Native America 1750-1830

 

 

 

Native America: 1730-1830

 

From the 1730's on, English traders swarmed into the Creek country

Thev were not ideal preceptors of that higher wisdom the simple Indians sought, but good and bad, French and English.

they brought new ideas.

In the main, the intact nations of the Southeast prospered during the eighteenth century

They acquired livestock, improved farming methods, and many took to European clothes and houses.

The Chickasaw developed the locally famous Chickasaw horse, apparently based on a superior stock imported from New Mexico in the Santa Fe trade.

The Choctaw (in keeping with the sturdy, down to earth Choctaw character) developed the Choctaw pony, claimed by its admirers to have more bottom to the hand of height than any other horse on earth.

The old ceremonies. the black drink, the husk or green-corn festival, the eternal games of chunkey and ball play went on as ever.

The red-painted war post still called men to battle, and if the battles were fought more and more in the interests of European politics—why not!

Obviously the Europeans were on hand to stay, an important part of the future. All in all, that future looked good.

Not that the century was a placid one.

The world cracked with change and opened many rifts of unrest.

The Cherokee ceded a large amount of territory to the English in 1755,

but four years after that a war flared up between them and the English that continued off and on for a generation

The Creeks in 1792 had been within a hair’s breadth of a major war with the Savannah colony, brought on by the intrigues of a South Carolinian, the Reverend Thomas Bosomworth,

who had married a highborn Creek woman and attempted to use her political position as a lever to extort monev from the Georgia English.

A great many Europeans married into the Indian nations of the Southeast, principally Englishmen

everywhere except in the western Choctaw towns, which were strongly pro-French.

Traders who were reasonablv honorable or able, or both, and gained the absolute trust of the Indians, married into leading families, amassed political power as well as wealth;

and the rise of an oligarchy composed in large part of such families created an invisible revolution in both Creek and Cherokee societies.

Majority parries in the Creeks and Cherokee stood loyal to England in the Revolutionary War,

although Little Carpenter, a Cherokee chief, raised 500 gunmen for service on the American side.

Spain regained Florida at the end of the American Revolution and carried forward an accelerated and increasingly successful campaign to win Indian friends,

helped by Indian reaction to the upsurge in American frontiering that came with the defeat of the Lords across the Sea.

Important pro-Spanish factions appeared among the Creeks and Shawnee and even among the Cherokee and Chickasaw,

and for that matter even among some of the American frontier settlers in the south and west.

But a new and weaker king came to the throne of Spain, and the brief, brilliant Spanish renaissance was;

France took Louisiana back and sold it to the new United States.

Spain faded into empty Florida.

The few Spaniards left there, pursuing small-time intrigues with the Seminole and the Lower Creeks, were no longer El knights but desolate, sun-dazzled, spiritually depressed figures.

With the influx of new settlement into the southern states (colonies no longer) the world of change spun faster for the Civilized Tribes, who turned still more to the ways, fashions, and ideas of their white neighbors.

Among those who did not change to European clothes, quite a few took to wearing a long shirt in the manner of a Bowing tunic, which, with the customary headband or turban, was curiously like a costume prevalent in ancient Mexico.

Cherokee women, however were said to dress "almost universally" in European style, "in gowns manufactured by themselves, made of cotton which they have raised on their own plantations."

The Cherokee built roads, schools, churches, and adopted a system of government modeled on that of the United States;

and a Cherokee warrior crippled in a hunting accident devoted himself to perfecting a system of writing the Cherokee language.

His name was Sequoya, since famous far beyond the Indian nations.

He had no education, and neither spoke nor wrote English, but after twelve years of work produced in 1821 a workable alphabet of Cherokee characters;

the Cherokee studied it with such enthusiasm that within a matter of months thousands could read and write.

A printing press was obtained, and in 1828 the Cherokee began the publication of a weekly newspaper.

But in the meantime more than a fourth of the Cherokee, some 6,000 persons, highly displeased with all the radical changes and new-fangled innovations, had migrated west of the Mississippi.

Among the Creeks, Alexander McGillivray, son of a Scotch

trader and a half-French Creek mother (a famous beauty named Sehoy, of aristocratic lineage from both parents), had become undisputed leader of the Creeks and Seminoles as well, with 10,000 warriors,

so they said, under his command, and at the time of his death in 1793 was one of the wealthiest men in the entire South.

He negotiated in 1790, amid much fanfare, the aforementioned treaty with the new American government in which the United States, in return for concessions, gave its solemn guarantee to the adjusted boundaries of the Creek nation.

Pro- and anti-American parties in the Creek towns, aided and abetted by American and English politicians, squatters, vagabonds, and traders, split the nation into open civil strife at the time of the War of 1812.

An anti-American war party under the half-Scot chief Weatherford, descended on Fort Mims, about forty miler north of present Mobile, and massacred most of the 350 or so people there—troops of the Mississippi militia and families of settlers with their slaves.

The principal pro-American leader, William Macintosh, son of a Scotch trader and a Creek mother,

who had climbed ruthlessly to the office of head chief of the Lower Creeks, led his followers in a massacre of 200 of the anti-American party.

Another mixed-blood war captain, Menewa, celebrated for the exploits of his wild and reckless youth when his name had been Hothlepoya (Crazy War Hunter),

was one of the ranking commanders of the "Red Sticks." or anti-American faction.

The so-called Creek War, in the closing days of the War of 1812, was in part a personal struggle between Menewa and William Macintosh.

