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FW: ANB - Bio of the Day [Willaim Weatherford]

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  • A.J. Wright
    fyi..aj wright // ajwright@uab.edu ... From: biod-request@www.anb.org [mailto:biod-request@www.anb.org] Sent: Wednesday, October 15, 2003 1:50 AM To: ANB
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      From: biod-request@... [mailto:biod-request@...]
      Sent: Wednesday, October 15, 2003 1:50 AM
      To: ANB bioday mailing list
      Subject: ANB - Bio of the Day

      American National Biography Online

      Weatherford, William (1781?-9 Mar. 1824), military leader--known
      as Chief Red Eagle--of the "Red Sticks," the Upper Creek warriors
      who opposed the United States in the Creek War of 1813-1814,
      was born near Coosada, on the banks of the Alabama River, in
      present Elmore County, Alabama, the son of Charles Weatherford,
      a Scots owner of a trading post and racetrack, and Sehoy, daughter
      of a Creek chieftain. Much of Weatherford's boyhood was spent
      with horses. He was a master at breaking unruly colts and racing
      them over the countryside. An Indian woman said that his skill,
      grace, and daring on horseback would cause women to "quit hoeing
      corn, and smile and gaze upon him as he rode by." An excellent
      athlete, he was reputed to be one of the fastest runners in the Creek

      Weatherford's artful use of the English language came largely
      from the tutoring of his politically powerful uncle, Alexander
      McGillivray--also part Creek Indian, part Scottish--who led the
      Creeks to sign the Treaty of New York (1790), establishing a
      boundary between the Creeks and the encroaching white settlers.
      Weatherford first became widely known for the bold capture of
      William Augustus Bowles, self-proclaimed director general of
      the Creek Nation. Bowles, a defected British army officer, challenged
      McGillivray's power and tried to turn the Creeks against the
      British, Spanish, and Americans. In May 1804 Weatherford was
      part of a small band ordered by U.S. Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins
      to arrest Bowles. They openly marched into his well-armed camp
      and put him in irons.

      In 1811 the Upper Creeks were angered by the increase of roads
      through the Creek Nation, bringing white settlers. Attempting
      to profit from their unrest, Tecumseh came south to forge an
      alliance between the Creeks and the Choctaws and recruit them
      into his pan-Indian confederacy resisting U.S. expansion. He
      arrived at Tuckabatchee in September and made a speech condemning
      encroachments onto Indian lands.

      Throughout 1812 and into the summer of 1813, animosity grew
      between the Upper Creeks, sworn to maintain their ancient lifestyle,
      and the Lower Creeks, more amenable to white culture. Encouraged
      by Tecumseh and perhaps by the outbreak of the War of 1812, the
      Upper Creeks began attacking whites along the frontier, and Lower
      Creek police forces were sent to punish the marauders. Red Eagle
      tried to remain neutral. In dress and lifestyle he had little
      in common with the militant and more nativist Red Sticks, but
      in the summer of 1813 he returned from a cattle-trading expedition
      to find his family held hostage by several Upper Creek chiefs,
      who threatened to kill him if he did not join them. He told them
      he deplored their actions and that the war would inevitably destroy
      them. "But," he said, "you are my people, and I will share your fate."

      On 27 July 1813 the civil war was ignited by the skirmish of
      Burnt Corn Creek, a surprise attack on an Upper Creek detachment.
      In retaliation, the Red Sticks planned an attack on Fort Mims,
      a pine-log stockade built as a refuge for white settlers north
      of Mobile. The chiefs sought Weatherford's advice, and, realizing
      that he could not convince them to lay down their arms, he gave
      them a plan of attack. They were so impressed by his strategy
      that, according to George Stiggins, his brother-in-law, they
      placed all future operations under Red Eagle's guidance.

