1812 Mississippi Vets

History Creek War

Last Battle War Alabama
















The legendary confrontation that became known as the "Canoe Fight" took place on November 12, 1813, on the Alabama River during the Creek War of 1813-14.The skirmish gained fame for the novelty of having taken place in canoes, pitting a small band of militia, led by Captain Samuel Dale, against a larger group of Red Stick Creeks.

Following the Fort Mims Massacre in August 1813, small bands of Creek warriors continued to attack settlements in the Mississippi Territory in present-day lower Alabama.. That November, Captain Samuel Dale who was stationed at Fort Madison in present-day Clarke County The .Canoe Fight which took place when Dale volunteered to lead a mission to drive the Indians away to bring stability to the area. Striking out with 30 Mississippi territorial volunteers and 40 militiamen from the area, Dale and his men soon encountered a large party of Red Stick warriors near the mouth of Randon's Creek on the Alabama River.

The ensuing confrontation, observed from both sides of the river by a number of soldiers, was retold in several slightly differing accounts, but the core facts are fairly consistent. Captain Dale and 11 of his men, including Jeremiah Austill and James Smith, had become separated from the main force. Their late morning breakfast on November 12, 1813, was interrupted with a cry that Indians were in the vicinity. When Dale and his small party reached the riverbank, they saw a canoe containing a reputed chief and 10 warriors coming down the river. As the canoe approached the bank, its occupants saw Dale's men and reversed their canoe back into the river. Two warriors then jumped from the canoe into the water, and one was shot by Smith. Dale ordered a large canoe to be brought over from the other side of the river to aid in attacking these Indians. Eight men began to carry out this order but got cold feet when they saw the number of warriors in the canoe and returned to their side of the river.

Dale was irritated at the unwillingness of these men to join the fight, but was determined to engage the Indians. He thus ordered a free African American, known only as Caesar, to paddle a small dugout canoe, which would only hold himself, Jeremiah Austill, and JamesSmith, out to meet the Creek canoe now bearing nine warriors. As Caesar paddled the canoe toward their target, Dale, Austill, and Smith attempted to fire upon the Indians. Only one weapon fired, however, as the priming of the other two had been dampened by the water from the river. When the canoes were about to meet prow to prow, the chief recognized Dale and shouted in English, "Now for it, Big Sam." The opposing canoes met side-to-side, and the chief knocked Austill down with his rifle. Dale then ordered Caesar to hold the canoes together and after a few minutes of hand-to-hand fighting using rifles and oars as clubs, the white soldiers, although outnumbered three to one, killed all of the Indians remaining in the canoe. According to witnesses, Dale's men cheered as the bodies of the dead warriors were cast into the river.

Samuel Dale's leading role in the Canoe Fight attained him hero status, making him as legendary to early Alabamians as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were to Kentuckians and Tennesseans, respectively. Dale went on to serve as a delegate in the convention that divided the MississippiTerritoryinto Alabama and Mississippi, represented Monroe Countyfor several years in the Alabama General Assembly, and was conferred the rank of brigadier general in the Alabama militia. He later moved to Lauderdale County in Mississippi, where he died in 1841. After the Creek War, Jeremiah Austill clerked in his uncle's store in St. Stephens, served as Clerk of theMobile CountyCourt, represented Mobile in the state legislature, commenced a business as a commission merchant, and ran a plantation the Tombigbee River. Austill lived and worked for many years on his plantation where he died in 1879 at the age of 86. Very little is known about James Smith other than he was a native of Georgia and took part in several frontier expeditions that involved skirmishes with Indians during the Creek War. Smith moved to Mississippi after the war where he lived until his death.

Additional Resources 

DuBose, John Campbell. Sketches of Alabama History. Philadelphia: Eldredge & Brother, 1901.

Halbert, H. S. and Ball, T. H., The Creek War of 1813 and 1814, ed. Frank L. Owsley, Jr. 1895. Reprint, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995.

Pickett, Albert James. History of Alabama and Incidentally of Georgia and Mississippi From the Earliest Period. 1851. Reprint, Birmingham, Ala.: Birmingham Book and Magazine Co., 1962.

Herbert J. "Jim" Lewis
Birmingham, Alabama


General John Floyd was induced by Gen. Jas. Jackson, one of the distinguished Governors of Georgia, to enter public life in 1803, or 04, as a member of the State Legislature. In 1806, he was appointed Brigadier General of the 1st Brigade Georgia Militia; and from the high opinion entertained of his military character and patriotism, the Governor of the State, in the autumn of 1813, selected him to command the Georgia troops against the Creek Indians.

In September 1813, Floyd assembled 3,600 Georgia troops at Fort Hawkins.Thomas H. Davis Diary account:
Although greatly embarrassed from the want of proper supplies, he marched promptly into the nation, built Fort Mitchell (on the west side of the Chattahoochee,) in November, 1813, and leaving there the main body of the army, with the baggage, under a Colonel, advanced, himself, at the head of a detachment of 950 troops, (with a few friendly Indians under the chief McIntosh) to surprise the enemy, 1500 strong, at Autossee and Tallasee towns, on the Tallapoosa, 60 miles distant, through a wilderness. The towns were attacked just before day-break, on the 29th November, 1813, and burned, and 250 Indians slain on the field.
In this action we lost only 11 men, and 54 were wounded; among the latter the General, who received a rifle ball in the left knee (where it still remains).
Although wounded early in the battle, and suffering severe pain, he remained in the field on horseback, performing th duties of an active commander, until the fight was over; nor would he permit the wound to be dressed until all the wounded men were attend to.
After the battle, the detachment returned to Fort Mitchell, having in seven days marched 120 miles, in severely cold weather; destroyed Autossee and Tallasee towns and 250 of the enemy, with but five days' provision of bread only, each man carrying his own rations.

CAMP DEFIANCE - Jan 27, 1814 The General did not quite the army in consequence of his wound, but having partially recovered after much suffering advanced again from Fort Mitchell, in January, 1814, and was attacked before day light on the 27th of that month at Camp Defiance, by the enemy in great force, headed by the famous warrior Weatherford, and aided by Colonel Woodbine, an English officer who boasted afterwards of having planned the attack.
[This attack was to prevent a junction of the Georgia troops, under Gen Floyd, and the Tennesseans, under Gen Jackson, which was desired by both Generals. who passed letters to each other by Indian runners and spics. The junction was never formed. The success of each General rendered it unnecessary.]
The Georgia troops were encamped in the form of a parallelogram, cavalry and baggage in the centre, with two pieces of artillery [four pounders, taken in the Revolution at Saratoga] on the right and left faces of the camp.
The fight was furious for several hours, and nothing but the firmness of troops saved them from destruction.
The formation was bravely maintained under an incessant fire, (which was returned with great vivacity) until sunrise. The enemy were then charged and routed at the point of the bayonet, leaving a great many of their dead on the field.
On their retreat, 15 were sabred by the cavalry. Our loss was considerable, and we had a great many wounded. The campaign terminated soon after the battle of Camp Defiance, and General Floyd was appointed to command the troops at Savannah, for the protection of the city. He remained in command at Savannah, until the termination of the war. In 1815, he was appointed Major General. Ref: Sherwood, Adiel, A GAZETTEER OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA, 1837, Printed by P. Force, pp. 277-279.