1782 - Present -Red Gator's Story.
In the year following the War of Independence, Shamus O'Banyon took his meager pension from the Continental Army and set out for the territory of Louisiana, in search of good farmland and a new beginning. He took two new things with him to his new home: first, bitter memories of the wrongs done him by the English. Secondly, a love of whiskey. Shamus was one of many who had fled Eire over the years, his family displaced by land speculators, red-coated soldiers forcing his family from their farm at bayonet point. They had immigrated across the sea to the colony of Massachusetts in search of a better life. When war came, Shamus ended up fighting against the same soldiers he had fled across the sea to escape.
Shamus settled near the land of the Creek Nation, and soon became a familiar visitor to the principal Creek village of Tuckabatchee, where the Tallapoosa runs into the Coosa. He took a Creek woman named Moonshadow to be his common-law wife. He turned to trapping as a quicker way to wealth than farming. A year later, Moonshadow bore him a son, a strapping big boy, dark of skin, but with the pale blue eyes of his father, and hair like a flame. Because of this last feature, Shamus called his son Redmond.
Redmond grew quickly, there was no choice, for life was hard. He helped his father set traps and collect and skin those animals he caught. From Shamus, he learned to speak his father's tongue with an Irish brogue that he never lost, to walk among his father's people with confidence, and to hate everything and everyone English. But he preferred his mother's tongue and the ways of his mother's tribe, and with them, he spent all the time he could. He grew tall and powerful, soon standing half a head above the tallest of his Creek playmates.
But as the years passed, his father's hopes dimmed. Shamus O'Banyon showed little promise as a trapper, and what money he made, as often as not, he drank away. His bitterness and self-pity increased. When he drank, he blamed his ill fortune on the English, who had driven him away from his homeland, on the Congress that had paid him so little for his years of service, on the Creeks, for being better trappers than he ever could be. The more his drink-besotted mind thought on it, the more he became convinced that all his misfortunes were the fault of his woman's people. When the drink was strong upon him, he began to beat her, and to beat her "red bastard" as well. And one winter's day, when Redmond was twelve years old, he did it one time too often. While he was taking his hand to Moonshadow, Redmond put a butcher's knife in his father's back. He felt a strange surge of pleasure when his dying father turned his shocked eyes upon him. Then both mother and son went to live with her people in Tuckabatchee, and their chief, Big Warrior, protected them from the white man's "justice."
Although he had killed to defend her, young Redmond soon forgot his mother, and rarely spoke to her or the other women of the tribe. From his youth, he had shown a talent for the ways of the braves, and in particular, the hunt. He learned the way of the swamp puma, the hawk, the cottonmouth, the great snapping turtle, and above all the alligator, lord of the swamp. He learned to move like a shadow through the maze of the swampland, finding his way without once faltering. He learned to track quarry that left no trail, by the merest bend in a blade of grass or disturbance in the dust of the ground. He learned to see and hear without being seen and heard, to wait without moving for hours until game ventured within range, to run all day without tiring. He learned to fight with tomahawk and knife as the swamp panther fights, the strike and move, ever strike and move. He learned to grapple with bare hands, using cunning and leverage as well as his great strength and speed. He learned to shoot, first using his father's musket. But one day, he paid a traveling trader twenty and four fine pelts of the otter for one of the long guns that the white men called the ""Kentucky Rifle." And it was with the long rifle that he was truly master. None in the tribe could match his prowess. At a mark as far as a brave could run in forty heartbeats, he could shoot a squirrel through the eye.
When Redmond had seen sixteen summers, he entered into the sweat lodge, to seek a vision of what destiny the spirits had for him, for such was the way of the Creeks. For four days and five nights in the dark, wet heat, he fasted and prayed. In the dark of the fifth night, he saw a vision in the smoke; snapping jaws, flashing teeth, a broad, scaled back, clawed feet and a lashing tail. It was a great alligator, larger than any he had ever seen, and all the animals of the swamp fled before it. But then a long sharp knife came over the horizon from the east, piercing the alligator so that it died. When he came forth from the sweat lodge, the shaman declared that the spirit of the alligator was his totem, his protector, that he would fight with all of its strength and fury, and none could stand before him. But he must beware the long sharp knife from across the sea, which would spell his doom.
One that night, he went out to the swamp and killed a bull alligator in the darkness with nothing but a knife, and ate its dripping heart in the black depth of the swamp, that his covenant with its spirit might be sealed. Of its teeth, he fashioned a necklace that he never removed. Thus he entered the Clan of the Alligator, and took the name Walks Like an Alligator.
