Explore Southern History
Historic Sites, Points of Interest, Eco-Tourism, Ghost Stories, History & More
An attack by Yuchi warriors on the Georgia town of Roanoke
assured that a simmering conflict between part of the Creek
Nation and the United States would explode into the final war
between the two nations.
The Battle of Roanoke, also called the Roanoke Massacre,
took place on May 14, 1836. The Yuchi and Hitchiti bands of
Lower Creeks had already initiated hostilities against the
whites, but it was Roanoke that ignited the full fury of the
Creek War of 1836.
The warriors of the Creek nation who lived just across the
Chattahoochee River in Alabama had a particular hatred for
the town. They had lost their traditional Georgia lands in the
fraudulent Treaty of Indian Springs, lands that included the
site where the town of Roanoke soon grew.
That treaty, signed by William McIntosh in 1825, was
vehemently opposed by many of the Lower Creeks,
particularly the members of the Yuchi and Hitchiti bands who
lost lands upon which their people had been living for
centuries. A squad of Creek executioners assassinated
McIntosh, but there was nothing that could be done to stop
the loss of all of their nation's Georgia lands.
White settlers flooded into the new cession to claim the best
lands and it did not take long for houses and stores to spring
up on riverfront fields that had once belonged to the Indians.
From just across the river, angry warriors watched as lands
taken from them became a new town.
Due to its visibility, Roanoke was a pivotal point for the
resentment felt by many Creek warriors over the loss of their
lands. When hostilities erupted in the spring of 1836, the
town was quickly selected as a target for a major attack.
Warriors from the Yuchi and Hitchiti towns west of the
Chattahoochee River crossed over into Georgia and scouted
Roanoke in early May. Their presence was detected and so
alarmed the community that the women and children of the
town were evacuated to nearby Lumpkin. A blockhouse had
been erected there and militia troops assigned to defend it.
The anticipated attack, however, did not come. After days of
standing guard around the clock, the men of Roanoke began
to develop a false sense of security. By May 14, 1836, many
had gone to Lumpkin to visit their families, leaving only 20
men to defend the all but abandoned town.
Recognizing the opportunity, a Yuchi warrior named Jim
Henry led a large force of Creek warriors across the river and
into position surrounding the town. As most of the remaining
defenders of Roanoke slumbered, the Indian force attacked
from three different directions at 2 a.m.
The defenders of Roanoke were awakened by the sounds of
gunfire and war cries. They tried to put up a fight, but were so
severely outnumbered that there was little they could do.
While the exact number of warriors attacking the town was
never determined with precision, white survivors believed
that more than 300 Indians had participated.
The handful of whites and slaves defending Roanoke fought
from their homes and other buildings, holding out as long as
possible. The Creeks set fires to drive them out and several
men died in the flames. At least one man was roasted alive
in a chimney after he sought refuge there to escape the
The bodies of other men and boys littered the landscape.
Some were burned almost beyond recognition, while others
were scalped and left lying on the ground.
The Battle of Roanoke, Georgia
Battle of Roanoke, Georgia
A marker noting the former
presence of Roanoke stands
near the site of the town on
Georgia Highway 39.
|Site of Roanoke, Georgia
Most of the site of Roanoke is now beneath the
waters of Lake Eufaula in Stewart County, Georgia.
The town was never rebuilt after the 1836 attack.
Realizing that further resistance was futile, a few of the
defenders took advantage of the darkness and confusion to
escape. Colonel Felix Gibson and two other men survived by
creek on the outskirts of town. Their noses were the only
parts of their bodies exposed above the water and they
With the resistance snuffed out, the Creek warriors torched
the town. Of the 20 men left at Roanoke to defend the town,
only six survived.
The massacre at Roanoke, as it was termed by white
settlers of the region, exploded into newspaper headlines
across the South. Panic spread across the frontier and
terrified settlers flooded into such locations as Fort Gaines,
Lumpkin and Columbus.
Fields and homes were abandoned and the work of
destruction initiated by Jim Henry at Roanoke was carried to
other settlements and farms in the vicinity. It took an invasion
of the Creek Nation by two American armies to finally bring
the uprising to an end. The Creek people were forced into
"emigration camps" and sent west on the Trail of Tears.
Jim Henry and several other leaders of the Roanoke attack
were taken prisoner late in the war. Placed on trial before a
civilian jury in Columbus, he was acquitted but three brothers
from the influential Brown family of Yuchis were convicted
and hanged at what is now Phenix City, Alabama.
Jim Henry eventually joined his people in what is now
Oklahoma. He changed his name to James McHenry, fought
for the Confederacy during the War Between the States and
became a Methodist minister.
The site of Roanoke is now submerged beneath the waters
of Lake Eufaula (Walter F. George Lake), but a marker can
be seen on Highway 39 a little over 2 miles south of the
Florence Marina State Park in Omaha, Georgia.
Creek Vengeance Exacted on the Chattahoochee
Approaching by Boat
Just as the river provided life
to the town of Roanoke, it now
provides the only way to see
where the town once stood.
Most of the scene of the Battle
of Roanoke is flooded today.
No trace remains of the town
that thrived here in 1836.
Fishing on the Battlefield
Lake Eufaula, which covers
much of the site of Roanoke,
is popular for boating, fishing
|Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Update: August 29, 2012
Historic Sites at Lake Eufaula