I am a bit behind on updating my blog. But I wanted to write about Fort Bowyer.
200 years ago, on September 15, 1814, a battle at Fort Bowyer had a significant impact in the Battle of New Orleans a few months later. It also involved several hundred Creeks / Seminoles. We reenacted this event last month on the same site where the fort once stood. Now in its place is Fort Morgan, finished in 1834.
Below, your cruise to commemorate the Battle of Fort Bowyer last month, around Mobile Point and throwing a wreath in the water near where the HMS Hermes was destroyed.
With the War of 1812, we need to get a look at the overall strategy and campaigns to get an idea what was happening. There was a humorous video on Youtube a few years ago where it is asked, “What happened during this time? Wikipedia had nothing!”
Well, I will explain part of it. Just a small part. There is a lot that went on, so I will just stick with the Gulf campaign.
For the southern part of the United States, the British wanted to secure the borders and push back the Americans from the western territory. They did not recognize the legitimacy of the Louisiana Purchase, which was an illegal sale by Napoleon, who the British just defeated and ended the French empire in Europe. If they captured New Orleans, they could essentially control the Mississippi and force the Americans into concessions, or even back into British control. NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) was a city with multiple ethnic groups, political factions, and nationalities, the weakest being the Americans; so the British believed that once in the city, they could easily control it.
Getting into New Orleans was the difficult part, because it was not conveniently on the gulf coast, but about 60 miles upriver, past narrow waterways and swamps. This created a natural defense for the city that prevented a large naval attack. So the British Plan A was to surround the city by land, and bring up the naval force from the Gulf.
For the British to surround NOLA by land, they would first have to control and occupy Mobile, and then go over land to New Orleans. Originally under Spanish West Florida, the Americans considered Mobile part of the Louisiana Purchase, and just walked in and forced the Spanish authorities to leave about a year and a half earlier, in 1813.
The Americans had a small earthwork fort to defend the entrance of Mobile Bay, Fort Bowyer. After General Andrew Jackson defeated the Red Sticks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend forced the Creeks into the Treaty of Fort Jackson, he came to Mobile and had Fort Bowyer reinforced under the command of Colonel William Lawrence of the 2nd Artillery.
So the British came to take Mobile, but with a plan that was totally unrealistic. They underestimated the ships that they would need, and were working with poor intelligence of the situation that they would face. Included with the British force was 4 ships, several hundred British Marines, and about 180 disgruntled Red Stick Creeks, or as other accounts say, Seminole and Miccosukee Indians.
The Two cannons on the back side of the fort kept the Marines and their Creek warrior allies behind the sand dunes and away from the Fort.
British intelligence of the depth of the entrance around Mobile Point and into Mobile Bay did not know how shallow it actually was around the point. So the ship HMS Hermes ran aground and got stuck right under the American guns of the fort, who fired on the ship and lit it on fire, which burned down to the gunpowder magazine and exploded, destroying the ship. Wounded on the Hermes was Col. Nicholls, who was head of the British efforts to recruit the southern Indians, and who lost and eye on the ship. The burning ship also prevent the other three ships from entering Mobile Bay. So the British were pinned down and could not proceed to Mobile. The Brits returned to Spanish Pensacola, which they were using as a base of operations.
General Jackson soon followed the Brits back to Spanish Pensacola and took the town, driving out the Native American allies and the British garrison. The Spanish protested, but offered almost no resistance, and seemed a little relieved. As occupiers, the Brits had looted Pensacola and taken away all the Spanish slaves for their soldiers. The Spaniards were much relieved when Jackson ordered that no looting occur, and seemed a more benevolent occupier.
Because of this small American victory of the Battle of Fort Bowyer at Mobile Point, the British were denied a land route to New Orleans, and went to Plan B, which was a total amphibious operation to attack NOLA. That is the campaign and battles of December 23rd, 1814 to the final battle on January 8, 1815, which we are getting ready to reenact as part of the Battle of New Orleans Bicentennial celebration.
But because the British lost their chance at Fort Bowyer, it led to their downfall at New Orleans three and a half months later.
