The Creek War

Contributor: Suzanne Riordan. Lesson ID: 13153

It's called the Creek War, the Creek Civil War, or the Red Stick War; whatever you call it, it was the war that drove the Creeks from their lands and shaped the history of the southeastern U.S.


United States

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Beaver, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • How did the Creek Native Americans end up losing 23 million acres of land?

It's a story of bad treaties, broken promises, bloody battles, and bitterness between brothers.

The Creek War broke the power of the Creek nations and shaped the history of the southeastern United States.

The Creeks

Creek is a name that includes not just one tribe, but a group of tribes, which includes the Muscogee, Yuchi, Koasati, Alabama, Coosa, Coweta, Cusseta, and Hitchiti.

European settlers began calling them Creeks because their land had a lot of small waterways and creeks in it. They lived in a large area of the southern U.S., which is now the states of Georgia and Alabama:

Creek land map

Image [cessions removed] by U.S. National Park Service, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

As you watch the videos in this lesson, take notes on the important people, places, and events. You'll need this information to do the activities in the Got It? section that follows!

For an introduction to the Creeks and their relationship with the U.S. government, watch clips from By Bloodshed or By Treaty: The Creek (Muscogee) Indian Land Cessions from Justin Garrett.

This first clip explains the causes of the Creek War and describes some of the battles. It also shows how the Creeks began to lose their land.

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As you saw in the video, in the early 1800s, the federal government built a road right through Creek territory for troops and travelers to go through. Over the following years, it was widened, and Whites began to settle on Creek lands.

The Creeks lost their land as more and more White settlers moved in. Not only that, but the government wanted them to change their way of life by farming and raising animals, rather than hunting and trading. Some Creeks made the adjustment to this new way of life, but others had a hard time accepting it.

  • If someone insisted that you change your whole way of life, would you be able to accept it easily?

The Red Sticks

In 1811, the Shawnee leader, Tecumseh, tried to unite the Native tribes to stand up against the taking of their land and the destruction of their culture and way of life. Some of the Creeks decided to join him and "raise the red stick of war."

These Natives were called the Red Sticks. However, others opposed this idea. They wanted peace with the settlers and the government. And so the Creeks took sides against each other.

In this second clip, watch how the war began with the Battle of Burnt Corn Creek, where the Red Sticks amazed the Mississippi Militia by fighting back hard after a surprise attack and making them retreat:

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As you saw in the video, the Creek leader Red Eagle led the attack on Ft. Mims and escaped after the battle at Holy Ground.

Army General Andrew Jackson, after losing several battles to the Creeks, was determined to defeat them. He met them at Horseshoe Bend, Alabama. That was to be the battle that ended the war.

Battle of Horseshoe Bend

Creek leaders Hillis Hadjo (also known as Josiah Francis or Francis the Prophet) and Menawa led the Red Sticks in the battle.


Image by Charles Bird King, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

The Red Sticks retreated to this sheltered area at the bend of a river and built a 5- to 8-foot high log barricade, which withstood several hours of cannon fire and did not fall. One thousand warriors stood behind it with bows, arrows, tomahawks, and clubs.

Battle of Horseshoe Bend II

Image by Benson Lossing, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

This next video clip gives more details about the battle. Notice how the other Creeks and Cherokee warriors played a role in the defeat of the Red Sticks.

Battle of Horseshoe Bend from Stephen Saucier:

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After the battle, the Red Stick leader Red Eagle, also known as William Weatherford, surrendered. He had not been in the battle of Horseshoe Bend, but he was wanted by the Army for the attack on Ft. Mims.

Andrew Jackson and William Weatherford

Image by John Reuben Chapin, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

When he surrendered, Red Eagle said:

I am in your power; do with me what you please. I am a soldier. I have done the white people all the harm I could. I have fought them, and fought them bravely. If I had an army, I would yet fight, and contend to the last. But I have done--my people are all gone--I can do no more than weep over the misfortunes of my nation. Once I could animate my warriors to battle: but I cannot animate the dead...Whilst there were chances of success, I never left my post, nor supplicated peace. But my people are gone, and now I ask it for my nation, and for myself.

On the miseries and misfortunes brought upon my country, I look back with the deepest sorrow, and wish to avert still greater calamities...But your people have destroyed my nation. You are a brave man. I rely upon your generosity.

Jackson allowed him to leave as a free man. It was a very unusual act of kindness for him.

The Creeks signed the Treaty of Ft. Jackson, giving the U.S. government nearly 23 million acres of land. All Creeks ended up having to give up their land -- not only the Red Sticks but even those who had not fought and those who had fought on the side of the government!

map of land ceded to the U.S.

Jackson became a national hero after helping to defeat the British in the War of 1812. He later became president and signed the Indian Removal Act, which was a terrible law that forced Native Americans in the Southeast to leave their lands and go to reservations.

Menawa was forced to relocate to Indian Territory, in Oklahoma. As he joined his people on the long walk to the reservation, he said:

Last evening I saw the sun set for the last time and its light shine on the treetops and the land and the water, that I am never to look upon again.

Now that you've learned about the Creek War, let's move on to the Got It? section, where you'll play a matching game and make a map of important places in the Creek War.

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