A Brief History
On August 30, 1813, a force of about 1,000 warriors of a faction of the Creek Nation Native Americans known as the “Red Sticks” attacked Fort Mims in Alabama, killing almost all its defenders and many civilians as well. What later became known as the Fort Mims Massacre was the worst slaughter of white settlers by Native Americans in the South and probably the second worst overall. (Only the 1791 Fort Recovery Massacre in Ohio known as St. Clair’s Defeat may have been worse.)
As stated above, the Red Sticks were a faction of the Creek. Many Creek had assimilated with the white settlers and had adopted their customs. The Red Sticks refused to do this and had separated from their more accommodating tribesmen known as the White Sticks. In 1812, conflicts known as the Creek Wars erupted between the two sides.
Trouble then also began brewing between the white settlers and the Red Sticks, causing many settlers to move to the “safety” of forts like Fort Mims. They were joined by mixed-blood Creek known as Métis. At the time of the attack, a total of 517 white settlers and Métis and their slaves were in the fort. This number included 265 armed militia.
The Red Sticks were led by Peter McQueen and William Weatherford, the unlikely English names of 2 Creek chiefs.
Following an attempt to overwhelm the fort’s defenses, the Red Sticks were repelled. After convening for a war council, however, they attacked again. This time the settlers were forced into an inner building which was then set on fire by the attackers. Despite efforts of the chiefs to prevent a massacre, almost all the white people were killed, the Red Sticks taking some 250 scalps. Only 36 men, 2 women and 1 girl escaped with their lives. The Red Sticks spared many of the slaves, only to make them slaves of the Creek. Whereas roughly 400 whites and Métis died, the Red Sticks only lost about 100 warriors.
Andrew Jackson, the man who in 1815 would become the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, the final major battle of the War of 1812, and then President of the United States in 1829, led American forces against the Red Sticks, the main battle being the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814 where Jackson and his men killed 800 Creek warriors, effectively ending the Creek Wars.
Many people have noticed that when the white settlers killed Native Americans, history refers to the action as a “victory;” however, when Native Americans win a fight, the battle is referred to as a “massacre.” Only recently have attitudes been changing and the perspective of the Native American side has been receiving much more attention from historians and coverage by the media.
Question for students (and subscribers): Do you think we will ever have a person with Native American ancestry as president of the United States of America? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For another interesting event that happened on August 30, please see the History and Headlines article: “10 Formidable Females: Women Who Killed (Or Tried To).”
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For more information, please see…
Waselkov, Gregory A. A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813–1814 (Fire Ant Books). University Alabama Press, 2009.