Chapter 44: ... British Take Mobile Point -- Peace Declared -- The Alabama Territory

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



Jan. 8 1815: The victory of the Americans at New Orleans forced the British to abandon the banks of the Mississippi and hover about Mobile Point. Twenty-five of their vessels anchored in a semi-circular position five miles from Fort Bowyer. Thirteen ships of the line anchored two miles in the rear of it. Five thousand men landed and encamped. Feb. 12: After several days of the most active preparations for the reduction of this little American defence, still under the command of the brave Major Lawrence, the latter assembled a council of his officers, who decided that it was impossible to contend with a powerful force, both by sea and land. The next day, according to previous negotiations, three hundred and sixty Americans, including officers, marched out of Fort Bowyer, with colors flying and drums beating, and took up quarters on board of three British ships of the line, as prisoners of war.*

Dec. 24 1814: The treaty of peace between England and the United States, concluded at Ghent, did not reach General Jackson at New Orleans until the 13th March. A few days after this the latter informed Admiral Cochrane, of the British navy, of the joyous intelligence. But the latter, whose fleet still lay about Mobile Point, did not leave our shores immediately, in consequence of the exchange of prisoners constantly going on. Besides this, the great mortality from the wounds and disease which prevailed throughout his shipping, still further retarded his departure. Hundreds of British soldiers were entombed in the white sands of Mobile Point and Dauphin Island. At length, the first of April witnessed the departure of our enemies and the happiness of our people, now once more left to repose.

* Latour's Late War in West Florida and Louisiana, pp. 207-216.

June 9 1815: At this period a large tract of country was still in possession of the Chickasaws, south and west of Madison county, but the American population began to form settlements upon it. Hundreds went lower down, upon the Tombigby, and others upon its head waters. Governor Holmes extended, by proclamation, the jurisdiction of the Mississippi Territory over the country of the Black Warrior and Tombigby, now acquired from the Chickasaws by treaty, and gave the whole the name of Monroe county.

Madison, north of the Tennessee, at this time less than thirteen miles square, had, within six years, obtained a population of more than ten thousand souls, many of whom were wealthy and intelligent planters from the Southern Atlantic States. Gabriel Moore, Hugh McVay and William Winston were elected to the Territorial Legislature from this county in June. Fifteen hundred and seventy votes were cast in Madison at the election for a delegate to Congress, while the aggregate vote of the counties of Jefferson, Claiborne and Adams, was only fourteen hundred and twenty. The Washington district, upon the Tombigby, sent only two members to the Territorial Legislature.

The lands acquired by the treaty of Fort Jackson began to be only partially settled, as much of them was still in the occupancy of the Creeks, who had not removed, and, owing to the intrigues of British emissaries, still in Florida, the boundary lines had not been established. Indeed, even before the 16th October, the Creeks had again commenced hostilities upon the frontiers of Georgia, and had broken up the military cantonments on the line from Fort Jackson to Fort Mitchell.

Dec. 12: Again, settlements were still further retarded by the proclamation of the President, forbidding the settlement of this territory until it was surveyed.

To facilitate the advance of population north and west of the Creek nation, and to prevent encroachments upon the Choctaws, Chickasaws and Cherokees, commissioners of the United States obtained, by treaties, in the autumn of 1816, all the territory from the head waters of the Coosa westward to Cotton Gin Port, and to a line running from thence to the mouth of Caney Creek, on the Tennessee. After this, the Americans pressed forward, and, before the close of 1816, the population of the Mississippi Territory was more than seventy-five thousand, including slaves. Forty-six thousand of this population was distributed in the counties west of Pearl river, the remainder in the Tennessee valley, and upon the Tombigby and the Mobile.

1817: On the 1st March, Congress declared that the Mississippi Territory should be divided, by a line commencing at the mouth of Bear Creek, on the Tennessee, thence to the northwest corner of Washington county, and thence south, with the western limit of that county, to the sea. Aug. 15: A convention, also upon the authority of Congress, composed of fortyfour delegates, assembled at the town of Washington, near Natchez, and adopted the constitution of the State of Mississippi. None of the counties now lying in Alabama were represented in this convention. On the 10th December, the acts of the convention were ratified by Congress, and Mississippi became a member of the Federal Union.

The territory east of the new State of Mississippi, Congress erected into a territorial government, giving it the name of Alabama, from the great river which drained its centre. Upon the first organization of this new government, seven counties only -- Mobile, Baldwin, Washington, Clarke, Madison, Limestone and Lauderdale -- were formed within our limits, and they enjoyed the legislative and judicial powers which they possessed before the division, and the officers retained their places. The seat of government was temporarily fixed at St. Stephens.