In the next year, his seventeenth summer, he turned his hand to war. And that summer, he was blooded in battle against the Seminoles. He learned how to flee before a superior enemy and lead them into an ambush. He learned how to know his opponents and use their particular weaknesses against them. In spite of his youth, his skill as a hunter of beasts now proved to be as deadly to men. Many of the young men of the Creeks followed him into war, and he took one hundred warriors of the greatest prowess as his own men, and he called them the "Brothers of the Swamp." Many fell to his great knife and tomahawk, but far more fell to his rifle. Every year, more and more scalps decorated the pole outside of his lodge, so many that he made a cloak of them that he would wear into battle. He shaved his head, except for a single crest of flame-red hair standing tall above it. Before battle, he would paint his face dark green and his jaw and neck white, that he might resemble the alligator. To draw more power from his totem animal, he filed his teeth to vicious points like the teeth of an alligator. Many an enemy had grappled with him, only to die when he seized their throats in his strong jaws. The singers of his tribe told tails of his mighty deeds of battle, and of his cruel cunning.
But there was a dark side to his prowess. He had the blood-thirst. He liked to kill. Though many of the braves admired him, they feared him as well. Old men of the tribe recalled his torturing of small animals as a boy, and those who had hunted with him recalled that a madness seemed to come upon him at the sight of his quarry's blood. Those who looked into his pale blue eyes, the eyes of his father, said that there was something terrible behind them, a monster that waited to break free from its prison, a monster who would destroy all of them if it could.
But it was in battle that his blood-thirst sprang forth in all its terrible power. The more numerous the enemy he faced, the more fiercely the thirst burned. No foe could surrender to him, for never did he take prisoners. He would kill and kill, until the blood of his enemies soaked his face and chest and hands. He would stride across the battlefield like some demon of war, slaying a warrior with each strike of his knife or his tomahawk. The deep cries that came from his throat when the madness was upon him was like no sound that any brave had ever heard from a man, and the old men of the tribe said that it was the monster within him roaring out its hunger for death. And when his enemies fled in terror before his fury, he would pursue them and drag them down until there were no more enemies left to kill, and then he would scream out his bloodlust until it withdrew within him.
Perhaps because the alligator was his totem, perhaps because of the name his father had given him, perhaps because of his flaming red hair, and perhaps because of his bloodlust, men came to call him "Red Gator." And always, he would watch for the long sharp knife from across the sea, but he saw nothing of it.
Then came a man who seized upon the soul of Walks Like an Alligator, a man who inspired him with a vision of a grand alliance of all the nations against the true enemy, the people of his father. A man who forged all his killing skills into a single weapon aimed at the heart of all white men. A man named Tecumseh, supreme leader of the Shawnee.
For the first time in his life, Walks Like an Alligator had found a man that he would follow anywhere, under whom he would fight any foe. He would never forget the night when Tecumseh spoke at the council fires of the Creek elders, urging a great alliance between the tribes to stand against the white man. Tecumseh's prophets had been elaborately dressed in buckskin breechclouts and leggings, fringed and beaded. Their heads were shaven except for a central crest that ended in a queue woven with hawk feathers that hung down their backs. They wore beaten silver armbands and crescent silver gorgets hung from their necks. Red war paint decorated their faces and chests. But Tecumseh distinguished himself by the plainness of his dress. He wore a simple undecorated buckskin blouse and leggings. His hair flowed over his shoulders, and was bound by a scarlet headband over which was a second band of silver, in which was a single white feather tipped in red, angled back over his head. Walks Like an Alligator had sat and listened for hours in rapt attention as he spoke:
"In defiance of the pale faced warriors of Ohio and Kentucky, once our beloved hunting ground, we have traveled to this settlement, no war whoop was heard, but there is blood on our knives. The pale faces felt the blow, but knew not from where it came."
"Accursed be the race that has seized our country and made women of our warriors. Our fathers from their graves reproach us as slaves and cowards. I hear them now in the wailing winds. The Muscogees were once a mighty people. The Georgians trembled at their war whoops, and the maidens of my tribe on the distant lakes sang the praises of your warriors and sighed for their embraces. Oh, Muscogee brothers, brush from your eyes the sleep of slavery! Once more strike for vengeance, once more for your country! The spirits of the mighty dead complain; their tears drop from their weeping skies."
"Let the white race perish! They seize your land, they corrupt your women, they trample on the graves of your dead. Back whence they came they must be driven, on a trail of blood. Back! Back! Aye, into the great waters whose accursed waves brought them to our shores. Burn their houses! Destroy their stock! Slay their wives and children! The red man owns this country, and the pale face must never enjoy it. War NOW! War FOREVER! War upon the living! War upon the dead! Dig their bones from the grave! Our country must give no rest to a white man's bones."
"This is the will of the Great Spirit, revealed to my brother, his familiar, the Prophet of the Lakes. The Great Spirit sends me to you. All the tribes of the North are dancing the War Dance. Two mighty warriors across the Great Waters will send us guns, powder and lead. My prophets shall tarry with you. They will stand between you and the rifle balls of your enemies. When the white men approach you, the yawning earth shall swallow them up."
