William Weatherford, also known as Lamochattee (Red Eagle) (c. 1780 or 1781 – March 24, 1824), was a Creek chief of the Upper Creek towns who led the Red Sticks' offensive in the Creek War (1813–1814) against the United States.
One of many mixed-race descendants of Southeast Indians who intermarried with European traders and later colonial settlers, William Weatherford was of mixed Creek, French and Scots ancestry. He was raised as a Creek in the matrilineal nation and achieved his power in it, through his mother's prominent Wind Clan, as well as his father's trading connections. After the war, he rebuilt his wealth as a slaveholding planter in lower Monroe County, Alabama.
Early life and education
William Weatherford, also known as Lamochattee in Creek, meaning Red Eagle, was born about 1780 near the Upper Creek towns of Coosauda (a Koasati Indian Town, now Coosada) and Hickory Ground (Wetumpka), to Sehoy III, a high-status Creek woman of the Wind Clan (Hutalgalgi), and Charles Weatherford, a Scots trader known for his red hair.
Sehoy III was of mixed Creek, French and possibly Scottish descent. As the Creek had a matrilineal kinship system, Sehoy III's children were considered born into her clan and were absorbed into the tribe. Her children had her clan status, the same as her male clan relatives. Property and inheritance were passed through the maternal line. In this kinship system, a boy's maternal uncle was more important to his upbringing than his biological father. Charles Weatherford had a trading post near the Creek village, and developed a plantation, as well as raising thoroughbred horses for racing. His status as a trader helped his family, too.:4–5
Note: Several sources state that Weatherford was born in 1765, the date recorded on his tombstone. This is located in Little River, Baldwin County, Alabama. But many sources state that his mother, Sehoy III, was born in 1759, and his siblings are documented as being born in the 1780s. It seems most likely that Weatherford's year of birth would be closer to 1780 or 1781.
Benjamin Hawkins, first appointed as United States Indian agent in the Southeast and then as Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the territory south of the Ohio River, lived among the Creek and Choctaw, and knew them well. He commented in letters to President Thomas Jefferson that Creek women were matriarchs and had control of the children "when connected with a white man.":10–11 Hawkins observed that even wealthy traders were nearly as "inattentive" to their mixed-race children as "the Indians". What he did not understand about the Creek culture was that the children had a closer relationship with their mother's eldest brother than with their biological father, because of the importance of the clan kinship system.
As a boy William ("Billy") Weatherford was called Lamochattee (meaning Red Eagle) by the Creek. After he showed his skill as a warrior, he was given the "war name" of Hopnicafutsahia, or "Truth Teller." He was the great-grandson of Jean Baptiste Louis DeCourtel Marchand, the French commanding officer of Fort Toulouse and his wife Sehoy, a Creek of mixed race. On his mother's side, he was a nephew of the mixed-race Creek chief, Alexander McGillivray, who was prominent in the Upper Creek towns.
Through his mother's family, Weatherford was a cousin of William McIntosh, who became a chief of the Lower Creek towns. The Lower Creek, who comprised the majority of population, lived closer to the European Americans and had intermarried with them. They adopted more of their ways, as well as getting connected to the market economy.
Lamochattee (Red Eagle) learned traditional Creek ways and language from his mother and her clan, as well as English from his father. As a young man, he acquired a plantation in the Upper Creek territory, where he owned slaves, planted commercial crops, and bred and raced horses as did his father. He generally had good relations with both the Creek nationals and European Americans for years. He worried about the increasing number of the latter, who were encroaching on Creek land.
The Creek of the Lower Towns were becoming more assimilated, but the traditional elders and the people of the Upper Creek towns were more isolated from the European-American settlers. They kept more traditional ways and opposed the new settlements. Weatherford and other Upper Creek leaders resented the encroachment of settlers into their traditional Creek territory, principally in what the United States of America called the Mississippi Territory, which included their territory in present-day Alabama.
After the Americans improved the Trading Path as the National Road in 1811, more American settlers came into the hunting territory and lay claim to homesteads. Various bands of Creeks, especially among the Upper Creek, resisted in a number of armed conflicts. But most of the more assimilated Lower Creek towns were forced to make land concessions to the United States in 1790, 1802, and 1805.
The Lower Creek were among the Five Civilized Tribes who adopted some European-American style farming practices and other customs. As a result, most of the Creek managed to continue as independent communities while slowly becoming almost indistinguishable from other frontier families. The Upper Creek towns resisted the changes in the territory. In these debates, Lamochattee counseled neutrality in the rise of hostilities. Conflict broke out within the Creek Nation between those who were adapting to assimilation and those trying to maintain the traditional leadership.
Leaders of the Upper Creek began diplomatic overtures with Spanish and British colonial officials to develop allies against the United States. In the debates in Creek councils, those advocating war became known as Red Sticks, and they soon became the dominant faction in Creek politics, which were highly decentralized. Red Stick bands went to Spanish Florida to purchase arms.
Americans learned that the Red Sticks were bringing back arms from Florida. Hastily organizing a militia, American frontiersmen intercepted and attacked a Red Stick party at Burnt Corn Creek. The latter were returning to the Upper Creek towns with arms purchased in Pensacola in present-day Florida. While the Alabama militia tried to secure the arms and ammunition in the Indian baggage train, the Red Sticks regrouped and fought off the Americans. In reaction to the United States attack on its men, the Creek declared war on the United States. Already involved in the War of 1812 against the US, the British encouraged the Creek resistance.
Weatherford joined the Red Sticks along the frontier, where they tried to repulse American settlers from Creek territory. In late August 1813, with Peter McQueen and other Red Sticks, Weatherford participated in a retaliatory attack on Fort Mims. It was a hastily built civilian stockade on the lower Alabama River, about 35 miles north of Mobile. Frontier American families and Lower Creek had retreated to the fort, which was ineptly guarded. The Red Sticks gained entry into the fort and massacred the Lower Creek, as well as European-American settlers, including women and children. Estimates are that they killed up to 500 persons. Some 35 individuals survived. As a prominent leader, Weatherford was held responsible for the massacre, although there are reports he tried to prevent it.
An Alabama militia followed up with another Ranger unit and maneuvered the Red Sticks into battle at the Battle of Holy Ground. Red Eagle (Weatherford) barely escaped capture, jumping from a bluff into the Alabama River while on horseback. Having repelled the Red Stick invasion in a number of skirmishes and forced them on the defensive, the Americans regrouped for a final offensive.
The federal government did not have forces to spare. Major General Andrew Jackson led a combined army of state militia from Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. Jackson's army finally isolated the main Red Stick Army along with hundreds of American hostages. Red Eagle played a decisive role in rallying his forces and trying to save the hostages from death. In the finale of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Red Eagle’s rapid responses allowed various small bands of Red Sticks to regroup and fight a rear guard action, but the remainder of the Red Sticks were destroyed. Although the majority of the American hostages were saved, the retreating Red Sticks killed dozens of them.
Meanwhile, Red Eagle and some other 200 Red Sticks escaped. Most of the Red Sticks retreated to Florida, where they joined the Seminole people, who had developed from Creek migrants and remnants of other tribes in the 18th century. Red Eagle surrendered at Fort Jackson (formerly Fort Toulouse). Jackson spared Weatherford's life and used his influence to bring the other Upper Creek chiefs to a peace conference.
Weatherford negotiated a new peace through a new treaty with the US; although he had to accept a permanent reduction in Creek territory, he gained retention of most of their territory, including areas where they had homes. Weatherford subsequently moved to the southern part of Monroe County, Alabama, where he rebuilt his wealth as a planter. He died there in 1824. A decade later, the US forced removal of most of the Creek and other Indians from the Southeast to west of the Mississippi River in Indian Territory (now Kansas and Oklahoma).
Marriage and family
He married Mary Moniac (c. 1783-1804), who was also of mixed race. They had children: Charles and Mary (Polly) Weatherford.
After Mary's death, Weatherford married Sopathe Thlanie (c. 1783-1813). She died after the birth of their son, William Weatherford, Jr., born 25 December 1813.
About 1817, Weatherford married Mary Stiggins (c. 1783-1832), who was of Natchez and English heritage. Their children were: Alexander McGillivray Weatherford; Mary Levitia Weatherford; Major Weatherford, who was killed as a child; and John Weatherford.
- Griffith, Jr., Benjamin W. McIntosh and Weatherford, Creek Indian Leaders, Birmingham: University of Alabama Press, 1988, pp. 5, 10-11 online edition(subscription required)
- "Red Eagle", Electric Scotland
- The Creek Families 3B
- "Andrew Jackson", A History of Florida, University of South Florida
- Michael D. Green, The Politics of Indian Removal: Creek Government and Society in Crisis, University of Nebraska Press, 1985, pp. 38-39
- Digital Library on American Slavery, University of North Carolina Greensboro -- Petition 20582202 Details Location: Escambia, Florida Salutation: To the Honbl H M Brackenridge Judge of the Superior Court of West Florida (BRACKENRIDGE, Henry M.) Filing Court and Date: Superior, 1822-August-4 Ending Court and Date: No Ending Court Specified
- Benjamin W. Griffith, Jr., McIntosh and Weatherford, Creek Indian Leaders, (University of Alabama Press, 1988) ISBN 0-8173-0340-5 (Pages 252, 253)
- Floripedia, University of Southern Florida
- Pam Jones, "William Weatherford and the Road to the Holy Ground", Alabama Heritage, Fall 2004
- Explore Southern History site
- Weatherford not at Horseshoe Bend, Page 182 @ Google books.com
- Herber J. Lewis, "Canoe Fight", Encyclopedia of Alabama
- "The Romance of Red Eagle", US GenNet
- "Greatest Native American #205", Native Village
- "Descendants of Thomas Weatherford", Family Treemaker hosted site
- William Weatherford at Find a Grave