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Battle of Horseshoe Bend 'important touchstone in American and Native American history'

 

Bicentennial of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend

The site of the battle, located 12 miles north of Dadeville, and 18 miles east of Alexander City, has been designated a National Military Park by the U.S. National Park Service.

March 27, 2014 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, an event that was instrumental in the United States' expansion into the Southeast.

In the final battle of the Creek War, the American army led by Andrew Jackson, attacked a fortified position established by Red Stick Creek warriors in the bend of the Tallapoosa River. More than 800 Creeks were killed in the battle.

"It's one of the great battles in American history and allowed the U.S. to secure the Southeast," said Kathryn Braund, Hollifield Professor of Southern History in the College of Liberal Arts. "It stripped the wealth and the power from the Creek nation and was the beginning of the transformation of Indian country into cotton country."

The site of the battle, located 12 miles north of Dadeville, and 18 miles north of Alexander City, has been designated a National Military Park by the U.S. National Park Service. Braund is one of the founders of the Friends of Horseshoe Bend, an organization that works to promote and increase awareness and understanding of the park, the Creek War, the War of 1812 and the National Park System. She also has written extensively on the Creek War.

Public bicentennial events are currently being held to commemorate the bicentennial of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

Public bicentennial events are currently being held to commemorate the bicentennial of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

"The Battle of Horseshoe Bend is not only a part of Creek history and Alabama history, but also national history," she said. "It did make a hero of Andrew Jackson, but more importantly than that, it represents an event in Anglo-American expansion and is a very important site for the Creeks who had to make changes and adjustments to their own political structure and culture as a result of the war. It really is an important touchstone in American and Native American history."

Braund has worked on various projects with the park for nearly 15 years and has partnered with Horseshoe Bend in two special history studies. She provided the expertise in locating documents, maps and anything associated with the park that could help them interpret their story. Because they don't have a research library of their own, Auburn University Libraries was designated as the place to deposit materials related to Horseshoe Bend.

"We benefited tremendously from that effort because I was able to order items and fill in holes in our library collections with material on Creek and Southeastern Indians through the funding of that project," she said. "There are many cooperative agreements like that between Auburn and the park, some in History, Forestry and other entities within the university, so it is a very good and strong relationship."

Chief Menawa was the leader of the Red Stick army at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Although he survived battle, he did not survive the aftermath of the Creek War: Menawa died in 1835 during the

Chief Menawa was the leader of the Red Stick army at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Although he survived battle, he did not survive the aftermath of the Creek War: Menawa died in 1835 during the "Trail of Tears" removal trek from ancestral lands to Indian Territory.

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, Auburn's Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Friends of Horseshoe Bend National Military Park Inc. presented a two-day symposium commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Creek War of 1813-14, which focused on the pivotal events of 200 years ago in Alabama, the Southeast, the United States and the world.

In what Braund calls "the largest mass movement of the Creek people since Indian removal," 300-plus Creek Indians returned to Horseshoe Bend March 27 as part of a formal commemoration ceremony, where Braund gave the keynote address. March 28-29, the park held public bicentennial events where 80 demonstrators shared what life was like for Creek Indians, Cherokee Indians, the Tennessee Militia and the U.S. Infantry.

"Most Alabamians don't know this history, which is fundamental to the state of Alabama," said Adam Jortner, an associate professor in the Department of History, who studies the transformation of religious and political life in the early United States. He presented on the global context of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend at the symposium.

"For hundreds of years, what is today Alabama was part of a vast trading arc of Indian empires connected to French ships and ports, and for hundreds of years, these peoples successfully defended their lands against the British and the Americans," Jortner said. "U.S. expansion into Alabama was not inevitable; it only happened with Creek War."

"All these events are aimed at helping the public better understand their historic sites and the larger issues in American history," Braund said. "They make history more accessible and help people understand the significance of events. These kinds of programs reflect our commitment to public history and outreach. People look to Auburn for that kind of leadership, and they respect sound historical scholarship."

By Carol Nelson, Office of Communications & Marketing

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Last Updated: Mar. 27, 2014

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