Big Warrior stood up and spoke at this point, and his tone was harsh and insulting:
"We Creeks have no need to demand peace with the whites. We are already at peace with them and they do not bother us, nor we them. It would be foolish beyond measure for us to send off our young men to fight in northern battles, which are not our business. It would be foolish as well for our young men to rise against those with whom we are at peace. I know your reputation, Tecumseh, you have always been a trouble maker. When you have found yourself unable to pick a quarrel with the white man, you have stirred up strife between the tribes of your own race. You are an unyielding tyrant within your own domain; every Shawnee man, woman and child must bow in humble submission to your imperious will!"
Tecumseh had turned to face Big Warrior, and his voice was the voice of doom.
"Your very blood is white, your tomahawk has no edge, your bow and arrows are buried with your fathers. You do not believe that the Great Spirit sent me. You shall believe. I will soon return to my country. Soon shall you see my arm of fire streaking across the sky. Thirty days from that night, I will stamp my foot and awaken our great mother earth who will at last stretch her great muscles at the desecration she has so long borne from the whites, and your ears will be filled with the rumble and roar of her anger. She will cause your houses to fall to the ground and the bones of every man to tremble with the trembling of the ground. Your water jugs will crack and fall apart and great trees will lean and fall, though there be no wind. And when she thus reveals to you her inner heart, then must you drop your mattocks and your fish scrapers and pick up your tomahawks to rise with one mind and one heart against those whites who have so defiled her."
Twenty days later, a huge meteor streaked across the heavens directly over the Creek village, trailing a greenish white trail behind it. It was visible for fully twenty seconds, and all the Creeks knew that it was Tecumseh's patron spirit, the Panther, which had come as he had said it would. They remembered his words, and counted down the days from the night of the Panther's appearing. And on the thirtieth night, the earth bucked and lurched beneath them, and a grinding, crashing, thundering roar beyond anything anyone had heard slammed them to the ground. Dozens, scores, hundreds of trees snapped and fell, adding to the din. Great splits appeared in the ground, and huge tracts of land were swallowed up. The grandmother of rivers heaved and writhed and flowed backwards for a long while, as whole cliffs fell into the muddy waters. Great sections of land were flooded, while riverbeds were suddenly left high and dry. The Creeks were thrown from their beds, their horses screamed and kicked, lost their footing and could not rise, water jugs split and their buildings cracked and fell, wrenched apart. On the lips of all who stumbled out into the open was one word, spoken with great awe: "Tecumseh!"
Amidst the ruins of Tuckabatchee, Walks Like an Alligator reproved Big Warrior, saying:
"Your name is not Big Warrior, it is Old Woman, for the fires of war have gone out in your belly, and your blood has become mother's milk. When a true warrior came among us, you treated him shamefully, and have brought this evil down upon our people. I care not what the rest of the tribe may do, but the Brothers of the Swamp will follow Tecumseh!"
Walks Like an Alligator had gone north, and the one hundred braves of the Brothers of the Swamp went with him. Later, other Creeks joined Tecumseh, but those who followed Walks Like an Alligator were the first, and the most fearsome.
But even as the Brothers of the Swamp threw in their lot with Tecumseh, disaster struck at the great Shawnee. His foolish brother Teskwatawa the Prophet had disobeyed Tecumseh and prematurely provoked the American general William Henry Harrison into attacking Tecumseh's great village of Tippacanoe. Teskwatawa had been defeated, Tippacanoe, which had been a rallying point for Tecumseh's grand alliance, was burned to the ground, and so many of the tribes that were flocking to his banner went home. In one terrible day, ten years of Tecumseh's labors had been destroyed.
Walks Like an Alligator had accompanied Tecumseh and his men to the encampment of Wildcat Creek where Teskwatawa was being held. He had watched as Tecumseh in his wrath had driven his brother away forever. Around the council fire that night, Tecumseh's men had reaffirmed their loyalty to his cause. But Tecumseh had said that not enough Indians would join him now to enable him to drive the whites across the Ohio River. There was no choice; they would have to throw their support behind the British in their new war against the Americans. Tippacanoe was to be rebuilt, and Tecumseh would lead his warriors to Amherstburg, to the British Fort called Fort Malden. The Americans seriously erred if they thought Tecumseh was no longer a threat.
The gorge of Walks Like an Alligator had risen in his throat at the thought of allying himself with the people his father had taught him to detest, but so taken was he with Tecumseh that he put it aside. Tecumseh had sent his warriors in groups of twenty to forty towards the Detroit area, where they were instructed to hold themselves in readiness. Tecumseh had counciled with many of the wavering tribes, the Hurons, the Wyndots, and the Chippewas, but many of their chiefs had opposed him as a troublemaker, and held their tribes back from the conflict. Tecumseh had gone to Walks Like an Alligator and spoken to him.
"I have heard the name of Walks Like an Alligator spoken of among the tribes as one who is a master of the long rifle. Choose from among your Brothers of the Swamp twelve who are thus skilled. You and they shall become my long arm."
