& Ball: THE CREEK WAR of 1813 and 1814
(Kindly contributed by William C. Bell)
THE CHOCTAW - MUSCOGEE TRIBES
The Creek War of 1813 and 1814 is remarkable from the fact that all the branches of what ethnologists style the Choctaw-Muscogee stock of Indians were involved therein and took a part, on one side or the other, of that bloody conflict. As these tribes acted a prominent part in the early history of the Gulf States, a brief notice of their topographic location and ethnic affinities may, perhaps, be of interest to the general reader.
From incontrovertible linguistic evidence, it is certain that the habitat of the tribes composing the Choctaw-Muscogee family was much the same in the days of De Soto, in 1540, as it was in more recent historical times. If the Creeks, or any or all their congeners, ever migrated from Mexico, it must have been centuries before the advent of the Spanish invader. Whatever may be thought of Le Clerc Milfort's migration legend, the fact stands that De Soto found towns bearing Muscogee names in Alabama. Dr. A. S. Gatschet, the distinguished Indianologist, after a thorough study of the dialects of the Choctaw-Muscogee tribes, has subdivided the family into four branches.
The first and most prominent of these branches is the Creeks or Muscogees proper, whose settlements were upon the Coosa, the Tallapoosa, and the Chattahoochee. During the entire existence of the Creek Confederacy in Alabama, those living on the Coosa and Tallapoosa bore the appellation of Upper Creeks, whilst those on the Chattahoochee were known as Lower Creeks. The Seminoles of Florida are only a body of seceded Muscogees.
The second branch is the Hitchitees, whose towns were on the Chattahoochee, and who, living nearer the Lower Creeks, were assigned to that political division of the Creek Confederacy. The Mickasukees of Leon county, Florida, are an offshoot of the Hitchitees and speak the same language. The Apalachees, who were a numerous and powerful people in Florida in the days of De Narvaez and De Soto, spoke a language closely related to that of the Hitchitees. The last remnant of the Apalachees were living in Louisiana, in 1830, numbering forty six souls--perhaps, now, all extinct.
The third branch is the Alibamos and Coshattees, (less correct form Coosawdas) whose homes were mostly situated on the Alabama River, just below the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa. Politically, these two tribes belonged to the Upper Creeks. When the French abandoned Fort Toulouse, in 1763, many of the Alibamos followed them across the Mississippi into Louisiana. These seceders eventually settled in Polk county, Texas, where they have a settlement to this day. Towards the close of the eighteenth century, many of the Coshattees also emigrated west and finally settled near the Alibamos. The language of both tribes is substantially the same. The Alibamos that remained in their native seats occupied, at the outbreak of the war of 1813, six villages, viz: Wetumka, situated on the Coosa, Muklasa, on the Tallapoosa, Ecunchattee, now a part of the city of Montgomery, Towassa on the same side of the river, three miles below Ecunchattee, Pawoktee, two miles below Towassa, and Autaugee, four miles below Pawoktee, but on the north bank of the river and near the mouth of a creek of the same name. The language of the Alibamos approximates nearer to the Choctaw than to the Muscogee, and their tribal name is undoubtedly of Choctaw origin and signifies Vegetation gatherers, i.e. gathers of vegetation in clearing land for agricultural purposes. Alba, vegetation, amo, gather. From this tribe, the Alabama River received its name, and the state, from the river. Alibamo is the correct form of the word, having, as noted above, the prosaic signification of vegetation-gatherer; for modern research has forever annihilated the romance of Here we rest. The Coshattees, the kinsfolk of the Alibamos, lived, in 1813, on the northern bank of the Alabama River, three miles below the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa. The present American town of Coosauda occupies the site of the old Caoshattee town.
The fourth or western branch of the Choctaw-Muscogee stock of Indians are the Choctaws and Chickasaws, whose homes were mostly in the present state of Mississippi, the Choctaws occupying the central and southern, and the Chickasaws, the northern part. Both tribes speak the same language. The country between the Tombikbee and the Black Warrior, from time immemorial, had been disputed territory between the Choctaws and the Creeks, though Choctaw settlements, more or less transitory, always existed on the east side of the Tombigbee.
There is no doubt but the territory of the Choctaws, in the days of De Soto, extended farther to the east than in more recent times. The people of the town of Mauvila, destroyed by De Soto, were of Choctaw lineage, as is evidenced by the name of their chief, Tascalusa, Black Warrior. Mauvila, too, may be the Choctaw Moelih, a plural of action, signifying to row, to paddle, to scull, and the inhabitants of the town, as we may conjecture, may have received this name, the rowers, in consequence of their riparian situation, which necessitated a constant use of boats in navigating the river. Mobile, a French abbreviated corruption of Mauvila, is called by the modern Choctaws, Mo-il-la, a form bearing a close resemblance to both Mauvila and Moelih.* The people of the province of Pafallaya were also Choctaws-- a fact attested by the name itself--Pafallaya, by elision from Pashfallaya, the long-haired.
* In Moelih oe must not be considered a diphthong. Both vowels must be separately and distinctly pronounced. H.S.H.
The Chickasaws, who occupied not only North Mississippi, but also a part of Northwest Alabama, were a more martial people than their Choctaw kindred. No enemy, white or red, ever defeated them in battle. They made a fierce resistance to the invasion of De Soto and their subsequent wars with the French have added a luminous chapter to the annals of the Southwest.
But not all the peoples living within the territorial bounds of the Choctaw-Muscogee tribes were of kindred blood. Living within and forming a component part of the Creek Confederacy were some allophylic elements. The Uchees, who claim to be the most ancient inhabitants of the country and whose language has no affinity with any other American tongue, were, in the eighteenth century, incorporated into the confederacy and enrolled as Lower Creeks. In like manner, among the Upper Creeks, were enrolled many Shawnees, a people of the Algonquin stock. Sawanogee, on the Tallapoosa, was a Shawnee town, subject to the Creek laws. A remnant of the celebrated Natchez tribe also lived among the Upper Creeks, having a village on Tallahatchee Creek, a tributary of the Coosa.
