Amy, my wife, is a 4th Grade teacher, the grade when the social studies unit is Alabama State History. She recently shared an interesting event from Alabama’s pre-statehood period and the Creek War.
When the United States was at war with Britain in the War of 1812 the Upper Creek (Native Americans) joined with the British in 1813 and began launching attacks on American settlements in the southeast. Shawnee leader Tecumseh’s, who visited the Southeast in 1811, call for a Native American Confederacy and resentment concerning the growing number of American settlers helped influence the Upper Creek’s decision to fight alongside the British. A band of the Upper Creek called the Red Sticks followed Red Eagle and Peter McQueen into battle.
The first battle of the Creek War of 1813 took place a little over in late July at a bend in Burnt Corn Creek. The Red Sticks traveled to Pensacola, Florida to purchase weapons, gunpowder, and lead shot from the Spanish. As they made their way south the Red Sticks burned the plantations of Creeks who sympathized with the American settlers and kidnapped a wife of James Cornells (one of the Creek plantation owners). In Pensacola, the Red Sticks acquired approximately 300 pounds of gunpowder and lead shot.
When the militia leader Col. James Caller learned of the attacks, he raised a force of 180 men and set out in search of the Red Sticks planning to trap them as the Creek returned from Florida. Militia scouts found the Red Sticks enjoying a midday meal at a bend in Burnt Corn Creek. Col. Caller order the militia to attack. They were successful in driving the Red Sticks from the camp, but the Red Sticks re-grouped and counter-attacked. The militia, rallied by Samuel Dale, Benjamin Smoot, and Dixon Bailey, prevented the skirmish from becoming a complete loss for the militia. Peter McQueen, a Red Stick leader, became enraged by the attack on the at Burnt Corn Creek and began planning a strike on Fort Mims commanded by Major Daniel Beasley a fort that included many Creek-American.
Fort Mims, a wooden fort in what is now Baldwin County, Alabama needed improvements and repairs. Brigadier General Claiborne encouraged these repairs, but Major Beasley delayed the improvements. In the meantime the Red Stick band of over 700 warriors moved toward the Fort and were six miles away on August 29. The Creek took cover in prairie grasses but were spotted by two slaves. The slaves ran to Fort Mims and warned Beasley of the Red Stick’s approach. Militia scouts were unable to locate the Creek and Beasley had the slaves punished for providing a false report.
The Creek were in place by nightfall and their scouts went out after dark and spied out the interior through holes in stockade. They reported back that the guard was lax, that the main gate was open, and that a large bank of sand blocked the gate from closing.
The next morning a local scout, James Cornells, alerted Beasley about the encroaching Red Stick force. Beasley again dismissed the report. At noon on August 30, 1813, the fort’s drummer sounded for the midday meal. The Creek used the drummer’s call as a signal to start their attack of Fort Mims. They fired into the fort as others breached the open gate. The attack surprised the garrison of 100 militiamen and in the initial rush 50 militiamen including Maj. Beasley died in the battle. Capt. Dixon Bailey and the remaining militiamen held off the Red Stick band for about four hours. Only when the Creek set fire to the fort did the resistance end. The death toll for the settlers and militiamen is estimated at over 500. Fort Mims and over 500 settlers and militiamen died because Major Beasley and others ignored warnings and did not close the gate.
As Amy and I discussed these events from 206 years ago our conversation turned to how often we (people) ignore warnings and leave our gates open. I came up with a list:
- The Surgeon General warns about smoking and people smoke anyway.
- Alcohol consumption leads to poor choices that leave the gate open for many other disasters including but not limited to automobile accidents, shootings, becoming a victim of rape, stabbings, etc.
- The warnings are out about Meth, Cocaine, opioids, and other drugs, be we ignore the warnings.
- Distracted driving is becoming a major contributor to automobile fatalities, but leave the gate open, ignore the warnings, thinking it won’t happen to us.
- A husband begins flirting with a co-worker opening the gate for an affair.
- A friend tells a wife, she is getting to close to a man who is not her husband, but the friend is accused of being judgmental. She and that man are just friends.
- We try to live as close to the world as possible and claiming to remain true to Christ as we ignore warning after warning in Scripture.
What are some other ways we “leave the gate open” and “ignore warnings?”
Kennedy Hickman, Creek War: Fort Mims Massacre, www.thoughtco.com/creek-war-fort-mims-massacre
James P. Kaetz, Battle of Burnt Corn Creek, The Encyclopedia of Alabama, www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-3081
Gregory A. Waselkov, Fort Mims Battle and Massacre, The Encyclopedia of Alabama, www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1121