Andrew Jackson's Raid
DESCRIPTION: "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
EARLIEST DATE: 1905 (Belden-BalladsSongsCollectedByMissourFolkloreSociety)
KEYWORDS: war battle soldier patriotic
Aug 30, 1813 - beginning of the "Creek War." Creek Indians attack Fort Mims and kill many of the inhabitants. Tennessee militia officer Andrew Jackson calls out the troops in response
Nov 3, 1813 - Tennessee forces under John Coffee destroy the Indian city of Tallishatchee
Nov 9, 1813 - Jackson destroys Indian forces at Talladega (Alabama)
Jan 22-27, 1814 - Series of small defeats for the Tennessee forces
March 27, 1814 - Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Jackson and Coffee decisively defeat the Creeks
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Belden-BalladsSongsCollectedByMissourFolkloreSociety, p. 297, "Andrew Jackson's Raid"
Cohen-AmericanFolkSongsARegionalEncyclopedia1, pp. 325-326, "Andrew Jackson's Raid" (1 text)
NOTES [1050 words]: Although Belden-BalladsSongsCollectedByMissourFolkloreSociety'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 in 1815, had had a frustrating war. (Indeed, his entire military career had been pretty frustrating; according to Mahon, 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 (Borneman, 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 (Hickey, 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, which seems to have held at least 200 people, and most estimates place the number around 300. It was attacked by Creeks led by Red Eagle (William Weatherford); by the end, nearly everyone inside the stockade 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, unlike most other leaders in the Creek War, 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). Morison, p. 394, reports that 557 Creeks were killed, while Jackson lost only 26 of his own soldiers and 23 of his Indians. 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. The Cherokee had also been guaranteed independence by a treaty made in 1791. As President, Andrew Jacskon would order the Cherokee displaced and send them along the Trail of Tears (Morison, pp. 450-451). 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
Last updated in version 2.7
- Borneman; Walter R. Borneman, 1812: The War That Forged a Nation, Harper Collins, 2006
- Hickey: Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, University of Illinois Press, 1989, 1995
- Mahon: John K. Mahon, The War of 1812, 1972 (I used the undated Da Capo paperback edition)
- Morison: Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, Oxford, 1965
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