Of the Choctaw-Muscogee tribes, the Creeks, or Muscogees proper, stood pre-eminent over all the others, not only for prowess in war, but for political sagacity. The beginning of their famous Confederacy is lost in the depths of antiquity. The Muscogees, it seems, having gained, in ancient times, a supremacy over the contiguous tribes, adopted the custom of receiving into a political system tribes that they had subjugated in war, or else, broken or fugitive tribes that applied to them for protection. A district was forthwith assigned to the new allies, who were allowed to retain the use of their own language and customs, but were required to furnish aid for the maintenance and defense of the Confederacy. Towards the close of the eighteenth century a tradition was current among the Creeks that the Alibamos were the first tribe received into the confederacy, then the Coshattees, then the Natchez, and last, the Uchees and Shawnees.
When the French first came in contact with the Southern Indians, early in the eighteenth century the Creek Confederacy already had a vigorous existence. Its power continually strengthened, until, in the early years of the nineteenth century, it stood forth, able to confront, for near ten months, the trained armies of the Federal Government and to threaten even the very existence of the numerous American communities within the present states of Mississippi and Alabama.
CAUSES OF THE CREEK WAR
The part of Alabama, with which, mainly, this work has to do, has had a peculiar history and also some peculiar inhabitants. It may be well to rehearse briefly this history.
Every well informed American knows that Spain at first claimed and afterwards held Florida by right of discovery," and its northern boundary was undefined; that Georgia, as the last of the thirteen colonies, was settled by the English in 1733; and that the French came down the Mississippi as early as 168~, and claimed from the Great Lakes to the Gulf In 1763 France ceded to Great Britain nearly all her claims east of the Mississippi and Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain.* The English divided Florida into two provinces, calling one East and the other West Floritda. The latter extended as far north as latitude 320 28', which was the southern boundary of the English province called Illinois. As early as 1700-1699--the French commencing settlements on Mobile Bay, claimed what is now Alabama, and they held it for sixty-four years. They made some settlements up the Mobile and Tensaw rivers. In 1777 Anglo-Saxon or American settlements commenced along these rivers and up the Tombigbee. In 1783 West Florida went again into the possession of Spain, and the Spanish officials did not retire south of latitude 310 until 1799. During the War of the Revolution, and so long as Spanish rule continued, this river region attracted settlers from the Carolinas who were not satisfied with American independence. But after 1800, following the royalists or tories, came also the loyal and true American pioneers. The flags of three nations therefore, of France, of England, and of Spain, had waved over the waters of these rivers before the stars and stripes, in 1799 were here unfurled.
* The year 1763, the young reader will remember, marked the close of the French and Indian war by the treaty of Paris.
Before proceeding further in the history we may look at some of the peculiar inhabitants.
Of this whole south-eastern portion of the country a characteristic feature was, in the latter part of the eighteenth century, the residence of white traders in every large Indian town, and at points well adapted for commerce and for intrigue. At Fort Toulouse on the Coosa river, established by the French in 1714, Captain Marchand as at one time commander. He was killed there in 1722. He had taken as a wife a Muscogee or Creek maiden of the Clan of the Wind, called the most powerful clan of the Creek nation. He had a beautiful daughter called Sehoy Marchand.
There came from a wealthy home in Scotland a youth of sixteen to see the wonders of this land. His name was Lachlan McGillivray. He landed in Carolina, joined the Indian traders about 1735, saw at length the young Sehoy Marchand, "cheerful in countenance, bewitching in looks, and graceful in form," then herself about sixteen years of age, married her, some say about 1745, when he had gained some property, spent nearly fifty years as Indian trader and Georgia royalist in the American wilds, left his Indian children and his plantations, when the British left Savannah, about 1782, and returned to his native land, taking with him "a vast amount of money and movable effects." But of his Indian children, part Indian, part Scotch, part French, one, Alexander McGillivray, became noted, wealthy, and powerful. He was well educated at Charleston. He returned to the Indian country, took control of the Creek nation, received from the British the rank and pay of a British colonel in the War of the Revolution, in 1884 went to Pensacola and made a treaty with Spain as being "Emperor" of the Creeks and Seminoles, in 1790 at New York made a treaty with the American government receiving the rank of brigadier general with a salary of twelve hundred dollars a year, and afterwards was appointed by Spain Superintendent-General of the Creek nation with a salary of two thousand dollars a year which was increased in July, 1792, to thirty-five hundred. He was at the same time a member of a wealthy commercial house. He died in Pensacola February 17, 1793. One of his sisters, the beautiful and talented Sophia McGillivray, married Benjamin Durant, who was of Huguenot descent, who came from South Carolina and as early as 1786 was settled on the Alabama River. Another Indian trader, Charles Weatherford, some say from Scotland, some say from England, married a half sister of Alexander McGillivray, the daughter of a chief of pure Indian blood, who had been formerly married to Colonel Tate, at one time a British officer at Fort Toulouse. We find here therefore the names of Tate, Durant, Weatherford, and McGillivray, as members of connected families of mixed blood, talented, wealthy, influential, with whom, as individuals, in the Creek-War history we shall become further acquainted. A number of other noted border men there were who need not here be named. But one more name should not be omitted.
General Le Clerc Milfort, a well educated Frenchman, was among the Muscogees from 1776 to 1796, and he also married a sister of Alexander McGillivray, who was sometimes called Colonel and in later life General McGillivray. Milfort was for some time a noted war chief among these Indians. He returned to France and published at Paris in 1 802 a work known as "Gen. Milfort's Creek Indians." It does not appear that he left among the Indians any descendants
Mention has already been made of the settlement of this part of the early West Florida, which became a part of the Mississippi Territory as that was organized in 1798 as far south as the thirty-first parallel of north latitude and extending north, as has been stated, to latitude 32(28'.* Spanish and British plantations had been along these rivers where indigo was largely cultivated, Spanish grants of land had been made to settlers, and French, Spanish, and British royalists had all become, in some sort, Americans.
* Or from the mouth of the Yazoo Rivet due east to the Chatahoochee, Spanish, and British royalists had all become in some sort, Americans.
