Campbell County in the War of 1812
transcribed by Leslie Collier


"At the beginning of February [1814], two thousand troops from East Tennessee were in the shadows of Lookout Mountain, pressing on toward the Coosa [River], and at about the same time as many more West Tennesseeans arrived at Huntsville.

"The Choctaw Indians now openly espoused the cause of the United States; and before the close of February Jackson found himself at the head of an army of five thousand men, lacking nothing to enable them to sweep the whole Creek country with the besom of destruction ... and at the middle of March every thing was in readiness for a forward movement.

"The hostile Creeks were aware of the formidable preparations for their subjugation, and were, at the same time, taking measures to avert, if possible, the impending blow ... and had already begun to have such premonitions of national disaster that they determined to concentrate their forces, and rest their fortunes upon the cast of the die of a single battle with the foe. For this purpose the warriors of the Hillabee, Ockfuske, Eufaulahache, New Youka, Oakchoie, Hickory Ground, and Fish-pond towns had gathered in the bend of the Tallapoosa, in the northeast part of Tallapoosa County, Alabama, called Tohopeka, or the Horseshoe, the river there assuming the shape of that object, forming a peninsula of about one hundred acres. By the aid of white men from Pensacola, and some hostile half- bloods, they built a very strong breastwork of logs across the neck of the peninsula, near the river, was a village of log huts, where hundreds of canoes were moored at the banks of the stream, so that the garrison might have the means of escape if hard pushed. A greater portion of the peninsula was covered with forest. The Indians had an ample supply of food for a long siege. Their number was about twelve hundred, one fourth being women and children. There the Indians determined to defend themselves to the last extremity. They regarded their breastwork as impregnable, and were inspirited by recent events at Emuckfau (about four miles distant) and Enotochopco.

"When Jackson was informed by some friendly Indians of the gathering of the Creeks at the Horseshoe, he resolved to march thither immediately and strike an exterminating blow. He sent his stores down the Coosa in flat-boats ... he commenced his march with the remainder of his army toward the Tallapoosa on th4 16th of March [1814], the only musical instrument to cheer them on the way being a solitary drum. The journey was slowly performed, for much of the way a road had to be cut through the woods. On the 21st they were at the mouth of Cedar Creek, where they were joined by the supply-boats the next day, and there Fort Williams was built to keep open the communication with Fort Strother. Then Jackson pushed on eastward, and early on the morning of the 27th halted within a few miles of the breastworks at the Horseshoe, and sent out parties to reconnoiter. His army now numbered about two thousand effective men.

"Simultaneously with the attack on the Indians' breastworks, some of the Cherokees with Coffee swam across the river, seized the canoes, paddled back in them, and full two hundred men were at once conveyed over the stream, and, under the direction of Colonel Morgan and Captain Russell, set the little town on fire, and moved against the enemy in the rear of their works. The smoke from the burning huts assured Jackson that all was going on well in that quarter, but the slackening of the assailants' musketry gave evidence that they were too few to dislodge the savages, and were probably in peril. The general at once determined to storm the breastworks which he had been battering for full two hours with cannon-balls almost in vain. The Thirty- ninth United States Infantry, under Colonel Williams, formed the van of the storming party. They were well supported by General James Doherty's East Tennessee brigade under Colonel Bunch, and the whole assailing party behaved most gallantly. They pressed steadily forward in the face of a deadly storm of bullets and arrows, and maintained for some time a hand-to- hand fight at the port-holes. This desperate conflict lasted several minutes, when Major L.P. Montgomery leaped up the breastwork, and called upon his men to follow. They did so, and at the same moment he fell dead with a bullet in his head. Ensign Sam Houston, a gallant youth at his side, was severely wounded in the thigh at the same time by a barbed arrow, but he leaped boldly down among the savages and called upon his companions to follow. They did so, and fought like tigers. Very soon the dextrous use of the bayonet caused the Indians to break, and flee in wild confusion to the woods and thickets. They had fought bravely under great disadvantages, and believing that torture awaited the captive, not one would suffer himself to be taken, or asked for quarter. Some attempted to escape by swimming across the river, but were shot by the unerring bullets of the Tennesseeans. Others secreted themselves in thickets, and were driven out and slain; and a considerable number took refuge under the river bluffs, where they were covered by a part of the breastworks and felled trees. To the latter Jackson sent word that their lives should be spared if the would surrender. The summons was answered by a volley that sent the messenger (an interpreter) back bleeding from severe wounds. A cannon was then brought to bear upon the stronghold, but it made little effect. Then the general called for volunteers to storm it, and the wounded Ensign Houston [Author Lossing inserts reference to a footnote here,  transcribed in full at the end of this excerpt.] was the first to step out. While reconnoitering the position above, he received from the concealed savages two bullets in his shoulder, and he was borne helpless away. Others lost their lives in attempts to dislodge the foe. It was conceded that the place was impregnable to missiles, so the torch was applied, and the savages, as they rushed wildly from the crackling furnace, were shot down without mercy by the exasperated riflemen. The carnage continued until late in the evening, and when it was ended five hundred and fifty-seven Creek warriors lay dead on the little peninsula. Of the thousand who went into the battle in the morning not more than two hundred were alive, and many of these were severely wounded [Another footnote here, this one about an Indian chief who escaped. See below.] Jackson's loss was thirty-two killed and thirty-six wounded. Among the slain were Major Montgomery [A third footnote on L.P. Montgomery of Jacksboro, Campbell Co., TN.] and Lieutenants Moulton and Somerville. The spoils of victory were over three hundred widows and orphans who were made prisoners. The blow was appalling, and fatal to the dignity and power of the Creek nation.

"On the morning after the battle [28 March 1814] at the Horseshoe Jackson commenced a retrograde march toward Fort Williams, carrying his wounded with him on litters, and leaving the bodies of most of his dead beneath the waters of thee Coosa, safe from desecration by savage hands. They were five days on the way, and during as many more they rested there. They encountered some hostile Indians on the march, but they generally fled at their approach. The spirit of the proud Creeks was broken, and they had no heart to make a defensive stand any where."

[Footnote on Sam Houston] "1. This was the afterward soldier and statesman, General Sam Houston, one of the bravest of the leaders in the Texas Revolution, first President of the Independent Republic of Texas, and for many years a member of the National Legislature of the United States. He was a remarkable man. He was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, on the 2d of March, 1793, and, while yet a child, he went with his widowed mother to Tennessee. He spent several years with the Cherokee Indians, and became enamored with their roving, restless life. He enlisted in the army in 1813, and at the close of the war had reached the position of lieutenant. Then he studied law at Nashville and there commenced his long political life. In 1823 he was elected to Congress, and continued in that body until 1827, when he became Governor of Tennessee. Before the expiration of his term he resigned, and took up his abode among the Cherokees in Arkansas, where he befriended them much in their intercourse with dishonest agents of the Government. He became commander-in-chief of the little army of revolutionists in Texas, which achieved its independence in 1836. He was twice elected president of that republic, and when Texas was annexed to the United States he was sent as her representative to the Senate, where he remained until just before the breaking out of the great Civil War, when he was Governor of Texas. He died in November, 1863, aged seventy years.

[Footnote on the Indian chief Manowa] "2. Pickett relates (HISTORY OF ALABAMA, ii, 343) that many suffered long from grievous wounds. "Manowa," he says, "one of the bravest chiefs that ever lived, was literally shot to pieces. He fought as long as he could. He saved himself by jumping into the river where the water was four feet deep. He held to a root, and thus kept himself beneath the waves, breathing through the long joint of a cane, one end of which he held in his mouth, while the other end came above the surface of the water. When night set in, the brave Manowa rose from his watery bed, and made his way to the forest, bleeding from many wounds. Many years after the war we conversed with the chief, and learned from him the particulars of his remarkable escape. His face, limbs, and body, at the time we conversed with him, were marked with scars of many horrible wounds."

[Footnote on L.P. Montgomery of Campbell Co.] "3. Lemuel Purnell Montgomery was born in Wythe County, Virginia, in 1786, and was distantly related to the hero of the same name who fell at Quebec at the close of 1775. His family settled originally in North Carolina, and were Scotch-Irish. In early life the major became a resident of East Tennessee, near Knoxville. He studied law, and became a rival of the eminent Felix Grundy. He was a daring horseman, and full of soldierly qualities. President Madison appointed him major of the Thirty-ninth Regiment, and he fell at their head when storming the breastworks at the Horseshoe, as we have observed in the text. Jackson wept over his body like a child, and exclaimed, "I have lost the flower of my army!" He was buried near where he fell, and in long after years the citizens of Tallapoosa County honored his memory by exhuming his remains, and burying them with military ceremonies at the capital of the county. The County of Montgomery and the political capital of the State of Alabama were named in honor of this brave soldier -Pickett."


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