It was done as Tecumseh had wished. Walks Like an Alligator and his twelve best marksmen had gone at the command of Tecumseh to the lands of the stubborn and recalcitrant tribes, and one by one, their chiefs, and those among their warriors who opposed allying with Tecumseh had died, stricken down by rifle balls fired from far off in the woods. None ever saw the shooters, and their warriors who swarmed into the woods to hunt the killers down found either nothing, or they found their own deaths. And greatly fearing, many of the tribes submitted to be the allies of Tecumseh, so that his numbers swelled. And more and more, the Indians came to fear the silent giant who ever stood at Tecumseh's shoulder, the one with the flame red crest and the filed teeth, the one they came to call "Tecumseh's Long Arm." And always he would watch for the long sharp knife from across the sea, but he saw no sign of it.
In the month of August, the American General called William Hull had come from the fort at Detroit, leading an army over two thousand strong. Tecumseh's scouts had reported that they were poorly trained soldiers, and might well run at the first shot. And their opinion of General Hull was one voice, he was a fool, for his force was far stronger than the defenders of Fort Malden, yet he sat and did nothing, day after day. Hull had a great fear of Indians, and it was six days before his officers could convince him to move. He sent out a forward guard towards the Fort, and when Tecumseh's one thousand braves ambushed them and sent them reeling back, they brought a report to Hull that the Indians numbered five or ten thousand, and Hull had feared greatly and drawn back to the town of Sandwich. And Walks Like an Alligator and the Brothers of the Swamp had prowled around Sandwich's approaches, and many a sentry was found dead come morning, struck down by a distant rifle shot. And the scalp cloak of Walks Like an Alligator grew larger each day, and no brave could equal his body count.
And with each new death, General Hull's fear increased, and he returned to Detroit, leaving his second in command Colonel McArthur to command at Sandwich in his absence. And Tecumseh knew that he faced a coward whose enemies were greatest in his own mind. In the ambush that came to be known as the Battle of Brownstone, Tecumseh and his braves ambushed a mule train full of supplies, seizing them and killing seventeen whites at the cost of one brave. Again, the rifle balls and blades of the Brothers of the Swamp drank deeply. So it was again a few days later when both the Indians and the British ambushed a second supply column at the Battle of Maguaga. Two Indians and six Redcoats died at the cost of eighteen Americans. But more importantly, the Americans at Sandwich were growing short of food and ammunition, and every night, the rifles of the Brothers of the Swamp and their leader took an ever heavier toll, so that Hull abandoned Sandwich and brought his troops back to Detroit.
Then a new British General came to Fort Malden, and Tecumseh found General Brock to be a true warrior after his own heart, and even Walks Like an Alligator had to admit to his courage and prowess. It was in his mind to move against Hull before the fall season. He sent two of his officers to the American general calling on him to surrender, and warning him that if he refused, Brock would not be able to restrain his Indian allies from the slaughter they lusted for. And though Hull refused to surrender, his fear was increased.
On the night of 16th August, Tecumseh and seven hundred of his warriors, including half of the Brothers of the Swamp, quietly crossed the Detroit River by night in a swarm of canoes, and took up positions around the perimeter of the fort. There they waited for the coming of the dawn and the crossing of the main British army. Just before dawn, a small fleet of boats pushed off from the Canadian shore. Tecumseh, standing at the top of a knoll, cupped his hands and gave a keening cry. The warriors entered the town from north and west, filling the morning air with their battle shrieks. The civilians of the town were terrified and gave no resistance, and Tecumseh had told his braves they were not to be harmed so long as they did so. Walks Like an Alligator had chafed at this restriction, but he still believed in Tecumseh and had held the Brothers of the Swamp in check.
General Hull had been drinking heavily all night, and was incapable of command that morning. He stayed in his quarters. When the British cannon began to bombard Fort Detroit, he hastily surrendered, though his officers were furious at his cowardice. The American troops surrendered their weapons and equipment and were locked in the blockhouse. The Stars and Stripes were lowered; the Union Jack was raised. And not only did he surrender Detroit, Hull surrendered the garrison at Fort Dearborn, outside of Chicago, which was also under his command.
As Tecumseh had promised General Brock, there was no massacre and no prisoners were tortured. Walks Like an Alligator and his men had been angry at this, for they had looked forward to wetting their blades. Although he was somewhat appeased by the booty he took in the town, he began to wonder if Tecumseh was really the leader he had thought.
At this time, the other half of the Brothers of the Swamp were looting the town of Chicago, the residents having taken refuge in Fort Dearborn. There was no chance that the Indians could have taken the strong fort, but the commander, Captain Nathan Heald, received orders from General Hull to give them all the stores in the fort, except for the ammunition and whiskey, which he was to destroy. He did so, and on August 15, the garrison and the civilians filed out to march to safety at Fort Wayne. The Indians, enraged at finding no ammunition and whiskey, ambushed the whites on the march, and eighty-six of them were killed. Again, the Brothers of the Swamp were foremost among the killers. That fall, the entire frontier, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri erupted in blood and fire and more and more tribes flocked to Tecumseh's victorious banner. The damage that Teskwatawa had done was gradually being repaired.
