I am still collecting information about this but will use these photos as place holders.
On April 23, 1818, Captain Obed Wright of the Georgia militia ordered an attack on a Chehaw village, which resulted in the slaughter of several American Indians. In a letter written a week after the attack, Brigadier General Thomas Glascock reported it to his superior officer, General Andrew Jackson. Glascock’s account of the Chehaw affair is important not only for its description of how 230 militiamen killed “seven men . . . one woman and two Children” but also for how it shaped Jackson’s response to the massacre.
The event shocked and angered Jackson because the Chehaw, a faction of the larger nation of Creek Indians, were then American allies in the First Seminole War. Just a month before Wright’s attack, General Jackson’s weary soldiers had sojourned in the Chehaw village while traveling from Tennessee to Florida. The local chief, known as “Major Howard” among the whites, fed and provisioned the men. Subsequently, many Chehaw warriors joined Jackson’s troops to help pursue the Seminoles. Glascock was in fact seeking out their hospitality when he learned of the massacre by Wright’s men: “I sent on Brig Robinson . . . to [pro]cure Beef[.] on his arriving there the Indians had fled in every direction[,] the Chehaw Town having consumed about four days before by a party of men . . . under a Capt Wright.”
As Glascock explained, Wright had learned of a skirmish between white settlers and two Creek tribes—the Hopaunees and the Philemmees—and “immediately sent or went to the Governor and obtained orders” to raze their towns. Instead of attacking the marauding Hopaunees and Philemmees, however, Wright’s men attacked a Chehaw village that was not responsible for the reported violence against the settlers. There is no definitive account the massacre, but historians agree that Wright burned the village and, as Glascock recounted in his letter to Jackson, viciously murdered innocent men, women, and children.
Glascock narrated Wright’s terrible misjudgments in obtaining and following his orders from the governor. After capturing a young Chehaw, Wright did not oblige his request to “bring any of the Chiefs for the Capt to talk with.” Instead, Wright “ordered the Cavalry rushed forward and commenced the massacre even after the firing and murdering commenced maj Howard . . . came out from his House with a white flag in front of the line. it was not respected . . . he fell and was Bayoneted.”
Jackson viewed the incident as shamefully disloyal and extremely dangerous, with the potential to turn the friendly Chehaws, who Glascock described as “at a loss to know the cause of this displeasure of the white People,” into enemies. Soon after he received Glascock’s account of the massacre, Jackson wrote to the William Rabun, the governor of Georgia, calling Wright a “cowardly monster in human shape” and demanding that “Capt. Wright must be prosecuted and punished for this outrageous murder.” Secretary of State John Quincy Adams followed up with another letter to Governor Rabun, telling him that “The President of the United States has directed that Captain Obed Wright should be prosecuted for the murder of friendly Indians.”
Wright was eventually arrested by one of Jackson’s agents but broke parole and escaped to Spanish Florida before he could be tried. Wright was never heard from again, and no one was ever held responsible for the massacre of the Chehaws.
Thomas Glascock to Andrew Jackson, April 30, 1818
. . . mock patriotism burned in their Breasts they crossed the River that Night and pushed for the Town when arriving near there an Indian was discovered grasing some Cattle he was made a prisoner by Sergt James, that the Indian immediately proposed to go with the Interpreter and bring any of the Chiefs for the Capt to talk with, it was not attended to an advance was ordered the Cavalry rushed forward and commenced the massacre even after the firing and murder commenced maj Howard an old Chief . . . came out from his House [w]ith a white flag in front of the line. it was not respected. an order for a general fire was given, and nearly 400 guns were fired at him before one took effect he fell and was Bayoneted. his son was also killed. these are the circumstances relative to the transaction. seven men were killed one woman and two Children . . .
Andrew Jackson to Governor William Rabun, May 7, 1818
. . . But it is still more strange that their could exist within the U.States a cowardly monster in human shape, that could violate the sanctity of a flag when borne by any person, but more particularly when in the hands of a superannuated Indian chief worn down with age. Such base cowardice and murderous conduct as this mans action affords has not its paralel in history, and shall meet with its merited punishment.
. . . this being an open and violent infringement of the treaty with the creek Indians Capt. Wright must be prosecuted and punished for this outrageous murder, & I have ordered him to be arrested and confined in irons until the pleasure of the President of the United States is known upon the subject. If he has left Hartford before my order reaches him, I call upon you as Governor of Georgia to aid in carrying into effect my orders for his arrest and confinement, which I trust will be afforded, and Capt. Wright brought to condign punishment for this unprecedented murder.
