Milly Francis, The Creek Pocahontas - Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma
Milly Francis, The Creek Pocahontas - Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma
Milly Francis in Oklahoma
This monument to the Creek
Pocahontas stands near her
burial site at Bacone College
in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Milly Francis in Florida
A monument to Milly Francis
can be found on the grounds
of San Marcos de Apalache
Historic State Park in St.
Milly Francis - The Creek Pocahontas
|Milly Francis and Duncan McCrimmon
The young Creek Pocahontas pleads for the life of
Georgia militiaman Duncan McCrimmon in this
stylized 19th century engraving.
An Act of Mercy in a Time of War
In March of 1818, a remarkable incident took
place on the banks of the Wakulla River in
what is now Wakulla County, Florida.
A young Native American woman named Milly
Francis, the daughter of a Creek prophet,
saved the life of a Georgia militiaman named
Duncan McCrimmon. The First Seminole
War was then at its height and her act of
courage captivated the nation. Within weeks
she had rightfully been labeled "a new
One of the most remarkable women of her
time, Milly Francis was born in the Upper
Creek villages of Alabama in around 1803.
Although some writers have speculated that
her name was really Malee, a Creek word,
there is no evidence that this was the case.
Milly's father, Josiah Francis, gave all of his
children English names and there is no
reason to suppose that he did any different in
Josiah Francis is better remembered as the
Prophet Francis or Hillis Hadjo, the religious
leader of the Red Stick movement in the
Creek Nation. His teachings played a critical
role in the outbreak of the Creek War of
1813-1814 and he led warriors against three
white armies during that conflict.
When Andrew Jackson finally overwhelmed
the Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend
on March 27, 1814, the Prophet fled to Florida
with his family and surviving followers.
Armed and reinforced by the British, they
continued to fight against Jackson and his
soldiers until the end of the War of 1812.
Homeless and hungry, Francis' followers
(including Milly, her mother and sister)
settled on the Wakulla River, built new
homes and planted corn while the Prophet
went to England to plead the case of his
people with leaders there.
When he returned in 1817, Francis found that
the fighting was far from over. A series of
incidents that fall led to the outbreak of the
First Seminole War, sparked when U.S.
troops attacked the Creek village of Fowltown
near today's Bainbridge, Georgia.
Francis and his followers joined the conflict
and took part in several battles, although he
remained hopeful that the British would
intervene to save the Creeks and their
Ordered to the frontier, Andrew Jackson
invaded Florida in March of 1818 and
occupied the former site of a British post on
the Apalachicola River where he built a new
work named Fort Gadsden. It was here,
sometime in March, that a soldier from the
Georgia militia wandered from camp and
was captured by warriors loyal to the Prophet.
A resident of Milledgeville, Georgia, Duncan
McCrimmon (sometimes spelled McRimmon
or McKrimmon) was a member of a Scottish
family that had settled in Georgia over the
Taken to the Prophet's village on the Wakulla,
he was interrogated for information on the
strength and intentions of Jackson's army.
His captors then prepared to execute him.
One of the warriors responsible for capturing
McCrimmon had suffered the loss of two
sisters in the Creek War. Under the laws of
the nation, he was expected to retaliate for
their deaths by taking the lives of those
responsible. As a soldier, McCrimmon was
an acceptable target for the warrior's revenge.
When Milly realized what was happening,
she pleaded with her father to save the young
man's life. The Prophet explained that under
Creek law the decision was beyond his
authority. He told Milly that McCrimmon's fate
was in the hands of his captor, but also
suggested that she speak with that warrior.
She did so and by her entreaties convinced
the warrior that killing McCrimmon would
serve no purpose. The young man's death,
she said, would not bring the warrior's
sisters back to life. Moved by her reasoning,
he relented and agreed to spare the life of
the young soldier.
McCrimmon was turned over to the Spanish
at San Marcos de Apalache (Fort St. Marks)
and was rescued by U.S. forces just days
later. Milly's father was not so lucky.
