Posts tagged ‘Indian Wars 1812’

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (March 23-March 29, 1814) UPDATE

UPDATES with new final item: court martial of Brig. Gen.  Hull returns guilty verdict.

A Widening War

From the cane bottoms of Alabama to the Pacific Coast of South America, military and naval actions in March 1814 illustrate how the war between the United States and Great Britain has spread far beyond the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River. U.S. Navy ships and privateers raid British commerce in the Caribbean Sea and around the British Isles. The Royal Navy sends more and more ships to tighten the blockade of most U.S. ports along the Atlantic Coast. In Mississippi Territory, Major General Andrew Jackson confronts the pro-British Red Stick faction of the Creek Indian Nation … and the American frigate USS Essex is raiding the English whaling fleet in the South Pacific.

Sharp Knife’s Revenge: Horseshoe Bend

Battle Diorama at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park

Battle Diorama at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park

March 27, 1814: With more than 3,000 troops, including regulars from the 39th U.S. Infantry Regiment and 700 Native American allies – mostly friendly Cherokees and about 100 Creeks – Andrew Jackson prepares to attack the Creek Indian stronghold, Tohopeka, at a bend in the Talapoosa River known to the whites as the Horseshoe.

Politically, the Red Sticks are more anti-American than pro-British, but the Brits, looking to offset their limited resources in the Americas while fighting Napoleon, give the Indians ammunition, supplies and encouragement. The 1813 massacre of American settlers and friendly Creeks at Fort Mims on the Mississippi-Spanish Florida border incensed Jackson and other Americans in the western states intent “on a single purpose: the destruction of the Creek Nation as a potential threat to the safety of the United States,” according to historian Robert V. Remini.

Of course, in hindsight, Jackson seems little troubled by the wholesale slaughter his troops committed .

The Horseshoe is a heavily wooded peninsula jutting out into the river above high bluffs. Across the neck of the Horseshoe peninsula, the Red Sticks have built a 350-yard-long barricade of horizontal logs five-to-eight feet high. Behind the wall are some 1,000 warriors and 300 women and children.

Jackson’s two small cannon open fire on the stout log wall at 10:30 a.m. With little effect. The 39th Infantry and Tennessee militiamen face the barricade but Creeks firing through slits in the logs keep them pinned down. On the opposite side of the river, surrounding the rest of the Indian stronghold, are Colonel John Coffee with 700 mounted riflemen and Jackson’s Indian allies. Those Indians cross the river in canoes and begin the climb the bluff, attacking the stronghold from the rear – distracting its defenders on the log barricade.


Taking advantage of the confusion, Jackson orders a charge. The regulars and militiamen breech the barricade and a killing orgy begins inside the Red Sticks’ encampment. When the fighting ends at sundown, an estimated 800 Red Sticks are dead. Jackson’s losses are 49 killed, 154 wounded – many mortally.

The military power of the Creeks has been crushed and Jackson will pressure their leaders to sign a treaty in August ceding 23 million acres of land. Much of it will form the state of Alabama in 1819. The Indians begin calling Jackson, “Sharp Knife” for his tough tactics on and off the battlefield.

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Valparaiso: USS Essex vs. HMS Phoebe

Frigate USS Essex in 1799 (U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection via Wikipedia)

Frigate USS Essex in 1799
(U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection via Wikipedia)

March 28, 2014: Trapped in Chile’s Valparaiso Harbor for the last six weeks by two Royal Navy ships, American Captain David Porter decides to make a run for it in the USS Essex before more British ships arrive on the scene.

Since rounding South America’s Cape Horn in early 1813 – the first U.S. warship to do so – the Essex has been playing havoc with the British whaling fleet in the Pacific Ocean. Between April and October 1813, Porter captured 12 of the 20 British whalers operating in the Eastern Pacific.

Essex sailed back across the Pacific to Valparaiso, a neutral port, arriving on February 3, 1814. According to author George C. Daughan in his book, 1812, The Navy’s War, Porter was “intent on falling in with an enemy frigate. He knew British hunters were after him, and he meant to accommodate them.”

On February 8, the 36-gun HMS Phoebe and the 28-gun HMS Cherub arrived on the scene. Porter tried to provoke the Phoebe’s captain, Capt. James Hillyar into a one-on-one duel but Hillyar declined to accommodate the American. The took up position at the harbor’s mouth, trapping the Essex.

Capture of USS Essex 1838 engraving via Wikipedia

Capture of USS Essex 1838 engraving via Wikipedia

Taking advantage of a change in the wind, Porter attempted to outrun the slower British ships on the 28th. But a sudden heavy squall carried away the Essex’s main topmast. Porter tried to slip back into the harbor unscathed but the Phoebe and Cherub headed straight for the Essex. A brutal sea-battle ensued. Essex carried 46 cannon, but only six were long range guns. But the Phoebe carried mostly long range canon that were able to pound the Essex out of the range of the American ship’s 40 heavy – but short range – guns. After failing to close with Phoebe to board her, Porter tried to run Essex aground and destroy her to keep the ship out of enemy hands. But the wind wouldn’t cooperate and Porter finally had to surrender.

