John Coffee is ordered by Andrew Jackson to "proceed to Tallashatchy, & destroy it."[Andrew Jackson] John Coffee's Creek War Order Book. Near forty-five pages containing general orders, court-martial notes, and battle reports of the Creek War campaign, commanded by Major General Andrew Jackson. Most of the general orders found in this 7.5" x 12" "Order Book" are directed to Brigadier General John Coffee, who was promoted from colonel during the war. With orders concerning the bloody and decisive battles of Tallushatchee and Horseshoe Bend.
The Creek War, commonly included as part of the War of 1812, began in early 1813. Tennessean Major General Andrew Jackson was initially sent with a force of near 3,000 to fight the Creek Indians in Alabama who had attacked American settlers there. Jackson, who assumed the Creek were aiding the British, arrived on the scene with his troops in October 1813. This order book is divided into two parts.
Part One begins at Fort Gibson [Alabama] on October 20th, 1813, and ends at Fort Deposit [Alabama] on May 5, 1814, with specific orders for John Coffee concerning the Battle of Tallushatchee. On November 2, 1813, the day before that bloody battle, the order book reads from "Head Quarters": "Genl. Coffee with one thousand of his Brigade will with all practicable dispatch cross the Coosa River a the fish dam ford; & forthwith with one half of his force proceed to Tallashatchy, & destroy it. The other half of his force so soon as he crosses the river he will dispatch under a discreet officer to the ten Islands with orders to scour the intervening Country of all hostile Creeks, & to form a cover for the force immediately under the command of Gen. Coffee." The battle, fought on November 3, was a huge success for Coffee. In a later entry (dated April 1814), Coffee gives a full three page report of the conflict, which begins with the first steps of the march at 6:00 a.m. on the 3rd. According to the report, he had with him "about six hundred Indians, five hundred of which were Cherokees, and the balance friendly Creeks. . . . When within half a mile of the village the savage yell was raised by the enemy." Coffee's Indians attacked "After seeing about one hundred of the warriors, and all the squaws and children of the enemy running about among the huts of the village which was open to our view". According to Coffee's report, many enemy Creek warriors were killed trying to escape in the Coosa River: "I feel warranted in saying that from two hundred and fifty to three hundred of the enemy was buryed under water, and was not numbered with the dead that was found." The report ends with Coffee joining "the main army" that evening at 7:00 p.m. Under Coffee's command that day was Davy Crockett who wrote of the battle in his autobiography, "We . . . shot them like dogs" (Davy Crockett. A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett. E. L. Carey and A. Hart Publishers, 1834). This was the first major battle of Jackson's campaign. Coffee was promoted to brigadier general following the victory. After the battle, a dead Creek woman was found still holding her baby. Jackson took the boy to the Hermitage and adopted him, naming him Lyncoya.
The orders for November 6, issued three days after the battle by Andrew Jackson, direct General Coffee to seize any food left by the Tallushatchee Indians: "Brigadier John C. Coffee will forthwith detach from his Brigade five hundred man enclusive of officers, to the town Tallshachy lately destroyed, to collect & bring into camp all the corn that can be found at or near the town, which is to be deposited as a common fund for the benefit of the whole Division. They are also to bring in all stock that can be found. They will further faithfully examine for the Sign of the hostile Creeks and search into the trail discovered by some of the cavalry on the 5th instant."
Several hard months followed the victory, according to the book. Some troops displayed a "seditious and mutinous disposition" which had "begun to manifest itself amongst some of the troops from the Eastern division of the State [Tennessee]." In a message given to the troops at Fort Williams, dated April 5, 1814, Jackson begins on a celebratory note: "Brave soldiers from Tennessee! The commanding general sees with pleasure the speedy termination of the Creek War". He then addressed the army's discipline problems with threats of severe discipline: If the "Rumour" be true, "At all hazards it shall be put down. He [Jackson] will like a fond parent ever watchfull for the welfare and reputation of his children, prevent them from disgracing themselves or by mutiny and sedition forfeiting their lives."
Other general orders found in this part of the book contain detailed instructions for troop action "In case of an attack", as well as orders addressing the proper procedures for soldiers obtaining water and wood. One ominous order directs that "every soldier shall sleep upon his arms." The final general orders of the book, issued in April and May following Jackson's final victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, dealt with the transport of the sick and the mustering out of some regiments. Despite the troops' discontent, Jackson maintained control and forced the Creek to end the war in August 1814, thus giving the U.S. 3/5 of modern Alabama.
Part Two, found at the end of the book, begins at "Head Quarters Fort Strother" on March 2, 1814, and ends at "Head Quarters Fort Williams" on March 23, 1814. It contains general orders for troop activity leading up to the war's final and decisive battle at Horseshoe Bend. This part ends four days before the battle with Jackson personally leading 4,000 troops to Horseshoe Bend, a battle fought on March 27, four days after the final entry. Also included in this part are records of officer promotions, troop behavioral instructions (including detailed instructions for troop behavior under attack), and orders for troop movements (including the amounts of rations to take).
John Coffee (1772-1833) settled near Nashville, Tennessee in 1798. He soon met Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), who had arrived in the state ten years earlier. They quickly became business partners, military associates, and close friends. After the war, Coffee served as surveyor general of public lands in Alabama from 1817 until his death in 1833. In 1819, he purchased land in Lauderdale and Limestone Counties in northern Alabama. Shortly afterwards, he moved his family there, near modern day Florence. Coffee, a tall man (6'2" and near 200 pounds, according to his granddaughter), married Rachel Donelson Jackson's niece, Mary Donelson, in 1809, further cementing his friendship with Andrew Jackson. This order book is bound and the wrappers, though soiled and stained, are in surprisingly good shape. Contains several blank pages in the middle of the book.
Included with the order book is a modern typed transcript (likely from the mid-twentieth century) of a letter with great content on the Battle of New Orleans. According to the transcript, the original letter, from Coffee to his wife, was dated January 30, 1815, and written from Camp Coffee, "4 miles above Orleans". Ex. The Papers of John Coffee.
More Information: This lot also includes a "Sketch of the Life of Gen. John Coffee", by Eliza Croom Coffee, John Coffee's grand-daughter (Florence, Alabama, 1897). Near seventeen pages of mostly typed text (handwritten sections have been fastened to pages with 2d nails). Some of the typed text has been struck-through and replaced with handwritten text. This sketch, clearly a work in progress, contains information on some of the highlights of General Coffee's life, including a list of his descendants. There has been little written about the life of General Coffee, so this sketch offers valuable insight recorded by a descendant.
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