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Josiah Francis, also called Francis the Prophet, native name Hillis Hadjo ("crazy-brave medicine")[3] (c. 1770–1818), was "a charismatic religious leader"[4]:5 of the Red Stick Creek Indians. According to the historian Frank Owsley, he became "the most ardent advocate of war against the white man, as he believed in the supremacy of the Creek culture over that of the whites".[5]:273 He traveled to London as a representative of several related tribal groups, unsuccessfully seeking English support against the expansionism of the United States, then was captured and hanged by General Andrew Jackson shortly after his return to Spanish Florida.

Josiah Francis
Hillis Hadjo
Red Stick Creek leader
In office
Preceded byNone
Succeeded byNone
Traveled to England as representative of the Indian Nations (Creek and three other local tribes)
Personal details
Hillis Hadjo

1770 (1770)
near Montgomery, Alabama
DiedApril 9, 1818 (aged 47–48)[1]
Fort San Marcos de Apalache
Cause of deathHanging
Resting placeSan Marcos de Apalache
Political partyRed Stick Creeks
Spouse(s)Hannah Moniac
RelationsDavid Moniac, Alexander McGillivray
ChildrenPolly,[2]:90 Milly, Earle
ParentsEuropean-American father, Creek mother
EducationIlliterate. Sought education in England for his son.
Military service
Nickname(s)Francis the Prophet
Battles/warsBattle of Burnt Corn, Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814)
An ally of his was Neamathla.



His native name has been written with a variety of spellings in English: Hilis,[6] Hildis,[5]:273 and Hidlis.[5]:285 His last name is found as Hadgo, Hadsho, and Haya.[7]:399 There are also combined forms found, such as Hillishago[7]:399[6] and Hillishager.[8][6] "The English always referred to him as Hidlis Hadjo."[5]:289 In a letter, Andrew Jackson called him "Hillishageer".[8]

Parents and early lifeEdit

Francis was a métis, with a white father and Creek mother. The Creek mother herself might be a métis, as much intermingling of white and Creek took place. White husbands were valued; there was no stigma and no stated view that a Creek woman should take a Creek husband. As was normal among the matrilineal Creeks, because of his Creek mother Francis was accepted as a member of their tribe or nation.[9]:253–254 Francis and others like him became military leaders, passionate defenders of the Creek cause, apparently to demonstrate their legitimacy to the full-blooded Creek. Francis refused to wear white man's clothing during his visit to New Orleans.[5]:283

He was a trader and metal artisan, the latter skill learned from his father, David Francis,[6] a South Carolina frontier blacksmith and silversmith.[3] He "lived among the Alabama and Coushatta people near the point where the Cousa and Tallapoosa Rivers joined to form the Alabama",[4]:5 near modern Montgomery, Alabama. Little is known about his mother or his childhood.[5]:273

He was married to Hannah Moniac, half-sister of William Weatherford[10] and aunt of David Moniac, the first Native American to graduate from the U. S. Military Academy at West Point. David's father and Hannah's half-brother was "the prosperous and well-known Creek businessman Samuel Moniac. She was a relative of Creek leader Alexander McGillivray,"[4]:5 who led the faction of "southern" Creeks that were more receptive to U.S. civilization.

The influence of Tecumseh and SeekabooEdit

Tecumseh, a leader from further north, in 1811 traveled throughout the lands west of the Appalachian mountains; settlement by whites was just beginning. With vague encouragement from the British, with whom he had contact in Canada, he attempted to create a pan-Indian confederation, from north to south, that could force the new Americans to remain east of the mountains.[9]:252 His greatest success was among the Creeks, to which he may have been linked through one or both of his parents. (His tribal origins are not known with certainty.) His credibility was enhanced by the New Madrid earthquakes and the Great Comet of 1811.[5]:277 Among the Creeks, his greatest influence was on Francis.[3] Although Tecumseh's visit was brief — and he was widely credited later with incendiary speeches now believed to be forgeries by whites — he left behind his partner the prophet Seekaboo (also spelled Sukaboo). One source says that he was a Shawnee,[6] another that he was probably a Creek.[5]:277 Francis had extensive conversations with him.[4]:8 "The first recorded public fact of his life is being created a prophet, which was about the latter part of 1812. It took Sukaboo, the great Shawnee prophet, ten days' work to endow Francis with prophetic powers. When this was completed, Francis was considered the greatest prophet in the Creek Nation. He himself now assumed the role of prophet-maker, [and] made many prophets."[6]

A Red Stick leaderEdit

Francis, as Prophet, was a leader of the Red Stick ("northern") faction of the Creek Indians, who opposed European expansion into their lands.[11] He "hated the white man and his culture."[5] He particularly disapproved of the husbandry of domestic animals, to the point of slaughtering his own (and burning his house) when he decided, about 1812, to give up the ways of whites.[4]:8 He began to have visions "and began to preach with the fervor of a new convert."[4]:9 He founded a new village, Holy Ground, on a bluff above the Alabama River. Opposition by the "Lower", or southern, Creeks, who favored accommodation to the whites led to civil war,[12] without a clear victor.

