A major turning point during the Battle of Horseshoe Bend was the burning of the village of Tohopeka, an Upper Creek fort that was built at a bend in the Tallapoosa River. General Andrew Jackson instructed General John Coffee to lead his forces to the outside of the river and surround the village, giving his men the ability to attack Creek Red Stick warriors that would use the river as an escape route. As the battle raged, Coffee's men could only wait. Sensing that the battle would be over, members of the Cherokee Nation, allied to the United States, saw an opportunity to cross the Tallapoosa River. Wanting to be a part of the battle and prove themselves to the United States, members led by Cherokee Warrior Whale
swam across the river and began to ferry men across using canoes left by the Red Sticks for escape. Whale then lead members into the village; the burning of the village signaled to General Jackson that the Red Stick defenses were weakened and ordered a full attack of the wooden barricade that obstructed American forces. After the war President James Madison commissioned a ceremonial rifle to be presented to Whale for the "valor and heroism" demonstrated during the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Two rifles were ultimately built for Whale, but it is unknown which, if any, he received.