- Tohopeka: Rethinking the Creek War and the War of 1812 ed. by Kathryn E. Holland Braund
The past few years have seen a number of important anniversaries for historians of southern history, for instance, the bicentennial of the War of 1812 as well as the sesquicentennial of the outbreak of the Civil War, highlighted by the release of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln based upon Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals (2005). An equally important anniversary, the bicentennial of the Creek War of 1813-14, prompted the release of work presented at a 2009 symposium focused on the relationship between the Creek civil war and the War of 1812. Contributions to Tohopeka-the Creek name for Horseshoe Bend, the climactic battle in March 1813 that saw the largest loss of Indian life in United States' history-fall into four broad themes: cultural continuity, works focused on the battle itself, the relationship between Andrew Jackson's Creek campaign and the larger Anglo-American conflict, and multidisciplinary approaches emphasizing archeology and material culture.
Not surprisingly, the specter of Andrew Jackson looms large within a number of chapters. Reconsidering Jackson's faculty as a military commander, David and Jeanne Heidler note how developments across the Atlantic-specifically the signing of the Treaty of Ghent-allowed for the successful defense of New Orleans from the British. The Heidlers bring attention to Jackson's consistent negligence of overtures from William Lawrence, the commanding officer of Fort Bowyer, who recognized the precarious situation of the outpost located on Mobile Bay. The earlier defensive exploits of soldiers at Bowyer, including the defeat of the Hermes in late 1814, may have contributed to Jackson's decision. Regardless, the future President was caught unawares by British intentions to seize Mobile with the loftier goal of overtaking New Orleans on foot via Baton Rouge. As the Heidlers point out, had it not been for the fortuitous arrival of news proclaiming the peace at Ghent, the fall of Mobile (Lawrence surrendered Fort Bowyer in the face of overwhelming [End Page 153] odds on February 12) would have facilitated a British land campaign against the Crescent City. "Negotiations at Ghent saved victory at New Orleans" (196), the pair concludes, not Jackson's renowned victory. Similarly, Susan Abram's chapter outlining Cherokee participation in the Creek War calls into question traditional arguments for Jackson's battlefield prowess. Fortifications at the Red Stick encampment at Horseshoe Bend proved effective against Jackson's frontal assault, even with the American luxury of heavy artillery. The technological and numerical advantages of Jackson's forces may have been wasted were it not for the Cherokees that swam across the Tallapoosa River to open a rear front against the village, drawing defenders away from the forward log defenses. Yet again, we are forced to reconsider the extent of Jackson's successes during the Creek campaign.
Revelations regarding how much material involving the Creek War remains unstudied becomes apparent while reading the contributions of Craig Sheldon Jr. and James Parker. Locations of most historic sites remain unknown, and methods of identification are further compounded by the reality that only a finite amount of material culture remains available in the archeological record. To put in perspective, twelve of twenty-eight battle locations in Alabama remain unconfirmed; the ratio of unconfirmed war and refugee camp locations are even higher. Of significant value to historians are the book's appendices, which provide an exhaustive systematic survey of known and potential archeological sites in Alabama as well as their preservation statuses. Essays authored by Gregory Evans Dowd and John E. Grenier also prove particularly noteworthy. Dowd compellingly notes how Tecumseh's 1811 southern tour fit into a larger established pattern of Native American attempts at "pan-Indian action" (31) while also calling into question the historiographical tendency of attributing importance to earthquakes in the Red Stick movement. Grenier sees familiar inter-cultural relationships emerging in the Trans-Appalachian West, emphasizing the similarities between American goals to "extirpate, expropriate, and segregate" (177...