Last updated: October 12, 2018
The Battle of Horseshoe Bend: Collision of Cultures
- Grade Level:
- Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
- Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
- Lesson Duration:
- 90 Minutes
- Common Core Standards:
- 6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.3, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.6, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 6-8.RH.10, 9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.3, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.5, 9-10.RH.6, 9-10.RH.7, 9-10.RH.8, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10
- Additional Standards:
- US History Era 4 1B: The student understands federal and state Indian policy and the strategies for survival forged by Native Americans.
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies from the National Council for the Social Studies
- Thinking Skills:
- Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.
What social, political, and economic factors led to the Battle of Horseshoe Bend?
1. Two maps of the Creek homelands and Horseshoe Bend;
2. Three readings that describe the Creek Indians, European American/American Indian relations, and the battle and its consequences;
3. One drawing of an archeologists' conception of how the barricade at Horseshoe Bend was constructed;
4. Two illustrations of the battleground.
Time Period: Late 18th century to mid-19th century
Topics: This lesson could be used in units on American Indian culture, early 19th-century westward expansion, the War of 1812, European American and American Indian relations, and the Jacksonian Era.
Today the Tallapoosa River quietly winds its way through east-central Alabama, its banks edged by the remnants of the forest that once covered the Southeast. About halfway down its 270-mile run to the southwest, the river curls back on itself to form a peninsula. The land defined by this "horseshoe bend" covers about 100 wooded acres; a finger of high ground points down its center, and an island stands sentinel on its west side.
This tranquil setting belies the violence that cut through Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814. On the peninsula stood 1,000 American Indian warriors, members of the tribe European Americans knew as the Creek. These men, along with 350 women and children, had arrived over the previous six months in search of refuge. Many had been part of a series of costly battles during the past year, all fought in an attempt to regain the autonomy the Indians had held before the arrival of European Americans. Surrounding the Creek were forces led by future President Andrew Jackson, then a major general of the Tennessee Militia. The core of his force was 2,600 European American soldiers, most of whom hoped that a victory would open native land to European American settlement. Yet this fight was not simply European American versus American Indian: on Jackson's side were 600 "friendly" Indians, including 100 Creek.
The Battle of Horseshoe Bend, as the events of March 27 became known, illustrated three long-running conflicts in American history. It was yet another fight between European Americans and American Indians, in this case the decisive battle in the Creek War (1813-1814). That day and those leading up to it also provided an example of tensions among American Indians, even those in the same tribe. Finally, both Creek factions received support from white governments, thereby continuing the long tradition of European nations attempting to defeat their rivals by enlisting the native population.
Before European exploration and settlement, there were perhaps two million American Indians living in what is now the southeastern United States. This area, bounded roughly by the Tennessee River and the Appalachians, the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and East Texas, contained as many as 100 different tribes. Although exact practices varied, these native populations shared similar ways of providing for themselves: they produced most of their food through farming and supplemented their crops through fishing and hunting.
Five indigenous groups dominated the region by 1776. Three of them—the Cherokee, the Choctaw, and the Chickasaw—can easily be called tribes, since each had a distinct and long-established cultural pattern and thought of themselves as "Cherokee," or "Choctaw," or "Chickasaw." The fourth, the Seminole, developed out of remnants of several tribes who migrated into Florida after its original inhabitants had died from disease or battle. Members of the fifth group, the most important for this story, were called the Creek. Rather than a unified cultural group, they were a political confederacy of approximately 50 villages in Georgia and Alabama.
Over time European Americans came to refer to the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole as the "Five Civilized Tribes." This label indicated their attitudes of those who used it, since what made the tribes "civilized" was that they lived more like European Americans than most American Indians. A 1961 excavation of a Creek town, for example, found not only indigenous foods like deer, turtle and turkey, but also remnants of many of European origin—the shell of a chicken egg, the bones of pigs, chickens, and cows, and peach pits. The tribes also avidly acquired firearms, iron tools, and other manufactured materials they found beneficial. European cultural practices had a smaller impact on indigenous society: although some southeastern Indians adopted Christianity and spoke English, the vast majority continued to prefer their own religions and languages.
By the turn of the 19th century, European American society increasingly pressed in on the Creek. Two issues in particular created tensions. First, many Creek worried that European influences would destroy their traditional cultural values. The second problem revolved around land. Not only did European Americans appear to have an insatiable appetite for it, but their belief in private property differed dramatically from the Creek practice of collective ownership.
Getting Started Prompt
Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
Readings: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
Optional post-lesson activities: If time allows, these will deepen your students' engagement with the topics and themes introduced in the lesson, and to help them develop essential skills.
Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
Horseshoe Bend National Military Park is a unit of the National Park System. The park's web page presents information on the park's history and visitation.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation web page offers a look at how one faction of this tribe operates as a Nation today. The site details information on their history, present-day government structure, tribal affairs, customs, and more.
The Florida Division of Historical Resources provides in depth information about the Seminoles, including their leaders, the Seminole Wars, and their role in society today.
Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties
The Oklahoma State University Library offers a compilation of treaties for the Creeks as well as other tribes. Included is the Treaty of Fort Jackson, 1814.
American Presidents Travel Itinerary
The Discover Our Shared Heritage online travel itinerary on American Presidents provides information about the 7th President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, and his home in Tennessee, The Hermitage, a designated National Historic Landmark.
Historic Places of America’s Diverse Culture
The National Register of Historic Places online itinerary Places Reflecting America’s Diverse Cultures highlights the historic places and stories of America’s diverse cultural heritage. This itinerary seeks to share the contributions various peoples have made in creating American culture and history.