Chapter 43: Traety of Fort Jackson -- Attack upon Mobile Point -- March upon Pensacola

Albert James Pickett: HISTORY OF ALABAMA.
(Kindly contributed by William C. Bell)



July 10 1814: On the resignations of Generals Hamilton and Harrison, Jackson had been promoted to the rank of major-general. Leaving the Hermitage once more, he proceeded with a small escort to Fort Jackson, where he safely arrived, and assumed the command of the Southern army. He had been empowered by the Federal Government to conclude a treaty of peace with the Creek nation. Aug. 9: After much opposition from the Big Warrior and other Chiefs to the surrender of the territory which was demanded, a treaty was signed. It was stipulated that a line should commence upon the Coosa, at the southern boundary of the Cherokee nation, and continue down that river to Wetumpka, and thence eastwardly to Georgia. East and north of that line, containing upwards of one hundred and fifty thousand square miles, remained to the Indians. West and south of it was secured to the United States. This territory was obtained as an indemnification for the expenses incurred by the government in prosecuting the war. Before the treaty was signed the Big Warrior addressed Jackson and Hawkins in a long speech, and tendered them, in the name of the friendly Chiefs, a reservation of three miles square of land each, "to be chosen where you like, from that we are going to give, as near as you can to us, for we want you to live by us and give us your advice." To George Mayfield and Alexander Curnells, their interpreters, they also gave one mile square each. Jackson accepted of this national mark of regard for him if approved by the President, who, he said, "would doubtless appropriate its value in aid of your naked women and children." Colonel Hawkins said:

"I have been long among you?I have grown grey in your service?I shall not much longer be your agent. You all know that when applied to by red, black or white, I looked not to color, but to the justice of the claim. I shall continue to be friendly and useful to you while I live, and my children, born among you, will be so brought up as to do the same. I accept your present and esteem it the more highly by the manner of bestowing it, as it resulted from the impulse of your own minds, and not from any intimation from the general or me." *

* Indian Affairs, vol. 1.

Among other gallant officers present upon this occasion was Colonel Arthur P. Hayne, who, after the peace, resided in Autauga county, Alabama, and was there much esteemed and respected. He was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on the 12th March, 1790, and descended from a family distinguished in the Revolution. Although not of age when the attack was made by the British upon the Chesapeake, he entered Colonel Wade Hampton's regiment of light dragoons as a first lieutenant. In 1809 he was stationed upon the Mississippi with Scott and Gaines, who then held the same rank with himself. When war was declared against England, Hayne was ordered to the North, and he presently participated in the battle of Sackett's Harbor, in which he displayed so much gallantry and judgment that he was immediately promoted to the command of a squadron of cavalry, with the rank of major. He was with Wilkinson in 1813 on the St. Lawrence. General Hampton, who wanted Hayne to join his wing of the army, in one of his letters to the Secretary of War, employed this complimentary language: "Send me Hayne; I want his constitutional ardor -- it will add much to the strength of my army." After Major Hayne had been in several severe engagements at the North, he received the important appointment of inspector-general; and being ordered to join Jackson in the Creek nation, we find him at the marquee of that officer when the treaty was made. Colonel Hayne, during the battle of New Orleans, was constantly in his saddle, executing the many hazardous trusts confided to him by Jackson with promptness, bravery and ability. In later years, the duties of important offices abroad, emanating from the Federal Government, have been confided to him. He is now a resident of Charleston.

In the meantime, General Jackson had been vigilant as to the movements of the British and their Indian allies upon the coast of the Floridas. He constantly despatched spies to Pensacola and other points, who returned and confirmed the previous reports which had reached him. Provoked at the treachery of the Spaniards, he addressed a letter to Manriquez Governor of Pensacola, remonstrating against the attitude of the Spanish authorities towards the United States, a power with which Spain professed to be at peace. Manriquez, in his reply, denied that the fugitive Red Sticks were then with him, and that if they were he could not surrender them, upon the ground of hospitality, nor refuse them assistance at a moment when their distresses were so great; and, in admitting that the English had and still used the posts of Florida, he justified it on account of a treaty which existed between Great Britain and the Indians previous to the conquest of the Floridas by Spain. Jackson replied in strong terms to this letter, despatching Captain Gordon with the document, who was instructed to gain additional information of the designs of the enemy.

