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The Creek War of 1813 and 1814|
Chapter 6: The Stockade
by Halbert, H. S. and Ball, T. H.
|The writers who have treated of the "Creek War" briefly are many. Those who have gone much into the details are few. And these few seem to have had influences bearing upon them which led them to take different views of the same facts or sometimes to disagree in regard to the facts. Claiborne, to whose large work reference has already been made, doubtless meant to be, as he says in his Introduction that he has striven to be "truthful and impartial" but it is difficult to read several things in his "Mississippi," without thinking that his strong feelings and sympathies and his love for that brilliant rhetoric, which he knew how to command, have unduly colored some of his statements. He objects strongly to the view which Colonel Hawkins, the Government Agent among the Creeks, took of Tecumseh, as Claiborne himself gives that view, and of Colonel Hawkins' claim that there would not be much war if the Creeks were let alone. He says that General Flournoy was misled by Colonel Hawkins' representations concerning the degree of civilization attained by the Creeks and their peaceful disposition towards the whites. He makes this statement: " Even after the massacre at Fort Mims, Colonel Hawkins reiterated these assurances, laid the blame of that affair on the Tombigbee people, and declared that the war would be 'a civil war among the Creeks and not on the whites,' if let alone."
Claiborne adds: "Unfortunately General Flournoy adopted these views and forbade any aggressive movement on the savages."
Pickett also speaks of Colonel Hawkins as having been "strangely benighted," not properly realizing the danger that existed. It is not designed to suggest, here, who had the most accurate knowledge of the real state of affairs among the Creeks, some of Brewer's statements will appear in other chapters, and the readers will have other facts before them on which to form their own opinions--but it is certain that the inhabitants of these river settlements, these pioneers along the Mobile and Tensaw and the Alabama and Tombigbee, saw a dark looking war cloud rising to the eastward, and that they felt it needful, and that it was needful, for them to do the best which they could do in preparing for self-defense. They therefore erected as speedily as possible stockades, which they called, in the language of war, forts, in which they spent quite a little time in the summer and fall of 1813. No dates have been found giving the exact time of the erection of the stockades in Clarke county, but it is evident that some were erected in July.
An enumeration and some description of these forts is the object of this chapter, including also some erected long before 1813.
1. Fort St. Stephens, established by the French, probably about 1714, held afterwards by the Spanish, who made there a settlement about 1786, given up by the Spaniards to the Americans in 1799, has been already mentioned. So far as the Creek Indians were concerned, this was considered an impregnable fortress. As this locality, the old St. Stephens, will be again more fully mentioned, it needs no further notice here, only the statement that it was on the west bank of the Tombigbee, on a high bluff, at the head of sloop navigation.
2. Fort Stoddart, as established by United States troops in July, 1799, has also been named, with its stockade and bastion. As this was for some years a government post, held by United States troops, and became a port of entry where the Court of Admiralty was held, it was of course a strong point. In 1804 Captain Schuyler of New York was commander here, with eighty men, Edmund P. Gaines was Lieutenant, and Lieutenant Reuben Chamberlain was paymaster. At Fort Stoddart duties were exacted on imports and exports.* [* A beautiful, or at least an instructive and strong example of the effect of duties on articles reaching the consumer was shown here in 1807. In that year the Natchez planters in the western part of the Mississippi territory paid for Kentucky flour four dollars per barrel, and the same flour brought round by Mobile and there subjected to Spanish duties, and coming up the river past the Fort Stoddart port of entry, cost the Tombigbee planters sixteen dollars a barrel.] Four miles west of Fort Stoddart was Mount Vernon.
3. Passing down the river, a strong fort was located at Mobile called Fort Charlotte. Another was also constructed here, Fort Bowyer.
4. Going now northward, on the east side of the Alabama, two miles below the "cut off," a quarter of a mile from the Tensaw Boat Yard, was the ill-fated Fort Mims. This was built in the summer of 1813 and will be again noticed. When the erection of this stockade was commenced is uncertain, perhaps in July, and, according to Pickett, its last block house was never finished.
This might be called No. 1 of the stockades erected especially for protection against the Creeks, but the former notation will be continued.
5. Fort Pierce was a small stockade some two miles south-east of Fort Mims. It took its name from two brothers, William Pierce and John Pierce, who came from New England and made there their home in Spanish times. William Pierce was a weaver and John Pierce a teacher.
6. Crossing the Alabama and coming into the new Clarke county, we reach Fort Glass, built sometime in July at the home of Zachariah Glass by himself and his neighbors, Nah-hee, called a Tory Creek, an intelligent Indian, employed in the Creek war as a scout, assisting, it is said, in the building.
