Horseshoe bend

In March 1814, General Jackson's army left Fort Williams on the Coosa, cut a 52-mile trail through the forest in three days, and on the 26th made camp six miles north of Horseshoe Bend. The next morning, Jackson sent General John Coffee and 700 mounted infantry and 600 Cherokee and Lower Creek allies three miles down-stream to cross the Tallapoosa and surround the bend. He took the rest of the army - about 2000 men, consisting of East and West Tennessee militia and the Thirty-ninth U.S. Infantry - into the peninsula and at 10:30 a.m. began an ineffectual two-hour artillery bombardment of the Red Sticks' log barricade. At noon, some of Coffee's Cherokees crossed the river and assaulted the Red Sticks from the rear. Jackson quickly ordered a frontal bayonet charge, which poured over the barricade. Fighting ranged over the south end of the peninsula throughout the afternoon. By dark at least 800 of Chief Menawa's 1,000 Red Sticks were dead (557 slain on the field and 200-300 in the river). Menawa himself, although severely wounded, managed to escape. Jackson's losses in the battle were 49 killed and 154 wounded, many mortally.
Though the Red Sticks had been crushed at Tohopeka, the remnants of the hostile Creeks held out for several months. In August 1814, exhausted and starving, they surrendered to Jackson at Wetumpka, near the present city of Montgomery, Alabama. The Treaty of Fort Jackson ending the conflict required the Creeks to cede some 20 million acres of land - more than half of their ancestral territorial holdings - to the United States. The state of Alabama was carved out of this domain and admitted to the Union in 1819.
In 1829, partly as a result of his fame from the battles of Horseshoe Bend and New Orleans, Andrew Jackson was elected President of the United States; a year later he signed the Indian Removal Bill forcing all the tribes east of the Mississippi River to move to Oklahoma, a journey the Cherokees called the "Trail of Tears." The Southeast, cleared of most Indians and free from the threat of foreign intervention, thus became part of the United States and was opened for settlement.

Russell Cave

To characterize the evolving stages of civilization in southeastern America before European contact, archeologists have established a general cultural sequence: Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, Mississippian.
For most of Russell Cave's 10,000 years of human use, its inhabitants were in the Archaic stage. The cave was one of thousands of southeastern Archaic sites. Recent evidence indicates that the earliest users of the cave were actually at the transitional stage between P
aleo and Archaic. During the Paleo period they still depended to a great extent on hun
ting large animals rather than exploiting a wider range of resources.
Cave Shelter
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It met their first need-a refuge
from the elements. The cave mouth faced east, away from the cold north wind but letting in the morning sun. It would be cool in the summer. Nearby were an excellent water source, abundant game, and a good supply of rock for shaping into weapon points. For the group of travelers making their way through the small valley some 9,000 years ago, the cave was tailor-made. American Indians had probably already lived in the area for at least 2,000 years, but it was not until roof falls raised part of the floor above the stream flowing through the cave that it had become permanently inhabitable. For hundreds of generations to follow, the cave continued to draw Indians. Over so long a time, it is difficult to generalize about how it was used.
Since the first excavation here in 1953, it has been thought that the cave was used in winter by people who in warmer months moved to villages along the Tennessee River. But the evidence is not conclusive, and it seems likely that some groups used it as a permanent home, perhaps for years at a time. Others did use it as winter quarters, while for year-round nomads it was simply a convenient stopover. The archeological evidence does indicate that in the 1,000 years before European contact in the 16th century, the cave was used primarily as a hunting camp.
Most groups inhabiting the cave would probably have numbered no more than 15 to 30-their size limited by the need for mobility and by how many people the land could sustain. They were likely extended families or several related families. Certainly some groups would have used the cave year after year, but varying styles of spear and arrow points tell us that it was inhabited by different bands. Twenty-four burials have been found in the cave, ranging from an infant to a 40- to 50- year-old woman. From the remains it appears that these people were short and muscular. In appearance that probably resembled the peoples Europeans first encountered in the 16th century.
Food Sources
The inhabitants of Russell Cave practiced what anthropologists call “forest efficiency,” using all the resources of the land. The wildlife they hunted-except for the porcupine and the peccary-are still found in the area: deer, turkey, black bear, turtle, raccoon, squirrel, and other small animals. They took fish from the Tennessee River in nearby streams. Nuts, acorns, roots, wild fruits, and seeds were staples, as were seeds from goosefoot, a small flowering plant they raised in gardens.
Although times could be hard, especially during the winter, we should not think of these people as constantly struggling, living on the margin of existence. This was a good time for American Indians in the Southeast. In small family groups they harvested rich food sources according to the season, fully exploiting their environment without destroying what sustained them.
The artifacts they left behind tell the story of the cave: the ebb and flow of habitation, whether the users were family groups or hunting parties, what they wore, what they ate, the tools they used. As archeologists dug down to the deepest artifacts more than 30 feet below the cave’s present floor, they traced the emergence of pottery more than 2,000 years ago, introduction of the bow and arrow, increasing sophistication of tools and weapons, and growing trade with other peoples for tools and ceremonial goods.
Geology of the Cave
The rock out of which Russell Cave was carved was formed more than 300 million years ago at the bottom of the inland sea then covering the region. A layer of carbonaceous deposits (skeletons and shells) was transformed into limestone by the pressure of overlying water, sand, and mud. After the sea retreated, water dripped through fissures in the limestone. The drips became rivulets and then underground streams that cut thousands of tunnels and caverns. About 9,000 to 11,000 years ago, the collapse of a cavern roof beneath a hillside in Doran Cove created a sinkhole and exposed a tunnel carrying water deeper beneath the ground-Russell Cave. Part of the tunnel entrance was raised above water level by continuing rock-falls, and it was here that humans sought shelter as early as 7,000 B.C. It grew higher with silt deposited by flooding of the creek that still drains into the cave. The combined processes-deposits and ceiling rockfalls-caused the cave mouth to migrate up the hillside. Although the deposits eventually raised the floor above flood level, human debris and a steady rain of fine material from the roof raised it another 7 or 8 feet. Today the floor of the upper entrance is some 30 feet above the original rockfall.
The Archeological Record
Russell Cave offers one of the longest and most complete archeological records in the eastern United States. The artifacts found here indicate intermittent human habitation for almost 9,000 years. Using carbon-14 dating techniques, researchers have dated to within 300 years the charcoal remains from fires uncovered at various depths. They could then date objects found at the same depth as a fire, gradually building up a continuous record. The initial excavation by the Tennessee Archeological Society in 1953 unearthed a great number of bone tools, jewelry, and pottery fragments to a depth of six feet. The Smithsonian Institution, with financial support from the National Geographic Society, undertook another dig from 1956 to 1958. These excavations reached a depth of more than 32 feet. A third and final 10.5-foot excavation was done by the National Park Service in 1962, both to fill out the archeological record and establish an on-site exhibit.


