Five hundred men, women and children were massacred at Fort Mims, Alabama, just north of Mobile, on Aug. 30, 1813, by the Red Stick Creek Indians. The Alabama historical marker reads:
Here in the Creek Indian War 1813-14 took place the most brutal massacre in American history. Indians took fort with heavy loss, then killed all but about 36 of some 550 in the fort. Creeks had been armed by British at Pensacola in this phase of War of 1812.
Indians had been incited to riot and attack by rumors circulating that the British were paying cash for American scalps.
The killing of the inhabitants of Fort Mims demanded a response. Colonel Andrew Jackson was sent to fight the Red Stick Creek Indians and he defeated them in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, March 27, 1814. Sam Houston, the future leader of Texas, fought as one of Jackson’s lieutenants. He was shot in the thigh with an arrow, yet kept fighting.
The defeated Creeks ceded nearly half of Alabama to the U.S. government. Promoted to general, Andrew Jackson was sent 150 miles further west to defend New Orleans from the British. Though the War of 1812 was officially over two weeks earlier with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, Dec. 24, 1814, news of it had not yet reached New Orleans.
On Jan. 8, 1815, in the last battle of the War of 1812, nearly 10,000 battle-hardened British soldiers advanced under cover of dark, heavy fog. They were intending to execute a surprise attack on General Andrew Jackson’s Tennessee and Kentucky sharpshooters, aided by French pirate Jean Lafitte and his men.
As the British neared, the fog suddenly lifted and the British were exposed in the open field. The Americans opened fire. Immediately, the British commanding officers were shot and the British forces fell into confusion. In the next thirty minutes, 2,042 British were killed or wounded. Only 13 Americans were killed.
Considered the greatest American land victory of the war, General Andrew Jackson wrote to Robert Hays, Jan. 26, 1815, regarding the Battle of New Orleans: “It appears that the unerring hand of Providence shielded my men from the shower of balls, bombs, and rockets, when every ball and bomb from our guns carried with them a mission of death.”
General Jackson told his aide-de-camp Major Davezac of his confidence before the battle: “I was sure of success, for I knew that God would not give me previsions of disaster, but signs of victory. He said this ditch can never be passed. It cannot be done.”
Andrew Jackson wrote to Secretary of War James Monroe, Feb. 17, 1815: “Heaven, to be sure, has interposed most wonderfully in our behalf, and I am filled with gratitude, when I look back to what we have escaped.”
The Treaty of Ghent was finally ratified by the U.S. Senate on Feb. 16, 1815. British forces considered capturing Mobile, Alabama, but on Feb. 26, 1815, Napoleon escaped. For nearly a year, Napoleon had been banished to the Mediterranean Island of Elba, situated less than 10 miles from Italy.
Now back in Europe, Napoleon quickly reassembled his vast French army of 300,000 soldiers. British troops were urgently recalled to Europe to join the 68,000-strong force under Britain’s Duke of Wellington, together with the 50,000 troops under Prussian commander Gebhard von Blücher.
For the next 100 days, events in Europe cascaded toward the massive Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon was defeated. Napoleon was then banished to the isolated island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic – over 1,000 miles from the nearest land.
American were thankful they maintained independence during this time of global crisis. President James Madison proclaimed, March 4, 1815: “A day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a Day of Thanksgiving and of Devout Acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace. No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States. His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allotted for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under His fostering care their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits prepared them for a transition in due time to a state of independence and self-government. In the arduous struggle by which it was attained they were distinguished by multiplied tokens of His benign interposition. …”
Madison continued: “During the interval which succeeded He reared them into the strength and endowed them with the resources which have enabled them to assert their national rights and to enhance their national character in another arduous conflict, which is now so happily terminated by a peace and reconciliation with those who have been our enemies. And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land. …”
Madison ended: “It is for blessings such as these, and more especially for the restoration of the blessing of peace, that I now recommend that the second Thursday in April next be set apart as a day on which the people of every religious denomination may in their solemn assemblies unite their hearts and their voices in a freewill offering to their Heavenly Benefactor of their homage of thanksgiving and of their songs of praise. Given at the city of Washington on the fourth of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifteen, and of the independence of the United States the thirty-ninth. James Madison.”
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