Having arranged all things at the fort which bore his name, Jackson, in company with Colonel Hayne, departed down the Alabama, in boats, with a portion of his troops, and arriving at Mobile, made that place his headquarters. He had been admonished that it was the design of the English soon to attack the city. Aug. 11 1814: He addressed a letter to Colonel Butler, which reached that officer, at Nashville, on the 9th of September, urging him to hasten the advance of the volunteers to protect that point and New Orleans. Soon General Coffee was on the march from Tennessee, at the head of two thousand men, while Colonel Butler hastened to press forward the militia under Colonel Lowery, which had been, heretofore, required for garrisoning posts in the Indian country. Captains Baker and Butler also commenced the march from Nashville to Mobile, with the regular forces lately enlisted.

Colonel Nichol, an Irishman by birth, now a British officer, arrived at Pensacola with a small squadron of his majesty's ships, immediately manned the Forts Barancas and St. Michael, and hoisted the British flag upon their ramparts. Aug. 29 1814: Making the house of Governor Manriquez his headquarters, Nichol sought to draw around his standard the malcontents and traitors of the country, by issuing a proclamation, stating that he had come with a force sufficient to relieve them from the chains which the Federal Government was endeavoring to rivet upon them. This presumptuous appeal was even extended to the patriotic people of Kentucky and Louisiana. At the same time, in conjunction with Captain Woodbine, he employed himself in collecting and clothing, in British uniform, the Red Sticks and Seminoles, whom he publicly drilled in the streets of Pensacola. To these, and all the Red Sticks, he promised a bounty of ten dollars for every scalp, whether of men, women or children.

Fort Bowyer, at Mobile Point, had been dismantled by the orders of General Flournoy, who deemed it incapable of defence. Jackson, soon after arriving at Mobile, sailed to the Point, and after an inspection of this defence, resolved to garrison it. Sept. 12 1814: Sending from Mobile the artillery which was taken from it, and one hundred and thirty men, including officers, Major Lawrence, the commander, immediately prepared to resist the attacks of the enemy, should he make his appearance. At length a sentinel, stationed towards Lake Borgne, discovered six hundred Indians and one hundred and thirty British marines. In the evening, two English sloops of war, with two brigs, came to anchor on the coast, within six miles east from the fort. Sept. 13: The next day, at twelve o'clock, the land force approaching within seven hundred yards, threw three shells and one cannon ball. The shells exploded in the air, but the ball carried away a timber of the rampart. The Americans, returning a few shots, forced the assailants to retire behind the sand hills, a mile and a half distant, where they began to raise intrenchments, but a few more discharges from the fort dispersed them. Some small boats were sent out from the ships to sound the channel, but the discharge from the battery drove them off. Sept. 15: The ships now stood out to sea, but about two o'clock they bore down upon the fort in order of battle, the Hermes, on board of which was Commodore Percy, being in the advance. The Americans opened a fire upon her at four o'clock, but she came to anchor within musket shot -- the other three taking their position behind her. The engagement became general, the ships discharging whole broadsides, while the American circular battery was destructive in its operations. Captain Woodbine opened a battery with a land force, from behind a sand bluff on the southeastern shore, seven hundred yards distant, but the south battery of the Americans soon dispersed them. A furious cannonade of an hour filled the air with so much smoke, that Major Lawrence ceased for a moment, to ascertain the intentions of the English, seeing that the halyard of the commodore's flag had been carried away. The commodore raised a new flag, and, at that moment, all the guns of the American battery were discharged, sensibly shaking the earth around. After a short silence, the English renewed the action. The cable of the Hermes was cut and she was carried away by the current, keeping her head to the fort, which enabled Lawrence, for twenty minutes, to rake her, fore and aft.

