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The birth of William McIntosh is celebrated on this date in 1775. He was a Creek Native American chief and slave owner. William McIntosh was born Tustunnuggee Hutke (White Warrior) in the Lower Creek town of Coweta in present-day Georgia. His parents were Senoya, a member of the Wind Clan, and his father, the Scottish American soldier William McIntosh, from a prominent Savannah, Georgia family.
During the Revolutionary War, Captain McIntosh, a Loyalist, had worked with the Creek to recruit them as military allies to the British. White Warrior gained his status and place among the Creek from his mother's clan. McIntosh was considered a skilled orator and politician. He became a wealthy planter and slaveholder, influential in both Creek and European-American society. For generations, Creek chiefs had approved their daughters' marriages to fur traders to strengthen their alliances and trading power with the wealthy Europeans. Through both his mother and father, McIntosh was related to numerous other influential Creek chiefs, most of whom were métis, of Creek mothers and white fathers, valued as husbands.
McIntosh's first wife was métis, Eliza Grierson. Eliza's producing three children. In 1811, McIntosh took a second wife, Susannah Rowe, a full-blood Cherokee, daughter of Richard Roe, and sister of Cherokee Nation District Judge David Rowe. McIntosh and Susannah's son Daniel Newnan McIntosh was a highly successful soldier, and businessman, McIntosh's elevated social/tribal status allowed him to take a third wife, a half-Creek/half-Cherokee woman named Peggy. Peggy would bear McIntosh three additional children.
As a leader, he embraced some aspects of white-American culture. He was interested in introducing American education among the Creeks, adopted the use of chattel slavery on his plantations, and played a role in centralizing the Creek National Council over the years. As a successful merchant and gentleman farmer, he owned more than one hundred enslaved Black people and two plantations where he grew cotton and raised livestock. He also operated two ferries, an inn, and a tavern. He used his influence to improve a Creek trail connecting the Upper and Lower Towns that ran from Talladega, Alabama, to the Chattahoochee River.
His plantation of Acorn Bluff was at the eastern terminus of the McIntosh Road, where the chief developed a ferry operation across the Chattahoochee River. He owned numerous black slaves to cultivate cotton as a commodity crop on his plantations. He also built a resort hotel at Indian Springs, hoping to attract more travelers along the improved road. Parts of this route are the McIntosh Road or the McIntosh Trail. It passes through several northern counties in Alabama and Georgia. The Creek Nation struggled with internal tensions after the American Revolutionary War and during the War of 1812, as debates surfaced over the increasing adoption of white-American culture. Some prominent Creeks sent their sons to eastern universities for their education. Some adopted Christianity and forms of European dress and houses; hence, they qualified as one of the "civilized tribes."They expanded their farms, and many of the Creek elite became planters, purchasing enslaved Blacks to work on plantations like their European-American neighbors.
Role in Creek War
Internal Creek tensions resulted in the Creek War (1813–1814) when tensions between the Lower Creeks and the traditional Red Sticks of the Upper Towns erupted into open conflict. McIntosh fought in support of General Andrew Jackson and state militias in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, marking the defeat in 1814 of the Red Sticks and the end of the Creek War. McIntosh was appointed a brigadier general of the United States Volunteers by then-Major General Jackson and enjoyed the compensations, such as pay and allowances for subsistence, forage, and servants, as officers of the same flag officer rank in the United States Army. The Creeks ceded lands to the United States in the early 1800s.
For his role in completing the cession in 1821, American agents awarded McIntosh 1,000 acres of land at Indian Springs and 640 acres on the Ocmulgee River. After the wars, white-American settlers were increasingly migrating to the interior of the Southeast from the coastal areas. They encroached on the territories of the Creek and other Southeastern tribes. Cultivation of short-staple cotton, which did well in these areas, was made profitable by Eli Whitney's cotton gin in the 1790s, which mechanized cotton processing. Lands were developed in the piedmont areas for large cotton plantations, stimulating demand for Black slaves that resulted in the forcible migration of more than one million enslaved people to the Antebellum South.
First Seminole War
Remnants of Creek and other American Indian tribes plus fugitive slaves had migrated to Spanish Florida during the late 18th century when they formed a new tribe known as the Seminole. Enslaved Blacks from Georgia also escaped and took refuge in Spanish Florida. After the War of 1812, the British withdrew and turned over the fort to newly freed Blacks in the area. It had 300 Black men, women, and children, 20 renegade Choctaw, and a few Seminole warriors, led by a Black former Colonial Marine named Garçon. Among the Blacks were members of the disbanded British Corps of Colonial Marines. Georgia slaveholders and the U.S. Army called it the "Negro Fort" and worried that the autonomy of the blacks would encourage their slaves to escape or rebel. McIntosh fought with the United States in the First Seminole War and helped capture the fort. When the Americans shot a heated cannonball into the fort, it struck the magazine and set off a massive explosion. Most of the people within the fort died immediately.
