The Creek War was part of the War of 1812, because the Americans believed, with good reason, that the British and Spanish were coaxing the Red Stick (anti-US) Creeks along with supplies and guidance. The fact that the Tohopeka (Horseshoe Bend) stronghold on the Tallapoosa River in Alabama was fortified with European style battlements re-enforced this belief.
After the tactically brutal and ugly fights at Emuckfaw and Enitachopco in January 1814, Andrew Jackson gathered his new forces and had another go at the Red Stick Creeks led by the Prophet Monahell and Chief Menawa with the possible inclusion of the famed William Weatherford (Red Eagle), a half Scottish, half Creek warrior. Jackson was determined to make this campaign the last major one in the area by destroying the Red Stick Creek force at its very stronghold and defended by its best warriors and leaders.
Jackson took off from Fort Strother in mid March with new Tennessee volunteers from the eastern part of that state, the 39th U.S. Infantry, Cherokees and White Stick (pro-US) Creeks. Jackson’s target was to be the stronghold at the horseshoe shaped bend on the Tallapoosa River that the Creeks called Tohopeka. The new forces were important, because Jackson’s previous foray into this wilderness was with Tennnessee volunteers who had many complaints about their pay and enlistment periods. This new force was more motivated and professional. The plan was to form an envelopement and was designed to trap the Red Sticks in the confines of the river bow (see a map of the arrayed forces).
Jackson sent his trusty number two, John Coffee, the White Stick Creeks, some Cherokees and the dragoons to the far side (southern) of the river to feint a river crossing. Jackson took the main force to attack the breastworks head on from the north. Jackson opened up with his limited artillery, but his small guns just bounced shot off the timbered works. However, the sound of the guns excited some of Coffee’s force and they managed to swim the Tallapoosa and steal some canoes. This allowed a landing and cut off the Red Sticks’ main retreat option. Whilst Coffee was harrying the Red Sticks near the river, Jackson ordered a charge on the works. Jackson’s force was then able to use the timber for protection themselves as they fired through the portals from the outside. Finally, a courageous push over the top that included Sam Houston (who was seriously wounded) succeeded in breaching the Creek perimeter with substantial forces. The Red Stick forces fought a determined, but doomed defense inside the stronghold with Jackson even leveling his artillery at point blank range into the huts used as a last stand.
The battle resulted in the largest death toll of Native Americans (557 +) in a single battle throughout all of the Indian wars. Monahell was killed (possibly by Menawa who was fed up with Prophetic devices rather than fighting), Menawa was severely wounded, but escaped and William Weatherford escaped only to walk into Fort Jackson (formerly Fort Toulouse) a few months later to surrender. Weatherford was to play a key role in encouraging many other Red Sticks to give up to the Americans.
Andrew Jackson Horseshoe Bend
Horsehoe Bend is seen as the last of the Creek nation living independently in their ancestral grounds, but this particular Indian War will forever be associated with the War of 1812, because of the winning General. Clearing out the Creeks would allow Jackson to focus on New Orleans nearly a year later with glorious results for Old Hickory.
Image Information: Mcewen, Robert Houston. [Sketch map of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend of Tallapoosa River, 27th March 1814]. 1814. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2012588005/. (Accessed January 14, 2018.)
Motorcycle Ride Recommendation
Try this “figure 8” ride starting and ending at Fort Toulouse / Jackson State Historic Site. This takes in the scenic Alabama State Routes 9 and 22 as well as the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.