Before the middle of the 16th century the Creek controlled almost all of Georgia. At that time the Cherokee (and later whites) began to pressure them to move inland. A "tremendous battle" occurred at Slaughter Gap in Lumpkin County in the late 1600's. After this battle the Creek retreated to a line roughly south of the Etowah River. A later battle in Cherokee County forced the Creek south to the Chattahoochee and Flint(Thronateeskee) Rivers and west to the Coosa(mostly in Alabama), hence the terms Upper Creek and Lower Creek became common references to the now separate tribes.
During the American Revolution the Creek Nation was generally successful in maintaining its neutrality, although factions of the tribe fought on either the British or American sides. In November, 1783, two minor chiefs (Tallassee and Cusseta) ceded Creek land between the Tugaloo and Apalachee Rivers. After the cession, relations between the state of Georgia and the Creek Nation worsened and on April 2, 1786 the Creek Nation declared war. Attacks against settlers on Creek land were carried out. In spite of two attempts at treaty (Shoulderbone, 1786; New York, 1790) there was no sustained peace on the Georgia frontier until after the War of 1812. Although most of the incidents were relatively minor, settlers on the boundary between the Creek Nation and the state of Georgia were always fearful of a raid.
Repeated attacks by the Red Sticks and whites lead to open warfare on the frontier of the Creek Nation. With emotions aroused by the Shawnee warrior Tecumseh, the Red Sticks sought to avenge an surprise attack on a village with an attack on Fort Mims near the mouth of the Alabama River in August, 1813. While the numbers engaged are estimates, and the estimates vary widely, according to Benjamin W. Griffith in McIntosh and Weatherford, the Creek numbered 700 men against 340 mostly irregular soldiers. The Creek breached the exterior wall, quickly disposed of the soldiers and began killing civilians. Lurid details of the battle reached Georgia and Tennessee.
A group of about 5,000 volunteers (mostly farmers and miners from Tennessee) led by General Andrew Jackson were joined by both Creek and Cherokee forces in an attempt to defeat the Red Sticks. Troops under Jackson's command avenged the deaths at Fort Mims on a number of occasions, killing the women and children of the Creek faction. After defeating the Red Sticks, Jackson, a notorious land speculator, forced the entire Creek Nation to cede one-third of its land to the United States on very favorable terms. By 1820 the removal of the Creek Nation had become a major platform for the Democratic Party in Georgia.
Elected in 1823, Governor George Troup saw the Creek as a serious problem. As the Creeks began to assimilate American culture, they posed a threat in that men moving west from the coast might have a harder time of disposing of the Indians. Troup felt the Indians should be moved to the Western Territory of the Louisiana Purchase, an idea proposed by Thomas Jefferson in 1803.
Chief McIntosh, Gov. Troup's first cousin, agreed to cede all Lower Creek land to Georgia in the Treaty of Indian Springs in 1825. He had been manipulated by both the federal and state governments to sign the treaty. McIntosh also had no clear mandate from his people. After signing the treaty, and prior to the removal, McIntosh and several other leaders were murdered by angry members of the tribe. The Treaty of Indian Springs was ratified in the U.S. Congress by a single vote.
Larry Worthy is Managing Editor of About North Georgia. He has been writing about the Creek Indians in the state of Georgia for more than 10 years. His most recent efforts include an expanded history of the Creek Confederacy for Our Georgia History
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