Using Primary Sources in the Classroom

The Creek War

Lesson 1: Return to Nativism or International Pawn? Religious War or International Conflict?

1. Background information for teachers:

See Introduction to the Creek Indian War Unit for general information and below for information on individual documents.


2. Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this lesson, students should be able to:


1. Identify political issues associated with the Creek War.
2. Identify the countries involved in the Creek War.
3. Identify the branch of federal government having jurisdiction over Indian affairs as authorized under the U.S. Constitution.
4. Analyze the multiple sides of this event: traditional Creeks, "friendly" Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, Seminoles, Americans, Spanish and British.
5. Evaluate (compare) universal concepts of war: the power of leaders, symbolism, religion, slogans and fear.
6. Understand the complex relationships between American and European settlers and the native Alabamians in the early 19th Century.


3. Suggested Activities/Analysis for Entire Lesson:


1. Make copies of documents 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 for each student.
2. Use the general suggestions for analyzing a written document.
3. Compare similarities and differences of life on the frontier for Indians and white settlers.
4. Make a list of the various spelling of names; compare with spellings in your textbook.
5. Compare chronology of accounts of events in documents with chronology as presented in your textbook.
6. How was Spain involved in the Creek War?
7. How was Britain involved with the Creeks?
8. Describe the importance and give examples of Native American religion in the Creek War.
9. What can we learn about the writing of history from these documents?


4. Suggested Activities/Analysis for Documents 1 and 2:

Background information:

Jeremiah Austill was born in South Carolina in 1794 and came to the Mississippi Territory in 1813 with his father. He gained fame for his exploits during the Creek War. In 1845 he was elected to represent Clarke County in the Alabama General Assembly. He wrote this description of the famous "Canoe Battle" in March 1874. Austill died in 1881.


1. Make copies of Document 1 and distribute to the class, or read the document to the class. Discuss the following questions:
When did Jeremiah Austill write his account of the Canoe Battle?
Do you think the account would have been any different if it was written immediately after the


2. Ask the students to write an account of the battle as if they were a newspaper reporter at the time the event took place in 1813.

a. Describe the weather on that day.
b. Make copies of Document 2 and use the picture to illustrate your story.

c. Color the picture for a front-page edition.

3. Ask the students to write an account of the event from the point of view of one of the other participants: Sam Dale, Ceasar, Smith, the Creek Indians in the canoe.


5. Suggested Activities/Analysis for Document 3

Background information:

Margaret Eades was born ca. 1808 in Georgia. In 1811 her family moved to the area of Alabama. She later married Jeremiah Austill and lived in Alabama until her death in 1890.


1. Make copies of Document 3 and discuss the following:
How many people were on this trip?
What did the travelers fear most?

Compare Margaret's feelings about moving with those of her sister.

2. Using an atlas (or regional maps), trace the route taken by Margaret's family and locate specific sites mentioned in the journal.

What was their original destination?

Where did they actually settle? Explain and give location(s).

3. Ask the students to assume the role of one of the people at Fort Mims and write about one of the events or incidents that took place while encamped there during the Creek War.

4. List all the family members and make (draw) a family tree of Margaret's family. Who were Margaret's parents? Who did Margaret marry? Ask the students to compile a family tree of their own family beginning with themselves and working backward to their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents if possible. Suggest that they ask their parents for help.


6. Suggested Activities/Analysis for Document 4:

Notice that the date on this letter is incorrect. It must have been written in January 1814 (not 1813) since it discusses Fort Mims and Holy Ground which occurred in 1813. Students may find this an interesting idea to discuss since most of us mistakenly date items, (for example --checks!) especially in January. What implications does this have for us as historians?
Background information:

Neal Smith was born in 1784 and came to St. Stephens, Mississippi Territory in 1812. He was a medical doctor and served as a surgeon in the War of 1812, Creek Indian War of 1814, and the Civil War.

1. Use an Alabama map and locate the Holy Ground.
a. Name the river where the Holy Ground was located.
b. What geographical features make this site unique as a battle site?
c. Name two modern cities located near the Holy Ground?
d. If you wanted to visit the Holy Ground, what route would you take from your

hometown? Write directions giving specific highways: federal, state and county.

2. Define:

a. Contractor.
b. Forage

c. Parched corn

3. Ask the students to pretend that they are a hungry soldier. How would you get food if none was supplied as promised?

4. Have the students research and write a short paper on the role of prophets among the Creek and what it meant to be a "singer."


7. Suggested Activities/Analysis for Document 5:

Background information:

Harry Toulmin was born in 1766 in Taunton, England and emigrated to the United States in 1793. In 1804 he was appointed judge of the Superior Court of the Mississippi Territory and he settled at Fort Stoddart. There he served as judge, postmaster, physician and minister. When Alabama became a state in 1819 Toulmin served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He also wrote some of the first law books in the state of Alabama.


1. Discuss problems associated with delivering mail on the frontier.

2. Compare the time and methods of communication in 1813 with today's technology.

3. In this letter, what can you learn about British involvement?

4. Why did the Creeks go to Pensacola?

5. What country controlled Pensacola at this time?

6. The "half-breeds" (mixed race Indians) were caught between the warring Creek and the white Americans.

Which side did they support?

Consider the time. Ask the students -- what would you have done?



8. Suggested Activities/Analysis for Document 6:

Background information:

Sam Manac (also known as McNac, Moniac or Totkes Hajou) was a relative of Alexander McGillivray. He was of mixed Creek Indian and European heritage. He owned a plantation on the Tombigbee River. This deposition was recorded by U.S. Judge Harry Toulmin.


1. Make a list with two columns:

Indians with Creek Names

Indians with Anglicized (American) names

2. Read the letter and identify who you think was on the American side and who was on the Creek side. Explain.

3. According to Sam Manac, the Creek wanted to kill all "those who had taken the talk of the whites." How many of these names reflect European/American influence?

4. How much can you tell about a person by his/her name? (Ask the students to think of their name and those of their classmates.)

5. Why was Samuel Manac, "a Warrior of the Creek Nation," so disturbed that he made a report to the Territorial Judge, Harry Toulmin?

6. Have the students research and write a report on the role of the territorial judge in the Mississippi Territory, of which Alabama was a part until Mississippi gained statehood in 1817.


9. Suggested Activities/Analysis for Document 7

Background information:

Manrique was the governor of Spanish West Florida from 1813-1815. This letter refers to Spain's claims to the Gulf Coast after the American Revolution.


1. Ask students to locate the boundary line between American-held Mississippi Territory and Spanish-held territory.

2. Ask students to note which current U.S. states are divided by the 31st parallel --the international boundary line.

3. Discuss how international claims determined many boundaries in America and the reason why the panhandle of Florida is not part of Alabama.

4. Why were the Creeks seeking help from Spain?

5. Why was Spain helping the Creeks?


10. Suggested Activities/Analysis for Document 8:

Background information:

James was a Scotsman living in the Choctaw Nation in the Mississippi Territory. Pushmataha was a Choctaw leader.

1. Compare the information in this letter regarding the support of the Choctaw for the American side and information provided in your text on Choctaw activity.

2. Discuss why a variety of sources need to be used when studying history.

3. Where is Noxubee County located?




Document 1: Jeremiah Austill, The Canoe Battle, SPR 55, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

Document 2: "Dale's Canoe Fight," Nathan H. Glick, Pen and Ink Drawings, LPR 92, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

Document 3: Margaret Ervin Austill, "Memories of journeying through Creek county and childhood in Clarke County, 1811-1814," as printed in the Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol.6, No.1, Spring 1944

Document 4: Neal Smith, Letter, SPR 8, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

Document 5: Harry Toulmin, Letter, SPR 234, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

Document 6: Samuel Manac, Deposition, SPR 26, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

Document 7: Mateo Gonzales Manrique, Letter, SPR 21, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

Document 8: Adam James, Letter, SPR 54, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

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Updated: February 23, 2010