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Creek (people)

The Creeks are a Native American tribe native to the southeastern United States. They are closely related to the Seminole and share common languages. The Creeks are also known by their original name, Muscogee.

Most cultural Creeks were removed to the Indian Territory. Some remained. There are a number of Creeks in Alabama, living near the Poarch Creek Reservation in Atmore, Alabama, northeast of Mobile, as well as a number of Creeks in essentially undocumented Muscogee towns in Florida. Additionally, Creek descendants, of varying degrees of cultural Creek-ness, live throughout the southeastern United States. The reservation includes a bingo hall, and holds an annual powwow on Thanksgiving.

The Creek War of 1813-1814 began as a civil war within the Creek Nation. Inspired by the fiery eloquence of Tecumseh and their own prophets, Creeks known as Red Sticks sought to aggressively return their society to a traditional way of life. Creek leaders such as William Weatherford (Red Eagle), Peter McQueen , and Menawa violently clashed with other chiefs of the Creek Nation over white encroachment on Creek lands and the civilizing programs administered by U.S. Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins. This civil war would ultimately lead to a Red Stick attack on Fort Mims , near Mobile on August 30, 1813 which left 247 dead and spread panic throughout the American southwestern frontier.

In response to the massacre at Fort Mims, Tennessee, Georgia, and the Mississippi Territory sent armies deep into the Creek country. Outnumbered and poorly armed, the Red Sticks put up a desperate fight from their wilderness strongholds but valor and the magic of their prophets failed to halt the converging armies. On March 27, 1814 General Andrew Jackson's Tennessee militia, aided by the 39th U. S. Infantry Regiment and Cherokee and Creek allies, finally crushed Red Stick resistance at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River (see below). Jackson's victory at Horseshoe Bend broke the power of the Creek Nation.

On August 9, 1814 the Creeks were forced to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson , which ceded 23 million acres (93,000 km&sup2) to the United States government. With the Red Stick menace subdued, Andrew Jackson was able to focus on the Gulf coast region and defeat the British at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. As a result of his victories over the Red Sticks and British, Jackson became a national figure and eventually rose to become the seventh President of the United States in 1829.

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend

In March 1814, General Jackson's army left Fort Williams on the Coosa, cut a 52 mile (84 km) trail through the forest in three days, and on the 26th made camp six miles (10 km) north of Horseshoe Bend. The next morning, Jackson sent General John Coffee and 700 mounted infantry and 600 Cherokee and Lower Creek allies three miles (5 km) down-stream to cross the Tallapoosa and surround the bend. He took the rest of the army - about 2000 men, consisting of East and West Tennessee militia and the Thirty-ninth U.S. Infantry - into the peninsula and at 10:30 a.m. began an ineffectual two-hour artillery bombardment of the Red Sticks' log barricade. At noon, some of Coffee's Cherokees crossed the river and assaulted the Red Sticks from the rear. Jackson quickly ordered a frontal bayonet charge, which poured over the barricade. Fighting ranged over the south end of the peninsula throughout the afternoon. By dark at least 800 of Chief Menawa's 1,000 Red Sticks were dead (557 slain on the field and 200-300 in the river). Menawa himself, although severely wounded, managed to escape. Jackson's losses in the battle were 49 killed and 154 wounded, many mortally.

Though the Red Sticks had been crushed at Tohopeka, the remnants of the hostile Creeks held out for several months. In August 1814, exhausted and starving, they surrendered to Jackson at Wetumpka, near the present city of Montgomery, Alabama. The Treaty of Fort Jackson ending the conflict required the Creeks to cede some 20 million acres (81,000 km&sup2) of land - more than half of their ancestral territorial holdings - to the United States. The state of Alabama was carved out of this domain and admitted to the Union in 1819.

On February 12, 1825, the Creeks had been forced to cede the last of their lands in Georgia to the United States government in the Treaty of Indian Springs. The chief who signed the agreement, Chief McIntosh , was a cousin of Georgia governor George Troup , who saw the Creeks as a threat to white expansion in the region. He had been elected for the Democratic party on a platform of Indian removal. Chief McIntosh, a mixed-blood, had no mandate to sign the treaty from the rest of the tribe and was soon assassinated. Nevertheless, Troup, began to forcibly remove the Indians. At first President John Quincy Adams attempted to intervene with federal troops, but Troup called out the militia, and Adams, fearful of a civil war, conceded. As he explained to his intimates, "The Indians are not worth going to war over."

In 1829, partly as a result of his fame from the battles of Horseshoe Bend and New Orleans, Andrew Jackson was elected President of the United States; a year later he signed the Indian Removal Bill forcing all the tribes east of the Mississippi River to move to Oklahoma, a journey the Cherokees called the "Trail of Tears." The Southeast, cleared of most Indians and free from the threat of foreign intervention, thus became part of the United States and was opened for settlement by whites.

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Last updated: 11-07-2004 05:35:20