Although the British were defeated by Jackson on January 8th, they were not finished, and were going to try again, but this time back to Plan A. This time with 33 ships and thousands of soldiers, they forced Fort Bowyer to surrender in February 1815. Then they heard that the Treaty of Ghent had been signed, all forces stood down until they received further orders and directions what to do. So the beginning and ending of the New Orleans campaign happened at Fort Bowyer, between September 1814 to February 1815.
One important result of the September 1814 battle at Fort Bowyer, was a change in attitude towards the British and their Native American allies. The Creeks/Seminoles/Miccosukees were not so willing to throw themselves against the American cannons and fort, and give away their lives so easily in the cause for the Crown. The Brits recognized this and realized the Native Americans would not be as reliable, expendable allies as they had hoped. After this point, the Brits ended serious support to the tribes. The British did leave behind about 3,000 arms and a large amount of gunpowder supply at Negro Fort at Prospect Bluff, but withdrew their British soldiers from there and at a small fort south on the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers that forms the Apalachicola, known as Nicholls Fort, or Fort Apalachicola. Just as they pretty much abandoned Tecumseh and the Shawnee the previous year.
These actions also led to later events like the destruction of Negro Fort in 1816, which I will cover more of in the future.
Several of you have expressed interest about going to the 200th anniversary, bicentennial celebration of the Battle of New Orleans, the second week of January, 2015. That is great!
Here are some things you need to know:
This is a wholly unique event, and there will never be another event like it. This is THE GRAND EVENT for those of us who do 1812 living history! A special event encampment ground is being constructed for the event, and for future events. It is not the same location as the national park, but property purchased by the Louisiana Living History Society, St. Bernard Parish and the Meraux Foundation.
Here is the official event web page:
New Orleans 1815, hosted by the 7th U.S. Infantry Living History Association.
There is another guy with an almost identical web page out there, saying that he is making a documentary and soliciting donations. He is not with us. This is a private individual not connected with our event. We are making our own documentary, and are not asking for money, and it will be on youtube. We already have about 47 minutes of footage. You will see some of it on youtube already. It is the best damn quality that anyone will ever be able to make because it is being made by us, who know this event like we were there.
If you are a reenactor / historical interpreter coming here for the event, we are not asking to charge you for the event. There are other programs outside of the event, and banquets that do charge money, but those are optional. If you are coming to the encampment, that is fine. And we do have an optional donation page, which I will give you the link at the end.
First, and very important, is to register. It does not cost you anything to register, but register, you must do! Not registered, and you are not considered as going. NOTE THAT IT SAYS, “WALK-ONS WILL NOT BE PERMITTED.” Myself, and the illustrious Colonel Abolt have registered ourselves. We will not register you; you need to do that yourselves by going here:
Official Registration for the Bicentennial: The Battle of New Orleans, 2015
If you said on Facebook that you want to go, then that's just dandy; you still need to register at the link above. Saying it on facebook does not automatically register you.
This is different from the National Park event. If you participate at the national park, you have to register with them.
Second, keep up to date with the events that are going on. You can do this by either our facebook page here:
New Orleans 1815 Official Events Page
Or, our yahoo group for the 7th infantry at
Post a message at the above webpages if you want to ask about hotel accommodations. Book early, and expect to pay a lot! I made my reservations before the 199th this past year. There are a few places that still offer the reenactor / participant discounts. Every January I have been to New Orleans, it is usually cold and rainy. Last year included some scary lightning. So be prepared for adverse weather!
Camping on the site should be free. Some have relatives locally.
For the activities, here is what the Colonel has planned. (I’ve truncated some.)
From the Colonel:
To help you in your planning for New Orleans here is a brief outline. We will be publishing a more formalized schedule soon. You are 4 months out. Get organized now.
This is a huge deal. We have been doing the lions share to make this happen. If you are a member of this unit you need to be here. This is our story.
MON Jan 5. First day of prep at site. Camp Set up.
TUES. Jan 6. Day two of site work. Camps open for general participants.