In 1799, May 5th, Lieutenant McLeary, for the United States, took possession of the old Fort St. Stephens on the Tombigbee River, the Spanish garrison marching out and descending the river below latitude 31 (the boundary line, this parallel, then having been but recently surveyed. In July of that year Fort Stoddart* was established, three miles below the union of the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, five by water, and about six above the Spanish line. Here was built a stockade with one bastion. already, in Spanish times, quite a settlement had been made on Lake Tensaw, just east of the Alabama and the Cut Off and Nannahubba Island, largely by tories, where was opened "the first American school" in what became Alabama, John Pierce teacher, probably in 1799. Says Pickett: "There the high-blood descendants of Lachlan McGillivray--the Taits, Weatherfords, and Durants--the aristocratic Linders, the wealthy Mims, and the children of many others first learned to read. The pupils were strangely mixed in blood, and their color was of every hue."**
* Written at first Stoddert.
** Captain John Linder was a native of Switzerland. He had been in Charleston as a British surveyor. He was aided by General McGillivray to settle with his family and a large number of colored servants at Tensaw Lake in the time of the Revolution.
These early white settlements, including those of mixed blood, were on lands which the Indians had ceded to the British and Spanish authorities, and which, when Washington county was formed in June, 1800, belonged to the United States. Says Judge Meek: "The various treaties of the French, British, and Spanish with the Indians made this region the resort of the first emigrants. The experiences of this backwoods life, for more than twenty years, were quite as singular and wonderful as those of Boone and Kenton in Kentucky, or Sevier and Robertson in Tennessee."
These settlements, taking Judge Meek's quotation from the American State Papers, were "thinly scattered along the western banks of the Mobile and Tombigbee for more than seventy miles, and extending nearly seventy-five miles upon the eastern borders of the Mobile and Alabama." For some time there was no actual civil government; there were no magistrates, no ministers, no marriage ceremonies. The young people were accustomed to marry themselves, that is they paired off, like birds, and lived together as husband and wife. Instead of weddings they had that were called pairings.
The reader may begin to think that the rehearsal of the history of this region with the notices of the peculiar inhabitants is not very brief; but surely the young reader, at least, will not object to this note, in which we will take a glance at a home where a very different scene will appear by and by. I quote:-- (The authority is Pickett, but not his words.)
"An instance is recorded of one couple who observed a little more form than the others. It was Christmas night of 1800. Daniel Johnson and Miss Elizabeth Linder, at Lake Tensaw, were acknowledged lovers. He was poor and she an heiress, so her parents objected, even in those wilds, to the 'pairing.' A large party were that night assembled at the house of Samuel Mims, and among these were the two lovers, enjoying the dance, the music, the festivities. During the evening a few younger people, Johnson and Miss Linder among them, secretly left the house, embarked on board of some canoes, paddled down the lake and down the Alabama, and arrived at Fort Stoddart an hour before the dawn of day. Captain Shaumburg, a merry-hearted German, in command of the fort was called upon to perform the marriage ceremony. In vain he declared his ignorance of such ceremonies and his want of authority. He was told that he was placed there by the Federal Government to protect the people and to regulate their affairs, and that this little affair needed his sanction.
"At length the captain yielded to their solicitations, and having the two lovers placed before him proclaimed: 'I, Captain Shaumburg, of the second regiment of the United States army, and commandant of Fort Stoddart, do hereby pronounce you man and wife. Go home, behave yourselves; multiply, and replenish the Tensaw country.' They re-entered their canoes, returned to the Tensaw Boat Yard, and the whole settlement pronounced them to be 'the best married people they had known in a long time'".
In 1801 the inhabitants were estimated at seven hundred and fifty, (five hundred being whites), in these river settlements. In 1802 a trading house was established at St. Stephens. There were American settlers now between the rivers, and new ones on the west, from Georgia and the Carolinas, from Tennessee and Kentucky.* Settlers came in rapidly until 1812, when it became evident that trouble with the Indians was near. In 1810 the population of Washington county was, whites 733, and blacks 517. Of Baldwin, formed in December, 1809, the population was, whites 667, and blacks 760. In the north, bordering on Tennessee, there was then one county only, Madison. In December of 1812 Clarke county was formed by act of the territorial legislature, being the fourth county in what became Alabama. It may readily be seen that these river settlements were well called "completely insulated." South of them, between latitude 310% and the Bay, between the Perdido River and the Mississippi, were the Spaniards; on the east, between them and Georgia, were the Creeks; on the west, between them and the Natchez and the Yazoo settlements, were the Choctaws; and on the north were the Chickasaws and Creeks between them and the nearest settlements in the bend of the Tennessee River. The reader will see therefore why this history is largely of the Creek War in South Alabama, although no Alabama state or territory existed then; for in what became South Alabama, then a part of the large Mississippi Territory, were then living the white settlers, about two thousand in number, with nearly two thousand blacks, who were deeply interested in this war, to whom it was indeed a matter of life or death.
* By a supplementary act of Congress in 1804 there was added to the Mississippi Territory all the "tract of country" south of the State of Tennessee between Georgia on the east and Louisiana on the west. From Mississippi Statutes in the library of Colonel J. W. Portis of Suggsville, Clarke county, Alabama.
And now we can more intelligently and with larger interest, having looked at some of these inhabitants, examine the CAUSES of this Creek War. It was considered at first, a war upon the whites; it became, at length, and mainly, a war, almost of extermination, against the Indians.
The opening paragraph of the fifty-third chapter of Ramsay's History of the United States, published in 1818, contains statements so just and appropriate that they are repeated as an introductory paragraph here.
"In treating of the causes and conduct of a war, maintained by a savage against a civilized nation, we are aware that the greatest caution ought to be observed, lest an undue degree of moral or physical superiority be ascribed to the latter. Between the contradictory narratives of enlightened nations, differing, as they often do, in the most minute, as well as in the most important statements, the truth may generally be found. When, however, the art of recording and perpetuating events, is possessed only by one party, it is natural that misrepresentation should occur, and the annalist to whom one source of information only is open, finds it difficult to delineate the principal textures of such hostilities without deserving the charge of partiality. Passion, prejudice, the love of gain. and contempt for the rude and uninformed people by whom they are surrounded, operate strongly to incite the frontier inhabitants of the Republic to hostilities, and to exaggerate the merit and importance of their triumphs over these undisciplined tribes. On the other hand, causes no less powerful, have long kept the greater part of the Indian people in a state of virtual warfare with the United States.
