Wild West

THREE FLAGGED MASSACRES

Massacres on the American frontier were disgracefully commonplace. In the perhaps inevitable clash over land, whites and Indians slaughtered one another from the nation’s earliest days. Whites were the aggressors in several notable instances, from the Gnadenhutten, Ohio, massacre in 1782, one year after the 13 states ratified the Articles of Confederation, to the battle turned massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890, the year the frontier vanished into history. Among the most infamous one-sided slaughters occurred on November 29, 1864, at Sand Creek in Colorado Territory, yet few recall the 1818 massacre at a Chehaw village in Georgia or the 1823 Blue River massacre in what would become Oklahoma. There were similarities, including the fact all three targeted villages flew flags of friendship and peace.

Chehaw Village

By the outset of the War of 1812 the Chehaws were living along the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers in southwest Georgia. They were part of a loose confederation of Lower Creek tribes ostensibly friendly to the United States, unlike the Upper Creeks (aka Red Sticks), who had allied with the British against both the Americans and their Lower Creek brethren. At war’s end in the Treaty of Fort Jackson the United States claimed some 23 million acres of land in Georgia and Alabama from the Creeks, no matter their allegiance. The cession riled those who had not taken up arms, and the government appointed Brig. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines as a commissioner to quell any violence in the region.

As the First Seminole War raged in 1818, violence did break out as sympathetic Creeks raided area settlements. Although Gaines was aware “evil-disposed white persons” engaged in cross-border slave trading had fomented much of the trouble, and a Savannah newspaper reported many such depredations were the work of “a gang of desperadoes who had assumed the dress and appearance of Indians,” the general still

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