Monday, March 16, 2009

Battle of Holy Ground, Alabama

On December 23, 1813, an army led by General Ferdinand L. Claiborne attacked the Creek town of Holy Ground, Alabama, in a key action of the Creek War of 1813-1814.

The Battle of Holy Ground was fought for control of the religious center of the Red Stick faction of the Creek Nation. Led by the Prophet Josiah Francis (Hillis Hadjo), who based his operations on a high bluff overlooking the Alabama River, the Red Sticks were followers of a religious movement originated by the Shawnee Prophet, Tenskwatawa.

From his base at Holy Ground, Francis and his subsidiary prophets taught their followers that the Creeks should return to traditional ways and give up all aspects of white culture. These teachings brought the Red Sticks, so named because they displayed red war clubs in their towns, into conflict with the Big Warrior, hereditary leader of the Creek Nation. A civil war erupted in the nation, but spread over to involve the whites when the Mississippi Territorial Militia attacked a Red Stick supply party at Burnt Corn Creek, Alabama, during the summer of 1813.

The Red Sticks responded by attacking Fort Mims in South Alabama in August, killing hundreds of men, women and children. By December, three U.S. armies had converged on the Creek Nation. As Andrew Jackson fought his way south from Tennessee and John Floyd fought his way west from Georgia, a third army led by General Ferdinand Claiborne advanced on Holy Ground.

Believing that they would be protected by the Spirit of Life and over confident from their successes at Burnt Corn Creek and Fort Mims, the Red Sticks were overwhelmed by Claiborne's army. Using fallen trees for breastworks, William Weatherford and other warriors delayed Claiborne's advance while Francis evacuated the women and children across the river. It is said that Weatherford later escaped by leaping on horseback from the top of the bluff into the Alabama River.

The site is now Holy Ground Battlefield Park near the community of White Hall, Alabama. To learn more, please visit

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