The Essex suffered 58 killed, 39 severely wounded, 26 slightly wounded and 312 missing out of a crew of 255. On the Phoebe, five were killed and 10 wounded. Porter and his crew were paroled by Hillyar and allowed to return to the United States in one of the English whalers the Essex had captured.

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A General’s Disgrace

On March 26, 1814, Brigadier General William Hull, is convicted of cowardice and neglect of duty for surrendering Detroit in 1812. The Army court martial, which has been hearing the case since January in Albany, New York, does not convict the general of the most serious charge, treason.
Nevertheless, Hull is sentenced to be shot, although the court recommends clemency because of his distinguished service in the Revolutionary War. On April 25, President Madison upholds the conviction but dismisses the death sentence and cashiers Hull, throwing him out of the Army. Hull, who died in 1825, at age 72, spent his remaining years trying to clear his name and recover his previously sterling reputation.




March 24, 2014 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (March 9-March 15)

Collision Course

After a month of drilling and training the green troops who panicked during his retreat at Enotachopco Creek (in what is now the state of Alabama), Major General Andrew Jackson is almost ready to march south against the pro-British Creek Indians known as the Red Sticks.

Ma. Gen. Andrew Jackson (Image courtesy National Park Service)

Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson
(Image courtesy National Park Service)

According to Robert V. Remini’s “Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars,” the tall, gaunt Tennesean became a “hard and determined disciplinarian” who inflicted the harshest punishment on anyone who disobeyed an order a or attempted to desert – which his rough-and-tumble Tennesee Volunteers were wont to do. That hard discipline included the execution by firing squad of a 17-year-old Tennesee recruit who, during an argument with an officer, threatened to shoot anyone who tried to arrest him, according to A.J. Langguth, in his “Union 1812, The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence.”

Jackson forbade the importation of whiskey into camp and ordered his troops to improve the road between his base at Fort Strother and his army’s supply depot at Fort Deposit near the Tennessee River.

On March 14 Jackson took his army out of Fort Strother and headed south 60 miles to the Red Stick stronghold at the Horseshoe Bend of the Tallapoosa River. They included regulars from the 39th U.S. Infantry Regiment and additional Tennesee volunteers.

Jackson left some troops behind to guard Fort Strother. He took with him about 2,000 infantry and 700 cavalry and mounted riflemen. Accompanying Jackson were about 600 Indians – 500 Cherokees and about 100 friendly Creeks.

Map Courtesy of PCL Map Collection at the Universtity of Texas at Austin

Map Courtesy of PCL Map Collection at the Universtity of Texas at Austin

March 9, 2014 at 10:17 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (January 20 – January 25, 1814)

Retaliation Reversed

The Battle of Enotachopo Creek January 24, 1814 (Tennessee State Library Photograph Collection)

(Tennessee State Library Photograph Collection)

After units of his 2,000-man Tennessee Volunteers army defeated the Creek Indians on November 3 at Tallushatchee in eastern Mississippi Territory (today’s Alabama) and at Talladega six days later, Major General Andrew Jackson was in trouble.

He was short on supplies, most of his troops’ enlistments were up and winter was coming on. He had twice put down mutiny and mass desertion by sheer will and a few well-placed cannon. Jackson was also ill, suffering from a lack of sleep, dysentery and a still-throbbing shoulder wound received in a gunfight/duel with personal enemies a few months earlier back in a Nashville hotel.

By late December 1813, his forward base, called Fort Strother, was nearly deserted. The few troops remaining were set to march home in a few days when their enlistments were up.

But on January 14, without warning, nearly 900 raw recruits marched into the fort. Jackson didn’t waste any time and marched them right out again to attack the stronghold of the anti-American Creek faction known as the Red Sticks, at the Horseshoe Bend of the Tallapoosa River. Jackson had been spoiling to retaliate against the Creeks ever since they raided a small community on the Duck River in Tennessee, killing several people and taking a woman captive in 1812.

By January 21 Jackson’s force was camped at Emuckfaw Creek — just three miles from the Creek stronghold. But the Creeks attacked Jackson the next day. While his men drove the Red Sticks off, the element of surprise was lost and rather than face another assault, Jackson ordered a retreat back to Fort Strother.

Creek War Campaign (via

Creek War Campaign

But the Red Sticks followed his retreating army and attacked again while the troops were strung out fording Enotachopco Creek. Jackson ordered the rear guard to attack while other troops were summoned to cross back over the creek and surround the Red Sticks. But the green troops of the rear guard panicked and ran. Jackson rallied his forces and the other units crossed over and held off the Creeks, who withdrew.