William Wyatt Bibb was appointed Governor of the Alabama Territory. He was born in Amelia county, Virginia, October 2, 1781. His father, William Bibb, had held the commission of captain in the revolutionary war, and was afterwards a respectable member of the legislature of Virginia. His mother, whose maiden name was Wyatt, a native of New Kent county, of the same State, was a lady of superior intellect, and was favorably known to the early settlers of Alabama. The family removed to Georgia at an early period, and settled in Elbert county, upon the Savannah. Captain Bibb died in 1796, leaving to his wife the care and responsibility of eight children, all of whom she lived to see in affluent and respectable positions in life. William, the subject of this notice, graduated at the College of William and Mary, returned to Georgia and established himself as a physician in the town of Petersburg. Shortly afterwards, he was elected to the legislature, where, for several sessions, he evinced considerable talents and usefulness. When scarcely twenty-five years of age, he took a seat in Congress, at the commencement of the session of 1806, where he was an active and efficient member. From the Senate of the United States to which he afterwards succeeded, he was transferred by President Monroe to the government of Alabama.

The first Territorial Legislature convened at St. Stephens the 19th January, 1818. James Titus was the only member of the Executive Council or Senate. He sat alone, and decided upon the acts of the lower house, and adjourned and met again with a show of formality quite ludicrous. Gabriel Moore, of Madison county, was the speaker of the house, which was composed of about thirteen members. Governor Bibb, on the 20th, presented his message, in which he recommended the advancement of education, the establishment of roads, bridges and ferries, the alteration in the boundaries of counties, and the formation of new ones, and many other things, calculated to promote the welfare of the Territory. He brought to the serious attention of the assembly the petition from the Mississippi convention, recently addressed to Congress, praying that body to enlarge the limits of Mississippi, by restricting those of the Alabama Territory to the Tombigby river. He opposed the project, and contended that the present line of partition had been deliberately fixed by the competent authorities and voluntarily accepted by the people of that State.

Thomas Easton was elected Territorial printer. George Philips, Joseph Howard, Mathew Wilson, Joseph P. Kennedy, John Gayle and Reuben Saffold were selected as nominees, from whose number the President of the United States should select three members for the next legislative council.

The counties of Cotaco, Lawrence, Franklin, Limestone, Lauderdale, Blount, Tuscaloosa, Marengo, Shelby, Cahawba, Dallas, Marion and Conecuh were established. In each, the superior courts of law and equity, and two county courts, and one intermediate court, were to be holden annually. They were allowed one representative each in the legislature.

The boundaries of Washington, Baldwin, Mobile and Marengo were altered and extended. Madison, the shape of which was formerly that of a triangle, was now made to assume its present form. The St. Stephens Academy was incorporated, and its trustees authorized to raise four thousand dollars by a lottery. "The St. Stephens Steamboat Company" was also incorporated. Hudson Powell, Robert Gaston, Joseph H. Howard, Howell Rose and George Dabney were appointed commissioners to select a temporary place at which to hold the courts of Montgomery county, then of vast extent.

Feb. 1818: The legislature repealed the laws upon usury, and allowed any interest agreed upon between the parties, and expressed in writing, to be legal. The compensation of the members was fixed by themselves, upon a more liberal scale than at present. The speaker and president were allowed seven and the members five dollars per diem, besides mileage.

Clement C. Clay, Samuel Taylor, Samuel Dale, James Titus and William L. Adams were elected commissioners to report to the next session the most central and eligible site for the Territorial legislature.

Madison, Limestone, Lauderdale, Franklin, Lawrence and Catoco counties were erected into the "northern judicial district." Governor Bibb, on the 14th February, appointed Henry Minor attorney-general of this district.

Clarke, Washington, Monroe, Conecuh, Baldwin and Mobile counties composed the "southern judicial district," and Mathew D. Wilson was appointed the attorney-general thereof.

Marion, Blount, Shelby, Montgomery, Cahawba, Marengo, Dallas and Tuscaloosa counties, composed the "middle judicial district," and Joseph Noble was appointed its attorney-general.

Before the division of the Mississippi Territory, and while the legislature sat at Washington, in Adams county, a stock bank had been established at Huntsville. A resolution adopted at the session of St. Stephens changed its name to that of "Planters' and Merchants' Bank of Huntsville." The Tombigby stock bank was also now established, with a capital of five hundred thousand dollars. Such were the only important acts of the first session of the legislature of the Alabama Territory.*

* State Archives.

