The Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814)

During the War of 1812, the United States not only fought the British but also engaged in several campaigns against various Native American tribes. The United States sought to expand into the Mississippi Territory, and some tribes with closer ties to them remained loyal while others, wishing to contest American expansion, allied with the British.

Seeking to clear the Mississippi Territory for future American expansion, Major General Andrew Jackson with a force of Tennessee militia, US regulars, and Indian allies commenced operations against the Upper Creeks (Red Sticks), led by Chief Menawa. Jackson’s force approached the Red Stick village of Tehopeka, situated in a deep bend of the Tallapoosa River in present-day Alabama. Jackson’s army consisted of 700 mounted Tennesseans, 1,000 Tennessee militia infantry, 600 men of the 39th US Infantry Regiment, and 600 Native American allies.

On March 27, 1814, Jackson deployed his force, sending General John Coffee’s mounted men and the allied warriors to surround the village from the south. Meanwhile, the remainder of Jackson’s soldiers, moving in from the north, took positions across the neck of Horseshoe Bend. The Redsticks had strongly fortified their encampment, constructing an earthen barricade across the neck. Jackson’s attack commenced with a two-gun bombardment of the Indian breastworks, to little effect. Jackson ordered the 39th Infantry to lead an assault against the position. One of the first soldiers to reach the works was Lieutenant Sam Houston, the future governor of Tennessee and first president of the Republic of Texas. As Jackson’s men assaulted and broke through the earthworks, Coffee’s men used captured canoes to cross the river and attack the village from the south, while the Indian allies used flaming arrows, which inflicted large numbers of casualties and set much of Tehopeka on fire.

In terms of Unified Land Operations and Combined Arms, several things stand out about Jackson’s victory at Horseshoe Bend. Jackson’s makeshift army was certainly an integrated force that fought for and achieved a unified objective. In addition to using the regulars and Tennessee militia to attack the Red Stick earthworks, Jackson’s mounted men used maneuver to simultaneously attack the Redstick village from the south. Moreover, these men, in effect, executed a river crossing while their Indian allies essentially constituted another branch within Jackson’s force that created yet another dilemma for the Redsticks.

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