McIntosh, Creek Chief

Creek Chief

McIntosh, whose admirable likeness is before the reader, was a half-breed, of the Muscogee, or Creek nation. His father was a Scotsman; his mother a native of unmixed blood. McIntosh was intelligent and brave. In person he was tall, finely formed, and of graceful and commanding manners. To these qualities he probably owed his elevation to the chieftainship of the Coweta tribe.

We know little of the early history of this chief. The first notice we have of him is after his junction with the American forces in 1812. General Floyd mentions him in his report of the battle, or, as it may with more propriety be termed, the massacre of Autossee; on which occasion two hundred Creeks were slain. The Indians were surprised in their lodges, and killed, before they could rally in their defense. McIntosh and his Indian forces are reported by General Floyd to have “fought with an intrepidity worthy of any troops.”

Autossee was a favorite spot, and had been selected by the chiefs of eight of the Creek towns for a last and desperate stand against the invading army; but the sudden and unexpected attack of General Floyd terminated the contest. The kings of Autossee and Tallassee were among the slain.

McIntosh is again spoken of by the commanding general, Jackson, as Major McIntosh, and is said by that officer, in his report of the famous battle of the Horseshoe, to have “greatly distinguished himself.” He also signalized himself in the Florida campaign, by various acts of gallantry.

We shall leave our warrior chief for a while, and glance at a subject of great public interest, in relation to which, he was des tined to act a conspicuous part, and which finally brought about his death.

In 1802, a compact was entered into between the United States and the State of Georgia; the fourth article of which stipulates, “that the United States shall, at their own expense, extinguish, for the use of Georgia, as early as the same can be peaceably effected, on reasonable terms, the Indian title to the lands within the forks of the Oconnee and Oakmulgee Rivers, &c. &c.; and that the United States shall, in the same manner, also, extinguish the Indian title to all the other lands within the State of Georgia.”

The United States, in pursuance of this compact, proceeded, from time to time, by treaties, to extinguish the Indian title to lands within the limits of Georgia. The first treaty of cession, after the formation of the compact, was concluded on the Oconnee River, near Fort Wilkinson, in the month of June following; a second was negotiated in the city of Washington, in June, 1806; a third was the treaty of conquest, of August, 1814; a fourth treaty was negotiated in January, 1818; a fifth in January, 1821. Under these several treaties, the Indian title to about fifteen millions of acres of land was extinguished; and the United States paid Georgia, in money, one million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in lieu of lands which had been ceded to the Indians.

These various and successful efforts to fulfill the intention of the compact of 1802, so early as 1811 alarmed the Creeks. In order to arrest this inroad upon their domain, they enacted a law in that year, at Broken Arrow, forbidding, under the penalty of death, the sale of any more lands, except by the chiefs of the nation, ratified in general council. This law was formally re-enacted in 1824, at the Polecat Springs McIntosh is said to have proposed this law.

After the treaty of 1821, various unsuccessful efforts were made to consummate the stipulations of the compact of 1802; but the Creeks refused to listen to any overtures. Meanwhile, the Executive of Georgia became impatient of the delay, and opened a highly excited and painful correspondence with the government at Washington, in which the President was charged with bad faith; and, among other things, with attempting to defeat the object of the treaty, by the introduction of schools, and other plans of civilization and improvement among the Indians. If you enlighten the Indians as to the value of their possessions, it was argued, yon increase the difficulty of obtaining their consent to part with them. It was answered by the federal Executive, that every thing on the part of the United States had been done in good faith; and the improvement of the Indians, which was complained of, was only a continuation of the policy adopted by Washington, and continued throughout the successive administrations to the present time. This policy, which one would think needed no defense before a civilized and Christian people, was maintained by unanswerable arguments. No efforts, consistent with principle, were spared by the Executive at Washington to gratify the desires of Georgia, nor did Congress ever refuse the means to effect a purchase of all the lands held by the Creeks within her limits.