But the American reaction to Hull's defeat was not despair, but rather renewed resolve. More and more citizens flocked to the call to arms, from Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland and Pennsylvania. They came in their thousands, and Tecumseh's great enemy William Henry Harrison was appointed commanding general of the new Northwest Army.
Two obstacles now stood in the way of Tecumseh's great goal of regaining the Ohio River valley: Fort Harrison on the Wabash and Fort Wayne at the head of the Maumee. As the Indians began to assemble around both forts, Harrison marched to the relief of the forts with more than two thousand men.
Tecumseh's braves were overconfident; they attacked both forts without waiting for their leader to arrive with British support and cannon. General Brock had been called to the war in Niagara. Tecumseh had had wasted much time at Fort Malden trying to persuade Brock's subordinate, General Proctor, to make these last attacks before the winter snows came. Because of this, the two forts' garrisons held out, though their situation was desperate. Finally, Proctor relented and sent two hundred and fifty regulars and militia with three cannon to joint the assault at Fort Wayne.
They were only a dozen miles from Fort Wayne when word arrived that the attack on Fort Harrison had failed, and now General James Winchester was coming their way with eight hundred men. Many of the braves melted away into the forest, and the British Major Muir said he could not fight Winchester with such a diminished force. He ordered a general retreat back up the river, and Tecumseh and his braves had no choice but to follow. Winchester's force followed as far as the Maumee rapids, where they set up winter camp. When Tecumseh returned to Fort Malden, he received disastrous news, General Brock had been killed at the Battle of Queenstown Heights. The Indians had lost a solid ally, for General Proctor was a politician, not a warrior, and he did not respect Tecumseh or his warriors.
That winter Walks Like an Alligator had brought the fight to the whites. A party of twelve hundred Kentuckians led by General Sam Hopkins had rampaged up the Wabash all the way to Tippacanoe, burning every Indian village they came to. The Brothers of the Swamp harried them from ambush every step of the way, shooting from long range and shifting position, and then shooting again. And no one could match the marksmanship of Tecumseh's Long Arm. The Indians said that of all the men they had known, only the legendary Sheltowee himself, who the whites called Daniel Boone, could equal him. Walks Like an Alligator had a special rifle made for himself, with an extended barrel for greater range. And more and more scalps did Walks Like an Alligator add to his cloak. But still, the long sharp knife from across the sea haunted his mind, but it was no where to be seen.
In February of the next year, the American General Winchester sent a force of five hundred men across the frozen lake Erie to attack Frenchtown, which he planned to make his advance base for the spring campaign. After a bitter fight, they seized the town. But three days later, General Proctor counterattacked with three hundred regulars and militia, six cannon, and eight hundred Indians. So completely were the Americans taken by surprise that half of them fled the town and were cut down in the snow, and the Brothers of the Swamp reaped many lives. The remaining Americans held the town stubbornly and would not surrender until General Proctor promised that they would all be protected from the Indians. Proctor set out again for Fort Malden, taking General Winchester and the six hundred American prisoners who could walk with him. As soon as he was out of sight, the Indians fell on the two hundred who could not walk and killed them to a man. The tomahawks ran red that day, and the blood lust of Walks Like an Alligator was sated for the first time in months. It was during this month that Catahecassa, the senior chief of the Shawnee and Tecumseh's sworn enemy, narrowly missed death. Walks Like an Alligator shot through his tent from three hundred yards away, wounding him in the head. His healing took a long time.
Spring came, and it was crucial to get Tecumseh's three thousand warriors involved in a campaign before they got bored and wandered off. William Henry Harrison had built a strong new fort at the foot of the Maumee rapids, Fort Meigs. This fort had to be destroyed, before it provided a springboard for his invasion of Canada. In April, Proctor and Tecumseh came against Meigs, with a thousand regulars and militia, ten siege guns, and a thousand Indians. The British set up batteries on heights above and below the fort, while the Indians ranged around the fort, sniping at any defender who dared show himself. The rifle of Walks Like an Alligator spoke often and drank deeply. But still, there was no long, sharp knife from across the sea.
But when the British began their bombardment, the results were disappointing. The forts' walls were of green wood, they would neither burn nor splinter, and the cannonballs made only small holes as they tore through. The Americans had dug trenches within the fort's walls, and were thus protected from the shells' bursting. Tecumseh sent a messenger into the fort, challenging General Harrison to settle the siege by single combat between the two of them. Harrison declined, and also refused General Proctor's call to surrender.
There was a need to take the fort quickly, for word came that a relief force of twelve hundred men from Fort Defiance was presently descending the Maumee River, and were only three miles away. Tecumseh wished to ambush them, but General Proctor forbade it, saying that he couldn't risk the Indians leaving the scene, since the Fort's garrison might try an attack to capture or destroy the guns in their absence. Walks Like an Alligator, who stood at Tecumseh's back, had fully expected his hero to take his war club and strike the British dog dead where he stood. But Tecumseh did not do so, and his doubts about the Shawnee leader increased.
The next morning, a large force from the fort set out to silence the British battery to the southeast. Tecumseh positioned several hundred of his braves to strike at them and cut off their retreat. Bitter fighting, first with rifles, then hand-to-hand, took place in the woods around the guns. Walks Like an Alligator was in the forefront, and none could stand before him. Gradually, the Americans lost ground and fell back towards Fort Meigs. But then a warrior ran up to Tecumseh, with the news that a powerful force of whites had arrived and rushed the northern battery. The Indians had been forced back, and the Americans captured the guns and quickly spiked them. The Americans had pushed on, and had threatened the British camp before the Indians received enough reinforcements to hold them. Tecumseh realized that the American relief force had left their boats and marched up the north shore of the river. He abandoned the pressing of the smaller force from the fort, and they hastened back to its shelter. Crossing the river, they found the Kentuckians' boats, just as their owners poured through the forest in headlong retreat. Throwing away their weapons, they desperately tried to push off in the boats as Tecumseh moved in to cut off their escape. Only around one-hundred-fifty got away, the rest were slaughtered by the dozen. Tecumseh hastened towards the northern battery and beyond to the ruins of Fort Miami. Here he found hundreds of white prisoners being butchered without mercy. Proctor and his officers had made no effort to save the prisoners. The Brothers of the Swamp had gone blood-crazy, and the other Indians had followed their example. Walks Like an Alligator was soaked in enemy blood, and had lost count of how many lives he had taken.
Tecumseh arrived just in time to see his Long Arm grab the American commander Colonel Dudley, take his knife and cut out his heart from his living body. He took a great bite from it, then tossed it to one of his men, who did likewise. In his wrath, Tecumseh seized the knife hand of Walks Like an Alligator and threw him to the ground! His voice was controlled fury.
"Now you want to kill all these prisoners, do you? Did we not direct in council that prisoners at our mercy were not to be tortured or slain? Did we not acknowledge that such cruelty was the act of cowards? Where is your bravery now? What has become of my warriors? Your are to fight in battle to desperation, but you are never to redden your hands in the blood of the helpless! If you wish to do so, you must kill me first, and then you can do as you please."
No one had ever thrown Walks Like an Alligator to the ground before. In that one instant, Tecumseh became his mortal enemy. He leaped to his feet, his huge knife held in a fighting grip. Hatred seethed in his voice.
"I thought you were the leader the tribes had been waiting for, but for too long you have trafficked with the whites, and they have turned your blood to rabbit urine and made a mewling child of you! To torture prisoners whom the Great Spirit delivers into our hands has been our way for centuries. Who are you to go against it, just because it displeases you? You call it the act of cowards? Face me knife to knife, and you will see who is a coward!"
Although he was half a head taller than Tecumseh and outweighed him by nearly a hundred pounds, the Shawnee leader was unfazed. He regarded him coolly.
"You dispute my right to command? Then kill me, if you can, and you may command in my place."
Snarling, Walks Like an Alligator lunged at Tecumseh. The stab was as fast as a striking cottonmouth, but Tecumseh evaded the blade, grabbed his enemy's knife hand, and bent it back on itself. Walks like an Alligator gasped at the incredible strength of the Shawnee's arm, as he was forced first to his knees, then onto his back. Then the point of his knife, still held in his hand, was forced down by Tecumseh's hand gripping it. The knife point rested against his throat. Tecumseh's voice was merciless.
"Do you beg for your life?"
Walks Like an Alligator said nothing. The knife pricked into the flesh of his throat, so that the blood ran. Again, Tecumseh spoke.
"Do you beg for your life?"
Walks Like an Alligator gritted his teeth against the pain and shook his head "no." Then the pressure relaxed, and Tecumseh released the bigger man's knife hand and stood up. Tecumseh's voice was respectful, but cold.
"If you had begged for your life, I would have killed you. You are a brave man, but you are too drunk on human blood to serve under me. It is enough punishment that you will know for the rest of your life that there is one man who has defeated you in combat, and to whom you owe your life. Go, and never return!"
Sullenly, Walks Like an Alligator rose to his feet, shaking his blood from his knife.
Tecumseh spoke again.
"But know this, Walks Like an Alligator. The knife that has tasted your blood will be the knife that will kill you at last."
That day, Walks Like an Alligator had left the camp of Tecumseh and the British in great bitterness of heart. Of the eighty Brothers of the Swamp who yet lived, fifty left with him, and thirty cast their lot with Tecumseh. Months later, Walks Like an Alligator heard that the British had given up on Fort Meigs and left it untaken. Tecumseh had no choice but to follow them. They had similarly failed to take a small fort on the Lower Sandusky River called Fort Stephenson. When the British fleet had been defeated at the Battle of Lake Erie, the way was opened for Harrison to invade Canada with a massive army of eight thousand men. More and more Indians had deserted Tecumseh's cause as a lost one. Proctor and Tecumseh had withdrawn northeastward up the Thames River. Finally, at the Battle of the Thames, Tecumseh and Proctor had made their final stand, numbering no more than six hundred regulars and militia and five hundred Indians. And there, Tecumseh had died in battle. When he heard the news, Walks Like an Alligator had laughed loud and long, for his enemy had gone down in defeat, and once again, there was no living man who had defeated him in combat.
