Back to Table of Contents


The Second Generation During the War of 1812

As with many of our pioneer ancestors, Daniel McCray and his wife Sarah Nodding had a whole bunch of children. Exactly how many is unclear, but at least several of them can be identified. Ancestors of those children seem to have been active over the years in researching the family’s history.

We are lineally descended from Daniel’s son Thomas. Thomas was born in 1781, not long after the family had migrated to Washington County, NC.

Thomas became a soldier during the War of 1812. In American history, many consider this war just like a sequel to the War of American Independence:  armed conflict took place on American soil between the Americans and the British, and between the Americans and Native Americans who were allied with the British. But this also seems to be an era of instability. The British were fighting Napoleon and others in Europe at the same time they were fighting the Americans.[1] It’s such an underrated period in American history. However, there are still some organizations of descendants of War of 1812 soldiers: a leading one is the National Society United States Daughters of 1812 for women, which was founded in 1892[2].

Thomas grew up to have a have a distinguished military career, perhaps with the advantage of having had Daniel McCray as his father. His career included a 4-month-long service in 1814, which was close to the end of the War of 1812. He was promoted (to ensign)  by the time of his discharge.[3]  According to one researcher, his service earned him a land bounty.[4]  It’s not clear to me what Thomas did with himself throughout the 1810s and 1820s; but, by 1830, we can find him stationed at Regiment 67. This was a community inhabited by state militia formed out of the Tennessee County of Monroe.[5]  Thomas later apparently procured an additional land grant in Lawrence County, Missouri, where he moved before 1850. This is located just west of Springfield. Thomas made additional land purchases in the area and retired there. He died in 1867, not long after the Civil War ended.

An uncle of note in this generation was Thomas’s older brother, Henry McCray. Henry was born estimated in 1775, and in Virginia, before the family migrated. Henry grew up himself to have a successful military career: based on my limited research of his biography, he enlisted with the Army in 1810, and during the War of 1812, served as one of eight Captains of the First Regiment of the East Tennessee Militia, also known as Allison’s East Tennessee militia.[6] He appears to have earned at least one land bounty from his service (i.e., grant of land for a nominal or very cheap price), and to have done very well for himself financially, buying and selling land and also by 1830 owning a farm and several slaves. (I don’t think Thomas became nearly as wealthy.) I can’t tell when Henry ceased being in military service. In his later years he moved to Chatooga County, Georgia and is said by his descendants to have died in 1847.

A funny story: Henry and Thomas shared at least some aspect of their adult lives together:

  • In his will, Daniel designated Thomas and Henry as co-executors of his estate.
  • Both Thomas and Henry were in the same First Regiment when Henry was a Captain of it.
  • Thomas married Jane Moore, and Henry married Mary Moore, and Jane and Mary were sisters.

It is their military history that I find most interesting: both of them were likely at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, on March 27, 1914. This is a significant family history fact for us, and simply because this was also an extremely important turning point in American history.

To understand why, we need a brief summary of the historical context. Here is my summary of the relevant background. (This is, of course, based on my own amateur historian’s research and analysis, which I am sure is not even as deep would be a junior high school term paper on the subject, but still gets the job done.)

About the Muscogee Civilization

The people we know from history as the Creeks are the Muscogee. The Wikipedia article on “Muscogee (Creek) Nation” describes these people as “a federally recognized Native American tribe based in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. The nation descends from the historic Creek Confederacy, a large group of indigenous peoples of the Southeastern Woodlands.”[7]  As with many other tribes, they were forcibly relocated to Oklahoma Indian Territory during the Trail of Tears.[8]  The Tribe today has its own full government including public services, tribe-owned businesses and institutions, and is made of a web of complex of communities.  I myself had previously heard of the Muscogee but admittedly never researched their history until now. Still, I expect most Americans are completely ignorant about this tribe, while most in Oklahoma are very familiar with them, as well as anyone who’s visited one of their multiple gaming resorts.[9]

As late as the 18th century, the Muscogee were a confederacy of peoples historically associated with a large area of what is today parts of Tennessee and Florida, all of Alabama, and a large chunk of Western Georgia. The Muscogee Creek Nation has some excellent quick-source pages on their cultural history.[10]  During the American Revolution and the decades after, white immigrants flooded into this part of the Southeastern states, always claiming the lands and resources as their own. Sometimes land was cheated or swindled from Native families, other times taken outright, or subject to coerced sales. Over the decades, various Muscogee natives were drawn into combat to fight white expansion. But they always lost, in the end. In time, the white immigrant population became uncontrollable, and exploded to the point where the US Government decided the Muscogee Natives were “in the way”. I realize some may find this summary an oversimplification, but this is essentially what happened over time.

