David Moniac: The Clarke County Farmer Who Was The First Indian West Point Graduate
Contributed by: David A. Bagwell
There haven't been many Clarke County farmers quite like David Moniac, the first so-called "non-white" to graduate from West Point. 1. David's Ancestry. If the Indians had a genealogical registry, then they would have "had the papers on" David Moniac. He was twice kin to Red Eagle [his mother was Elizabeth ("Betsy") Weatherford, Red Eagle's sister; his father Sam Moniac was the brother of William Weatherford's first wife, Mary Moniac.] David's mother Elizabeth ("Betsy") Weatherford was the daughter of the famous "Princess of the Wind" Sehoy III and of Charles Weatherford, and David's grandmother Sehoy III is buried next to Red Eagle at Brickyard Lake in Baldwin County. David's maternal grandmother was Sehoy II, also a Princess of the Wind tribe of the Creek, and of her third husband, a Tuckabatchee chief (the second husband of Sehoy II was the Scotch Indian trader Lachlan McGillivray, by whom she bore the famous Alexander McGillivray in 1750). David's maternal great-grandmother was Sehoy I, also "Princess of the Wind" tribe of Creek, who was married to the French Commander of Ft. Toulouse, Captain Marchand. David's father was Sam Moniac [pronounced "Manack"], a Creek chief, son of the Dutchman William Dixon Moniac and of Polly Colbert, a Tuskeegee, who was herself daughter of William Colbert, a Chickasaw chief, for whom Colbert Shoals and Colbert County on the Tennessee River are named. It would take some time to do an exact calculation, but all that probably makes David Moniac about half Indian, and about half white, roughly typical of the mixed bloods in the Little River area of the Alabama River. 2. David's Early Life: The Creek Indian War. David Moniac was born in Montgomery County in 1802. His father Sam Moniac operated a "stand" or "inn" on the Federal Road at Catoma [sometimes then spelled "Kittome"] Creek in Southwest Montgomery County (which is crossed by I-65 not far south of Montgomery today). When David was only a year old in 1803, his father was approached by Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins to go with a group of men to capture William Augustus Bowles, "a bizarre character". A Maryland Tory who resigned his British Army commission in Pensacola in 1778 to live among the Creeks, Bowles proclaimed himself "Director General" of the Creeks, and contended against Alexander McGillivray and others for Creek influence. Bowles travelled with sixty body guards, and despite a $4,500 reward put up by Vicente Folch, the Spanish Governor at Pensacola, "no Indian attempted to win the award" until Moniac and his group did. They traced Bowles to an Indian Council in May of 1803 at Hickory Ground. When Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins announced he had come to arrest Bowles, the Bowles supporters showed signs of resistance. Nevertheless, Hawkins told Red Eagle and Sam Moniac to arrest Bowles, and "to the sound of scores of rifles clicking to the cocked position", Moniac and Red Eagle, with reckless courage, seized Bowles, spirited him out of the most sacred spot in Indian territory, and put him in a pirogue and paddled down the Alabama River. Four nights later, camping on an island near Salem, Bowles stole the boat and escaped, but they caught him in the cane across the River, took him to Pensacola and delivered Bowles to Spanish Governor Folch, who handed over the $4,500 reward, and put Bowles on a succession of ships which landed him in New Orleans and on to Cuba, where he died in a military hospital. When David was only ten, there was a famous and provocative murder near the Moniac's Inn, one of several "widely reported murders of whites by Indians" in the Spring of 1812. Thomas Meredith, Sr., "a respectable old man", was travelling with his family to the Mississippi Territory, when he was killed by Maumouth, and old Autossee (Creek) chief and some other Indians. David's father Sam Moniac called the killing an accident, but Meredith's son, an eyewitness, called it murder whilst the Indians were "in liquor". Problems with the Creeks got worse and worse. Indian "prophets" like Josiah Francis began to stir up the Creeks toward war in the 1812-1813 period, and young David Moniac -- then eleven -- was most likely witness to a scene of high drama. David's father Sam Moniac and Sam's brother-in-law William Weatherford returned from a cattle trading expedition in Mississippi in early summer of 1813, and at Tallewassee Creek near Red Eagle's plantation, the families of Moniac and Red Eagle were assembled (probably as hostages) with Red Stick chiefs and prophets taking "the black drink". The Red Stick leaders included Peter McQueen, High-Headed Jim, and the Prophet Josiah Francis, husband of Sam Moniac's half-sister Hannah Moniac. These Red Sticks told Sam Moniac and Red Eagle that unless they joined the Red Sticks, they would immediately be put to death in front of their families. Weatherford stayed. Sam Moniac, however, refused and mounted his horse to run away. His brother-in-law the Prophet Josiah Francis grabbed his bridle, but Sam Moniac snatched Josiah Francis' war club and clubbed him hard, riding off in a shower of rifle bullets. From that point Red Eagle fought with the Red Sticks, and Sam Moniac with the whites. On July 26, 1813, after the massacre of the