little cloud was once seen in the northern sky. It came before a
rushing wind, and covered the Choctaw country with darkness. Out
of it few an angry fire. It struck a large oak, and scattered its
limbs and its trunk all along the ground, and from that spot sprung forth
a warrior fully armed for war. And that man was.......*
Chief of the Choctaw Nation, was born in what is now the State of Mississippi,
in about 1764. He distinguished himself on the war-path before he
had attained his twentieth year. He joined an expedition against
the Osages on the western side of the Mississippi, and because of his youth
and propensity for talking, he was a good deal laughed at by the more experienced
men in his party. Every night, after making their campfires, some
of the more fluent warriors were wont to deliver speeches touching their
intended movements, and the boy-warrior did not hesitate to express his
views and intentions. But the older men shook their heads in derision.
In due time the
war party reached the Osage country, and a desperate fight soon occurred.
It lasted nearly a whole day, and when concluded by the defeat of the Osages,
it was whispered around that the boy had disappeared early in the conflict,
and he was condemned as a coward. At midnight he rejoined his friends
at their rendezvous, and they jeered him to his face for running away.
To this he made reply by saying, "Let those laugh who can show more scalps
than I can," whereupon he took from his pouch no less than five scalps,
and threw them upon the ground. They were the result of a flank movement
which he had made, single-handed, on the rear of the enemy.
From that night
they looked upon the young warrior as a great man, and gave him the name
of the Eagle.
Other fights ensued
during those earliest years of Eagle, and more scalps were presented to
his people. Once, when asked of the secret of his success, he simply
replied: "I scare them first, then I whip them."
In 1879, at about
the age of 15, the young warrior boasted that his name was now Pushmatahaw,
meaning, "the warrior's seat is finished." Pushmatahaw engaged
in ball playing, content to rest on his laurels. He was then living
on the Tombigbee, but while away engaging his his favorite pastime, a party
of Creek Indians visited his cabin, and burned it to the ground.
In retaliation, Pushmatahaw invaded the Creek country, killing many of
the new enemies, and destroying much of their property. He continued
his battles with the Creeks until the War of 1812, when he sided with the
United States against the British. Most of the Choctaw wished to
remain neutral. Pushmatahaw spoke: "The Creeks were once our
friends. They have joined the English, and now we must follow different
trails. When our fathers took the hand of Washington, they told him
the Choctaws could always be the friends of his nation, and Pushmatahaw
cannot be false to their promises. I am now ready to fight
against both the English and the Creeks."
The Creeks and
the Seminoles both allied against the Americans. Pushmatahaw made
war upon them with such energy and success that the white men gave him
the title of the Indian General, which he and his people considered
a decided advance on his previous titles of warrior, hunter, man-eater,
as generous as he was courageous, especially to those poorer than himself,
and he took pleasure in extending the hospitality of his cabin to strangers.
He was fond of children, and when in the mood, would join them in their
games. He loved to talk with them about his adventures and the wonders
he had seen. Pushmatahaw was not only a gifted speaker, he held a
sharp and humorous wit.
a total of five children, and though he could not speak a word of English,
he took pains to have his children as well educated as his circumstances
However, his drinking
habits paralleled his fighting, and he once insisted that a solider be
removed from the stockade, after learning that all the soldier had done
was to become drunk."Many good warriors get drunk," he declared.
the fact that Pushmatahaw had taken the lives of many fellow-beings, and
had a ferocious disposition, he was greatly beloved by his own people,
as well as by the whites. He was treated with real affection by the
citizens of Mobile, who credited Pushmatahaw as the savior of their city
from the Creeks. He also held a deserved reputation for honesty,
and observancy of his word.
At the end of
the War of 1812, Pushmatahaw returned to the Tombigbee, hung up his sword,
and was made Chief of the Choctaw Nation. A period of peace followed
for several years.
But soon the white
man began to press upon the hunting grounds of his people, and the disagreeable
subject of emigrating to the West was forced upon his attention.
He made several treaties with the Government, and with one of them, signed
in 1820, is connected the following incident. General Andrew Jackson
was the commissioner on the part of the United States, and one of the stipulations
that he introduced displeased Pushmatahaw, who refused to affix his name.
On seeing this, Gen. Jackson put on all his dignity and thus addressed
"I wish you to
understand that I am Andrew Jackson, and, by the Eternal, you shall
that treaty as I have prepared it."
The mighty Choctaw
Chief was not disconcerted by this haughty address, and springing suddenly
to his feet, and imitating the manner of his opponent, replied,
"I know very well
who you are, but I wish you to understand that I am Pushmatahaw, head chief
of the Choctaws; and, by the Eternal, I will not sign that
The general concluded
that he had found his match in the frontier, and having modified his views,
the chief was satisfied, and then promptly affixed his signature to one
of the parchments, which was to banish the Choctaws from the land of their
In 1824, Pushmatahaw
went to Washington with a delegation of his principal men for the purpose
to use his own style of speaking, of brightening the chain of peace between
the Americans and his people. While the government wished to induce
the Choctaws to sell a new portion of their Mississippi lands, Pushmatahaw
refused to part with any more territory. Although ill at the time,
I have been here some time. I have not talked because I have been
ill. You shall hear me now. You have no doubt heard of me.
I am Pushmatahaw.
"When in my own
country, I often looked toward this council-house, and wanted to come here.
I am in trouble, and will tell you why. I feel like a small child
not half as high as his father, who comes up to look in his father's face,
hanging in the bend of his arm, to tell him his troubles. So, father,
I hang in the bend of your arm, look in your face, and now hear me speak.
"In my own country,
I heard there were men appointed to talk to us. I would not speak
there. I chose to come here, and speak in this beloved house.
I can boast and say, and tell the truth, that none of my forefathers, nor
any Choctaws, ever drew bows against the United States. They have
always been friendly. We have held the hands of the United
States so long that our nails have grown to be like birds' claws.
My nation has always listened to the white people. They have give
away their country, until it is very small. I repeat the same about
the land east of the Tombigbee.
"I came here,
when a young man, to see my father, President Jefferson. He told
me, if ever we got into trouble, we must run and tell him. I am come."
Later, the symptoms
of the old Choctaw's sickness became alarming. When told that he
might die, Pushmatahaw spoke of the event with the utmost coolness.
His uppermost thought seemed to be that the capital of the nation was an
appropriate place in which to die. He reflected a desire to be buried
with military honors, and that big guns might be fired over this grave.
Toward the end, he called his companions around him, and gave them particular
directions to his arms and ornaments. He said he wanted to die like
a man. His last words to his companions were:
"I am about to
die, but you will return to our country. As you go along the paths,
you will see the flowers, and hear the birds sing; but Pushmatahaw
will see and hear them no more. When you reach home they will ask
you, 'Where is Pushmatahaw?' And you will say to them, 'He is no
more.' They will hear your words as they do the fall of the great
oak in the stillness of the midnight woods."
buried in the Congressional Cemetery with honors. A procession more
than a mile long followed his remains along Pennsylvania Avenue;
minute guns were fired from Capitol Hill, and a "big" gun over his grave.
Among those who attended his funeral was Andrew Jackson, who frequently
expressed the opinion that Pushmatahaw was the greatest and the bravest
Indian he ever knew.
on the 24th of December, 1824, of the croup, in the sixtieth year of his
a magazine of general literature. Volume 4, Issue 71; Published
by D. Appleton and Company, 1870.
Prepared for Early SW
MS Territory by Ellen Pack
*Words spoken by the
head Chief of the Choctaw delegation at the conclusion of a meeting with
Mr. Calhoun, the Secretary of War, in 1824.