HISTORICAL SKETCHES OF MACON COUNTY.*1
By H. M. King
Written in 1881
Published in The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 02, Summer Issue 1956
Gen. Floyd’s Official Report of Battle of Ottissee – Officers who distinguished Themselves •— Importance of Battle of Ottissee Jackson, Coffee and Claiborne-Floyd Again In The Field — Forts Bainbridge and Hull — Camp Defiance — Battle of Calebee —- Capt. Butts Killed And Buried On The Field — Gen. Floyd’s Official Report — Returns Again To Fort Mitchell — Indian Account Of The Battle Of Calebee From Fort Mitchell
Official report of Battle of Ottissee from Gen. Floyd
Gen. Floyd forwarded to Gen. Pinckney, the senior officer then in the South, his official report of the battle of the Ottissees. It will be observed that he makes no allusion to the skirmish with the Indians at the foot of Haden’s Hill, one mile East of the battle ground:
Gen, Floyd to Gen. Pinkney, Catahouche,
Dec. 4, 1813.
SIR:——I have the honor to communicate to you an account of the action fought on the 29th, ult. between part of the force under my command, and a large body of the Creek Indians. Having received information that the hostile Indians were assemble at Autossee, I proceeded thither with the force under my command, accompanied by about 300 friendly Indians. We encamped the 28th at night, within ten miles of our place of destination, and the next morning by half past 6, were formed for action in front of the town.
Intention to surround the enemy
It was intention to have completely surrounded the enemy, by deploying the right of my force on Calebe creek, at the mouth of which, I was informed, the town stood; and resting the left on the river below the town; but to our surprise, as day dawned, we perceived a second town 500 yards below Autossee. The plan of attack was immediately changed; five companies immediately surrounded the lower town, and the remainder attacked the upper. The battle now became general. The Indians presented themselves at every point, and fought with the desperate bravery of real fanatics; but the well directed fire of the artillery, with the charged bayonet, soon forced them to take shelter in their houses, and many, it is believed, secured themselves in caves previously prepared in the high bank of the river. The friendly Indians were to cross the river above the town, for the purpose of taking such as might attempt to escape; but owing to the coldness of the water, they declined after making the attempt; they crossed the creek, thronged to our flanks and fought with an intrepidity worthy of any troops. At 9 o’clock, the enemy was completely driven from the plain, and the houses of both towns, wrapped in flames, to the number of about 400. It is difficult to determine the strength of the enemy, but the chiefs say there were assembled the warriors of eight towns, for the defence of Autossee, it being their beloved ground, on which, they proclaimed, no white man could approach without inevitable destruction.
I have the honor to be, etc.
The General’s staff
On his staff were Captain Newman, Assistant AdjutantGeneral, and his Aides Majors Crawford and Pace; Surgeons Clopton and Williamson.
Brigadier-General Shackleford was second in command with field officers Majors Watson, Booth and Freeman, Captains Thomas, of Artillery; Irwin, Patterson and Steele, of Cavalry; Adams, Barton, Broadenax, Cleveland, Cunningham, King, Lee, Little and Myrick, of the Infantry line; Captain Terrell, A. Q. M.
These were all representative names in Georgia at that day, and are known in the history of the present throughout the Gulf States.
Among the subalterns, whose names were gazetted for gallant conduct were Lieutenants Hendon, Montgomery, Strong and Tennille; the last of whom received a wound in the right arm, which resulted in its amputation by Surgeon Williamson, shortly after the return to Fort Mitchell.
Prominence in History
The battle of Ottissee (Autossee) is for many reasons entitled to prominence in the history of the war 1813-14. Ottissee was one of the Confederate towns, the nearest and the next in importance to Tuckahatchee the Richmond of the Indian Confederacy, and to which all military movements in the South converged; and where the bloody Indian warfare eventually terminated.
Gen. Jackson, advancing from the North, found a Sharpsburg and a Wilderness at Talladega and Emuckfau.
Gen. Coffee, from the West, succeeded no better, Gen. Claiborne, on the South, retired from Econochaca (the holy ground) bearing more cypress than laurel. To the daring Floyd and his resolute Georgians from the East; still belongs the glory of first forcing the gates of the inner Citadel.
Ottissee was the hot-bed of the rebellion
Ottissee had been the hot-bed of the rebellion, and it is safe to say, and without prejudice, to the daring exploits of other gallant chieftains that, weak and staggering under this terrible blow from Floyd, the hostile tribes never fully recovered, up to the day when Jackson gave them the final coup-de-grave at Cheloco Litobixee (Horse-Shoe Bend).