By the time the War of 1812 arrived, a group known as the “Lower Creek Indians” had become much more exposed to and integrated with the Americans than other bands of Creek. Lower Creek were more willing to accede to American government’s demands take more lands.

But the story was starkly different for the community known as the “Upper Creek Indians”. These groups were staunchly against American expansion into their territory, and fought bitterly to the end for their right to remain on their ancestral lands.[11]

A deep division arose within the Creek confederacy between the Lower Creek and Upper Creek communities. This division ultimately led to the Creek War, 1813-1814. In this period, hardliner, anti-American Muscogee factions arose to fight bitterly against the Americans as well as the Muscogee and Cherokee who supported them. The Upper Creek were represented by the Red Sticks, hardliner anti-American radicals. The Red Sticks were famous for their red-painted battle clubs that warriors carried into battle. They adopted an aggressive and violent approach as a way of asserting their claim. Among the most significant turning points of the war was when Red Sticks attacked on Fort Mims, Alabama, and killed some 500 of people, including civilians including women and children.[12]

The Creek War began. Over the course of the following year, numerous battles occurred. Interestingly, during this period the Red Sticks were aided by both Britain and Spain; each of those countries had its own selfish incentive to fight against the Americans. Spain wanted to hold on to its remaining areas in Florida. Britain needed to go further and win the War of 1812 against the Americans, which war included the Creek War.[13] To the Americans, the areas where the Creek War occurred became known as part of the “Southern Theater” of the War of 1812.


_A Scene on the Frontier, Humane British and Worthy Allies_

A Scene on the Frontiers as Practiced by the “Humane” British and their “Worthy” Allies“, Library of Congress (“LOC”), Prints and Photographs Division, artist William Charles, c. 1812.  (Medium: 1 original was print on wove paper : etching with watercolor ; sheet 24.6 x 34.7 cm.)

A picture says a thousand words. The British did everything they could to use Native American tribes against Americans. The LOC summary reports that this cartoon is:

“alluding specifically to the practice of offering bounties for American scalps. The cartoon may have been prompted by the August 1812 massacre at Chicago and the purchase of American scalps there by British Colonel Proctor. On the left a British officer receives a bloody scalp from an Indian, who has a purse with “Reward for Sixteen Scalps” hanging from his flintlock. The Indian’s knife and tomahawk bear the initials “GR” (for Georgius Rex, i.e., King George). The officer says, “Bring me the Scalps and the King our master will reward you.” From a button on the officer’s coat hangs a tag or sack labeled “Secret Service Money.” At right, another Indian is in the process of scalping a fallen soldier; another dead, scalped soldier lies nearby. In the background two Indians and two soldiers dance about a campfire. Below are eight lines of verse: “Arise Columbia’s Sons and forward press, / Your Country’s wrongs call loudly for redress; / The Savage Indian with his Scalping knife, / Or Tomahawk may seek to take your life; / By bravery aw’d they’ll in a dreadful Fright, / Shrink back for Refuge to the Woods in Flight; / Their British leaders then will quickly shake, / And for those wrongs shall restitution make.” (Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-31111 (digital file from original print))[14]

Over 1813 to 1814, some 12 battles occurred between the Americans and the Red Sticks, including battles with both the Americans and Muscogee and even Cherokee who sided with them.[15]

