Every schoolboy knows and loves the story of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. William Phillips was a young, lithe Tennesseean whom Senator Campbell took to Washington in as secretary. In Washington he occasionally turned an honest penny by jockey-riding in the races on the old track of Bladensburg, and eventually he became one of a squad of ten or twelve expert 24 horsemen employed by the Government in carrying urgent long-distance messages.
Before sundown the express couriers were dashing swiftly on their several courses, some toward reluctant New England, some toward Pennsylvania and New York, some southward, some westward. To Phillips it fell to carry the momentous news to his own Tennessee country and thence down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Wake up! War with England!! The joy of the West was unbounded. The frontiersman was always ready for a fight, and just now he especially wanted a fight with England.
He resented the insults that his country had suffered at the hands of the English authorities and had little patience with the vacillating policy so long pursued by Congress and the Madison Administration. Other grievances came closer home. For two years the West had been disturbed by Indian wars and intrigues for which the English officers and agents in Canada were held largely responsible. But Tecumseh was even then working among the Creeks, Cherokees, and other southern tribes with a view to a confederation which should be powerful enough to put a stop to the sale of 26 land to the advancing white population.
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A renewal of the disorders was therefore momentarily expected. Furthermore, the people of the Southwest were as usual on bad terms with their Spanish neighbors in Florida and Texas; they coveted an opportunity for vengeance for wrongs which they had suffered; and some longed for the conquest of Spanish territory. At all events, war with England was the more welcome because Spain, as an ally of that power, was likely to be involved.
Nowhere was the news received with greater enthusiasm than at Nashville; and by no one with more satisfaction than by Andrew Jackson. As major general of militia Jackson had for ten years awaited just such a chance for action. In he wrote fervently to Harrison offering to come to his assistance in the Wabash expedition with five hundred West Tennesseeans, but his services were not needed. Again he was refused.
But now his opportunity had come. After some delay the offer was accepted.
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Already the fiery major general was dreaming of a conquest of Florida. Then turn your eyes to the South! Behold in the province of West Florida a territory whose rivers and harbors are indispensable to the prosperity of the western, and still more so, to the eastern division of our state. After what seemed an interminable period of waiting came the first order to move. Fifteen hundred Tennessee troops were to go to New Orleans, ostensibly to protect the city against a possible British attack, but mainly to be quickly available in case an invasion of West Florida should be decided upon; and Jackson, freshly commissioned major general of volunteers, was to lead the expedition.
The rendezvous was fixed at Nashville for early December; and when more than two thousand men, representing almost every family of influence in the western half of the State, presented themselves, Governor Blount authorized the whole number to be mustered.
On the 7th of January the hastily equipped detachment started, fourteen hundred infantrymen going down the ice-clogged Cumberland in flatboats and six hundred and seventy mounted riflemen proceeding by land. The Governor sent a letter carrying his blessing. After five weeks the troops, in high spirits, reassembled at Natchez. Then came cruel disappointment. From New Orleans Governor James Wilkinson, doubtless moved by hatred of Jackson quite as much as by considerations of public policy, ordered the little army to stay where it was.
Jackson flew into a rage—and with more reason than on certain other occasions. He managed to write to the President a temperate letter of protest; but to Governor Blount and to the troops he unbosomed himself with characteristic forcefulness of speech. There was nothing to do but return home.
ipdwew0030atl2.public.registeredsite.com/253781-what-is.php But the irate commander determined to do it in a manner to impress the country. But Jackson drew from the experience only gall and wormwood. About the time when the men reached Natchez, Congress definitely authorized the President to take possession of Mobile and that part of Florida west of the 31 Perdido River; and, back once more in the humdrum life of Nashville, the disappointed officer could only sit idly by while his pet project was successfully carried out by General Wilkinson, the man whom, perhaps above all others, he loathed. But other work was preparing; and, after all, most of Florida was yet to be won.
In the late summer of the western country was startled by news of a sudden attack of a band of upwards of a thousand Creeks on Fort Mims, Alabama, culminating in a massacre in which two hundred and fifty white men, women, and children lost their lives. It was the most bloody occurrence of the kind in several decades, and it brought instantly to a head a situation which Jackson, in common with many other military men, had long viewed with apprehension. From time immemorial the broad stretches of hill and valley land southwards from the winding Tennessee to the Gulf were occupied, or used as hunting grounds, by the warlike tribes forming the loose-knit Creek Confederacy.
