SHAKO: War of 1812, Collision Course in Alabama

January 16, 2014 at 1:55 pm Leave a comment

On the Warpath

Creek War 1813-14 (PCL Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin)

Creek War 1813-14
(PCL Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin)

All is quiet during the winter of 1813-1814 along the U.S.-Canadian border where U.S. Army regulars and state militiamen have been battling British troops, Canadian militia and Native American warriors since the summer of 1812.

But Army regulars and state volunteers are still battling the Creek Indians of the Southeastern United States in what has become known as the Creek War. That struggle erupted within the the Creek nation (also known as the Muskogee) — which inhabited parts of what is now Alabama and Georgia — over whether to join Shawnee leader Tecumseh‘s campaign against whites of the United States. The “Red Sticks” faction favored war with white America. Indian leaders from what was known as the Lower Creek towns were against war with the whites, with whom many had intermarried. They were known as the “White Sticks.”

In July 1813 at Burnt Corn Creek, Mississippi militiamen attacked and were defeated by members of the pro-British Red Sticks returning from Spanish Florida where they had gone to obtain arms and ammunition. On August 30, 1813, hundreds of Red Sticks attacked a poorly defended stockade known as Fort Mims in southern Alabama, killing more than 200 whites, black slaves and White Stick Creeks.

That led Tennessee Gov. Willie Blount to call for 3,500 volunteers to fight the Creeks, widening a tribal civil war into one between Indians and whites. After defeating the “Red Sticks” on November 9, 1813 at the Battle of Talladega, the Tennessee commander, Major General Andrew Jackson, was plagued by supply shortages and discipline problems among his rowdy frontier troops who had only signed short term enlistments.

Meanwhile, Jackson’s mounted rifles commander, General John Coffee, who had returned to Tennessee for fresh horses, wrote Jackson that his troops had deserted. By the end of 1813, Jackson was down to a single regiment whose enlistments were due to expire in mid January.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

Although Gov. Blount ordered up another 2,500 troops, Jackson would not be up to full strength until the end of February. By the time 900 raw recruits arrived unexpectedly on January 14, Jackson’s original force of 2,500 had dwindled to 103 soldiers.

Since the new men had signed on for only 60 days, Jackson decided to get going before their enlistments ran out. He departed Fort Struther on January 17, and marched toward the village of Emuckfaw to support the Georgia Militia. But it was a risky strategy: a long march through difficult terrain against a numerically superior force. Making matters worse, Jackson’s  volunteers were green and insubordinate. By January 21, they had marched to within a few miles of the Red Stick settlement of Emuckfaw, setting the stage for another battle.

NEXT WEEK: The Return of THIS WEEK in the War of 1812

The weekly feature, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812, returns on Monday, January 20.

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SHAKOSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

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Entry filed under: Counter Insurgency, National Security and Defense, SHAKO, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812, Traditions. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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