Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Battle of Hobdy's Bridge, Alabama

Pea River at Hobdy's Bridge Battlefield
The last major battle of the long series of wars between the warriors of the Creek Nation and the whites took place in Alabama on March 24, 1837.
Spanning the Pea River between Pike and Barbour Counties, Hobdy's Bridge is still a named crossing place of the Pea River. A modern concrete bridge now carries traffic on State Road 130 across the river, but in 1837 the bridge was a long wooden span and causeway.

The tragic series of events leading to the battle began in February of 1837.  The forced removal of the entire Creek Nation to new lands in what is now Oklahoma was then underway.  An estimated 14,527 Creek men, women and children were already on the Trail of Tears, many of them seized during the Creek War of 1836 (or Second Creek War) that had erupted the previous spring.

Led by Neamathla, Jim Henry (later called James McHenry) and other key leaders of the Lower Creeks, warriors had fought against white forces along the Chattahoochee River in Georgia and Alabama. Their goal was to prevent their forced removal to the west, but despite early successes, their war ended in failure. The important leaders of the resistance were seized and thousands of men, women and children taken prisoner and forced into what were essentially concentration camps.

Marker at Bridge
Gives battle date incorrectly as 1836.
This process continued into 1837, when things took an even uglier turn. White outlaws raided several of the concentration camps. In one case, an elderly and blind man was killed and a young girl shot in the leg after she resisted attempts by the raiders to sexually assault her:

...The same men had in several instances accomplished their diabolical views upon the frightened women, and in many cases deprived them by force of finger-rings, ear-rings, and blankets. Many of their women and whole families, under a state of alarm, ran to the swamp, where the major part of them are still, and no doubt viewed as hostile. I have used every possible means to draw them out
without success....
- 1837 Account by U.S. Indian Agent.

Several hundred men, women and children fled into the Pea River swamps and began and desperate attempt to make their way to Florida. Outraged over the attacks, they were determined to fight their way through if that's what it took.

Pea River at Hobdy's Bridge Battlefield
The confrontation they prepared themselves for was not long in coming. Led by General William Wellborn (also spelled Wellborne and Welborne), a large force of volunteers and militia men left Eufaula to find and capture or kill the fleeing Creeks.

The camp of the refugees was found in in the swamps about one mile north of Hobdy's Bridge. Wellborn advanced in two columns, one moving up each side of the river from the bridge, The camp was located on a spot protected somewhat by two branches of the river. Fighting erupted as the soldiers approached and a vicious swamp battle resulted.

Modern Hobdy's Bridge near Louisville, Alabama
Wellborn reported that his men fought while wading through mud and water. The Creek warriors fought desperately to allow time for the women and children to escape. Some women joined in the fighting. One eyewitness account described a knife fight between soldiers and two of the women, both of whom were killed.

When the smoke finally cleared, the bodies of 23 Creek warriors were found in the swamp. Apparently this number did not include the two women knifed to death. Most of the people from the camp, however, disappeared into the swamp and could not be captured.

The Battle of Hobdy's Bridge was the last significant battle between the Creeks and the whites, but other fighting would follow as the desperate men, women and children from the camp made their way south into Florida.

To learn more about the battle, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/hobdys1.


  1. This is a wonderful blog. I have really enjoyed reading every post. Thank you for your excellent work! I notice that you often link to "exploresouthernhistory.com" - is that also one of your web sites?

    Two thumbs up!

  2. Mike, Thank you for the note and the kind words. Yes, exploresouthernhistory.com is my main website. I use this blog just to post about places that cross my mind on any given day. I just love the South and getting out and exploring and learning about its history, so the pages give me an outlet for sharing my photos and writings.