Thursday, August 17, 2023

A Brutal Reckoning: Andrew Jackson, the Creek Indians, and the Epic War for the American South (Peter Cozzens)

A Brutal Reckoning: Andrew Jackson, the Creek Indians, and the Epic War for the American South by Peter Cozzens details the impact the Creek War of 1813 had on American history. The Muscogee, as the Creek nation is more properly referred to as, had lived in what is now Alabama and Georgia for centuries. Many Muscogee accommodated and adopted White customs, including individual property rights and even slavery. Some Muscogee intermarried with Whites, and factions soon developed within the Muscogee nation between traditionalists, who wanted to purify their land and rid it of increasing White influence, and those who were willing to adopt and adapt to the encroachment of Americans.

Cozzens weaves two histories into A Brutal Reckoning. First: The Muscogee’s own history and its eventual cessions of land throughout the American Southeast through the course of unfair treaty and warfare with militias. Second: The rise of Andrew Jackson and his tendency for brutal reckonings and high capacity for violence. Jackson’s nickname, “Old Hickory,” was a devotion to his steadfastness under harsh conditions; he also earned the name “Sharp Knife” from Indian allies because of his ruthlessness.Both of these histories, complex in their own right individually, are woven together effectively throughout the book. 

The Fort Mims massacre and the Battle of Horseshoe Bend were not large battles in the annals of American history, but Cozzens highlights the importance of these battles. Within 25 years of these battles, the whole of the Southeast was effectively cleared of tribal nations thanks to a successive series of land grab treaties and forced relocations, with the result being millions of acres of land that could support agriculture (and thus slavery). A Brutal Reckoning highlights this lesser known war, which raged while the War of 1812 was capturing the nation’s attention, but was arguably much more significant than “Mr. Madison’s War” in the course of American history.