FW: ANB - Bio of the Day [William McIntosh]
- fyi..aj wright // ajwright@...
See also Wright, Amos J. Jr. _The McGillivray and McIntosh Traders: On the
Old Southwest Frontier, 1716-1815. New South Books, 2000
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Subject: ANB - Bio of the Day
American National Biography Online
McIntosh, William (1778?-30 Apr. 1825), military leader and
high-ranking chief in the Creek Nation, was born in Coweta, in
present-day Russell County, Alabama, the son of Captain William
McIntosh, a recruiter for the British army, and Senoya, a full-blooded
Creek. McIntosh was raised as a Creek, enduring the customary
rites of passage and advancing to the rank of chief, Tustunnuggee
Hutke or "White Warrior." Polygamy being accepted, he had three
wives: Eliza, Susannah, and Peggy, and twelve children. There
is no record that he ever met his Caucasian father.
McIntosh's career was influenced by Benjamin Hawkins, who became
the U.S. Indian agent to the Creek Nation in 1796. Hawkins envisioned
a system of Creek government controlled by his carefully chosen
National Council. Hawkins was drawn to McIntosh for his oratorical
brilliance and willingness to adapt to white culture.
In his late twenties McIntosh achieved national recognition
as spokesman for a six-chief delegation selected by Hawkins to
negotiate a land treaty in 1805 with President Thomas Jefferson.
Skillfully arguing that the 2 million acres of Creek land was
worth ten cents an acre (instead of the Senate's one-cent price),
McIntosh prevailed, but he conceded rights to a federal road
through his nation to Louisiana. As McIntosh predicted, the road
brought Indian-white violence.
As roadways proliferated during the years 1807-1811, resentment
escalated, particularly among the nativistic, recalcitrant Upper
Creeks. Localized primarily in Alabama, they were vulnerable
to Tecumseh's bellicose rhetoric in the early fall of 1811. Murders
of whites by the Upper Creeks led Hawkins to organize the "law
menders," a National Council police force, directed by McIntosh.
In one portentous incident, McIntosh killed an Upper Creek seated
on a chief's throne, claiming sanctuary.
In 1813 enmity between the Upper and Lower Creeks escalated
into the Creek War of 1813-1814, an element of the larger War
of 1812. In August 700 Upper Creeks attacked Fort Mims, a pine-log
stockade and refuge for white settlers near Mobile. More than
250 whites and friendly Indians were killed. An outcry for revenge
swept across the frontier, and the Tennessee governor ordered
General Andrew Jackson to call out 2,000 men and attack the Upper
Creeks. Other states sent militia, and among the Georgians was
William McIntosh, leading a company of Creek warriors wearing
white deertails around their necks to mark them as friendly Creeks.
Major McIntosh and his men distinguished themselves, particularly
at the battles of Autossee (29 Nov. 1813) and Horseshoe Bend (27 Mar. 1814).
In the peace treaty he concluded at Fort Jackson in August 1814,
Jackson ignored the loyalty of the friendly Lower Creeks. In
effect, he took 20 million acres of good land from them to compensate
for damages committed by the Upper Creeks. Later in 1814 Jackson
campaigned for Indian removal from Alabama and Georgia, and McIntosh
vigorously protested in Washington to President James Madison.
At this time the Creeks were in a state of terrible poverty.
Hawkins described them as "in a manner naked, their hunting done,
their resources destroyed by their civil war."
In 1818 General Jackson assembled 1,800 regular army troops
to quell the Seminole uprising along the Georgia-Florida border.
He added 1,500 Creek volunteers under newly promoted Brigadier
General McIntosh. That same year McIntosh was honored at a banquet
in Augusta, where a speaker praised his being at home "both in
the bosom of the forest, surrounded by a band of wild savages,"
and "in the drawing room in the civilized walks of life."
During the period from 1817 to 1821 McIntosh became increasingly
wealthy as partner to David Brydie Mitchell, who resigned as
governor of Georgia to replace Benjamin Hawkins as Indian agent.
They established a commissary and encouraged Creek chiefs to
take land payments in goods rather than cash. One Creek chieftain,
Little Prince, said, "McIntosh and Mitchell used to steal all
our money, because they could write." They were also accused
of defying the law by smuggling in black slaves. McIntosh was
fully cleared, but Mitchell was found guilty and dismissed as
Indian agent in 1821.
McIntosh was a key figure in negotiations in 1821 that allowed
the desperately poor Creeks to sell more than 4 million acres
of Georgia land for five cents an acre. For his cooperation he
was given 1,640 acres of land, on which he built a profitable
resort hotel. His material success and his status in the white
world angered the Upper Creeks, whose hatred for McIntosh lingered
from his leading of the law menders.
Pressures on McIntosh from the white politicians increased in
1823 when his first cousin George M. Troup was elected governor
of Georgia with a mandate to remove the Indians. The Upper Creek
chiefs responded by demanding death for any Creek who signed
away more land. In late November 1824 President James Monroe
called a meeting to negotiate Indian removal, and there McIntosh
was relieved of his tribal office as Speaker, accused of secret
deals with the treaty commissioners and profiting from removal.
In January 1825 treaty negotiators told President Monroe that
McIntosh was ready to relinquish the land and move his followers
west. A meeting was called on 7 February, and five days later
McIntosh and five lesser chiefs, representing only a few of the
fifty-six Creek towns, signed a treaty giving up all the remaining
Creek lands in Georgia.
After a few months of restless quiet, the notorious Chief Menawa
and a company of Upper Creek warriors arrived at dusk on 29 April
at McIntosh's plantation on the banks of the Chattahoochee River
and concealed themselves in the forest. Just before dawn they
set fire to the house, and McIntosh, after shooting at his assailants
from the second floor, came down to escape the flames and was
shot more than fifty times before being scalped and thrown into the river.
McIntosh's actions aroused strongly partisan positions. To the
Upper Creeks, he was a traitor; to the white Georgians, a hero
and martyr. Thomas L. McKenney, superintendent of Indian trade,
said that McIntosh "probably foresaw that his people would have
no rest within the limits of Georgia, and perhaps acted with
an honest view to their interests."
McIntosh papers can be found in the Thomas Gilcrease Museum,
Tulsa, and in Creek Indian Letters, Talks, and Treaties, 1705-1829
in the Georgia Archives in Atlanta. Voluminous papers relating
to McIntosh's death and the events leading to it are published
in Report on Messages of the President, Select Committee, House
Report, no. 98, 19th sess., vol. 3, The Georgia Indian Controversy
(1837). James C. Bonner, "William McIntosh," in Georgians in
Profile, ed. Horace Montgomery (1958); C. L. Grant, ed., Letters,
Journals, and Writings of Benjamin Hawkins (2 vols., 1980); Michael
D. Green, The Politics of Indian Removal (1982); and Benjamin
W. Griffith, Jr., McIntosh and Weatherford: Creek Indian Leaders
(1988), are important sources.
Benjamin W. Griffith
Back to the top
Benjamin W. Griffith. "McIntosh, William";
American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
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