Ceremony to mark bicentennial of Creek War battle

One of the more devastating battles of the early 19th century’s Creek Indian War took place on the outskirts of Alexandria, not far from the intersection of U.S. 431 and Alabama 144.

On Saturday at 10 a.m., the battle’s 200th anniversary will be marked at the site.

Two stone markers, hidden by thick woods, are a reminder of the Battle of Tallaseehatchee.

Few Alexandria residents who spoke with Star reporters this summer knew of the battle that happened on the other side of McCullars Lane. Those who did say they were familiar with Tallaseehatchee only because of the old Battlefield Gas Station that once occupied the grounds.

A 1975 graduate of Alexandria High School, Becky Thomas Miller, said that when she was in school, the history curriculum focused primarily on “the Gallant Pelham,” as the Confederate artillery officer Maj. John Pelham of Alexandria is affectionately known.

“In school, it really was not taught,” Miller said of the battle. “I wonder why that’s not discussed.”

On Nov. 3, 1813, Gen. John Coffee and his troops surrounded a Creek village in present-day Alexandria.

The battle marked the start of the Creek Indian War, and was fought in retaliation for the Fort Mims massacre near Mobile earlier that year. At Fort Mims, a group of Creek warriors, known as Red Sticks and influenced by Shawnee leader Tecumseh, destroyed the garrison and killed or captured 517 white settlers, militia and Lower Creek Indians.

After the massacre, the Tennessee Legislature appropriated $300,000 for service against the Red Sticks, more than $4 million in today’s currency. Gen. Andrew Jackson was appointed to lead the 3,500-man militia, which included Sam Houston as well as Davy Crockett, who would gain recognition 23 years later at the Battle of the Alamo.

Jackson and the militia marched 20 miles per day from Tennessee until they reached Ten Islands in the Coosa River, where they built Fort Strother, located near modern-day Ohatchee’s Neely Henry Dam. Jackson used the fort as his headquarters throughout the Creek Indian War, which lasted from 1813 to 1814.

Although the two Tallaseehatchee monuments sit quiet and motionless in a leafy-green alcove just off the road, the battle they commemorate was anything but tranquil.

At Fort Strother, Jackson received word that 200 Red Sticks were in nearby Tallaseehatchee, according to accounts of the battle. After accepting Jackson’s order, Coffee and 1,000 volunteers from the Strother militia, including a company of Cherokee and allied Creeks who distinguished themselves by wearing white feathers and deer tails, moved in on the village. The Red Sticks began to yell and pound drums to warn the village of the danger. The Creek Indian War had begun.

Neighboring tribes bolstered the Creek forces. The Red Sticks opened fire on Coffee’s troops with guns, and then switched to traditional bows and arrows until they found an opportunity to reload their firearms. But the Creek’s 420 warriors were no match for Coffee’s militia fueled by a desire to avenge Fort Mims.

By the time the smoke cleared, Coffee’s troops had suffered 41 casualties and lost five men. The Creeks, however, lost 186 men, women and children. Eighty-four Creek women and children and 14 warriors were taken prisoner and relocated north to Huntsville.

“We have retaliated for the destruction of Fort Mims,” Jackson wrote to Tennessee Gov. Willie Blount. “Not one of the warriors escaped to carry the news.”

Jackson did have mercy on at least one Creek during the battle. The larger monument off McCullars Lane tells the story of Lincoyer, a Creek infant found clinging to his dead mother’s chest. Legend has it that the Red Stick survivors advocated killing the child, as his entire family was dead. Jackson, however, sent the boy back to his home in Nashville, and he and his wife, Rachel, raised Lincoyer as their son. He died of tuberculosis at age 16.

Jacksonville resident Monty Clendenin is planning this weekend’s commemoration. A press release notes that local officials from the county, the state Legislature and Jacksonville State are expected to attend the 90-minute ceremony. Emman Spain, tribal historical preservation officer of the Muscogee Nation of Okmulgee, Okla., is scheduled to deliver remarks.

Clendenin has lived in Jacksonville for 22 years and is a part-time pastor at Leyden Hill Presbyterian Chapel in Blue Mountain. He has a passion for historical preservation and has spent three summers working on local Native American sites around the county. Clendenin said he wanted to ensure the anniversary was properly recognized.

“I knew nobody would pick it up so I wanted to make sure it would get done,” Clendenin said. “I took it upon myself to make sure something was put together.”