(Jackson and his troops, from the Florida Memory website.)
I want to make an observation that I have found while researching. I have been reading these original letters on microfilm, and then I have been finding the printed copies of the same letters in the congressional reports. The difference is that in the congressional reports, they do not include the complete copy of the original letters. And I think that sometimes, there is a crucial difference because of the omissions. For example: In the previous letter from February 1817 by Archibald Clark about the death of Mrs. Garrett, he ends with a request for more troops, and mentions how the settlers have been adventuring into the Indian Country and driving away the Indian cattle, and that was not mentioned in the Congressional report. That certainly puts the biased into the report and makes it look like the Indian is the aggressor without provocation. In reality, the Indians were raiding the settlement because of the raids and aggression by the Georgians, which was completely omitted from the copy of Clark’s letter in the Congressional report. Letters were printed in the congressional report from Alexander Arbuthnot mentioning the Georgians raiding the Indians, but Arbuthnot was looked upon as a British instigator with no sympathy. In another example I found, General Gaines in the second half of a letter, describes all the land in Florida that is suitable for settling and farming, and that is missing when his letter is published in the congressional report. It was obvious that General Gaines was looking towards land speculation in Florida as soon as it would be taken from Spain.
Now, onto our letters!
In this letter written by General Gaines a year before Jackson arrives in Florida, Gaines seeks permission to go down to Florida to destroy the Seminole’s towns. His justification is the death of Mrs. Garrett the previous February.
There is also mention of Alexander Arbuthnot, who is an advocate speaking on behalf of the Seminoles, who Gaines speaks with disdain. The 70-year old British trader will later be hanged by Jackson. Arbuthnot wanted the United States to honor its obligation to the Native American Indian Tribes as outlined in the Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812. Jackson and Gaines considered that superseded by the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814.
In fact, it can be argued that the following letter got the ball rolling, and causeed the First Seminole War, where Gaines writes that he wants to “Destroy their habitations,” and, that he will “write to Major General Jackson upon this subject.” Jackson was overall military commander, and Gaines was subordinate to him. So this is the exactly the action that Jackson took with the blessing of the Secretary of War one year later. It was no secret what was going on. Later, the Sec. of War would tell Gaines to do what he needed, which includes crossing over into Spanish territory.
Here is a transcription of this provocative letter: From the Adjutant General letters received, G64 1817.
From General Gaines at Headquarters, Camp Montgomery, Mississippi Territory (near the site of the former Fort Mims in Alabama), to Isaac Shelby, Secretary of War in Washington City. (Sec. Crawford had resigned, and Calhoun had not yet replaced him.)
April 3rd, 1817
I received by the last mail a letter from Archibald Clark Esquire, Intendant of the town of St. Mary’s, by which it appears that another outrage of uncommon cruelty, has recently been perpetuated by a party of Indians upon the southern frontier, near the boundary of Wayne county-- They have massacred a woman / Mrs. Garrett and two of her children—the mother and eldest child were scalped—the house plundered and burnt. / The high respectability of the Intendant leaves no ground to hope that the report of this afflictive catastrophe may remain at all questionable.
The frequent failures of the mail has prevented my receiving this as well as several other accounts, corroborative of the settled hostility of the Seminole Indians until a delay of several weeks had intervened and although you have probably received these accounts from other sources, I have nevertheless deemed it proper to enclose them herewith, No. 1, 2 and 3. [we previously printed on this blog.]
I have ordered a company of Artillery to Fort Scott, and have desired Major McIntosh of the Creek Nation to keep an eye upon the Seminole Indians. The letter No. 4 Signed by “A. Arbuthnott” appears to have been written by one of those self-styled philanthropists, who have for a long time past contrived to foment a spirit of discord among the Indians of our country, and destroy them with pretended kindness.
Should you be pleased to order me to visit the Seminoles, to wrest from them the murderers of our own offending women and babes; I beg you will authorize my passage by water to the mouth of Appalachicola or to Oklokne Sound, where I can disembark, and in course of a few days afterwards see their warriors, or destroy their habitations. A battalion or two of mounted men from Georgia or Tennessee can be ordered to meet me in Seminole towns.
I shall this day write to Major General Jackson upon this subject, but as we have only a monthly mail from this place to Tennessee, it is not likely that he will get my letter as soon as this may reach you.
My Qr Mr Department is without funds and nearly without forage—nor is there in this country any means of obtaining transportation for a Regiment; the scarcity of corn having put it out of the power of the inhabitants to keep their teams fit for service.
I have the honor to be
Your Obt Servt
Edmund P. Gaines
M. Genl Commd
Secretary of War
A response from General Jackson’s adjutant can be found as an enclosure in the adjutant letters the next year, 1818, G74 Enclosure 2.
Headquarters, Division of the South
Nashville, 22 April 1818.
From J.M. Glassell, A.D. Camp, to General E.P. Gaines.
Your communications of the 2d & 6th Inst. By Lieut Crupper, with their several enclosures, was handed to Major Genl Jackson on yesterday evening.
