Introduction to Conflicts with Tribes to the West and South (1811–1832)

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Introduction to Conflicts with Tribes to the West and South (1811–1832)

America’s battles with tribal Indians in the Northwest Territory (the area stretching from Ohio to Wisconsin) and in the Deep South (the Mississippi Territory to Florida) resulted from westward migration of white settlers into Native American lands. Some of the treaties that American officials and Indian chiefs may have peacefully agreed to may not have been respected or even known about by countless other Indians on the same lands.

The resulting wars with Native Americans generally took place in two theaters. In the West, white settlers encountered the Shawnee, Delaware, Miami, Sauk, and Fox tribes. In the South, migrants seeking fertile lands for rice and cotton ran into the Five Civilized Tribes, including the Cherokees, Choctaws, Creeks, Chickasaws, and Seminoles.

By the early 1800s, the United States had already battled in and set up forts along the Ohio River valley. General William Henry Harrison, who also served as territorial governor of both the Northwest Territory and later Indiana, faced the issue of keeping peace between the frontier pioneers and Indians for a good part of his career. The dispute reached a pinnacle when Harrison’s militia faced off with the dwellers of Prophetstown, a village headed by Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa, at the Battle of Tippecanoe in November 1811. Many tribes had allied with Britain, which had in fact supplied them with arms. After the official declaration of the War of 1812, the British and Indian alliance became stronger, as did the United States’ will to defeat both.

Settlers of the American South also faced hostilities there. Enterprising planters relocated to raise cotton and other cash crops for European markets. As these farmers, their laborers, and slaves arrived, some southern Indian tribes did agree to live in peace with them, but the Red Sticks faction of the Creek tribe did not. After these Indians procured gunpowder and munitions from a Spanish governor in Pensacola, Florida, an American militia outfit stationed in southern Alabama attacked them. The Indians retaliated and slaughtered hundreds of soldiers and innocents at the Fort Mims massacre, north of Mobile, Alabama. The United States and Tennessee Militia sent General Andrew Jackson through Alabama to conquer these unfriendly Creek Indians. With mostly successful campaigns, Jackson used a heavy hand to subdue the Creeks. After major defeats, the Red Sticks surrendered and ceded much of their lands. Jackson went on to defeat their British allies at New Orleans, to end the War of 1812. Soon after, he raided Seminole villages in Spanish-controlled Florida, which resulted in the Florida’s annexation into the United States.

Successful military campaigns against the Indians gave Jackson and Harrison successful political careers that both climaxed with winning the presidency. The drive for economic success and quasi-legal treaties caused most Americans to view moving into these Indian lands as justified. Millions of acres of land went to the United States from 1790 to 1830. For those Indians who remained, Congress and President Jackson forced their removal with the Indian Removal Act and military force to relocate them, mainly to Oklahoma. Thousands died in that journey, which became known as the Trail of Tears.

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Introduction to Conflicts with Tribes to the West and South (1811–1832)

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Introduction to Conflicts with Tribes to the West and South (1811–1832)