As the nation marks the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812, many Americans remain puzzled over what that war was about. Fought between the United States and Great Britain, it was a conflict over the British policy of forcibly taking American sailors off of American ships and “pressing” them into service in the Royal Navy, border issues, the future of American territory in the West and a number of other minor issues. They were all issues that could have and should have been settled without bloodshed. The War of 1812 was, in other words, avoidable and unnecessary.
But one of the other issues that inflamed Americans was England’s support for native nations that were still attempting to stop the westward expansion of American settlers. This was the hidden “war within a war” fought as part of the larger War of 1812. One of the most devastating of these conflicts was the Creek War fought largely in what is now Alabama. That war began in August 1813, when a group of Creek Indians, led by a half-Creek, half-Scot warrior named William Weatherford, or Red Eagle, attacked an outpost known as Fort Mims north of Mobile, Alabama. The attack turned into the most deadly frontier massacre in American history.
And it was an event that shocked the nation. Soon, Red Eagle and his Creek warriors were at war with Andrew Jackson, the Nashville lawyer turned politician, who had no love for the British or Native Americans. You know the name of Andrew Jackson, the future hero of the Battle of New Orleans and future 7th president of the United States., But you don’t know the name William Weatherford. You should. He was a charismatic leader of his people who wanted freedom and to protect his land. Just like “Braveheart,” or William Wallace of Mel Gibson fame.
Only William Weatherford, also known as Red Eagle, wasn’t fighting a cruel King. He was at war with the United States government. And Andrew Jackson.
This video offers a quick overview of Weatherford’s war with Jackson that ultimately led the demise of the Creek nation. You can read more about William Weatherford, Andrew Jackson, and Jackson’s role in American history in A NATION RISING
PBS also offers a good look at the different sides of Andrew Jackson