On a rainy Friday, Tuscaloosa resident Monica Newman Moore leaned over a pile of colorful woven bags in the middle of the Horseshoe Bend battlefield. The bags, made of cotton and other natural fibers, were adorned with thimbles, silver pieces and deer toes.
“Twining is a form of finger weaving. It’s several thousand years old,” Moore said as she worked on a bag. “The love of my life.”
Dressed in traditional Creek attire, Moore was one of dozens of historical re-enactors who set up camp at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, near Dadeville, for the Battle of Horseshoe Bend’s 200th anniversary.
On March 27, 1814, Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson led U.S. forces and Native American allies to battle against the Red Sticks, a part of the Creek Indian tribe that opposed American expansion into its lands. The Red Sticks’ defeat marked the end of the Creek War. After a week of commemorative events, Friday living history presentation drew crowds, despite the rain.
“You didn’t fight in the rain back then,” explained park superintendent Doyle Sapp. “We’re going to do the same thing (Saturday) … to make this a memorable commemoration of the bicentennial.”
Beside a small stream of rainwater on the battlefield, Huntsville resident David Bacon spoke with a group of soldiers from Fort Rucker who have been studying the battle. Bacon, a captain in the Alabama National Guard, has been doing living history presentations for “a couple of years.”
Bacon explained his blue coat with red trim denotes him as part of the Tennessee militia artillery.
“We’re the group that fired the cannon,” he said.
Bacon, along with five other Tennessee militiamen, fired a replica six-pound cannon for the crowd as children covered their ears.
Across the battlefield, a New Orleans high school senior and JROTC member, Louis Joseph, sat beside a fire along with other members representing the Free Men of Color Battalion. The students came with rangers from Chalmette Battlefield, the site of the Jan. 8, 1815 Battle of New Orleans, as part of a program that brings New Orleans students into national parks.
“It was a very interesting experience,” Joseph said after spending Thursday night in a canvas tent on the battlefield. “I never knew they had free African-American (soldiers). …It was a great learning experience.”
In the second row of tents, Rosa Hall, of Tuscaloosa, positioned a cast iron pot under a leak.
“We’re basically helping to interpret the lives of the Indians,” she said. “All of us that do living history here in Alabama, we go into schools and we … try to give (information) because we have done research.”
Retired from the University of Alabama, Hall has been participating in living history for 20 years and does events all over the state. She was impressed by the number of re-enactors gathered at Horseshoe Bend for the bicentennial.
“Sometimes, at night, just for a second it’s like you’re there,” she said.
“It’s not a celebration. It is a remembrance of life lost,” she continued, noting more than 850 people were killed during the battle. “The Creek nation is alive and well, but it’s a deep wound. And it takes time for those wounds to heal.”
Thursday, nearly 300 members of the Muscogee Creek Nation traveled to Horseshoe Bend from Oklahoma. That evening, luminaries were placed on either side of the battlefield’s barricades, one for each life lost.
“They had a thousand white bags lit,” Hall said solemnly. “You know it. You know the history. But to actually see it like that was very emotional.”
The living history event will continue Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/horseshoebend.