Creek War Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

During the Creek War, the federal government broke the power of the Creek nation, seized Creek lands, and opened Alabama to white settlement. The war also launched Andrew Jackson’s military career, which put him on the road to the U.S. presidency.

Summary of Event

Among all the American Indian peoples at the turn of the nineteenth century, the people who seemed most likely to assimilate into the advancing white culture were the Muscogee, whom whites called Creeks. Colonial deerskin traders from Charleston, South Carolina, married into this matrilineal native culture, establishing kinship ties with their wives’ families throughout the Muscogee nation and siring mixed-race children who became the nation’s cultural and political elite. Alexander McGillivray McGillivray, Alexander —of Scottish, French, and Muscogee background—was educated in Charleston and became one of the most powerful and influential chiefs (micos) in the culture’s history. William Weatherford Weatherford, William , William McIntosh, McIntosh, William and others born to both cultures remained influential in the tribe through and beyond the coming Creek War. Creek War (1813-1814) Jackson, Andrew [p]Jackson, Andrew;Creek War (1813-1814) Creeks;Creek War Alabama;Creek War Red Stick movement [kw]Creek War (July 27, 1813-Aug. 9, 1814) [kw]War, Creek (July 27, 1813-Aug. 9, 1814) Creek War (1813-1814) Jackson, Andrew [p]Jackson, Andrew;Creek War (1813-1814) Creeks;Creek War Alabama;Creek War Red Stick movement [g]United States;July 27, 1813-Aug. 9, 1814: Creek War[0630] [c]Expansion and land acquisition;July 27, 1813-Aug. 9, 1814: Creek War[0630] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;July 27, 1813-Aug. 9, 1814: Creek War[0630] [c]Indigenous people’s rights;July 27, 1813-Aug. 9, 1814: Creek War[0630] Big Warrior McQueen, Peter Weatherford, William Francis, Josiah McIntosh, William

President George Washington Washington, George [p]Washington, George;and Muscogees[Muscogees] appointed Revolutionary War veteran Benjamin Hawkins Hawkins, Benjamin as Indian agent to the Muscogee, whom Hawkins attempted to teach European-derived farming techniques. With well-established agricultural traditions of their own, the Muscogee took easily to the teachings of both Hawkins and their own mixed-race people. The Muscogees established within their nation a subculture that featured frame houses, fenced fields, domesticated animals, adoption of European clothing and technology, and most other vestments of the traditional frontier South, including cotton Cotton production with African American slave labor for the wealthy.

The Muscogee cultural transition was not entirely smooth, however. One problem was the continued encroachment of advancing white civilization. So relentless were the demands of state governments for cessions of Muscogee lands that the Muscogee named one Tennessee governor the Dirt King and gave a Georgia governor the name Always Asking for Land.

In August, 1813, the Creeks made a successful attack on Fort Mims, in lower Alabama, that provoked heavy U.S. reprisals.

(Library of Congress)

Meanwhile, as buckskin breeches went out of fashion in Europe, the market for American deerskins evaporated. The Muscogee had traded heavily in deerskins, and they now found themselves with nothing to trade for European clothing, weapons, household utensils, and other goods to which they had become accustomed. By continuing to buy these goods on credit, they fell deeply into debt to U.S. and British trading houses. The Jefferson administration, through Hawkins, encouraged the paying off of these debts through cessions of land. The Muscogee strenuously objected to this plan, even when the U.S. government offered perpetual annuities to the tribe and bonuses to local chiefs who signed land treaties. The pressure on Muscogee hunting grounds intensified, and the chiefs who ceded land became enemies in the eyes of many of their kinsmen.

More sinister than the insatiable land hunger of the United States was its innate distrust of American Indians and its general desire to eliminate rather than assimilate them. Some segment of the native population—Iroquois, Iroquois Shawnee, Shawnees Cherokee, Muscogee—seemed to be constantly at war with the Frontier, American;and Native Americans[Native Americans] frontiersmen. For whites, these violent clashes supported their belief that American Indians were dangerous savages in need of extermination. Another problem was the strength and depth of the Muscogees’ own native culture. Their relationship to their environment and their tribal traditions had been deeply satisfying. Although white culture made life more comfortable, it did not resolve any life-threatening problems for the Muscogee. Thus, it was a luxury, not a necessity.

The pressure of encroaching white settlement continued to increase all along the U.S. frontier during the early nineteenth century, prompting the Shawnee chief Tecumseh Tecumseh [p]Tecumseh;and Muscogees[Muscogees] to attempt an alliance of all Native American tribes so that they might together resist further white advances and save American Indian lands and culture. When Tecumseh and his brother, Tenskwatawa, Tenskwatawa [p]Tenskwatawa;and Muscogees[Muscogees] known as the Shawnee Prophet, visited the Muscogee tribal council to urge an alliance with the Shawnee, head chief Big Warrior Big Warrior rejected the idea and called for continued peace with white Americans. A movement—part spiritual, part political—was already growing among the Muscogee, however, calling for a return to the roots of Muscogee tradition and a rejection of the values and material goods of white society.

The traditionalists were primarily young. Among their leaders were men who had successfully assimilated white culture—half-white cotton Cotton planters such as Peter McQueen, McQueen, Peter and such white traders’ sons as William Weatherford Weatherford, William and Josiah Francis Francis, Josiah . The leaders of the progressive, assimilationist wing were often older. Some, such as William McIntosh, McIntosh, William lived like white men. Others, such as Big Warrior, maintained a traditional Muscogee lifestyle yet accepted the inevitability of progress.