After returning to Fort Strother, Jackson drilled his green troops for more than a month to prepare them for his next crack at the Horseshoe Bend stronghold in the Spring.

January 20, 2014 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: War of 1812’s Battle of the Thames

Death of Tecumseh

Following the U.S. naval victory on Lake Erie in September 1813, the supply line to Fort Detroit (captured from the Americans a year earlier) was cut and British Major General Henry Procter deemed his position indefensible, so he retreated across the Detroit River back to Canada.

Kentucky Mounted Riflemen, led by Colonel Richard M. Johnson, charge the British line at Moraviantown (Courtesy Kentucky National Guard)

Kentucky Mounted Riflemen, led by Colonel Richard M. Johnson, charge the British line at Moraviantown
(Courtesy Kentucky National Guard)

Procter, with about 800 British regulars and some 500 Native Americans retreated slowly across Upper Canada, what is now Ontario. The Indians were led by Tecumseh, the Shawnee warrior who sought to unite a confederacy of tribes extending from the Great Lakes to the Deep South to resist the advance of white settlers from the United States encroaching on Indian land.

Major Gen. William Henry Harrison pursued the British and Indians with about 3,500 troops, including mounted Kentucky riflemen  and some U.S. Army regulars. They caught up with Procter on October 5, 1813 near Moraviantown — a peaceful Indian village on the Thames River. The Americans burned the village, inhabited by Christian Munsee Indians who had not joined Tecumseh.

The Kentuckians charged the outnumbereed and hungry British line, which quickly broke. The U.S. troops then advanced on the Indians who were formed up in a  swamp on the British right. Tecumseh rallied his men but was shot and killed. The ferocity of the Kentuckians’ assault was driven by a desire to revenge the massacre of Kentucky militia at the River Raisin in Michigan earlier that year.

Death of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames in a 19th Century artist's rendering. Via Wikipedia

Death of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames in a 19th Century artist’s rendering.
Via Wikipedia

Another Indian leader, Roundhead, a Wyandot chief also known as  Stiahta or Stayeghtha, was also killed. The Indian resistance collapsed.

Less than 30 British were killed, another 20-30 were wounded. But more than 500 were captured. Procter escaped capture with less than 300 men. The Indians’ casualties were also relatively light, some 20 to 30 killed. But Tecumseh’s dream of uniting the tribes died with him. Within a few decades, nearly all Indians East of the Mississippi River were driven out. Harrison went on to the White House as the ninth president of the United States in 1840.


SHAKO 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.

October 15, 2013 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Sept. 9-Sept. 15)

Relief of Fort Wayne

Fort Wayne at the confluence of the Maumee, St. Joseph and St. Marys rivers in northeast Indiana is still besieged by about 500 Native Americans siding with the British.

William Henry Harrison
(National Portrait Gallery)

Across what is now the Midwest Forts Dearborn (Illinois), Mackinac (Michigan) and Detroit (Michigan) have fallen to the Indians and several others have been attacked in Indiana and Iowa.

Five days into the siege, things are not looking too good for the 100 defenders of Fort Wayne. The Shawnee leader Tecumseh, who is trying to unite the tribes east of the Mississippi to resist encroaching American settlers and trappers, is leading a party of 500 Indians and British troops to join the attack against Fort Wayne.

Major Gen. William Henry Harrison at the head of a relief column consisting of 2,000 militiamen reaches the St, Marys River on Sept. 8, where he is joined by 800 Ohio militiamen.

As Harrison approaches, Chief Winamac of the Potawatomis mounts a final assault against the fort on Sept. 11. It fails and the Indians suffer heavy losses. Winamac and his men retreat across the Maumee the next day. Harrison’s relief column arrives a few hours later, ending the siege.

Besieged at Fort Harrison

Besieged since the night of Sept. 4, Fort Harrison comes under additional attacks this week from a force of 600 Potawatomi, Wea, Winnebago, Kickapoo and Shawnee warriors.

While Maj. Gen. William Henry Harrison is marching to relieve Fort Wayne far to the north, the fort founded by, and named for him is under the command of Capt. Zachary Taylor, who, like Harrison will one day be elected U.S. President.

In Vincennes, 60 miles south of Fort Harrison, Col. William Russell gathers a pick up force of about 1,000 men – including militiamen and Army regulars. His force reaches Fort Harrison on Sept. 12. The outnumbered Native Americans retreat. Fort Harrison’s garrison suffers three killed and three wounded.

Painting of Fort Harrison

But the fighting isn’t over. On Sept. 12 and again on Sept. 15, in a place called the Narrows, a band of Potawatomis ambushes two separate supply trains, plundering the wagons and killing a total of 18 U.S. troops. Two more are wounded. The Indians’ losses are unknown.

September 10, 2012 at 10:15 pm Leave a comment


December 2022


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