      In August 700 Red Stick warriors attacked Fort Mims, killing
      more than 250 whites and friendly Indians. Weatherford led Upper
      Creek warriors in his first battle against General Ferdinand
      Claiborne's forces on 23 December 1813 at Ecunchate, a place
      sacred to the Upper Creeks. Here, in a daring escape from a fusillade
      of rifle fire, Red Eagle spurred his horse Arrow to leap into
      the Alabama River from a bluff "between fifty and sixty feet
      high," according to one contemporary account. Today, an eight-foot
      bluff overlooking the river near the site of Ecunchate is pointed
      out as the site of Weatherford's famous leap.

      When General Andrew Jackson's troops defeated the Red Sticks
      in the final battle of the Creek War at Horseshoe Bend on 27
      March 1814, the general was infuriated that Red Eagle, leader
      in the massacre of Fort Mims, remained at large. He demanded
      that Creek chiefs bring him in for punishment. To spare his fellow
      chiefs the humiliation of turning their leader over to the white
      victors, he rode alone into Jackson's camp, boldly walked into
      the general's tent, and surrendered. "General Jackson," he reportedly
      said, "I am not afraid of you. I fear no man, for I am a Creek
      warrior. I have nothing to request on behalf of myself; you can
      kill me if you desire. But I come to beg you to send for the
      women and children of the war party, who are now starving in the woods."

      John Reid, Jackson's aide, witnessed the confrontation and wrote,
      "Weatherford was the greatest of the barbarian world"; he "possessed
      all the manliness of sentiment--all the heroism of soul, all
      the comprehension of intellect calculated to make an able commander."
      This incident helped preserve Weatherford's reputation in later
      years and ensured that he alone, of several important Creek leaders
      in the war, passed into folklore.

      After the war Weatherford settled on a farm in the lower part
      of Monroe County, Alabama, where he owned 300 slaves and a large
      number of fine horses. Although he lived near the site of the
      infamous Fort Mims massacre, he was universally respected. He
      was married under Indian law to Mary Moniac and Sapoth Thlanie,
      and under white law in 1817 to Mary Stiggins. He had an unknown
      number of children. In a hunt on 29 February 1824 an albino deer
      was killed, and Weatherford said it was a sign that someone in
      the party would be called to the hunting ground of the spirit
      land. The next day Weatherford became critically ill, and he
      died several days later. While ill, he saw a vision of his former
      wife, Sapoth Thlanie, reputed to have been a gifted singer and
      the most beautiful maiden in the Creek Nation; she had died a
      few days after the birth of their only child.


      The only manuscript with firsthand references to Weatherford
      was written by George Stiggins, a mixed-blood Indian agent. Entitled
      "A Historical Narration of the Genealogy, Traditions, and Downfall
      of the Ispocaga or Creek Tribe of Indians, Written by One of
      the Tribe," it is found in vol. 5 of the Georgia, Alabama, and
      South Carolina papers in the Draper Manuscripts, State Historical
      Society of Wisconsin in Madison, and has been published as Theron
      A. Nunez, Jr., "Creek Nativism and the Creek War of 1813-1814,"
      Ethnohistory 5 (1958): 1-48, 131-75, 292-301. Contemporary accounts
      of Weatherford's activities are found in John Reid and John Henry
      Eaton, The Life of Andrew Jackson (1817), and Thomas S. Woodward,
      Reminiscences of the Creek, or Muscogee Indians, Contained in
      Letters to Friends in Georgia and Alabama (1859). George Cary
      Eggleston, Red Eagle and the Wars with the Creek Indians of Alabama
      (1878), is unreliable, but useful secondary works are Henry S.
      Halbert and T. H. Ball, The Creek War of 1813 and 1814 (1895;
      rev. 1969); Frank Lawrence Owsley, Jr., Struggle for the Gulf
      Borderlands (1981); and Benjamin W. Griffith, Jr., McIntosh and
      Weatherford: Creek Indian Leaders (1988).

      Benjamin W. Griffith

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      Benjamin W. Griffith. "Weatherford, William";
      American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
      Access Date:
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