Creek Country: The Creek Indians and Their World, 1796-1816

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Southeastern Indians, Precontact to the Present: Introductory Essay

He later moved his agency to the Flint River near what is now Roberta, Georgia. There Hawkins established a farm on which he demonstrated how to grow cash crops, such as cotton , and how to use the plow. Most of the Indians who lived in what is now Alabama resisted, however, choosing instead to maintain their traditional culture. Benjamin Hawkins and the Creek Indians Hawkins wrote extensively about the Creeks, Cherokees , and Chickasaws and was genuinely interested in their cultures and welfare.

His writings include descriptions of Indian languages, agricultural practices, and political life. His detailed descriptions of Creek life and the early geography of Alabama are two of his most important legacies to the state. His journals and writings are some of the best first-hand accounts of Alabama during late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Stephens, Mobile , and several Indian towns. Hawkins lived among the Creeks and was the U.

Full text of "Letters of Benjamin Hawkins, "

The men called for a return to traditional ways and armed opposition to encroaching white settlement after numerous land cessions and the construction of the Federal Road through Creek territory. The war began with the Red Sticks' attack on a group of white settlers, pro-American Creeks, and slaves at Fort Mims and ended with the virtual destruction of the Red Sticks by federal troops led by Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , near modern-day Alexander City.

Hawkins accompanied Creek leaders and Andrew Jackson at the signing of the Treaty of Fort Jackson in August , by which the Creeks ceded most of their lands in Alabama, and thus their way of life, to the U. Hawkins felt that the treaty was unusually harsh, but his complaints had little effect and his influence on Indian affairs waned in his last years.

He died at his home in Georgia in Additional Resources Ethridge, Robbie Franklyn. Foster, Thomas editor. The Collected Works of Benjamin Hawkins, See note The first law, while brief, severely restricted traders and declared that criminal acts by American citizens in Indian territory would be tried as if committed in their home state or district.

Every sign from the Creek- Georgia frontier had led the Washington administration to believe that a lot of soldiers would be needed to patrol that border. Marys, Altamaha, and Oconee Rivers. Marys River quickly enough to welcome the Creek headmen returning from the New York con- ference. Henry Gaither commanded one of the first regiments of troops to exist in the service of the United States, and all of them were stationed in Georgia.

Late in , there were close to three hundred men under his com- mand stretching across the frontier, making his command one of the largest to exist in any region not actually at war. While little is known about the exact positioning of those troops, it is clear that he established Fort Fidius across the Oconee from the Rock Landing early in ; by that time there were also troops under his command at several other small outposts, like Forts Mathews, Telfair, and St.

Even with those garrisons, however, the frontier was thinly protected.

Marys River, where he made his headquarters. As of February the presence of the federal government on the frontier was weaker. In May, there were only sixty-nine men healthy and effective for duty at Fort Fidius. See Richard B. That appointment was an important step in bridging the gap between local militias and the federal service.

Although federal troops were obviously stationed in the region to protect Americans, they were also ordered to keep lines of communication with chiefs open and entertain them when necessary and, finally, to restrain the actions of Georgia citizens. Knox made sure that the garrison com- mander at St. Soon, Knox was forced to look else- where. He turned increasingly to James Seagrove, whom he had recently appointed temporary agent in the Southeast, ordering him to work with McGillivray but also pushing him to develop his own connections.

When reports circulated that hunting parties were harassing Georgians, for instance, he traveled down the Oconee and Altamaha Rivers person- ally.


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For example, in the fall of , several communities around Cusseta suffered crop failures, and it was obvious they would have a tough time getting through the winter. Seagrove pressed Knox to purchase corn and clothing provisions and ship them south for Seagrove to distribute, which he did. Over two hundred headmen surprised him at the Rock Landing in the summer of Not only did they quickly exhaust his food and liquor provisions—they had none of his attempts to ration what remained.

Several Creek leaders reached out for the means to resist the drawing of the new boundary line, which they had not agreed to, and they did not fail to find support. When swirling talks from Spanish governors, from adventurer William Augustus Bowles, and from Shawnee outsiders drew Creek country closer to confrontation with Georgia, Seagrove did what he could to counter them.

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White Lieutenant of Oakfuskee, a powerful leader in the Upper Creek country, was warming up to him quickly. The Cusseta King, the Cusseta Warrior King, and the Hallowing King of Coweta also delivered friendly talks, reporting after the sizable but impromptu meeting at the Rock Landing that they were pleased with it and looked forward to the next one. If they were to succeed in stabilizing the frontier, they must confront and control increasingly unhappy settlers. Knox certainly understood it that way. Seagrove, hovering between federal garrisons on state land, was in the best position to judge local sentiment toward Creeks, and what he saw was pretty clear.