Tricolored Bat
Tricolored Bat
NPS Photo
Tricolored Bat
For a park of its size, Russell Cave National Monument has a diverse landscape that provides a remarkable habitat for wildlife observation. The park contains woodlands, fields and caves.
Though only 310 acres, the park is home to several species of mammals; over 130 varieties of birds, and more than 30 types of insects, amphibians, and reptiles.

white-tailed deer
white-tailed deer
NPS Photo
White-Tailed Deer
During a typical day, visitors are most likely to see the white-tailed deer.
With a closer look and a little patience, many other types of wildlife can be spotted.
The mountain side attracts various nocturnal foragers such as rodents, raccoons, coyotes, and bobcats.

Adolescent Red-Tailed Hawk
Adolescent Red-Tailed Hawk
James Holtzclaw
Adolescent Red-Tailed Hawk

For the avid bird watcher, Russell Cave is site 44 on the Alabama Birding Trail.
Around fifty percent of Alabama's birding population can be seen at the park.
Whether it is spring migration or a winter habitat there is always plenty to see.
Some of the birds that have been spotted include the scarlet tanager, pileated woodpecker, and the red-tailed hawk.

Black Rat Snake
Black Rat Snake
Antoine Fletcher
Black Rat Snake
Even though the creepy, crawly, and slimy will raise goose bumps, many visitors are still fascinated by these creatures. As the weather starts to warm up the snakes are on the crawl for the heat from the sunshine and a little food.
Many visitors get at least a glimpse of the black rat snake, even if it is not at the top of their agenda. Walking out to the cave on the cool mornings when the dew is still in the air, the spider webs look like a work of art.

looking toward the visitor center
looking toward the visitor center
Mary Dawson
The diverse landscape does not only provide habitat for the wildlife but is home to many plants and trees as well. For the animals that call the area around the park their home, there has to be plenty to eat, places to live, and places to hide.
There is a unique design that encompasses the animals, plants, and trees that many visitors get to experience during their visit at Russell Cave National Monument.
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