Francis, who was called later "the principal instigator of this [ Creek ] war",[13]:41 led the attack on Fort Sinquefield, killing at least 13, two days after his Red Stick allies Peter McQueen and William Weatherford attacked Fort Mims, in which over 250 men, women, and children were slain.[4]:10 The U.S. response did not take long in arriving, additional troops having been assembled. The U.S won a decisive victory over the Creeks in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814).

Francis and some 1000 other Red Sticks and their allies fled to north Florida, into the semi-wilderness of the Florida panhandle, where they soon aligned with British forces (which openly recruited Indian allies) and became known as Seminoles.[3] At the center of the wilderness was the strong new fort at Prospect Bluff, where Francis and Peter McQueen both wore British uniforms.[14]:49 It was built by the British after their defeats at the Battle of New Orleans and the Battle of Pensacola (1814) and intended as a base for operations against the southern United States. There were so many Creek refugees there — "virtually the entire surviving population of Redsticks"[9]:276 — that famine was a real concern; the British were unprepared for this number of refugees.[15]:42 No food was available for purchase, and crops couldn't be raised without months of delay. Food had to be brought in from other British posts.

Trip to EnglandEdit

When Colonel Edward Nicolls, the commander at Prospect Bluff, was returning to England, after the end of the War of 1812 in February 2015, he took Francis with him, as Francis insisted on (and Nicolls discouraged). Before leaving, Francis disposed of the eight slaves he had, probably the same eight his daughter later claimed.[2]:137 The purpose was to get British agreement to the Treaty of Nicolls' Outpost, which Nicolls, on his own initiative and without authorization — in fact, the British knew nothing of it until Nicolls and Francis arrived in England[5]:286 —, had negotiated between the Creek Indians and the British Crown. The Treaty recognized the Native Americans as subjects of the Crown, that is, as British citizens. Francis took his son Earle with him, hoping the son could stay and get some education.[9]:254 A fascinating document that has just come to light (a listing of crown expenditures on Francis's behalf) reveals that besides his son, he was accompanied by a servant and an interpreter.[7] (This conflicts with reports elsewhere that Francis was fluent in English and Spanish,[5]:289 as well as "Alabama" and "Muscogee".[2]:2)

Arriving in England on August 14, 1815,[5]:286 he stayed with Colonel Nicolls at his home near Eltham, Kent (near London).[2]:61 "Nicolls found it necessary to support the Indians [Francis and his son Earle] from his own funds, even to the point of buying them winter clothes."[5]:286 Francis, whom the English wanted to keep in England to avoid his stirring up trouble at home, was not allowed to leave for home until December 30, 1816.[5]:287 Earle remained in England, and Col. Nicolls "made several requests for a British subsidy for the boy's keep and education, but his requests were to no avail. There is no record as to what ultimately happened to the boy.".[5]:287

The government representative in charge of American policy, Earl Bathurst, refused to see him until a year had gone by, and the meeting was to tell Francis there would be no aid from England and the Creeks should make peace with the Americans.[5]:286 Nicolls was chastised for exceeding his authority;[7]:407 he was posted, apparently as punishment, to remote Ascension Island, and later to Fernando Po. Bathurst gave Francis "a brace of pistols",[7] an (honorary) commission as a brigadier general,[13]:401 and sent him home, but not without Francis meeting several prominent people, the story of which has not been written. A hint of it is in this report in the American press:

We see a pompous account of a ball given on board a Russian frigate lying off Woolwich, (Eng.) on the anniversary of the emperor's birth-— we notice it on account of the following paragraph: "The double sound of a trumpet announced the arrival of the patriot Francis, who fought so gloriously in our [British] cause in America: he was dressed in a most splendid suit of red and gold, and by his side he wore a tomahawk, mounted in gold, presented to him by the prince regent; he appeared much delighted with the appearance of the frigate." We suppose this "patriot Francis" is a savage.[16]:46

