Horseshoe Bend, Battle of
HORSESHOE BEND, BATTLE OF
On 27 March 1814, a force of twenty-seven hundred U.S. soldiers, Tennessee militiamen, Cherokee cavalry, and one hundred "friendly" Creek Indians, all led by General Andrew Jackson, defeated the Red Stick faction of the Creek Nation in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Jackson's victory ended the Creek War (1813–1814) and thrust him into national prominence. It also marked the last serious armed resistance of southeastern Indians against the United States.
The battle's name came from a loop in the Tallapoosa River in Alabama. The Red Sticks, a segment of Creeks who wished to return to traditional social and religious practices, built a fort across the base of the bend in the stream. During 1813, the Red Sticks suffered a series of setbacks at the hands of the American militia and regular troops. The defenses on the Tallapoosa initially proved successful, allowing the Creeks to repel Jackson's first attack on 21 January 1814. However, harsh winter weather, food shortages, and a dearth of firearms made the Indians situation precarious by early spring. Over 1,000 Creek warriors, along with 350 women and children, were inside, hoping to hold off the American and Indian force of over 2,700.
At the start of the fight, General Jackson's Tennessee militia and regular army troops built a barricade across the base of the peninsula. Then Jackson opened fire on the fort with two cannons. However, the general hesitated to order a frontal assault on such a strong position. The Cherokees and Euro-American militia troops took up positions on the opposite bank of the river, across from the undefended side of the Red Sticks' camp. During the artillery bombardment, some Cherokee warriors swam the river and stole the Red Sticks' canoes. They then used the craft to bring more Cherokees and militiamen over to the Creeks' camp to engage the Red Sticks. When Jackson heard the sound of gunfire from inside the fort, he ordered his men to charge the Creeks' defensive works. The assault worked; the Euro-Americans and the Cherokees completely defeated the Red Sticks, killing nearly 600 Creek warriors. In addition, approximately 250 Red Sticks drowned in the Tallapoosa trying to escape. The losses suffered by the Creeks at Horseshoe Bend made it the single bloodiest day in the history of Native American warfare.
The remnants of the Red Sticks, under the leadership of Red Eagle, surrendered soon afterward. Andrew Jackson negotiated the Treaty of Fort Jackson on 9 August 1814 without federal authorization. Its terms required the Creeks to give up half of their territory. Ironically, most of the land came from the Upper Creek Towns, the same people who fought alongside the Euro-Americans at Horseshoe Bend.
Ethridge, Robbie Franklyn. Creek Country: The Creek Indians and Their World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
Piker, Joshua. Okfuskee: A Creek Indian Town in Colonial America. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004.
Saunt, Claudio. A New Order of Things: Property, Power, and the Transformation of the Creek Indians, 1733-1816, Cambridge Studies in North American Indian History. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
George Edward Milne