The National Park Service (NPS) turned 100 years old this year. Over the past century, the organization has grown from 35 national parks to more than 400 sites under the protection of the NPS today. From national seashores, monuments, heritage and historic sites, trails, and military parks, the variety is as vast as the history they contain. There are nine National Park Service sites in Alabama that drew 790,000 visitors with a $31 million economic impact last year. Alabama NewsCenter is spending the rest of this centennial year highlighting each Alabama site.
The Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, in Daviston is Alabama’s first and only national military park.
Leading up to the NPS centennial, the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park received a grant from the National Park Foundation to expand history programming to fourth-graders in the surrounding counties. According to Heather Tassin, park ranger at Horseshoe Bend, the fourth-grade history program will continue next year, which will also include programs tied to astronomy, the Piedmont Plateau birding trail and the Harold Banks canoe trail.
The location of Horseshoe Bend National Park was originally called Cholocco Litabixbee by the Creek Indians, which translates into “Horse’s Flat Foot” — a description for the way the Tallapoosa River wraps around the land. It’s the site of a fortification held by Chief Menawa and 1,000 Red Stick Creek warriors in 1814.
Chief Menawa and his warriors were determined to stand against the encroachment of white settlers, disrupting their way of life. On March 27, 1814, Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson and his army of 3,300 men proved to be too formidable. By the end of the day, with a loss of over 800, the Red Sticks were defeated.
Five months later, a delegation of Creek chiefs surrendered to Jackson, ending the Creek War. This loss forced the Creeks to cede 23 million acres of land to the United States, from which the state of Alabama was formed. Jackson’s victory against the Creeks would spur his rise to fame and to the presidency in 1829.
Establishing the park:
The first organized effort to establish Horseshoe Bend as a national park began in 1907, with the creation of the Horseshoe Bend Battle Commission. In 1914, at the request of the commission, Congress approved an act to establish a monument at the battle ground.
In 1955, the Horseshoe Bend Battle Park Association was formed. It petitioned Congress to establish the area as a national military park. The difference in this request, was that Tom Martin, chairman of the board of trustees of the Horseshoe Bend Association and the chairman of the Alabama Power Company board of directors, had “hired London researchers to comb the British archives” for additional information from a biography of Andrew Jackson that “claimed the victory at Horseshoe Bend affected the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812 between Great Britain and the United States,” according to Alabama historian Leah Rawls Atkins. This information proved the national significance of the site, as the start of Jackson’s rise to public fame, and of the sovereignty of the United States.
The park’s proclamation was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on Aug. 11, 1959. The official opening and dedication ceremony was held on March 27, 1964, the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
Visiting Horseshoe Bend National Military Park:
The park contains a 3-mile loop road through the battlefield and a 2.8-mile nature trail through the battlefield that begins at the overlook parking lot.
Address: 11288 Horseshoe Bend Rd., Daviston, AL 36256. The Visitors Center is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the tour road is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Horseshoe Bend National Military Park is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
This Saturday, Oct. 29, the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park will host an early-morning bird walk. The walk will begin at 8 a.m. at the “Battlefield Overlook,” with a one-mile bird and habitat walk through the park. This is a free event and no registration is required. The bird walk will be canceled if it is raining. For more information, call 256-234-7111.