Thursday, March 27, 2014

Battle of Horseshoe Bend

March 27, 2014 marks the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. The battle was the bloody culmination of a violent phase of the War of 1812 known as the Creek War.

In the years leading up to the declaration of war between the United States and Great Britain, Tecumseh, a Shawnee warrior, attempted to create a pan-Indian alliance to retard American expansion into the Northwest Territory. Tecumseh’s appeal to the Indians of the Southeast had largely failed. However, the traditionalists among the Creeks (the Red Sticks) formed an alliance with the Shawnee leader.

This is a copy of General Jackson's map of the battle and was part of his official report he submitted to Governor Willie Blount.
Image: Tennessee Historical Society T-100 Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

In May 1812, Red Stick warriors attacked the isolated cabins of the Manley and Crawley families on Duck River in Humphreys County. The inhabitants were slain with the exception of Martha Crawley, who remained a captive.

Ultimately, Martha Crawley returned to Tennessee, but Tennesseans demanded justice for the attack. Friendly Creeks arrested the perpetrators and executed the guilty. The executions lead to a civil war amongst the Creeks. Meanwhile, Congress declared war on Great Britain in June 1812 and Tecumseh’s Indian Confederation joined the British cause. The civil war within the Creek Nation took a particularly brutal turn in August 1813. On August 30, Red Stick Creeks attacked Fort Mims, located about 45 miles north of Mobile, Alabama. The fort contained Friendly Creeks, mixed-blood settlers, black slaves, and a company of the Mississippi Territorial Militia. The bloody battle turned into a massacre with the majority of the fort’s occupants being killed by the Red Sticks. Word of the “Fort Mims Massacre” quickly spread across the United States. With the majority of the US Army tied down fighting the British on the Canadian front, the War Department called upon the militia of Tennessee, Georgia, and the Mississippi Territory to deal with the Red Stick threat. While Georgia and Mississippi Territory troops would all play a role in the fighting, the burden of the Creek War fell primarily on Andrew Jackson and the Tennessee militia and volunteer regiments.

Assembling at Camp Blount in Lincoln County, Tennessee in early October 1813, Jackson moved south into Creek Territory. Faced with starvation, mutinies, and desertions, Jackson’s army withered away after initial successes at Tallasahatchee and Talladega. Reinforced in the late winter of 1814 with a fresh draw of militiamen, the 39th US Infantry Regiment, and approximately 500 Cherokees and 100 allied Friendly Creeks, General Jackson took the offensive.

Sam Houston joined the 7th Infantry but transferred
to the 39th Infantry in 1814 with the rank of ensign.
Houston was wounded three times at Horseshoe Bend.
Image: Berhardt Wall Collection,
Tennessee State Library and Archives.
Finding the Red Sticks in a fortified position in a sharp bend of the Tallapoosa River at a place called Tohopeka, Jackson advanced. Jackson’s artillery was unable to penetrate the Red Stick earth and log barrier. His mounted troops and allied Cherokees and Creeks moved into position across the river and fired into the Red Sticks from long range. As the firing continued, Cherokee warriors swam the river and ferried more warriors across in captured Red Stick canoes. They set ablaze the Red Stick huts and smoke billowed upward. Opposite the Red Stick village, General Jackson ordered a frontal assault spearheaded by the 39th US Infantry and supported by the Tennessee Militia. The Red Sticks found themselves fighting a three way battle and trapped by the river. The Red Stick losses were dramatic with nearly 800 dead at the end of the fighting. The Red Stick threat to white settlers had been eliminated. The Battle of Horseshoe Bend as it became known brought national attention to Andrew Jackson. His victory at Horseshoe Bend got him promoted into the regular army and placed him in position to defeat the British at New Orleans in January 1815.

While Jackson benefited the most from the battle of Horseshoe Bend, many other influential Tennesseans witnessed the fighting on March 27, 1814. Present at Horseshoe Bend were Sam Houston, a member of the 39th US Infantry who would was wounded three times in the battle. The 39th was commanded by Knoxvillan Colonel John Williams, a future political nemesis to General Jackson. The highest ranking American officer killed in the battle was Nashville attorney Lemuel P. Montgomery, whose remains are buried on the battlefield. Future Tennessee Governor, William Carroll served as Jackson’s Inspector-General and Cherokee leaders, Major Ridge, John Ross, and Sequoyah were counted among Jackson’s troops. Roughly 90 percent of the American troops who fought at Horseshoe Bend called Tennessee home.

The Tennessee War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission will conduct a brief memorial ceremony for Tennesseans who fought in the battle on March 29 at 2:00 PM at the grave site of Lemuel Montgomery at the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.

John Coffee wrote this letter to his wife, Mary Donelson Coffee,
reporting on Battle of Horseshoe Bend, April 1, 1814.
Image: Dyas Collection, John Coffee Papers, Tennessee State Library and Archives.

To learn more about the War of 1812, we encourage you to click on the following online resources:

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Women's History Month at TSLA...

It's the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, a perfect opportunity for commemorating all aspects of a period that is central to American history, and because March is Women's History Month, the Tennessee State Library and Archives will be highlighting the stories of women from our new collection Women in the Civil War.

Some have argued that women's experiences during this time are perhaps even more varied than those of the men who served on the front lines. Women of all classes experienced the war in some way, whether through deprivation, loss of loved ones, disintegration of social norms, or, in at least a few hundred documented cases, actual battlefield experience.

This is a carte de visite of Confederate spy Belle Boyd (1844-1900). She was a Confederate spy who operated from her father's hotel in Front Royal, Virginia. In one instance, she provided valuable information to General Stonewall Jackson during his attack on Union troops in Front Royal. She was arrested several times. She made her way to England in 1864 and returned to the U. S. in 1866. Women in the Civil War Collection. TSLA

The curiosity of women serving on Civil War battlefields has attracted some attention from historians, and the women featured in this collection each contributed to the Union or Confederacy in her own unique fashion. This war fought principally on Southern soil brought out the ingenuity and resourcefulness, as well as the observant eye, of the region’s female population. The “Women in the Civil War” digital collection showcases female participation in the war, revealing that women experienced the crisis just as actively as their sons, husbands, and fathers.

During Women's History Month, be sure to visit the Women in the Civil War online exhibit, and "like" our Facebook page for updates throughout the month featuring content from this fascinating collection.

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.