Beginning of Carnival
Evening: British Mess Pakenham's Final Supper. Tickets $149.00
WED Jan 7. Day 3 of site work
11 a.m. Livingston's speech to the embodied militia sponsored by NPS. Location Jackson Square.
8 pm. Danny O'Flaherty Concert sponsored by 7th USILHA. FREE Location Audubon Room in the Hotel St. Marie French Quarter.
THURS JAN 8. 7th INF trooping of the Colors Chalmette Battlefield site in the morning.
Noon Daughters of 1812 memorial Jackson Square.
1:30 p.m Jordan Noble Memorial sponsored by 7th USILHA and Historic Treme. Jordan Noble was a musician in the 7th INF known as the Drummer Boy of New Orleans. He was 14 at the time of the battle. He was also the only person of Color in the regiment being a former slave from GA. Location Methodist Church in Treme about 1 mile north of French Quarter.
2 p.m Step off from Church led by Colors and Music of the 7th INF. March to St. Louis Cemetery #2 for graveside memorial. Done by 3 pm.
8 pm. Soiree at the Napoleon House sponsored by 7th USILHA SOLD OUT
FRI Jan 9.
School day at Park if anyone is interested. Grant and Tom to be at Park.
Final Set up at our battle site and camp.
Open for the public all day. Drill, Drill and more drill to prepare for:
7 p.m. Battle of DEC 23rd.
9:30 p.m. Second Line Parade through the French Quarter FREE. Sponsored by Tim Strain and Ricardo delos Reyes. Starts in front of St. Louis Cathedral and ending at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop.
SAT Jan 10
This is battle schedule only.
11 a.m. British Recon in Force of Dec 28.
1 p.m Artillery duel of Jan 1.
4 pm. British Victory on the west bank.
5:30 pm site closes.
7 p.m Grand Ball Presbytere. Located next to the Cathedral. Ticketed event sponsored by the Regency Assembly of North Carolina. Price being determined.
ALL NIGHT 11 pm to dawn Total immersion experience for all interested behind Line Jackson. Forward outposts, guard, patrols, rotating troops at the rampart etc.
SUN Jan 11
Morning TBA American Victory on the East bank.
Battle events over.
Camps can be torn down or left until Monday.
6:30 pm to? GRAND FINALE Andrew Jackson's Victory Dinner and Country Dance sponsored by 7th USILHA and Antoine's Restaurant. Tickets are $100. Five course meal with dessert. Tax and tip included. Beverages separate.
For the Grand Finale, we have been given the entire two story establishment. This is a once in a lifetime event. Find info and purchase tickets by clicking Grand Finale page at www.neworleans1815.cottonbaler.com
MON Jan 12. Final tear down of Camps.
COL A and staff collapse.
And finally, we are still in need of donations to finish the event grounds. Please see our donation page and consider donating.
New Orleans 1815 – This short and decisive campaign!
And a last word from myself: (from Chris, again.)
I have been doing living history since 1986, right after the 150th anniversary of Dade’s Battle, which got me started with it. Because of health problems I have been afflicted with these past five years, I am not planning on doing any more reenactment events after this. The past two years, I have had to cancel out of events at the last minute, because I really could not walk. So I am making my maximum effort for what may be my final event. I will not say that this will be my last event. Just that this is the last one I have planned to participate with.
The Army and Navy Chronicle, has a plethora of information on the Seminole War. The ANC was a weekly journal printed from 1835-1842. Since the big event at the time was happening in Florida, then the Florida Seminole War gets a lot of attention.
I found much information on Major Dade and his defeat. Then I found more, which led me to search elsewhere and to look up Dade’s genealogy, with some surprises.
Major Francis Langhorne Dade is the Florida version of George Armstrong Custer. He is better known for his death than anything he did with his stagnant military career. Forty years before Custer's disastrous campaign and defeat in 1876, Major Dade held the honor of most recent ambush and sound defeat by Native American Tribes.
Soldiers being defeated by Native Americans was nothing new. St. Claire's defeat in 1791 killed a thousand soldiers, and Dudley's Defeat during the War of 1812 at Fort Meigs also killed hundreds, as did the River Raisin Massacre, also during the War of 1812. Look up those incidents if you never knew about them; it's great reading!
After the War of 1812, things had changed. The Army became better disciplined regulars. Now when they were defeated and obliterated, people took notice. Which is why Major Dade's battle was news, because it was all trained regulars. And ironically 10 years earlier, Captain Dade had taken a small force and built the Fort King - Fort Brooke Road that he was later killed upon, but did not face any trouble that first time.
So with Dade's disastrous ambush and defeat, he has forever become the one we like to ridicule and mock. Seminole Tribe's Moses Jumper, Jr., has written a book of poetry, which has a poem about Dade, which basically says, "We're glad that you died!"
But, you know all of this.
What I learned in the Army & Navy Chronicle, was that there was another officer named Dade who also had an inglorious end to his military career during the 2nd Seminole War. In February 1840, Captain Townshend Dade of the 2d Dragoons, was court marshaled and separated from the service. The reason was not given, so it was most likely some juicy moral sin of a night of drinking and debauchery in St. Augustine. Townshend died the next year at age 30 and is buried in the Congressional cemetery in Washington.
I thought that this was worth investigating, because the name Townshend is a name common in the Dade family genealogy. I found the Dade Genealogy several years back in the Orlando library. They were a famous Virginia plantation family with connections to George Washington. And as most elite families of the upper class, had incestuous relationships where first cousins marrying was not uncommon.
So I wanted to find out how Captain Townshend Dade was related to the better known Major Francis Dade. What I found out was more than I bargained!
The Dade families are descended from the first Dade who came over the big pond and purchased land in Virginia known as the "Townshend Patent." Coincidentally (or not), this first Dade was also known as Major Francis Dade (1621-1663). His son, also named Francis Dade (II), (1659-1694) married Frances Townshend. So these names are common in the family.
Below: Major Dade's first cousin, General Lawrence Taliaferro Dade; a veteran of the War of 1812 and later general in the Kentucky Militia. We don't have any portrait of Major Dade, so this is the nearest I was able to find, on Wikipedia. Lawrence and Francis L. Dade were very close, went to school together, and practiced law together in Virginia briefly before the War of 1812.
Our well-known Major Francis Langhorne Dade (1792-1835) is fifth generation Dade, or the great-great-grandson of the family progenitor. First arrival, Major Francis Dade (1621-1663), had a son who was also named Francis, who had a wife named Frances. Isn't that a little confusing? But it doesn't get any better. Francis II had a son Cadwallader Dade (1693-1761), who then had a son named Townshend Dade (1760-1808), who was the father of Maj. Francis Langhorne Dade (1792-1835).
Our sinner who was court marshaled out of the Army in 1840, Capt. Townshend Dade (1810-1841) is seventh generation from the original Francis Dade, so the easiest way to say it, is that he is a distant cousin of our forlorn Maj. F.L. Dade. We do not know if he closely knew his distant grand uncle. It's a confusing line, so easier if I skip the details.
Then to my utter surprise and shock, my favorite officer of the war, who was the war historian and eyewitness who published the 800-page history of the Seminole War in 1848, Capt. John T. Sprague (1810-1878), had a daughter Josephine (1863-1939), who married into the Dade family.
Josephine Sprague married General Alexander Lucian Dade (1863-1927). But fortunately, Gen. A.L. Dade is even further removed from Maj. F.L. and Capt. T. Dade. He is Ninth generation from the original Major Francis Dade. So you have to go six or seven generations back for a common ancestor.
But then looking in the Dade genealogy, I found the icing on the cake. When I came across this name, I stopped for the day, put away my notepad, and did not look up anything else historical the rest of the day.
This final Dade that I want to mention is eighth generation from the original Maj. Francis Dade, and has to go back about five or six generations to connect with the other Dade’s. This one was named Osceola B. Dade, born around 1868.
Wow. A Dade family member named after Osceola!
Not one day after I posted the last story, a different team in Jacksonville said that they think they have located the fort. The presentation came with an aerial photo of the area with lines drawn in where they think the shape of the fort was. So it is back in Jax again!
