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Brig. Gen. Ferdinand L. Claiborne of the Mississippi territorial militia was in charge of military affairs in the region and divided his forces to garrison the frontier outposts. He sent Maj. Daniel Beasley and 170 men of the 1st Mississippi Volunteers to defend the Fort Mims area. Maj. Beasley posted 120 men, mostly Louisianians, in Fort Mims and scattered the balance among other smaller area posts including 40 soldiers stationed at Fort Pierce located on Pine Log Creek about two miles south of Fort Mims.

Maj. Beasley had no military experience and was a lawyer in the territory's Jefferson County when Gen. Claiborne, a close personal friend, used his influence to have him appointed a militia major in February 1813. Beasley had been at Fort Mims only a few days when Gen. Claiborne inspected the post on August 7, 1813, and recommended that at least two and possibly three additional blockhouses be built. "To respect our Enemy, and to prepare in the best possible way to meet him, is the certain means to ensure success", Gen. Claiborne wrote in orders to Beasley after the inspection.

However, Maj. Beasley was slow to strengthen Fort Mims' defenses, apparently believing there was no danger of imminent attack. The defenders did however, construct a second defensive wall a few yards inside the stockade and facing the main gate on the east side of the fort. "We are perfectly tranquil here" Maj. Beasley wrote Gen. Claiborne on August 12, 1813, "and are progressing in our works as well as can be expected considering the want of tools. We shall probably finish the Stockade tomorrow."

On August 13, 1813, about 50 of Beasley's men at Fort Mims were sent to Mount Vernon, a cantonment on the Mobile River a few miles west of the fort. "It is with regret that I send them as it weakens my command very much," Maj. Beasley wrote to Gen. Claiborne, who had ordered the movement. Yet the loss of these troops, which left Beasley with only 70 militiamen in addition to the volunteers among the settlers, did not cause the Major to hasten work on the fort's defenses.

Adding to Beasley's tranquility were reports - supplied by supposedly friendly Indians and believed by militia leaders, including Gen. Claiborne - that the Creeks were massing for an attack on Fort Easley, located on the Tombigbee River about 30 miles northwest of Fort Mims. Maj. Beasley's post seemed to be out of immediate danger.

On August 24, 1813, Gen. Claiborne led about 80 men to reinforce Fort Easley, writing that if the Creeks attacked there he would "give a good account of them". Whether the hostile Creeks intentionally mislead the militia leaders in order to divert reinforcements from Fort Mims is a question that may never be answered.

The hostile Creek Indians, known as Red Sticks, learned of the weakness of the Fort Mims' garrison from their scouts and gathered from 750 to 1000 warriors for an attack on the pioneer stronghold and Fort Pierce. A half-breed prophet, Paddy Welsh, was chosen to lead the assault, but William Weatherford, also know as Chief Red Eagle, was instrumental in planning the attack.

By August 29, 1813, Welsh and Weatherford had hidden their main force in the woods and tall grass about six miles from the unsuspecting outpost, where soldiers and settlers were enjoying a supply of whiskey that had arrived that day. Sometime during the day, two young salves tending cattle outside the stockade were startled to see war-painted Creeks in the forest near the fort. They hurried back to the fort and informed Maj. Beasley. He quickly ordered a mounted patrol of about 10 men to check out the sighting.

Two of these scouts apparently rode within 300 yards of the Creek attack force without seeing the concealed warriors. Indian accounts stated that two of the militiamen, talking between themselves, passed along a road leading to the fort with the Creeks watching from the brush. Since the patrol reported no Indian activity in the area, Maj. Beasley ordered the slaves to be whipped for bringing false information and took no other defensive precautions.

By nightfall of August 29, 1813, the Creeks had advanced to within one mile of the unsuspecting fort. During the night, Weatherford and two warriors silently crawled up to the walls and peered through the fort's firing ports (loopholes) which were cut into the palisade timbers about four feet from the ground. The sentries were playing cards and evidently never saw them.