But Indian disturbances, as we have said, had commenced. Although the British army had sailed for Europe, yet there were still subjects of that nation in the Floridas, who originated the "Seminole war"; among the most active of whom were Captain Woodbine, Colonel Nichol, Alexander Arbuthnot and Robert C. Ambrister. They had adopted the opinion of Lord Castlereagh, that the 9th article of the treaty of Ghent entitled the Creeks to a restoration of the lands which they had been compelled to relinquish at Fort Jackson. Woodbine, entering upon the task of enforcing this ill-founded claim, had conducted to Florida a colony of negro slaves, which had been stolen by the British during the war from the Southern planters. Apr. 28 1815: He had ascended the Apalachicola, and had erected a strong fort, which was well supplied with artillery and stores. From this point he had presumptuously addressed Hawkins a letter, demanding the restoration of the ceded lands, and representing himself as commanding his majesty's forces in Florida. Hostilities had already commenced upon the frontiers, and even the Big Warrior had declared that he had been deceived as to the extent of the lands which had been forced from him. Aug. 26 1816: Colonel Clinch, of Georgia, with detachments under Major Muhlenburg and Captain Zachary Taylor, had invested and completely destroyed Woodbine's negro fort, killing many of the inmates and burning a vast amount of military property. Notwithstanding these difficulties, emigrants continued boldly to push through the Creek nation, and to occupy portions of the Alabama Territory. A small colony had established themselves in the present Butler county. Among them was Captain William Butler, a native of Virginia, who had been a member of the Georgia Legislature, and the commander of a company of volunteers at the battle of Calebee; Captain James Saffold, a lawyer, who had commanded a company of artillery, under Major McIntosh, while stationed at Fort Decatur, besides William P. Gardner, Daniel Shaw, James D. K. Garrett, Britain M. Pearman, and others, all of whom came recently from Georgia. March 1818: Most of these worthy settlers pitched their camps upon the ridge near the residence of the late Chancellor Crenshaw. Two years previous to this, however, a few emigrants had settled on the Federal Road, near where Fort Dale was afterwards erected, in the present county of Butler, among whom were William Ogle, his wife and five children, with J. Dickerson. Another settlement had been formed in the "Flat," on the western border of that county.

Sam McNac, who still lived near the Pinchoma, on the Federal Road, informed these emigrants that hostile Indians were prowling in that region, who meditated mischief. A temporary block-house was immediately erected at Gary's, and those in the "Flat" began the construction of a fort, afterwards called Fort Bibb, enclosing the house of Captain Saffold, who had removed from the ridge to that place. On the 6th March, William Ogle drove his ox-cart in the direction of Fort Claiborne for provisions, and he had not proceeded far before a Chief, named Uchee Tom, and seventeen warriors, seized the rope with which he was driving, and gave other evidences of violence, but finally suffered him to proceed. Feeling much solicitude on account of his family, and purchasing corn at Sepulga Creek, he returned home, where the Indians had been in the meantime, and had manifested a turbulent disposition. 1818: On the 13th of March Ogle attended a company muster, and from thence there went home with him in the evening an old acquaintance, named Eli Stroud, with his wife and child. Meeting in a savage land, under sad apprehensions, these friends, having put their children to sleep, sat by the fireside of the cabin and continued to converse in undertones, ever and anon casting their eyes through the cracks to discover if Indians were approaching. Presently, by the dim light of the moon, Ogle saw a band of Red Sticks, who stealthily but rapidly approached the house. Springing from his seat he seized his gun, ran to the door, and set on his fierce dogs; but he was soon shot dead, falling upon the threshold which he was attempting to defend. Stroud and his wife sprang over his body into the yard, leaving their infant sleeping upon the hearth and ran off, pursued by a part of the savages. Paralyzed with fear, Mrs. Ogle at first stood in the floor, but recovering herself, ran around the corner of the house, and, protected by a large dog, escaped to a reed brake hard by, where she concealed herself. Here she heard the screams of Mrs. Stroud, who appeared to be running towards her, but who was soon overtaken and tomahawked. The savages entered the house, dashed out the brains of the infant, which was sleeping upon the hearth, and butchered the other children, whose shrieks and dying groans the unhappy mother heard, from the place of her concealment. After robbing the house, the wretches decamped, being unable to find Stroud, who lay not far off, in the high grass. The next morning some of the emigrants assembled, to survey the horrid scene. During the night, Mrs. Stroud had scuffled to the cabin, and was found in the chimney corner, sitting beside the body of her child, bereft of her senses. Ogle and four children lay in the sleep of death. His two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary Ann, were still alive, and were taken, with Mrs. Stroud, to the houses of the kind settlers, and, in a short time were sent to Fort Claiborne, with an escort furnished by Colonel Dale. On the way, Mrs. Stroud died, and, not long after reaching Claiborne, Mary Ann also expired. Elizabeth, through the kind attentions of Dr. John Watkins, survived her wounds, and is yet a resident of Butler county.

