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T H E A L A B A M A R E V I E W 304 A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813–1814. By Gregory A. Waselkov. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2006. ix, 414 pp. $39.95. ISBN 978-0-8173-1491-0. On Monday, August 30, 1813, a force of seven hundred Redstick Creeks attacked the fortified plantation home of Samuel Mims in the Tensaw District of the Mississippi Territory (now Baldwin County), killing five hundred men, women, and children. For Alabamians this event resonates as a turning point in the state’s early history. Gregory Waselkov’s exhaustively researched and eloquently written account of the Fort Mims massacre explains not only what happened but also why it occurred, and how it has since shaped American collective memory. “Remember Fort Mims” became the rallying cry of southerners during the War of 1812 and, as Waselkov insists, the event provided justification for the expulsion of the Native Americans from their territory to lands in the west. The events that climaxed in the 1813 attack at Fort Mims, as Waselkov illustrates, were more complicated than Indian reaction to white expansion . For more than a century the Creeks had adapted, preserving their independence by constantly reshaping their culture in the face of European encroachment. When the United States assumed control of the region in the 1780s, Creeks suddenly found that they had to adopt and refashion cultural elements to suit their needs while preserving their core beliefs, language, and customs. The rapid changes brought poverty and indebtedness to many Creeks and further accentuated differences between the Métis (those with Indian-white ancestry) and full-blooded Creeks. In 1811, Shawnee leader Tecumseh traveled south through the Creek country, encouraging a new pan-Indian religious, political, and military confederation. Tecumseh’s efforts revealed a social cleavage amongst the Creeks that erupted into a civil war between the conservative Redstick faction—called such because of their painted red clubs— and the faction that supported Creek assimilation into white culture. The Creek civil war between the two factions evolved into the Redstick War (Creek War) between the Creeks and the United States, which began with the attack on Fort Mims. The massacre of men, women, and children at Fort Mims generated American sympathy for a war against the Upper Creeks, the division of the Creek Confederacy situated along the Tallapoosa-CoosaAlabama river system. The states of Georgia and Tennessee, along with the Mississippi Territory, mobilized their militias for operations against the Redsticks, who in turn secured support from the Spanish in Florida and from British agents on the Gulf of Mexico. Andrew Jackson led the O C T O B E R 2 0 0 7 305 Tennessee militia south into Creek country, and, on March 27, 1814, defeated the Redsticks at Tohopeka (a fortified refugee town located along a horseshoe-shaped bend of the Tallapoosa River). The resulting American massacre of the Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend seemed to balance the Creek massacre of Americans at Fort Mims. During the following weeks American troops swept through Creek country, destroying food supplies, detaining refugees, and tracking the Redsticks. By early August 1814, with their food supply exhausted and nowhere to hide, the Creeks signed the Treaty of Fort Jackson, relinquishing some twenty -three million acres of land in the Mississippi Territory (present-day Alabama) and Georgia to the United States. Many of the Creeks who evaded capture fled to Spanish Florida, where they joined the Seminoles and continued their struggle against American incursions. Fort Mims, Fort Dearborn (at the site of present-day Chicago), River Raisin (in southeastern Michigan), Hampton (in Virginia), Bladensburg (in Maryland), and Washington, D.C., all experienced defeats during the War of 1812. Yet those defeats are trumped by the victories at Lakes Erie and Champlain, at Baltimore, Horseshoe Bend, and New Orleans. Understandably, selective American memory highlights the victories and minimized the defeats. Thus Jackson’s victory on the plains of Chalmette overshadows the sacking of the capital city of Washington. But, as Waselkov emphasizes, the conventional Fort Mims narrative represents the attack as a sinister massacre of innocent Americans...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-9961
Print ISSN
0002-4341
Pages
pp. 304-305
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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