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Summary Article: Horseshoe Bend, Battle of
from Encyclopedia of North American Indian Wars, 1607-1890, The: A Political, Social, and Military History

Event Date: March 27, 1814

Decisive American victory by Major General Andrew Jackson of the Tennessee Militia during the Creek War (July 1813–August 1814), considered to be a part of the War of 1812. A war party among the Creeks, who occupied most of present-day Alabama, had been resisting American encroachments upon their home-land. Led by Peter McQueen and William Weatherford, the Creeks enjoyed some initial military success, particularly in southern Alabama in the sacking of Fort Mims, commanded by Major Daniel Beasley, on August 30, 1813.

Soon the tables were reversed. In the autumn of 1813 militia-men from Georgia and the Mississippi Territory launched expeditions against the Creeks. Jackson successfully led 2,500 Tennessee militia against the Creek settlements of Tallushatchee on November 3 and Talladega six days later. Meanwhile, Brigadier General James White successfully led other Tennessee militia against Hillabee on November 18.

In January 1814 Jackson returned to the offensive with a force of 1,000 militiamen. He defeated the Creeks at Emuckfaw Creek on January 22 and at Enitachopco Creek two days later, sustaining about 100 casualties while inflicting twice that number on the Native Americans.

By February 1814 Jackson's force had grown to some 4,000 men, mostly militia but including the 600-man 39th U.S. Infantry Regiment. The Creeks, some 1,200 strong, fortified their encampment on a peninsula of about 100 acres formed by the Tallapoosa River and called Horseshoe Bend. They constructed a log breastwork across the neck of the peninsula and collected canoes to flee across the river should that prove necessary. Jackson was determined to attack the encampment.

Jackson arrived at Horseshoe Bend on the morning of March 27, 1814. He had with him some 3,000 men, including allied Cherokee and Creek warriors. Sensing the weakness of the Creek defensive position, he sent Brigadier General John Coffee of the Tennessee Militia with mounted infantry and the allied Native Americans to take position behind the bend and block the hostile Creeks’ escape. Some of the Cherokees swam across the river and seized the canoes.

At about 10:00 a.m. Jackson ordered his two small cannon to shell the hostile Creeks’ fortifications. Coffee then used the captured canoes to get some of his men across the Tallapoosa and assault the Creeks from the rear. Flaming arrows fired by the Native American allies set much of the Creek settlement on fire.

At about 12:30 Jackson ordered the 39th Infantry to carry out a frontal assault with bayonets on the Creek breastworks. Although the Creeks fought desperately, they were quickly overwhelmed and driven from the works. Fighting in small bands, the survivors were soon pinned against the river.

The battle now turned into a massacre. Many of the Creeks refused to surrender, and others were shot while swimming across the river to escape. Jackson, a hardened soldier, described the carnage as “dreadful.” Perhaps 800 hostile Native Americans were killed, and another 350, mostly women and children, were captured. Casualties among the militia and U.S. regulars were 26 killed and 106 wounded, while the allied Cherokees and Creeks suffered 23 killed and 47 wounded.

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend brought major combat in the Creek War to an end. Weatherford fled with a few survivors into Spanish territory but soon surrendered. On August 9, 1814, Jackson compelled the Creeks, both friend and foe, to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson, ceding half of Alabama and part of Georgia to the United States.

Diagram by a participant showing the location of American troops in the decisive Battle of Horseshoe Bend, fought along the Tallapoosa River, Alabama, on March 27, 1814, during the Creek War. (Hulton Getty/Archive Photos)

See also

Cherokees; Coffee, John; Creeks; Creek War; Emuckfaw Creek, Battle of; Enitachopco Creek, Battle of; Fort Mims, Battle of; Jackson, Andrew; McQueen, Peter; Native Americans and the War of 1812; Tallushatchee, Battle of; Weatherford, William

  • Burstein, Andrew. The Passions of Andrew Jackson. Knopf New York, 2003.
  • Heidler, David S.; Jeanne T., Heidler. Old Hickory's War: Andrew Jackson and the Quest for Empire. Stackpole Mechanicsburg PA, 1996.
  • Owsley, Frank L. Jr. Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands. The Creek War and the Battle of New Orleans, 1812-1815. University Presses of Florida Gainesville, 1981.
    Copyright 2011 by Spencer C. Tucker

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