Our earliest documentation of the Chehaw Indians goes back four and half centuries to 1540 when southeastern Amerindians encountered Europeans and Africans for the first time. Hernando de Soto and his band of Spanish adventurers came across the Chehaw or Chiaha Indians on Zimmerman’s Island in the French Broad River in present-day Tennessee. By the early eighteenth century, however, the Chehaw had moved south to the Ocmulgee River where they had greater access to the British traders operating out of Charles Town, Carolina (now Charleston, S.C.). A number of Lower Creek Indians from the Chattahoochee River had also moved to the Ocmulgee establishing ten or more towns which became an important trading center for the Charles Town merchants.
Within a few years, however, a number of Native American tribes in the Southeast became concerned about their dependence on and exploitation by the British. As they became more dependent on European goods, particularly guns and ammunition, it became more difficult for the Native Americans to extricate themselves from their involvement in the European trade. More and more deer had to be slaughtered to meet the growing European demand for deerskins. Worse was the large scale Indian slave trade the developed. Joined by their Indian allies on the Ocmulgee River, the English led many slave-capturing expeditions into southwest Georgia and north Florida against Indians allied with the Spanish and French.
As Native American anger grew, several major tribes concluded that only a military solution would eliminate the English problem. In 1715, the Creeks joined the Yamasee, Choctaw, and some other smaller tribes in a major revolt against the Carolina settlers. The English, however, were successful in keeping the large and influential Cherokee tribe from joining the revolt and it failed. The trading post on the Ocmulgee was abandoned, its occupants probably killed, and the Lower Creeks, now including the Chehaw, retreated westward to the Chattahoochee River.
The Creeks were not a unified tribe or nation. In fact, the name “Creek” was an English name assigned to them by the colonists; their Creek name was “Muskogee.” Not all the Creeks were of the same linguistic origins; many were of the Muskhogean stock, but there were some who belonged to other linguistic stocks, such as the Yuchi and Shawnee. The “Creek Nation” was actually a very loose confederation of towns along the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers in present-day Alabama (Upper Creek) and the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers in Georgia (Lower Creek). The main towns of the Lower Creek were all on the Chattahoochee River and several of these had subsidiary villages on the Flint. By 1790, the Chehaw, who had moved to the Chattahoochee River after the Yamasee War, had at least two villages on or near the Flint River in present-day Lee County, Georgia. Au-muc-cul-le (pour on me) was located in Aumuculle Creek (today Muckalee Creek), nine miles above its junction with Kin-cha-foo-nee Creek. In 1799, it had sixty warriors. A second much smaller Chehaw town named O-tell-e-who-yau-nau (Hurricane Town), was on the west bank of the Flint river about six miles above Kinchafoonee Creek. This town, apparently occupied by both Chehaw and Ooseooche Creeks, had only twenty families in 1799.
The houses in Creek towns were arranged in clusters, each containing a minimum of two buildings, but usually more. Each cluster was occupied by a matrilineal extended family and consisted of a winter house, summer house, and additional buildings for storage of animal skins and other purposes. In additional to family housing, this important Creek towns had a plaza that contained a summer council house around a public square, a town house, and a chunky yard. Apparently the smaller villages in the Lee County region lacked these town buildings.
The Creeks practiced riverine agriculture in the rich bottom lands along rivers and streams. They grew three major crops – corn, beans, and squash. For centuries, corn had been the most important crop grown by southeastern Indians. Hominy, the hulled kernels of corn, was a staple of the Creek diet. The Indians’ use of corn in their diet was one of the most visible elements of their culture that southern whites and blacks absorbed into their own.
The southern affinity for corn was just a part of a two-way process of European-Native American acculturation that also involved the Indians’ adoption of Old World crops and farming techniques into their own agriculture. The Europeans introduced fruit trees, including peach, fig, and orange, into the southeast and the Lower Creeks in southwest Georgia planted a number of peach orchards. From Africa, the Lower Creeks borrowed another major Old World crop — rice. In 1799, it was reported that the Chehaw in Aumucullee raised “corn, rice and potatoes in plenty.”
By the middle of the eighteenth century, the Lower Creeks began raising livestock, something they learned from white frontiersmen. Most of the Creek towns acquired cattle as a result of raids made during the American Revolution. The two Lee County Chehaw towns that Benjamin Hawkins described in 1799 had well fenced fields, necessary to keep the livestock out of the crops. Both Otellewhoyaunau and Aumucullee had herds of cattle, horses, and hogs.
At first the Chehaw and other Creeks were not enthusiastic about raising cattle; but as they ran out of wild game to hunt (due to over harvesting deer for the European market), they turned to livestock as a substitute. In 1799, the Creeks sent to market 1,000 cattle and 300 hogs. Encouraged by American Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins, many Lower Creeks relied less on hunting and put more of their energy into American style intensive agriculture. Many of the Upper Creeks, however, did not see this as an improvement, but as a step towards cultural annihilation.
Tensions between the Lower and Upper Creeks eventually let to civil war in 1813. American intervention on the side of the Lower Creeks complicated the struggle. Let by General Andrew Jackson, the Americans and their Lower Creek allies defeated the Upper Creeks and concluded the war with the Treaty of Fort Jackson (1814). Jackson, arguing that the Creeks were responsible for the war, insisted that they cede 22,000,000 acres of land in central and south Alabama and in south Georgia. Much of this land belonged to the Lower Creeks and other friendly Creek towns. Jackson saw no problem in taking the land of Creek allies for he blamed the whole Creek nation for the war.
The new boundary between American and Creek land in Georgia ran from the Chattahoochee River to the eastern coastal counties along a line that included the present Lee-Dougherty County boundary. Everything south of the line belonged to the United States; north of the line remained Creek country. This put the Chehaw towns in Lee County very near to land now open for white settlement. As white frontiersmen moved in, the potential for conflict was great.
In 1817, the First Seminole War began and General Jackson was back in south Georgia to put an end to Indian depredations. In early 1818, as he traversed the region, Jackson stopped at Aumucullee, now referred to as simply “Chehaw.” At this time, the town “consisted of fifteen or twenty cabins with a large Council house in the Centre” flying a white flag of peace. The old chiefs welcomed the Americans and provided them with corn and other supplies that could be spared. The chiefs sent Jackson off to Spanish Florida with forty of their young warriors to fight their common enemy – the Seminoles, fugitive Upper Creeks, and renegade Lower Creeks.
While Jackson and his several thousand militia and Indian troops were in Florida, an Indian raid took place on the Georgia frontier. Governor William Rabun appointed Captain Obed Wright to lead a punitive expedition of 270 Georgia militiamen against the guilty parties. Wright heard that some Chehaw had been responsible for the raid and so he led his men to the major Chehaw town of Aumucullee or Chehaw. Unaware that most of the Chehaw warriors from the town were with Jackson in Florida and that the town was inhabited largely by women, children and old men, Wright ordered an attack which resulted in at least seven killed and forty to fifty wounded. When Jackson heard of the Chehaw Massacre, he was outraged; he excoriated the governor, ordered Wright’s arrest, and promised the Chehaw that they would be compensated for their destroyed property. Captain Wright was arrested, but he escaped to Florida and was never found. No one was ever punished for the slaughter at Chehaw. The federal government did live up to Andrew Jackson’s promise and the Chehaw were awarded $10,000 compensation for their losses. The money, however, was bittersweet for it did not really compensate for the loss of lives, land, and culture that the Chehaw had recently experienced. In little more than a decade, the same federal government would undertake the removal of the remaining Chehaw to the trans-Mississippi West, thus completing the great land grab begun by white colonists a century and a half earlier.
When I was a young boy my Grandmother told me a family story of the Chehaw massacre. My GG Grandfather was involved in the massacre. He was a Georgia militia member and was living in what is now Worth County, Georgia. His wife (my GG Grandmother) was Mahala an Indian lady from near Augusta. When he saw the slaughter taking place he was sick and took a young Indian baby and left to keep her from being killed. My Grandmother said that they were bashing the babies and little children’s heads against trees. He and his wife raised the baby as one of their children.
The War of 1812 divided Native American between themselves, some loyal to the British, some siding with the US. After the war was over some Native American still fought against the US. In Georgia-Alabama-Florida the Upper Creek(Red Sticks) and the Seminoles were joining forces with escaping slaves. The Lower Creek (White Sticks) were called the Chehaw and along with Cherokee and Choctaw fought alongside General Andrew Jackson in what was called the Seminole Wars.
In 1818 a Captain Obed Smith led 230 men in an attack on the peaceful settlement of Chehaw. Although they had helped and fed Jackson’s army just the previous week, up to 50 mostly old men, women and children were killed despite holding out a white flag.
Many of the Chehaw burned to death in their houses. Jackson was enraged and promised justice but Smith escaped.
The Daughters of the American Revolution is an organization made up of descendants of persons involved in the fight for US independence. The DAR’s motto is “God, Home and Country.” Washington, DC women founded the first group in October 1890 and the National Society of DAR was incorporated by congressional charter in 1896. There are chapters all over the US.
On June 14, 1912 The Daughters of the American Revolution Council of Safety chapter in Americus, Georgia unveiled a monument on the site of the Chehaw massacre near Leesburg, Georgia.
No, the children, women and elderly who died at Chehaw town on April 23, 1818 were the families of Chiaha-Creek soldiers, who were serving their country, the United States, in Florida. Their town was laid out on a grid-iron pattern and contained log and wood-frame houses. The Creek Indian farmers and ranchers around the town were feeding United States troops in the Seminole campaign. Most of the women and children were burned alive when their house doors were barricaded then the houses set on fire.
The previous month, the mikko or mayor of this town had been designated a Brevet Major in the U.S. Army. When Major Howard, the mikko of Chehaw, ran outside his house, waviing a white flag to stop the attack by around 400 US Army cavalrymen, he was shot down and then repeatedly bayoneted like he was a sack of straw.
Joseph Burch died on the night of Tuesday, March 3, 1818, on the west side of the Ocmulgee River, maybe near Osewichee Springs. The attack triggered a series of events that eventually led to a debate in Congress.
Prior to the attack on Joseph and Littleton Burch, there had been troubles with the Seminoles, and Andrew Jackson was dispatched to Florida, along with a number of Georgia Militia units. While Jackson was marching to Florida, a group of Indians struck on the west side of the Ocmulgee, burning houses and driving away cattle. Unaware of this, the Burches were building a house on the west side of the Ocmulgee.
The two Burches were shot as they sat by their camp fire. One legend holds that Littleton remarked only a short time earlier about being nervous, but Joseph felt that Indians would not attack at night. Joseph died instantly; Littleton lived and feigned death. Both were scalped. After the Indians left, Littleton managed to cross the Ocmulgee, and on Friday, March 6, arrived at the home of John Willcox.
The local militia unit was mustered at Fort Adams, and a group of 34 men under the command of Major Cawthorn crossed the Ocmulgee on Sunday, March 8, 1818 in pursuit of the Indians. They followed the signs of cattle, found the Indians, and attacked the morning of Monday, March 9, 1818. Referred to as the Battle of Breakfast Branch (named because the Indians were attacked near a creek at breakfast), there turned out to be twice as many Indians as militiamen, and after nearly an hour the attack turned into a route. Seven militiamen died in the battle, three were wounded. Four Indians are thought to have been killed in the battle.
Panic swept the area, and Major Cawthorn hastily penned a letter to Governor Rabun asking for assistance. Militia from Laurens county was dispatched to the area, and Rabun sent a request to Jackson that some of the militiamen under his command be released and sent to the Ocmulgee. Jackson refused, and Rabun ordered Captain Obed Wright to lead a reprisal raid on the Chehaw towns of Phillemmee and Hopaunee near the Flint river.
However, on the way to the Flint, Wright received information that the raiding party came from the Chehaw town of Au-muc-cu-lee. Over protests from Captain Bothwell of Ft. Early that Au-muc-cu-lee had previously aided Andrew Jackson and that the information had to be wrong, Wright obtained additional men at the fort and set out for the town. As they approached, they found cattle identified as belonging to settlers along the Ocmulgee, as well as a Chehaw resident carrying a gun belonging to one of the militiamen killed at Breakfast Branch. Suspicions confirmed, they attacked the town.
The attack turned into a massacre as the Chehaw took refuge in one cabin, and it was set afire. Most of the Chehaw escaped, but about fifty died, including women and children. Fighting continued after the old chief raised a flag of truce.
The news of the attack on Au-mul-cu-lee scandalized the nation. Andrew Jackson reacted in anger, and demanded that Governor Rabun arrest Wright. Rabun refused, and Jackson himself had Wright arrested. Wright was released by a Justice of the Peace, was later arrested, and, with assistance from friends, escaped to Cuba.
The whole issue became an early States’ Rights argument. Jackson maintained that a Governor had no right to issue orders to the militia while a Federal officer was in the field, and in a series of heated letters with Rabun, called Telfair county residents ” . . . a few frontiers settlers . . . who had not understanding enough to penetrate the designs of my operations.” Rabun fired back that Jackson’s own actions at St. Augustine were on par with Wright’s at Chehaw, and that Jackson was more interested in his career than in protecting Georgians. Before it was all over, the incident wound up being debated in the U.S. Congress.
More information can be found in Fussell Chalker’s “Pioneer Days Along the Ocmulgee.”