Born Mar. 15, 1790, Killingworth, CT.
Cadet of the Military Academy, June 15, 1808, to Jan. 3, 1812, when he was graduated 1st in his Class, and promoted in the Army to First Lieut., 3d Infantry, Jan. 3, 1812.
Served in the War of 1812-1815 with Great Britain, in the Campaign of 1813-1814, under Major-General Jackson, against the Creek Indians, and after two desperate fights with the hostile savages on the Alabama River, was Killed (Tomahawked and Scalped), Jan. 15, 1814: Aged 23.1
Buried, Camden Cemetery, Camden, AL.
Wilcox County, Alabama, formed from land ceded to the United States as a result of the Creek War, is named in his honor, although he was buried at Fort Claiborne in Monroe County.
Bill Thayer’s Note taken in part from the Register of Graduates:
1 Lieut. Wilcox was the son of a Revolutionary officer, and had only reached his 23d year when he was killed. “No person, under the same circumstances as those which preceded his unfortunate and untimely death, could have exhibited more skill, judgment, activity, or determined courage. Such blood was spilt at Thermopylae.” In compliment to his daring gallantry a county in Alabama was named after him.
Battles of Enitachopco and Emuckfau / Emuckfaw Creek 22-24 January 1814
The War of 1812 coincided with an uprising amongst part of the Creek Indian nation that was rebelling against the U.S. governments attempts to “civilize” them. For the “volunteers” of Tennessee, including future President Andrew Jackson, the majority of the War of 1812 was spent fighting Indians and not the British.
In 1811, Tecumseh of the Shawnee, visited the distant cousin Creek and encouraged rebellion against the white man’s ways. The tribe split over whether to follow their ancient ways or throw in their lots with the white man. Those for integration with the USA were called “White Sticks” and those who favored fighting were called “Red Sticks.” This Creek civil war was destined to go beyond the nation and did soon enough with a slaughter of over 250 whites / mixed raced Creeks near Mobile, Alabama in August 1813. This caused the predictable call for retribution and U.S. military action. Enter “Old Hickory” Jackson and his Tennessee Volunteers.
In late 1813, Jackson entered Alabama and set up a supply post (Fort Deposit)and a forward post on the Coosa river(Fort Strother) in northern Alabama and began operations against the Creek. Almost from the start, Jackson was beset with mutinous Tennesseans who felt that time spent back in Tennessee counted as part of their enlistment, whilst Jackson felt it did not. Many Tennesseans left, but Jackson pushed on with what was left of his force and a couple of green Regiments that had just arrived from west Tennessee.
Being Old Hickory meant doing hard things anyway, so Jackson set off for the known Creek encampment at Emuckfau / Emuckfaw Creek.
He camped within hearshot of the encampment on 21 January 1814 and sent out patrols to find them. The patrols reported that not only did they find them, the Creeks knew of them too. At daybreak the next day, the Creek attacked front and rear, but were thrown back. Jackson counter-attacked and killed a good many. He then wanted to take the initiative and destroy their base. Jackson sent his old friend, General John Coffey, to root out the Creek base on Embuckfau Creek. Coffey went forth, but found the place too well defended and retired. Once Coffey returned, the Creeks attacked Jackson again with a feign on one side and a main attack on the other. Once again, the Creeks were thrown back, but Jackson was in trouble with bloodied, green troops in “Indian Country” with little back up. Jackson felt he need to retire and re-enforce at Fort Strother.
On his way out of the area, Jackson camped on Enitachopco Creek on the 23rd and fixed fortifications, knowing that another attack was likely. Luckily, they got a quiet night and they headed out in the morning. The quiet was not to last. Not long on the trail, they began crossing Enitachopco Creek and the rear guard was put to the run by the Creek attack. The panic spread and a meltdown was looking likely, but Jackson managed to pull together enough to fend off the attack with even his Nashville artillerymen fighting hand-to-hand. Eventually the tide turned with more of the lead elements re-crossing the creek to take part. The Creek warriors began to slip and finally decided getting away from Old Hickory was better than dying in place.
Jackson had the upper hand in both engagements, eventually, but had found out how hard it was going to be to fight in this nearly unsupportable backwater of eastern Alabama.
Albert James Pickett: HISTORY OF ALABAMA.
(Kindly contributed by William C. Bell)
BATTLES OF EMUCKFAU, ENITACHOPCA AND CALBEC
Since the battle of Talladega, Jackson had encountered innumerable difficulties and mortifications, owing to the failure of contractors and the mutiny of his troops, who were finally reduced to one hundred men by the expiration of their time of service. He was now compelled to employ Cherokees to garrison Fort Armstrong, upon the Coosahatchie, and protect the stores at Ross’s. Almost alone, in a savage land, he yet constantly rode between Fort Strother and Ditto’s Landing to hasten supplies for the new army, which he had employed Governor Blount to raise for him. At last two regiments, one of them commanded by Colonel Perkins and the other by Colonel Higgins, numbering together eight hundred and fifty men, who had only enlisted for sixty days, reached Fort Strother.
