Ask Rufus: Where was Davy Crockett?

Rufus Ward
Commercial Dispatch
Originally published on October 2

I grew up watching Walt Disney presenting Davy Crockett as bigger than life. Little then did I realize that one of his exploits took place around Tuscaloosa and he even traveled to Fort Smith at John Pitchlynn’s Plymouth Bluff residence for supplies.  

In the summer of 1813, violence broke out across the Mississippi Territory, which included present day Alabama. A civil war erupted in the Creek Indian Nation and the British as part of the war of 1812 encouraged the Creek Red Stick faction to attack settlers. 

On July 27, at Burnt Corn Creek territorial militia attacked Creek Indians returning from British-occupied Spanish Pensacola with munitions and supplies . Then on August 30, 1813, Red Stick Creeks attacked  Ft. Mims, above Mobile, burning the fort and killing over 250 settlers and Creek Indians allied with the settlers. In late 1813 Tennessee militia, including David Crockett, marched on the the Creek village at the Falls of the Warrior River (Tuscaloosa) but found it deserted. Crockett fought in several actions against the Creek in early 1814 but returned home to south Tennessee when his enlistment was up.

October 1814, found General Andrew Jackson in Mobile where he was expecting the British to attack. (The British did attack but the main fighting took place at New Orleans in January 1815). Jackson was also concerned that the British had occupied Spanish Pensacola and were using it as a base. In need of reinforcements, Jackson ordered the 5,000 man strong Tennessee Militia to come south and join with him.       

General John Coffee led Tennessee’s Second Brigade of 3,000 men down the Natchez Trace to  the Chickasaw villages (Tupelo). From there they traveled south down Gaines Old Trace to John Pitchlynn’s (Plymouth Bluff at the Columbus lock and Dam west bank) where the troops were provided with corn. At Pitchlynn’s was a fortified blockhouse called Fort Smith. Beef was to be obtained at Middleton Mackey’s residence thirty miles south on the Noxubee River (Macon). It was probably General Coffee’s trek through the area that led to the myth of Andrew Jackson marching through Columbus on his way to the Battle of New Orleans.

On October 14, 1814, General Coffee wrote Andrew Jackson from “Peachland’s” that Russell’s company was about a week behind the army and that St. Stephens Trace which ran south from Pitchlynn’s toward Mobile was expected to be a better road than the one on which they had traveled.  Before Russell’s company arrived, Coffee had already headed south to join with Jackson near Mobile.

A member of Russell’s company of scouts, who also would have stopped and received supplies at Plymouth Bluff, was one David Crockett. In his autobiography, Crockett wrote; “An army was to be raised to go to Pensacola, and I determined to go with them, for I wanted a small taste of British fighting.” Crockett continued that he joined with Maj. Russell’s company but it “couldn’t start with the main army but followed on a little time after them.”  Crocket left out that they had been serving as scouts but were traveling a week behind the army. On November 7, 1814, Jackson, whose troops included John Pitchlynn and Choctaw warriors, stormed and captured Pensacola. Major Russell’s company did not arrive on the scene until as Crockett put it:”a little after the feast.”

After the capture of Pensacola, General Coffee and most of the army headed to New Orleans to meet the British. A smaller force including Russell’s company remained in the Pensacola – Mobile area to mop up the remaining Creek Indian resistance.

Somehow I just don’t recall the part in the Disney movie King of the Wild Frontier where Crockett, though a scout, gets left behind by the army and misses the battle.

Published in: on October 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

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