Surrounding states organized militia to march against the anti-American Creeks, and five separate volunteer generals took the field,

one of these being an obscure backwoods politician from west Tennessee named Andrew Jackson.

Tennessee’s Governor Blount "bawled for permission to exterminate the Creeks," in General Jackson’s words,

and Jackson’s command won the race to exterminate masses of Cherokee in the battle of Horseshoe Bend, Alabama, which finished the Creek War.

Menewa had dug in some 900 Red Stick warriors on a tongue of land surrounded by the Tallapoosa River except fur a narrow neck fortified by a breastwork of logs.

A number of women and children were in a village at the river’s edge.

Indian auxiliaries with General Jackson’s Tennessee militiamen were several hundred Creeks under William Macintosh and Timpoochce Barnard,

chief of the Yuchi then united with the Creeks, and perhaps 600 Cherokee-and with them a long young white man who had been living with the Cherokee up in Tennessee, Sam Houston.

Before the battle started, General Jackson’s Indian guides and spies" were able to place his 2,000 men so as to surround the Red Stick position on both sides of the river.

The artillery—two cannon—were placed to bombard the breastwork at a range of eighty yards, and opened the engagement with a two-hour barrage.

The Cherokee and American Creeks then attacked repeatedly from across the river, burning the Red Stick village in one of the first attacks.

When it was clear the Indian auxiliaries would not be able to overcome the Red Sticks alone, the main body of militia stormed the breastwork.

The remaining lied Sticks were driven to a thicket in the center of the peninsula, and the cannon brought up to finish them off in another barrage of several hours.

At length the battered thicket was rushed, and the few survivors shot down as the dames drove them out.

More than 300 women and children were taken prisoner, all captured by the Indian auxiliaries.

Of the 900 Red Stick soldiers, only seventy were left alive, and of the seventy only one escaped unwounded-he jumped into the river and escaped at the first shot.

General Jackson lost forty-nine killed (twenty-three of these Indian auxiliaries) and 154 wounded (forty-seven Indians).

One of the American casualties was Sam Houston, whose wounds from this battle plagued him the rest of his life.

The Red Stick chief Menewa fell, hit seven times by rifle fire.

He recovered consciousness some time after the battle was over, shot a soldier parsing nearby, and was in return shot through the head, the bullet going in one side of his face and out the other and tearing away several teeth.

He came to again in the night, crawled to the river, found a canoe, and floated downstream to a swamp where other Red Stick wives and children had remained hidden.

By the time his wounds were healed the Creek War was long ended, and the Red Sticks’ land had been opened to white settlement.

Menewa’s store, 1,000 head of cattle, and hundreds of horses and hogs, at his town of Okfuskee, had vanished: William Macintosh had won the contest between them, for the time being.

But Menewa was still alive, and still very rugged, and as far as he was concerned the polls were nut yet closed.

The victory brought Jackson wide recognition and an appointment as major-general in the regular army,

which opened the way for his triumph in the battle of New Orleans the following winter that made him a national hero.

Anti-American Creeks escaped to Florida in such numbers that the Seminole population was doubled or tripled,

and mounting disturbances there brought an invasion of Spanish Florida in 1817 by General Jackson that in turn caused Spain to cede Florida to the United States.

This was the end of Spain in the Southeast, the end of all foreign menace in the Southeast.

And finally the Indian nations of the Southeast were not needed any more.

They were no longer of use as buffer states there were no rival European nations left to buff against.

White settlers were all over the back country; Indian trade and Indian middlemen east of the Mississippi were of no further importance.

The spirit of the frontier—clear the Indians out—had already outgrown opposition to become the prime moving force behind American policy when in 1828

it took over the government completely with the election of Andrew Jackson, the embodiment of the Capitalist/frontier spirit, as President

One of the first pieces of business for the new administration was the passage of what was known as the Indian Removal bill,

which became law in the spring of 1830 after Congressional debate of exceptionally hot-tempered style, even for those hot tempered Congressional times.

This bill did not authorize enforced removal of any Indians,

but merely gave the president power to initiate land exchanges with Indian nations residing within the states or territories

—aimed particularly at the powerful intact nations of the Southeast: Choctaw, Chickasaw. Cherokee, and Creeks.

However, force was necessary since there nations did nor want to remove

The states principally involved, Georgia, Alabama (created in 1819 mainly from Creak and Cherokee country),

and Mississippi (created in 1817 mainly from Choctaw and Chickasaw country), passed legislation outlawing tribal governments and placing the Indian nations under the jurisdiction of state laws.

This was in violation of securities granted the Indian nations by treaties with the United States, and the Indians appealed to the federal government for protection.

General Jackson and General John H. Eaten, his Secretary of War, told them the federal government was simply unable to comply with its treaty pledges,

and redoubled efforts to obtain new treaties in which the Civilized Tribes would agree to removal beyond the Mississippi River.

State law prevailing within the Indian nations, the Indian lands were wide open for trespass by anyone, including liquor dealers.

This too was in violation of federal law as well as tribal regulations, but again General Jackson and General Eaten said they simply could not enforce the federal law.

Bootleggers crowded into the nations, grog shops bloomed like the blossoms of spring, and large numbers of Indian citizens went on a drunk that didn’t quit until they found themselves either removed or dead

Actions could now be brought against Indians in the state courts, and their goods attached for debt by sheriffs and constables.

State laws were enacted prohibiting a court from accepting the testimony of an Indian against a white man, so that a claim, no matter how fradulent, brought by a Whiteman against an Indian could not be legally contested by the accused Native American.