Little of interest occurred in the territorial limits of Macon County for some weeks after Gen. Floyd retired. The Indians, houseless, homeless and demoralized, scattered over the nation, some with their ponies and packs took the trail to Pensacola, others to the Everglades of East Florida; some more destitute and desperate, took to the fastnesses of the swamps, or crossed the river to swell the number of warriors who were congregating higher up the Tallapoosa River for the final desperate struggle against Jackson.
Next the Tuchabatchee town
After six weeks spent at Fort Mitchell in attending to his wounded and collecting supplies and ammunition, and feeling himself sufficiently recovered, Gen. Floyd again put his army in motion over the same route, his destination this time being the great Tuchabatchee town. His force comprised about 1300 troops of all arms and about 400 Indian allies, under McIntosh, Marshall and Timpoochee Barnard, who were aided in the command by Gen. T. S. Woodward.
Timpoochee Barnard ca. 1838 by Thomas McKenney and James Hall (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
Advancing one day’s march, he erected Fort Bainbridge; leaving here a small garrison and supplies, he proceeded another clay’s march and erected Fort Hull. Leaving a garrison and supplies at this point, he followed the “Big Trail” across Persimmon Creek, then leaving it near Calibee, he diverged to the right and halted for the night on a little elevated table-land, in the open pine forest, and between the head-waters of little Calebee and another small stream; the swamps of which streams approached the confines of his camp on the east and west. Those streams flowed in a south-westerly direction, emptying into the large Calebee, not far away. This position which he called Camp Defiance, was about twelve miles east from Ottissee battle ground. Gen. Floyd’s march had been very slow and tedious on account of the high water consequent on the heavy winter rains, and delays incident to fortifying and protecting his line of retreat. Having met no hostile Indians, and having little apprehension of an attack, he went into camp on a dark, drizzly evening, Jan. 26th, 1814, intending to cross the creek and pursue his march to the river on the following.
Men returned to Fort Hull for corn
Fifteen mounted men were sent back to Fort Hull, some miles to the rear, to bring corn for the artillery horses. These men returned during the night unmolested, gave additional confidence to security from attack. Albeit Capt. Howard, and other old Indian countrymen, cautioned him against the wiles of the subtle foe.
At twenty minutes past 5 in the morning, the soldiers were aroused from their peaceful repose by the rapid rifle reports and the terrible war-whoops of the Indians who, approaching in the darkness of night, and under cover of the two swamps, were almost in the camp before their presence was discovered. The men were quickly up and in arms. The attack of the savages was fearless and desperate. Attacked on two sides, the troops were at first thrown into some confusion, but rapidly forming under their cool and courageous officers, they charged right and left, driving the enemy back under cover at the point of the bayonet. Timpoochee Barnard, with his warriors, was among the foremost in the fray. Having driven the Indians into the swamps, on either side, the troops, protecting themselves as best they could, held their lines until dawn; so soon as it was sufficiently light, the lines were formed under Majors Watson, Booth and Cleveland, and a charge ordered of the full front. The enemy now gave way in confusion.
Pursuit continued until the Indians crossed the Big Calibee
Captain Hamilton followed up the route with a charge of his cavalry, supported by the rifle companies of Captain Merriwether and Ford, and Timpoochee Barnard’s Uchees. The pursuit was continued until the Indians crossed the Big Calibee.
The loss of the white troops was 17 killed and 182 wounded, the Indians allies had 5 killed and 15 wounded. The number of Indians killed and wounded was never known, but variously estimated at from 20 to 200 killed and about double the number wounded.
After the fighting was over and the Indians had retired, hasty intrenchments and breast works were made about the camp — the stable locked after the horse had been stolen.
Having done this, and buried his dead, among them was the gallant Captain Samuel Butts, whose loss was greviously (sic) felt an much deplored.
Official report on Battle of Calibee
Gen. Floyd fell back to Fort Hull, and thence to Fort Mitchell, the time of his six months men having about expired. We append hereto Gen. Floyd’s official report:
Gen. Floyd to Gen. Pinkney. Camp Defiance, Jan. 27, 1814.
SIR — I have the honor to aquint (sic) your excellency that this morning at 20 minutes past 5 o’clock, a very large body of hostile Indians made a desperate attack upon the army under my command. They stole upon the centinels, fired on them, and with great impetuosity rushed upon our line: in 20 minutes the action became general and our front right and left flanks were closely pressed, but the brave and gallant conduct of the field and line officers, and the firmness of the men repelled them at every point.
The steady firmness, and incessant fire of Capt. Thomas’ artillery, and Capt. Adams’ riflemen, preserved our front lines. The enemy rushed within 30 yards of the artillery, and Capt. Broadnax, who commanded one of the piquet guards, maintained his post with great bravery, until the enemy gained his rear, and then cut his way through them to the army. As soon as it became light enough to distinguish objects, I ordered Majs. Watson’s and Freeman’s battalions to wheel up at right angles with Majors Booth’s and Cleveland’s battalions, who formed the right wing, to prepare for the charge. The order for the charge was promptly obeyed, and the enemy fled in every direction before the bayonet. From the affusion (sic) of blood, and the number of head dresses and war clubs found in various directions, their loss must have been considerable independent of their wounded.
I have the honor to be, etc.,
Battlefield and burial location
The battlefield of Callebee is about half a mile North-west from Union Church, cleared and cultivated as part of the plantation of Mrs. M. K. Wheat.
Capt. Butts was buried at the root of a large pine tree, his sole monument being a large nail half driven into the East side of the tree at the height of about five feet.
Many years afterwards his family sent to have his remains moved to his home in Hancock County, Georgia, but the place of his interment could not be identified.
Mr. John B. Collins, an intelligent gentleman, one of the earliest settlers of the county, now a citizen of Columbus, Georgia, told the writer that as late perhaps as 1848 the tree with the nail driven in it was pointed out to him by Gen. Thos. Woodward, who was present when he was killed and helped to consign him to this, his last resting place in the dark shades of the forest. Well may it be said of him, as it was said in response to the roll call of the name of the gallant D’Agincourt. “Mort sur champ de battaille”
The Indian account of battles
The Indian account as afterwards given to old settlers, by Sowanoke Jack, Jim Boy and Weatherford was in substance about as follows:
Failing to receive the aid expected from the Spanish at Pensacola, the the Indians began drifting back to their old hunting grounds —- almost destitute of ammunition and provision. Weatherford wandering back towards Tukabatchee, after his escape at Ecanochaca, fell in with Sowanoka Jack.
They built their council fire, lighted their pipes, and proceeded to discuss the situation. The outlook was gloomy enough to appall the stoutest Warrior. The gleam of bayonets was seen on every hand and the deadly circle was narrowing daily. While defeat and probable annihilation were questions of time only.
The final conclusion was that they should collect as many as possible of the scattered tribes East of the River, and under the command of Jack to await developments; to retrieve their lost fortunes if opportunity offered; also to take trail for the everglades of East Florida.
Attention turned to Floyd
Claiborne had returned South and there was no immediate danger from that quarter; but Floyd was again preparing to take the field, with, as they were informed, large supplies of provisions and ammunition, with which to store posts, on his line of march; so it was resolved to turn their immediate attention to him.
So soon as Gen. Floyd left the “Big Trail”, with the swamps and creeks in his front to be crossed, they thought their long wished opportunity had arrived.
While Floyd’s troops slept and dreamed, the Indians, on the West side of McGirth’s old “Still House Branch”, almost in rifle shot of his camp, were in deep consultation.
Weatherford proposed to make an attack on the Georgians while they were crossing the Callebee with the purpose of capturing the trains and ammunition, if nothing more.
His proposition was over-ruled and he left the council, accompanied by a few Tuskegees to watch Floyd from the front.
Jack at once determined to attack the camp, and Weatherford had not got beyond the hearing of their guns when the attack was made.
Most Indians did not have powder or balls
The Indians relied upon getting to close quarters, most of them having neither powder or balls; many being armed only with bows, or war clubs.
During the fight they were heard repeatedly asking each other for powder or bullets, as one or the other was exhausted.
This want of ammunition saved the Georgians from more serious losses, or possibly defeat.
The Chiefs claimed to have had between 1500 and 2000 Warriors, but, they as other commanders, understood the strategy of reporting numbers. (From THE MACON MAIL, Vol. V, No. 48, Tuskegee, Ala, Wednesday, February 9, 1881.) “Page 2, Col. 1.”
1* Eighteen historical sketches were contributed to the Macon Mail during 1880 and 1881. Set out herewith are Numbers 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 17. The subsequent story published in the Tuskegee paper in May gives some follow-up references. Should any reader of these sketches know of the existence of other numbers, it is requested that they be forwarded to the Department of Archives and History in order that more of the early history of the County can be set out. (Ed.)