"The influence of feelings, common to all mankind in a similar situation, the desire of revenge, and the hope of re-possessing those happier seats, from which their ancestors were driven, added to the sense of their diminution, through the power and arts of their civilized neighbors, had, previously to the war of the United States with Great Britain, produced a spirit of irritation and animosity, which that event soon kindled into flame."
That the Creek Indians should have been ready for war when opportunity offered is by no means surprising. That the Indians did not all unite and sweep off the white settlers from all the Alabama portion of the Mississippi Territory, is almost remarkable. From the time of the Spanish discoveries the tread Or the white man on American soil has usually meant aggression. The white man crowds. He wants the choicest lands; he wants, in fact, the whole. The Indian is hospitable for a time; he yields; and then he tries to fight his way back.
In 1621 Edward Winslow of Plymouth wrote to a friend in London,
"We have found the Indians very faithful to their covenant of peace with us, very loving and ready to pleasure us. We often go to them, and they come to us.
"We entertain them pleasantly and familiarly in our cabins, and they, as friendly, bestow their venison on us."
But as settlements advanced a change came. Martyn writes for 1637, as introducing his account of the Pequod troubles,
But now this old epoch was buried; a new one dawned. The Indians surveyed the in-coming paleface tide which seemed always to flow and never to ebb. They asked each other: Where will this end?î And the Pequod war--the extermination of the Pequods, resulted. Often history repeats itself.
The Indians known in this history as the CREEKS, then occupying Western Georgia and what is now eastern and central Alabama, a region watered by the Chattahoochee, Coosa, Tallapoosa, Cahaba, and Alabama rivers, had seen the growth of the settlements eastward of them in Georgia. They knew something of the white settlement in Tennessee. And since the year 1800 they had seen a brisk migration of white families from Georgia and the Carolinas, directly through their country, to the Mississippi Territory. They knew that white families were living east of the Tombigbee river, between that and the Alabama river, in what is now the county of Clarke, and that some even settled east of the Alabama. They themselves claimed west of the Alabama to the water shed line, and this line bounded Clarke county on the east when it was set off from Washington county, December 10, 1812. They had claimed also to the Tombigbee River, although the Choctaws claimed to the watershed; and when in 1802 a treaty was made with the Choctaws and a tract of land was ceded by them to the United States, a Creek chief, the Mad Wolf is reported to have said: "The people of Tombigbee have put over their cattle in the Fork, on the Alibamo hunting grounds, and have gone a great way on our lands. I want them put back. We all know they are Americans."
These Alibamo Indians were the nearest of the Creek tribes and would naturally claim to the Tombigbee river. They would at once feel the encroachment of these white settlers. Thirty chiefs and warriors of the Creek nation were in Washington in the fall of 1805, and, through the influences brought to bear upon them there, they had granted the right " of using a horse path through their country." The chiefs agreed even to build bridges across the streams or to have ferry boats and to open houses of entertainment for travellers. In this same year the Choctaws ceded five million acres of their land to the United States, including that which the Creeks claimed west of the water shed. Instead of fighting with the Choctaws for this strip of land it was agreed to leave the question of ownership to be decided by an Indian game of ball. One game was played by men and the Choctaws won the game. The Creek were dissatisfied. The Choctaws then proposed that the women of each side should play. To this the Creeks agreed, and the Choctaw women won the game and held the land. This boundary line was surveyed in 1808, Creeks and Choctaws assisting in the work. Starting from what was afterwards called Hal's Lake, the line was to cross no water; and the corner post was driven near the north line of Clarke county, the locality being called the Choctaw corner. Not far away a village is now situated called Choctaw Corner.
In 1811 Lieutenant Luckett with a party of soldiers cut out a road, called the "Federal Road," through the Creek country, from a point on the Chattahoochee River to Mims' Ferry on the Alabama, and this road was soon, in the language of those who knew the facts of that migration, "filled from one end to the other" with parties of white families bound for the river and the western settlements.
The "horse path" was now a government wagon road, and the Creek Indians could not fail to see that the whites were beginning to build up a large and permanent settlement on their very borders. It was evident that they would encroach more and more upon the Alibamo hunting grounds. Choice hunting grounds these were between the two rivers, even as late as 1850. This wagon road of 1811 and this stream of migration passing through the Creek nation awakened in many of the Creek warriors strong discontent. While efforts had been made to introduce civilization among them, and with some success, yet many were restless amid the restraints which were increasing around them. The Spaniards also disliked these river settlements, and they excited still more the discontent of the Creek warriors. As Pensacola was at this time the great place of trade for the Indians and for these white settlers, it was very easy for those Spanish traders to learn the growth of the settlements and to arouse hostility in the minds of the Indians. Pensacola, to some extent, was responsible for the Creek War. But perhaps the most active agent in stirring up strife, outside of the Creek nation, was the noted Indian chief, Tecumseh, well called great, who came like a blast from the North, endeavoring to lead the Southern tribes to join his great confederacy. As he will be fully mentioned in other chapters two sentences only in regard to him will be given here.
"Brave, sagacious, and enterprising, he left no means untried to retard at least, if he could not present, the approaching extermination of his tribe."
"He visited, in person, all the tribes west of the Mississippi, and on Lakes Superior, Huron, and Erie, exciting them to hostilities by the appeals of religion and interest."
There is also another fact to be considered here. Alexander McGillivray who has been already mentioned, born at Little Tallassee, four miles above the present Wetumpka, in 1746,--Drake says, about 1739--commencing his public life as early as 1766, had held a very firm control over these Indians. Brewer speaks of him as the controlling mind in that region, the most distinguished native then born, and at the head of the Muscogee confederacy, which was more compact and formidable at that time than at any other known period of its history. Brewer further says, that he wielded an influence over his people "not felt since the days of Tuskaloosa. He was a diplomatist and scholar among a nation of savages "
Pickett speaks of him as possessing the most marked ability of any man born or reared on Alabama soil. He was now dead; and there was no one to take his place as a recognized head of the nation. In that year after his death, 1793, such was the commotion among Indians, Spaniards, and Americans, (and some very bad Americans were among the Indians), that Pickett wrote, "It appeared that the evil one himself was stalking through this wild region." Native Indian chiefs were now again coming forward to exercise their rights of government, such as Big Warrior, as Menawa, and others; while leaders of mixed blood were also exerting their influence. There was no head. The United States Agent, Colonel Benjamin Hawkins, residing for some time among them, was not their ruler, and it is not strange that a conflict broke out among themselves. Some of them continued on friendly terms with the whites, but others became very hostile.
