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VINTAGE ALBANY: The Chehaw Massacre

By   /   April 8, 2012  /   Comments

 


The Creek War, also called the Red Sticks War, lasted from 1813 to 1814. During this time many of the Upper Creek (Muscogee) had been moving southward from Alabama and Georgia into the open territories in Florida. A civil war between the creek themselves began. The “Red Sticks”, Upper Creek, allied themselves with the British in the War of 1812, whereas the “White Sticks”, Lower Creek, were allied with General Andrew Jackson.

Jackson had been ordered into Georgia in 1817 by President James Monroe to prevent slaves from leaving Georgia and heading into Spanish held Florida. The upper Creek and the Seminoles were joining forces with escaping slaves and with the British. They began attacking white settlements.

The Lower Creek Indians that lived near what is now Albany were called the Chehaw. The Chehaw, along with Cherokee and Choctaw Indians fought alongside General Jackson in what became the First Seminole War.

On April 22, 1818 Captain Obed Wright led 230 men in an attack on the peaceful settlement of Chehaw. Wright claimed to believe the Chehaw were the same Creek Indians that had been attacking settlers in the area. Wright had already been informed by other officers that the Chehaw were peaceful Indians and had in fact welcomed, fed and cared for General Jackson’s own soldiers only weeks before. Wright went against orders, and obtained permission from the Governor of Georgia to attack the town anyway.

The numbers of the dead vary from as few as seven victims all the way up to 50, mostly old men, women and children. The Chehaw were ruled by an elderly chief by the name of “Major Howard.” After the slaughter, the chief approached Wright holding out a white flag. Wright ignored the gesture and ordered the soldiers to fire again, and then the old chief was even bayoneted. The few remaining Indians fled and the village was burned. Many of the Chehaw burned to death in their houses.

News of the massacre reached General Jackson by way of a letter from General Thomas Glascock, after he reached the village some four days later and discovered the carnage. Jackson was incensed to learn of the murders and in a letter to the Georgia Governor William Rabun, he expressed his anger at the “base, cowardly, and inhuman attack on the old women and men of the Chehaw Village” he continued, “whilst the warriors of that village  were fighting the battles of our country against the common enemy,”

Jackson further reprimanded the Governor for giving an order that allowed the massacre to take place and promised to have the Wright arrested, confined and brought to justice for the murders. Jackson closed his letter with, “This act will, to the last ages, fix a stain upon the character of Georgia.”

Jackson apologized to the remaining Chehaw people and promised the guilty would be found and punished.  General Jackson then ordered that Captain Wright be found and put in chains to await President Monroe’s orders.

In May Major John M. Davis had Obed Wright arrested and confined at Milledgeville. Wright then tried to use a writ of habeas corpus to gain his release from captivity. President Monroe ordered him to remain confined. Wright managed to escape and was never tried and punished for his crimes.

The Daughters of the American Revolution erected a monument on the site of the massacre on June 14, 1912. The stone monument can be found inside Lee County just off New York Road in a shady park.

 The Chehaw Monument, photo taken June 14, 1912

Betty Rehberg is the historian for the Albany Journal and maintains a group on Facebook called Vintage Albany Georgia.

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