Monday, August 10, 2009

Battle of Roanoke - Stewart County, Georgia

One of the most important yet least known battles in Georgia history took place in the spring of 1836 at a site now submerged by Lake Eufaula (Walter F. George Reservoir) in Stewart County, Georgia.

The Battle of Roanoke was the primary event that opened the Creek War of 1836, the conflict that sent the Creek Nation on the Trail of Tears.

Roanoke was a prosperous new town in 1836, established on fields that had been lost to the Creeks just a few years earlier when a group of chiefs signed a treaty with the whites giving up the nation's lands in Georgia. The treaty was opposed by the majority of Creeks and resulted in the execution of the famed chief William McIntosh by his own people.

The town could be seen from the remaining Creek lands across the Chattahoochee River in Alabama and its presence was a sore thorn in the side of many of the warriors, particularly those of the Yuchi branch of the nation. Frustrated by continuing frauds and other difficulties with the whites, the Creeks launched hostilities during the spring of 1836 with a series of small but deadly raids against settlers living on Creek lands in Alabama. As the raids intensified, the Yuchi decided to take the fight across the river into Georgia. Their primary target was the hated town of Roanoke.

Moving across the river and taking up positions around Roanoke, Jim Henry and the Yuchi warriors watched the comings and goings around the town. They watched as the women and children were evacuated to nearby Lumpkin as a result of the growing tensions along the Creek frontier. And then, on May 14, 1836, they saw many of the man of the town leave to go visit their families. They attacked at 2 a.m. the next morning.

By the time the battle was over, 12 whites lay dead and the town of Roanoke was in ashes. Outraged by what Georgia newspapers called the "massacre" at Roanoke, the whites of the frontier called for the destruction of the Creeks. The war would result in the total removal of the nation from the Southeast on the Trail of Tears.

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