During the latter part of the administration of President Monroe, Messrs. Campbell and Merriwether were appointed commissioners to make another attempt to treat with the Creek Indians. Letters were received at Washington from the commissioners, inquiring whether the Executive would recognize a treaty entered into with McIntosh? They were answered by the Secretary of War, Mr. Calhoun, that no treaty would be respected unless made with the chiefs of the nation. Meanwhile the commissioners called a meeting of the Indians at the Indian Springs, a reservation occupied by McIntosh. Among those who attended was the chief of Tuckha-batchee. When the proposition was made by the commissioners, to purchase their country, that chief rose and said: “You asked us to sell you more lands at Broken Arrow; we told you we had none to spare. I told McIntosh then, that he knew no land could be sold except in full council, and by consent of the nation.” The chief then added, ” We have met here at a very short notice only a few chiefs are present from the upper towns; and many are absent from the lower towns.”He concluded by saying, “that’s all the talk I have to make, and I shall go home.” Whereupon he left the ground, and returned to Tuckhabatchee. Though McIntosh had attended the meeting to sell the country, he is said, at this point, to have wavered. He looked round among the Indians, but saw no chief of influence, except Etomie Tustennuggee, whose consent he had procured to his scheme. The commissioners, however, intent upon the treaty, calmed the fears of McIntosh by a promise of protection from the United States. The treaty which had been prepared was read, and signed by the commissioners, by “William McIntosh, head chief of the Cowetas” next by Etomie Tustennuggee, by his X, and by thirteen others, who, though chiefs, were of inferior rank; and, lastly, by about fifty men of no rank or power whatever, many of them being of the lowest and most degraded of their countrymen.

This treaty was executed at the Indian Springs, on the 12th of February, 1825, and on the 2d of March following, reached Washington. The very speed by which it had been transmitted indicated the fears entertained by the commissioners, and by Georgia, that the nation would protest against it, and cause its rejection. The Creek agent, Colonel Crowell, sent with it to Washington a protest against its validity. This confirmed the apprehensions of the Secretary of War, who, as it was generally understood, preferred delaying its submission to the Senate until further information could be received from the Indians, or to reopen the negotiation with a view to obtain the ratification of the treaty by the acknowledged chiefs of the nation. It was feared that, if the treaty should prove, so far as the Creek nation was concerned, invalid, its ratification by the Senate would create intense excitement, and be the signal for bloodshed among the Indians. President Monroe, however, thought proper to lay the treaty before the Senate, together with the agent’s pro test, and leave it to that body to decide as in its wisdom it might think best. He was led to this course by the consideration that the term of his office was about to close. The treaty was accordingly sent to the Senate, and was ratified on the 7th of March, 1525. Meanwhile Mr. Adams had succeeded to the presidency the treaty was returned to him from the Senate, and approved.

The Creek nation had now become greatly excited; and McIntosh, fearing the result, claimed protection from Georgia. We believe it was promised. The Creeks, however, had resolved on revenge. Menawa, whose likeness has appeared in this work, and who is called the “Great Warrior,” was commissioned by the chiefs to raise a party, to march to the Indian Springs, and execute the judgment of their law upon McIntosh, on his own hearth-stone. They were also directed to slay Etomie Tustennuggee, and any other chiefs who had acceded to the treaty. With the usual promptitude of the Indians, in the prosecution of bloody business, Menawa was soon at the head of one hundred of his Oakfuskee braves, and after a rapid march arrived before the house of the fated McIntosh, before day, on the morning of the first of May, just seventy-seven days after the signing of the treaty. The house having been surrounded, Menawa spoke: “Let the white people who are in this house come out, and so will the women and children. We come not to injure them. McIntosh has broken the law made by himself, and we have come to kill him for it.” This summons was obeyed by all to whom it was addressed. McIntosh’s son, Chilly, who, having signed the treaty, was in the list of meditated victims, was enabled, by his light complexion, to pass out with the whites, and escaped. Only two remained, and these were McIntosh and Etomie Tustennuggee. The house was fired; the two victims, forced by the flames, appeared at the door, where they were received by a shower of bullets, and instantly killed. A half-breed, named Sam Hawkins, was taken the same day, and hanged; and Ben, his brother, also a half-breed, was fired upon and severely wounded, but escaped. Menawa was careful to give out that the white people should not be molested; that the Creek nation meant only to punish those who had violated their law.

This bloody tragedy greatly excited the people of Georgia. Governor Troup threatened vengeance. It was feared that the State of Georgia might make it necessary for the general government to interfere, and that these two powers might come in collision. President Adams, however, met the crisis with coolness and resolution, and at length the fever abated, and Georgia, though still demanding the possession of all the Indian lands within her limits, subsided into comparative quiet. Upon minute inquiry into the circum stances of the treaty of the Indian Springs, it was abandoned, and a new treaty was made at Washington on the 4th of January, 1826. The first article of the treaty of Washington declared the treaty of the Indian Springs “to be null and void, to every intent and purpose whatever; and any right or claim arising from the same, is declared to be cancelled and surrendered.”

It is not difficult to imagine the inducements which led McIntosh to enter upon this treaty in defiance of the law of his nation, and its bloody penalty. He probably foresaw that his people would have no rest within the limits of Georgia, and perhaps acted with an honest view to their interests. The intercourse he had enjoyed with the army of the United States, and the triumph of their arms over the desperate valor of the Indians, which he had witnessed at Autossee, the Horseshoe, and in Florida, induced him to believe he would be safe under the shadow of their protection, even from the vengeance of his tribe. But there were, besides, strong appeals to his cupidity, in the provisions of the treaty of the Indian Springs, and its supplements. By one of these, the Indian Spring reservation was secured to him; and by another it was agreed to pay him for it twenty-five thousand dollars. Moreover, the second article of the treaty provided for the payment to the Creek nation, of four hundred thousand dollars. Of this sum he would of course have received his share. Such inducements might have been sufficiently powerful to shake a virtue based upon a surer foundation than the education of a heathen Indian could afford. Besides this, he was flattered and caressed by the commissioners, who were extremely eager to complete the treaty, and taught . to believe that he was consulting the ultimate advantage of the nation. These considerations, in some measure, remove the odium from his memory. But it must still bear the stain which Indian justice affixes to the reputation of the chief who sells, under such circumstances, the graves of his fathers.

Out of this occurrence arose two parties among the Creek Indians. One was composed of the bulk of the nation, the other of the followers of McIntosh, headed by his son, Chilly. The latter were intent on immediate removal. To aid them in this, the treaty of Washington, of January, 1826, provided for an examination of the country west of the Mississippi, and for the distribution of one hundred thousand dollars among the friends and followers of the late General McIntosh, if their party should number three thousand persons; fifteen thousand to be paid immediately after the ratification of the treaty, and the residue on their arrival west of the Mississippi. Provision was also made to ascertain the damages sustained by the friends and followers of General McIntosh, in consequence of the treaty of the Indian Springs, and contrary to the laws of the Creek nation.

Every disposition was manifested by the general government to heal those breaches, and quiet those animosities which had been produced by that unfortunate treaty. No subsequent collisions happened between the parties.

The Creek nation were not long permitted to retain an inch of ground in Georgia. The treaty of Washington provided for a cession of the whole of it, except a small strip on the Chatahouchee.

This, Georgia insisted on having. In 1827, a special commission was made out, directing Colonel McKenney, after he should have executed certain trusts confided to him, as joint commissioner with Governor Cass, in the Lake Country, to pass over to the Mississippi, descend the river, and thence proceed into the country occupied by the four southern tribes, to negotiate with the Creeks for the remnant of their inheritance in Georgia. This duty was performed. A treaty was concluded on the 15th of November, 1827, and ratified on the 4th of March following, which quieted for ever the controversy between Georgia and the United States, so far as it related to the Creek Indians.

The Creeks retired to their possessions in Alabama. But they were not long left in peace even there. That state demanded their removal from her limits, and was soon gratified by the general government. A final treaty was made with this wretched people. Subdued in spirit, and impoverished, they at length yielded to the power more than the persuasion of the whites, and crossed the Mississippi. Their present condition is said to be deplorable.

McIntosh died as he had lived, bravely. He knew the fate that awaited him, and met it like an Indian warrior. Having been thrown into the society of the more polished of our people, and having been the associate of our officers in the wars on our southern borders, he had acquired all the manners and much of the polish of a gentleman. He lived in great comfort; possessed slaves, whom he treated kindly, and at his death was about forty years old.

We do not know enough of his family to furnish a sketch of its members. Chilly McIntosh is an intelligent young man of good manners, and has considerable influence with his people, who emigrated with him to the west. One of his daughters, we believe, married a Mr. Hawkins, a sub-agent of the government.

Biography, Creek,

McKenny, Thomas & Hall, James & Todd, Hatherly & Todd, Joseph. History of the Indian tribes of North America: with biographical sketches and anecdotes of the principal chiefs. Embellished with one hundred portraits from the Indian Gallery in the War Department at Washington. Philadelphia: D. Rice & Co. 1872.

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