Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Forging a Cherokee-American Alliance in the Creek War: From Creation to Betrayal

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Forging a Cherokee-American Alliance in the Creek War: From Creation to Betrayal

Article excerpt

Forging a Cherokee-American Alliance in the Creek War: From Creation to Betrayal. By Susan M. Abram. (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2015. Pp. xiv, 226. $49.95, ISBN 978-0-8173-1875-8.)

At the outset of her work, Susan M. Abram laments that historians have never fully appreciated the role that Cherokee soldiers played in Andrew Jackson's victory over the nativist Red Stick insurgents in the Creek War of 1813-1814. She points out that well over six hundred Cherokee men fought alongside their American allies, and historians need to place them "in the center of the action" (p. 4). Cherokee soldiers fought with distinction at the battles of Tallushatchee, Talladega, and Horseshoe Bend, where many of them swam across the Tallapoosa River to secure canoes and engage the rear of the Red Stick army, making a frontal assault possible for the rest of Jackson's army. The American victory, Abram argues, "profoundly depended on many of the Cherokee mounted warriors as guides and translators" as well as on food and ammunition from Cherokee stores (p. 74).

The United States did not reward the Cherokees for their contributions in kind. Rather, Jackson imposed a draconian peace on the entire Creek Nation (not just the Red Sticks) that involved the seizure of a parcel that included 2.2 million acres of disputed Creek/Cherokee territory. After the war, squatters and marauding hoods inundated the land, while Jackson and other southern politicians began calling for the federal government to relocate southern Natives to the West.

A class of young Cherokee "warrior-headmen," who had ironically rejected the overtures of Tecumseh and the nativist prophets and forged the American alliance, felt betrayed by Jackson's coercion and gradually became the leaders of the opposition to removal (p. 102). This military class, which included future national leaders and rivals such as John Ross and Major Ridge, developed an appreciation for republican government during the war and subsequently moved their people toward the construction of a centralized Cherokee state. Abram argues that these men, who embraced "American civilization policy" and the market economy, "represented a tribal 'communitism' or mass movement" designed "to protect cultural identity and tribal sovereignty" (pp. …

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