This Place Made Andrew Jackson Famous

Where: Horseshoe Bend National Military Park

Who: The Whole Clan

When: August 17, 2013

When you get the rare pleasant day during an Alabama August, it’s hard to resist going on a spur-of-the-moment day trip. With cloudy skies and temperatures in the 70s last Saturday, we decided to take a drive to Horseshoe Bend, about 1.5 hours from Montgomery. None of us had ever visited there before, and we ended up having a great time.

Horseshoe Bend is named for a big loop in the Tallapoosa River. 200 years ago, a large settlement of Red Stick (Upper Creek) Indians called Tohopeka was located inside the loop. Horseshoe Bend was the site of the decisive battle of a war between the Red Sticks on one side and the United States, Lower Creek, and Cherokee nations on the other. On March 27, 1814, Andrew Jackson led U.S. army and militia troops along with Creek and Cherokee allies against the Red Sticks in a battle that lasted all day and ended with a major Red Stick defeat.

The Red Sticks had constructed a huge log barricade stretching all the way across the neck of the loop in the Tallapoosa. Jackson had an artillery battery consisting of two cannons, and he ordered a bombardment of the barricade on the morning of March 27. The bombardment lasted for two hours, but the barricade was unaffected.

If you click on the photo, you'll be able to see the white posts that today mark where the Red Stick barricade stood in 1814.

If you click on the photo, you’ll be able to see the white posts that today mark where the Red Stick barricade stood in 1814. Jackson’s cannon stood in the trees on the right.

While the Red Sticks were focused on Jackson’s frontal assault, a handful of Cherokee crossed the Tallapoosa behind Tohopeka, stole some canoes, and crossed back to where the rest of the Cherokee and Lower Creek forces were waiting, along with some U.S. troops. They began ferrying soldiers across the river and soon set the village on fire, causing confusion among the Red Sticks.

When Jackson saw the smoke rising from the village and realized what had happened, he ordered a charge against the barricade. The fighting lasted the rest of the day because the Red Sticks refused to surrender even after it was clear they had been defeated. In the end, 800 of the 1,000 Red Stick warriors were killed. Andrew Jackson became a national hero.

Horseshoe Bend Exhibit

Sons #1-4 examine the model of the storming of the Red Stick barricade in the visitor center.

(You can learn much more about the Horseshoe Bend and the Red Stick War from Frank Owsley’s book Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands. I won’t bore you with more details here.)

This park was well suited to a family outing. It’s relatively small, and we managed to take in everything in about three hours, including the picnic lunch we brought with us.

The visitor center is compact, with just one room of exhibits about Creek culture and the battle. We also enjoyed a short video about the battle, and the older kids were able to do some worksheets for Junior Ranger badges.

We took a self-guided driving tour of the battlefield that had five or six locations where you could stop and walk where the important events took place that day. Vickie stayed in the car with Son #5, but the rest of us got some good exercise walking up and down hills to see the different spots of interest. Sons #1-4 seemed to have a good understanding of the events as I was describing them at each stop. Naturally, they were most excited about seeing a real cannon and climbing all over it.

Tomorrow I’ll let Sons #1-2 share some of their favorite memories of the trip with you. If you’re interested in historical sites, I recommend a visit to Horseshoe Bend as a great half-day if you find yourself in eastern Alabama.


2 Responses to “This Place Made Andrew Jackson Famous”

  1. […] United States against the Red Sticks during the 1813-1814 war. (For more on the Red Stick War, see our post from Horseshoe Bend.) In part because of their loyalty to the U.S., the Poarch Creeks were allowed to remain in Alabama […]

  2. […] The attack on Fort Mims led to an enormous public outcry in the rest of the United States and an organized military campaign against the Red Sticks. (You can read more about the results of that campaign in our post on Horseshoe Bend.) […]

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