“Tohopeka; Rethinking the Creek War and the War of 1812” consists of twelve essays by multiple authors chronicling the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, the defeat of the Creek Indians that opened the Southeast to white settlement.  Topics include casualties and consequences from the Creek viewpoint and the description of the Red Sticks, the Creek warriors so named, probably because of the weapons they carried. 

Like many Indian wars, the sides were not as clearly distinct as would be expected today. What started as a Creek Civil war over accommodation or resistance to white settlement saw Cherokee, the Creeks’ sometime ally, sometime enemy, fighting with the Americans.  A massacre of Americans at Fort Mims generated a cry for retribution that was answered by militia under the Command of General Andrew Jackson.  Jackson’s victory set dispersal of Indians to Florida and along the Trail of Tears in motion.  Later chapters of this book address Americans’ Unrelenting War on the Indians of the Trans-Appalachian West, 1810-1814, forts, archeology and geography of battle sites.  

The portion I appreciated the most was David and Jeanne Heidler’s essay on “Fort Bowyer and the War on the Gulf.1814-1815” for its ability to tie American, Indian and British campaigns in the Gulf region into the broader war story extending to New Orleans and beyond.  They untangle the complicated web of British forces seeking a route to attack New Orleans and gain control of the Mississippi River Valley, their Spanish allies in Florida desperate for assistance in maintaining their tenuous hold on West Florida and Indians offering moccasins on the ground, so to speak, in exchange for support needed to defend against American assaults. The American seizure of Mobile was of crucial importance to the defense of New Orleans by limiting British lines of communications. 

The British campaign in the Gulf is shown as coordinated with offensives on Lake Champlain and Chesapeake Bay.  Their offensives met with misfortune, being blunted at Plattsburg, New York and Baltimore and repulsed at Fort Bowyer at the entrance to Mobile Bay.  These failures put pressure on British Gulf forces to gain a victory that could strengthen their diplomats’ hands in peace negotiations. 

The overwhelming American victory at New Orleans was not, at the time, seen as a war-ender.  Jackson expected another assault while the British planned to capture Mobile for use as a base for an overland march to Baton Rouge.  Upon return to Fort Bowyer, the British squadron did force its surrender before news of the Treaty of Ghent terminated hostilities. 

Being a collection of essays, this incorporates the views of several scholars into a loosely connected work.  I recommend it for War History Network members with a general knowledge of the Creek War and a desire to extend their ken.

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