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Andrew Jackson Fights the Red Sticks
by William P. Meyers

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Andrew Jackson would become a President of the United States of America and the founder of the Democratic Party. Along the way he would murder many of his fellow men and live a life of depravity unmatched, so far as we know, by any other American President.

Continued from War of 1812: Andrew Jackson Ready and Waiting

The Creek army that had won a major battle at Fort Mims on August 30, 1813 was led by William Weatherford, whose father was a trader of Scotch descent. He chose to join the Creek side of his family as Red Eagle. In 1811 he became a supporter of Tecumseh, who was rallying Indians against white land-thieves and Indian murderers like Andrew Jackson. The faction of Creek Indians he led were known as the Red Sticks. Fort Mims was guarded by seventy Louisiana state militiamen, but the Red Sticks found the gate open and the defense inept.

General Jackson, with John Coffee commanding his cavalry, was camped at Huntsville by October 9th. He did not like the conduct of the war of 1812 by the U.S. government, so he made his own plans, which involved invading Florida, then possessed by Spain. But he was a good military thinker who first had his men set up base camps and hew a 50 mile road through the wilderness.

Just as Jackson had hurt so many people to gain his own fortune, now he was hurt by the ineptness of the "free enterprise" system. "Fort Deposit was completed, but there was little to put into it. The civilian contractor system, in vogue in our armies ... failed from the first." [James p. 158] Jackson made do by having his troops steal Indian corn. Finally he was ready for battle. On November 3, 1813, Coffee with 1000 troops (including Davy Crockett) caught 200 Red Sticks at Tallushatchee and killed them all, losing only five of his own men.

Many Creeks, realizing the power of the white invaders, declared for the United States or made themselves neutral. Red Eagle took perhaps a thousand of his troops to threaten the Creek village of Talladega. Jackson marched about 2000 men, through roadless territory, to meet the Creeks in battle on November 9, 1813. The Red Sticks made the mistake of charging into overwhelming fire power. Although they broke through Jackson's lines, the battle was a defeat for the Indians. Already badly outnumbered, they lost about 300 dead, while Jackson lost only 15 men. Jackson was unable to take advantage of his victory because he had no food for his men, not even when he returned to his base camp, Fort Strother. Andrew himself was sick with dysentery.

Supplies failed to arrive. A militia brigade decided to start home; Jackson ordered them stopped. Others wanted to go back. Finally on November 17th Jackson gave the order to return to Tennessee. Marching that day they were greeted by a supply convoy. When they had feasted, Jackson ordered the men to turn around and head to Fort Strother. They mostly disobeyed, trying to head to Tennessee until Jackson and Coffee threatened to shoot them.

Problems multiplied. The Red Sticks defeated a separate expedition of Georgia state militia. A brigade of Jackson's troops under Hall planned to leave when their one year of volunteer service expired on December 10th. Jackson again threatened a mass execution if they "deserted." Then 1450 reinforcements from Tennessee arrived on December 13th. Hall's brigade left, but the new troops left the next day, and most of Coffee's cavalry left while he lay sick. Then Governor Blount advised that all the troops retreat to Tennessee. By the time he received that word, the General had only 500 effective troops left to command. Jackson refused to budge, but was soon down to 130 troops. Finally, however, 800 fresh troops and 200 Indian allies had arrived and Jackson marched them (and one brass cannon) towards the Red Stick stronghold of Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River.

The battle at Emuckfaw Creek on January 19, 1814 was chaotic and indecisive. Both sides showed a sharp knowledge of the military tactics of the era. Andrew Jackson called it a victory, but decided to retreat. The Red Sticks attacked again as the Tennessee volunteers crossed Enotachopco Creek. The militia panicked, Jackson had to play hero just to organize the panic into a retreat, and yet called this new battle another victory. The Administration and newspapers, desperate for good news in a war that was basically a string of American defeats, were happy to repeat the lie.

Governor Blount rewarded Jackson for his victories with thousands more troops to command. He even got regular army troops, the Thirty-Ninth U.S. Infantry. Jackson became even more of a tyrant. He dismissed Major General John Cocke and Brigadier-General Isaac Roberts for disagreeing with him.

Private John Woods was not so lucky. A month earlier the 17 year old substituted in for his brother, who had been conscripted. He made the mistake of arguing with the Officer of the Day outside of the General's tent. Jackson stepped outside and ordered: "Shoot him." Two days later, on March 14th, at 10 A.M. John Woods was shot dead by his fellow soldiers at Jackson's command. The General now believed he was ready to fight the Red Sticks again, with less insubordination from his underlings.

Next: Horseshoe Bend and Jackson's Land Grab

Main source: The Life of Andrew Jackson by Marquis James, Bobbs-Merrill company, 1938.

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