Sept. 15 1814: In the hottest of the engagement, Lawrence seized a sponge staff and hoisted upon the edge of the parapet another flag to supply the place of the one which had been carried away. The land force, under Woodbine, seeing the fall of the flag, rushed in triumph towards the fort; but some discharges of grape again dispersed them. The Hermes drifted a half mile, ran aground and was set on fire. The brig was so disabled that she could scarce retire to join the other two vessels, which now all put to sea. At eleven o'clock at night the explosion of the magazine blew up the Hermes. *

* British loss -- 162 killed, 70 wounded:, American loss-- 4 killed, 4 wounded. Latour's War in West Florida and Louisiana, pp 32-42. Russell's History of the War, p. 279. Williams' Florida, p.200. Eaton's Life of Jackson, pp. 236-237.

The attack upon Mobile Point was a confirmation of the previous conjecture of General Jackson, and he determined to throw a force into Pensacola sufficient to expel the enemy, who had sailed to that place after their defeat at Fort Bowyer. He despatched Colonel Hayne to Fort Montgomery, which was then in command of Colonel Thomas H. Benton, under whose superintendence it was erected, for the purpose of organizing the troops in that quarter. Colonel Hayne discharged this duty with his usual promptness and decision. About this time, General Coffee had encamped on the western side of the Tombigby, opposite the Cut-Off, with two thousand eight hundred men. Oct. 26 1814: Jackson reached his camp, and strained every nerve to afford supplies for the army, effecting loans upon his own credit and responsibility. The army crossed the Tombigby, and proceeded across Nannahubba Island to Mims' Ferry. One thousand volunteers, hitherto mounted, left their horses in the care of keepers, to feed on the cane, and now cheerfully marched on foot. Nov. 4: Reaching Fort Montgomery, the army reposed a short time, and again took up the line of march for Pensacola. It consisted of the third, thirty-ninth and forty-fourth regiments of infantry, the militia of Tennessee, a battalion of volunteer dragoons of the Mississippi Territory and some friendly Indians. Nov. 6: Encamping within one mile and a half of Pensacola, Jackson sent a detachment of cavalry, under Lieutenant Murray, of the Mississippi dragoons, to reconnoitre. They captured a Spanish picket-guard, but could perceive nothing. Lieutenant Murray was, unfortunately, killed by an Indian, while in a path somewhat separated from his command.

Major Pierre was despatched from headquarters to the governor with a summons, preparatory to an attack upon the town, but was fired upon when he had arrived within three hundred yards of Fort St. Michael, although he held a white flag in his hand. Impelled by a feeling of humanity towards the oppressed Spaniards, whose fortifications were held by the English, Jackson sent a letter by a prisoner to the Governor, demanding an explanation for the insult offered to his flag. Through an officer, his excellency disclaimed any participation in the transaction, and gave a pledge that American officers should in future be treated with respect. Major Pierre being again sent at midnight, was unsuccessful in his negotiation with the Governor to allow Jackson to occupy Forts Barancas and St. Michael, until Spanish troops should arrive in sufficient numbers to protect the Floridas from British outrages upon the neutrality of the nation. Major Pierre then left the Governor, with the assurance that recourse would be had to arms.

Nov. 6 1814: Zachariah McGirth, who has been mentioned in reference to Fort Mims and the battle of Calebee, was sent by Jackson into Pensacola, to ascertain the number and position of the enemy. About midnight he returned, and reported that a body of Indians, British and Spaniards, whom he estimated at over five thousand, occupied the heart of the town, and that some distance in advance of them, in the direction of the American camp, another party had erected a battery across the street. Knowing that this battery commanded the only avenue by which he could reach the enemy, without passing under the guns of Fort St. Michael, Jackson determined to remove it. He sent for Captain Larval, of the third regiment, and informed him that he had selected him as the man to "lead the forlorn hope." He ordered him to pick one hundred and twenty men, for the purpose of storming the battery. Laval commanded a company composing that number, and, although he had the option of selecting men from other companies, he first appealed to his own men, and stated to them the dangerous duty which had been assigned to him. They all responded by saying, "Wherever you go, Captain Laval, we follow." About eight o?clock in the morning Laval began his march. Nov. 7 1814: Captain Denkins, who was ordered to support him with two pieces of artillery, if it should become necessary, marched some distance in the rear. Colonel Hayne, so anxious for the success of Laval, who was his warm friend, rode in the rear of the company. When Laval came near the battery Denkins and his artillery were far behind, in consequence of the rapid march of the former and the heavy sand, which retarded the pieces of the latter. The enemy opened their cannon upon the " forlorn hope," while numerous assailants annoyed them by cross fires from the houses and gardens. The brave Laval, at the head of his company, however, marched steadily on. Colonel Hayne now dismounted and rushed upon the enemy on foot. Finally Laval reached the battery, and at that moment a large grape shot tore his leg to pieces, and he instantly fell to the ground. The troops rushed over the battery and secured the pieces of the enemy, all of whom presently fled, except the commanding officer, who bravely maintained his position and was taken a prisoner.

Captain William Laval, now Major Laval, was born on the 27th May, 1788, in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, who had been an officer in France, came to America with the French army, in the legion of the Duke of Lauzun, to assist us in the struggle for our liberties. He was a cavalry officer, and participated in several of the American battles in Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey, and after peace was declared was, for many years, a Sheriff of the Charleston district. The son entered the American army in October, 1808, as an ensign. He was stationed at Forts Moultrie and Johnson, and at a recruiting encampment upon the Catawba. In 1812, he was appointed a first lieutenant. In January, 1813, he advanced with his company, commanded by Captain Moore, from Fort Hawkins across the Creek nation to Mobile and from thence to New Orleans. Very soon after, when the Creek war broke out, he was promoted to the post of captain, and marched with the third regiment, to which his company belonged, to Fort Claiborne, and from thence to the Holy Ground, in the battle of which he participated. From the wound which he received upon the occasion of the siege of Pensacola, he was a severe sufferer for two years; but, although it has rendered him a cripple for life, he is now in fine health, and moves upon his crutches with ease and animation. Since the war, he has held various respectable offices, conferred by a people grateful for his military services. He has been a Secretary of State of South Carolina, its Comptroller-General, a Sheriff of Charleston, an officer in the custom-house, Assistant Treasurer of the United States under Mr. Polk, and is now the Treasurer of the State of South Carolina. Major Laval is near six feet high, very erect in person, and presents a very striking and military appearance.

Nov. 7 1814: In the capture of the Spanish battery, seven Americans were killed and eleven wounded, among whom, besides Laval, was Lieutenant Flournoy. Four Spaniards were killed, six wounded and several captured.

After the storming of this battery, three thousand Americans, in three columns, advanced and proceeded along the beach, eastward of the town, to avoid the fire from St. Michael. A flag of truce from Governor Manriquez produced a cessation of hostilities. The former terms of Jackson were now agreed to; but the commandant of St. Michael refused to obey the governor. Jackson now, leaving Major Pierre, with eight hundred men, with orders to possess the fort before night, retired to his camp with the remainder of his troops, the British attempting to intercept his march by the fire of long guns from the shipping.

It was important that the Americans should possess the fort before morning, for the British vessels, provided with spring cables, were, at any moment, ready to fire the town, or effect a landing. Indeed, by the aid of their boats, they had continued to fire upon our troops, as they passed along the principal streets; but Lieutenant Call, with a single piece of artillery, suddenly appeared upon the beach, and dispersed them. Five hundred men were now placed upon the beach, to oppose the landing of the British, while Captain Denkins, with two companies and three pieces of cannon, occupied Mount St. Bernard, which commanded Fort St. Michael. At six o'clock p. m., Colonel Sotto, after having sent a verbal message that he would surrender, refused to receive Captain Denkins and his command, which had been ordered to possess the fort, upon the presence that they could not evacuate before morning. When Denkins was about to commence an attack, Sotto, aware of the consequences, surrendered, and at eleven o'clock at night the Americans took possession. On the same afternoon the battery of St. Rose, opposite Fort Barancas, was blown up by the Spaniards.

Nov. 8: The next morning the Governor refused to give an order for the surrender of Fort Barancas, and Jackson resolved to take it; but, while preparations were making to march down against it, it was blown up by order of the commandant. The British shipping, by this act, were enabled to pass by the ruins of Fort Barancas and put to sea. Had Jackson possessed it in time, they would have been cut off from retreat.

