William Weatherford

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William Weatherford, also known as Lamochattee (Red Eagle) (c. 1780 or 1781[1] – March 24, 1824), was a Creek (Poarch) chief of the Upper Creek towns who led the Red Sticks' offensive in the Creek War (1813–1814) against the United States.

An example of the mixed-race descendants of Southeast Indians who intermarried with European traders and later colonial settlers, William Weatherford was of mixed Creek, French and Scots ancestry. He was raised as a Creek in the matrilineal nation and achieved his power in it, through his mother's prominent Wind Clan, as well as his father's trading connections. After the war, he rebuilt his wealth as a slaveholding planter in lower Monroe County, Alabama.

Note: Several sources state that Weatherford was born in 1765, and that IS the date recorded on his tombstone, located in Little River, Baldwin County, Alabama. Many sources state that his mother, Sehoy III, was born in 1759. Also, his siblings were born in the 1780s. It seems most likely that Weatherford's year of birth would be closer to 1780 or 1781.

Early life and education[edit]

William Weatherford was born near the Upper Creek towns of Coosauda (a Koasati Indian Town, now Coosada) and Hickory Ground (Wetumpka), to Sehoy III, a high-status woman of the Wind Clan (Hutalgalgi), and Charles Weatherford, a Scots trader. His mother was of Creek, French and possibly Scottish descent. As the Creek were a matrilineal culture, Sehoy III's children were considered part of her clan and absorbed into the tribe. Her clan status, the same as her male clan relatives, secured the status of her children. Property and inheritance were passed through the maternal line. In this kinship system, a boy's maternal uncle was more important to his upbringing than his biological father.

Benjamin Hawkins, first appointed as United States Indian agent in the Southeast and then as Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the territory south of the Ohio River, lived among the Creek and Choctaw, and knew them well. He commented in letters to President Thomas Jefferson that Creek women were matriarchs and had control of children "when connected with a white man."[1] Hawkins observed that even wealthy traders were nearly as "inattentive" to their mixed-race children as "the Indians". What he did not understand about the Creek culture was that the children had a closer relationship with their mother's eldest brother than with their biological father, because of the importance of the clan kinship system.[1][2]

As a boy William ("Billy") Weatherford was called Lamochattee, or Red Eagle, by the Creek. After he showed his skill as a warrior, he was given the "war name" of Hopnicafutsahia, or "Truth Teller." He was the great-grandson of Jean Baptiste Louis DeCourtel Marchand, the French commanding officer of Fort Toulouse and his wife Sehoy, a Creek of mixed race.[3] On his mother's side, he was also a nephew of the Creek chief, Alexander McGillivray,[4] who was prominent in the Upper Creek towns.

Weatherford was a cousin of William McIntosh, a chief of the Lower Creek towns, through his mother's family. The Lower Creek, who comprised the majority of population, lived closer to the European Americans and had intermarried with them. They were adopting more of their ways, as well as getting connected to the market economy.

Career[edit]

Lamochattee, or "Red Eagle," learned traditional Creek ways and language from his mother and her clan, as well as English from his father. As a young man, he acquired a plantation in the Upper Creek territory, where he owned slaves, planted commercial crops, and bred and raced horses. He generally had good relations with both the Creek nationals and European Americans for years. He worried about the increasing number of the latter, who were encroaching on Creek land.

The Creek of the Lower Towns were becoming more assimilated, but the traditional elders and the people of the Upper Creek towns were more isolated from the European-American settlers. They kept more traditional ways and opposed the new settlements. Weatherford and other Upper Creek leaders resented the encroachment of settlers into their traditional Creek territory, principally in what the United States of America called the Mississippi Territory, which included their territory in present-day Alabama.

After the Americans improved the Trading Path as the National Road in 1811, more Americans settlers came into the hunting territory and lay claim to their own homesteads. Although various bands of Creeks, especially in the Upper Creek, resisted in a number of armed conflicts, most of the more assimilated Lower Creek towns were forced to make land concessions in 1790, 1802, and 1805.

The Lower Creek were among the Five Civilized Tribes who adopted some European-American style farming practices and other customs. As a result, most of the Creek managed to continue as independent communities while slowly becoming almost indistinguishable from other frontier families.[5] The Upper Creek towns resisted the changes in the territory. In these debates, Lamochattee counseled neutrality in the rise of hostilities. Conflict broke out within the Creek Nation between the elements adopting assimilation and those trying to maintain the traditional leadership.

Leaders of the Upper Creek began diplomatic overtures with Spanish and British colonial officials to develop allies against the United States. In the debates in Creek councils, those advocating war became known as Red Sticks, who soon became the dominant faction in Creek national politics. Red Stick bands went to Florida to purchase arms from the Spanish.

