William McIntosh: Creek Chief

William McIntosh: Creek Chief

Portrait of William McIntosh, attributed to Joseph Negus, 1821 Alabama Department of Archives and History

Born at Corvata, Creek nation, probably about 1775, was the son of Captain William Mcintosh, of the British army and a full blood Creek woman. Nothing is known of his early life, only it may be inferred from the fair education which he had acquired and his proficiency in the English language that he must have passed much of it in association with white people. A tradition states that he could even speak some Gaelic, an evidence of his mingling in boyhood or youth with Scotch Highlanders somewhere in Georgia.

He first appears in history as one of the signers of the treaty of Washington, November 14, 1805. After this, nothing is known of his history until April, 1813, when he sent a band of warriors to Tuckabatchie to assist the Upper Creek authorities in arresting Little Warrior and his associates, who had committed some murders at the mouth of the Ohio in February, 1813. The murderers were all put to death. For this action, and on account of his sympathy for the Americans, sentence of death was passed upon him by the hostile Creeks. At the same time six other chiefs were condemned to death. In the fall of that year he appears as the leader of a band of Cowetas in the army of General John Floyd. He was at the battle of Atossee, November 14, 1813, and General Floyd in his report states that Mcintosh and his braves fought in this battle “with an intrepidity worthy of any troops.” He also distinguished himself at the battle of the Horseshoe, where General Jackson in his report speaks of him as “Major Mcintosh.”

His name appears as one of the signers of the treaty of Fort Jackson, August 9, 1814. He was also a signer of the treaty of the Creek Agency, Georgia, January 22, 1818. After this, at the head of a force of Creek Warriors he joined General Jackson in Florida for service against the Seminoles. He was commissioned general and placed in command of all the Indian troops, together with a company of Tennessee cavalry. In this short Seminole war, “he signalized him- self by various acts of gallantry.” General Jackson, in his report of the fight at Econa- finnah, says: “On the morning of the 12th (April, 1818), near Econfinnah, or Natural Bridge, a party of Indians were discovered on the margin of a swamp, and attacked by General Mcintosh, and about fifty Tennessee volunteers, who routed them, killing thirty- seven warriors, and capturing six men and ninety-seven women and children; also recapturing a white woman who had been taken at the massacre of Scott. The friendly Indians also took some horses, and about five hundred head of cattle from the enemy, who proved to be McQueen’s party.”

Another official report states that General Mcintosh in this fight killed with his own hand three of the enemy and captured one. General Thomas Woodward with five other white men was with General Mcintosh in this fight, in which the white woman, Mrs. Stuart, was rescued. She had been a cap- tive since November 30, 1817. General Woodward thus describes this affair, gener- ally known as “Mcintosh’s fight.”

“Shortly after the firing commenced, we could hear a female voice in the English lan- guage calling for help, but she was concealed from our view. The hostile Indians, though greatly inferior in number to our whole force, had the advantage of the ground, it being a dense thicket, and kept the party that first attacked at bay until General Mcintosh ar- rived with the main force. Mcintosh, though raised among savages, was a General; yes, he was one of God’s make of Generals. I could hear his voice above the din of firearms — ‘Save the white woman! Save the Indian women and children!’ All this time Mrs. Stuart was between the fires of the com- batants. Mcintosh said to me, ‘Chulataria Emathla, you, Brown and Mitchell, go to that woman.’ (Chulataria Emathla was the name I was known by among the Indians.) Mitchell was a good soldier and a bad cripple from rheumatism. He dismounted from his horse and said, ‘Boys, let me lead the way.’ We made the charge with some Uchees and Creeks but Mitchell, poor fellow, was soon left behind, in consequence of his inability to travel on foot. I can see her now, squatted in the saw-palmetto, among a few dwarf cabbage trees, surrounded by a group of Indian women. There I saw Brown kill an Indian, and I got my rifle-stock shot off just back of the lock. Old Jack Carter came up with my horse shortly after we cut off the woman from the warriors. I got his musket and used it until the fight ended.”

General Mcintosh was mainly instrumental in negotiating the treaty of January 8, 1821. This treaty was certainly illegal, for it was made by a party representing only one-tenth of the nation, and to be legal it should have had the consent of the whole nation, assem- bled in public council. While the Creeks submitted to it, they ‘became alarmed at this cession of their domain. As far back as 1811, in a council held at Broken Arrow, they had enacted a law, forbidding, under the penalty of death, the cession of land, except by the chiefs of the nation and rati- fied in full council. Rendered uneasy by this and other acts of General Mcintosh, this law was formally re-enacted at Polecat Springs in 1824.

In their progress in agriculture and edu- cation the Creeks were becoming more and more appreciative of the value of their lands, and consequently were more and more re- luctant to part with them. The treaty of Indian Springs of February 12, 1825, made in defiance of the national law, was the fatal mistake of General Mcintosh, and he had to pay the penalty. The Creek nation was great- ly excited by this treaty, and in due time, a secret council of the Upper Creeks convened, and at it one hundred and seventy men were appointed to take the life of Mcintosh. They received minute instructions as to their marching, place of camping, and the manner of the execution, and ere long were on their way to the Chattahoochee River, on the west bank of which, near Coweta, stood the house of Mcintosh. There are several ver- sions, differing in details, as to the manner in which General Mcintosh was killed in the early morning of April 30, 1825.

Pickett’s version is undoubtedly the most trustworthy, and with the omission of such circumstances as the escape of Chilly Mcin- tosh and the burning of an outhouse, which occurred before the attack on the main house, it is here given:

“In the meantime, the principal body of the assailants had surrounded the main building, and the lightwood being immediately kindled, torches were applied to the sides, and under it. The flames threw a bright light over the yard, and exhibited to the astonished family of Mcintosh the approaching conflagration of the houses, and the hideous forms of those who were to murder them. They frequently shouted with much exultation, ‘Mcintosh, we have come, we have come. We told you, if you sold the land to the Georgians, we would come.’

“Mcintosh, upon the first discovery of the assailants, had barricaded his front door, and stood near it when it was forced. He fired on them, and, at that moment, one of his steadfast friends, Toma Tustinugee, fell lifeless upon the threshold. His body was riddled with balls. Mcintosh then retreated to the second story, with four guns in his hand, which he continued to discharge from a window. He fought with great courage, and, aware that his end was near, determined to sell his life as dear as possible. He was at this time the only occupant of the burning house, for his two wives, Peggy and Susannah, who had been dragged into the yard, were heard imploring the savages not to burn him up, but to get him out of the house, and shoot him, as he was a brave man, and an Indian like themselves. Mcintosh now came down to the first story, and was received with salutes of the rifle, until, being pierced with many balls, he fell to the floor, was seized by the legs, and dragged down the steps to the ground. While lying in the yard, and while the blood was gushing from his wounds, he raised himself on one arm, and surveyed his murderers with looks of defiance. At that moment, an Ocfuskee Indian plunged a long knife, to the hilt, in the direction of his heart. He brought a long breath, and expired. The party, after this, plundered the houses, killed the stock, and committed other depredations, as described in the public papers of that day.”

It may be added that on the same day and very soon after General Mcintosh’s death, his son-in-law, Sam Hawkins, was killed at his own residence by a party of warriors detailed for that purpose.

The best and most charitable commentary upon the inducements which prompted General Mcintosh to defy the law of his nation and thus incur its deadly penalty, was written by Colonel Thomas L. McKenney, who says:

“He probably foresaw that his people would have no rest within the limits of Geor- gia, 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 des- perate valour 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 in 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 thou- sand 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 educa’ion of a heathen Indian could afford. Besides this, he was flattered and ca- ressed by the Commissioners, who were ex- tremely eager to complete the treaty, and taught to believe 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.”

General Mcintosh is represented as a tall, finely formed man, with polished manners, which he had acquired from contact with the more refined of the white people and from association with army officers on the Southern frontier. He was the owner of a number of negro slaves, whom he treated kindly, and possessed considerable wealth.

General Mcintosh had a half-brother on his father’s side, named Rolin or Rolla, and a half-brother on his mother’s side, named Ho- gey, often called Hogey Mcintosh, who was a full blooded Indian. He had two wives, named Peggy and Susannah, one of whom was a Creek, the other a Cherokee, but in the lack of records, it cannot be decided to which nationality each one respectively belonged. His Creek children were two sons, Chilly, who succeeded him in the chieftainship, and Lewis, and three daughters, Jane, Hetty, and Lucy. Jane was the oldest daughter. She first mar- ried Billy Mitchell, a son of the Creek agent David B. Mitchell; she next married Sam Haw- kins, whose death has already been noted. She then married Paddy Carr, but left him and went to Arkansas Territory at an early day. General Mcintosh had only one Cherokee child, a daughter, who married Ben Hawkins, a brother of Sam. Ben was killed years afterwards in Texas. The Mcintosh family has ever been distinguished in the Creek nation, prominent in church, state and military affairs. Several of them were Con- federate field officers. The blood of the Mc- intosh clan thus shows that it was born to command, even when mingled with the wild blood of the Muscogee Indian.

General Mcintosh wrote an official report of the affair of Econfinnah, which has the distinction of being the first report of this character ever written by an American Indian.

Nearly all the fighting of the first Seminole war was done by General Mcintosh’s com- mand. They were mustered out of service on April 24. (Parton’s Life of Jackson, vol. ii, p. 463.) A summary of their campaign is thus recorded by D. B. Mitchell, the Creek agent: “When Mcintosh and his warriors were mustered at Fort Mitchell, he divided his force, and with that part which he re- tained under his own command, he descended the Chattahoochee on its western bank, and on reaching the town called Red Ground, encountered their chief and warriors. In this affair he took fifty-three warriors, and one hundred and thirty women and children. The chief made his escape with a few warriors. Colonel Lovett, with the rest of the warriors, mustered at Fort Mitchell, descended the Chattahoochee on the eastern bank, and General Mcintosh crossing the river below the fork, the two detachments united on their march to Mickasuky, where they all joined General Jackson. At Mickasuky the Indians had generally fled, and but few were found at the town. On the march to Suwany Mcintosh, with his warriors, encountered about two hundred of the hostile party, under Peter McQueen, of whom he killed thirty-seven, and made six warriors and one hundred and six women and children prisoners. The next enemy they engaged were the ne- groes of Sauwannee, amounting to about two hundred and fifty, of whom eleven or twelve were killed, and three made prisoners. The Indians of this part of the country fled before the army, and here ended the Seminole cam- paign, as far as the Indians were concerned.” (American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i, p. 749.)

References.— McKenney and Hall’s Indian Tribes of North America (1854), vol. 1, pp. 129-133; American State Papers, Military Af- fairs, vol. 1, pp. 699-701; American State Papers, Indian Affairs, vol. 1, pp. 841, 843, 852; Pickett’s History of Alabama (Owen’s Edi- tion, 1900), pp. 519, 558; Woodward’s Remi- niscences of the Creek or Muscogee Indians (1£59), pp. 50, 54, 55, 114; White’s Historical Collections of Georgia (1855), pp. 170-173; Hand onk of American Indians (1907), part 7,Jl\ 7S2; S P ark ‘ s Memories of Fifty Years (1872), pp. 467-473; and Alabama Historical Reporter, vol. 3, no. 7. July, 1855; and Parton’s Life of Jackson (1861), vol. ii, p. 459, 460.