Nov. 9: Having effected the expulsion of the British from Pensacola, captured one of the forts, while the others were destroyed by the enemy themselves, and forced the Red Sticks to retreat to the forests in a perishing condition, and, being aware that his army could only be supported by tedious land transportation, that winter was setting in, and that the defence of New Orleans demanded his services, General Jackson took up the line of march for Fort Montgomery, where he arrived without accident.

Placing a considerable portion of his army under Major Uriah Blue, of the thirty-ninth regiment, the commander-in-chief visited Mobile, and then departed for New Orleans.

Major Blue, at a period between the attack upon Pensacola and the battle of New Orleans, scoured the swamps of the Escambia and all the bays in West Florida with a large force of mounted men, consisting of Americans, Choctaws, Chickasaws and friendly Creeks. He killed many of the refugee Creeks, who fought him in their dense retreats, and captured a large number, besides women and children, whom he constantly sent to Fort Montgomery, guarded by strong detachments. We regret exceedingly that want of space forces us to omit a detailed account of this fatiguing and perilous expedition, taken from the lips of an intelligent surgeon. In some other work we hope to be able to record the brilliant achievements and valuable services per formed on this occasion by Major Blue. We would remark, however, that he was the officer who brought the Creek war of 1813 and 1814 to a final termination. No official account of this march has fallen into our hands, and we believe none exists.

In drawing our account of the Creek war to a close, we cannot refrain from indulging in some reflections upon the bravery, endurance, self-sacrifice and patriotism of the Red Sticks. Let us, for a moment, recapitulate their achievements, never yet rivalled in savage life. They defeated the Americans at Burnt Corn, and compelled them to make a precipitate retreat. They reduced Fort Mims, after a fight of five hours, and exterminated its numerous inmates. They encountered the large force under Coffee, at Tallasehatche, and fought till not one warrior was left, disdaining to beg for quarter. They opposed Jackson at Talladega, and, although surrounded by his army, poured out their fire, and fled not until the ground was almost covered with their dead. They met Floyd at Auttose, and fought him obstinately, and then again rallied and attacked him, a few hours after the battle, when he was leading his army over Heydon's Hill. Against the well-trained army of Claiborne they fought at the Holy Ground, with the fury of tigers, and then made good their retreat across the Alabama. At Emuckfau, three times did they charge upon Jackson, and when he retreated towards the Coosa they sprang upon him, while crossing the creek at Enitachopco, with the courage and impetuosity of lions. Two days afterwards, a party under Weatherford rushed upon the unsuspecting Georgians at Calebee, threw the army into dismay and confusion, and stood their ground in a severe struggle, until the superior force of Floyd forced them to fly, at daylight. Sixty days after this, Jackson surrounded them at the Horse-Shoe, and, after a sanguinary contest of three hours, nearly exterminated them, while not one of them begged for quarter. At length, wounded, starved and beaten, hundreds fled to the swamps of Florida; others went to Pensacola, and, rallying under Colonel Nichol, attacked Fort Bowyer. Fierce scouting parties, during the whole war, had operated against them, from point to point, and they were not finally overcome until Major Blue made the expedition just related.

Thus were the brave Creeks opposed by the combined armies of Georgia, Tennessee and the Mississippi Territory, together with the federal forces from other States, besides numerous bands of bloody Choctaws and Chickasaws. Fresh volunteers and militia, from month to month, were brought against them, while no one came to their assistance, save a few English officers, who led them to undertake enterprises beyond their ability to accomplish. And how long did they contend against the powerful forces allied against them? From the 27th of July, 1813, to the last of December, 1814. In every engagement with the Americans, the force of the Creeks was greatly inferior in number, except at Burnt Corn and Fort Mims.

Brave natives of Alabama! to defend that soil where the Great Spirit gave you birth, you sacrificed your peaceful savage pursuits! You fought the invaders until more than half your warriors were slain! The remnant of your warlike race yet live in the distant Arkansas. You have been forced to quit one of the finest regions upon earth, which is now occupied by Americans. Will they, in some dark hour, when Alabama is invaded, defend this soil as bravely and as enduringly as you have done? Posterity may be able to reply.

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