This year we have the commemoration of the establishment of the French colony of Fort Caroline, 450 years ago. It did not last long. After the French wore out their welcome with the local natives, the Spanish got word of the colony, and Pedro Menéndez de Avilés came and wiped them out, while establishing the town of St. Augustine.
Below: Image from the Florida Archives from the LeMoyne/DeBry engravings, of the Spanish destroying Fort Caroline. (And much more dramatic than what actually happened--there was no battle and siege.)
Fort Caroline is a national park that you can visit today in Jacksonville. We do not know where the actual site was, but it was believed that the reconstructed fort is not far from it.
Last December, there was an interesting article in the Florida Anthropologist journal that I mentioned. Here is my earlier blog: http://seminolewar.livejournal.com/1959
It gives compelling evidence that the actual site was wiped out by the Army Corp of Engineers dredging the St. Johns River channel. Examining one of the spill piles from the dredging, they found a single piece of ceramic that is the type the French would have had. It is not much, but the article gives a compelling argument.
Unfortunately the news ignores this, while jumping on the less plausible theory.
Recently at a symposium about the French in Florida, for the 450th anniversary of Ft. Caroline, a paper was submitted giving an alternate theory that Fort Caroline was actually in Georgia.
This is an interesting theory, but no one is holding their breath over this. No artifacts have been found, and the person proposing this theory based conclusions on interpretation of “hidden evidence” from studying the French maps of Fort Caroline. So far, this is just speculation.
Now Menendez marched his men 40 miles in just a couple days during a hurricane to kill the French in Fort Caroline. So with the new theory that it was in Georgia, the Spanish would have to go twice that distance in the same time and ford a couple rivers that would be impossible to do without ships, and in driving rain that was remnants of a hurricane. This seems a lot less possible, unless you also believe the unsubstantiated claim that St. Augustine was also further north. With recent excavations at the Fountain of Youth that show the earliest settlement of St. Augustine was there, this new theory of early St. Augustine being in Georgia does not seem as likely.
Architect Richard Thornton has been promoting this idea of Fort Caroline in Georgia; as well as St. Augustine. Maybe I just need to buy his over-priced book for $80 from his self-publishing website to see the evidence that no one else seems to have.
Thornton was quoted as saying in the Athen Banner-Herald newspaper that, “All evidence points to the French fort being in southeast Georgia, not Jacksonville.” Then the article says that, “Thornton said that he cannot say with absolute certainty that he knows the location of Fort Caroline.” Which one is it? First it says that all the evidence points to there, but then he says he cannot say with absolute certainly. Maybe because the only evidence that has been presented is not evidence at all, but total speculation.
The Guale and Timuquan Indians of the coast were wiped out within 50 years of the French Fort. Not just from disease and slave trade, but a total demographic collapse that destroyed a culture and society. And Thornton indicates he has oral history from people that Fort Caroline was in Georgia? If such stories exists, how reliable can they be from people who suffered demographic collapse and no longer actively kept Guale and Timuquan cultural practices? Unless there is a group claiming they are descendants of Guale and Timuquan tribes who are trying to obtain federal recognition. (Which would not surprise me--while they are selling dream catchers and dressed in odd looking generic Indian outfits.)
Not only is proof needed that the French dropped artifacts in the ground for us to find centuries later, but that they also had a permanent settlement there. Saying there is proof of Spanish settlement is not exactly proof of the French Fort Caroline; either. Remember that the Spanish mission chain extended all the way up to the Carolinas.
Then Thornton goes even further, and makes an absurd claim of iron age bronze artifacts found all over the place, so this is obvious proof that the Spanish were here in the 16th century. Really? So alleged bronze points prove that the Spanish were there 2,000 years later, so therefore Fort Caroline was there. I have yet to see this written up in any archaeology journal. Maybe even a bibliography of sources?
I will certainly entertain a hypothesis that Fort Caroline may be in Georgia. But right now, we have no evidence other than some claims. As yet, there is nothing to indicate the fort was anywhere other than somewhere on the St. Johns in Jacksonville. So why are these fringe theories with no evidence even entertained in the press?
