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The Canoe Fight (Incident Of The Creek War)
by [?]

The smallest naval battle ever fought in the world, perhaps, occurred on the Alabama River on the 13th of November, 1813, between two canoes, and this is the way in which it happened.

The United States were at war with Great Britain at that time, and a war with Spain was also threatened. The British had stirred up the Indians in the Northwest to make war upon the whites, and in 1813 they persuaded the Creek Indians of Alabama and Mississippi to begin a war there.

The government troops were so busy with the British in other quarters of the country that very little could be done for the protection of the white settlers in the Southwest, and for a good while they had to take care of themselves in the best way they could. Leaving their homes, they gathered together here and there and built rude stockade forts, in which they lived, with all their women and children. All the men, including all the boys who were old enough to pull a trigger–and frontier boys learn to use a gun very early in life–were organized into companies of volunteer soldiers.

At Fort Madison, one of the smallest of the forts, there was a very daring frontiersman, named Samuel (or Sam) Dale–a man who had lived much with the Indians, and was like them in many respects, even in his dress and manners. Hearing that the Indians were in force on the southeastern bank of the Alabama River, the people in Fort Madison were greatly alarmed, fearing that all the crops in that region–which were ripe in the fields–would be destroyed. If that should occur, they knew they must starve during the coming winter, and so they made up their minds to drive the savages away, at least until they could gather the corn.

Captain Dale at once made up a party, consisting of seventy-two men, all volunteers. With this force he set out on the 11th of November, taking Tandy Walker, a celebrated scout, for his guide. The column marched to the Alabama River, and crossed it at a point about twenty miles below the present town of Claiborne.

Once across the river, Dale knew that he was among the Indians, and, knowing their ways, he was as watchful as if he had been one of them himself. He forbade his men to sleep at all during the night after crossing the river, and kept them under arms, in expectation of an attack.

No attack being made, he moved up the river the next morning, marching most of the men, but ordering Jerry Austill, with six men, to paddle up in two canoes that had been found. This Jerry Austill–who afterwards became a merchant in Mobile and a state senator–was a boy only nineteen years of age at the time, but he had already distinguished himself in the war by his courage.

At a point called Peggy Bailey’s Bluff, Dale, who was marching with one man several hundreds of yards ahead of his men, came upon a party of Indians at breakfast. He shot one of them, and the rest ran away, leaving their provisions behind them. Securing the provisions, Dale marched on for a mile or two, but, finding no further trace of Indians, he concluded that the country on that side of the river was now pretty clear of them, and so he set to work to cross to the other side, meaning to look for enemies there.

The river at that point is about a quarter of a mile wide, and, as there were only two small canoes at hand, the work of taking the men across was very slow. When all were over except Dale and about a dozen others, the little remnant of the force was suddenly attacked.

The situation was a very dangerous one. With the main body of his command on the other side of the river, where it could give him no help, Dale had to face a large body of Indians with only a dozen men, and, as only one canoe remained on his side of the river, it was impossible for the whole of the little party to escape by flight, as the canoe would not hold them all.