Formation of a Creek Centralized Government
McIntosh was actively involved in collaborating with chiefs from the Upper and Lower Towns (then primarily located in Alabama and Georgia, respectively) through the Creek National Council in developing a centralized government that borrowed from white-American traditions. They formulated laws in the Code of 1818, which protected communal tribal property and established a police force known as the Law Defenders. The National Council, including McIntosh, had passed legislation in 1824 making it a capital crime to alienate communal land to protect their remaining lands.
Annuities and African Importation Case of 1820
Like other prominent chiefs, McIntosh worked closely with Benjamin Hawkins, the U.S. Indian Supervisor in the Southeast, until 1816. Hawkins was instrumental in gaining Creek cessions of land through that period. Still, he supported McIntosh's efforts to bring white-American education to the Territory by welcoming missionaries who set up schools. After James Monroe became president in 1817, he appointed David Mitchell as the U.S. Indian Agent to the Creek Nation. In this period, Mitchell and McIntosh controlled some of the distribution of food and annuities for their benefit, increasing McIntosh's power among the Creeks. Mitchell was implicated in the African importation case, in which illegal enslaved Africans were held at the Creek Agency on their sovereign land for sale in the Mississippi Territory.
This was tried in Admiralty Courts as Miguel de Castro v. Ninety-five African Negros (1819–1820) because it violated the U.S. law, effective 1808, to end the international African slave trade. Too many people learned about the presence of the Africans, and Mitchell was prosecuted over the issue. President Monroe replaced Mitchell in 1821. The United States' growing European population, particularly in the Northeast, put pressure on the federal government to take more Indian land. The federal government continued to try to persuade or force the Creeks and other Southeastern tribes to cede the remainder of their lands in exchange for payments and land west of the Mississippi River in what was called Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma and Arkansas.) On February 12, 1825, McIntosh and eight other chiefs signed the Treaty of Indian Springs. The treaty ceded all the remaining Creek land in Georgia (the Upper and Lower Towns) plus 3,000,000 acres in Alabama to the United States in exchange for $200,000 and annuities to be paid to the Creek nation. Another $200,000 was paid directly to McIntosh.
The fifth article of the treaty stipulated that McIntosh receive payment for lands he previously granted in 1821. Historians continue to argue over whether McIntosh ceded the land for personal gain or because he believed removal was inevitable. He was trying to achieve some security for the Creek Nation. Historians believe that McIntosh sold away from the tribe's birthright and future. Describing the treaty as Fraudulent by the standards of any society, concluded in violation of the expressed orders of both interested governments, riddled with bribery, trickery, and deceit, the treaty illegally acquired for Georgia and Alabama, through the offices of the United States, an enormous amount of land. Under the treaty, the Creeks had until late 1826 to leave the ceded Territory.
Under its Code of 1818, the National Council had established a police force, known as Law Menders. The Council ruled that the signatories of the February 1825 treaty for ceding the communal Creek lands, which was a capital crime. This was the first known occasion when the Council ordered the execution of men for a crime against the centralized Nation. The Council assigned chief Menawa, of a ceded township in the Upper Towns, to carry out the sentence.
On April 30, 1825, the Red Stick leader Menawa, with a large force of 120-150 Law Menders, attacked the McIntosh plantation, lighting bonfires around the buildings. Then they set McIntosh's house on fire. McIntosh, wounded by gunfire, was pulled from the burning house by several attackers, then one of the men stabbed him in the heart. Other Creeks shot him more than fifty times. McIntosh's wives asked for a suit of clothes for his burial, but the killers insisted on throwing the naked corpse into an unmarked grave. His burial site and part of his plantation are the McIntosh Reserve in Carroll County, Georgia. The grave is near a replica of McIntosh's home in McIntosh Reserve Park near Whitesburg.
Members of the National Council, including Menawa, went to Washington to protest the 1825 treaty. The U.S. government rejected the 1825 treaty as fraudulent and negotiated the 1826 Treaty of Washington, which allowed the Creeks to keep about 3 million acres (12,000 km2) in Alabama. In this new treaty, the Creek received an immediate payment of $217,660 and a perpetual annuity of $20,000. The state of Georgia ignored the new treaty and worked to evict the Creeks from their lands before official removal started in the 1830s.