Touring Alabama in 1820, 18211
Written ca. 1820
Left Fort Hawkins, Alabama
We left Fort Hawkins at seven o’clock, on the 22nd, having taken care to secure our breakfast, as we knew that we should not see a habitation till we arrived at our evening quarters. About a mile from Fort Hawkins we crossed the Oakmulgee and entered the Indian nation of the Creeks. The Oakmulgee, in conjunction with the Oconee, forms the Altamaha and is the last river we crossed which empties itself into the Atlantic.
In the course of the day, we passed some Indians with”their guns and blankets, and several waggons of emigrants from Georgia and Carolina to Alabama. We also saw many gangs of Slaves whom their masters were transporting to Alabama and Mississippi, and met one party returning from New Orleans to Georgia.
Did not pass a house or settlement
We were astonished to meet this solitary party going against the stream. Their driver told me that their master had removed them to New-Orleans, where they arrived three days before Christmas. In less than a fortnight he found he did not like the place and ordered them back again to Georgia. They set out on the 1st January, and on the 22d March were only thus far on their way.
In the course of the day, we did not pass a single house or settlement; but our pine avenue was literally without interruption for thirty miles. We stopped at night on the banks of the Flint River, which, with the waters of the Chetahouche, (Chattahoochee) forms the Apalachicola, which falls into the Gulf of Mexico.
Chattahoochee River divides Alabama from Georgia
Of our very interesting route from this place through the Indian nation to the white settlements in Alabama, I have sent you a long account in other letters.
I forgot, however, to mention, that our host at Fort Bainbridge told me that he was living with his Indian wife among the Indians when the celebrated Indian warrior, Jeenmseh, (Tecumseh) came more than 1000 miles, from the borders of Canada, to induce the Lower Creeks to promise to take up the hatchet, in behalf of the British, against the Americans and the Upper Creeks, whenever he should require it; that he was present at the midnight convocation of the chiefs which was held on the occasion, and which terminated, after a” most impressive speech from Jecumseh, (Tecumseh) with a unanimous determination to take up the hatchet whenever he should call upon them; that this was at least a year before the declaration of the last war: That when war was declared, Jecumseh (Tecumseh) came again in great agitation, and induced them to muster their warriors and rush upon the American troops.
It was to quell these internal and insidious foes, that the campaign was undertaken, during which the small stockaded mounds which I have mentioned, were thrown up in the Indian country by the Americans. It was with mingled sentiments of shame and regret that I reflected on the miseries which we have at different periods introduced into the very centre of America and Africa, by exciting the Indian warrior and Negro king to precipitate their nations into the horrors of war; but I endeavoured to dispel these melancholy feelings by the recollection of our Bible and Missionary Societies, and of that faithful band of veterans who, through evil report and good report, amid occasional success and accumulated disappointment, still continue the undismayed, uncompromising advocates of injured Africa.
Crossed Lime Creek
We bade adieu to the Indian nation on the evening of the 28th, crossing Lime Creek, the western boundary, in a boat. We had travelled that day about 40 miles, and had passed, as usual, many large parties of emigrants, from South Carolina and Georgia, and many gangs of slaves. Indeed, at the edges of the creeks, and on the banks of the rivers, we usually found a curious collection of sans soucis, sulkies, carts, Jersey waggons, heavy waggons, little planters, Indians, Negro horses, mules, and oxen; the women and little children sitting down frequently for one, two, or three, and sometimes for five or six hours, to work or play, while the men were engaged in the almost hopeless task of dragging or swimming their vehicles and baggage to the opposite side.
Often a light carriage, with a sallow planter and his lady, would bring up the rear of a long cavalcade, and indicate the removal of a family of some wealth, who, allured by the rich lands of Alabama, or the sugar plantations on the Mississippi, had bidden adieu to the scenes of their youth, and undertaken a long and painful pilgrimage through the wilderness.
Arrived at Point Comfort
We left Lime Creek early on the 29th, and, after riding a few miles, arrived at Point Comfort; a fine cotton plantation, whose populous neighbourhood, and highly cultivated fields, reminded us that we were no longer travelling through a nation of hunters.
Indeed, the appearance of oaks in the place of our pine woods, was indicative of a material change in the soil; and we soon opened on some of the beautiful prairies which you have frequently seen described, and which, as they were not large, reminded me of our meadows in the well-wooded parts of England.
As travellers, however, we paid dearly for the advantages offered to the landholders by the rich soil over which we were passing. Our road, which had hitherto been generally excellent for travelling on horseback, became as wretchedly bad; and we passed through three swamps, which I feared would ruin our horses. They were about a mile long each; but we estimated the fatigue of crossing any of them as equivalent to at least 15 or 20 miles of common travelling.
They were overshadowed with beautiful but entangling trees, without any regular track through the verdure which covered the thick clay in which our horses frequently stuck, as much at a loss where to take the next step, as how to extricate themselves from the last. Sometimes they had to scramble out of the deep mire upon the trunk of a fallen tree, from which they could not descend without again sinking on the other side. Sometimes we were so completely entangled in the vines, that we were compelled to dismount to cut our way out of the vegetable meshes in which we seemed to be entrapped.
These swamps are ten times more formidable than even the flooded creeks, over two of which, in less than three miles, we had this day to have our horses swum by Indians, whose agility in the water is beautiful. The traveller himself is either conveyed over in a boat, or, if the creek is very narrow, crosses it on a large tree, which has been so dexterously felled as to fall across and form a tolerable bridge.
We slept that night at a poor cabin just erected, and setting off early on the 30th, and passing by Pine Barren Spring, and two very bad swamps, stopped to breakfast at a solitary house, where our host’s talkative daughter made breakfast for us. She could not refrain the expression of her surprise at the sight of a White servant, having never seen one before, and was much more astonished when I told her that the White and Black servants in my country eat at the same table.
1Remarks During a Journey Through North America in the Years 1819, 1820, and 1821, Adam Hodgson; Samuel Whiting, 1823 – Indians of North America
Prior to statehood, Alabama was a vast wilderness with a large Native American population. It is only natural that when new immigrants from other states arrived, conflicts over the land would arise. Soon, these small conflicts exploded into war.
Alabama Footprints Confrontation is a collection of lost and forgotten stories that reveals why and how the confrontation between the Native American population and settlers developed into the Creek-Indian War as well as stories of the bravery and heroism of participants from both sides.
Some stores include:
- Tecumseh Causes Earthquake
- Terrified Settlers Abandon Farms
- Survivor Stories From Fort Mims Massacre
- Hillabee Massacre
- Threat of Starvation Men Turn To Mutiny
- Red Eagle After The War