From these statements it appears that the great exciting cause of this war was, the large and growing settlement of white pioneers along the Tombigbee and the Alabama rivers. Encroachments upon the Indian hunting grounds and rights were of necessity made. The great wagon road was an encroachment; the presence of so many white families with their cattle and hogs and horses was an encroachment. It needed not Tecumseh's stirring words to assure them that they must before long give up their Indian life, cultivate the ground and accept the white man's civilization; or the must migrate; or they must break up this settlement of sturdy frontier families on their western borders. Their proposed attempt thus to do, encouraged by the Spaniards, by Tecumseh and the British, brought on the disastrous Creek War.
TECUMSEH AMONG THE CHICKASAWS AND CHOCTAWS
In the summer of 1811, the celebrated Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, at the head of twenty armed and mounted warriors, visited the Southern Indians. His object was to induce these tribes to join the Indian Confederacy which he was forming to act in concert with the British troops in the war then impending with the United States. In company with Tecumseh was his kinsman, Seekaboo, who was to act the role of prophet and interpreter in the Southern councils.
Seekaboo was, probably, born in the Creek nation, had certainly once lived there, and in early life had emigrated north with some Shawnees. He was, at the time of Tecumseh's visit to the South, about forty years of age, a brave warrior, an eloquent orator, and gifted linguist, speaking English, Shawnee, Choctaw, and Muscogee, by which attainments he exercised great influence in the Indian councils Seekaboo was related to Tecumseh in this manner: His mother's mother was a sister of the mother of Tecumseh. His father was a half-breed, the offspring of a white man with a Creek woman.
Save one meager incident, both history and tradition are silent as to the details of Tecumseh's visit to the Chickasaws, what places he visited and how long be tarried among them, only that his mission was in vain. The tradition that has been handed down is that in the upper part of the Chickasaw nation, Tecumseh and his warriors came to the house of George Colbert. He made known to Colbert the object of his visit, and that he wished the Chickasaws to join the confederacy, and that at the proper time all the tribes were to go to war against the Americans, and he wished Colbert to use his influence with his people in effecting this object. Colbert, in reply, told Tecumseh that the Chickasaws were at peace with the whites and wished to remain so: and that he certainly would not use his influence towards involving them in any war. Tecumseh, seeing that Colbert would give no countenance to his designs, took his departure.
On leaving the Chickasaw nation, as a tradition runs, Tecumseh crossed the Oktibbeha Creek, the Choctaw and Chickasaw boundary, some three miles southwest of the present site of West Point, Mississippi, near Dick's old ferry, and there taking the Six Towns' trail, which led southerly, he camped, his first night in the Choctaw nation, in a grove on a hill, in the southwestern part of Lowndes County, about two miles from the Noxubee County line and about two hundred yards from that of Oktibbeha. This place is now occupied by the residence of the late Allen Brooks. The next morning, Tecumseh continued his southward march in the Six Towns' trail, which crossed Noxubee River, about six hundred yards above Bugg's ferry, and about seven miles beyond, he arrived at the residence of Mingo Moshulitubbee, the present Mashulaville, in Noxubee County.
Tecumseh remained at Moshulitubbee's house for several days, and a number of Choctaw mingoes and warriors came to see him. It seems that no regular council was held here, and Tecumseh made known the object of his visit, but it was received with no favor by the Choctaws present.
Tecumseh and his Shawnees then went to the village of a noted warrior, named Hoentubbee, Moshulitubbee sending a warrior with him as a guide. The village of Hoentubbee was situated near the present residence of Elias Roundtree, in the northwestern part of Kemper County, some six hundred yards north of Ben Dick Creek and about two miles from the Neshoba County line. Hoentubbee, in after years, in speaking of Tecumseh and his warriors, stated that all were armed, dressed, and painted alike. Their arms were rifles, with tomahawks and scalping knives in their belts. Their dress was a buckskin hunting shirt, a cloth flap, with buckskin leggins and moccasins profusely fringed and beaded. All wore garters below the knees. Their hair was plaited in a long cue of three plaits hanging down between the shoulders, while each temple was closely shaven. The heads of all, except Tecumseh, were adorned with plumes of hawk and eagle feathers. Tecumseh wore, depending from the crown of his head, two long crane feathers, one white, the other dyed a brilliant red. According to Indian symbolism, the white feather was an emblem of peace,--peace among the various Indian tribes. The red feather was a war emblem,--war to their enemies, the Americans. They wore silver bands on each arm, one around the wrist, one above and one below the elbow, and a few wore silver gorgets suspended from their necks. Around the forehead of each, encircling the head, was a red flannel band about three inches wide, and over this a silver band. Semicircular streaks of red war-paint were drawn under each eye, extending outward on the cheek bone. A small red spot was painted on each temple, and a large round red spot on the centre of the breast.
Tecumseh remained a number of days at the village of Hoentubbee, and at his request, many of the noted Choctaws came there to meet him in council and listen to his talk. Among those present, were Pushmataha and Moshulitubbee, mingoes, respectively, of the southeastern and northeastern districts. The Shawnees first danced their national dance, and after this the council convened near Hoentubbee's house. Tecumseh arose and through Seekaboo made a long talk. He spoke much of the bad conduct of the white people, how they were seizing the Indians' lands and reducing them to poverty, and he urged the Choctaws to join him in a general war against the oppressors. He urged, too, upon the Choctaws the duty of living at peace with the other Indian tribes; and that all the tribes ought to quit their inter-tribal wars and unite in a general confederacy; that by this means they could keep their lands and preserve their nationalities. Tecumseh also spoke of the impending war with Great Britain, and that the Choctaws must unite with the other tribes and all declare themselves allies of Great Britain. If we are to credit one of our Choctaw informants, Tecumseh also, in this talk, as well as in subsequent talks, spoke very earnestly against the Indian custom of killing women and children in war. This custom they should renounce, and henceforth, in all wars, the lives of women and children should be spared.
Such are some of the traditions of Tecumseh's talk, and among these, his reprobation of a barbarous war custom of his race is creditable to his humanity. Some of this talk was, by no means, displeasing to the Choctaws. They approved of the idea of the different tribes renouncing their intertribal wars and living at peace with each other. And they by no means objected to his advice that all Indians should renounce the custom of killing women and children in war; but they were suspicious and wary of his proposal to declare themselves allies of Great Britain. Their relations with the Americans bad ever been harmonious, and they disliked any proposal that would sever those ties of peace.
Pushmataha replied to Tecumseh, and in his talk told his people not to think of going to war; that the Choctaws had never shed the blood of white men in war;* that they had ever been at peace with them and must continue so; that there was no cause of war with the white people, and that a war with them would end in the ruin of their nation; that the white people were the friends of the Choctaws, and they must not make enemies of them by taking the talk of Tecumseh.
* It is true that the Choctaws fought against the Spaniards at Mauvila and Cabusto. But it must not be supposed that Pushmataha knew anything about these, to him, prehistoric matters. H. S. H.
The council dissolved and Tecumseh's talk was all in vain. Not one Choctaw was disposed to take his talk. During his stay at this village, which was several days, Tecumseh seems to have conceived a warm regard for Hoentubbee. Before his departure, he presented the latter a silver ornament or gorget, which Hoentubbee kept for a long time until it was destroyed by the burning of his house many years afterwards. An aged son of Hoentubbee, still living, states that Tecumseh also gave his father a written or printed paper or parchment, to which a red seal or stamp was affixed. The nature of this document must be left entirely to conjecture. As Tecumseh was connected with the British authorities, could this have been a paper authorizing the holder, in case he should join the hostiles, to draw military supplies from the Spaniards at Pensacola?
Tecumseh and his warriors, after leaving Hoentubbee's village, next went to Yazoo, situated in Neshoba County, about eleven miles south of east of Philadelphia, now known as Yazoo Old Town. The mingo of this place was named Tanampo Eshubbee. The Shawnees remained here three or four days, in which they danced their national dance, and another council was held and another talk was made by Tecumseh with reply by Pushmataha,--both of the same nature and with the same result as at the village of Hoentubbee.
Tecumseh and his warriors then went to Mokalusha. This was one of the most noted and populous towns of the Choctaws. It was situated upon a plateau on the headwaters of Talasha Creek, about twelve miles southeast of Philadelphia. The houses of the town, with the small fields interspersed, covered an area three miles long, north and south, and a mile and a half wide, east and west. During the farming season, the boys of the town kept the horses and cattle herded out on the range beyond the suburbs, to prevent their depredating on the crops, which were mostly cultivated by the women, while the men generally spent their time in hunting. Such was the division of labor in Mokalusha. Mokalusha is a corruption of Imoklasha, which signifies "Their people are there." About 1824 this ancient town was, in a great measure abandoned on account of the ravages of the small pox.
The Shawnees remained about a week at Mokalusha, and the same Choctaw mingoes came hither who had attended the former councils. After the Shawnees had danced their national dance, a council convened on a hill situated about the centre of the eastern edge of the town This hill is now occupied by the residence of the late Colonel James Wilson. Tecumseh here through Seekaboo made his talk, to which Pushmataha again replied. The Shawnee chief a third time failed to make any impression on the Choctaws.
After this council, the Shawnees, travelling down the east side of Talasha Creek, went to Chunky Town, which was situated on the west side of Chunky Creek, half a mile below the confluence of Talasha and Chunky creeks, and about five Tecumsehmiles above Hickory Station. It is stated that Pushmataha and the other mingoes, from some cause, did not follow Tecumseh to Chunky. In Tecumseh's day, and down to the treaty of Dancing Rabbit, in 1830, the long peninsular strip of country, into which Tecumseh entered after leaving Mokalusha, and which lies between Talasha and Tallihatta creeks and thence continuing southward to the confluence of Tallihatta and Chunky creeks, was under the jurisdiction of a mingo named Iskifa Chito, Big Axe. His residence was on the west bank of Tallihatta, near which spot is now Day's mill. This peninsula is still known by the old Choctaws as Iskifa Chito in Yakni, Big Axe's Country.
Pierre Juzan, a noted French Indian countryman, at this time was living at Chunky Town. He had settled among the Choctaws in early life, and had married a Choctaw woman, a niece of Pushmataha, and raised an Indian family. He spoke English, French, and Choctaw with equal fluency. Juzan had several trading houses among the Choctaws, one being at Coosha Town, situated three or four miles southeast of old Daleville, on the right bank of Issuba In Kannia bok (Lost Horse Creek), and another at Chunky. His dwelling house at Chunky was on the west side of the creek and about two hundred yards from it. He had here an apple orchard,--a rare thing in an Indian country--the trees or scions for which he had brought from France. He also had another residence at Coosha. Juzan died about 1840, at Tuscahoma, on the Tombigbee. Some time after his death, his family, with the exception of a daughter, emigrated west.
On the day of their arrival at Chunky, Tecumseh and Seekaboo called upon Juzan and had a long interview with him, in the course of which they endeavored to persuade him to use his influence with the Choctaws to induce them to join the Indian Confederacy. Juzan became greatly indignant and spurned the Shawnees' proposition. He turned away and would hold no further conversation with them. It so happened that same day that Oklahoma, a noted mingo from Coosha, a nephew of Pushmataha and brother of Juzan's wife, was in Chunky with a number of his warriors. He was soon informed by Juzan of the object of Tecumseh's visit, whereupon he became greatly enraged and forthwith ordered his warriors to mould bullets and prepare to make battle against the Shawnees. He also sent a messenger to Iskifa-Chito, to inform him of the situation and to urge him to prepare for war against the Shawnee intruders. Tecumseh, whose object was to harmonize all Indians, saw the drift of affairs, and wishing to avoid any hostile collision, he summoned his warriors and quietly withdrew from the place. The Choctaw traditions here vary. According to one tradition, Tecumseh with all his warriors then returned to Moshulitubbee's. But according to another, the Shawnees after withdrawing from Chunky, divided into two parties, one party, under Tecumseh, returning to Moshulitubbee's, whilst the other party, under Seekaboo, went down south into the present Jasper County among the Six Towns Indians, who were considered the fiercest and most warlike of all the Choctaws. Here some talks were made. Thence, making a detour to the northeast, Seekaboo's party went to Coosha. Whether at this place they again encountered the hostility of Oklahoma, we have no information. From Coosha, Seekabo went to Yahnubbee Town, situated on Yahnubbee Creek, eight miles southwest of DeKalb. The present DeKalb and Decatur road traverses the site of the old town. Making but a short stay at Yahnubbee, Seekaboo thence returned to Moshulitubbee's, where the two Shawnee parties again re-united.