He and the Brothers of the Swamp had made their way back to the Creek village of Tuckabatchee, arriving in August. They came to a tribe racked by civil war. Big Warrior had declared all Creeks who had followed Tecumseh to be outlaws, and the tribe had split into two factions. Walks Like an Alligator and his men threw in their lot with the militant party, the Red Sticks, led by Red Eagle. On August 30, 1813, a group of militia attacked a Red Stick camp, were defeated, and fled for refuge to the fortified trading post of Samuel Mims, a peaceful half-breed. Some three hundred settlers lived there as well. At noon, a thousand howling Creeks descended on the settlement, killed the men trying desperately to shut the gates, and then systematically slaughtered the settlers despite their brave defense. Almost two hundred and fifty were butchered, and the Brothers of the Swamp gave full cry to their blood lust. Blood and brains splattered the earth, children were dashed against the walls, and women were scalped. Red Eagle, who had led the attack, was appalled by the savagery and tried to stop it, but Walks Like an Alligator raised his tomahawk over the leader's head and told him that one more word would mean his death. This was the beginning of the Creek War.
And a new foe came against the Muskogee people, the warrior they called Long Knife, and who the whites called General Andrew Jackson. Walks Like an Alligator wondered if this was the man he must beware, but no, he did not come from across the sea. Within a month, the government had raised five thousand men to crush the Creeks. Jackson determined to cut a road straight through the Creek land to Mobile, with forts a day's march apart. He would kill their warriors, burn their villages, and destroy their crops. He began at the southernmost tip of the Tennessee River, where he built Fort Deposit as a supply depot. When his supplies did not arrive, he pushed forward, and declared he would eat nothing but acorns if he had to. He came within thirteen miles of the Red Stick village of Tallushatche, and sent General Coffee with a force of cavalry and mounted rifleman to destroy it. The took it by surprise and slaughtered most of the warriors like they were dogs, to the number of one-hundred-eighty-six, and the women and children they took captive. Fort Mims was avenged.
Many Creek villages swore allegiance to Jackson. One of these was a small community called Talladega, seventeen miles from Tallushatche. Red Eagle surrounded it with a thousand braves to destroy it for its treachery. Jackson heard of this and set off in the middle of the night to the rescue with two thousand men. When the Creeks charged to the attack, his center withdrew while his flanks curved around them to trap them. The destruction would have been complete, but the Brothers of the Swamp attacked his right flank and smashed through it, and the Creeks followed through the gap under a withering fire from the soldiers. The cavalry pursued the Red Sticks for miles, killing them as they ran, but still, seven hundred escaped.
On that day, Walks Like an Alligator swore he would kill the General called Long Knife. He and the Brothers of the Swamp prowled around the edges of Jackson's army, fighting in the long-range sharpshooting way of which they were masters. But among Jackson's Tennesseans were many men also skilled with the long rifle, and many and bitter were the battles between the two crack groups of fighters. On one day, Walks Like an Alligator fought a rifle duel against one of Jackson's most skilled marksmen, a man named David Crockett. From dawn until dusk they stalked each other through the swamps, shooting and moving, ever shooting and moving. Each slightly wounded the other, but darkness ended their duel as a draw. And though many times Walks Like an Alligator glimpsed Jackson, the man seemed to lead a charmed life, for never could he get a clear shot at him. But many others fell to the rifle of Walks Like an Alligator, and ever did he add scalps to his cloak. Men spoke in hushed whispers of the giant half-breed with the red crest and the pointed teeth, of his deadly rifle and blades. But still, the long sharp knife from across the sea did not show itself.
But Jackson's campaign was slowing down. Most of his supplies had not come, and at times his men ate nothing but acorns. And when their three-month term of service expired, most of his troops went home, so at one time, he held Fort Strother with no more than one hundred and thirty men. So in great bitterness he abandoned his plans of defeating the Creeks that year. Elsewhere, the war went equally badly. In November, the Georgia militia attacked and destroyed the Creek village of Auttose. In retaliation, the Red Sticks attacked the Georgians' camp, and killed or wounded nearly two hundred before they were driven off. In discouragement, the Georgians' general Floyd withdrew his soldiers from the war. An expedition of Mississippi volunteers won a victory at Enotachopo, but there were mass desertions when the volunteers' term of enlistment expired. Only Jackson and a single regiment remained, though the territorial governor had promised him several thousand men come the spring.
