A Creek War Story from Alabama
by Dale Cox
Dogs have been an important part of human life for thousands of years. Just as we do today, many participants in the Creek War of 1813-1814 kept dogs as beloved pets. In one case, however, a dog proved more than a bit disloyal!
The story was recorded by 19th century historian H.S. Halbert, coauthor with T.S. Ball of the classic book, The Creek War Of 1813 And 1814. According to his account, a Red Stick canine picked the moment of the attack on Fort Mims to switch sides!
Halbert’s story revolves around Nehemiah Page, a hostler or stableman attached to the militia forces that occupied the frontier stockade. The Red Stick Creeks – followers of the Prophet Josiah Francis who received the name from their practice of displaying red war clubs in their towns – were furious with the occupants of Fort Mims.
A civil war raged in the Creek Nation in that summer of 1813 as the forces of the Prophet battled the white-allied warriors of the Big Warrior over the future of the Muscogee (Creek) people. The Red Sticks sought a return to traditional ways while the Big Warrior faction favored adopting the lifestyle and agricultural practices of the whites.
The fate of Fort Mims was determined in July when a force of Mississippi Territorial Militia launched an unprovoked attack on a Red Stick supply part at Burnt Corn Creek. Blood was shed and the infuriated Creeks, who lived in an “eye for an eye” culture much like that of early Scot-Irish settlers, struck back against the outpost. Many of the men involved in the Burnt Corn attack were stationed there.
The Battle for Fort Mims took place on August 30, 1813. Unobserved until the last minute, Red Stick warriors attacked the fort from all four sides. The main gate was carelessly open and the attacking force broke through into the interior.
Nehemiah Page, the hostler, was outside the fort in the nearby stables sleeping off a hangover. The night before had been spent drinking and carousing:
…About midday he was awakened out of a deep sleep by the tramp of a body of men in rapid motion. Looking out through a crack, he saw the Indians in hundreds, rushing past him towards the fort. Page knew that the place was doomed. For a few moments he was in mortal terror lest some of the Indians might enter the stable. As soon as their backs were fairly turned upon him, he sprang out of the stable and fled for dear life south-westerly, towards the Alabama river. [I]
The Red Stick warriors saw Page as he ran for the river, across which lay safety and eventually the military posts at Fort Stoddert and Mount Vernon. None of them bothered to chase him, but one of them had a dog and -evidently caught up in the excitement of the moment – the animal took off in fun pursuit of the fleeing stableman:
…A little dog, which was following the Indians, saw the white man, and instantly leaving its red owners, ran after him. It seems that none of the Indians pursued Page, doubtless thinking the fort before them a greater prize than a solitary fugitive. Still fear lent redoubled speed to Page’s limbs, and he at last reached the river, with the dog close at his heels. [II]
The dog had no idea of attacking Page, but instead simply decided to join him on his run. No boat was available to cross the river so the frightened man jumped in and started a swim for his life:
…In swimming across the river, the dog, most of the time, kept close in his wake. But sometimes it would crawl upon his shoulders, and once or twice it even got upon his head. Page stated that several times it was with the greatest difficulty that he could keep himself from being drowned by the little animal’s thus crawling upon him. [III]
Page and the dog could hear the war cries, screams and gunfire from Fort Mims as they desperately made their way across the river. When he finally reached the other side, the hostler found that the Red Stick dog had no taste for war and had decided to switch sides:
Followed by the dog, he made his way to the white settlements. Page conceived a strong affection for the little Indian dog, which had so strangely followed him from Fort Mimms. He would never part with it, but kept it as long as it lived. [IV]
Halbert related that Nehemiah Page lived for a number of years in Neshoba County, Mississippi, but in 1848 he moved to Texas where he settled in Angelina County, Texas. He died there at the age of 78 on December 10, 1863. [V]
His War of 1812 service record shows that Page was a member of Capt. William Henry’s Company of Mounted Dragoons, 1st Mississippi Territorial Volunteers, in August 1813. He was reported to be absent on command with Cornet Thomas B. Rankin on the day of the storming of Fort Mims. Rankin died in the battle. [VI]
Fort Mims is partially restored today and visitors can explore the site of the bloody 1813 battle daily during daylight hours. The address is 1813 Fort Mims Rd, Tensaw, Alabama.
To learn more about the Battle for Fort Mims and the Creek War of 1813-1814, press the play button to watch this free documentary from TwoEgg.TV (also available free on Amazon Prime Video):
[I] H.S. Halbert, “The Escape of Page,” Alabama Historical Reporter, 1884, also published in The Creek War of 1813-1814, pp. 167-168.
[V] S. Mays Miller to W.W. Page, December 12, 1863, included in William Stanley, “Nehemiah Page 1785-1863,” www.ancestry.com, 2017.
[VI] War of 1812 Service Record of Nehemiah Page, Capt. William Henry’s Company of Volunteer Cavalry, 1st Mississippi Territory Volunteers, 1812-1813, National Archives.