This work proposes to give as accurate an account as can now be obtained from written and printed records, from traditions, and from personal observation, of that portion of American history known as the Creek War of 1813 and 1814.
Of these Creek Indians says BREWER, author of a history of Alabama: "In 1813 and 1814 they waged the bloodiest war against the whites anywhere recorded in the annals of the United States."
Says MEEK, one of Alabama's talented orators and poets: "Time as it passed on and filled these solitudes with settlers, at last brought the most sanguinary era in Alabama history."
And PICKETT, recognized as Alabama's leading historian, says: "Everything foreboded the extermination of the Americans in Alabama, who were the most isolated and defenseless people imaginable."
The reader who comes to our "Conclusion" may be disposed to change BREWER'S statement; but he will not question the statements of PICKETT and MEEK.
But this work does not propose to give in full that part of the conflict waged in the Indian country which broke the power of the fierce Muscogees; but rather that part which has not been as yet so fully given, connected with the white settlers in what is now South Alabama. This portion of our American history, as connected with Indian border warfare, the authors of this work believe will be given more accurately and fully than has ever been done before. They propose to do justice to the Indians and justice to the whites.
For this portion of history they hope to make this work an authority. And for this they suggest the possession of some special fitness;
H. S. Halbert is a member of the State Historical Societies of Alabama and Mississippi. He was born in Alabama, and was, in a great measure, educated by the late Dr. J. E. Eaton, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He spent a portion of his early manhood in Indian campaigns on the western frontier, where he became familiar with the sight of the wild warrior with his bow and quiver, his paint and feathers; and there he conceived an abiding interest in the strange history and destiny of the American Indians. He has also been not a little among the civilized tribes of the Indian Territory. After four years of service in the Confederate army, he was for a number of years engaged in teaching in Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama. While pursuing his profession in the two latter states he devoted much of his leisure to historical researches. He visited the homes and interviewed some surviving soldiers and contemporaries of the Creek war of 1813 and noted down their varied recollections, thereby collecting much new material for the history of that war. He was especially fortunate in securing from these aged survivors a full account of the attack on Fort Sinquefield, of which only a meagre sketch is recorded in the histories of Meek and Pickett.
For a number of years past he has been engaged in educational work among the Choctaws of Mississippi, with whose language, customs, and traditions he is familiar. From the immediate descendants of some of Pushmataha's warriors he has been enabled to rescue from oblivion a number of incidents in the career of that noted Mingo, and many facts in regard to Tecumseh's Southern visit. He has, in short, been interested largely for years in studies and investigations connected with the Southern Indians, and has visited in person and examined with care the Burnt Corn and Holy Ground battlefields. The Alabama Historical Reporter for January, 1885, said: Mr. H. S. Halbert is now doing more than any man in the South, perhaps, in collecting everything connected with the Southern Indians in the shape of history, tradition, romance, legend, etc."
T. E. Ball had an early home in the state of Georgia, before 1833, not far from the Savannah River, and learned some of the customs and ways of the South; but in 1837, when eleven years of age, his home was transferred to the then almost untenanted solitudes of Northwestern Indiana (where the great prairie region of the West joined the woodland growth that extended to the Atlantic) and to the banks of a beautiful lake in the region then but lately occupied by the Pottawatomie Indians, some thirty-six miles from the old Fort Dearborn of Lake Michigan, some seventy-two miles from the Tippecanoe battle ground. He gained in those years of boyhood some knowledge of the Indians--Indians that had been associated with French missionaries and with fur traders--as he saw them in their wigwams, on their ponies, in their large birch-bark canoes, and when returning from the chase, and took a deep interest in Indian history and in pioneer and hunter life. His young footsteps followed the wild game and his rifle secured it where his almost immediate predecessors had been Indian hunters.
From 1851 to 1855 he resided as a teacher in Clarke county, Alabama, and was there again no small part of the time in 1859 and 1860, and from 1874 to 1883. With the region around the old Fort Sinquefield he became thoroughly familiar, examined carefully the location of Fort Madison and Fort Glass, saw the location of Fort White, and became well acquainted with all that early center of white settlement and of once crowded stockades.
Eggleston relies much upon Meek for localities and for facts in Clarke county, saying that he was familiar with that region. But neither Meek, nor even Pickett, seems to have had any personal knowledge of that fifteen hundred square miles of area now constituting Clarke county, Alabama. No other writer on this portion of history, has, so far as appears, been on the very ground of these forts and so has had a personal knowledge of the geography and topography of this region. Knowledge thus gained, and applied in some portions of this history, is what is meant by "personal observation" in the first sentence of this "Introduction." And not only did this writer have an opportunity to examine these localities well, but he was an inmate for several months in the home of Major Austill of the Canoe Fight, then residing near the old Fort Carney, was well acquainted with Isham Kimbell, Esq., a survivor of the Kimbell-James massacre, and with others who as men and women or as children were in the different forts, and who passed through the trying scenes of the summer and fall of 1813.
In a valuable history of Indiana, by DeWitt C. Goodrich and Professor Charles R. Tuttle, a table is given, with names and dates, of "Sixteen American Wars." Among these are named King Philip's 1677, Tecumseh's 1811, First Seminole 1817, Black Hawk's 1832, Second Seminole 1845; but of the Creek War no mention is made. Did the writers forget that war? Or did they consider it of no importance?
That the Creek war should be better known at the South than in the North is natural; and that there, at least, it should be considered quite as deserving of a name and place among American Wars as Black Hawk's War or as Tecumseh's, is also natural. But surely the time has come, especially now, since that gathering of the millions on Lake Michigan's shore at the Columbian Exposition, the great World's Fair of 1893, when those who read and study our history in all parts of the land should be restricted to no localities and influenced by no prejudices in looking at our various conflicts with the Indian tribes.
The youth of the South should know something of the Pequods and the Narragansetts and of King Philip and of Black Hawk and of Pontiac, as should those of the North of Weatherford and of Big Warrior, and of Choctaws, Seminoles, and Muscogees.
Of the authors of this history it may be noticed that one was born in New England and the other in the South; that one was with the Confederates in that war that opened in 1861, and the other was, in the years of that strife in New England and Indiana, graduating at the Newton Theological Institution in 1863, standing constantly under "the stars and stripes;" that both have spent years in the South and have many friends there; and that both, as true Americans, and as interested in all facts connected with the aboriginees of this country, having devoted years of life to teaching, have here united their efforts to prepare for those who are now and who are yet to be, in the East and the West, in the North Central States and in the South, a readable, a full, an accurate account of that truly "bloody" Creek War. These statements are made as suggesting that the writers of this volume, both as free as any who can easily be found from local and educational prejudices and favoritisms, each having pursued his own line of research, are not without some special qualifications for the work which they have undertaken.