battle of Burnt Corn. Red Sticks raiding of enemy settlements continued, and in August 1813 they attacked Fort Mims in retaliation for the Burnt Corn attack. After that massacre, frontier settlers appealed to the government for help.
As Federal forces were devoted to the War of 1812, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama organized militias that were commanded by Colonel Andrew Jackson, together with Lower Creek and Cherokee allies, to go against the Red Sticks. Jackson and his forces won the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814.
Horseshoe Bend was the major battle of the Creek War, in which Andrew Jackson sought to "clear" Alabama for American settlement. Colonel Jackson commanded an army of West Tennessee militia, which he had turned into a well-trained fighting force. Added to the militia units was the 39th United States Infantry and about 600 Cherokee, Choctaw and Lower Creek fighting against the Red Stick Creek.
After leaving Fort Williams in the spring of 1814, Jackson's army cut its way through the forest to within 6 miles (10 km) of Chief Menawa's Red Stick camp of Tohopeka, near a bend in the Tallapoosa River, called "Horseshoe Bend," in central Alabama, 12 miles (19 km) east of what is now Alexander City. Jackson sent General John Coffee with the mounted infantry and the Indian allies south across the river to surround the Red Sticks' camp, while Jackson stayed with the rest of the 2,000 infantry north of the camp.
On March 27, 1814, General Andrew Jackson led troops consisting of 2,600 American soldiers, 500 Cherokee, and 100 Lower Creek allies up a steep hill near Tohopeka, Alabama. From this vantage point, Jackson would begin his attack on a Red Stick Creek fortification. At 6:30am, he split his troops and sent roughly 1300 men to cross the Tallapoosa River and surround the Creek village. Then, at 10:30 a.m., Jackson's remaining troops began an artillery barrage which consisted of two cannons firing for about two hours. Little damage was caused to the Red Sticks or their 400 yard long log-and-dirt fortifications. In fact, Jackson was quite impressed with the measures the Red Sticks took to protect their position. As he later wrote:
|“||It is impossible to conceive a situation more eligible for defence than the one they had chosen and the skill which they manifested in their breastwork was really astonishing. It extended across the point in such a direction as that a force approaching would be exposed to a double fire, while they lay entirely safe behind it. It would have been impossible to have raked it with cannon to any advantage even if we had had possession of one extremity.||”|
Soon, Jackson ordered a bayonet charge. The 39th U.S. Infantry, led by Colonel John Williams, charged the breastworks defending the camp and caught the Red Sticks in hand-to-hand combat. Sam Houston (the future statesman and politician) served as a third lieutenant in Jackson's army. Houston was one of the first to make it over the log barricade alive and received a wound from a Creek arrow that troubled him the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, the rest of Jackson's troops, under the command of General John Coffee, had successfully crossed the river and surrounded the encampment. They joined the fight and gave Jackson a great advantage. The Creek warriors refused to surrender, though, and the battle lasted for more than five hours. At the end, roughly 800 of the 1000 Red Stick warriors present at the battle were killed. In contrast, Jackson lost fewer than 50 men during the fight and reported 154 wounded.
On August 9, 1814, Andrew Jackson forced the Creek to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson. The Creek Nation was forced to cede 23 million acres (93,000 km2)—half of central Alabama and part of southern Georgia—to the United States government; this included territory of the Lower Creek, who had been allies of the United States. Jackson had determined the areas from his sense of security needs. Of the 23 million acres (93,000 km2) Jackson forced the Creek to cede 1.9 million acres (7,700 km2), which was claimed by the Cherokee Nation, which had also allied with the United States. Jackson was promoted to Major General after getting agreement to the treaty.
This victory, along with that at the Battle of New Orleans, greatly contributed to Jackson's national reputation and his popularity. He was well known when he ran successfully for president in 1828.
The battlefield is preserved in the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.
Two currently active battalions of the Regular Army (2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 7th Infantry Regiment) perpetuate the lineage of the old 39th Infantry Regiment, which fought at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
Eric Flint has written a series of alternative history novels, Trail of Glory, that begin with the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. In Flint's version, Houston is only lightly wounded in the battle. He is breveted to captain by Jackson and sent to Washington to help negotiate a peaceful settlement between the United States and the Cherokee, Creek and other Southeastern tribes. He arrives in Washington shortly after the Battle of Bladensburg, where he rallies defeated US troops and organizes black teamsters into an ad-hoc artillery force to successfully defend the Capitol building and prevent the British from burning Washington.
- Borneman p.151
- Creek War: Horseshoe Bend
- Susan K. Barnard, and Grace M. Schwartzman, "Tecumseh and the Creek Indian War of 1813–1814 in North Georgia," Georgia Historical Quarterly, Fall 1998, Vol. 82 Issue 3, pp 489–506
- Robert Remini, Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire, 1767-1821, (1977) ch. 13
- Mackenzie, George. "The Indian Breastwork in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend: Its Size, Location, and Construction". National Park Service. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
- Jackson, Andrew. "The Jackson Papers". Library of Congress.
- Samuel G. Heiskell, Andrew Jackson and Early Tennessee History (Nashville: Ambrose Printing Company, 1918), pp. 356-359.
- Heidler, p. 135
- Ehle p. 123
- Andrew Burstein, The Passions of Andrew Jackson (Alfred A. Knopf 2003), pp. 105-106 ISBN 0-375-71404-9
- John Ehle, Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation (Anchor Books Editions 1989), pp 117-121 ISBN 0-385-23954-8
- Heidler, David Stephen and Heidler, Jeanne T. "Creek War," in Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, 1997. ISBN 978-0-87436-968-7
- Borneman, Walter R. (2004). 1812: The War That Forged a Nation. New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0-06-053112-6.
- Steve Rajtar, Indian War Sites, (McFarland and Company, Inc., 1999)
- Robert Remini, Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire, 1767-1821 (1977) ch. 13
- * Holland, James W. "Andrew Jackson and the Creek War: Victory at the Horseshoe Bend," Alabama Review, Oct 1968, Vol. 21 Issue 4, pp 243–275
- Kanon, Thomas. "A Slow, Laborious Slaughter": The Battle of Horseshoe Bend," Tennessee Historical Quarterly, March 1999, Vol. 58 Issue 1, pp 2–15
- Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars (2001), ch 4
- "The Battle of Horseshoe Bend: Collision of Cultures", National Park Service's Teaching with Historic Places.
- A map of Creek War Battle Sites, PCL Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin.
- "Battle of Horseshoe Bend", Encyclopedia of Alabama
- Mrs. Dunham Rowland, "The Mississippi Territory in the War of 1812", Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Volume 4, 1921, pp. 7–156