Notably, a leading commander on behalf of the Americans during the Creek War was Major General Andrew Jackson. Jackson, as you all must remember, years later became the Seventh US President and is today both hailed and derided, depending on your view of history. He was notoriously racist. Like many other early American leaders, Jackson saw a superiority of white American culture that justified stamping out of native civilization, as well as slavery. Jackson was known for his strong ideology in favor of Indian Removal, and played a central role in planning for and implementing that program over many years. True, he has his defenders; biographers have identified and described a compassionate aspect of him.[16]  But the most common historical analyses record that he was also known to act in a way that was unnecessarily callous and cruel to anyone who crossed him. Taking a quote from a 2009 profile on Jackson in the British newspaper The Independent: “He could also be merciless to his enemies. “He could hate with a Biblical fury,” wrote one biographer, “and would resort to petty and vindictive acts to nurture his hatred.”[17]  We see this was exemplified by the Trail of Tears, when natives who refused to accept the Americans’ unreasonable terms of removal fell into poverty and then forced to walk from the Southeastern US to the Oklahoma Indian Territory.

The Red Sticks were clearly outnumbered and had an inferior strength to the American-led forces. And yet, those warriors fought on, ferociously and courageously, for their dignity and right to remain on their ancestral lands. This greatly complicated the job of the Americans in their power struggle against the British — and infuriated General Andrew Jackson, who was sure to pledge severe punishment.

A Day of Mass Slaughter

The decisive battle of the Creek War was an extremely bloody one, and took place on March 27, 1814, at Horseshoe Bend, Alabama. This is in Eastern Alabama, and was at the time called by the Americans as Mississippi Territory.

There are plenty of good writings on this famous battle, including not just summary websites, but many more scholarly analyses. I cannot attempt to replace any of these authorities. I can to highlight their existence. For starters, the National Park Service manages the battlefield site as the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park,[18] and also maintains some interesting webpages on the subject.[19] The Park and its surrounding area look to me like an incredibly green and beautiful area to visit – it’s now on my list, even if I am sure that visiting the battle site will be overall a somber one, for me.

GA Militia Attacking Creek Indians at Autosee, c. 1820, Cover of The Creek War 1813-1814 US Military History Ctr

The Georgia militia under General Floyd attacking the Creek Indians at Autossee, a colored engraving by an unknown artist, c. 1820 (Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries), as appears on the cover of The Creek War, 1813–1814, by Richard D. Blackmon, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C. (2014)  I re-publish this important and beautiful art for commentary, study, and under terms of Fair Use.}

This painting is of a battle that took place between the Red Sticks and the Georgia militia at Autosee, Alabama, not far from the Horseshoe Bend. I am mesmerized by this painting. A picture says a thousand words, and much more. The colors are classic and vibrant, and there is so much detail in here! My biggest takeway is the lack of equality in force between the two sides.

Please note: the Red Sticks were not limited to sticks, arrows, axes or spears, as this painting suggests – but, in practice they were clearly out-armed as well as out-manned in any direct combat with the American war machine.

The setting at Horseshoe Bend was, as the name suggests, a horseshoe-shaped bend in a river. The river is the Tallapoosa. Upper Creeks had established a settlement, the Tohopeka Village, on the peninsula inside the bend. This allowed the village to be protected by the river. They then built a breastwork (temporary wall or fortification) to block the land access to the peninsula. See the layout here:


Map lifted from Wikipedia article page and Wikiwand.  (Someone nicely copied this map from Lossing, Benson (1868). The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812. Harper & Brothers, Publishers. p. 778.)   There are several other excellent maps online.


General Jackson led his forces to directly attack the village. Although this was to be expected, the end story to the battle was that the attack horrifically over-fought the village. To start with, the Americans outnumbered the settlement 3 to 1: they had 2,600 US Army soldiers, with the support of 500 allied Cherokee, and 100 allied Lower Creek. Meanwhile, the Upper Creek only had approximately 1000 warriors. And the US troops would have had superior arms and abilities.

Hard fighting took place all day as Jackson and soldiers leaned into Tohopeka Village. At the end of the day, more than 800 Red Stick warriors were dead, with more than 200 wounded. Jackson had under 50 deaths 154 wounded. At least some accounts state that that the Americans allowed their soldiers to have their way, including allowing the violent sociopaths among the soldiers to do things like remove skin and clothing for souvenirs.  I have not yet researched how many civilians were resident at Tohopeka Village that day, but I understand there were some present – and I just don’t even want to ask what happened to them other than their men were all killed off and the women and children and elderly left to care for themselves.

