News reached the fledgling town of Claiborne 200 years ago today that a body of Muscogee (Creek) warriors in Alabama had joined the war against the United States.
This article is part of a continuing series marking the 200th Anniversary of the First Seminole War.
…I left St. Stephens, the 14th instant, with the intention of proceeding to Georgia for my family. At the town of Claiborne, the next day, intelligence reached me, [that] on the night of the 13th, a party of Indians had attacked a house on the Federal road, about sixty-five miles distant from that place, and murdered eight persons. I immediately ordered a detachment of mounted militia into service, and proceeded with them to the place. [I]
Claiborne was (and is) a community on the Alabama River that had been founded on the Alabama River Heights not far from the site of Fort Claiborne, a military post built during the Creek War of 1813-1814. The Federal Road stretched across Alabama from Fort Stoddert (Mount Vernon) to Fort Mitchell on the Chattahoochee and from there to the Creek Agency on the Flint River and eventually Fort Hawkins in what is now Macon, Georgia. The attack took place at Poplar Springs, an early landmark that lay on the old road a few miles northwest of today’s City of Greenville, Alabama (see the map at the bottom of the page).
The attack was directed against the home of William Ogly (sometimes spelled Ogle). He and his family had arrived in 1817 and settled on lands that had been taken from Muscogee (Creek) Indians by the Treaty of Fort Jackson. That agreement seized more than 20 million acres of American Indian land.
Many chiefs and warriors remained angry over the land grab and the sight of frontier settlers building homes on lands that been taken from them. With the First Seminole War intensifying in Florida and Southwest Georgia, several groups in Alabama moved to join the fighting. One of these – which one is somewhat debatable – targeted the Ogly home on the night of March 13, 1818. Dr. W.B. Ector was passing through the vicinity at the time of the attack:
A most horrid massacre was committed on the federal road, seventy miles above here [i.e. Claiborne], on Friday night last, the 13th inst. I witnessed the scene myself and hasten to inform you of the particulars. Mr. Wm. Ogly and three children killed, and two wounded; Mrs. Stroud wounded, and child killed by the Indians. I encamped all night within 2 miles of the place, and dressed the wounded myself. I considered them all mortal, at least very dangerous. Mr. Ogly was the only one shot and scalped; the others were tomahawked. – Two persons only, Mrs. Ogly and Mr. Stroud, escaped unhurt. [II]
Mrs. Stroud died following the attack as she and the other wounded were being carried to Claiborne for better medical care. One of the children was scalped but survived and lived out her life in the Burnt Corn community not far from the site of the attack.
Blame for the attack has generally been placed on the enigmatic leader Savannah Jack. Some people believe that he was Muscogee, others that he was Shawnee and still others that he was actually an outlaw white man. No one really knows for sure but he was definitely a scary figure for whites in Alabama at the time. It is not clear, however, if he was actually responsible for what quickly became called the “Ogly-Stroud Massacre.”
Mr. Ogly had been confronted by a different chief – a man called Uchee Tom (or Yuchi Tom) – a few days earlier. The Yuchi were part of the Creek Confederacy but spoke a different language, observed different ceremonial practices and lived apart in villages of their own.
Dr. Ector, who was on the scene, believed that the attack could have been carried out by any one of several groups that had been seen in the vicinity:
…Several parties of Indians had been seen in the neighborhood, but were suffered to pass, as they professed friendship, though offering some personal insults. Trails have been discovered near the road, firing heard, and Indians occasionally scene – Danger and alarm prevail throughout the rout and frontier of the territory. Governor Bibb is here, and is taking measures to pursue them, and intercept any hostiles who may be returning from below the Spanish line, and protect the road and inhabitants. [III]
The doctor also reported that two other settlers had been killed on Murder Creek about twenty miles above Fort Crawford, which stood in today’s East Brewton, Alabama. He also noted the return home of the wife of the prominent Muscogee businessman Samuel Moniac. She had been with the Red Sticks since 1813 and brought with her information that they did not plan to make a stand against Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s advancing army, “but will separate in parties, lay waste the frontier country, and murder the inhabitants.” The report has received little attention in histories of the Seminole War, but proved to be extremely accurate. [IV]
Gov. Bibb pushed from Claiborne to the scene of the attack. He found the famous frontiersman Samuel Dale working with neighbors to build a new fort a few miles from the Ogly home. They named it Fort Dale and one account indicated that it consisted of a rectangular stockade with blockhouses on two diagonal corners.
The governor called out the local men as a militia force and also wrote to Maj. White Youngs at Fort Crawford to request that he send two detachments of regular troops to patrol along the Florida border in order to cut off the warriors responsible for the attack should they try to escape in that direction. He also sent a plea for funds to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun:
…Is it not probable, that when the Seminoles are pressed by General Jackson, in the neighborhood of Appalachicola, they will retreat to our frontiers, and take revenge on our defenceless inhabitants? I look for it; and am without the means of resistance. There are not more than one hundred regulars at Fort Crawford; and two-thirds of the militia of the territory are not yet organized. Nor can I organize them, and appoint the officers, until the country is laid off into proper beats. So soon as the Legislature arranged the counties, I issued the necessary instructions on that subject; but owing to high waters, and the want of bridges, it is impossible to have them executed at present. There is not, moreover, nor has there been, one dollar in our treasury. You will readily perceive my embarrassments, and I earnestly entreat you to place funds at my disposal for the protection of the people; and, if practicable, to order a much larger number of regular troops to our frontiers. [V]
As warriors went on the attack in Alabama, Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson continued his march down the east side of the Apalachicola River in Florida. He was heading for Prospect Bluff – the former site of the “Negro Fort” – where he hoped to meet additional supply ships reported to be on the way from New Orleans.
This series will continue. You can read more by visiting our main timeline at Seminole War 200th Anniversary. You can also learn more from the books at the bottom of the page.
The map will take you from modern Greenville to Poplar Spring Church which stands near the site of the attack and then from there to Fort Dale Cemetery near which stood Fort Dale. There is a historical marker at the cemetery:
[I] Gov. William Bibb of Alabama to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, March 27, 1818.
[II] Dr. W.B. Ector, Letter of March 16, 1818.
[V] Bibb to Calhoun.