Historical Information pg.2

The Creek War of 1813-1814, by Halbert & Ball - Appendices

THE PANIC The various passions and propensities of human nature give rise to singular events, some of them grotesque, some of them grand, some of them disastrous. About 1716 a scheme of wild speculation was started in France, which became known as the "Mississippi Bubble," after it burst in ruin, deep and pitiless, to multitudes. In the fall of 1813 took place, in Mississippi itself, connected with this Indian Creek war, what is called "THE GREAT MISSISSIPPI PANIC OF 1813." It was not a financial panic, but a panic arising through fear of Indian atrocities. There lies before me now a manuscript copy, fourteen pages of foolscap, of a full account of this alarm, written by Colonel John A. Watkins, born in Jefferson County, Mississippi, dated, New Orleans, April 10, 1890. The style is so pleasing I should like to reproduce the account entire, but only some statements and a quotation or two can here be given Alluding to the attack upon Fort Mims, of which he says "as it was negligently protected, nearly all the inmates * * * were put to death,"--he knew too much, evidently to say "strongly garrisoned,"--he says: "The news of this massacre spread rapidly in Mississippi. * * * The danger was so threatening that Governor Holmes * * * called for volunteers to form a battalion of mounted men, to be composed of one company from each of the counties of Adams, Wilkinson, Amite, and Jefferson." These soon reported for duty "and at once hurried to the seat of war." He says: "This was the famous Jefferson Troop, designated at the War Department as Dragoons, commanded by Major Thomas Hinds, which subsequently became prominent in the Indian war, and at the battle of New Orleans in 1815." And now Colonel Watkins comes to the panic. "Rumors that an advance had been made by the Creeks, and that in their progress they had been joined by the Choctaws, began to be whispered around, at first so vague that they could be traced to no reliable source, but in a few days assuming a form, to which fear gave an impulse, that resulted in a panic that I can only attempt to describe from the recollections of more than seventy five years ago." He then mentions the preparations made to send the women and children to the town of Washington, (which the reader will find on this little map of the southwestern corner of the Territory), and adds: "By the time the non-combatants were ready to move the Indians were said to be at the Rocky Springs, eighteen miles above Port Gibson, and the next breeze had wafted them to the Grindstone Ford; some farsighted people could even see the smoke of Colonel Burnett's house, a distance of seven miles. How these vague reports originated will never be known. Like the 'three black crows,' they grew as they proceeded, until the alarm became universal. * * * Runners were despatched in every direction, warning the inhabitants, and directing them to seek safety in flight." At the door of the school house where as "a small boy" he then was, the announcement was made that the Indians were upon them, and, he says. "we all hurried home to find our mothers in tears and tribulation." They were packing up for a hasty flight. The families there, he says, were rich in "pigs, poultry, and children," and into the wagons baggage and children were tumbled "promiscuously, and without any regard to the comfort of the latter; horses received their cargo of live stock, two or three being mounted on each, and now the cavalcade is under way--if I may use that term when applied to oxen." These drew the wagons. "At the 'Raccoon Box"'--a distance of two miles from his home where two roads met--"our party was joined by twenty or more families, all on their way to headquarters. Carts, wagons, children, horses, and dogs, were so promiscuously thrown together that the elderly dames found much difficulty in keeping together their numerous offspring. After much confusion and any amount of loud talking, the caravan finally began to move." "The scene was ludicrous beyond description. Here three white haired urchins were pelting an old plowhorse into a fast walk; while there, a young mother, similarly mounted, was carrying a child in her lap, while two others were holding on desperately to avoid a fearful tumble; while further on, a rickety old cart, drawn by two stalwart oxen, was loaded with beds, boxes and children, thrown together by chance,--the latter crying lustily to be released from their vile imprisonment, while the rod was occasionally applied to keep them quiet. Being a good walker then, as in later years, I avoided the ills to which many of my own age fell heir." At length, as this "caravan" was moving on, a deputation was sent to Port Gibson to learn the facts about the Indians, if possible. This scouting party found that place "almost deserted," but one of the principal merchants was still there, Mr. B. Smith, who "did not believe that there was a shadow of truth in the report" about the Indians; and who invited them to help themselves to such as he had, "powder and lead" and "good old bourbon." I quote one more sentence and then must leave this account."With their whisky and ammunition our party, fully satisfied that there were no hostile Indians on this side of the Alabama River, took leave of Mr. Smith and hurried to overtake their families, and just at sundown came up with them near Greenville." All of those from Colonel Watkins neighborhood turned back; but others continued on till they reached Washington, and thus ended with them a memorable day.
Claiborne in his "Mississippi" says that the Fort Mims tragedy "spread consternation through the Territory," "that a coalition of the Creeks and Choctaws was generally apprehended," and that "the alarm penetrated to Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, Natchez, Port Gibson,Winchester, and Walnut Hills." He quotes from a public record the proceedings of a meeting held at Port Gibson, September 18, 1813, of which Colonel Daniel Burnett was chairman, at which a committee was appointed, on motion of H. Blennerhassett, to inquire into the foundation of the late alarm and to report means for defense. The committee reported the alarm to have been "groundless and unfounded," but they recommended the erection of three stockade forts and made other suggestions. Evidently the "Mississippi panic" was no trifling affair, although with the whole breadth of Mississippi and the friendly Choctaws between these settlers in Jefferson, Adams,Wilkinson, and Amite counties and the hostile Creeks, there was no cause for alarm. But panics are always unreasonable. When obtaining material for the history of Clarke County, published in 1882, I had free access given me to the court records of Washington County, an early county in Mississippi Territory, which included what was afterwards Clarke; and among thirty-six names there found for jurors on the venire facias, "at a superior court held for the district of Washington at McIntosh Bluff on the fourth Monday in September," 1802, the following I give here as familiar names now, showing that they were citizens of the territory then: Tandy Walker, Nathan Blackwell, Moses Steadham, Joseph Stiggins, John McGrew, and Samuel Mims. On the first grand jury were Tandy Walker and Samuel Mims. The next term of this court was held in May, 1804, and additional names were Thomas Bassett, John F. McGrew, John Callier,and James Caller. T. H. B. ___________________________________________________________