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Fort Mims

The five acre site of Fort Mims is located 7 miles west of Tensaw, Alabama in Baldwin County off State Road 59.
To reach Fort Mims take County Rd 80 off of State Rd 59 north of Stockton, Baldwin County
Contact Phone number is (334) 937-9464
The site has picnic tables and an interpretive walkway, but no staff or facilities.
No admission fee.
[Info from the Alabama Historical Commission]

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Timeline of The Battle of Fort Mims

Background

The Redstick faction (named for the red wooden war clubs they carried) of the Creek Indian Nation, were followers of Shawnee leaders Tenskwatawa (The Prophet) and Tecumseh. Tecumseh advocated death to any Indians who allied with the Americans, while Tenskwatawa (c. 1775-1836) preached adherence to traditional Indian cultures.

Creek Indians living in the Tensaw area of Alabama had intermarried with the European and American settlers and were close allies. The Redstick faction of the Creek Indian Nation opposed growing U.S. influence in the area and had voted for war.

Events Leading up to the Attack

- In July 1813, Peter McQueen and a large party of "Red Sticks", went to Pensacola with a letter from a British office r at Fort Malden and four hundred dollars to buy munitions from the Spanish. United States soldiers at Fort Mims, having heard of McQueen's mission, responded by sending a disorganized force, led by Major Daniel Beasley, Captain Dixon Bailey, and Colonel Caller to intercept McQueen's party.

[Captain Bailey was a half-breed Creek and native of the town of Auttose, who had been educated at Philadelphia under the provisions of the treaty of New York of 1790.]

The Americans ambushed the Creek Indians as they bedded down for the evening at Burnt Corn Creek, near today's border between Escambia and Conecuh counties. The Americans scattered the Red Sticks, who fled to the nearby swamps. From the swamp, the Creeks noticed that the Americans were looting and had dropped their guard. The Creeks re-grouped and launched a surprise attack, which scattered the Americans. The Creeks prevailed, but vowed revenge for the attack.

This skirmish became known as the "Battle of Burnt Corn"

- Tensions grew and many families along the Tensaw, Alabama and Tombigbee rivers took refuge in quickly fortified sites, including one owned by Samuel Mims, a wealthy local trader, near Boatyard Lake in the upper eastern Delta. Later, volunteer troops from Mississippi helped enlarge it. Roughly 120 militiamen guarded some 300 others at Fort Mims, including slaves and friendly Indians. But as weeks passed without an attack, the people at Fort Mims grew complacent.

The militia commander, Daniel Beasley, disregarded warnings of an imminent attack which he received on August 29, 1813. Two slaves, who were tending cattle outside the stockade, reported that "painted warriors" were in the vicinity. However, mounted scouts from the fort found no signs of the war party, and Beasley had the second slave flogged for raising a "f alse alarm".

At the time of the attack, the East gate was partially blocked open by drifting sand. According to anecdotal evidence the gate was open "...when the officers all got drunk and were playing cards and left the gate open, and it rained and washed the sand in the gate so it could not be shut and Father left with Mother and the children, and the Indians killed all that stayed."


Creek Indian War Battle Locations
Map Courtesy of PCL Map Collection at the Universtity of Texas at Austin

Map of Fort Mims

Map of Fort Mims  
[click to view larger pix]

Source: Ferdinand Leigh Claiborne, Alabama Department of Archives and History

The Attack

- The attack occurred the next day on Aug. 30 as the sett lers ate lunch, when no American scouts were out. About 700 "Red Stick" Creeks, led by the mixed-blood William "Red Eagle" Weatherford , Far-off Warrior (Hopvyç Tustunuke), and the prophet Paddy Walsh, rushed the fort and tomahawked Beasley, who was desperately trying to close the blocked gate.

They then seized the loopholes and the outer enclosure.

The settlers, under Captain (and Creek Indian) Dixon Bailey and his 45 American and Creek militiamen repelled the Redstick onslaught and for four hours successfully defended hundreds of civilians huddled inside the flimsy, one-acre inner enclosure until the Red Sticks set fire to a house in the center, which spread to the rest of the stockade.

The warriors then forced their way into the inner enclosure and, despite the attempts of William Weatherford to stop them, massacred most of the mixed-blood Creeks and white settlers, including most of the women and children. After the five hour battle, 500 people were dead, and 250 scalps had been taken. Most of the African Americans were spared, to become slaves of the Red Sticks. About 36 people escaped, including Bailey, who was mortally wounded.

- Historians accept that at least 250 men, women and chil dren were killed at Fort Mims, the largest massacre of whites by Indians in the 19th century. Three weeks later, when a burial party arrived, the sky over Fort Mims was still black with vultures, according to the book "Alabama: The His tory of a Deep South State."

- The cry "Remember Fort Mims!" took hold, and brought avenging militiamen to Alabama to fight the Indians in the Creek Indian War of 1813-1814, including Tennesseans commanded by Andrew Jackson. Jackson, who was in and out of the Delta during this time, led the militia in defeating the Creeks at the celebrated Battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814. That battle, fought near present-day Wetumpka, crushed the Creeks and effectively ended the Creek War, guaranteeing the tribe's expulsion to the west. It also made Jackson a national hero. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson would remember the Delta by signing legislation to establish the federal Mount Vernon Arsenal three miles west of old Fort Stoddert.

On August 9, 1814, the Creek leaders met at Fort Jackson near Wetumpka and ceded 23 million acres of their land to the United States

[Sources: Data for the timeline was compiled by K. Torp from: Alabama Department of Archives & History, Alabama Historical Commission, Encyclopedia of Alabama, and Wikipedia.org ]


Correspondence of Dr. Smith

This is a letter from Dr. Neal Smith from St. Stephens, Miss. Territory, to James Smiley, discussing the fall of Fort Mims and General Claiborne's battle with the Creek Nation at Holy Ground, Miss. Territory.

St. Stephens
January 8th 1813

Sir

A few days after the fall of Fort Mims I wrote you a few lines stating to you that circumstance and the distress of the citizens in this part of the country. I now write you a second letter which I hope you will receive and give an answer in return.

The troops in this part of the country are now idle as they have just returned from taking tower [tour] through the Indian Nation. On the 23rd of December last, General Claiborne with the forces under his command which was composed of the 3rd Regt. the twelve months Volunteers, the mounted Riflemen from the west of Pearle River and the Indians of this part & composing in all eight or nine Hundred-had a small Battle within the Creek Nation at the place called the Holy Ground; they killed about twenty Indians and Negroes on the grounds on the part of the whites one killed and five wounded.

Amongst the slain of the Indians was found one of the Shawnee Prophets who was said first to have raised the disturbance with the whites, a singer in the Creek Nation - and the leading prophet of the Creeks was said to have been mortally wounded and dropt a noted gun which was well known. They also destroyed two other small towns Weatherfords & Menacks one Negroe and two squaws were taken prisoners. Those credulous savages, through the influence of their Prophets was induced to believe that the wholy ground was their place of safty where they should stand and see the whites and the ground on which they stood fall when ever they would come to attack them. They therefore made it a place of deposit for all their valuable plunder which was destroyed and taken away and amongst the rest from twelve to fifteen hundred Barrels of corn In the midst of the public square as an ornament to their new town was histed a great number of white scalps of every description from the infant to the grey head. The whites had it in their power to have done much more damage to the Indian had they not have been disappointed by an infamous character who was employed as a contractor and deceived the whole troops in furnishing them with provision—they had to live eight or ten d ay on bread alone and part of the time on parched corn alone.

During the campaign I acted as surgeon to the militia and I am now preparing to settle again at the Pine Level and return to my private practice which is much more agreeable than taking campaigns through the Indian Nation or warfaring. Give my compliments to my sister and Brother tell them that I shall not go to Carolina this season and if I do not get married it is probable that I shall go and see them in the spring.

Yours with all due Respect etc.

Neal Smith

Recv'd James Smiley

 [Original Letter contained in the Alabama Department of Archives and History; Transcribed by K. T.]




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