Fort Mims

Location: Tensaw, Alabama

Webpage: Alabama State Historic Site

General Description: As an extension of the War of 1812, the Creek Indian War was in part due to the tensions between the US and Britain.  In the early 1800s, the loosely confederate tribes of the Creek Nation numbered between 18,000 and 24,000 and was located throughout Alabama and western Georgia.  The Red Sticks from the Upper Towns were opposed to the further colonization of the settlers in opposition to the Creek tribes in the Lower Towns that had, through intermarriage and adoption of the settlers culture, favored policies of co-habitation.  American spies learned that Peter McQueen’s party of Red Sticks were in Pensacola receiving supplies and ammunition from the new Spanish Governor.  Major David Beasley led a mixed force of Mississippi Volunteers and Tensaw metis (mixed Indian and American heritage) to intercept them and ambushed them at the Battle of Burnt Corn in July 1813.  What was essentially a civil war between the Creeks was becoming of great concern to the settlers in Alabama and they began to fortify their settlements.  Samuel Mims was a successful plantation owner on the east bank of Tensaw Lake and constructed wooden palisade around his home and outbuildings which became known as Fort Mims.  By early August, 1813, about 550 settlers and slaves had moved to the fort for protection.  However, Fort Mims was poorly designed and constructed and became a prime target for the Red Sticks.  On August 29, 1813, nearly 800 Red Sticks had gathered surrounding the fort.  During the mid-day meal they attacked Fort Mims beginning with charging the front gates catching the settlers by surprise.  After 2 hours of hand-to-hand fighting there was a lull of about an hour, when a few of the settlers were able to escape.  After about an hour the Indians returned and killed everyone, including women and children, within the fort.  About 500 militiamen, settlers, slaves and Creeks loyal to the Americans were killed or captured and the buildings and fort were sacked and burned.  The Red Sticks massacre at Fort Mims panicked other settlers throughout the area creating a mass exodus to Mobile and marked the beginning of the Creek Indian War.  Since Federal troops were occupied with the northern front of the War of 1812, it fell to the local militia to respond.  After several battles, Major General Andrew Jackson led these militia to a final victory at Horseshoe Bend in March, 1814.

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Impressions:

1) As the fort and buildings were all destroyed following the battle, there are no original structures to be found.  Archeological evidence has located the home site and other outbuildings along with the blockhouse and stockade walls of Fort Mims.  They have reconstructed part of the stockade on the site, but missed the actually location by a good bit.  They have also constructed a blockhouse using historical information from the time period, again missing the true location.

2) Except for the re-enactment every August, there is very little going on at the site of the Fort.  Even the small museum was closed on a Saturday in early February.  There are a number of interpretive signs around the site that give the history and background of the battle including stories from survivors.  In total it takes less than an hour to fully visit the site.