Thornton has made claims that the Mayans built the Ocmulgee Mounds and were the original mound builders. (Even though we have mounds that are a few thousand years earlier than the Mayans.) Now he says alleged bronze artifacts (that nobody else has seen) prove Spanish were there 2,000 years later, which means French Fort Caroline was also there. I am looking forward to see his claims of the lost continent of Atlantis mixed up in all of this as well.
A couple months ago was the opening of the new Fort King Park in Ocala. I could not make the opening, but was able to visit a few week later.
Below, this is one side of the park brochure. Visit the park to see the rest.
The Fort King site has been the most important Seminole War site that we have been able to preserve and open to the public. Fort Brooke was turned into a parking garage. Part of the site for the Battle of Okeechobee was obtained by the state to develop into a park, but it is only open once a year for the annual reenactment, and not much progress of it being developed into a park that is open year-round. The prospect of saving any more Seminole War sites is not going to happen very often. So it is very refreshing that we suddenly have a new Seminole War park to visit.
For Seminole War forts, you can visit Fort Foster or Fort Christmas, and that is it. But Fort King was one of the most important forts in Florida during the 2nd Seminole War. It was the fort with the main Indian Agency in Florida, and removal talks were held here in 1834 to 1835, which did not help make any peace but fanned the flames of warfare that soon came. Once the war had started, the fort was the main military post for forays into the interior of the peninsula in north central Florida.
Below, Fort King as seen in 1839 by Capt. John T. Sprague, who was there with General Alexander Macomb.
Back around 1999, I was driving by the property and there was a large “for sale” sign on the property. We knew it was the fort property, and that Mrs. McCall has lived there for years. Hoping that it could be preserved and not lost, I immediately emailed Dr. John Mahon, Frank Laumer, Brent Weisman, and anyone I could to try and preserve the site.
Long story short, not only was the property saved and now maintained as a park by the city of Ocala, but it also has National Historic Landmark status.
The next step has been to make this park open to the public. So now a trail system has been created with information kiosks, and the old McCall house has been turned into a visitor center. It is a very good start, but it has much further to go.
You can walk about a mile of trails, and there are about two dozen interpretive kiosks along the way. You can listen to the narration on your cell phone or see them on the City of Ocala Parks and Recreation web site here: http://myoncell.mobi/stops.php?acct
Below: The trail map.
The interpretive signs on the trail are very good. Some of the text is good, but others have some glaring errors. And there is no mention of the fort being abandoned for three years from 1829-1832.
Unfortunately the property is covered by exotic plants that will take years to remove. I feel that this would be very important to do, to restore the natural communities. When the fort was active, all the vegetation would have been removed, and I don’t want to see that, but natural native plant communities would be nice.
The museum is just beginning. The exhibits are a few posters and some artifacts. A big screen TV shows the hilariously inaccurate “Seminole” western movie made in the 1950s, starring Anthony Quinn as Osceola. A more appropriate film would be better.
Hopefully the park will keep its mission and purpose in focus, and not try to be a park to cater to every type of recreational activity. It needs to stay as a historic park, and doesn’t need basketball courts or fitness trails. These are things available at nearby parks, and clutter up the park with unnecessary activities and maintenance.
There is talk about rebuilding the fort. If that is done, the other buildings outside the walls should also be recreated, as they are important interpretive tools as well. And also a Seminole area to be interpreted. I would also like the Indian agency to be reconstructed; that was a very nice building. (But very large and will be expensive to recreate.)
Currently the friends group or park support group is strictly local. This is a site that is important for all of Florida history, so the group needs to be expanded beyond just local people in Ocala and Marion County.
But the good news is that the site has been saved and preserved as a park that is open every weekend, so this is just a start. Fort King has the potential to become a major park.
Looking forward to the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, next January 2015, it seems that there have been some copy-cats and wannabees who have wanted to get a piece of the action. So I want to inform all the reenactors and historical interpreters not to pay any attention. There is only one host for the event. Here are the only web pages you need to pay attention too.
And that is this: New Orleans 1815; hosted by the 7th US Infantry Living History Association. There is information on this web page for the American forces, Crown forces, Civilian, and other impressions.
And they also have a facebook page at:
These are the only official event web pages for participants.
Do not pay for any parades or videos, because you are in these events and the main attraction that people pay to see.
We are doing our own quality video that will be knowledgeable of the history and events, and we are not asking you for money. Do not pay anyone five dollars for a second-rate quality video being produced by someone who does not know the history of the battle. There is someone out there who has been emailing participants, asking for money. That is not us. The 7th Infantry has produced some high quality trailers during the past year that you may have seen, and nobody else is even close to us in content and quality.
So beware the opportunists who seek to take your money. The website of the 7th is only asking for money for the various dinner banquets, which we are obligated to pay in advance. You pay enough money to come to this event; some of us will end up spending a fortune, so we are keeping the costs minimal where we can.
If you have any questions about the event or cost, please ask the 7th, or even myself, and we will provide you an answer.
From the Army and Navy Chronicle: Vol. 6, pg. 56 & 57.
Image below: From Harper's Weekly, 1860: "Training Day in the Country"
St. Augustine, Jan. 1. – “Save us from our Friends.” – On Monday last, a large body of men, calling themselves Alabama Volunteers, arrived in the vicinity of this city from Picolata. The arrival of troops from any quarter to assist in conquering a savage foe, we have hitherto looked upon with gratification; but we greet the arrival of this body of men with anything else than pleasurable feelings. It is reported that their conduct during their march from Tallahassee to this city has been a series of excesses of every description. They have committed almost every crime except murder, and have even threatened life, from wantonness, if from no worse principle.
After forming their camp on the west side of St. Sebastian river, large numbers of them came into town, paraded our streets, grossly insulted our females, and were otherwise extremely riotous in their conduct. Shortly after sunset they commenced returning to their camp, highly excited with liquor, in large squads. One of these squads, 40 or 50 in number, on reaching the bridge, where there was a small guard of three or four men stationed, assaulted the guard, overturned the sentry box into the river, and bodily seized two of the guard, and threw them into the river where the water was deep, and they were forced to swim for their lives. The guard having no orders to interfere with any white man coming to and from, were unprepared for such an attack, and especially when there was not the least provocation given. At one of the men, while in the water, they pointed a musket, and threatening to kill him; and pelted him with every missile which came to hand, until some one of them from shame, or some better principle, interfered in his behalf, and called him out of the water, and they suffered him to come to town, ignorant of the fate of his comrade.
The other remained in the water, concealed in the marsh for about half an hour, suffering much from cold. He states, that just previous to their assault, the proposed going over to the residence of Judge Reid, who resides near the bridge on the west side of the river, and has no doubt that serious consequences would have ensued, had they not first interfered with the guard.
Such conduct is deserving of condign punishment, but from the difficulty of ascertaining and identifying the perpetrators, they have not been brought, to justice; but representation have been made to Gen. Jesup, of their conduct, and if he has the power, we have no doubt he will, so far as he is able, use such measures as will teach them that they are yet under authority, and the rights of our citizens are not to be outraged with impunity. – Herald.
Thank you to everyone who forwarded the article last week to me. I am glad that you were thinking of me!
A July 2nd article in the Sun-Sentinel newspaper had the story of three researchers/explorers that have located Fort Harrell. (Called Fort Harroll in Sprague.) The group consisted of a couple teachers from Miami and a National Park Service employee. They have been searcher for about a decade for this remote little fort that is hidden among the most difficult to reach mangroves in Big Cypress. Finally on the fifth trek to locate the fort, they found post holes in the lime rock and remains of some old posts.
The location of the fort is about as remote as you can get in Big Cypress National Preserve. It is directly east of Chokoloskee Island and southeast of Ochopee, along the New River, about six miles up from Sunday Bay. They certainly deserve an A plus for the work they have endured to reach it in the summer, when conditions are at the harshest.
You can see the fort on this 1841 map by Lt Cmd John McLaughlin, U.S. Navy, circled in yellow. I am not sure about the date on the map, and it may be incorrect, having been added later. It is compiled of several expeditions in south Florida to search for the Seminoles.
What I find unusual, is that no other interior forts are marked on the map, and there were others. There is a small square on the map where Fort Poinsett was at Cape Sable.
Fort Harroll is mentioned briefly in passing by Maj. William Belknap during his expedition into the Everglades, dated December 19, 1841, and abandoned a few weeks later in January 1841. The purpose of the fort was as a supply depot for the expedition into the Everglades. I do not know of any other Army expeditions into the Everglades during the time, other than Belknap, who would have established the remote post.
The fort was only active for a few weeks until the end of the campaign. Since there are no post returns in the Adjutant General records, the fort probably had minimal usage. I mentioned the post holes, but it is doubtful that the fort even had walls. Not all forts did. This one does not show any evidence of a blockhouse. The fort could have just been a canvas fort, which we know existed. Maybe the post holes marked out a fence? Since there are no post returns on file, most likely there was not much to it, and not much effort made to construct anything more.
There were about half a dozen other forts in Collier County, and Fort Harrell / Harroll was the most primitive and saw the least usage.
The explorers said they hope a road or trail will be established down to the site and allow people to visit, but I don’t see that happening. We don’t even have enough information about the fort to make a good historical marker. But I am glad when a small Seminole War site makes the news.
This may upset some of my friends who are participating in the Westville reenactment this weekend, because they might not share my opinion. I was watching a video on Youtube. It was a street performance in Columbus, Georgia, that served as advertisement for an upcoming reenactment in Westville, Georgia. The incident reenacted was their interpretation of the town of Roanoke, Georgia, that was destroyed by Creek Indian warriors in May of 1836. To advertise for this event, some reenactors portraying warriors were running around capturing and scalping other reenactors dressed as men, women, and children. It seems that this event sensationalizes that women are captured, killed, or scalped by Indians.
I also think that the outfits worn by the Creek warriors are incorrect, and belong about 80 years earlier. Apparently the accepted fashion at a lot of reenactments these days is to look like a French & Indian War warrior, and not the Creek people of 1836 who had adopted a lot of the European fabrics and clothing.
So I looked up an eyewitness account of the burning or Roanoke, published in Frank Leslie's Pleasant Hours from 1882. It has a very interesting account of the battle. First, it says that only 12 people were killed among the settlers. None of them women. Apparently most people had already left the town a few days before, and many of the militia had gone home. An exception was one woman with a baby, and they escaped.
So there was some killing at Roanoke, but there was no capturing or scalping of women during the 1836 raid as portrayed in the street performance. Portraying this is total falsehood and reinforces stereotypes of something that didn’t happen.
The Creek Indians are portrayed as bloodthirsty savages in this Hollywood-type pageant. Stereotypes, misconceptions, and racial prejudices are reinforced.
For anyone studying this time period, I recommend the book, The Second Creek War by John Ellisor. It is well worth the 500-page read. It was one book that I could not put down.
The attack on Roanoke and the Second Creek War in 1836 was the last, desperate act of people (the Lower Creeks) who had been dispossessed of everything. The Cusseta Treaty of 1832 caused the biggest land fraud in the history of the country, as Creek land was sold several times over by crooked land speculators. To feed the industry of speculators, were Creeks that were hired to impersonate the land owners for the land sales. Also according to the 1832 treaty, Creek land was to be divided among the people by the head of the household. The problem was that Creek land ownership is matriarchal, and Americans did not recognize this difference, and only awarded land allotments to men. Ellisor goes more into detail, and I encourage anyone to read the book.
The Creeks lost their farms and land several times over to land speculators. The land sold and the money went to the people who had conducted the fraudulent sale. People moved onto their land and forced them off. The Creeks faced removal with no money or food to support the journey. Then there were raids by slave hunter and raiders who would take property and livestock from the homes of the Creeks. Creek people had enough, and the war was the last desperate act of people who had lost everything. Instead of reenacting the war, we need to look at the events that led up to it.
If Westville wants to advertise a more accurate reenactment, they need to have settlers chasing around the Creek women and robbing and raping them in a street pageant in downtown Columbus. That would be a more accurate portray of what happened.