Much of this land was extremely fertile, and most of it required little labor to prepare it for cultivation. Consequently after the influx of white settlers, mainly cotton raisers, was heavy; and by the great 32 triangular area between the Alabama and the Tombigbee, as well as extensive tracts along the upper Tombigbee and the Mobile, was quite fully occupied. But not even this district was immune from encroachment. The Creeks were not of a sort to submit to the loss of their lands without a struggle.
Though Tecumseh, in , had brought them to the point of an uprising, his plans were not carried out, and it remained for the news of hostilities between the United States and Great Britain to rouse the war spirit afresh. In a short time the entire Creek country was aflame. Arms and ammunition the Indians obtained from the Spaniards across the Florida border, and Colonel Edward Nicholls, now stationed at Pensacola as provisional British Governor, gave them open encouragement.
The danger was understood not only among the people of the Southwest but in Washington. Before plans of defense could be carried into effect, however, the war broke out, and the wretched people who had crowded into the flimsy stockade called by courtesy Fort Mims were massacred. A shudder swept the country. Every exposed community expected to be attacked next. Tennessee sent two quotas, one from the eastern counties under General John Cocke, the other from the western under Andrew Jackson. When the news of the disaster on the Mobile reached Nashville, Jackson was lying helpless from wounds received in his fight with the Bentons.
But he issued the necessary orders from his bed and let it be known with customary vigor that he, the senior major general, and no one else, would lead the expedition; and though three weeks later he started off with his arm tightly bandaged to his side and a shoulder so sore that it could not bear the pressure of an epaulette, lead the expedition he did.
About the middle of October the emaciated but dogged commander brought his forces together, strong, at Huntsville and began cutting his way across the mountains toward the principal Creek settlements. His plan was to fall suddenly 34 upon these settlements, strike terror into the inhabitants, and force a peace on terms that would guarantee the safety of the frontier populations. Supplies were slow to arrive, and Jackson fumed and stormed. He quarreled desperately, too, with Cocke, whom he unjustly blamed for mismanagement. But at last he was able to emerge on the banks of the Coosa and build a stockade, Fort Strother, to serve as a base for the campaign.
During the months that followed, the intrepid leader was compelled to fight two foes—his insubordinate militiamen and the Creeks. His command consisted partly of militia and partly of volunteers, including many men who had first enlisted for the expedition down the Mississippi. Starvation and disease caused loud murmurings, and after one or two minor victories had been won the militiamen took it into their heads to go back home. Then the volunteers started off, and the militia had to be used to bring them back! At one time the furious general faced a mutinous band single-handed and, swearing that he would shoot the first man who stirred, awed the recalcitrants into obedience.
On another occasion he had a youth who 35 had been guilty of insubordination shot before the whole army as an object lesson. At last it became apparent that nothing could be done with such troops, and the volunteers—such of them as had not already slipped away—were allowed to go home. Governor Blount advised that the whole undertaking be given up. But Jackson wrote him a letter that brought a flush of shame to his cheek, and in a short time fresh forces by the hundreds, with ample supplies, were on the way to Fort Strother.
Among the newcomers was a lank, angular-featured frontiersman who answered to the name of Sam Houston. After having been reduced for a short period to one hundred men, Jackson by early spring had an army of five thousand, including a regiment of regulars, and found it once more possible to act.
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The enemy decided to make its stand at a spot called by the Indians Tohopeka, by the whites Horseshoe Bend, on the Tallapoosa. Here a thousand warriors, with many women and children, took refuge behind breastworks which they believed impregnable, and here, in late March, Jackson attacked with a force of three thousand men. No quarter was asked and none given, on either side, and the battle quickly became a butchery. Scarcely a hundred survived.
Among the number was a youth who could speak a little English, and whose broken leg one of the surgeons undertook to treat. Three stalwart riflemen were required to hold the patient. Cure um now, kill um again! The victory practically ended the war. Fort Jackson, built in the river fork, became an outpost of American sovereignty in the very heart of the Creek district.
Jackson returned to Tennessee to find himself 37 the most popular man in the State. Nashville gave him the first of what was destined to be a long series of tumultuous receptions; and within a month the news came that William Henry Harrison had resigned his commission and that Jackson had been appointed a major general in the army of the United States, with command in the southwestern district, including Mobile and New Orleans.
By his appointment Jackson became the eventual successor of General Wilkinson, with headquarters at New Orleans.