While his relationship with several headmen continued to develop, others continued to reject the Treaty of New York. Soon scattered reports of raiding along the St. Marys and Altamaha Rivers surfaced as well. Waves of panic swept across the Georgia frontier, and local authorities were convinced that the attacks were only the beginning of complete Indian war. Headmen sent reassuring talks to Seagrove as soon as word spread of the attacks, and they urged him to give them time to sort things out and not to let the Georgians do anything too harsh in the meantime.

Cusseta headmen were among the first to respond, sending Seagrove several traditional symbols of peace, including a white wing; the Cusseta King and White Bird-Tail King hoped that Seagrove would be convinced by those tokens and their talks that the Cussetas were most certainly his friends and were determined for peace.

Not only was the raiding done by only a handful of renegade warriors to the south, but also the headmen were plainly doing everything they could to make things right. Houstoun to the Governor of Georgia, March 18, , in Hays, comp. Hardy, April 1, , in Hays, comp. Both Washington and Knox seemed to agree. By the summer of , he was absolutely sure of an impending war, and he began aggressively planning preemptive attacks into Creek country.

See Ethridge, Creek Country, 79— Robert Anderson had similar words of discouragement.

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By questioning and disallowing the state actions, federal authorities demonstrated their commitment to peace, not aggression, and alienated Georgia officials in the process. As several of them had repeatedly assured Seagrove, that was the best way to lay the founda- tion for a long-term peace. A trip to a good-sized community, say Cusseta in Lower Creek country or Tuckabatchee or Oakfuskee in Upper Creek country, was almost universally seen as the means to make a lasting peace. See also Grenier, First Way of War, — Along the northern frontiers of Georgia, William Blount, the governor of the Southwest Territory, and John Sevier, a brigadier general of the territorial militia, were outspoken advocates throughout the s of marching armies into Creek country.

David Cornells, kin to Alexander Cornells and a powerful and well-liked young man in the region, was quickly dispatched to Coleraine to deliver the council proceedings to Seagrove. It was a deliberate and heinous attack that horrified federal authorities. On Barnard, see Andrew K. Before the killing, he had largely been dictating the terms of peace to Creek headmen.

They would certainly demand satisfac- tion for the blatant murder of the well-connected Cornells, not to men- tion the young boy who was killed with him, which provided Seagrove with the opportunity, essentially, to trade lives. The other man killed at the store, a Mr.

Edited by Frederick E. Hoxie

Seagrove knew that the headmen would demand lives, and he was also certain that Georgians, who were not at all remorseful for the killings, would systematically reject those demands. Trading lives certainly was not part of American legal precedent. Seagrove was framing a compromise that tangled Euro-American conceptualizations of guilt and wrongdoing, in an effort to find the quickest way back to peace.

Early life and education

Although the trade was a long shot in Creek country and completely unjustifiable from an American legal perspective, there was a chance it would help smooth over regional tensions, and so Seagrove committed to it. Soon he asked friends in Creek country, including Alexander Cornells, the Mad Dog, and Charles Weatherford, to make preparations for his arrival. When word spread that Governor Telfair was convening a new war council, Knox quashed it, ordering Telfair to desist in no uncertain terms.

The United States, Knox declared, abso- lutely would not start a war with a Creek people who were over- whelmingly friendly. This may be considered by some, a crime of the deapest [sic] dye.


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  • Barnard, should be both sacrificed. Even Constant Freeman, who in the past had been hesitant to believe the settlers would be so violent, admitted that things really were that bad. He also forwarded the news to state officials in Augusta, expecting, and even threatening, them to abide by the terms as well. It was a successful demonstration of the Federalist plan in the Southeast, even if it had to be forced on unwilling state residents.

    They continued to attack Creek hunters, it seemed, just about wherever they found them. Should this be the case, I must request that no time be lost. During the last attack, the headmen were at Fidius awaiting the return of Seagrove and the Augusta delegation. Clarke marched his army of men over the Oconee River and into Creek lands, where he began to construct an independent republic. His actions represented a flagrant attack on Creek rights as laid out by the Treaty of New York, not to mention a violation of multiple pro- visions of the Intercourse Acts of and Yet Clarke soon fin- ished constructing one of his stockades, which he named Fort Advance, and was moving on to another, fittingly named Fort Defiance.

    See also Freeman to Mathews, May 10, , in Hays, comp. For the investigation and court-martial, see the several reports included in Hays, comp. One court, it appears, actually approved of the operation.