William "Red Eagle" Weatherford

William “Red Eagle” Weatherford

There are a couple of misconceptions about the late William Weatherford. One is his age. While his grave says otherwise, William Weatherford was born in 1781 and died in 1824. And the name Red Eagle was adopted posthumously, decades after his death. In 1855 a man named A. B. Meek published a long, epic poem entitled “The Red Eagle. A Poem of the South.” This was the first reference to William Weatherford as Red Eagle; but it stuck.

Regardless, William Weatherford was legendary. He grew up in a very wealthy and powerful family. He was charismatic and brave, but conflicted. He is remembered as one of the principal leaders of the Redstick War, which featured the bloody battle at Fort Mims.

The Redstick War in 1812 was a civil war set in motion by Shawnee leader Tecumsah’s call for a war against the Americans to push them out of Indian homelands. This war was between traditional Creeks, known as “Redsticks” after their red-painted war clubs, and modernizing Creeks of mixed heritage. These Creeks had embraced American culture and owned plantations and slaves and were allied with the Americans.

Yet despite being of mixed heritage, Weatherford sided with and led the Redsticks. He was one of the leaders at the Battle at Fort Mims, leading the eastern column that first penetrated the fort’s defenses.

Weatherford continued to lead Redstick forces throughout the war, though he was not at the Redsticks’ catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River in 1814. After that defeat, Weatherford walked into Andrew Jackson’s camp and surrendered. Jackson was impressed by Weatherford’s bearing and courage and let him go free. Weatherford moved to Little River and built the plantation where he died in 1824.