Despite their lack of veracity, these gripping, sordid, and macabre accounts perpetuated the public’s imagined savagery of Alabama’s Creeks. That these accounts were long on horror but short on facts was in many ways beside the point. Americans were locked in struggle for survival with Great Britain and could not, perhaps would not, be distracted by inconvenient truths such as the Creeks’ presence with white settlers in the fort’s defense, the reality that whites were not the principal targets at Fort Mims, or that the massacre itself occurred toward the end of a rugged, dirty, long battle. The dead bore silent witness, as subterfuge, intrigue, and the hundreds of other resentments that had smoldered down the Federal Road blistered in open conflict at Samuel Mims’s newly fortified plantation.
To understand, at least in part, why Welsh and Weatherford attacked Mims’s fortified farm, readers must remember that only a month earlier many of those same men, huddling for protection in the new stockade, had attacked members of Peter McQueen’s more “traditionalist” faction of Creeks on their way back from Pensacola, Florida. In an escalating display of vicious quid pro quo, McQueen’s troops had burned Sam Moniac’s and James Cornells’s farms on their way to Florida to secure arms and powder from the Spanish. Moniac and Cornells were of Creek heritage and descent. On McQueen’s way back from Florida, a bloody ambush and nasty fight ensued at Burnt Corn Creek, which ended in a virtual stalemate. Historians have rightly acknowledged the irony of the situation: the Creeks and white settlers killed or captured at Mims’s fort had sought sanctuary there because of the heightened fear of a reprisal after the battle at Burnt Corn Creek.
Weatherford’s men stormed through the open gate at noon, but the fighting itself lasted more than four hours as Fort Mims’s defenders rallied to the cause. Once they overwhelmed the last bit of armed resistance, these victorious Creeks showed little pity and less mercy. “Indians, Negroes, white men, women, and children lay in one promiscuous ruin,” Maj. Joseph Kennedy later wrote about coming upon the scene. “All were scalped, and the females of every age, were butchered in a manner which neither decency nor language will permit me to describe.” It is probably both foolish and trite to attempt to coldly summarize and interpret death and dying, in this or any context. Yet it is telling to note that whites, Indians, and blacks all died together, regardless of age or gender. Thus, the disparate peoples who both built Alabama’s past and would continue to build its future lay mangled in death together, a macabre tapestry of the ultimately human cost of war.