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The War of 1812 in Alabama
and the Creek War, 1813-1814

In the early part of the sixteenth century, white settlers who visited the territory now forming the southeastern United States found it occupied by tribes of American Indians who had lived there for centuries. The Creek, Cherokee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw Indians saw the land they inhabited become an object of desire for the newcomers. Inevitably, this interest in the southeastern Indian land caused contention, conflict, and the eventual forced removal of the tribes to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma.

By the middle of the eighteenth century the Creeks in what is now Alabama had formed two distinct geopolitical divisions. The Upper Creeks, formed from the Tallapoosa, Abeka, and Alabama communities, lived along the Coosa, Tallapoosa, and Alabama Rivers. The Lower Creek communities were situated along the Chattahoochee River. As white settlers began to move into the region at the start of the nineteenth century, the Creeks became increasingly hostile. Many did not wish to adopt the ways of whites as government agents urged them to do under a new Indian policy instituted by President George Washington. Indian agents were supposed to instruct Indians on how to plow, raise cotton, spin, weave, care for domestic animals, and become skilled in carpentry or blacksmithing. Indians also wanted to keep their lands. Unfortunately for them they had granted the American government the right to maintain horse paths through their territory over which white pioneers were allowed to travel to the region around Mobile. These horse paths became highways of settlement.

As white population increased, the Creeks began to divide into those who held more traditional views and those who were more assimilated through contact with whites. The traditionalists responded to Tecumseh, the great Shawnee Indian leader. Just before the start of the War of 1812 between England and the United States, Tecumseh traveled south from the Great Lakes in an attempt to unite all Indians against white Americans. After Tecumseh's visit, the Creeks divided. Some, called Red Sticks because of their bright red war clubs, wanted to resist white encroachment. Those more accustomed to whites were inclined toward peace. Generally, the division was most noticeable among Upper Creek communities, while Lower Creeks remained neutral or assisted the United States. This division led to the Creek War of 1813-14 in Alabama, which was a part of the War of 1812.

During the War of 1812, Spain and England supported the warring Upper Creeks or "Red Sticks," who fought against the Americans led by General Andrew Jackson and the allied Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and "friendly" Creek. The "friendly" Creeks were often of mixed heritage due to decades of intermarriage between the Indians and Europeans. The Creek War ended in 1814 when the Creeks were forced to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson, ceding some forty thousand square miles of land to the United States. Although the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee fought for the United States against the Creek, they, too, were soon pressured to cede their lands.

After the War of 1812, the federal government began to force southeastern Indians to exchange their remaining lands for land in Indian Territory. Most Indians fiercely resisted leaving their ancestral homelands, but with the election of Andrew Jackson as president in 1828, Indian removal was established as a national policy. States quickly passed laws to ensure jurisdiction over Indians living within their borders, and President Jackson informed the Indians that the federal government was helpless to interfere with state laws. He told them their only option was to comply with removal.