With the coming of January 1814, eight hundred raw recruits marched into Fort Strother. Immediately, Jackson marched them into Creek country. This rash action almost ended in disaster. Jackson headed for the heavily fortified encampment of Tohopeka, at the Horseshoe Bend of the Tallapoosa River. At Emuckfaw Creek, three miles from this fortification, the Creeks attacked. The action raged for an hour, first on the left wing, then on the right, with the Indians peppering Jackson's men with constant fire from behind logs, trees, and shrubbery. Ifthey had been better able to coordinate their attacks, the whites might have been cut to pieces. Twice, Walks Like an Alligator got Jackson in his sights, but each time, a man stepped in front of his target just as he fired. The first time, he wounded General Coffee, the second time, he killed Jackson's brother-in-law Major Donalson. Finally, Jackson ordered a charge that drove the Creeks off.
Jackson, realizing that his raw troops were not ready to face the Creeks, withdrew towards Fort Strother. But the Creeks followed stealthily, and as his artillery was crossing Enotachopco Creek, they attacked again. Jackson recrossed the creek with his rear guard, and stretched out his flanks to try to surround the Indians, but once again, the Brothers of the Swamp broke through the circle and the white troops gave way, with only a single cannon and twenty-five men standing their ground. Jackson reformed his columns and hurled them back against the Creeks, and after several minutes of vicious fighting, the Tennesseans drove them off for good. Jackson had lost twenty dead and seventy-five wounded, the Creeks had lost two hundred.
By spring, Jackson had three thousand soldiers under his command. He was ready for the final battle, the assault against the fortified camp at Horseshoe Bend. He set out on the 14th of March, leaving five hundred behind to hold Fort Strother. The Creek fortification was formidable. It lay on a peninsula almost completely surrounded by water with a stout breastwork a thousand feet long running across its neck. It was eight feet high, with loopholes for firing. It curved so that any army attacking it would be caught in a two-way crossfire.
Jackson opened up with his cannon, but the balls thudded harmlessly against the thick logs. The thousand Creek defenders fired through the loopholes, giving his riflemen little to shoot at. And from the woods on the left flank, the Brothers of the Swamp fired at any likely target. Again and again, Walks Like an Alligator got Jackson in his sights, but always something blocked his shot. From within the enclosure, medicine men danced and howled, calling down curses on the whites. For two hours this continued. Then a detachment under Captain Morgan crossed the river to set fire to the huts clustered at the turn of the Bend. The Creeks diverted several hundred warriors to meet this threat. Jackson saw his chance and ordered a general assault of the breastworks. The 39th Regiment charged forward under a withering hale of rifle balls and arrows. They reached the rampart and fired through the loopholes, shooting muzzle to muzzle with the Indians. Major Montgomery leaped on the wall and called his men to follow, just before he fell dead with a rifle ball in the head from Walks Like an Alligator. Ensign Sam Houston took the Major's place. An arrow pierced his thigh, but he jumped into the compound followed by an unstoppable avalanche of American troops. The fighting was hand-to-hand and savage, the Creeks asked no quarter and gave none. As they tried to retreat to the rear of the compound, they came under devastating volley fire. Some tried to get to their canoes and escape, only to find them broken and Coffee's men waiting for them. Others leaped down the river bluff and hid among brush at the bottom. The fighting continued all day, with the troops digging the Creeks out of each new hiding place. It was a dreadful slaughter, but the Indians would not surrender, though Jackson called on them to throw down their weapons. Finally, the Americans set the brush on fire and shot them as they ran. Only darkness stopped the killing. Nearly nine hundred Creeks died, and three hundred women and children were taken prisoner. Jackson suffered seventy dead and two hundred and six wounded. The power of the Red Sticks had been irreparably broken. From all over the territory, Creek chiefs, including Red Eagle, pled for peace. The final peace settlement that Jackson imposed took nearly half of their lands.
In the aftermath of the battle of Horseshoe Bend, Walks Like an Alligator and the remaining forty Brothers of the Swamp crouched by night in a secret place deep in the swamp, where five cypress trees in a circle leaned towards each other to form a five sided canopy. Since they had fought the battle from the woods outside of the compound, most of them had escaped. They had taken a toll of the enemy, but it had not been enough. All were deeply discouraged, but their leader was wrathful, and he turned his anger into craft and cunning.
"You think we have lost everything today. I tell you, we are far from beaten. We had foolish old women for leaders, who first rushed in headlong attacks without discerning the enemy's strategy, and then feared to attack him, but hid behind walls where they were penned in like animals for the slaughter. We will not be so foolish. The way to defeat the whites is with cunning, with strategy, with careful planning."
He turned to a Brother named Snakebird.
"Snakebird, what if you were being chased through the swamps by the largest panther that has ever been seen? It is just behind you, you can hear its snarls and the wind of its claws as it grabs for you. Then you run around a log and find waiting for you the grandfather of all cottonmouths, as great as a tree, its fangs dripping poison. What would you do?"
Snakebird thought for a moment.
"I would trick the panther into fighting the cottonmouth."
Walks Like an Alligator smiled his hideous, pointed-toothed smile.
"Even so. The panther must fight the cottonmouth."
He leaned forward, beckoning to them all.
"Now listen to my words . . . "
And there, in the darkness of the swamp, he told them all of his plan.
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Last update 15/7/01