whites at Burnt Corn Creek on the Road to Pensacola, General Claiborne asked Sam Moniac, Dixon Bailey, and David Tate to lead parties in searching for the stragglers or remains of the white troops, and after fifteen days, found Col. Caller and Major Wood lost and delirious in the woods. Even more celebrated, of course, is that Sam Moniac was on December 23, 1813 guiding General Claiborne at Holy Ground. Red Eagle in later years said that his brother-in-law Sam Moniac, guiding Claiborne, spotted Red Eagle on his horse "Arrow", apparently their first encounter since Moniac rode from the Red Sticks in a hail of bullets six months earlier, while Red Eagle stayed. Moniac and Claiborne thought they saw Red Eagle jump Arrow off the high bluff into the river, but Red Eagle in later years apparently told the story both with and without the famous jump. 3. David's West Point Career. In 1816, at the ripe age of fourteen, young David Moniac was the first so-called "non-white" to be appointed to West Point. He went to Washington to learn to read and write under Irish tutor John McLeod, and entered West Point on September 18, 1817 at age fifteen. He graduated 39th in a class of 40 on July 1, 1822, and was commissioned brevet Second Lieutenant in the Sixth Infantry. After six months of leave, on December 31, 1822 David Moniac resigned his Commission. Apparently Sam Moniac had been drinking heavily, and had lost much of his property and had fled into the Creek nation to seek immunity from further collection. Moniac's mother Elizabeth ("Betsy") Weatherford, had managed to hold onto her property, and Moniac's uncle David Tate wrote David Moniac to come home and take care of his affairs. David Moniac resigned his commission, returned home, acquired property, built a home, farmed cotton, and raised thoroughbred racehorses. 4. David Moniac's Property. We need more research on where David Moniac's home was. In 1836, just before rejoining the Army to go to the Seminole War, he conveyed land in the north half of Section 19, Township 4 North, Range 3 East to his aunt Margaret Dyer Tate, David Tate's wife. The general area is North and East of Driesbach Lake and south and west of a now dead lake, then a bend in the Alabama River, on the Clarke County side, across from Baldwin County, a bit downstream from Little River. Thompson's excellent work said that David Moniac's plantation was the property formerly owned by Lachlan and (later) Alexander McGillivray and, indeed, David Moniac was the great-grandson of Lachlan McGillivray, and it may well have been the case. In any event, the 1836 deed from Moniac to Margaret Tate recites "which lands my plantation is and has been on for years". Most of that conveyance is on the Clarke County side and part on the Baldwin County side of the  River (and, indeed, the finger of the bend, now in a dead lake, is still in Baldwin County). David Moniac's property was later occupied by the family of James D. Driesbach, who was married to David Tate's daughter Josephine Bonaparte Tate, and the Driesbach family thus lent their name to "Driesbach Lake" near the old David Moniac plantation. Driesbach, who apparently served in the U.S. Senate, wrote an early historical work on Red Eagle. In August of 1814, just after the Creek Indian War was over, Andrew Jackson and five hundred men from the regular army, went down the Alabama River. On Jackson's boat went Major Horace Tatum of Nashville, Jackson's topographical engineer. Judge Peter Hamilton, writing in 1897 and 1910, and apparently having access to major Tatum's notes, wrote of major Tatum that "[t]o him we are indebted for a full survey of the Alabama River, noting distances, courses, and natural features, the more interesting as it is the first known". Judge Hamilton notes that below Claiborne: On the 19th, they passed other improvements, -- on the left that of Sizemore, a white man who married [Dixon] Bailey's sister, then on the right the plantation of the half-breed Mrs. Dyer, also a small improvement on handsome Choctaw Bluff, and those of the friendly half-breed Sam Moniac on both sides, a mile below Little River .
This description easily fits the lands conveyed by Sam's son David in 1836, twenty-two years after Major Tatum's notes, which lands were on both sides of the river a mile down from Little River, but mostly in Clarke County. On the other hand, Lynn Hastie Thompson's excellent work on William Weatherford says that David Moniac's house was on the Baldwin County side of the Alabama River, was built in the 1830's, and still stands. Whether he lived in Baldwin and simply farmed in Clarke, or had houses in both counties, or just exactly what, cannot be told for sure at this point. 5. Death of David Moniac. Mary Moniac's father William T. Powell was a relative of Osceola, and David (perhaps surprisingly in the light of that) joined the whites in the Creek uprising of 1836, being commissioned (the only Indian commissioned) a captain in the Creek regiment of volunteers on August 17, 1836, and was promoted to major. While leading a charge across Wahoo Swamp in Florida he was shot and sank in a stream, and was buried in an unmarked grave near the scene, ending the military career (and life) of the first Indian graduate of West Point, a Clarke County farmer.
Last Update Wednesday, 10-Aug-2011 15:58:11 EDT
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