7. Fort Madison was in the north-east corner of section one, township six, range three east of the St. Stephen's meridian, on the water-shed line, which was then the eastern boundary of Clarke County. As will be seen from the accompanying cut, it was north of Fort Glass only two hundred and twenty five yards, and the two stockades constituted one locality, being the center of the quite large Fort Madison neighborhood. The first store in this region was about due east from Fort Madison, on the Alabama River, distant six miles, opened, probably, in 1812; and one of the first grist mills was built about the same time, perhaps about four miles north; and in 1813 the first cotton gin in the vicinity was erected some two miles north. This was one of the seven principal settlements in the then new Clarke county and the region west of the Alabama. As is evident from the mention of the store and the mill and the gin, and the plantations that were opened around these, it was an important locality for these settlers to hold.
Fort Madison contained not quite an acre of ground, having been, as will be seen from the cut, sixty yards square. A trench three feet in depth was dug around the outside and bodies of pine trees cut about fifteen feet in length were placed perpendicularly in the trench side by side, making thus a wall of pine wood twelve feet in height. Port holes were cut at convenient distances so as to enable the inmates to look out, and in case of an attack to fire upon the besiegers. In about the same way all these stockades of 1813 were constructed. They were lighted at night by means of the abundant pitch pine placed upon scaffolds, covered with earth, erected for the purpose. Additional securities were added at Fort Madison and an improved method of lighting introduced, which will be by and by mentioned. Within this enclosure, bearing the name of the President of the United States, were the tents and cabins of the settlers of that neighborhood, and, after its erection, the date not certain, Fort Glass was occupied by the soldiers.* [* From information gathered in Clarke county, in the region occupied by several of these forts, it seems that when General Claiborne reached Mount Vernon, July 30th he immediately ascertained what could then be learned about the Burnt Corn action, and in regard to the stockades around the residences of Glass, Lavier, Singuefield, White, Easley, and Oarney, which of course were then already erected: and that be sent Colonel Carson with two hundred mounted men to Fort Glass, and that after their arrival Fort Madison was immediately constructed. This fixes the date some time in August. It may be added here that General Claiborne also sent Captain Scott with a company of men to St. Stephens, to occupy the old Spanish block-house.]
8. Fort Sinquefield was about ten miles north of Fort Madison, on the western side of Bassett's Creek, a large stream of water for a creek, on section thirteen, township eight, range three east, a smaller stockade built very much in the same manner. As the map in this book will show, it was about five miles south-east from the present town of Grove Hill, formerly called Macon, the county seat of Clarke county. This fort stood on a table-land or height of ground extending for a mile north and south. Eastward is a gentle slope which terminates finally in the Bassett's Creek valley. Westward are deep valleys and narrow, between large, high ridges of land. No actual hill is within miles of this locality, yet the ascent from the valleys to the top of the ridges or table, might be called going up hill. The spring which supplied this stockade with water is south of wrest, in one of the deep valleys, distant two hundred and seventy-five yards.
Ninety feet distant from the once stockaded ground, in a north-west direction, are some graves. A few rods eastward of the fort ground is supposed to be an old burial place, although here the traces of the graves were not distinct in 1879. One of the principal highways of Clarke county runs directly by this locality, but, as it has been for many years a family home, no traces of the stockade outlines can be found here which are still so distinct at forts Glass and Madison.
9. Fort White was a small stockade a short distance north east of the present Grove Hill.
10. Landrum's Fort was eleven miles west from Fort Sinquefield; on section eighteen, township eight, range two east.
11. Mott's Fort was in the same neighborhood. These both were small.
12. Going now to the Tombigbee River and northward, Fort Easley was on section ten or eleven, township eleven, range one west, at what is now called Wood's Bluff. This fort was named, as were nearly all others, from a prominent settler in the neighborhood, and the bluff took its name from Major Wood, an officer in the Burnt Corn expedition. This stockade was on a small plateau containing about three acres. On the side next to the river the bluff is almost a perpendicular wall, there is "a bold spring of water flowing from its side," and the descent is quite abrupt from this plateau above and below the stockade ground, making this fort a naturally strong, position.
General Claiborne visited this stockade about the last of August, having received a report that it would be attacked by the Indians. It is possible that some of the Creeks started this report to call attention away from the real fort which they designed to attack, that Fort Mims, which was fifty miles south and twelve miles east from Fort Easley.