On July 27, 1813, this cultural and political dispute broke into open warfare, a civil war within the nation over the direction the culture should take: toward the European style of life or back to the purity and spirituality of Muscogee life. The reactionary wing, led by a reluctant Weatherford, a vengeful Francis, and McQueen, became known, from the red color symbolic of war, as Red Sticks.

The war spilled over into white society with the killing of isolated settlers in southern Tennessee and the massacre of two large numbers of white, black, and Creek people at Forts Sinquefield and Mims in lower Alabama. These killings brought U.S. major general Andrew Jackson into the conflict with an army of Mississippi, Georgia, and Tennessee militia, joined by progressive Muscogee, Choctaw, and Cherokee allies.

Jackson’s early campaign was tedious and unsuccessful. With winter approaching, pay in arrears, little to eat, and enlistments expiring, many militiamen prepared to go home. Jackson branded them all mutineers and arrested and executed six leaders, cowing the frontiersmen into remaining to continue the fight. Through hard marching and sporadic fighting, the allied force of frontiersmen and progressive Native Americans chased and battled the Red Sticks across Alabama, finally cornering a large contingent at Tohopeka (Horseshoe Bend) on the Tallapoosa River. In this battle, more than five hundred Red Sticks were killed, destroying Red Stick resistance.

Significance

In the ensuing Treaty of Horseshoe Bend Horseshoe Bend, Treaty of (1814) , signed on August 9, 1814, Jackson took approximately twenty-five million acres of land from both Red Stick insurgents and his Muscogee, Choctaw, and Cherokee allies. The cession opened the land to immediate white and African American settlement and created the heart of the cotton Cotton South. The Creek War left Andrew Jackson with a veteran and victorious army well positioned to block the British invasion of New Orleans, giving the United States its most impressive land victory in the War of 1812 War of 1812 (1812-1814);and Creek War[Creek War] and opening the path to the White House for Andrew Jackson.

For the Muscogee, the defeat spelled the beginning of the end of their existence in their homeland. Within two decades, they and most other surviving members of the South’s Five Civilized Tribes were banished to the Indian Territory, Oklahoma.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Barrett, Carole, and Harvey Markowitz, eds. American Indian Biographies. Rev. ed. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2005. Collection of nearly four hundred biographies of Native Americans, including more than a dozen Creeks.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Braund, Kathryn E. Holland. Deerskins and Duffels: The Creek Indian Trade with Anglo-America, 1685-1815. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993. Describes the competitors, pricing, credit policies, markets, and distribution of the Muscogee deerskin trade; provides a detailed look at Muscogee life.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">George, Noah Jackson. A Memorandum of the Creek Indian War. Meredith, N.H.: R. Lothrop, 1815. 2d ed. Edited by W. Stanley Hoole. University, Ala: Confederate Publishing Company, 1986. Based on General Jackson’s reports and correspondence, this pamphlet gives a battle-by-battle account of the campaign from the U.S. perspective. Written amid the passions of the War of 1812, it asserts that the Red Sticks were tools of the British.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Griffith, Benjamin W., Jr. McIntosh and Weatherford, Creek Indian Leaders. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1988. A highly readable account of the war. Argues that Weatherford was a most reluctant Red Stick, knowing from the outset that the movement was doomed.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Halbert, Henry Sale, and T. H. Ball. The Creek War of 1813 and 1814. Chicago: Donohue and Henneberry, 1895. Reprint with introduction and annotation by Frank L. Owsley, Jr. University: University of Alabama Press, 1969. Provides a lengthy discussion of the causes of the war, presenting it as an intertribal difference that would have been resolved had whites not interfered.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hudson, Charles M. The Southeastern Indians. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1976. Places the Muscogee within the larger framework of the native population of the area. One of several excellent volumes on southeastern American Indians by ethnologist Hudson.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Martin, Joel. Sacred Revolt: The Muscogees’ Struggle for a New World. Boston: Beacon Press, 1991. Emphasizes the importance of spirituality in Muscogee life, in the evolution of the Red Sticks’ back-to-our-culture campaign, and in their warmaking.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">O’Brien, Sean Michael. In Bitterness and in Tears: Andrew Jackson’s Destruction of the Creeks and Seminoles. Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press, 2005. Engagingly written history of Andrew Jackson’s role as a military commander in the Creek War of 1813-1814 and the First Seminole War of 1818.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson. 3 vols. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. The first volume of this distinguished biography covers Jackson’s military activities and career before he became president of the United States.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Woodward, Thomas S. Woodward’s Reminiscences of the Creek, or Muscogee Indians, Contained in Letters to Friends in Georgia and Alabama. Tuscaloosa: Alabama Book Store, 1859. Reprint. Mobile, Ala.: Southern University Press, 1965. A veteran of the war, Woodward knew many Muscogee leaders and their culture. Although written with the wisdom and common sense of later years, this entertaining little volume has its errors and must be read with a critical eye.

Tenskwatawa Founds Prophetstown

Battle of Tippecanoe

War of 1812

Battle of the Thames

Seminole Wars

Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Nineteenth Century, 1801-1900</i>

Andrew Jackson; Osceola. Creek War (1813-1814) Jackson, Andrew [p]Jackson, Andrew;Creek War (1813-1814) Creeks;Creek War Alabama;Creek War Red Stick movement

Categories: History Content