Mar. 20 1818: One week after this massacre, Captain William Butler and James Saffold, in company with William P. Gardner, Daniel Shaw and young Hinson, set out from the fort, to meet Dale, who was then marching to that point with a party of volunteers, a portion of whom they desired to induce him to send to the flat, to protect the citizens, while cultivating their fields. Advancing about two miles, Savannah Jack and his warriors -- the same who had murdered the Ogles-- fired upon them from a ravine. Gardner and Shaw, riddled with rifle balls, fell dead from their horses. Butler and Hinson, both being wounded, were thrown to the ground. The latter, regaining his seat in the saddle, fled back to the fort. Unable to reach his horse, Butler attempted, by running across the ravine, to gain the road in advance of the Indians; but he was pursued and shot at, from tree to tree, until he fell dead, but not before he had killed one of his pursuers. Captain Saffold escaped to the fort, receiving no injury, except the perforation of his clothes by rifle balls. A detachment, sent by Dale the next day, buried the dead, whose heads were beaten to pieces, and their bodies horribly mutilated.*

* In relation to the murders in Butler county, I must return my thanks to John K. Henry, Esq, of Greenville, who took the pains to procure correct statements of them from J. Dickerson and James D. K. Garrett. The late Reuben Hill, of Wetumpka, also furnished notes upon this subject.

Not long after this affair, an emigrant, named Stokes, with his wife and children, was killed, fifteen miles below Claiborne. Great alarm pervaded the whole country, and the people moved upon the hills and began the construction of defences.

In the meantime, Governor Bibb, who had made several trips from Coosawda to St. Stephens, and who was well apprised of these depredations, resorted to prompt measures to afford protection to the settlers. By his directions, Colonel Dale had marched to the scene of the late murders. Bibb sent a despatch to the Big Warrior demanding the withdrawal of all the Indians from the lands ceded at Fort Jackson, acquainting him with the murders committed upon unoffending white people, and requesting that the authors be pursued and punished by such warriors as he might think proper to send out.

Dale advanced to Poplar Spring, erected a fort, which assumed his name, and assisted the people to finish Fort Bibb. Both of these forts were now garrisoned. Major Youngs, of the eighth infantry, stationed at Fort Crawford, despatched a detachment of whites and Choctaws, with orders to scour the Conecuh, and afterwards to join Dale. The latter also scoured the surrounding country, but overtook none of the Indians. Governor Bibb successfully co-operated with the United States officers stationed at Montgomery Hill and Fort Crawford for the protection of the citizens, and he visited in person all the newly erected stockades. On the 25th May he returned to Coosawda, and the next day rode up to Tookabatcha and had a friendly interview with the Big Warrior. Leaving the Secretary of State, Henry Hitchcock, a young New Englander, of great ability, in charge of the government, his excellency returned to Georgia upon urgent business.

Sept. 15 1818: The Red Sticks, in the meanwhile, had collected in a considerable band, and the country over which Dale had the command becoming too hot to hold them, they crossed the Alabama and marched through Marengo and Greene. In McGowan's settlement three children, named Hall, and a negro woman, were murdered on Sept. 14. Suspicion falling upon Savannah Jack and his party they were pursued and trailed to Gun Island, or Gun Shute, on the Warrior, by Colonel Thomas Hunter, at the head of some settlers. Night coming on, the pursuit ceased. The next day a party under Major Taylor, and another under Captain Bacon, crossed the Warrior to the western side, and, in a dense swamp, came upon the savages. An action of an hour ensued. The officers, acting with bravery and prudence, were sustained by only a few of their men. A retreat was at length made, with the loss of two men killed and one severely wounded. The next day Colonel Hunter, with fifty men, followed upon the trail of the enemy, and came upon a small party, one of whom was killed. The next morning he continued the pursuit for twenty miles, to the Sipsey Swamp, where, from the impracticability of entering it, the enemy was left to repose.*

* Report of Colonel Hunter to Governor Bibb, to be found among the State Archives.

Oct 1818: This expedition was followed up by several others upon the Warrior; but the Creeks had at length determined to leave the Americans in quiet possession of the lands, which were surrendered with such reluctance at the treaty of Fort Jackson. The flood-gates of Virginia, the two Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia were now hoisted, and mighty streams of emigration poured through them, spreading over the whole territory of Alabama. The axe resounded from side to side, and from corner to corner. The stately and magnificent forests fell. Log cabins sprang, as if by magic, into sight. Never before or since, has a country been so rapidly peopled.

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