On the subject of the outrages committed by the Seminoles on the Georgia frontier, I had the honor to be the medium of the Generals views to you on the 2d ult. which you will have received in this. He is now more fully convinced of the necessity and directs that you immediately demand the delivery of the murderers holding yourself in readiness and in the event of their non-compliance to take such vengeance as will completely sate the thirst which that nation has for the blood of our citizens.—the mode and route is left to your discretion, and the means being at your disposal, it is expected that the perpetrators of those recent outrages will be promptly brought to condign punishment, and safety ensure to our frontier.
The instructions given to Lieut. Gray for his government in passing Pensacola are approved by the Major General, as also the precautions you have taken with regard to the defense of Fort Gaines.
I have the honor to be
Your Most Obt Svt
(Signed) J.M. Glassell
Major Genl. E.P. Gaines
& Lt. Taylor, A.D. Camp
Next time on the Adjutant letters: Gaines tries to transport supplies up the Escambia River, but the Spanish impose tariffs and import fees. Gaines protests! How dare the Spanish impose their national
General Gaines asks the Spanish Governor to establish an American base in Pensacola Bay.
March 18, 1817 in a letter from General Gaines to the Spanish Governor in Pensacola. General Gaines is having problems getting forage & provisions to the US Fort Crawford on the Conecuh River (Alabama), and asks the Spanish Governor for passage to transport the supplies through Spanish territory through Pensacola and the Escambia River, hoping this will not present a problem. (It later will.)
In a letter dated March 20, 1817, Gaines writes to Sec. of War Crawford:
“The prospect of Pensacola being shortly assailed by the revolutionary forces, appears to have subsided.”
“The Creek Indians, and the people of this part of the territory, it seems, were invited, and many of them were expected to cooperate with the revolutionary troops.”
“But, much to the credit of our red and white people of the woods, though strongly disposed to see Pensacola change masters, they had suffered too much by the war which had been sanctioned by their country and government to volunteer in that which might be even more disastrous, and in which their country had not seen fit to authorize their participation.”
“I have ordered the supplies for Fort Crawford to be sent, in future, by water, by the way of Pensacola. With the first cargo I have sent an officer, who is instructed to obtain, on reasonable terms, upon the Pensacola Bay, near the mouth of Escambia, a place of temporary deposit, where the supplies may be discharged from coasting vessels, and put on board the barges, or batteaux for ascending the rivers, Escambia and Conecuh.”
“I enclose a copy of my letter to the Governor. He is at this time, I understand disposed to be unusually civil towards us—and I will have little doubt but he will yield to the measure, as it cannot but be viewed by him as sanctioned by sound policy.”
General Gaines is simply asking the Governor in Pensacola for the Americans to operate freely, as an army of another country, in Spanish territory. To not be charged any taxes to transport goods for their army across Spanish territory. And to have a place to unload supplies off coasting vessels onto barges or canoes, to travel up river. Essentially to permit them to do what they did not allow the British to do at Pensacola back in 1814.
The Spanish may have been grateful for removing the threat of the Negro fort a few months earlier, but international trade and foreign treaties negotiate over the things that Gaines is asking for, and the Governor will ask for payment. Jackson and Gaines will be furious over that response, as we will see later.
I will end here, because the next letter from Gaines is his reaction of the death of Mrs. Garrett, and he makes a very profound statement that I need to save for a separate entry in the blog. You really need to see that!
Continuing the adjutant letters that lead up to the First Seminole War.
After the destruction of Negro Fort, the border remains in a constant state of alert between the Mississippi Territory to the Atlantic coast.
The following attack on the homestead on the St. Mary’s River in Southeast Georgia was a revenge killing. Seminole warriors claimed that militia soldiers had killed one of their young men tending to their cattle herd, and stolen their cattle. The warriors tracked the guilty party back to Georgia and found his homestead, and determined who it was by a stolen cooking pot found in the homestead. Three of their people had been killed, so they killed three white people, which was their custom of revenge. The white people did not see it the same way, but as an unprovoked attack upon one of their homesteads. This would be one of the sparks of the powder keg that would eventually ignite into war with the Seminoles by the end of the year.
St. Marys, 26 February 1817
From Archibald Clark, Intendent of St. Marys, writing to Major General Edmund Gaines.
In consequence of a recent and most atrocious act perpetrated by a party of Indians (supposed to be of the Lower Creeks in this country in the murder of an unfortunate white woman and her two infant children—by which the defenseless inhabitants on our Frontier have been thrown into a distressing state of alarm.—I avail myself of the earliest opportunity in giving information that may be relied on—under the fullest assurances that immediate measures will be adopted, to guard & prevent repetition of such cruel and barbarous acts.
On the 24th Instant the house of a Mr. Garret residing in the upper part of this Country near the boundary of Wayne Co., was attacked during his absence, near the middle of the Day by this party consisting of about fifteen, who shot Mrs. Garret in two places, and then dispatched her by stabbing and scalping.—Her two children one about three years, the other ten months were also murdered, and the eldest scalped; the house was then plundered of every article of value, and set on fire.—A young man in the neighborhood at work hearing the report of guns went immediately towards the house where he discovered the murdered family.—The flames having only commenced, they were soon extinguished-- and he spread the alarm.—
The workmen from my mills and a few others assembled to pursue—but having but few arms—and not otherwise equipped, their pursuit proved fruitless.-- The Indians were tracked as far as the men dare venture.-- Their course was parallel with the western branch of Spanish Creek—which induces the belief of their being Indians of the Lower Tribes.
On this open, extensive, and entirely unprotected frontier, -- the poor and innocent inhabitants have ever been exposed to these calamities.-- Representations after representation to the several Governors of this State—of the cruel and unprovoked murders in this quarter by the Indians have been made.-- A momentary disposition was manifested to afford relief—but a little time however would lapse before the alarm would subside and the subject never more thought of, until again revived by an occurrence, such as I have just related.—
To you Sir, therefore the inhabitants on the frontier as well as others thro’ me appeal—for some protection—a small detachment—upon the head of the St. Marys would answer a most valuable purpose—by at once checking the invades of the savage and preventing our abandoned and unprotected Citizens from adventuring into the Indian Country and driving in herds of Cattle.—
[It seems that at the end of the letter; above, that Mr. Clark finally mentions what might be the cause of the problem of the attacks. That the settlers keep raiding the Seminoles and taking their cattle!]
A few weeks later, a letter responding with action is written from Fort Gaines in Southwest Georgia, from Lt. Richard Sands, 4th Infantry, to Col. William King, on 15 March, 1817.
Intelligence has come to Lt. Sands from the Creek Perryman brothers, William and George, that Chief [Peter] McQueen is head of the hostiles who recently killed Mrs. Garrett and her two children. Also, that talks are going through the lower towns that the hostiles plan to meet the English on the Ochlockonee River in three months. An Indian runner has been sent down there to ascertain what preparations the hostiles are making.
This intelligence is all hearsay, but Lt. Sands takes the information as serious and believable.
Although the frontier killing is apparently common for the times, we will read more about it in the future in responding letters.
Photo: A staged scalping in the 19th century. (I think those are California Indians, but you get the idea.)
This was a little nugget I found in the Military Affairs papers. A handwritten letter from 1840, by the Secretary of War, Joel Poinsett, to the President of the Senate and Vice President, Richard Johnson. (The same Richard Johnson who started the Kentucky Choctaw Indian Academy and is credited, although never verified and doubtful, with killing Tecumseh.)
This is an excellent letter because it mentions several attacks that few others pay attention too. It also acknowledges that the newspapers of the day are wildly inaccurate. But, where the newspapers mention names, we can trace the events, so they do have some value.
I will insert comments where needed. I had to check with other sources to get some names right, and spellings vary. For example: Poinsett writes Sgt. Harret, and Sprague writes Harriet. Other names and sources had to be checked to verify some of the names when I couldn’t read the handwriting of the letter, and John L. Williams and M.M. Cohen were very useful for this.
Above: From Florida Memory: "The above is intended to present the horrid Massacre of the Whites in Florida, in December 1835, and January, February, March and April 1836, when near Four Hundred (including women and children) fell victims to the barbarity of the Negroes and Indians."
This is from, The New American State Papers, Military Affairs, Vol. 9, Combat Operations; Page 305-308. “Letter Recounting Massacres in Florida”; from Sec. of War Joel R. Poinsett to Pres of the Senate Richard M. Johnson, Washington City.
Hon. R[ichard] M. Johnson
President of the Senate
January 28, 1840
In compliance with the directions of the President, the following report is respectfully submitted in answer to the resolution of the Senate of the 30th ultimo, requesting “the President of the United States to cause to be communicated to the Senate all the information which the War Office contains, or can conveniently procure, of the massacre of individuals, of families, of small parties, and of shipwrecked crews or passengers, which have taken place in Florida during the present hostilities, and including those which took place before the war became open on the part of the Indians; noting, as far as it conveniently can be done, how far families have been broken up, and driven from their homes, their houses burnt, and their fields and property destroyed.”
There were but two sources within the reach of this Department to which it could resort for the information called for by this resolution; first the reports of the Commanding Generals in Florida and other communications received at the Department, and Second the Newspapers published in that territory. Neither of which can be relied upon as being very accurate. There were probably cases which did not become known to the Commanding Generals and the Officers making reports to the Department, or which, coming to their knowledge during the intervals of making reports, were forgotten when the next report was made.
Respecting particularly the breaking up of families, the burning of houses, and the destruction of property, the files of the Department furnish but little certain information, those things being referred to, only in very general terms, in the reports of the Officers.
The accounts contained in the Newspapers are in many cases known to have been greatly exaggerated, and in others entirely unfounded.
On examination of the files of the Department shows that,
In 1835 Eleven persons are reported to have been murdered chiefly in the settlements on the St. Johns River--
In 1836—Five persons are reported to have been murdered near Cape Florida [the Cooley family, Jan. 6, 1836.]
In 1837—No murders appear to have been reported.
In 1838—Fourteen are reported, and one family (number not stated).