Jan. 14 1814: Well understanding the character of minute men like these, who must be constantly employed, Jackson immediately marched them across the Coosa to the late battle ground of Talladega, where he was joined by two hundred Cherokees and Creeks, who evinced great alarm at the weakness which the command presented.
Jan. 16: Continuing the march towards the Tallapoosa, the army encamped at Enitachopco, a Hillabee village, and the next day fell into many fresh beaten trails, indicating the proximity of a large force.
Jan. 21 1814: Here Jackson determined to halt for the purpose of reconnoitre. Before dark his encampment was formed, his army thrown into a hollow square, his pickets and spies sent out, his sentinels doubled, and his fires lighted some distance outside of the lines. About ten o’clock at night one of the pickets firing upon three of the enemy succeeded in killing one, and at the hour of eleven the spies reported a large encampment three miles distant, where the savages were whooping and dancing, and, being apprised of the approach of the Americans, were sending off their women and children.
Jan. 22: About six o?clock in the morning the Indians suddenly fell upon Jackson’s flank, and upon the left of his rear, maintaining a vigorous attack for a half hour. General Coffee, AdjutantGeneral Sitler, and Inspector-General Carroll rode rapidly to the scene of action as soon as the firing commenced, animating the men, who firmly kept the assailants at bay. Morning shed its light upon the exciting scene, enabling Captain Terrill’s infantry to reinforce the left flank, when the whole line was led to the charge by General Coffee, supported by Colonels Higgins and Carroll and the friendly Indians, which forced the savages to abandon the ground in a rapid manner. They were pursued with slaughter for two miles. Coffee being then ordered, with four hundred men and the friendly Indians, to burn up their encampment, advanced, and, finding it strongly fortified, returned for the artillery. Shortly afterwards, a body of the enemy boldly advanced and attacked the right wing of Jackson’s encampment. Coffee again charged, but, through mistake, only forty-five men followed him, composing his own company of volunteer officers; but the friendly Indians were sent by Jackson to his support. Dismounting his men, he now pursued the “Red Sticks” to the swamp of a creek.*
* The Indian war-party were often called the “Red Sticks,” because their war-clubs were invariably painted red.
Jackson had ordered his left flank to remain firm, and now the Indians came rushing with yells against it. Repairing to that point, and ordering up Captain Terrill to his support, the whole line received the enemy with intrepidity, and, after a few fires, advanced to the charge under the impetuous Carroll. Again the Red Sticks fled before the bayonet, the Americans pursuing some distance, and marking their trails with blood. In the meantime, Coffee kept the enemy, who had now returned upon him from the swamp, at bay until Jackson strengthened him with a reinforcement of a hundred friendly warriors, at the head of whom was Jim Fife. Coffee again charged, when the Red Sticks once more gave way, and the pursuit was continued for three miles, with the loss of forty-five savages.
The brave Creeks had now been repulsed in every attempt, but they exhibited a ferocity and courage which commanded the serious consideration of Jackson, whose force was weaker than he desired. The horses had been without cane and without corn for two days, and but few rations remained for the men. The wounded were numerous, and the enemy would doubtless soon be reinforced. Jackson determined to return to Fort Strother with all possible despatch. The remainder of the day was employed in collecting and burying the dead, dressing the wounded and fortifying the camp; but the morning dawned without another attack.*
* The battle of Emuckfau was fought near a creek of that name, which runs south into the Tallapoosa river, in Tallapoosa county, Alabama.
The army began the retrograde march about ten o?clock a.m., bearing the wounded, among whom was Coffee, in litters, constructed of the hides of the slain horses.
Jan. 23 1814: Jackson reached Enitachopco before night without molestation, and fortified himself at a place a quarter of a mile from the creek, around which the Red Sticks prowled, but refrained from attack. Dreading an onset at the ford of the creek, by which his army had passed a few days before, and which afforded great facilities for Indian ambuscades, the commander despatched spies in search of a less exposed crossing place.
Jan 24: Six hundred yards lower down was selected, and thither he advanced his troops in the morning. Carroll commended the rear guard, Colonel Perkins the right column, and Colonel Stump the left. In case of attack, Carroll was to face about, display and maintain his position, while the other two colonels were to face outward, wheel back on their pivots, and attack the Red Sticks on both flanks.
The wounded and the front guard had passed the creek, and as Jackson was upon the eastern bank, superintending the crossing of the army, an alarm gun was heard, which was succeeded by a fierce attack of the savages upon the rearguard of Captain Russell’s spies. Colonel Carroll ordered the rear-guard to halt and form, when the right and left columns, seized by a sudden panic, fled without firing a gun, drawing after them most of the centre, with their officers foremost in the flight, at the head of whom was Colonel Stump, who came plunging down the bank, near the exasperated commander-inchief, who made an unsuccessful effort to cut him down with his sword. With only twenty-five men, under Captain Quarles, Carroll gallantly checked the advance of the Red Sticks. The artillery was under the command of Lieutenant Armstrong, in the absence of Captain Deadrick, who now ordered his company, armed with muskets, to advance to the top of the hill, while he, with Constantine Perkins and a few others, dragged up the six-pounder from the middle of the creek. Instantly in their position, they maintained it against ten times their number, until Armstrong reached them with his piece.
Jan. 24 1814: Discovering that, in the hurry of separating the gun from the limbers, the rammer and pricker had been left tied to the latter, with wonderful presence of mind, and while Indian bullets rattled like hail around them, Constantine Perkins and Craven Jackson, two of the gunners, supplied the deficiency. Perkins took off his bayonet, and rammed the cartridge home with his musket, and Jackson, drawing his ramrod, employed it as a pricker, priming with a musket cartridge.* The six-pounder was thus twice charged, pouring grape among the savages, then only a few yards distant. Several comrades of these men fell around them, and, after the second fire, the little artillery company furiously charged on the assailants, who became more cautious in their approaches. Captain Gordon’s spies, in front of the army when the alarm was given, made a circuit and attacked the left flank of the Indians. At the same time, a number of the rear-guard and flankers, rallied by Jackson, re-crossed the creek and joined in the fight. The savages, finding that the whole army was now brought against them, fled, throwing away their packs and leaving upon the field the bodies of twenty-six warriors.
* Constantine Perkins was born in Knox county, Tennessee the 17th August, 1792 He graduated at Cumberland College in 1813, and was with Jackson at the battle of Talladega in Carroll’s Advance guard, where he greatly distinguished himself. Refusing to abandon Jackson in a hostile land, he remained with the small number who adhered to him In the two battles at Emuckfau, he fought side by side with the bravest. When the Creek war was at an end, he studied law at Nashville. He was elected solicitor of one of the Tennessee circuits but, removing to Alabama in 1819, was elected solicitor of the third circuit, which office he held until 1826, when he was elected attorney-general In 1834, the people of Tuscaloosa county placed him in the State Senate of which he was a member until the 17th September, 1836, when he died.
One hundred and eighty-nine bodies of the enemy were counted upon the fields of Emuckfau and Enitachopco. The loss of the Americans was twenty killed and seventy-five wounded, several of whom afterwards died. Major A. Donaldson was killed at Emuckfau. Captain Hamilton, Lieutenant Armstrong, Bird Evans, Hiram Bradford and Jacob McGivock were severely wounded. The first named afterwards died. Jackson, in his report, spoke in the highest terms of the bravery of these men, and also of that of Captains Sitler, Quarles, Elliott and Pipkin, and Colonel Higgins. He also mentioned the gallantry of the venerable Judge Cocke, who, at the age of sixty-five, was in the midst of these battles.
The army continued its march to Fort Strother, where Jackson ordered the sixty day volunteers to march to Huntsville for honorable discharge, at the same time granting to Coffee and his officers the privilege of returning home, until the government again demanded their services, to all of whom he addressed a kind letter, commending their patriotism and bravery. Jan. 28 1814: A court martial acquitted Colonel Perkins of the charge of cowardice, at the battle of Enitachopco; but Colonel Stump was found guilty, and cashiered.*
* Kendall’s Life of Jackson, pp. 252-264. Waldo, Eaton, etc
Such is the American account of these engagements. The brave natives of Alabama had no writers among them to record their achievements. Several Chiefs and leading warriors, who were in the battles of Emuckfau and Enitachopco, have stated to us that they “whipped Captain Jackson, and run him to the Coosa river.” The authors who have written upon these campaigns speak of the weakness of the American force. It consisted of seven hundred and sixty-seven men, with two hundred friendly Indians. We are enabled to state, with confidence that the force of the Red Sticks, in these battles, did not exceed five hundred warriors, for the larger body had assembled below, to attack Floyd, while others were fortifying the Horse-Shoe, and various other places.
It has been seen that the Georgia army, after the battle of Auttose, retired to the Chattahoochie. There, for more than six weeks, it had reposed, for the want of expected supplies. When General Floyd recovered from his wound, he again marched to the seat of war, with a force of twelve hundred and twenty-seven, rank and file, besides a company of cavalry and four hundred friendly Indians. His destination being the town of Tookabatcha, he established posts upon the route, for the purpose of keeping up a communication and facilitating the transportation of supplies. Marching from post to post, as they were established, he at length encamped on the Calebee Creek, upon the high lands bordering its swamp.*
* This creek runs in a northwestern direction, through Macon county, Alabama.
Jan. 27 1814: At twenty minutes past five o?clock in the morning, the Red Sticks, who had secreted themselves in the swamp during the latter part of the night, sprung upon the Georgians like tigers, driving in their sentinels, and taking the whole army by surprise. In twenty minutes the action became general, and the front right and left flanks of the Americans were closely pressed, but the enemy was met at every point. The front line was preserved by the steady fire of the artillery, under Captain Thomas, aided by the riflemen of Captain Adams. These troops suffered severely, for the enemy rushed within thirty yards of the cannon. Captain John Broadnax, who commanded one of the picket guards, maintained his post, until a party of Indians had cut off his retreat to the main army. In this desperate situation his resolute band cut their way through to their friends, assisted by Timpoochy Barnard, a half-breed, at the head of some Uchees. The other friendly Indians, with a few exceptions, taking refuge within the lines, remained alarmed and inactive while the battle lasted. When day appeared the battalions of Majors Watson and Freeman were ordered to wheel up at right angles. Those of Majors Booth and Cleavland, who formed the right wing, received the same order, while Captain Hamilton’s cavalry was instructed to form in the rear of the right wing, to act as circumstances required. A charge was now made, and the Red Sticks gave way before the bayonet. The cavalry, falling upon them, made considerable havoc, and followed by the friendly Indians and the rifle companies of Merriweather and Ford pursued them through Calebee swamp. From the traces of blood and the number of head-dresses and warclubs found in various directions, the loss of the enemy must have been considerable. In the commencement of the action Colonel Newnan was wounded by three balls, which deprived the commander of the services of that gallant and useful officer. Adjutant-General Narden, whose horse was wounded under him, performed important services, while the aid-de-camp of Floyd also had his horse killed under him His additional aids, General Lee and Major Pace, acted in a manner highly honorable to themselves and useful to the army. The loss of the Americans was seventeen killed and one hundred and thirty-two wounded, to which must be added the loss of the friendly Indians, who had five killed and fifteen wounded. The Georgians fought with great resolution; but, assailed before day, with no fortifications around them, the Indians, until the charge was made, had the advantage, and made use of it.* The large number of wounded Georgians, the proximity of the enemy, who continued to hover around them, indicating a disposition to renew the attack, were reasons deemed sufficient by Floyd for relinquishing the main object of the expedition, retracing his steps, and awaiting further reinforcements. He accordingly marched from Calebee to Fort Hull, one of his newly erected posts, and the next night the Indians were in possession of the battle field.
Feb. 2 1814: Leaving at Fort Hull a small garrison, he returned to Fort Mitchell, upon the Chattahoochie, which he believed, from information, was soon to be attacked. Although the Georgia army had gallantly maintained their ground at the battle of Calebee, the Indians stopped their further march into the nation, and caused them in a few days to retreat.*
* Zachariah McGirth, hearing a despatch from General Claiborne to Floyd, passed through the Calebee swamp late in the night, while it must have been filled with the enemy, and strangely reached the American camp in safety.
** Russell’s History of the Late War, pp. 242-243. Waldo’s Life of Jackson, pp. 124-126. Kendall’s Life of Jackson, p. 240.
General Jackson had employed the few militia who remained with him at Fort Strother, after the battles of Emuckfau and Enitachopco, in constructing flat-boats to descend the Coosa with stores for the use of the new army then being raised in Tennessee, which was to operate below.
Feb.15 1814: The Kialigee Chiefs, whose neutrality Jackson had viewed with suspicion, becoming alarmed, paid him a visit, and disclosed that the Ufaulas, New-Yaucas and Ocfuskes, the remnant of the Hillabees, the Fish Ponds, and many Red Sticks from other towns, were then in a bend of the Tallapoosa, and on an island near Emuckfau, where they had resolved to defend themselves to the last extremity. This information determined him to march upon them.
March 15-16: When the army arrived at Fort Strother, he embarked the stores in the flat-boats, which were to proceed down the Coosa in charge of the thirty-ninth regiment, and, leaving a garrison of four hundred and fifty men in Fort Strother, under the command of Colonel Steele, he began the march, for the third time, toward the seat of war. Within five days, Jackson reached the mouth of Cedar Creek, having been retarded by the cutting out of thirty miles of the road. The boats, in descending the river, meeting with some obstructions, finally reached this point also, where a fort was immediately commenced, which Jackson called Fort Williams, in honor of the commander of the thirty-ninth regiment. Mar. 22: A detachment returned to the camp, and reported that they had burned two Indian towns, lower down, but had seen no Red Sticks.