The year was 1813. The United States Military was in battle against the British in the War of 1812. But, in the American frontier, more troubles lurked.
With an increasing number of white settlers occupying lands that Native Americans had inhabited for centuries, trouble stirred within the Creek Nation. Federal Indian agents tried to “civilize” Native Americans by teaching them how to cultivate cotton, raise farm animals and learn carpentry or blacksmithing. These actions caused a separation between those that embraced this new way of life and those who rejected it in favor of maintaining their own customs and their own lands.
This separation sparked a civil war, which later involved the American soldiers at the Battle of Burnt Corn on July 27, 1813.
Gen. Andrew Jackson and his men departed from Tennessee in October of that year, with sights set on entering Red Stick territory, near modern day Montgomery. On his way down, Jackson intended to found forts to protect his militia’s back, disburse supplies, care for the wounded and serve as permanent communication lines across the southeast.
Jackson marched down the Coosa River and founded Fort Strother near the location of the H. Neely Henry Dam in Ragland. The fort was most likely named for Jackson’s topographer, John Strother.
Jackson and 3,000 militiamen arrived at Ten Islands on Nov. 1, 1813, and immediately got to work on building the fort with the skilled labor of local woodsmen-and farmers-turned-soldiers. Roughly the size of a modern-day football field, Fort Strother consisted of parade grounds for each of the three regiments under Jackson, as well as camps, a hospital, storage for various foodstuffs and all other items necessary to support militia life during that period of time.
While the men were hard at work at building the fort upon their arrival on the banks of the Coosa River, there was a break in the building by their third day when the Battle of Tallushatchee broke out on Nov. 3, 1813.
Initially, Jackson planned to follow the Coosa River deep into Red Stick territory, with Tennessee troops to take up the mantle of protection at Fort Strother. However, the Tennessee regiments ran by Jackson’s political adversaries never arrived. Jackson’s men remained in St. Clair County, and Fort Strother served as Jackson’s headquarters throughout the conflict. The population of the fort ranged from a high of 5,000 men to a low of 150 before the conflict was over.
Provisions were hard to come by at Fort Strother, and the men went without food or other items for much time in the beginning of the conflict. American legendary figures like Davy Crockett and John Coffee were present and active in the fighting based out of Fort Strother.
The remains of Fort Strother currently lie on private land, the blockhouses and strong picketing that sheltered the soldiers long gone. Tomorrow, however, could hold much more for the nearly 200-year-old piece of history.
As of Tuesday, St. Clair is awaiting the clearance of the title to the land, after county leaders decided to purchase it a few weeks ago.
“We’re waiting on clearing the title and we don’t feel like there’s a problem,” County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon said.
The commission will leave the decisions of what to do with the property with its newly-minted Parks and Recreation Board, which was approved two weeks ago.
“We wanted to capture it and keep it protected as a historical site in St. Clair County,” Batemon said of spending taxpayer dollars to buy the property.
He said the plan is to turn over all the county’s recreational properties to the Parks Board in the coming weeks. “They will come up with ideas to what we’ll do with those (properties) at that time.”