His shoulder bag, no doubt "traded" for something much more refined, is in the British Museum.[17] Also in the British Museum are "a long hunting shirt of deer skin, moccasins, leggings and a belt".[2]:3 The following spring he received £200 of "clothing and agricultural implements", of which a list has survived.[15]:94–95[7]:404

Hanging by Andrew JacksonEdit

Francis arrived at Nassau, Bahamas in January 1817, where the governor, by order of Lord Bathurst, gave him another £100 in cash. He returned to Florida in 1817 to settle at his new home on the Wakulla River, near the fort San Marcos de Apalache (modern St. Marks, Florida). His daughter Milly Francis in 1818 famously rescued a U.S. soldier, Douglas McCrimmon, who had been captured by the Indians, a story which received national newspaper publicity. After his release, McCrimmon told General Andrew Jackson in person (Jackson was on a ship off St. Marks) that Francis was nearby. Jackson lured Francis aboard the U.S. schooner Thomas Shields by falsely flying a British flag.[1] He was placed in irons and immediately hung at St. Marks by Jackson, without a court-martial or any other legal proceeding,[7]:408 in sharp contrast with the "court of inquiry" he set up in the Arbuthnot and Ambrister incident.[15]:242[18][13]:402 His daughter witnessed his hanging, and unsurprisingly turned down McCrimmon's later offer of marriage, possibly as a result of the betrayal.


  1. ^ a b Jackson, Andrew (June 13, 1818). "Letter to an unknown recipient, April 9, 1818". Niles Weekly Register. p. 270.
  2. ^ a b c d e Cox, Dale (2013). Brininstool, Savannah (ed.). Milly Francis. The Life & Times of the Creek Pocahontas. ISBN 9780615894058. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d National Park Service. "Josiah Francis". Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Cox, Dale; Conrad, Rachael (2017). Fowltown. Neamathla, Tutakosi Talofa & the first battle of the Seminoles Wars. Old Kitchen Books. ISBN 9780692977880.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Owsley, Frank (Summer 1985). "Prophet of War: Josiah Francis and the Creek War". American Indian Quarterly. 9 (3): 273–293. JSTOR 1183830.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Owen, Thomas McAdory (1921). History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. 2. p. 744.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Francis, Graham; Samkin, Grant (2014). "Accounting artifacts as a means of augmenting knowledge of the past: The case of Chief Hillis Hadjo and Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Nicolls". Accounting History. 19 (3). pp. 399–415. doi:10.1177/1032373214535516.
  8. ^ a b Hodge, Frederick Webb (1912). Handbook of American Indians north of Mexico. 1. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology. p. 118.
  9. ^ a b c d Saunt, Claudio (1999). A New Order of Things. Property, Prince, and the Transformation of the Creek Indians, 1733–1816. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521660432.
  10. ^ Ramsey, Sharman Burson (2013). "People of the Creek War". Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  11. ^ Daniel S. Murphree (9 March 2012). Native America: A State-by-State Historical Encyclopedia [3 volumes]: A State-by-State Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 244. ISBN 978-0-313-38127-0.
  12. ^ H. S. Halbert; T. H. Ball (1895). Frank L. Owsley (ed.). The Creek War of 1813 and 1814 (1995 supplemented reprint ed.). University of Alabama Press. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-8173-0775-2.
  13. ^ a b c Frost, John (1860). Pictorial History of Andrew Jackson. Belknap and Hamersley. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  14. ^ Heidler, David S.; Heidler, Jeanne T. (2003). Old Hickory's War. Andrew Jackson and the Quest for Empire. Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0807128678.
  15. ^ a b c Millett, Nathaniel (2013). The Maroons of Prospect Bluff and Their Quest for Freedom in the Atlantic World. University Press of Florida. ISBN 9780813044545.
  16. ^ Warriner, Solomon (March 15, 1816). "Foreign Articles". Niles' Weekly Register. 12. p. 46.
  17. ^ Johnson, Michael G. (September–October 2010). "Beaded cloth shoulder bags: bandoliers of the Southeast". Whispering Wind. 39 (4): 4+.
  18. ^ Rosen, Deborah A. (2008). "Wartime prisoners and the rule of law: Andrew Jackson's Military Tribunals during the First Seminole War". Journal of the Early Republic. 28 (4): 559+. Retrieved March 29, 2018.