Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend

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 Colonel 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, Tenneessee, 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 at 10:30 a.m., Jackson began an artillery barrage which consisted of two cannons firing for about two hours. Little damage was caused to the Red Sticks or their fortifications. Coffee's Cherokee and cavalry began crossing the river and fought the Red Sticks on their rear.

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 a cross fire. 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.

The battle raged for about five hours. Roughly 550 Red Sticks were killed on the field, while many of the rest were killed trying to cross the river.

Chief Menawa was severely wounded but survived; he led about 200 of the original 1,000 warriors across the river and into safety among the Seminole tribe in Spanish Florida.

Two currently active battalions of the Regular Army (2-7 Inf and 3-7 Inf) perpetuate the lineage of the old 39th Infantry Regiment, which fought at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

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 of 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 of the United States in 1828.

The battlefield is preserved in the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.

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