In some way that cannot now be ascertained, it seems that by mutual agreement, there was to be a final council of the Choctaws with Tecumseh, and another residence of Moshulitubbee, situated in Noxubee County, about five miles northeast of Brooksville, was selected as the council ground. In going to this council, Tecumseh with his warriors travelled back the same route that he came until he crossed Noxubee River. There he left the Six Towns trail and took another, which led northeast and terminated at this second home of Moshulisubbee. Here the Shawnees remained full two weeks, and all the great mingoes and principal men of the Choctaws came hither to hear the talk of the great Tecumseh. Of these, tradition has preserved the names of Pushmataha, Moshulitubbee, Puckshenubbee, Mingo of the western district, Hoentubbee, David Folsom, and John Pitchlyn.
A few words as to this locality, which is now embraced in the Chester plantation of the late Colonel Thomas G. Blewett. The house of Moshulitubbee stood upon the crest of a hill, about a quarter of a mile westerly of the dwelling house of the plantation. About one hundred and twenty-five yards west of the dwelling house, stood a large red oak, with broad spreading leafy branches. Under this tree the council took place. It was the intention of Colonel Blewett to have this tree preserved on account of its historic associations. But in 1855, without the Colonel's knowledge, and to his great regret, the overseer had it destroyed.
When the appointed time came and the Shawnees had finished their dance, the council convened under the oak, and Tecumseh, through Seekaboo, made his talk. From the best information now attainable, the ideas of Tecumseh's talk at this council were much the same as in the harangue at Hoentubbee's; in fact, his harangues everywhere among the Choctaws were substantially the same. As a patriot, though it may be, a misguided one, Tecumseh saw the necessity of the tribes uniting in a confederation, so as to preserve their lands and their nationalities. To effect this purpose, he urged that it was necessary for them, under the circumstances, to take the side of the British in the inevitable conflict. A born savage, though he was, the great Shawnee had an innate humanity that caused him to reprobate all unnecessary barbarity in war, and in every council, he told his wild Indian fellow countrymen to renounce the custom of slaying women and children in war. The expression in Tecumseh's speech at Tuckabatchee, recorded in Claiborne's Sam Dale--"Slay their women and children"--is an error, a mistake. At no period in life, in none of his war speeches, did Tecumseh ever give vent to such a sentiment.
This was Tecumseh's last talk to the Choctaws. The next day, Pushmataha made his reply. He spoke of the long existing friendship of the white people and the Choctaws, between whom no wars had ever occurred, and the Choctaws could truly say that they had never shed the blood of white men in war. There was no war, or cause of war with white people, and the Choctaws must not be led into any war by Tecumseh. In closing his speech he turned to the mingoes present and said that if any Choctaw warrior should take the talk of Tecumseh and join the hostiles, and should he not be killed in battle, he must be put to death on his return home.
The other mingoes also made talks after Pushmataha, and all concurred in his opinion that if any warrior should take the talk of Tecumseh, he must be put to death. All the mingoes seemed willing to follow the lead of Pushmataha, who from the very beginning, had taken a stand against Tecumseh. John Pitchlyn and David Folsom also used an active influence against the Shawnees. The statement in Claiborne's Mississippi that some of the Choctaw mingoes were hostile or inclined to take Tecumseh's talk is altogether erroneous. As to the hostility of Hopaii Iskitini, Little Leader, it is sufficient to say that he was a mere boy at that time, probably about twelve years of age.
After all the speeches were made, the mingoes held a private conference in regard to Tecumseh, after which they informed him of their decision, which was that if he did not leave the* country they would put him to death. They also commissioned David Folsom to take a band of warriors and see Tecumseh safe across the Tombigbee. It is not known how soon after Tecumseh obeyed this injunction. But both parties, Tecumseh and his Shawnees, and Folsom with his Choctaws, all mounted and equipped, in due time, marched towards the southeast and arrived at the Tombigbee, near the present little village of Memphis, in Pickens County, Alabama, where they camped. Hoentubbee was with Folsom's party, and also two or three white men. The next morning all went to work to make rafts to cross the river. The rafts were made by tying logs together with grape vines. The warriors seated themselves on the rafts, and while some would paddle, others would hold the horses by the bridle and make them swim in the rear. By sunset, a part of the Shawnees had launched their rafts and crossed over, Tecumseh among the number. Folsom remained with the other party on the western bank.