Americans learned that the Red Sticks were bringing back arms from Florida. Hastily organizing a militia, the American frontiersmen intercepted and attacked a Red Stick party at Burnt Corn Creek as the later were returning to the Upper Creek towns with arms purchased from the Spanish in Pensacola in present-day Florida. While the Alabama militia tried to secure the arms and ammunition in the Indian baggage train, the Red Sticks regrouped and fought off the Americans. In reaction to the United States attack on its men, the Creek declared war on the United States. Already involved in the War of 1812 against the US, the British encouraged the Creek resistance.

Weatherford joined the Red Sticks along the frontier, where they tried to repulse American settlers from Creek territory. In late August 1813, with Peter McQueen and other Red Sticks, Weatherford participated in a retaliatory attack on Fort Mims. It was a hastily built civilian stockade on the lower Alabama River, about 35 miles north of present-day Mobile, Alabama. Frontier American families and Lower Creek had retreated to the fort, which was ineptly guarded. The Red Sticks made their way into the fort and massacred the Lower Creek, as well as European-American settlers, including women and children. Estimates are that up to 500 were killed and some 35 individuals survived. As a prominent leader, Weatherford was held responsible for the massacre, although there are reports he tried to prevent it.

Sehoy III and Red Eagle graves in the distance with an information sign in foreground.

An Alabama militia followed up with another Ranger unit and maneuvered the Red Sticks into battle at the Battle of Holy Ground. Red Eagle (Weatherford) barely escaped capture, jumping from a bluff into the Alabama River while on horseback. Having repelled the Red Stick invasion in a number of skirmishes and forced them on the defensive, the Americans regrouped for a final offensive.

The federal government did not have forces to spare. Colonel Andrew Jackson led a combined army of state militia from Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. Jackson's army finally isolated the main Red Stick Army along with hundreds of American hostages. Red Eagle played a decisive role in rallying his forces and trying to save the hostages from death. In the finale of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Red Eagle’s rapid responses allowed various small bands of Red Sticks to regroup and fight a rear guard action, but the remainder of the Red Sticks were destroyed. Although the majority of the hostages were saved, dozens of hostages were killed by the retreating Red Sticks.

Meanwhile, Red Eagle and some other 200 Red Sticks escaped. Most of the Red Sticks retreated to Florida, where they joined the Seminole.[6] Red Eagle turned himself in at Fort Jackson (formerly Fort Toulouse). Colonel Jackson spared Weatherford's life and used his influence to bring the other Upper Creek chiefs to a peace conference.

Weatherford engineered a new peace through a new treaty, which although permanently reducing Creek territory, was lenient in allowing them to retain much of it including most of their homes. Weatherfood subsequently moved to the lower part of Monroe County, Alabama, where he regained his status as a wealthy planter. He died there in 1824.

Marriage and family[edit]

He married Mary Moniac (c. 1783-1804), who was also of mixed race. They had children: Charles and Mary (Polly) Weatherford.

After Mary's death, Weatherford married Sopathe Thlanie (c. 1783-1813). She died after the birth of their son, William Weatherford, Jr., born 25 December 1813.

About 1817, Weatherford married Mary Stiggins (c. 1783-1832), who was of Natchez and English heritage. Their children were: Alexander McGillivray Weatherford; Mary Levitia Weatherford; Major Weatherford, who was killed as a child; and John Weatherford.

Weatherford's nephew, David Moniac, son of his sister Elizabeth Weatherford, was the first Native American graduate of the United States Military Academy. A distant descendant of the Creek leader is the American anthropologist Jack Weatherford. William's great great grandson Charles Weatherford now deceased, and great great Grand daughter Donna Weatherford reside in Baldwin County Alabama. Charles was married to Carolyn Weatherford. His step children are Miranda Bundy, John L. Hein, Melissa Chisolm, and Travis Mock.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Griffith, Jr., Benjamin W. McIntosh and Weatherford, Creek Indian Leaders, Birmingham: University of Alabama Press, 1988, pp. 5, 10-11 online edition
  2. ^ "Red Eagle", Electric Scotland
  3. ^ The Creek Families 3B
  4. ^ "Andrew Jackson", A History of Florida, University of South Florida
  5. ^ Michael D. Green, The Politics of Indian Removal: Creek Government and Society in Crisis, University of Nebraska Press, 1985, pp. 38-39
  6. ^ Digital Library on American Slavery, University of North Carolina Greensboro -- Petition 20582202 Details Location: Escambia, Florida Salutation: To the Honbl H M Brackenridge Judge of the Superior Court of West Florida (BRACKENRIDGE, Henry M.) Filing Court and Date: Superior, 1822-August-4 Ending Court and Date: No Ending Court Specified

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