The call that now came to Jackson was chiefly due to a very picturesque character of the times : the man who is said to have been the only rival of Burr and Jackson in the impression he made upon all beholders by his manner and bearing. The call came, indeed, from the southward, but probably it would never have come but for the work of Tecumseh (or Tecumthe), the famous Shawnee warrior and orator, whose home was in the Northwest. For years Tecumseh had been striving to unite the red men of the West and South in a supreme effort to roll back the swelling tide of white immigration. In 1811 he made a pilgrimage to the southern tribes, and his most fervent appeal was to that powerful body of Indians known as the Creek Confederacy, who lived in what is now the eastern part of Alabama and the southwestern part of Georgia. These proud and warlike Indians were divided into two branches. The Upper Creeks had their homes along the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers, and their villages extended some distance down the Alabama, which is formed by the junction of those two streams. The Lower Creek towns were on both sides of the Chattahoochee, which now separates southern Georgia from southern Alabama0 The so-called Confederacy, a loose sort of alliance, claimed for a hunting ground the lands extending westward to the watershed between the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, which unite to form the Mobile. But in the fork of these two rivers and along the ■ Mobile and the Tombigbee were growing settlements of white men. The growth of these settlements was watched with disfavor and suspicion by the Creeks. A strong party, the Red Sticks, or hostiles, listened readily to Tecumseh's teaching. When he left for his home in the distant Northwest many were already dancing the " war-dance of the Lakes."
The outbreak of the war with England came in good time for Tecumseh's plans. He at once put himself in alliance with the British, and in the summer of 1813 the Creek Red Sticks heard that they could get arms and ammunition at Pensacola, the capital of Spanish Florida. Spain was at peace with the United States, but Red Sticks were seen thronging to Pensacola and returning with arms and ammunition. The whites of the Mobile and Tombigbee country, then part of Mississippi Territory, organized for defence, waylaid a party returning from Pensacola, and were at first victorious, then defeated, in the so-called Battle of Burnt Corn. Thoroughly alarmed, the settlers now took refuge in stockades and forts. The military authorities of the United States made ready to defend Mobile, but recently seized from the Spaniards. At Fort Mims, near the point where the Alabama and Tombigbee form the Mobile, five hundred and fifty-three men, women, and children were pent up in an ill-planned inclosure, defended by a small force under an incompetent though courageous officer named Beasley. On the morning of August 30, 1813, Beasley was writing to his superior, General Claiborne, that he could hold the fort against any number of the enemy. At that very moment a thousand warriors lay hidden in a ravine but a few hundred yards from the open gate of the stockade. Their principal leader was William Weatherford, " the Red Eagle," a half-breed of much intelligence and dauntless courage. At noon, when the drums beat the garrison to dinner, the Indians rushed to the attack. At the end of the hot August day there remained of the fort but a smouldering heap of ruins, ghastly with human bodies. Only a handful of the inmates escaped to spread the horrible news among the terrified settlers. Swift runners set off eastward, westward, and northward for help. A shudder ran over the whole country. The Southwest turned from the remoter events of the war in Canada to the disaster at home. " The Creeks!" "Weatherford!" "FortMims!" were the words on everybody's Hps, while the major-general of the Tennessee militia still lay helpless from his shameful wound.
From Mississippi on the west, from Georgia on the east, and from Tennessee on the north, volunteer armies were soon on the march for the Creek country. Tennessee, indeed, sent two different bodies of men. One came from East Tennessee, commanded by General John Cocke; the other came from West Tennessee, and at its head, pale and weak, his arm in a sling, his shoulder too sore to bear the weight of an epaulette, was Andrew Jackson. He had issued his orders from his bed. When a member of the legislature, come to discuss the expedition with him, expressed regret that he would not be able to lead it, the sick man muttered, with the inevitable oath, that he would lead it. But from the beginning to the end of his military service he was paying the penalty, not merely of the quarreling which had brought him wounds, but of intemperate eating and drinking, which had ruined his digestion. Sometimes he was tortured for hours with pains that could be relieved only by hanging his body, like a garment hung to dry, face downward, over the back of a chair, or, if he were on the march, over a sapling stripped and bent for the purpose.
By the second week in October, Jackson was at Huntsville, on the Tennessee River. The entire command numbered about 2700. Its supplies were to come by water from Knoxville, in East Tennessee, but the upper part of the river was not navigable by reason of the dryness of the season. Jackson stormed at the delay, but used the time in drilling his men and scouring the country with Coffee's cavalry. Then he cut his way over the mountains to a higher point on the river, hoping to find the supplies. His energy was great, but without food he could not, as he desired, dash at once into the enemy's country. He moved southward when he had food, halted when it gave out, and finally reached the Coosa. From his camp there, which he named Fort Strother, he dispatched Coffee to strike a first blow against the Creek town of Tallusahatchee.
Coffee destroyed the town, and not a warrior escaped, for the whites were bitterly revengeful. A slain mother embracing a living infant was found among the dead. Jackson himself took care of the child, sent it to The Hermitage, and he and his wife reared it to manhood.