Montgomery, Lemuel P.

Lemuel Purnell Montgomery (1786-1814) today is most remembered for his military service and death during the Creek War of 1813-14 in Alabama. He is recorded as one of the first U.S. soldiers to fall at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, the culminating battle of the war. Montgomery County was named in his honor in 1816 through an Act of the Legislature of the Mississippi Territory. A statue of him, erected in 1987, stands in front of the Montgomery County Courthouse.

Montgomery was born in Wythe County, Virginia, in 1786 to Hugh and Euphemia Montgomery; he was one of four sons. His paternal grandfather, Hugh Montgomery, is reported as having served in the American Revolutionary War after immigrating from Ireland. Little is known about his childhood or schooling, but what is known is that he received training to begin a career as an attorney. At some point, Montgomery moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he practiced in his early to mid-twenties. When the War of 1812 broke out, he was commissioned to serve as a major in the 39th U.S. Infantry. This position brought him to Alabama, where he fought in the Creek War under Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson. The Creek War was a smaller, regional conflict within the larger War of 1812 between U.S. forces and the Red Stick faction of the Creek Nation, which arose from increasing encroachment on tribal lands by white settlers. The Creek War, while mostly a series of battles between factions of the Creek Nation, triggered the entrance of the U.S. military after an attack on Fort Mims in Baldwin County. The ensuing war would be disastrous to the Creek Nation.  

On March 26, 1814, Jackson ordered 3,300 men of the Tennessee militia to attack 1,000 Red Sticks at Tohopeka, a temporary village located at a horseshoe-shaped bend in the Tallapoosa River. Menawa, a war leader of the Red Sticks, had ordered the fortification of the village in preparation for the attack after a series of battles between Creeks in the area had become increasingly violent. The village consisted of some 300 houses and sheltered women and children and the elderly in addition to the Creek military forces. During the attack the next morning, Montgomery was one of the men tasked with scaling the Red Stick barricade. It is believed that a rifle ball fired from inside the fortification struck his forehead, killing him instantly. Montgomery is believed to have been one of the first casualties at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, a number that would reach more than 3,300 for both sides. At the end of the battle, Jackson saw Montgomery’s lifeless body and is remembered for taking his loss with great difficulty. Despite the high causality rate among U.S. forces, the Battle of Horseshoe Bend resulted in the defeat of the Creeks and would lead to their forced removal from their territories in the Southeast.

After the battle, Montgomery’s remains were relocated, but the circumstances around his burial, including the exact location, remain clouded in rumor. He is believed to be buried in nearby Dudleyville, in present-day Tallapoosa County, on land referred to as the “McIntosh property” in most records. In 1932, an application for a headstone for an unmarked grave was granted. The following year, the Tohopeka Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a marker in his honor on a hill at the Horseshoe Bend battlefield where Jackson’s artillery was located. 

Further Reading

  • Holland, James W. Andrew Jackson and the Creek War: Victory at the Horseshoe. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1968.
  • Kanon, Tom. Tennesseans at War, 1812–1815: Andrew Jackson, the Creek War, and the Battle of New Orleans. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2015.

External Links

Share this Article