13. Turner's Fort was some eight miles south and five west, in the west bend of the Tombigbee River, near the residence of Abner Turner. This fort was built of split pine logs doubled and contained two or three block-houses. It was held by the citizens of the neighborhood, thirteen men and some boys forming the garrison that expected to protect the women and children. Two or three miles distant, on the river, was a Choctaw reservation known as Turkey Town, called by the Choctaws "Fakit Chipunta," Little Turkeys. In this stockade were members of the Turner, Thornton, Pace, and other families, early settlers in what became the delightful West Bend neighborhood. Here for a time resided Tandy Walker, who is mentioned in the Gaines records, who was "a most experienced and daring backwoodsman;" but in the summer of 1813 he was connected with the affairs at Fort Madison.
The inmates of the two forts, Turner's and Easleys', held religious services in their fort life. At Fort Easley a camp-meeting was held, probably in August, which some from the other stockade attended. The "love feast" on Sunday morning was held outside the fort, but guards were stationed to give warning if any attacking party of Indians appeared.* [* Among those attending this meeting from West Bend was Mrs. Martha Pace, known in her later life as Aunt Patsy, born about 1800, then a girl of thirteen, with whom I became acquainted in 1859 and who mentioned the incident of the love feast, when she was about eighty years of age, a very active even then, and noble hearted woman. In this West Bend neighborhood, at the home of Hon. Eli S. Thornton, among those who were in the Turner fort and their descendants, I spent nearly two years.--T. H. B.]
14. Passing, now, down the river, on the west side, five miles below Coffeeville, about a mile from the river, was Cato's Fort.
15. Still further west, in Washington county, was Rankin's Fort, quite a large stockade, and the most western one of the River Group.
16. McGrew's Fort was in the corner of section one, township seven, range one west, about three miles north of Fort St. Stephens, in Clarke county, five miles north and eighteen west from Fort Madison. It is claimed that the area here enclosed with palisades was about two acres. Some of the posts were remaining in 1879, and around the fort locality was an old field. Here two brothers, William McGrew and John McGrew, British royalists then, refugees, probably, from the Atlantic coast, made an early settlement near the Tombigbee River. McGrew's Reserve, an old Spanish grant, is still a landmark in Clarke county. These brothers left the reputation of having been exemplary men, and of having become good Americans. How many families were in this fort is not known.
17. Six miles south from Jackson, at Gullet's Bluff, was Fort Carney, on the line of travel to Mount Vernon. This fort was built by Josiah Carney who settled on the river in 1809.* [* At this stockade an incident occurred illustrating the statement that skill acquired through disobedience may be useful. In one of the families was a girl about fourteen years of age who found the large water course attractive but whose father, knowing nothing about the management of a boat, fearing no doubt for her safety, had forbidden her to go to the river. One day an alarm was given that the Indians were near, and the families hurriedly sought safety on the west side of the river. But how should this family cross when the father could neither paddle nor row? The daughter procured a boat and to the astonishment of her father took them all rapidly over the river. And then the fact came out that she had slipped off secretly to the river when opportunities offered and by practice had learned to take a boat across that current. What her father said or did tradition has not preserved but that girl, surely not generally disobedient nor wayward, grew up to womanhood, became Mrs. Blackwell, one of the highly respected women of Clarke county and died near Jackson in the fall of 1879, eighty years of age. If disobedient she was at least, in her girlhood a heroine and in her womanhood we may be sure she did not encourage disobedience.]
18. Three miles south of Fort Carney, near Oven Bluff, was Powell's Fort, where were about six families, including those of John McCaskey, James Powell, and John Powell.
19. Lavier's Fort, written sometimes by mistake or misprint Rivier's, was built, so far as has been ascertained, (the only authority is an aged colored man, Dick Embree), near the residence of Captain Lawson Lavier, who traded with the Choctaw Indians. It was built by himself and a few neighbors, but its locality is not known. Pickett names it, but no resident of Clarke County was found in 1877 who knew anything of it.
20. At Mount Vernon, to which as General Claiborne's headquarters we now come, and where was a United States arsenal, were two forts. An arsenal was maintained here until 1861, and since 1865 this has been held as a United States post, where a few officers and soldiers may always be found. Near the parade ground are some of those beautiful trees known as live oak, and the long leaf pine growth extends a long distance northward. The landing place on the river, known as Arsenal Wharf or Fort Stoddart four miles distant, the early United States "port of entry," is distant from Mobile by the river channel forty-five miles, and five miles further north by the river brings one to the head of the Mobile River, the union of the Alabama and Tombigbee. The Mobile River, of the formation of which, judging from the school maps of Guyot and others, many must be ignorant, is fifty miles in length. Mount Vernon is distant now from Mobile by railroad only twenty-nine miles. As a place supposed to be very secure the two forts there, in the summer of 1813, are said to have been "packed." How many people were in these different stockades at any one time is not certain. But after the alarm caused by the massacre at Fort Mims there were at Forts Madison and Glass more than one thousand citizens and soldiers. At Fort Carney there were about four hundred. Rankin's Fort contained five hundred and thirty. How many hundred were at St. Stephens and at Mount Vernon is not known.
In these river settlements there were at that time, it has been already stated, about two thousand whites and two thousand blacks, taking for the basis of authority the United States census of 1810.
Besides these twenty or twenty-one forts, so called, which were in the line of the river settlements proper, two forts, named Roger's and Patton's, were constructed in what is now Wayne county, Mississippi, Patton's Fort at Winchester and Roger's Fort, six miles above. There was little use for these, however, and no real need, for the Creeks were not likely to cross the Tombigbee and go into the Choctaw territory. In fact families of Clarke county instead of trusting themselves in the stockades and enduring the inconveniences of thus living, for even a few weeks, crossed the Tombigbee and selected camping grounds far enough west to be, as they thought, out of danger. Among some such was the family of Mrs. Cathell, a widow with four sons and four daughters, having come into Clarke county from Georgia in 1819. Two of her sons went as soldiers against the Indians. She dreaded to have them leave her, saying that she had lost two brothers in the Revolutionary War and she felt sure these sons would fall in the coming, conflict. And they did fall with so many others at Fort Mims. Disliking fort life for herself, as she had experienced it in her girlhood in the war of the Revolution, she with the other members of her family and ten or twelve other families crossed the river and went into camps.
1. Soon after the return of the Cathell family into Clarke County, one of the daughters, Jane Cathell, was married to Captain William R. Parker, and with her, eighty-four years of age in April, 1879, the writer of this chapter became acquainted. She had good use of her faculties, was intelligent and sprightly in mind, her eyes rather dim, but her hearing good.
She died suddenly in May, 1879, falling "lifeless to the floor, from the chair in which she was sitting."
2. That this fort life, although a necessity with many for a time, was to many mothers with their little children not pleasant, is evident from the statements of Mrs. Mary Cammack, with whom also this writer was acquainted. She was born in April, 1789, in South Carolina, was married in Kentucky in 1804, came into the Mississippi Territory in 1810, and when visited by the writer in August, 1874, then eighty-five years of age, was active, intelligent, cheerful, and recounted with a ready recollection the events of her earlier life. In 1810, for some five weeks, five hundred Choctaw Indians had camped within sight of her husband's cabin, near the Clarke county water-shed line. She reported them as well behaved, drinking no whiskey, not attempting to steal or plunder. Their chief was the noted Pushmataha. But when the Indian troubles commenced sixteen out of the seventeen of her husband's pack horses were taken by the Creek Indians, and the family were all soon obliged to seek safety in Fort Madison. But Mrs. Cammack expressly said, she did not think the behavior of some of the white people in the fort was equal to the conduct as she saw it of Pushmataha's Choctaws. The practices of some of them she very much disliked. And it is very evident, however virtuous these pioneer settlers were, as they had lately come from Georgia and the Carolinas, from Tennessee and Kentucky, that life in a crowded stockade, to sensitive mothers and little children, could not be pleasant.
Mrs. Mary George Cammack, in 1813 twenty four years of age then the mother of four children, was a woman of more than ordinary physical and mental endowments, as many of our pioneer women were, and hers I consider to be first class testimony, as an observing and unprejudiced woman, for all facts within her range of knowledge connected with the Creek Indian troubles of 1813.
3. This note is for the lovers of curious facts.
Mrs. Cammack was the mother of thirteen children, and these facts appear in examining the years in which they were born. The first birth was in 1805, and then the births were in each odd year, or every other year, until the year of the fort life, the year of dangers and alarms. As one illustration of the alarms, fifteen Indians, before fighting had commenced called one day at her home, and so startled her that she took refuge in the home of a neighbor.
No child was born in 1813. Then beginning with December, 1814, the other children were all born in the even years, thus: 1805,1807, 1809, 1811, 1814, 1816, 1818, 1820, 1822, 1824, 1826, 1828, 1830. What could be more regular in birth years?
A new England writer of note, some years ago, questioned the statement of a Sunday-school man in regard to families in the South having as many as eight and twelve children. Many of our questionings doubtless display our ignorance rather than our knowledge, for it is well known by those who have the means of knowing that many such large families were and still are in the South.