Monday, March 9, 2020

Invading Alabama!

Commander K. at U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Huntsville AL

"Sweet home Alabama has been invaded and fought in many times over its history.

Humans first arrived in the area we know today as Alabama many thousands of years ago. Bows and arrows were introduced in the woodland era, from 300 BCE to AD 1000.  The Mississippian culture, which began around AD 700, featured mound builders.

The Alabama, Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Creek (or Muscogee) were the principal tribes of Alabama. Alabama is a Muscogee word meaning campsite.

Native Americans
Museum of Alabama

The first Europeans to explore the area were the Spanish. For instance, as early as 1519, Alonzo Álvarez de Pineda was venturing into Mobile Bay.  The Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto entered Alabama in 1540. It wasn’t an entirely auspicious start to European settlement in Alabama. At the Battle of Mabila, located somewhere in what is now Alabama, de Soto found himself outwitted and forced to flee from an ambush by warriors under the command of the local ruler, Chief Tuskaloosa
Other Spanish would follow him, but they too had little success in attempts to settle in the area. And then the French would arrive.

In 1702, the Le Moyne brothers—Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville—founded Fort Louis de la Louisiane and its adjacent settlement, La Mobile, as the capital of New France in the Louisiana territory. In 1711, after a flood inundated Fort Louis, Bienville moved Mobile to its current location.

However, while the French were trying to establish themselves in the region, the English had their own plans for the area, and English traders began to be active there.

The French would control Alabama until the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, when the territory passed to the British. Mobile briefly became the capital of British West Florida, thereby becoming part of the fourteenth British colony in the New World.

In January 1780, Captain William Pickles (great name!) of the Continental Navy rendezvoused with Spanish General Bernardo de Gálvez, who was leading over 750 Spanish troops.  Their object was to attack the British outpost at Fort Charlotte in Mobile.  The two-week siege lasted from March 2–14 and ended with British surrender.  The city of Galveston, Texas, would later be named in honor of the Spanish general.

After the American Revolution, the southern half of what is now Alabama would form part of the Mississippi Territory. However, the section of Alabama that included the port of Mobile remained in Spanish hands.

The advance of American power in Alabama brought with it the usual process of pressuring Native Americans to relinquish control of their lands. Already, for instance, in 1805–6, lands were being opened up to settlers in large parts of western and northern Alabama, land that was held by Native American tribes such as the Muscogee and the Cherokee.

1768 - 1813

In 1811, Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief born in present-day Ohio, came down to Alabama in an e ort to unite the Indian tribes against the encroachments of the American settlers. Most of the tribes ignored Tecumseh, but a portion of the Creek Nation known as the Upper Creeks did not.  They allowed him to address their general meeting at Tukabatchee in what is today Elmore County. Tecumseh is reputed to have said:

Brush from your eyelids the sleep of slavery; once more strike for vengeance; once more for your country. The red men have fallen as the leaves now fall. I hear their voices in those aged pines.  Their tears drop from the weeping skies.  Their bones bleach the hills of Georgia. Will no son of those brave men strike the pale face and quiet these complaining ghosts? Let the white race perish!  They seize your land; they corrupt your women; they trample on the bones of your dead! Back whence they came, upon a trail of blood, they must be driven!

The Creeks who were sympathetic to his message became known as the Red Sticks because of their red painted war clubs.  The great comet of 1811 was seen by some as a portent for an uprising in the south; Tecumseh’s name in Shawnee meant shooting star.

Tecumseh would align himself and the tribes of the Great Lakes with Britain against the Americans in the War of 1812.

The Creek War broke out in southern Alabama on July 27, 1813, with the Battle of Burnt Corn Creek. Colonel James Caller of the Alabama militia attacked a party of about two hundred Red Sticks led by Peter McQueen.  The Alabama militia had some initial success, but the Red Sticks launched a counterattack, driving the militia from the field.

Fort Mims Massacre, 1813

One of the deadliest attacks ever launched by Native Americans on settlers took place in Alabama during the Creek War.  The Fort Mims Massacre, a reprisal for the Battle of Burnt Corn Creek, was fought on August 30, 1813. William Weatherford, known as Red Eagle, led thousands of Red Stick warriors against Fort Mims on the Alabama River. Around five hundred men, women, and children were killed that day with only about thirty of the settlers managing to escape the carnage. Fort Mims Park, featuring a partial reconstruction of the fort, is operated today by the Alabama Historical Commission.

On November 12, 1813, the small but memorable Canoe Fight occurred along Randon’s Creek. Four Americans, led by Captain Sam Dale, fought and killed a canoe full of eleven Red Stick warriors. Among the Americans was a black man named Caesar, who paddled the boat through the hand-to-hand struggle.

The Battle of Holy Ground was fought on December 23, 1813, between the US militia and Weatherford’s Red Sticks. Weatherford managed to escape by jumping, with his horse Arrow, o  a  fifteen-foot bluff.

The scale of the Fort Mims Massacre shocked Americans and drew national attention to Alabama. Andrew Jackson led a force of Tennessee militia south to fight the Creeks in Alabama. General John Floyd led elements of the Georgia militia west against the Creeks.

Andrew Jackson
1767 - 1845

Andrew Jackson was a complicated man. He demonstrated both surprising compassion and horri c cruelty during the course of the Creek War. On November 3, 1813, Jackson oversaw a massacre of Red Sticks at the Battle of Tallushatchee. Nearly two hundred Red Sticks were killed in the space of a half hour. Jackson showed compassion on the  eld of battle by adopting an orphaned Creek boy and raising him as his own son, Lyncoya. Sadly, Lyncoya died of tuberculosis at age seventeen. Jackson and his wife Rachel had been planning to educate him at West Point.

On November 9, 1813, Jackson won a significant victory at the Battle of Talladega. Over three hundred Red Stick warriors were slain.

Andrew Jackson had another decisive victory over the Red Sticks on March 27, 1814, at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. It must be noted that around six hundred Native American warriors from the Cherokee and Lower Creek tribes fought alongside Jackson against the Red Sticks. Approximately nine hundred Red Sticks were killed; Jackson’s forces lost fewer than eighty men.

Jackson ordered the cutting off of nose tips after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in order to count the bodies. Old Hickory became known to the Creeks as Sharp Knife for this harsh approach.
After the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Weatherford, who was half Scottish and half Creek, walked into the American camp and surrendered. He declared to Jackson, “I am in your power.” Sharp Knife chose to pardon Red Eagle, who lived peacefully in Alabama until his death in 1824.

Alabama Map
Museum of Alabama
Montgomery, AL
The Americans strongly suspected the Europeans of encouraging the Red Sticks in the Creek War. American forces discovered correspondence between the Creeks and officials in Spanish Florida. Major General James Wilkinson was ordered to seize Spanish-occupied Mobile. On April 14, 1813, Wilkinson landed with four hundred American troops.  The outnumbered Spanish garrison surrendered the next day. By the terms of the Treaty of Ghent, Mobile was the only territorial gain of the War of 1812.

In September of 1814, British forces under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Edward Nicolls landed in Alabama in an attempt to seize Fort Bowyer near Mobile.  The attack was repelled. On December 5, 1814, British Admiral Alexander Cochrane penned a letter to the Creeks that was an attempt to fan the fire ignited by Tecumseh.

'The Great King George, our beloved Father, has long wished to assuage the sorrows of his warlike Indian Children, and to assist them in regaining their rights and Possessions from their base and perfidious oppressors. ... If you want arms and ammunition to defend yourselves against your oppressors—come to us and we will provide you. ... And what think you we ask in return for this bounty of our Great Father, which we his chosen Warriors have so much pleasure in offering to you? Nothing more than that you should assist us manfully in regaining your lost lands,—the lands of your forefathers,—from the common enemy, the wicked People of the United States; and that you should hand down those lands to your children hereafter, as we hope we shall now be able to deliver them up to you, their lawful owners."

Even after Jackson’s decisive American victory at the Battle of New Orleans, the British did not abandon hope. In February 1815, British troops landed in Alabama and assaulted Fort Bowyer a second time, capturing the fort on February 11, 1815.  The British would soon withdraw from Alabama after learning that the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812, had been signed on December 24, 1814.

In 1819, Alabama became the twenty-second state to join the Union.

In the following decades, more Native American land was ceded to settlers.  The years 1836–1837 saw the Second Creek War, which culminated in 1837 with the Battle of Hobdy’s Bridge, the last battle against Native Americans that took place in Alabama. In 1838, Native Americans were sent westward on the Trail of Tears.

Commander K. at
Crooked Creek Civil War Museum

Alabama, a slave state, joined the Confederacy in February 1861. Montgomery brie y became the  first capital of the Confederacy, from February until May of 1861, when she was succeeded by Richmond, Virginia. Around 120,000 Alabamians would serve in the gray armies of the Confederacy. Alabama was also a center of iron manufacturing, contributing much-needed artillery to the rebel cause.  The state itself, however, was mostly on the periphery of military action during the Civil War.

However, some fighting did take place there.

In February 1862, Union gunboats moved up the Tennessee River to Florence. And the Union established a stronghold in parts of northern Alabama.

In April 1863, Colonel Abel Streight led Union forces on a raid on Confederate communication lines. Despite a Union victory in the Battle of Day’s Gap, the raid turned into a disaster for Streight’s men, who eventually were forced to surrender to Confederate troops.

In July 1864, Major General Harrison Lovell Rousseau led a Union raid on Confederate targets in north and east-central Alabama, disrupting Confederate communications and destroying supplies.

David Farragut USN
Farragut Folklife Museum
Farragut TN

The year 1864 also saw Union land victories in the Battle of Athens and the Battle of Decatur.  The naval Battle of Mobile Bay was fought o  the Alabama coast on August 5, 1864. At the battle’s crisis, Rear Admiral David G. Farragut, the Union leader, famously exclaimed something like, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”  This Union victory contributed to Lincoln’s reelection in November of 1864.
CSS Alabama

The CSS Alabama, built near Liverpool, was the most famous Confederate commerce raider of the US Civil War. Her captain, Raphael Semmes, was born in Maryland but later adopted Alabama as his home. Under her bold captain, the Alabama terrorized Union shipping from the Atlantic to the Pacific for two years, capturing and burning sixty-five vessels. She was finally sunk on June 19, 1864, in the English Channel off Cherbourg by the armored Union ship Kearsarge.

In 1865, the war would hit Alabama even more severely. In March, Union Major General James H. Wilson launched a cavalry raid deep into Alabama, defeating Confederate forces and taking Selma before heading for Montgomery.

In April, after the Battle of Spanish Fort and the Battle of Fort Blakely, Mobile itself—one of the Confederacy’s last deep-water ports—finally fell to the Union.

On May 4, 1865, General Richard Taylor, commanding the last major Confederate force in Alabama, surrendered at Citronelle.

USS Alabama
Mobile, Alabama
The USS Alabama is a South Dakota-class battleship that was launched in 1942 and supported the liberation of the Philippines in World War II. She can be found today at the Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile.

The training of African-American airmen at Tuskegee is also a note- worthy feature of Alabama’s war effort during World War II. In March of 1941, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a passenger in a plane  own by an African-American pilot over Alabama.

German U-boats operated in the Gulf of Mexico in 1942 and 1943. During the month of May in 1942, they sank forty-one merchant ships in the Gulf."

Source: America

Tourist Notes:  Alabama has so much to offer.  Natural Beauty.  Incredible BBQ.  Amazing College Football.  And a heaping helping of History too.  Here are some of my personal favorites...

Dreamland Barbeque:  This is my favorite place for authentic Alabama BBQ...  Be sure to save room for some Banana Pudding!

Crooked Creek Civil War Museum: A small privately owned museum exploring the Civil War...

The Incredible US Space and Rocket Museum in Huntsville, Alabama.  Werner Von Braun was here!:

The Alabama Voices exhibit at the Museum of Alabama is truly amazing!  Worth it for this alone:

The First White House of the Confederacy is right next door to the Alabama Museum and a must see!:

The Farragut Folklife Museum is in Tennessee and not Alabama but it well worth a visit:

Check out a splendid WW2 Battleship in Mobile -- the USS Alabama

Aliceville's POW museum (Aliceville Museum) is an extraordinary place to discover nearly forgotten history of WW2:

First White House of the Confederacy
Montgomery, Alabama

You can find signed copies of our books at 
these web sites...

No comments: