“He is not told that when a big man he must have the Whiteman’s skin”

by Dale Cox

The author visits the Lincoyer monument at Tallushatchee Battlefield in Alabama.

Lincoyer was a child of war. Born to a Muscogee (Creek) family, he was an infant when Andrew Jackson’s Tennessee army surrounded his town of Tallushatchee (Tallasseehatchee) during the Creek War of 1813-1814. His parents died in the battle that followed.

The child’s name is given different ways. Some spell it “Lyncoyer” and Jackson wrote it as “Lyncoya” in letters to his wife Rachel. The young man, however, spelled it “Lincoyer” so that is the spelling used here.

Lincoyer’s home of Tallushatchee was northeast of today’s city of Anniston in Calhoun County, Alabama. The large Creek town attracted the attention of Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson because its chiefs and warriors were said to have “taken the talk” of the Prophet Josiah Francis and “raised the Red Stick” or red war club as a sign of solidarity with his movement.

A warrior fires on defending militia during the annual reenactment of the Battle for Fort Mims.

The Red Stick movement called for the Creek people to turn to their traditional ways and give up the things and customs of the whites. War erupted between the Red Sticks and the “white” or “civilization” faction of the Nation led by the Big Warrior and advised by the U.S. Agent for

Indian Affairs, Col. Benjamin Hawkins.

The Prophet’s forces were gaining advantage in the war when one of their supply parties was attacked by the Mississippi Territorial Militia at Burnt Corn Creek, Alabama. The Red Sticks won the battle, but blood was shed. Infuriated Creeks struck back against the white and metis (mixed race) militia troops by storming Fort Mims on August 30, 1813. More than 250 men, women and children died in the fall of the fort (see the video at the bottom of this page for more).

News of the fall of Fort Mims rocked the southern frontier. Gov. Willie Blount of Tennessee called for volunteers to march against the Red Sticks and Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson led an army over the mountains to the Ten Islands of the Coosa River. He learned there that hundreds of purported Red Stick warriors were less than 9 miles away at Tallushatchee.

The Battle of Tallushatchee as pictured by a 19th century artist. Tennessee State Library and Archives

Jackson, eager to strike before the enemy could learn of his presence, sent Brig. Gen. John Coffee with 900 mounted men to surround and attack Tallushatchee. They moved at night and reached the town on the morning of November 3, 1813. The result was a massacre. Sweeping in from all sides, the soldiers killed a reported 186 chiefs and warriors while losing only 5 killed and 41 wounded in the fighting. Women and children of the town also died in the fighting.

Frontiersman David Crockett was one of the soldiers in Coffee’s command and he later described how he helped other soldiers burn warriors alive in their cabins. He also witnessed soldiers riddling the body of a Creek woman with bullets after she pulled a bow with her feet and unleashed an arrow that struck one of the Tennessee officers. Other women died as they fought to protect their children from the white soldiers. Some succeeded but “sometimes the dead mother clasped the dead child to her breast.” [2]

Several infants were found alive on the battlefield after the fighting. One of these was Lincoyer. Taken back to camp by the interpreter James Quarles, he was given to the general who took special interest in the child and arranged to have him carried back to Nashville. Legend holds that Andrew Jackson fed the baby milk through a small hole in one of the fingers of his glove:

Andrew Jackson as painted in 1824, the year after Lincoyer wrote his intriguing letter. The White House

…I send on a little Indian boy for Andrew to Huntsville – with a request to Colo. Pope to take care of him untill he is sent on-all his family is destroyed – he is about the age of Theodore. [3]

The Andrew referenced in Jackson’s letter to Rachael was Andrew Jackson, Jr. A nephew of Mrs. Jackson, he was adopted by the couple in around 1809 and was not yet five years old. An older adopted son, Andrew Jackson Donelson, also lived at the Hermitage and was 14 at the time. Theodore may have been another Native American child but this is speculative.

The general gave more detail about the discovery of the child in a second letter to Rachel on December 19, 1813:

I have directed Major White to carry to you, the little Lyncoya – he is the only branch of his family left – and the others when offered to them to take care of would have nothing to do with him but wanted him to be killed – Quals my interpreter Took him up carried him on his back and brought him to me – charity and christianity says he ought to be taken care of and I send him to my little Andrew, and I hope will adopt him as one of our family. [4]

Lincoyer survived the tragedies of his infancy and lived with the Jackson family at The Hermitage. The general’s statement that he hoped to “adopt him as one of our family” shows that the child was not treated like a slave as some writers suggest. Lincoyer went to school with Andrew Jackson, Jr., and Andrew Jackson Donelson and lived in the main house as a member of the family. There is some evidence that Jackson even hoped to send him to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point but was stymied as the school did not yet accept Native American students.

Andrew Jackson seized more than 20 million acres of Creek land in treaty signed at Fort Jackson near Wetumpka, Alabama.

This special treatment of the child is intriguing when it is remembered that Andrew Jackson was a harsh enemy of the Red Sticks during the Creek War. More than 1,000 warriors were killed on such fields as Tallushatchee, Talladega and Horseshoe Bend. Jackson later imposed the Treaty of Fort Jackson on the Muscogee (Creek) people, seizing more  than 20,000,000 acres from them as compensation for U.S. losses in the war. His role in Indian Removal and the Trail of Tears, of course, left such a bitter taste that many Native Americans despise him to this day.

A National Park Service writer summed up the contradictions of the situation well by observing that “The adoption of the young battlefield survivor complicates our understanding of Andrew Jackson’s attitude toward Indians and stands in stark contrast to the brutal warfare conducted by American forces under his command.” [5]

The child was 10 years old when he came to terms with his own heritage and relationship with Jackson. The catalyst for this personal examination was a visit to The Hermitage by the Native American leader Mad Wolf in 1823. Lincoyer watched the interaction between the general and his guest with great interest and put his thoughts to paper in a remarkable letter now in the collections of the Tennessee Historical Society:

Lincoyer in the arms of his slain mother. John Frost, A Pictorial Life of Andrew Jackson, New York, 1860.

Dear Father,
When the mad wolfe & Ogilvrie came here from their woods, they said, How do you do, Father? You had not sent them to school as you have me. They could not speak as I can. Their young ears had not known [your words]. Neither had their war limbs gathered strength from your tables, nor rest under your roof, yet they called thee father. [6] 

The visit made a great impression on Lincoyer. In fact, it helped him overcome the embarrassment he had always felt when Jackson described him as “the Indian boy I raised.” Something about the interaction between the general and Mad Wolf helped the child realize that he had no reason to be ashamed of his race:

When an infant you placed me on your knee and Learned me the talk of your Andrews, and made me their companion at Home, their fellow in school, and their rival in their duty to you. If the Mad Wolfe & Ogilvrie call thee Father. . .may not Lincoyer, & be justified? Yes he answers he can? and since he is not told that when a big man he must have the Whiteman’s skin, but to be just, to avoid evil actions, to do good, is to be the biggest of men, he hopes to have this stature of the man not to feel a blush, when he is told hereafter, this is the Indian boy I raised.
Your obedient – greatful
Lincoyer [7]

Jackson was serving as a U.S. Senator from Tennessee when he received Lincoyer’s letter. We have no way of knowing his reaction to it. He became President of the United States just over five years later but sadly the young man found on the battlefield did not live to become the first Native American resident of the White House.

Lincoyer died of tuberculosis on June 1, 1828. He was buried at The Hermitage and this obituary appeared in the Nashville Republican two weeks later:

Nashville Republican, June 17, 1828

Lincoyer is memorialized today by a monument on the battlefield where he was found cradled in his slain mother’s arms 205 years ago. The stone was placed by the Calhoun County Commission in 2000 not long after Dr. Harry Holstein and archaeologists from Jacksonville State University confirmed the location of Tallushatchee along the rapidly flowing creek that still bears the name Battle Branch or Battle Creek.

To see the monument, turn west from US 431 onto AL-144 at Alexandria, Alabama. Drive 1.5 miles and turn left on McCullers Lane. The battlefield park and monuments will be 0.2 miles ahead on your left. Use the map at the bottom of this page for precise directions.

To learn more about the Battle of Tallushatchee, Fort Mims and the Creek War of 1813-1814, just click play on the video below to watch a free documentary from TwoEgg.TV (also available free on Amazon Prime Video):

[1] “Lyncoya,” U.S. National Park Service, Last Updated: June 18, 2015, www.nps.gov/people/lyncoya.htm.

[2] Richard Keith Call and Ellen Call Long, “The Journal of Gov. Richard K. Call,” State Library and Archives of Florida, edited under date of August 5, 1861, https://www.floridamemory.com/fpc/memory/collections/rkcall/rkcall_journal_transcript.pdf.

[3] Andrew Jackson to Rachel Jackson, November 4, 1813, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

[4] “Lyncoya, U.S. National Park Service, Last Updated: June 18, 2015, www.nps.gov/people/lyncoya.htm.

[5] Andrew Jackson to Rachel Jackson, December 19, 1813, Washington University.

[6] Lincoyer to General Jackson, December 29, 1823, Tennessee Historical Society.