H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

History of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: online

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This interesting subject gave rise to warm debates in con-
gress. One party insisted that Great Britain had a right to
her subjects, in all situations and under all circumstances ; that
they were in fact her property, and without her consent they
never could free themselves from her authority. They contend-
ed further, that a man cannot divest himself of his allegiance to
the government of the country in which he happens to be born ;
that although he may leave the country of his birth for a time,
he never can expatriate himself. The procedure of our admin-
istration, in attempting to prevent the British government from
punishing natives of Great Britain naturalized in this country
for taking up arms against that power, was condemned. It
was immaterial, it was asserted, that such persons had resided
among us ten or even twenty years before the war; they must
be regarded in the same light as deserters from the British arm-
ies. It was answered on the other side, that it ill became
Americans to deny the right of expatriation on principle ; how-
ever we might from necessity yield to the unjust laws of other
nations, where the subject is regarded as a slave — for he that
has an owner whom he cannot change, is indeed a slave. Can
it be possible, it was asked, for an American to contend on
principle, that a free man cannot change his allegiance, and
attach himself to the country of his choice, but that he must
for ever drag a chain after him at every remove ? Such a doc-
trine could only originate in that species of slavery called the
feudal system ; and was indeed closely allied to that of the divine
right of kings, or rather of legitimate sovereigns ; which goes
so far as to assert that no government is lawful, unless it exists
in the hands of some one who claims it by birthright — or at
least, that this is the onlyjust foundation of European dynasties.
If we ought not to reprobate such systems of government, it


Result of the Debates.

is permissible to view them with compassion ; for we cannot
admire them, without at the same time despising our own noble
institutions ! The principle of American liberty is, that alle-
giance is a matter of choice, not force ; and however we may
unavoidably give way, where we interfere with the usages of
other nations, we ought never to approve the principle. But,
it was further contended, that, according to the law and the
uniform practice of nations, the right of expatriation was
acknowledged. Numerous instances were cited, where the
subjects of a nation taken in arms against her, were regularly
exchanged. The practice of Great Britain in naturalizing
foreigners was also shown : by which they were placed on the
same footing with her native citizens, and equally entitled to
protection. She could not object to our practice of naturaliz-
ing her subjects, as she did the same thing with respect to our
citizens. Would sJie not think herself bound to protect her
adopted subjects ? If the United States alone naturalized for-
eigners, the case might then rest on its principles; but when
the same thing is done everywhere, who has a right to com-
plain ? A case in point was adduced, to show tlie practice of
the British government, where she was difierently situated. She
had engaged in her service a regiment of French emigrants,
to serve against France; and the question was agitated in the
house of commons, whether she should proceed to retaliate, in
case the French should put any of them, if captured, to death:
and it was agreed that such would have been her duty. She
went much further than the American government: lord Mul-
grave declared in debate, that, " while he had the command of
the British troops at Toulon, and of the French who voluntarily
flocked to their standard, under the authority and invitation of
his Britannic majesty's proclamation, he had always considered
the latter entided to the same protection in every respect as
the British troops." Thus it appeared, that, both in principle
and practice, the conduct of Great Britain had been similar to
that of the United States.

The result of this debate was a determination to maintain with
firmness the position which tlie administration had taken; and
if Great Britain persisted in the unhappy resolution of rendering
the war bloody beyond the example of modern times, as they had
already rendered it most barbarous and ferocious, the United
States must reluctantly pursue a course to be lamented by every
man of common humanity.

Somewhat connected with this, was an investigation, which
was set on foot, of the spirit in which the war had been carried
on by the enemy. The report of the committee charged with


Inquiry by Congress into the Enemy's mode of carrying on the War.

it enumerated the various instances, in which the British mili-
tary and naval officers had violated all the known usages of
civilized nations, in their manner of conducting the war against
the United States. The massacres on the river Raisin, the
depredations and conflagrations along the lakes before there
existed any pretext for retaliation, and the barbarous warfare of
the sea coast were spoken of in terms of the strongest reproba-
tion. The war, on the part of Great Britain, had been carried
on nearly in the same spirit as at the commencement of our
struggle for independence : she appeared to be actuated by a
belief that she was chastising rebellious subjects, and not con-
tending with an independent nation. The treatment of Ame-
rican prisoners was the most cruel that can be imagined : several
hundred unhappy wretches were shut up, without light or air,
in the holds of ships, and in this manner were carried across
the Atlantic. In this cruel and unnecessary transportation many
of our countrymen perished, and all experienced sufferings
almost incredible. Such treatment was contrasted with that
received by British prisoners in this country, who in fact were
treated more like guests than prisoners. The committee declared
itself satisfied, from the evidence submitted to it, that Great Brit-
ain had violated the laws of war in the most flagrant manner ;
and submitted to congress the propriety of devising some mode
of putting a stop to such disgraceful conduct. Among the most
extraordinary of the enemy's acts, was the putting in close con-
finement the unfortunate Americans who had been kidnapped
by her before the war and compelled to fight her battles.
About two thousand, who were acknowledged to be Americans,
on refusing to fight against their country, were compelled to
undergo the same treatment as if they had been prisoners of
war. This was indeed accumulating outrage upon outrage.
It were well if this had been the whole number; but there was
every reason to believe, that by far a larger number were still
compelled to obey the officers who had enslaved them, under
the pretence that they were not Americans.

It has been mentioned, that Russia had offered her media-
tion. Under the flimsy pretext of being unwilling to submit
her rights to the decision of an umpire, this was declined by
Great Britain; although nothing of the kind was proposed,
the interference of the emperor of Russia terminating when
the contending parties had been brought together. The Prince
Regent, however, offered a direct negotiation at London or
Gottenburg. This was no sooner made known to our govern-
ment, than it was accepted. In addition to the commissioners
already in Europe under the Russian mediation, the president

miiESiS'mjr csiljv^o



Commissioners sent to Gottenburg War gains ground in Public Opinion.

nominated Henry Clay, Jonathan Russel and Albert Gallatin
as commissioners of peace ; and they soon after left this coun-
try for Gottenburg. Little more was expected, however, from
this, than to make apparent the sincerity of the United
States in desiring peace; and the conduct of Great Britain
soon proved, that her only wish was to keep open a door for
negotiation. Subsequent transactions sufficiently proved, that
she rejected the Russian mediation solely with the view of
gaining time.

Notwithstanding the strength of the opposition on the floor of
congress, the war was evidently gaining ground in the estima-
tion of the people. The conduct of the enemy in the prose-
cution of hostilities had been such as to awaken the patriotism
of every American ; and his rejection of the Russian media-
tion surprised many who had confidently predicted a prompt
acceptance of it. The victories, which we had obtained at sea,
came home to the feelings of the whole nation; and were parti-
cularly acceptable to the opposition, who claimed the exclusive
merit of them, as having always been the best friends of the
navy. Great Britain actually complained, that those whom
she had considered her friends in America rejoiced in her
naval defeats; and accused them of faithlessness and incon-
stancy, because they permitted their love of country to over-
come their hatred for the men in power. The sentiment, that
it becomes every virtuous man to rejoice in the good fortune
of his country, however he may dislike the rulers for the time
being, was gradually gaining ground. 'J'he warlike aspect of
every thing around them, interested the ardent minds of the
young and enterprizing ; the feats of arms daily recounted,
awakened a desire for distinction ; and the contagion of military
pursuits, whether it was to be desired or regretted, began to
spread rapidly. The habits of a people, who had been thirty
years at peace, and constantly occupied in industrious callings,
could not be changed suddenly : but men are by nature warlike,
and they cannot exist long in the midst of martial scenes and
preparations, without catching their spirit. It was no hazardous
prediction, that the enemy of a party, would soon be considered
as the enemy of tiie whole country.


War with the Creek Indians Massacre by the Creeks at Fort Mims.


War with the Creek Indians— Massacre by the Creeks at Fort IVrims— Expedition
under Generals Jackson and Cocke against Tallushatches — Battle of Talladega — Gen-
eral Cocke surprises the Indians on the Tallapoosa River — General Floyd's Expedition
against the Autossee Towns — Claiborne's Expedition against the Towns of Eccana-
chaca — General Jackson marches to the relief of Fort Armstrong — His Critical Situa-
tion, and Retreat — Defeats an Indian Ambuscade — Indians attack General Floyd at
Camp Defiance, and are repulsed — General Jackson gains the sanguinary victory of
Horse-Shoe-Bend — Terminates the Creek War and dictates Peace on Severe Terms.

Our affairs to the south had assumed a serious aspect ; and
when the northern armies had retired into winter quarters, the
public attention was kept ahve, by the interesting events which
transpired in the country of the Creeks. That ill-fated people,
under British influence, had at length declared open war.

In consequence of the threatening appearances to the south,
and the hostilities which already prevailed among the Indians
inhabiting what was then the Spanish territory, governor Mit-
chel of Georgia was required by the secretary of war to de-
tach a brigade to the Ocmulgee river, for the purpose of cover-
ing the frontier settlements of that state. Governor Holmes, of
the Mississippi territory, was at the same time ordered to call
out a body of militia, which were to join the volunteers under
General Claiborne then stationed on the Mobile. In the course
of the summer of 1813, the settlers in the vicinity of that river
became so much alarmed at the hostile deportment of the
Creeks, that the greater part of them had abandoned their plan-
tations, and sought refuge in the nearest fortresses. Those
among the Creeks who were well disposed to the United States,
being much the weaker party, had also, in some places, shut
themselves up in forts, where they were already besieged by
their countrymen.

The commencement of hostilities was signalized by one of the
most shocking massacres that can be found in the history of our
Indian wars. The settlers, under an imperfect idea of their
danger, had thrown themselves into small forts or stations, at
great distances from each other, on the various branches of the


Massacre by the Creeks at Fort Minis.

Mobile. Early in August it was ascertained, that the Indians
intended to maive an attack upon all these stations, and destroy
them in detail. The first place which they determined to at-
tempt, was Fort Mims, in which the greatest number of fami-
lies had been collected. Toward the close of August, inform-
ation was brought that the Indians were about to assail this
post; and in the first moments of the alarm caused by this news,
the occupants made some preparations for defence. It seems,
however, that it was almost impossible to awake them to a sense
of the proximity of their danger. The fort was commanded
by major Beasley, of the Mississippi territory, a brave oflicer
and as a private citizen highly respected, and garrisoned by
about one hundred volunteers. By some fatality, notwithstand-
ing the warnings he had received, the commander was not suf-
ficiently on his guard, and suff'ered himself to be surprised at
noon-day of the 30lh, entirely unprepared. Scarcely had the
sentinel time to give notice of tlie approach (if the Indians, ere
they rushed, with a dreadful yell, through the gate, which was
wide open. The garrison was instantly under arms, and the
major flew towards the gate, v/ith some of his men, in order to
close it, and if possible expel the enemy; but he soon after fell
mortally wounded. After great slaughter on both sides, the gate
was at length closed; but a number of the Indians had taken
possession of a block-house, from which they were not expelled,
until after a bloody contest. The assault was continued for an
hour, on the outside of the pickets; and the portholes were
several times carried by the assailants, and as often retaken by
those within the fort.

The Indians now for a moment withdrew, apparently dis-
heartened by their loss ; but on being harangued by their chief,
Weatherford, they returned with augmented fury to the assault.
Having procured axes, they cut down the gate and made a
breach in the pickets ; and, possessing themselves of the area
of the fort, compelled the besieged to take refuge in the houses.
Here a gallant resistance was made by the inmates, until the
Indians set fire to the roofs; when the situation of these unfor-
tunate people became altogether hopeless. It is only by those
who have some faint idea of the nature of Indian warfare, that
the horror of their situation can be conceived. The agonizing
shrieks of the unfortunate women and children at their unhappy
fate, might have awakened pity in the breasts of any but Indi-
ans. Not an individual was spared by these monsters : from the
most aged person to the youngest infant, all became the victims
of their indiscriminate butchery ; excepting only those who
threw themselves into the flames, to avoid a worse fate ! and a


Expedition against Tallusliatches Battle of Talladega.

few who escaped by leaping over the pickets. About two hun-
dred and sixty persons, of all ages and sexes, thus perished, in-
cluding some friendly Indians and about one hundred negroes.
The panic which this dreadful massacre excited at the other
posts can scarcely be described : the wretched inhabitants,
fearing a simihir fate, abandoned their retreats of fancied secu-
rity in the middle of the night, and, in their endeavours to escape
to Mobile, encountered every species of suffering. The dwell-
ings of the settlers were burnt, and their cattle destroyed.

On the receipt of this disastrous intelligence, the Tennessee
militia, under the orders of generalJaciison and general Cocke,
immediately marched to the country of the Creeks. On the
2d of November, general Coffee was detached, with nine hun-
dred men, against Tallushatches, a Creek town, and reached the
place about daylight on the 3d. The Indians, aware of his
approach, were prepared to receive him. Within a short dis-
tance of the village they charged upon him with unexampled
boldness ; and although repulsed, made a most obstinate resist-
ance. They refused to receive quarter, and were slain almost
to a man. Nearly two hundred of their warriors were killed
in this affair. The women and children were taken prisoners.
The loss of the Americans was five killed and forty wounded.

Late in the morning of the 7th, an express brought intelli-
gence to general Jackson, that, about thirty miles below his
camp, at a place called Fort Talladega, a considerable number
of hostile Creeks were engaged in besieging some friendly
Indians, who must inevitably perish unless speedily relieved.
This officer, whose resolutions were executed as rapidly as
they were formed, marched at twelve o'clock the same night,
at the head of twelve hundred men, and arrived within six
miles of the place the next evening. At midnight he again
advanced, and by seven o'clock of the following morning was
within a mile of the enemy. He now made the most judicious
arrangements for surrounding them ; and approached, within
eighty yards, almost unperceived. The battle commenced on
the part of the Indians with great fury. Being repulsed on all
sides, they attempted to make their escape, but found themselves
enclosed ; and had not two companies of militia given way,
whereby a space was left open through which a considerable
number of the enemy escaped to the mountains, they would all
have been taken prisoners or destroyed. In the pursuit many
were sabred or shot down. In this action the American loss
was fifteen killed, and eighty wounded. That of the Creeks
was little short of three hundred killed, their whole force exceed-
ing a thousand.


Indians defeated on the Tallapoosa, at Autossee, and at Eccanachaca.

General Cocke, who commanded the other division of the
Tennessee militia, detached general White, on the 11th, from
Fort Armstrong, where he was encamped, against the hostile
towns on the Tallapoosa river. After marching the whole
night of the 17th, he surprised a town at daylight, containing
upwards of three hundred warriors, sixty of whom he killed
and the rest took prisoners. Having burnt several villages
whish had been deserted by the Indians, he returned on the
23d, without losing a single man.

The Georgia militia, under general Floyd, advanced into the
Creek country, about the last of November. Receiving infor-
mation that a considerable body of Indians were collected at
the Autossee towns, of which there were two, on the Talla-
poosa river, a place which they called their beloved ground,
and where, according to their prophets, no white man could
molest them, general Floyd placed himself at the head of nine
hundred militia and four hundred friendly Creeks, and march-
ed from his encampment on the Cliatlahouchee. On the eve-
ning of the 28th, he encamped within ten miles of the place,
and resuming his march at one o'clock of the next morning,
reachetl the towns about six and commenced an attack upon
both at the same moment. His troops were met by the Indians
with uncommon bravery; and it was only after a most obstinate
resistance, that tiiey were forced, by his musketry and bayo-
nets, to fly into the thickets and copses in the rear of the towns.
In the course of three hours from the commencement of the
engagement, the enemy were completely defeated, and their vil-
lages wrapt in flames. The troops having almost exhausted
their whole slock of provisions, and being sixty miles from any
depot and in the heart of a country filled with hosts of hostile
savages, now returned to their encampment on the Chattahou-
chee. In this battle eleven Americans were killed and fifty
wounded; among the latter the general himself: of the enemy,
it is supposed that, besides the Autossee and 'i'allassee kings,
upwards of two hundred were killed.

In the month of December, general Claiborne conducted a
detachment, from Fort Claiborne, on the east side of the Ala-
bama river, against the tow-ns of Eccanachaca, on the Alabama
river above the mouth of the Cahawba. On the 22d, he came
suddenly upon them, killed thirty of tlieir warriors, and after
destroying their villages, returned. Tiie loss to the Ameri-
cans was, one killed and seven wounded.

After the battle of Talladega, general Jackson was left with
but a handful of men, in consequence of the term of service of
the militia having expired. Oa the 14ih of January 1814 he


General Jackson marches to the Relief of Fort Armstrong Retreats.

was fortunately reinforced by eight hundred volunteers from
Tennessee, and soon after by several hundred friendly In-
dians. He was also joined by general Coffee with a number
of officers, his militia having returned home. On the 17th,
with the view of making a diversion in favour of general Floyd,
and at the same time of relieving Fort Armstrong, which was
said to be threatened, he entered the Indian country, with the
determination of penetratiiig still farther than had yet been at-
tempted. On the evening of the 21st, believing himself, from
appearances, in the vicinity of a large body of Indians, he en-
camped with great precaution and kept himself in the attitude
of defence. During the night, one of his spies brought infor-
mation that he had seen the enemy a few miles off, and that as
they were busily engaged in sending away their women and
children, it was evident they had discovered the Americans,
and would either escape or make an attack before morning.
While the troops were in this state of readiness, they were
vigorously assailed on their left flank about dayliglit. The
enemy were resisted with firmness, and after a severe contest,
fled in every direction. General Cofl!ee having been detached
with four hundred men, to destroy the enemy's camp, with
directions not to attack it if strongly fortified, returned with
information that it would not be prudent to attempt it without
artillery. The attack already made was soon discovered to be
a feint ; and half an hour had scarcely elapsed, when the enemy
commenced a second fierce attack on Jackson's left flank. It
seems they had intended, by the first onset, to draw the
Americans into a pursuit, and by means produce confu-
sion ; a result which was completely prevented by Jackson's
causing- his left flank to keep its position. General Cofl'ee,
with about fifty of his ofiicers, acting as volunteers now assailed
the Indians on the left, and two hundred friendly Indians came
upon them on the right ; while the whole line in front, after
discharging their first fire, resolutely charged, and forced the
enemy to fly with precipitation. On the left flank of the Indians
the contest was kept up some time longer. As soon as possi-
ble, a reinforcement of friendly Indians was sent to general
Cofi'ee, with whose aid he speedily compelled the enemy to
retire, leaving fifty of their warriors on the ground. In this
action general Cofl'ee was severely wounded, and his aid, A.
Donaldson, killed.

Being apprehensive of another attack. General Jackson for-
tified his camp for the night. The next day, fearing a want of
provisions, he found it necessary to retreat, and before night
reached Enotachopco creek, having passed a dangerous defile


Defeats an Indian Ambuscade Indians repulsed at Camp Defiance.

without interruption. In the morning he had occasion to cross
a second defile, where he had good reason to fear an ambus-
cade of the enemy. Having made the most judicious arrange-
ments for the disposition of his force in case of attack, he moved
forward towards the pass. The advanced guard, with part of
the Hank columns and the wounded, had scarcely crossed the
creek just named, when the alarm was given in the rear. Jackson
immediately gave orders for his right and left columns to wheel
on their pivots, and crossing the stream above and below, to
assail the flanks and rear of the enemy, and thus completely
enclose them. When, however, the word was given for these
columns to form, and a few guns were fired, they precipitately
gave way. This flight had well nigh proved fatal : for it drew
along with it the greater part of the centre column, leaving not
more than twenty-flve men to maintain tlie ground against over-
M'-helmiug numbers. All that could now be opposed to the

Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 20 of 32)