My point is that this was a case in which the Native Americans were the ones being attacked, and still ended up suffering a vastly disproportionate number of deaths on their side. The white invaders were perfectly capable of surrounding the settlement and waiting it out until the residents were starving and began to surrender. I am struggling to accept the argument that the number of Creek deaths that day were actually necessary for the Americans to push the Creek out of the area. Please, persuade me otherwise.

Instead, Jackson forced and ending of this battle to occur in a single day. Given all of the foregoing, I cannot feel other than that much of this battle was just an excuse for Jackson and his people to make a bloodbath via “summary execution on sight”.  We would have had to look at the stories of each of the individual participants in the battle to understand their motives, but let’s face it: from their actions, we can tell that the US Army committed intentional homicide against at least some percentage of the Red Sticks, and I am going to guess that this percentage was quite large. This battle was, in effect, a clear manifestation of General Jackson’s famous wrath.

I am also trying to imagine what it was like on that day from the perspective of the US soldiers.  I think at least for the white US soldiers, you would have been witnessing the Native soldiers being killed off, one-by-one. In fact, if I were to hazard a guess based on numbers, that would be upwards of 100 Upper Creek warrior deaths per hour of battle. As a white US soldier, I would be watching these numbers of Natives fall, and also duck their arrows and bullets, and even see some of them across the field, eye-to-eye, shooting their guns at me. But after I killed one or more, I would continue to shoot for as long as my superiors directed me. Collectively, that is what the US soldiers did:  shoot, and shoot and shoot until every one of the enemy soldiers fell. But, given the clear imbalance of power between the two sides, General Jackson’s actions just seem what we hear about something coming out of communist or military dictatorships. Hey, this was war, and the soldiers were just doing their job: in short, have no pity and take no prisoners. And here, the US soldier could understand and feel justified in killing off the native populations in the name of “progress”.

Our people were among those white soldiers. This includes my/ our 4th great-grandfather Ensign Thomas McCray, and his older brother Captain Henry McCray. They were among those US soldiers on the battlefield that day who attacked the Tohopeka settlement, and who personally participated in the intentional killing of hundreds of Muscogee people.

There were still some survivors, including, I suppose, all of the civilians in the adjacent village. But after five months of trying to hold out, they realized that they would ultimately be forced to surrender. They entered into the Treaty of Fort Jackson, which was executed in August 1814.


_Weatherford Surrendering to Jackson at Battle of Horseshoe Bend_

Famous etching of Chief Weatherford surrendering to General Jackson. By John Reuben Chapin, 1823-1894, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division (ppmsca.32639).


The treaty resulted in the cessation of massive chunk of Creek territory, as illustrated in the following map.



Map of Land Ceded by Treaty of Fort Jackson, by Wikipedia User Dystopos, who based the map on the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park webpage.


The Third Generation: Western Tennessee and Southwestern Missouri

Thomas McCray had many children himself. We descend from his son Charles T. McCray, who ended up being father to Grandma Sallie. Charles T. was a farmer in McMinn, TN, and then moved his family to the area of Springfield, Missouri. I cannot find much information about Charles T.  online, with the exception of some real estate deeds.

By the time Charles moved his family to Missouri, the tension between North and South was already steeply brewing, and members of the family at that point would have had to make moral decisions. Recall that Missouri was a border state: they could have gone either way. I note I did not find any records of later slave ownership in this family line beyond the individual Ellick mentioned in Daniel McCray’s will. Of course this would not mean that they were opposed to slavery. Maybe they were just poor. And, like many who were in fact, supported abolition, they might still have been firmly Southerners and chosen not to get involved.

