“But for the fatal word retreat” — Alabama State Quarter Coin

Today, the Alabama State Quarter Coin remembers the first battle, subsidized by the British, between the Creek Indians and the Americans on July 27, 1813.

From The Pictorial Field-book of the War of 1812 by Benson John Lossing, published in 1869:


Left to their own resources, the inhabitants of the menaced districts prepared to defend themselves as well as they might.

They sent spies to Pensacola, who returned with the positive and startling intelligence that British agents, under the sanction of the Spanish governor, were distributing supplies freely to McQueen and his followers, that leader having exhibited to the chief magistrate of Florida a list of Creek towns ready to take up arms for the British, in which, in the aggregate, were nearly five thousand warriors.

On hearing this report, Colonel James Caller, of Washington, called on the militia to go out and intercept McQueen and his party on their return from Pensacola.

There was a prompt response, and he set out with a few followers, crossed the Tombigbee into Clarke County, passed through Jackson, and bivouacked on the right bank of the Alabama River, at Sisemore’s Ferry, opposite the southern portion of the present Monroe County, Alabama.

He crossed the river on the following morning, and marched in a southeasterly direction across the Escambia River into the present Conecuh County, Alabama, toward the Florida frontier.

He had been joined in Clarke County by the famous borderer, Captain Sam Dale, and fifty men, who were engaged in the construction of Fort Madison, toward the northeast part of Clarke, and was now re-enforced by others from Tensaw Lake and Little River, under various leaders, one of whom was Captain Dixon Bailey, a half-blood Creek, who had been educated at Philadelphia.

Caller’s command now numbered about one hundred and eighty men, divided into small companies, well mounted on good frontier horses, and provided with rifles and shot-guns.

During that day they reached the Wolf Trail, crossed Burnt Corn Creek, and bivouacked.

On the morning of the 27th Caller reorganized his command. Captains Phillips, McFarlane, Wood, and Jourdan were appointed majors, and Captain William McGrew was created lieutenant colonel.

They were now on the main route for Pensacola, and were moving cheerily forward, down the east side of Burnt Corn Creek, when a company of fifteen spies, under Captain Dale, who had been sent in advance to reconnoitre, came galloping hurriedly back with the intelligence that McQueen and his party were only a few miles distant, encamped upon a peninsula of low pine barrens formed by the windings of Burnt Corn Creek, engaged unsuspectingly in cooking and eating.

A hurried council was held, and it was determined to attack them.

For this purpose Caller arranged his men in three columns, the right led by Captain Smoot, the left by Captain Dale, and the centre by Captain Bailey.

They were upon a gentle height overlooking McQueen’s camp, and down its slopes the white men moved rapidly, and fell upon the foe.

McQueen and his party were surprised.

They fought desperately for a few minutes, when they gave way, and fled toward the creek, followed by a portion of the assailants.

Colonel Caller was brave but overcautious, and called back the pursuers.

The remainder of his command were engaged in capturing the well-laden pack-horses of the enemy, and when those in advance came running back, the former, panic-stricken, turned and fled in confusion, but carrying away their plunder.

Now the tide turned.

McQueen’s Indians rushed from their hiding-places in a cane-brake with horrid yells, and fell upon less than one hundred of Caller’s men at the foot of the eminence.

A severe battle ensued.

Captain Dale was severely wounded by a ball that struck his breast-bone, followed the ribs around, and came out near the spine, yet he continued to fight as long as anybody.

Overwhelming numbers at length compelled him and his companions to retreat.

They fled in disorder, many of them leaving their horses behind them. The flight continued all night in much confusion.

The victory in the Battle of Burnt Corn Creek — the first in the Creek war — rested with the Indians.

Only two of Caller’s command were killed, and fifteen wounded.

The casualties of the enemy are unknown.

For some time it was supposed that Colonel Caller and Major Wood had been lost. They became bewildered in the forest, and wandered about there some time.

When they were found they were almost starved, and were nearly senseless. They had been missing fifteen days!

Caller’s command never reassembled.

McQueen’s retraced their steps to Pensacola for more military supplies.

But for the fatal word “retreat” the Indians might have been scattered to the winds.

While these events were transpiring in the Indian country above Mobile, General F. L. Claiborne, who had been a gallant soldier in Wayne’s army in the Indian country north of the Ohio, was marching, by orders of General Flournoy, from Baton Rouge to Fort Stoddart, on the Mobile River, with instructions to direct his principal attentions to the defense of Mobile.

He reached Mount Vernon, in the northern part of the present Mobile County, three days after the battle of Burnt Corn Creek.

He found the whole population trembling with alarm and terrible forebodings of evil.

Already a chain of rude defenses, called forts, had been built in the country between the Tombigbee and Alabama Rivers, a short distance from their confluence where they form the Mobile River, and were filled with affrighted white people and negroes, who had sought shelter in them from the impending storm of war.


The Alabama State Quarter Coin shows with a map of the Seat of War (of 1812) in Southern Alabama.

Alabama State Quarter Coin