The ensuing night, it happened that a large party of marauding Creek warriors crossed the river below, came into Folsom's camp and stole several Choctaw and Shawnee horses. They took them several miles below, tied them in a swamp, then taking the back trail, they hid themselves in the cane, about two miles below Folsom's camp. The next morning, finding several of their horses missing, some of the Choctaws and Shawnees, part mounted and part afoot, went in search of them. They soon discovered the marauders' trail and were eagerly following it up when they came near the Muscogee ambuscade. Here, all at once, they received a galling fire from the wily foe, by which some were killed and some wounded. The remainder returned the fire, then fled, hotly pursued, back to the camp. In the retreat, a horse was shot in the shoulder. His rider, a Shawnee, then leaped to the ground and continued his flight afoot. Without further casualty, the party arrived at the camp. The Muscogees took possession of a hill which stood to the south of the camp, and now from hill-top to valley the fight began to rage, the Choctaw and the Shawnee pitted against the martial Muscogee. The camp on the other side of the river heard the firing, and Tecumseh's warrior spirit was aroused. All crossed over to the relief of the beleaguered camp, and the fight raged with greater fury. The smoke of battle soon darkened the field, enveloping the Muscogees on the hill and settling down on the cane-brake which sheltered the Choctaws and the Shawnees. The Creeks made several efforts to drive their enemies from their cover. At one time two daring warriors, making a flank movement, had even penetrated to the Choctaws' rear, but were there discovered and slain. All day, with rival bravery, the warriors of Tecumseh and Folsom fought the common foe. About sunset, encouraged by Tecumseh, an assault was made up the hill, the Muscogees were dislodged and put to fight, and the shouts of the victors resounded over the field. Both sides had a considerable number killed and wounded, Folsom, whilst standing behind a tree, in the art of shooting at a warrior in his front, received a rifle ball through the right shoulder from another hostile warrior, who had taken a position in front of the Choctaw right flank. Hoentubbee also received a wound, though a slight one, being struck by a spent ball. While fighting bravely against the enemy, a rifle ball struck a large cane in his front and glancing struck the warrior with considerable force on the breast. For a moment supposing himself smitten with a mortal wound, Hoentubbee cried out with a loud voice, "Sallishke!" "I am dead!" But he soon realized that he was not so dead after all. This little incident afforded much amusement to the Choctaw warriors. The Creeks, according to their national custom, bore off from the field all their wounded, and as many of their slain warriors as they could with safety to themselves. But they were compelled to abandon a few, whom the Choctaws plundered and scalped without compunction. The Shawnees took no part in this act, perhaps, by the command of Tecumseh, since the fight was a necessity forced upon them. The next morning, the victors buried their dead, then all able to do so crossed the river, Folsom, notwithstanding his wound, crossing over with his people. Folsom's mission was now accomplished. He had seen the Shawnees across the Tombigbee, and they now separated, the Shawnees continuing their course towards the domains of the Muscogees and the Seminoles.
The Choctaw warriors now resolved not to re-cross the Tombigbee until they had retaliated upon the Muscogees for the loss of their horses and the death of their warriors. Folsom returning to Moshulitubbee's on account of his wound, the fierce braves selected another leader, went over to the Black Warrior, and there wreaked their vengeance to the full. They burned a number of the houses of the Muscogees, slew their warriors, and seized their horses. By a strange freak of fortune, they recovered, in a cane brake on the Black Warrior, the very same Choctaw and Shawnee horses that had been captured on the Tombigbee. At last, enriched with booty and scalps, they recrossed the Tombigbee in triumph, thence went to the house of Mingo Achillitubbee, (in Neshoba County, half a mile northeast of the Bogue Chitto bridge), where they underwent those ceremonies of purification customary, in ancient times, among the Choctaws on their return home from the war path.
The above sketch of Tecumseh's visit to the Chickasaws and Choctaws has been worked out from original and authentic sources. The greater part of the information was received from Charley Hoentubbee, of Kemper County, a son of the warrior, Hoentubbee. In 1880, the writer had repeated conversations with Charley Hoentubbee, who related to him all the facts that he had ever heard from his father in regard to Tecumseh's visit to the Choctaws. He stated that he had often heard his father talk about this visit. Hoentubbee, the warrior, died in Kemper County, in 1860. In 1885, the writer also interviewed the aged Hemonubbee, of Neshoba County, in regard to Tecumseh. Hemonubbee stated that he was a boy about twelve years of age, when Tecumseh passed through the Choctaw Nation; that his father, Fillamotubbee, attended several of the councils; and in after years, he had often heard his father and other Choctaws converse about Tecumseh's visit. Hemonubbee's statements were substantially the same as Hoentubbee's, though not so much in detail. Neither Hoentubbee nor Hemopubbee, however, was very familiar with the incidents of Tecumseh's visit to Chunky. For these incidents, the writer is indebted to the late Mr. James Cassels of Newton County and Jack Amos, a Choctaw, of the same county. Both related the same identical facts, Mr. Cassels receiving the information from Pierre Juzan, and Amos, from Oklahoma. Amos is a nephew of Oklahoma and grand nephew of Pushmataha, being a grandson of Nahotima, a sister of Pushmataha. In 1877, Mr. G. W. Campbell, of Noxubee County, related to the writer some facts about Tecumseh's visit, he receiving the information. in early life, from Stonie Hadjo, one of Moshulitubbee's captains, who died in Noxubee County, about 1838. Stonie Hadjo's statements, as far as they went, agreed with those of Hoentubbee and Hemonubbee. Mr. Campbell and Hoentubbee, however, could not recollect the name of Tecumseh's interpreter, Seekaboo, Mr. Campbell simply remembering Stonie Hadjo's statement that he was a relative of Tecumseh's mother. But Mr. Cassels, Jack Amos, and Hemonubbee remembered the name distinctly, Amos stating besides that the Choctaws were astonished at Seekaboo's familiarity with their language. Hemonubbee gave the precise relationship of Seekaboo to Tecumseh, which fact, Seekaboo must have related to the Choctaws. The Choctaws' informants all agree in stating that Tecumseh and his warriors were mounted.
From a short biographical sketch of David Folsom, in the bibliography of the Muskhogean languages, the inference might possibly be drawn that Folsom was too young to be a man of affairs in Tecumseh's day. In reply to this possible objection the writer will state that he has been informed by an old citizen of Mississippi, who knew David Folsom well, that Folsom had grown children at the time of the treaty of Dancing Rabbit, in 1830. This would surely make Folsom old enough to be a man of some influence among the Choctaws in 1811, nineteen years before the treaty. The writer besides closely questioned Charley Hoentubbee on this special point, and he stoutly contended that David Folsom was the man that conducted the Shawnees across the Tombigbee.
The meager incident of Tecumseh's Chickasaw visit was received from the late Mr. W. G. Harris, of Winston County. Mr. Harris stated that m 1833 he spent a night at the house of George Colbert, on Shookatonche Creek, and that in their conversation Colbert related to him this incident.
The best documentary evidence has been followed in giving twenty as the number of Tecumseh's warriors, but Hoentubbee's tradition makes them much more numerous.
After sifting and comparing all the information given by the above parties in regard to Tecumseh's Southern visit, the writer is satisfied that all the statements which he has recorded in the above chapter are substantially correct.
The topographical matter is the result of personal observations. E. S. H.
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