At least one of the Grandma Sallie’s brothers, Thomas McCray (born 1842) served some time on the Union side, specifically with McAdams Company L, Greene County Regiment. This would have been a county-based militia enlisting to help the Union. After a little research I could not locate records on specific engagements. One general source pointed out that Union leaders came to Missouri to recruit individuals who loved the South but disagreed with the Confederacy and what it stood for, and that recruits came from counties, rather than from the Federal government.[20] I note that Thomas died in 1863, based on second-hand sources: this would have been right in the middle of the Civil War, but I have not found any record of his death. Still, something suggests he might have died of a war-related cause – even if it was disease, which took the lives of so many who went off to war.

I have had similar “mixed results” of research on the record of another of Sallie’s brothers, Abraham Bruce McCray. For him I found a letter reporting he was arrested and thrown into jail for not appearing to enroll, and a reference to a defense by Abraham that he had not received any orders to enroll. But I cannot find further facts or records of his service.

AND NOW: returning to Grandma Sallie herself, I have to wonder how things were like as she grew up during the Civil War. I don’t recall any stories being passed down. I do wish Grandma Lulu and others could have written up such experiences for us to read today. Oh well!



[1]    For refreshers on the War of 1812, Wikipedia has good articels: See the Burning of Washington,; War of 1812,; Napoleonic Wars,


[3]     War of 1812 Service Records, compiled by the but based on original data from the National Archives and Records Administration. Index to the Compiled Military Service Records for the Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the War of 1812. Washington, D.C.

[4]     As summarized by on researcher in an old posting on an message forum: From: Barbara Greene;   Subject: RE: [McCray] John Robert Jones & Allie Leona Hammontree; Date: Tue, 01 Mar 2005 17:50:26 -0600:   “Thomas McCray served in the war of 1812, first as an orderly sergeant, later as an ensign under the company command of his brother, Capt. Henry McCray. He was mustered into service at Knoxsville, Tenn., in January, 1814 for a term of 6 months, and was honorably discharged in May 1814 also at Knoxsville after 4 months of active service.  He received bounty land for his military service.”

[5]     Laws of the State of Tennessee: Including Those of North Carolina, Volume 1, 1820, Chapter 31 (An act supplemental to an act entitled an act to revise and amend the militia laws of this state, passed at Murfreesboro in 1819. (Passed July 29, 1820). (Apologies if I’ve mangled that citation).

[6]      For more, see: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the War of 1812, compiled 1899 – 1927, documenting the period 1812 – 1815 (National Archives source on; Record of Commissions of Officers in the Tennessee Militia; and a website maintained by the Tennessee Secretary of State, Regimental Histories of Tennessee Units During the War of 1812  (




[10]     See:  and

[11]    I am sure I could locate significant books on Muscogee history, but for the quick online lay researcher, there are some good sites to help give the researcher a good schooling in the subject:

a)  the Muskogee Tribe has a website with some good sources:;

b)   see also the New Georgia Encyclopedia on the Creek Indians,; and the Wikipedia entries on the Muscogee,; and the Red Sticks,

[12]  Excellent source is the Fort Mims Restoration Association,;   the Wikipedia entry is also useful ,

[13]    See: Wikpedia entry on Creek War;;

[14]     See Library of Congress summary at:

[15]     Some helpful and interesting research includes the following sources:

a)   A very good comprehensive starting point is an article book you can find online for free and titled The Creek War, 1813–1814, by Richard D. Blackmon, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C. (2014);

b)    The National Park Service website for Horseshoe Bend National Park has a good summary of players in the war,;

c)    The Wikipedia entry for The Creek War is useful,;

D)    Also useful is the article When Native Americans Were Slaughtered in the Name of ‘Civilization’, History Channel website,

[16]       Take a look at the book review by Dave Benner, A review of In Defense of Andrew Jackson by Brad Birzer (Regnery History, 2018), on the webpage of the Abbeville Institute, an organization founded to preserve and promote the “Southern Tradition”.



[19]    See  The Battle of Horseshoe Bend: Collision of Cultures;  and Park site:;

a)   I also recommend the Encyclopedia of Alabama page on the battle,; and,

b)   the Wikipedia page is also helpful:

[20]   I cannot locate the citation for this fact as of the time of this writing. Anyone have one?




Me (on the phone): "That's "C-r-e-s-a-p".

%d bloggers like this: