Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: The War of 1812 Part 3

Alabama played a role in the War of 1812 primarily because of a civil war between the Creek Indians. The Federal Road divided the traditional Upper Creeks from more assimilated Lower Creeks. Towns were further categorized as either “Red” or “White”. Red towns were governed by warriors only. The term “red” refers to the warlike disposition of these towns, but does not correspond to the English adjective “bloody”. It depicts the wrath or anger the warriors felt when out on the warpath. The posts of the town cabin in the public square were painted red on one side. White towns, also called “peace” or “conservative” towns, were governed by civil officers and were considered places of refuge and safety to individuals who had left their tribes in fear of punishment or revenge at the hand of their pursuers. Creek ownership of traditional lands was endangered as land-hungry whites moved across it or settled illegally on it. (Andrew Jackson was a determined and non-apologetic land speculator in his own right).

The British sent Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief, from the Great Lakes to unite all Indians against white Americans and form an alliance with England and Spain.

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England and Spain incited the Creeks against American settlers and supplied Creeks with guns and ammunition. Battles raged on the frontier between Creek “Red Sticks” and American militia led by General Andrew Jackson. The last and most famous battle, the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (now a National Military Park) destroyed the strength of the Creek Nation. General Jackson forced the Creeks to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson, ceding some forty thousand square miles of land to the United States.Foreign influence among Indians was destroyed.

The Fort Jackson Treaty, acquiring Creek lands, began a series of forced land-cession treaties by the United States with other southern tribes until all were removed west. General Andrew Jackson became a national hero for defeating the Creeks, a victory that helped pave his way to become President of the United States.

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The Creek War of 1813-14 began as a civil war, largely centered among the Upper Creeks, whose towns were located on the Coosa, Tallapoosa, and upper reaches of the Alabama rivers. The struggle pitted a faction of the Creeks who became known as Red Sticks against those Creeks who supported the National Council, a relatively new body that had developed from the traditional regional meetings of headmen from the Creek towns. Under the auspices of federal Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins, the National Council’s authority and powers had been expanded. The war broke out against the backdrop of the American-British War of 1812. Americans, fearful that southeastern Indians would ally with the British, quickly joined the war against the Red Sticks, turning the civil war into a military campaign designed to destroy Creek power. It was essentially this potential alliance with the British that brings the Creek War under the umbrella of the War of 1812.

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Benjamin Hawkins, Painted in 1805

To prove their loyalty to the United States, contingents of Choctaw and Cherokee warriors joined the American war against the Creeks. Thus, the Creek civil war was quickly transformed into a multidimensional war that resulted in the total defeat of the Creek people at the hands of American armies and their Native American allies.

This article is intended to provide accurate historical information to a general audience. Material contained herein is gathered from reputable online and traditional sources, but unless otherwise noted, is not the result of original scholarship or research by the author.

E. E. (Skip) Campbell, Ph.D.

Skip Campbell retired from UPS in early 2012 after 38 years as a senior manager, working in numerous locations in the United States and abroad, with primary responsibilities in operations and industrial engineering. He received his BS degree in Applied Science and Operations Analysis from the University of Alabama and holds Master’s degrees in Engineering Management, Quality and Management,. Skip holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Development, with concentrations in Organizational Theory and Macroergonomics. Skip is a Senior Member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and sits on the Board of Visitors for the College of Continuing Studies at the University of Alabama. Since retiring, Skip serves as an Adjunct Professor with the College of Continuing Studies (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) at the University of Alabama and focuses his academic research efforts on the area of pre-20th century Alabama history. Skip belongs to a number of historical and cemetery preservation associations. He and his wife Denise have 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren.

Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: The War of 1812

           Although not typically thought of as a key player in the second war against Britain, Alabama can boast a number of sites and events of historical interest. Granted, only a few were directly involved with the conflict with the British, and much more revolving around the Creek War of 1813-1814.

            Between 1812 and 1815, Alabama was part of the Mississippi Territory (Mississippi became a state in 1817, Alabama in 1819), and played a very minor role in the War of 1812, in terms of the conflict with the British. Aside from some relatively minor skirmishes at Mobile, then part of West Florida, Alabama essentially served as a conduit for troops moving south from Tennessee and other states to the Gulf Coast. While not a major player in the war against the British, it was on Alabama soil that much of the Creek War took place. It is important to look at the overall picture to put things in context. Articles for the next couple of months will attempt to put the “Anglo” part of the War of 1812 in perspective.

mississippi territoryThe Mississippi Territory

            There were two driving causes of the war with Britain. First, a British blockade of American ports on the Atlantic coast kept needed goods from reaching our shores and prevented American goods from being shipped to other countries. The embargo was an economic disaster for the US. Merchants were unable to see their merchandise… goods were literally rotting on the docks. When there were no sales, there were no sales taxes. As such, The young US government had defaulted on its debt. Such economic pressures caused internal discontent within individual states, who saw themselves as sovereign entities that were somewhat loosely joined in a United States “cooperative” (the fight over “state’s rights” vs. strong federal government would continue to raise its ugly head until leading to the Civil War). Some New England states were openly considering secession  with the intent of forging their own treaty with Britain. New England tended to be against the war and hoped for a compromise that would end the conflict. The forced impressment of American merchant sailors into the British navy was the second cause. It is estimated that around 10,000 Americans were forced to serve under the Union Jack.

            Much of the first two years of the war were waged in Canada, on the Great Lakes, and on the open seas of the Atlantic. US forces had attempted numerous times to invade parts of Canada, but to no avail. In fact, the failed northern invasions resulted in large parts of what is now Maine (then part of Massachusetts) falling into British hands.

1814-burningBurning of the White House by British Troops

            The parts of the War of 1812 that most people tend to remember are that the capital at Washington City was taken and burned by the British in retaliation for the US burning of York (Toronto), Canada. However, Dolley Madison was able to save the famous portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart from the burning White House. A month later, the Battle of Fort McHenry took place in Baltimore harbor and the country gained the Star Spangled Banner.        

Ft McHenrythe Battle of Ft McHenry

This article is intended to provide accurate historical information to a general audience. Material contained herein is gathered from reputable online and traditional sources, but unless otherwise noted, is not the result of original scholarship or research by the author.

E. E. (Skip) Campbell, Ph.D.

Skip Campbell retired from UPS in early 2012 after 38 years as a senior manager, working in numerous locations in the United States and abroad, with primary responsibilities in operations and industrial engineering. He received his BS degree in Applied Science and Operations Analysis from the University of Alabama and holds Master’s degrees in Engineering Management, Quality and Management,. Skip holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Development, with concentrations in Organizational Theory and Macroergonomics. Skip is a Senior Member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and sits on the Board of Visitors for the College of Continuing Studies at the University of Alabama. Since retiring, Skip serves as an Adjunct Professor with the College of Continuing Studies (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) at the University of Alabama and focuses his academic research efforts on the area of pre-20th century Alabama history. Skip belongs to a number of historical and cemetery preservation associations. He and his wife Denise have 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren.