Published on December 16, 2011 by Amy
Today the Tallapoosa River quietly winds its way through east-central Alabama, its banks edged by the remnants of the forest that once covered the Southeast. About halfway down its 270-mile run to the southwest, the river curls back on itself to form a peninsula. The land defined by this “horseshoe bend” covers about 100 wooded acres; a finger of high ground points down its center, and an island stands sentinel on its west side.
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This tranquil setting belies the violence that cut through Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814. On the peninsula stood 1,000 American Indian warriors, members of the tribe European Americans knew as the Creek. These men, along with 350 women and children, had arrived over the previous six months in search of refuge. Many had been part of a series of costly battles during the past year, all fought in an attempt to regain the autonomy the Indians had held before the arrival of European Americans.
Surrounding the Creek were forces led by future President Andrew Jackson, then a major general of the Tennessee Militia. The core of his force was 2,600 European American soldiers, most of whom hoped that a victory would open native land to European American settlement. Yet this fight was not simply European American versus American Indian: on Jackson’s side were 600 “friendly” Indians, including 100 Creek.
The Battle of Horseshoe Bend, as the events of March 27 became known, illustrated three long-running conflicts in American history. It was yet another fight between European Americans and American Indians, in this case the decisive battle in the Creek War (1813-1814). That day and those leading up to it also provided an example of tensions among American Indians, even those in the same tribe. Finally, both Creek factions received support from white governments, thereby continuing the long tradition of European nations attempting to defeat their rivals by enlisting the native population.