Captured when he went aboard the USS
Thomas Shields, a U.S. Navy warship that
had appeared off St. Marks, the Prophet
Francis was turned over to the American
army. Andrew Jackson had seized the fort of
San Marcos from its Spanish garrison.
Sent ashore by the sailors who had thrown
them in irons, Francis and a second Red
Stick chief - Homathlemico - were hanged
without trial just outside the gate of the fort.
Milly watched as her father died. Jackson,
however, was in his tent when the Prophet
was killed and did not watch as his orders
were carried out.
Ordered to Fort Gadsden to be supplied for
their return to the Creek Nation in Alabama,
Milly walked across today's Apalachicola
National Forest with her mother and sister.
They took with them only what they could
carry on their backs.
By the time they arrived there, the story of how
she had rescued Duncan McCrimmon was
spreading from newspaper to newspaper
across the United States. Milly was hailed by
newspaper editors as a "New Pocahontas"
and people far and wide sent money to help
her family survive its desperate situation.
Having already returned to his home near
Milledgeville, McCrimmon was entrusted with
these funds and carried them with him as he
went back down to Fort Gadsden. Readers
across the nation waited with anticipation to
learn the results of his plan to propose
marriage to the woman who had saved his
Milly, however, declined the offer, explaining
that she had acted from feelings of humanity
alone. A Florida legend that she married
McKrimmon and raised a family on the
Suwannee River is just that, a legend.
In reality, Milly returned to the Creek Nation
with her mother and sister. She eventually
married a Creek warrior, but he died of fever
in 1836 while serving with the Creek Brigade
against the Seminoles in Florida.
Milly Francis walked the Trail of Tears as a
member of Tuckabatchee Hadjo's party.
Eyewitnesses described seeing her pas
through Little Rock, Arkansas, in November
of 1838. She arrived at Fort Gibson in
present-day Oklahoma in January of 1838
and soon settled with her children in a
dirt-floored log cabin at the site of today's
Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
She was living there in abject poverty five
years later when Lt. Col. Ethan Allen
Hitchcock met her and heard the true story of
the Pocahontas incident from her own lips.
Moved by her situation, he wrote to the War
Department to ask that something be done to
relive her suffering.
After a two year debate, the U.S. Congress in
1844 approved a bill that gave a pension of
$96 per year for the "Milly, a Creek woman."
The act also awarded a special "medal of
honor" to Milly Francis for saving the life of
Duncan McCrimmon. Many people consider
Milly Francis to have been the first woman
ever to receive a Congressional Medal of
Honor, although she is not included on the
master list of recipients. The medal as we
know it today was not created until the Civil
Sadly, Milly Francis died of tuberculosis in
Oklahoma before ever receiving either her
pension or the medal that was struck in her
honor. A monument noting the site of her
grave was funded by the students of Bacone
College during the 1930s and can be seen
on the campus today.
A second monument was placed on the
grounds of San Marcos de Apalache Historic
State Park by the Daughters of the American
Revolution. A historical marker at Fort
Gadsden Historic Site also tells her story.
To learn more about the life of Milly Francis,
please consider the book:
San Marcos de Apalache
Called Fort St. Marks by the
Americans, this old Spanish
fort in Florida was the scene
of the execution of the Prophet
"The Rescue of M'Krimmon"
This engraving was one of a
number of similar pictures
that appeared in American
history books of the 19th and
early 20th centuries.
|Copyright 2011 & 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: January 11, 2014
Fort Gadsden Historic Site
McCrimmon left this U.S. fort
to fish in nearby creeks. It is
now a preserved historic site
in the Apalachicola National
Holy Ground Battlefield Park
Milly was a young girl when
U.S. troops attacked her town
of Holy Ground in December
1813. A park on the Alabama
River commemorates the
Fort Gibson Historic Site
The fort that marked the end
of the Trail of Tears for Milly
Francis and thousands of
other Creeks has been
reconstructed in Oklahoma.
The Creek War of 1813-1814