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The War of 1812


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U.S. Declares War on Britain

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On June 1, 1812, President James Madison asked Congress for a declaration of war on Britain. More than two weeks later, on June 18, 1812, Congress agreed upon the declaration, but the votes displayed a divided Congress: House, 79 to 49 for war; Senate, 19 to 13 for war. This division reflected the greater separation among the citizens of the nation. While the “war hawks” chanted, “On to Canada, on to Canada,” the Federalists discussed New England’s succession from the Union. However, the war ultimately ended with victories on the seas and at New Orleans, which boosted American nationalism and foreign respect. For the twelve years after the war, America flourished economically and nationally at home and abroad. This declaration of war started a new chapter in America’s history and gained her a lasting status as an independent nation.

  • Washington, D.C.
  • June 18, 1812

London’s reaction to the Treaty of Ghent

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While Americans rejoiced at the end of the War of 1812, due to the victory at New Orleans, British citizens reacted otherwise. In the London Times, a reporter accuses America of agreeing to the treaty out of a desire to form a “hollow peace” in order to sabotage British soldiers in America and invade Canada. The article calls America a fraud and discusses how British citizens feel entrapped and forced to submit to the treaty. This article represents the fact that no one likes to lose. Shortly after the War of 1812, Britain became Great Britain and established the largest world empire of the 19th century. America succeeded during the War of 1812 in defeating the legendary British Navy and signing a peace agreement that yielded no concessions for either side. For the rest of the 19th century, America remained completely independent from Britain without entering armed conflict again. The War of 1812 cut the last apron strings between America and the Mother Country, and the British eventually came to respect the United States as a strong democracy, an equal, and a friend.

  • London, England

The Red Stick War


War of 1812

I have my Lord employed them with a Company of Rangers to repel the small plundering Parties of Rebel Banditry from Georgia, and to drive cattle from that Province to this. This my Lord is not a very honourable method of making war, but my Lord it is the only one left for supplying this town and Garrison with fresh provisions, as the Georgians would not allow the Cattle belonging to the Butchers who supply this Market to be drove hence. Besides, my Lord, the love of Plunder, engages many daring Fellows, instead of joining with, to oppose the rebels, and by their means, and a small naval force, I was obliged to engage, I have been able to secure the Settlements on the south of St John River: for my Lord the regular Troops are not well calculated for such moroding services ( St. Augustine, 18th October, 1776, Governor Tonyn to Lord Germain).


What began as British Navy officers impressing American citizens into duty aboard their ships, in 1803, escalated into the War of 1812. Meanwhile the frontier was moving west: The Louisiana purchase opened up large areas on the Mississippi River and made navigation the sole jurisdiction of the United States. In both Georgia and Tennessee, new counties formed. In Georgia, settlement was pushed to the Flint River and newly formed Macon, Georgia. Here, along the Federal Road from Savannah to New Orleans, Benjamin Hawkins, the Agent for the Creek Indians, built the Creek Agency and Fort Hawkins. By treaty the Creeks had allowed a Federal Road to be built through their lands and soon overnite inns run by Indians and forts and stands popped up along it. If need be the United States was willing to send militia up and down the road to keep it open, should dire events force them.


Florida was once again filled with intrigue as Aaron Burr attempted to take matters into his own hands in a conspiracy with others to take Florida from Spain.

The plans of the Association called for recruiting 10,000 men from Kentucky, 8 to 10,000 Louisiana militiamen, 3,000 regular troops and 5,000 Negro slaves who were promised freedom. They would meet on the Natchitoches river in February or March. An expedition would be sent by sea to the Rio Grande, under the pretext of quelling existing border troubles. Then the Army would declare its independence from the United States. Some 50,000 American families would be given lands west of the Mississippi (Szaszdi, Jan., 1960: 247).

Burr was arrested and the plot foiled as America sought a wait and see course of action with respect to Spanish territories.


Meanwhile, Congress had outlawed the importation of slaves into the U.S., in 1807. Soon the Spanish had to contend with “the Moccasin Boys” of Camden County, Georgia, again. They now would operate in the Spanish domain for the purpose of smuggling slaves into the United States. British sailors from the West Indies were also involved, this time slaves instead of guns. Blackbirders, slave stealers, were experienced guides for the smuggling operations, seeing the slaves got to markets in Georgia, South Carolina and even Indian Country. The Indians, themselves, had learned the value of slaves, in a culture where land ownership did not exist, horses, guns and slaves were the main assets.                  


From as early as 1726, the Spanish Government had welcomed runaway slaves from Georgia and South Carolina. These newly freed people had no means of support, so the Spaniards responded by setting up an area north of St. Augustine as a place for them to live and prosper. Its name was Pueblo da Gracia Real de Santa Terese de Mose:

…The Governor undertook to supply the settlement with provisions until its crops should be harvested. These measures were duly approved by the Council of the Indies and sanctioned by the King (Seibert, 1931: 3, 4)...

When the British reclaimed Florida, in 1763, the settlement was renamed “Moosa”.

Much of the animosity of Georgians and other southerners toward the British and Spanish had to do with the inability of the British to account for slaves taken during the Revolutionary War and the less than helpful attitude both governments had in regards to the runaway slave issue. 

Florida was a center of slave trading activities as early as 1810. To what extent can never fully be known because of the illegal nature of the trade itself and the scarcity of accurate records for that period. A long and sparsely settled coastline and a close proximity to Cuba made it an ideal location from which to operate. When President Madison noted in 1810, that American citizens were participating in the traffic in African slaves in violation of the laws of humanity and in defiance of those of their own country, he was referring in part to the problem in Florida. The territory was known as a "nursery for slave breeders" and the avenue through which Negroes were regularly smuggled across the boundary into the southern states. Authorities regarded Fernandina and Amelia Island as headquarters for slave smugglers and pirates. A joint resolution of the Senate and House passed on January 15, 1811, empowered the President to order the occupation of the area if necessary to maintain the authority of the United States (emphasis mine, Stafford, 1967:125-126).

By 1811, other problems were coming to a head for President Madison, primarily the growing hostility of the British and the weakness of the Spanish Government in lands on the United States borders. Suddenly there was another reason to consider occupying Florida, militarily, to keep the British out of an area already festooned with miscreants, pirates, slave stealers and banditti. A strategy presented itself to Madison and congress. For years The Spanish and British had sought to lure more settlers to La Florida. They had been partially successful in populating East Florida with former Georgians and South Carolinians, but they had not really made any inroads into winning their allegiance to a British or even Spanish cause. So here were a lot of “Americans” living in Florida. The President and congress had in mind to induce these “patriots” to overthrow the Spanish authority there and annex themselves to the United States: after all, Napoleon had taken Spain and the Spanish Government could in no way help the Florida colonial administration. 


Madison, in 1811, months before the outbreak of the War of 1812, delegated the task of taking East Florida to the former Georgia Governor, General George Mathews, the same George Mathews mentioned in the Richard Lang letter concerning the 1795 rebellion. Col. John McIntosh, a Florida “patriot” became an instrument in this Patriot War of 1811-1813. McIntosh and others who had become successful in Florida complained bitterly to the Spanish authorities about the banditti who threatened them constantly with death and privation and Into that nest of rattlers stepped Mathews as he prepared to enter Florida:


…It was familiarly termed the “jumping place” of criminals and desperate characters from Georgia and Florida. The Moccasin Boys were even then making their slave and cattle stealing raids into the Indian country. Outlawry was everywhere the dominant influence. The weak Spanish Government could offer no effective protection to the planters in the northeast. Many of the nominal subjects of Spain were disaffected, first among whom was General John McIntosh, an ideal leader for such a revolution as the one contemplated (Fuller, 1906: 192)…


If Mathews seemed unaware of what he was up against, he soon learned the nature of the problem in Florida.


Hastening to St. Mary’s, a small place on the American Side of the Line, Mathews encountered a condition of affairs, as he construed his instructions, demanded that immediate possession be taken on the plea of self preservation. The river was alive with British shipping engaged in smuggling goods into the United States in manifest violation of non-importation law. Amelia Island, which was situated at the mouth of the St. Mary’s River, just off the coast of Florida, was a notorious resort of smugglers. Fernandina, the Spanish town on the island, was merely an entrepot for their illicit trade.  Spanish authority existed there more in fiction than in fact. No law of any kind was in force.


After making diligent Inquiries, Mathews concluded that to obtain quiet possession was impossible. The profits of the illegal traffic were far too alluring to be thus tamely surrendered. Inferring that the country was to be taken at all events, he recommended the employment of force (Fuller, 1906: 191)…


On March 17, 1812, Fernandina was occupied by Mathews men, and on April 12th Fort Moosa was taken, just a few miles from St. Augustine. From the point       


of view of those loyal to Spain or Britain this was seen as an invasion. The loyalist, O’neil family of Fernandina recalls the spring of 1812 in dire terms:


Border troubles like the outbreak in which Henry O’Neill lost his life (1791) died down

occasionally but they were never wholly extinct. Southern Georgia was overrun by gangs of ne’er-do-wells, troublesome to law-abiding Georgians, hated and feared by Floridians. Moccasin Boys, the name applied to this outlaw element, crossed the St. Mary’s River to steal and to destroy. Roaming as far as the St. John’s they stole slaves and horses and cattle. They burned buildings. They ruined crops. They stirred up the Indians to a dangerous pitch.

In the spring of 1812, the United States Government gave left-handed authorization to the invasion of East Florida and the Moccasin Boys seized upon this authorization as a go-ahead signal to themselves. For more than a year thereafter, only Amelia Island, where United States troops were stationed, and St. Augustine, which held out against the invasion, were safe from their depredations. The St. Mary’s area was ravaged (O’neil Family at Rootsweb).


The Spanish retook the fort and burned it, forcing the Americans to build their own fort called Picolata. From here the entire operation began to bog down. Politically, Madison now saw the operation as an embarrassment. The Department of State wrote to General Mathews in March:     



I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 14th of March, and have now to communicate to you the sentiments of the President on the very interesting subject to which it relates. I am sorry to have to state that the measures which you appear to have adopted for obtaining possession of Amelia Island and other parts of East Florida, are not authorized by the law of' the United States under which you have acted (April 4th, 1812)…


Madison then replaced Mathews with Georgia Governer D.B. Mitchell, who soon found himself surrounded and on his own. He did not have enough men to take the Castillo at St. Augustine and Spanish reinforcements were due in at any time. The Seminoles and negro banditti were now free to roam through the settlements of the patriots, looting and burning their houses. By September things got even worse. On the 9th Seminoles attacked Ft. Picolata and destroyed the storehouse of provisions. On the 12th a supply train headed for Georgia was attacked and several men killed by Negroes and Seminoles in ambuscade. The patriots and the Americans were now cut off. Mitchell had fared no better than Mathews, requiring relief in the form of troops from Georgia. Madison responded by relieving Mitchell of duty in East Florida, replacing him with General Pinckney. Of course, by this time, The War of 1812 was in full swing.



America declared war on Britain and things did not go well at first. Washington was burned and there were many other setbacks. In the South,  British Col. Nichols appeared at Pensacola, the Spanish indicating they would not interfere with his war

making. Nichols would begin training Indians and negroes in the streets of Pensacola, for upcoming battles with the Americans.

In 1811, the Shawnee Prophet, Tecumseh had given a talk at Tuckabatchee, one of the Upper Creek Towns, eliciting support for making war against the Americans. The Creek nation was divided over this question and the Lower Towns decided to stay neutral and the Upper towns chose “red sticks” indicating they would go to war. They would need plenty of guns and ammunition for this so the Red Sticks  headed to Pensacola to be outfitted. At Pensacola, Red Stick Peter McQueen demanded powder and shot from the Spanish Governor , who refused on the grounds it would upset Spanish treaties with America. McQueen next went to Panton and Leslie, the Loyalist trading company that had been supplying weapons to the Creeks for many years.


McQueen’s insolence was recorded in a letter from John to James Innerary (July 30, 1812), the former a partner in the trading firm:


… McQueen then was about to harangue me, but I interrupted him & told him of what the Governor had informed me, of their threats - & exclaimed against their ingratitude, I told them that they ought to be ashamed of their conduct towards the house & that they were very much mistaken if they thought to get any thing from me by threats & menaces, that I was indeed very much surprised how they could have the assurance to ask any thing from me when I had been from month to month & day to day in the Constant expectation of receiving a large sum from them in Cash in payment of their debts according to their solemn promises to me. Altho' McQueen every now & then interrupted me & tried to change the conversation, yet I continued to talk (West, 1940: 252)…


On the way back to the Upper Towns McQueen and his party were attacked by Americans at Burnt Corn Creek. Scattered at first, the Creeks rallied and drove the Americans from the field. This seemed to set off the Indians to do something of a drastic nature. Within a month McQueen, Jim boy or high head Jim, Weatherford, Prophet Francis and other Red Sticks would descend on Ft Mims, near Mobile and slaughter 350 American men women and children.


America was already at war and General John Floyd was sent by the Georgia Governor to the Chattahoochee to cover the Federal Road from the Creek Agency at Macon to New Orleans. He built Ft. Perry at Mauk, Ga., halfway between Macon and present day Columbus, crossed the river and built Ft. Mitchell on the Alabama side where the Federal Road crossed the river. To supply him, General Thomas Pinckney sought to build a fort at Standing Peachtree, near Cross Keys (Lawrenceville,Ga.) where flatboats would make there way down the chattahoochee to both Floyd and Jackson:


Late in January, 1814, Pinckney conceived an idea to use the Chattahoochee River as a highway for supplying Floyd’s and Jackson’s armies in the Muscogee country. The Linchpin

in this plan was a fort to be built at Standing Peachtree , a Cherokee village on the future site of Atlanta, Georgia. Supplies would be floated down the Chattahoochee from that point 150 miles south to Fort Mitchell. In a trial run one boat made the trip successfully (Obrien, 1895: 133)...


 Fort Peachtree was built but not used to supply Alabama, but there was indeed flatboat traffic on the upper Chattahoochee.


Protecting the Federal Road from the banditti of Peter McQueen and others was a priority for the Americans and was in an earlier treaty which allowed a federal road from New Orleans to Savannah. Other roads led off to Pensacola and Mobile and all were choked with traffic of new settlers. Built in 1811, by Lt. Lucky and    


 Soldiers, the road went from Fort Stoddert at Mims Ferry on the Alabama River, east to the Chattahoochee River, where Ft. Mitchell was built in 1813. During the war other forts like Hull and Bainbridge were built along the road. At the first sign of trouble, settlers would rush to the safety of a nearby fort. Most efforts at frontier safetly in forts succeeded, some exceptions were Fort Loudon and the Fort Mims massacres.


With the massacre at Fort Mims, General Andrew Jackson was pressed into service. He and his Tenneseans  went into action at Talladega, Calebee and Holy Ground, routing the Redsticks there. Next the Hillabees felt the wrath of another force of Americans. Meanwhile, Gen. Floyd moved his troops west along the Federal road and defeated the  Red Sticks at Atossee, below old Ft. Toulouse. Cherokees under Major Ridge and John Ross joined in the fight as Jackson cornered all the remaining Resticks at Horseshoe Bend on the Talapoosa River. In the fight for the Redsticks were Menawa, the horse thief, and William Weatherford, Red Eagle, the Red Stick leader at the battle of Holy Ground.







After Horseshoe bend, Jack, Peter McQueen, high head Jim and many Red Stick leaders exiled to Seminole country. Menawa, the Creek leader at Horse Shoe Bend, escaped wounded and and hid his people at a place called Cahawba.


The Red Stick War ended with the total defeat of the Creeks at Horse Shoe Bend on the 27th of March, 1814. A peace treaty was drawn up by Gen. Jackson at Ft. Jackson (old French Ft. Toulouse) and the Creek were forced to cede huge tracts of land in South Georgia and Middle Alabama Territory. This only served to infuriate the Creeks to more depredations, and there to help them were their old friends the British.



July 1952 Brannon, Peter A., The Pensacola Indian Trade, The Florida Historical Quarterly vol.  31 issue 1, Florida Historical Society: St. Augustine. Pages 2-16


1906 Fuller, Herbert Bruce, The Purchase of Florida: Its History and Diplomacy, The Burrows Brothers Co.: Cleveland.


1885 Little, John Buckner,  The History of Butler County, Alabama, 1815 to 1885, Street Printing Co: Cincinnati.  


2005 Nelson, Megan Kate, Trembling Earth: A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp, Univ. of Ga. Press: Athens


2003 O'Brien, Sean Michael, In Bitterness and in Tears: Andrew Jackson’s Destruction of the Creeks and Seminoles, Greenwood Publishing Group: Santa Barbara, Calif.       


1851 Pickett, Albert James, History of Alabama: And Incidentally Georgia and Mississippi…, Walker and James: Charleston.


2008  Schutz, Noel, and Don Green, Shawnee Heritage,  Vision ePublications: Oregon.


July 1931 Seibert, Wilbur H., Slavery and White Servitude in East Florida, 1726-1776, The Florida Historical Quarterly volume 10 issue 1 Florida Historical Society: pages 4-24.


October 1967 Stafford, Frances J., Illegal Importations: Enforcement of the Slave Laws Along the Florida Coast,1810-1828, The Florida Historical Quarterly volume 46 issue 2, Florida Historical Society: pages 125-134.


1922 Swanton, John R., Early history of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors, Smithsonian Institution. Bureau of American Ethnology, Govt Printing office: wash D.C.


April 1940: West, Elizabeth Howard, A Prelude to the Creek War of 1813-1814 In a Letter by John Innerarity to James Innerarity, The Florida Historical Quarterly volume 18 issue 4, Florida Historical Society, pages 248-267.


1859 Woodward, Thomas S., Woodward's Reminiscenses of the Creek, or Muscogee Indians, contained in letters to friends in Georgia and Alabama.

Barrett & Wimbish, Book and General Job Printers: Montgomery, Ala.


1986 Wright,  James Leitch, Creeks and Seminoles, Univ. of Nebraska Press: Lincoln.



  • Ft Mims, Alabama Territory
  • August, 1813

Contributor: Clio
Created: September 17, 2008 · Modified: February 15, 2015

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