“Andrew Jackson's Raid”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1905 (Belden)
Keywords: war battle soldier patriotic


"When forces were marched, four thousand brave men, On the fourteenth of March to Fort (Stratton) again...." Jackson reviews the men and has them attack Fort William. The singer toast congress and soldiers


Although Belden's (apparent) fragment does not say *which* Jackson was the general in this song, it seems evident that it was Andrew Jackson. The reference to the Tallapoosa River (in Alabama), at which the Battle of Horseshoe Bend was fought, seems to establish this.

Jackson, in the period before the Battle of New Orleans, had had a frustrating war. (Indeed, his entire military career had been pretty frustrating; according to John K. Mahon, _The War of 1812_, da Capo, 1972, pp. 199-200, "except as a boy during the Revolution, he had neither seen combat nor led troops in anything but frill. His practical experience as a soldier was negligible, and his theoretical knowledge even more so.")

Jackson, the major general commanding Tennessee militia since 1802, had raised troops in Tennessee (see Walter R. Borneman, _1812, The War that Forged a Nation_, p. 136), but for a long time had to just sit and not use them (Borneman, p. 137). Washington did not trust him, because he had had some involvement with the rebellion of Aaron Burr (Mahon, p. 198). Eventually the government tried to send the troops, but not Jackson, south; fortunately for him, a local politician managed to have Jackson given charge (Borneman, p. 138). So Jackson left Tennessee -- and at Natchez was given orders to disband his troops! (Borneman, p. 139). Rather than turn them loose on the spot, Jackson paid to bring the troops back to Nashville as a unit (Borneman, p. 140); somehow, he seems to have acquired the nickname "Old Hickory" in the process (Borneman, p. 141).

Back in Nashville, two of his subordinates ended up in a duel, which later led to a tavern brawn in which Jackson ended up with a bad shoulder wound (Borneman, pp. 141-143). He was still recovering when the Creek War broke out.

The Creeks had the usual complaints against the Americans: The settlers were encroaching on their lands. The causes are complex and hard to pin down, though it's clear that Tecumseh helped inspire his mother's people (Borneman, pp. 143-144). It's also clear that not every Creek leader wanted to be involved; it was a band of mostly young warriors called the Red Sticks who rebelled (see Donald R. Hickey, _The War of 1812_, p. 147), and many Creeks stayed loyal.

The war started with a running campaign between a force of American militia and a band of Creeks headed by Peter McQueen and allied loosely with the British and Spanish; this fight came to be called the Battle of Burnt Corn (Borneman, pp. 144-145; Hickey, p. 147). Americans in the area of the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers hastily built and moved into stockades. One such stockade was Fort Mims, not far north of Mobile, attacked by Creeks led by Red Eagle (William Weatherford); by the end, nearly everyone inside the stockade (at least 200 people, and most estimates seem to be around 300) had been killed (Borneman, pp. 145-146; Hickey, p. 147).

The Americans responded by raising several small armies to control the Indians. Jackson led one of these. And he was by far the most aggressive commander, so his forces saw most of the action. His first move after building Fort Strother to serve as a base was to send his subordinate John Coffee to the Indian settlement of Tallushatchee/Tallishatchee/Tallashatchee in northeastern Alabama.

Hickey, p. 138, describes what followed as a re-enactment of Hannibal's famous victory at Cannae, inducing the Indians to attack his center then cupping his flanks around them to encircle and slaughter the force. Coffee's troops killed every Indian who opposed them (Borneman, p. 147). This caused the Indians of Talladega, obviously frightened, to join the American side. Red Eagle promptly took his forces to attack the settlement, which was some distance south of Fort Strother. Jackson led about 2000 men south and defeated the thousand or so Indians -- though this time the larger part of the Indian force escaped (Borneman, pp. 147-148; Hickey, p. 148).

The other prongs of the American offensive finally got moving at about this time, though the accomplished very little. Jackson's troops, meanwhile, were leaving for home; they had signed up for only a few months of service, and their enlistments expired around this time. Plus he was finding it almost impossible to get supplies from his contractors (Hickey, p. 149). At one point, he had only about 130 men at Fort Strother, and when he did get more in January 1814, they were raw and barely able to fight; Jackson tried an offensive with them, but suffered small but irritating strategic defeats (Borneman, p. 149). Still, he was fighting, and not retreating; he finally was sent several additional regiments of somewhat better-trained troops.

On March 14, 1814, Jackson took almost his whole army out of Fort Strother. Borneman estimates his force at 4000 (p. 150), as in the song, though other estimates (e.g. Hickey, p. 149) put his army at 3000. The Creeks had chosen a strong defensive position at Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River, with the river on three sides and a stout stockade crossing the nexk of the bend.

The song mentions that Jackson failed to knock down the wall with his small artillery train; Borneman notes that he had only one field gun, too small to do any good. But a force of Cherokees swam the river, brought back canoes, and allowed Coffee to get a small force behind the stockade; Jackson then attacked in front. The Indians were slaughtered almost to the man (Borneman, pp. 150-151; Hickey, p. 151). Red Eagle, who was elsewhere, had had enough, and urged his people to give in (Borneman, p. 250).

The Creek War had the usual outcome of a war between whites and Indians: The Indians were induced to sign a treaty giving up most of their land (Hickey, p. 151).

Worse was to come. Jackson probably could not have won at Horseshoe Bend without the Cherokee. As President, Andrew Jacskon would order the Cherokee displaced and send them along the Trail of Tears. But, hey, who cares if you're truthful, reliable, law-abiding, or in favor of peace if you're President of the United States? - RBW

Historical references


  1. Belden, p. 297, "Andrew Jackson's Raid"
  2. Roud #7954
  3. BI, Beld297