Alabama played a role in the War of 1812 primarily because of a civil war between the Creek Indians. The Federal Road divided the traditional Upper Creeks from more assimilated Lower Creeks. Towns were further categorized as either “Red” or “White”. Red towns were governed by warriors only. The term “red” refers to the warlike disposition of these towns, but does not correspond to the English adjective “bloody”. It depicts the wrath or anger the warriors felt when out on the warpath. The posts of the town cabin in the public square were painted red on one side. White towns, also called “peace” or “conservative” towns, were governed by civil officers and were considered places of refuge and safety to individuals who had left their tribes in fear of punishment or revenge at the hand of their pursuers. Creek ownership of traditional lands was endangered as land-hungry whites moved across it or settled illegally on it. (Andrew Jackson was a determined and non-apologetic land speculator in his own right).
The British sent Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief, from the Great Lakes to unite all Indians against white Americans and form an alliance with England and Spain.
England and Spain incited the Creeks against American settlers and supplied Creeks with guns and ammunition. Battles raged on the frontier between Creek “Red Sticks” and American militia led by General Andrew Jackson. The last and most famous battle, the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (now a National Military Park) destroyed the strength of the Creek Nation. General Jackson forced the Creeks to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson, ceding some forty thousand square miles of land to the United States.Foreign influence among Indians was destroyed.
The Fort Jackson Treaty, acquiring Creek lands, began a series of forced land-cession treaties by the United States with other southern tribes until all were removed west. General Andrew Jackson became a national hero for defeating the Creeks, a victory that helped pave his way to become President of the United States.
The Creek War of 1813-14 began as a civil war, largely centered among the Upper Creeks, whose towns were located on the Coosa, Tallapoosa, and upper reaches of the Alabama rivers. The struggle pitted a faction of the Creeks who became known as Red Sticks against those Creeks who supported the National Council, a relatively new body that had developed from the traditional regional meetings of headmen from the Creek towns. Under the auspices of federal Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins, the National Council’s authority and powers had been expanded. The war broke out against the backdrop of the American-British War of 1812. Americans, fearful that southeastern Indians would ally with the British, quickly joined the war against the Red Sticks, turning the civil war into a military campaign designed to destroy Creek power. It was essentially this potential alliance with the British that brings the Creek War under the umbrella of the War of 1812.
Benjamin Hawkins, Painted in 1805
To prove their loyalty to the United States, contingents of Choctaw and Cherokee warriors joined the American war against the Creeks. Thus, the Creek civil war was quickly transformed into a multidimensional war that resulted in the total defeat of the Creek people at the hands of American armies and their Native American allies.
This article is intended to provide accurate historical information to a general audience. Material contained herein is gathered from reputable online and traditional sources, but unless otherwise noted, is not the result of original scholarship or research by the author.
-E. E. (Skip) Campbell, Ph.D.
Skip Campbell retired from UPS in early 2012 after 38 years as a senior manager, working in numerous locations in the United States and abroad, with primary responsibilities in operations and industrial engineering. He received his BS degree in Applied Science and Operations Analysis from the University of Alabama and holds Master’s degrees in Engineering Management, Quality and Management,. Skip holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Development, with concentrations in Organizational Theory and Macroergonomics. Skip is a Senior Member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and sits on the Board of Visitors for the College of Continuing Studies at the University of Alabama. Since retiring, Skip serves as an Adjunct Professor with the College of Continuing Studies (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) at the University of Alabama and focuses his academic research efforts on the area of pre-20th century Alabama history. Skip belongs to a number of historical and cemetery preservation associations. He and his wife Denise have 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren.