Battle of Autossee
The Battle of Autossee took place on November 29, 1813, at a Creek town near present-day Shorter, Macon County. It was part of the larger conflict known as the Creek War of 1813-14. In the battle, some 900 Georgia militia commanded by Gen. John Floyd and approximately 450 U.S-allied Creeks led by William McIntosh attacked a large party of Creek warriors of the Red Stick faction, killing at least 200 and burning the town. Autossee consisted of perhaps several hundred houses and was located on the south side of the Tallapoosa River at the mouth of Calabee Creek. The attack was part of U.S. efforts to destroy Red Stick strongholds after a Red Stick war party massacred white settlers and allied Indians at Fort Mims in present-day Baldwin County.
William McIntosh Prior to the attack at Fort Mims, Gen. John Floyd had raised a company of militia from Georgia in response to rising tensions among the various Creek factions and white settlers. His militia, headquartered at Fort Mitchell (near present-day Phenix City, Russell County), was augmented by warriors, headed by William McIntosh, from the nearby Creek town of Coweta. Floyd’s forces engaged Red Sticks in limited skirmishes during the summer of 1813, but by late October, the United States was preparing for a larger offensive. U.S. forces by then included more than 3,500 Tennessee militia under the command of Andrew Jackson, John Coffee, and John Cocke as well as several hundred allied Creek and Cherokee warriors. The two groups of militia made their way into central Alabama to attack the fortified Red Stick towns, with the Tennessee militia moving in from the north and the Georgia militia from the east.
Floyd’s first goal was to take Autossee, where some 1,500 Red Sticks were gathered. Floyd had received word that Red Stick leader Peter McQueen and his men had sought refuge at the town after battling Jackson and the Tennessee militia at Tallushatchee and Talladega in early November; rumors also circulated that the warriors responsible for Fort Mims were there as well. Floyd’s forces set out from Fort Mitchell along the Federal Road on November 24 and headed west toward the Creek towns. Acting as a tracker and guide for Floyd was Alabama’s first recorded Jewish settler, Abraham Mordecai, who had married a Creek woman and become a trader in the late eighteenth century
Floyd’s forces arrived at Autossee before sunrise on November 29 and split into two columns, planning to surround the town. Militia under Lt. Col. David S. Booth and sharpshooters under Capt. William E. Adams took up the right flank, and militia under Lt. Col. James C. Watson and riflemen under Lt. Isham Hendon took up the left flank. While moving into position, however, Floyd discovered a second Red Stick camp nearby and was thus forced to stretch his troops out much more thinly than he intended. He sent Watson and Hendon with a detachment to attack the second encampment.
An additional complication arose when the allied Creeks, headed by McIntosh, were unable to cross the Tallapoosa because of high water and extreme cold. McIntosh had been charged with blocking the escape route west on that side of the river, but instead he and his men took up a position across the closer and shallower Calabee Creek to block escape to the north.
Before they could launch the attack, Floyd and his men were spotted by a Red Stick hunter, who returned to camp and warned leaders of the impending attack. Thus, the warriors were able to evacuate the rest of the camp before the soldiers arrived. The Red Stick leader, Coosa Miko, also sent men to the nearby Creek town of Othlewallee with a request for help. No such help arrived, however.
The Red Sticks opened fire first but were driven back by Floyd’s superior firepower, which included muskets and at least two cannons. The town itself was soon set ablaze, and the majority of the warriors were forced to hide in the thickets lining the riverbank. Floyd later reported that several warriors remained in the encampment to fight and died in the fires. The second encampment met with a similar fate, with most of the inhabitants fleeing to the woods.
Floyd was hit in the knee by a musket ball during the battle but remained on the field, despite the protests of his officers. Red Stick leader Hopoithle Miko was also shot while riding his horse among his warriors to rally them. In approximately three hours, some 200 Red Sticks were killed and their encampments completely destroyed. Floyd lost 11 men, with five wounded. The dead included several of McIntosh’s men. Because Floyd was forced to spread his men out, however, most of the Red Stick warriors escaped. Floyd, low on supplies and himself wounded, retreated to Fort Mitchell rather than pursuing the Red Stick warriors.
Red Stick leader Paddy Walsh arrived at Autossee after the battle, too late to provide aid. He then began tracking the retreating militia and attacked them a mile east of the town when they stopped to bury their dead. Five soldiers were killed, but Floyd’s men successfully repelled Walsh’s attack and made it safely to Fort Mitchell. There, they regrouped and prepared for the next attack. The Red Sticks regrouped as well, gathering their forces at Econochaca (Holy Ground) and two other towns.
By January, Floyd and his men were on the move again, but they were shaken in a surprise attack in January 1814 by Red Sticks near the site of Autossee at Calabee Creek. Having lost perhaps 20 men and suffering close to 150 wounded in the skirmish, Floyd’s militia retreated to Georgia and did not participate further in the Creek War. The Red Stick forces were routed by Gen. Ferdinand Claiborne’s forces at Holy Ground, suffering a similar fate to those at Autossee and foreshadowing the Creeks utter defeat at Horseshoe Bend in March 1814.
Bunn, Mike and Clay Williams. Battle for the Southern Frontier: The Creek War and the War of 1812. Charleston: History Press, 2008.
Halbert, Henry S., and Timothy H. Ball. The Creek War of 1813 and 1814. 1895. Reprint, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995.
O’Brien, Sean Michael. In Bitterness and In Tears: Andrew Jackson’s Destruction of the Creeks and Seminoles. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 2003.