In 1839—Forty persons are reported to have been murdered, and one family (number not stated)—of this number, one was a commissioned officer and fifteen non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the regular Army and four of the Florida Militia. [Since everyone is lumped together in general terms, it is impossible to determine who he is referring to unless names are given.] Thirteen of the regular soldiers were killed in surprise of a party under command of Lieutenant Colonel Harney on the Colosohatchee River the 23d of July 1839.
In 1835—The Plantations and houses of Denham, Dummett, Hunter, Depeyster, Williams, Harret, Andrews and Brush destroyed in the latter part of December.
In 1836—Plantations of Bulow, Hernandez and Williams destroyed.
In 1837 and 1838 and 1839 None reported.
In 1838 The crew of a fishing smack massacred, and the smack burnt. Brig Alva’s crew massacred—the Brig was broken and burnt by the orders of the Commander of the United States Schooner Wave.
The Captain of the Revenue Cutter Campbell reports that, after defeating a party of Indians, he took a number of pouches attached to which were eleven scalps, supposed to have been taken from persons cast away on the coast.
A French brig reported to have gone to pieces near the Ratones, crew aided and saved by the Indians.—
Two fishing smacks went ashore—crews of both massacred with the exception of one man, who saved himself by joining the crew of the French vessel, Schooner Caroline sunk—crew all lost. [Apparently the Indians have no argument against the French, only against the Americans!]
On examination of the Newspapers as far as they are within reach of the department, shows that,
In 1835 the following murders were committed—Dalton a private (mail carrier) [Killed near Ft. Brooke in August 1835.]
Mr. Brown and four children
Dade’s Brigade—117 men— [We all know the story here, but were there ten more men than what we always counted, or is this number incorrect?]
Wilie Thompson, Lieut. C. Smith, Erastus Rogers & two others [Osceola killing Thompson near Ft. King and attacking the sutler store, Dec. 28, 1835.]
An old man named Castillo
A family (number not mentioned) near Cape Florida. [Cooley family killed, Jan. 6, 1836.]
A Boy about 15 years of age.
Four men killed and two wounded.
Mr. Dupont’s overseer killed
One negro and one boy killed—Mr. Gorman wounded.
Carter shot and scalped
Light house on Cape Florid burnt—two killed— [July 1836]
Two wounded—three dwellings burnt.
Five men murdered—
Mr. and Mrs. Jones murdered
Edward Gold, Jo Walker, Mr. Falk & one other killed
The Collector at Charlotte Harbor killed—two men wounded—[at Boca Grande, in April 1836.]
In 1836—One Negro.
Fifty families reported to have been killed by the Creeks— [in North Florida.]
Mr. and Mrs. Uptegrove killed
Mr. Johns, Mr. Wallace and daughter and one man killed
In 1837 One family reported to have been killed
Mrs. Clements and five children, Captain Gilleland, Captain Whalton and seven men, Mr. Wilkinson killed. [Capt. Whalton and his ship crew landed on Key Largo, and were ambushed in June 1837.]
Father, mother and 8 children murdered.
Several men no number mentioned reported to have been murdered.
In June of this year, 12 women and children (Indians) were murdered by a party of whites. [Maybe referring to an incident in May 1837 on Alaqua Creek/Walton County, where militia soldiers captured and slaughtered captive Creeks.]
In 1838 Eleven men killed
One family killed
Mr. Sasley and daughter killed.
Five families murdered at Black Creek.
Mr. Singletenary, wife and two children murdered
Eight persons murdered in Ware, County, Georgia, by the Seminoles
Mr. Wilde and family, Mr. John Davies & family murdered near Okefenokee Swamp.
Mr. Baker, wife, and two children were murdered near Monticello.
A wagoner killed in Ware County, Georgia
One man, Mr. Tippin, wife and two children, and two of Mr. Green’s family murdered near Okefenokee Swamp.
Two men killed near Fort Floyd. [Georgia/Okefenokee.]
In 1839 Eighteen men killed and two wounded
Colonel Harney’s detachment (15 men) [Once again, July 1839.]
Three men, one woman and two children killed—two wounded and others reported, but no number mentioned.
The Florida Herald of November the 14th says that 70 murders are recorded since peace was declared.
Sergeant Harriet and one man killed—five wounded— [Ambush of 6th Infantry Soldiers from Ft. Andrews working on a bridge, probably on Fenholloway River.]
Two volunteers murdered
Thirteen men murdered.
Twenty one killed—four wounded.
Fifteen murders reported to have been committed near Tallahassee—
Seven men killed—six wounded—four mules killed
Six men killed—two wounded.
It appears by the same papers that during the years 1835, 1836, 1837, 1838 and 1839 there were destroyed by fire.
Twenty three dwellings
One light house, and several plantations are reported to have been destroyed or deserted.
J.R.P. (Joel R. Poinsett)
Okay, that is the end of the letter. That was only the first four years of the war. There were still three more years to go. 1840 and 1841 would prove to be among the bloodiest of the war, and the highest casualty rate. There will be the attack and destruction of the Dade County seat on Indian Key in August 1840, through December 1841 with the attack on the town of Mandarin on the St. Johns River. There will be devastating attacks near Micanopy with the Battle of Bridgewater, Martin’s Point with the killing of Mrs. Montgomery, and the killing of Methodist Minister McRea. Soldiers ambushed near Fort King. Numerous mail riders attacked. The McLane family massacre in Gadsden County. When Poinsett gave his report in January 1840, the troubles were far from over!
Continuing what the Adjutant letters say about the First Seminole War, I noted previously in January 1817, how General Jackson instructed General Gaines to establish a headquarters to observe the Spanish in case the Spanish cause trouble for New Orleans, at Fort Montgomery near where Fort Mims was. This is obviously for other reasons, because they know from after destroying Negro Fort / Prospect Bluff that the Spanish in Pensacola didn’t even have enough gunpowder to fire a salute for a flag raising. Maybe what they are really doing, is looking for some provocation to jump in and take Florida from the Spanish, like when Jackson took Pensacola in 1814 when the British came there.
At the same time, the Secretary of War is giving instructions to scale down the force at Fort Scott. In a letter dated February 14, 1817, Jackson’s headquarters from Nashville sends the following to the Sec. of War:
“Col. King has, some time since, been instructed to remove the 4th Regiment [of infantry] from Fort Scott, near the confluence of the Flint & Chatahouchy [sic] Rivers, with directions to leave a sufficient detachment of men under an intelligent officer, to maintain that post, and a discretionary power to call on the Governor of Georgia for militia aid, if circumstances should render such aid necessary. It has been, & still contemplated to garrison and defend that, as well as all other fortifications with artillery, so soon as the Battalions in the Division are filled by enlistments; and a company of that corps will be immediately ordered from the Harbor of Charleston to join Infantry left at Fort Scott.”
Things do not work out that way. The soldiers leave and the two Perryman brothers, Creeks friendly to the US, become caretakers of the fort. The Army is small and there are only a few hundred soldiers between New Orleans and Charleston to garrison all the posts, so Fort Scott is left behind. The militia proves to be less than reliable, and only effective at home, and not elsewhere. After the Army is gone, Seminoles from Miccosukee will come in and chase out the Perryman brothers from the fort, and burn the remaining buildings of Fort Scott. The Army will come back the next summer and have to rebuild Fort Scott all over again.
Next: Murder of Mrs. Garrett at St. Marys starts up border tensions.
Book Review: Ticks and Politics in South Florida: The Fourth Seminole War and the Photographs of Roy Komarek; By Robert L. Crawford, 2015. Printed by Tall Timbers Press, Tallahassee, Florida.
I was delighted to find something new! Or I should say, new material of old photos! This book uncovers 75 year-old photos found in the archives of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Birdsong Nature Center, north of Tallahassee, Florida. Tall Timbers and Birdsong are conservation areas that study longleaf pines and the effects of prescribed burning with the benefits of fire on natural habitats, and have been doing so for almost the past century. I have hiked both areas, and am a member of Birdsong.
If I have a complaint about this book, is that it is too short! I read through in one sitting! 68 pages and 70 photos / figures on the inside. It is a complicated subject, but very interesting!
Back in the 1940s, the Florida cattle industry was devastated by a tick infestation. This was a serious, because the two major agriculture industries in Florida were citrus, and cattle. I will try to make this as simple as I can.
The Department of Agriculture developed a mandatory program where all the cattle in Florida were to be dipped in cattle vats and treated for ticks. A second part, was that they believed that the ticks were spread by the Florida white tail deer, so the solution by the Department of Agriculture was to just shoot the deer. So, deer were being shot by the tens of thousands all over the state, to the point that the species was on the brink of extinction.
As the program progressed, the Dept. of Ag slowly made its way down the state until it reached south Florida, to the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. A few years earlier, the Seminoles had restarted cattle herding. The Seminoles were naturally suspicious of anything government, because government attempted to remove the Seminoles from Florida, and nearly succeeded. About 90 percent of the Seminoles were removed or killed during the previous century, and they hadn’t forgotten it.
The Dept. of Ag demanded that the Seminoles comply with this cattle program, and they resisted. When the gov’t wanted to kill all the deer on the Seminole reservation, the Seminoles said, Absolutely Not! This non-compliance is what it means by the Fourth Seminole War in the title of the book.
Enter the Department of Interior, Indian Affairs, which was another branch of the government. They sided with the Seminoles, and told the Dept. of Ag that they could not force the tribe to comply with something that was against their tribal sovereignty, that they had rights as a Native American tribe, and that the government could not just walk in and demand to do whatever they wanted, to the detriment of the tribe.
“The Seminoles insist that their deer are not ticky.” And, this would later prove to be true! Now, it must be understood that the deer are a big part of the Seminole history and culture, and there is even a Deer Clan within the tribe. So, you just don’t go killing off the symbol of a whole clan! Especially not the animal where folklore describes it as saving mankind at one point in the distant past!
Still, the state wanted to force compliance on the Seminoles and kill the deer. A state legislator was even quoted as saying, “Well, we got people down there who would just as soon kill the Seminoles as the deer.” Unfortunately, this was true.
So, the solution was to bring in a neutral party, and find out if ticks were carried by deer on the Seminole reservation. If it could be proven that the deer were not carrying the ticks, then the killing of the deer would not be necessary. Tall Timbers Research station was contacted, because they had previously done research for the Dept. of Ag.
The Audubon Society, which was at Tall Timbers, was brought in because everyone agreed that Audubon was a reputable mediator for the dispute, with Roy Komarek representing Audubon. Roy and his brother Ed Komarek had split their work between Tall Timbers and Birdsong Nature Center, and took on the task. But one thing they brought to the table that was never previously looked at, was a scientific basis for the whole tick eradication program, and the deer killing, known as “deer reduction program.” Roy said that all he wanted to do, was to prove if killing the deer was necessary or not.
Roy Komarek spent one year on Big Cypress researching the tick question, from June 1941 to June 1942. He had a chickee office and residence, and saw life away from the tourist attractions, and the Seminoles as they were rarely seen by people at the time. He collected birds, went through the swamps and prairies, and tried as much as he could to collect ticks. And in the whole year, he found out that the Seminoles were correct, for he only was able to collect a single tick on his clothing. (My own experience down there is the same; in 10 years living down there, I have only heard of one of my co-workers finding a single tick.) Eventually 51 deer were hunted and killed to be examined for ticks, and none were found to be carrying any. The finding led to the end of the cattle tick program. The Seminole won their fight against the government intrusion.
Roy’s work was extremely important to settle the question of the cattle tick program. It also vindicated the Seminoles and made the government leave them alone. It ended the conflict between the two government agencies. Unfortunately Roy was between the warring factions of government. But he proved through scientific evidence that the Seminoles were right. The Seminoles won against the government with the help of Roy.
The photos Roy took are very unique. They are not posed tourist photos, but candid shots. None of the people are identified, but I am sure that Josie Billie is one of the prominent ones, and I could probably figure out some more looking at photos from the same era. One particularly poignant photo shows Josie reclined on a fence with a tired expression. Another looks like Charlie Cypress working on a dugout canoe under a tree. Photos of children playing in ragged trousers. Women under the chickees or by the canal washing clothes. Seminole men dressed in modern clothes on the swamp buggies or doing everyday labor. Seminole cattlemen. A white couple are probably teachers or missionaries on the reservation.
A statement in the book brings home a point that I think is very important. It is written by Aldo Leopold, famous conservationist from the time who is considered the founder of scientific wildlife management. “The region in question contains the last Seminole culture, the last wild eastern cougar, and one of the last groups of pure eastern wild turkey. All of these wild resources would be damaged or obliterated by the extermination of the deer. Each of them is more valuable, to me, than any local cattle industry which might supplant them. Each of them is so rare and valuable that the nation as a whole should have a voice in their disposition; more is involved than the temporary wishes of local citizens.”
And that, is the key point. The Everglades, and Big Cypress, are a unique habitat that are found nowhere else in the world. The Seminoles and Miccosukee people are unique, with a culture that needs to be preserved. The Florida panther, west Indian manatee, Everglades mink, ghost orchid, and numerous other plants and animals that I could name off are unique. They do not need to be supplanted by anything. We do not need any more roads, bike trails, cattle, houses, or oil wells. They are more valuable than anything else that we would bring into their environment. The exact same holds true today, as when Also Leopold said it at that congressional hearing in 1942.
I have a Youtube channel "SeminoleWar".
I had to close the comment section on one of my videos on the origin of the Seminoles. I was receiving these annoying comments from this guy who insists the Seminoles are one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. There are several cults that are spreading this idea around recently. I find this amusing since this was an idea used by white supremacists in the 19th century to force removal on the Native tribes. Yet now, most of the groups who are proponents of this idea are black. Offshoots of the Moor groups, or Empire of Washita group. I find it ridiculous because the traditions of the Seminole and Miccosukee people are at least twice as old as anything in the Bible. I have been told some of these stories that go back to the Ice Age, and even seen some of these objects they carry that are centuries old.
Here is what I added to one of my videos, but this is the full comment:
Sorry that I had to close down the comments. It was hoped that it would be open as a forum for people asking questions on the subject, but it wasn’t so.
What I present here is from my knowledge on the subject from years of not only research, but knowing the Seminole and Miccosukee people themselves. I have lived most of my life in Florida, lived in south Florida along the Tamiami Trail for ten years where my neighbors were Miccosukees and Seminoles, and my mother was also an anthropologist in Florida. This is not something I know from a brief exposure, but from cultural immersion. This is a subject I know well, as well as a huge library on the subject.
Living in Florida and being among the people, and being in the historic places, these cultures and traditions are real to me as well. The Seminole stories, culture and traditions, are tangible things. They are to be respected and honored. That is why we do not appreciate someone coming from the outside and telling us that we are wrong; that is offensive.
The culture is centered around the community. It is the southeastern ceremonial tradition that is centuries old. People may claim to be Seminole, or Creek, or Cherokee. But if they do not hold these traditions and are not part of the community, then they are not Seminoles or Creeks as far as we are concerned.
When I receive comments from people out in California who are not members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida; who have no connection with the people or tribe, and who state their opinion of the origin of the Seminoles out of their religious beliefs; I could care less what they think. Go make your own video on YouTube; there are plenty out there. Why, I just saw one that claims that the Seminoles were one of the lost Tribes of Israel, and that the Angel of God was coming down in a UFO to destroy the United States. That is Utter Foolishness! I get these people emailing me on a fairly regular basis, and you can see why I don’t care what they say. I think they are just insane and need to be locked away!
Continuing the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War, I am reviewing letters in the archives.
I previously showed you some of the documents on the destruction of Negro Fort / Prospect Bluff. Many consider that what set things in motion to what eventually led to the war. But, it was not enough to get the ball rolling.
Camp Crawford, later called Fort Scott, was established as a response to the renegade fort on the Apalachicola River. Once the fort was blown up and no longer a threat, Crawford/Scott was going to be abandoned. Part of the treaty of Fort Jackson, was that the United States was not going to fortify the land that they had taken from the Creeks. The Creeks were not happy with the forts that were popping up along the frontier, like Fort Mitchell, Fort Gaines, and Fort Scott. There were also smaller forts, like Fort Montgomery in the former location of the Fort Mims massacre.
The problem presented to the United States was that they had this very volatile border that was presenting a lawless danger to the people on the frontier, that still needed to be protected. The military was being downsized after the War of 1812, and was not large enough to cover the area. The militia was only able to cover so much, and then they were never at the right place, or committing atrocities against the Native people that would cause retaliations in return; a never ending cycle.
So with Negro Fort out of the picture, the War Department wanted to move the soldiers to other areas:
In January 1817, it has been less than six months since the destruction of Negro Fort / Prospect Bluff.
One January 6th, 1817, a letter sent from General Andrew Jackson from the Hermitage by Adjutant Robert Butler (his legal ward) to General Edmund Gaines. Gaines has new orders. To abandon Fort Scott, and establish his headquarters at or near Fort Montgomery, just north of Mobile—near the site of the Fort Mims massacre in 1813.
“…That you establish your headquarters for the present at or near Fort Montgomery, and to remark that the measure is dictated by the policy of having your brigade in a situation to overlook Pensacola and Mobile. And if necessary to give aid to the protection of New Orleans, in the event of a rupture with Spain.”
(Letters Received, Adjutant General, 1818, G74, Attachment A)
If Jackson is expecting that the Spanish will attack New Orleans, I think that would be unrealistic, and nobody would expect that to happen.
There was not going to be any rupture with Spain. The previous actions the past July showed that the Spanish were incapable of conducting a military campaign of any consequence. It was shown that the Spanish garrison in Pensacola did not even have enough gunpowder to fire a salute.
Jackson works on provocation, and maybe he is wanting to set up an excuse to go in and take Florida? Well, by the end of the year, he is going to have that excuse.
On February 14th, 1817, General Jackson’s Aide-de-Camp, John Glassell, writes to the Secretary of War.
The Garrison at Fort Scott under Col. King has been ordered to be removed, but to leave a small detachment, and to call upon the Governor of Georgia for aid from the Militia for any necessary aid.
(Letters Received, Adjutant General, 1817, G73)
Due to the inability of the Army to supply the fort, they will end up leaving altogether, and handing it over to George Perryman, an American allied Creek, as caretaker. Shortly after, Seminoles /Miccosukees order George to leave, as they loot & burn what remains of the fort.
Trouble is just beginning anew along the Florida frontier.
Above: Kiosk display at Fort Gadsden showing destruction of the fort at the site. (And details of the painting of the fort destruction.) The items on display are currently removed during site renovation.
The Army & Navy Chronicle, Vol. 2, No. 8, Page 114-116, Feb. 25, 1836
Navy Doc. # 119, Letter from the Secretary of the Navy, Transmitting, in Obedience to a Resolution of the House of Representatives, of the 26th Ult, sundry Documents relating to the Destruction of the Negro Fort in East Florida, in the Month of July, 1816. February 1, 1819. Washington, 1819, 21 pages.
Sec. of War Doc. # 122, Letter from the Secretary of War transmitting Pursuant to a Resolution of The House of Representatives of the 26th Ult. Information in Relation to the Destruction of the Negro Fort in East Florida in the Month of July 1816, &c, &c.” February 2, 1819. Washington, 1819, 26 pages.
Sorry that I took longer to compose this article than I anticipated. I had an important project requiring my full attention that needed completing. And, the paying jobs have to take priority.
Back to the original timeline, I have read a few other things around the internet, and most of what has been written about Prospect Bluff / Negro Fort in the past is unfortunately wrong. You can easily know this by going back to the original documents. For example: One of the misconceptions is that General Andrew Jackson was doing this as a rouge action, on his own. That it was a renegade action, or illegal invasion on Spanish territory. That is not true. President Madison and Secretary of War William Crawford had full knowledge of the fort. Crawford in March 1816 recommended that the fort be destroyed by the use of artillery, which is exactly what happened. First it was recommended that the Spanish be approached to take care of the fort, but when it was realized that the Spaniards were powerless, the Secretary of War deemed action was needed for reason of national self-interest. The outcome in human lives killed was horrible. But the order given for the destruction of the fort was from the highest authority and was not a rouge action from Jackson, and directly from Washington. Yes, the government in Washington wasn’t present on the Apalachicola River, but neither was Jackson.
Reading both Clinch’s report and Sailing Master Loomis’ report of the destruction of Negro Fort, along with the letters in the Army & Navy Chronicle of the horrific carnage resulting from the explosion from Marcus C. Buck and “A Soldier,” the sight of the deaths were beyond description. I think It says body parts were buried in the sand and up in the trees. That is all the description that we need.
Lt.Col. Clinch boasts of his command ability, but it is obvious that he was mostly incompetent in the whole operation. The Creek allies under McIntosh did most of the work of the land force by surrounding the fort and preventing the escape of the occupants, and apprehending those attempting to flee. Clinch mentions that they apprehended about 100 escaped slaves from American plantations, and these were not ones who survived the fort magazine explosion, so I can only assume that they were captured with assistance of the Creek allies.
Above: Plan of the fort from the Museum of Florida History in Tallhassee.
Below: View of the River from the Fort Bluff, what the occupants in the fort would have probably seen.
The fort itself was able to sustain any siege by land, and Clinch did not have the force to show much opposition to it. Under the British flag and the red “Bloody flag,” flown in the center of the fort, the fort was on the only high ground along that part of the river, even though it is only about ten feet above sea level. The fort had ten artillery pieces and had stockpiled thousands of arms and hundreds of barrels of gunpowder. They even had Congreve rockets that were being fired over Clinch’s force. And the men inside the fort were British trained troops.
The fatal flaw to the fort was from a lucky shot fired from a naval ship that hit the gunpowder magazine in the fort. So this ended up being a naval engagement for a fort that was prepared for an attack from a land force. Forever it will be remember by the one shot that destroyed the fort in a horrific explosion that killed 90 percent of the occupants. And two-thirds of the occupants were non-combats, women and children.
So our story opens up as written by both Clinch and Loomis themselves, that Clinch was supposed to set up an artillery battery opposite the fort on the other side of the river. Clinch complains that he had naval carriages that he could not maneuver and elevate the cannons. Loomis’ report says that Clinch complained that he was not familiar with artillery and too far away, even being at point-blank range of the fort. Loomis disagreed. Finally, Loomis basically said to Clinch, “Fine; I will pass by the fort without your aid!” It is obvious from Loomis’ letter that he had become disgusted with Clinch’s mismanagement of the whole affair.
On the morning of July 27th at 4 a.m., the fleet started up. At 5 a.m. they were within gun range of the fort, and the shooting commenced. The fort started firing at the ships, which the ships returned fire. After firing for distance and range, the gunboat commanded by Sailing Master Bassett fired one cannon shot heated red hot, that landed dead center in the powder magazine, in the back center of the fort. The resulting tremendous explosion was heard as far away as Pensacola, over 100 miles away.
Lt.Col. Clinch says, “The explosion was awful, and the scene horrible beyond description. Our first care on arriving at the scene of destruction was to rescue and relieve the unfortunate beings that had survived the explosion.”
“The war yells of the Indians, the cries and lamentations of the wounded, compelled the soldier to pause in the midst of victory, to drop a tear for the sufferings of his fellow beings, and to acknowledge that the great Ruler of the Universe must have used us as an instrument in chastising the blood-thirsty and murderous wretches that defended the fort. The fort contained about one hundred effective men, (including twenty-five Choctaw,) and about two hundred women and children, not more than one-sixth part of which number were saved.” (Army & Navy Chronicle Vol.2, pg. 115)
Marcus C. Buck also eloquently described it, “You cannot conceive, nor I describe the horrors of the scene. In an instant, hundreds of lifeless bodies were stretched upon the plain, buried in sand and rubbish, or suspended from the tops of surrounding pines. Here lay an innocent babe, there a helpless mother; on the one side a sturdy warrior, on the other a bleeding squaw. Piles of bodies, large heaps of sand, broken guns, accoutrements, &c. covered the site of the fort."
The leaders of the fort, the Choctaw Chief, and the Black Maroon named Garcon, had survived, but not for long. The American Creek allies took them aside and quickly executed them.
Of the survivors, it was determined that the majority were runaway Spanish slaves. These were turned over to William Hambly, the local trading factor. Those who were determined to be runaways from American plantations were taken back to Camp Crawford/ Fort Scott and confined.
The amount of property taken or destroyed in the fort was not less than $200,000, which today I am sure would be easily over $2 million. There were over three thousand stands of arms and 5 to 600 barrels of gunpowder, and a great quantity of ammunition and shot. One magazine that was saved, and not blown up, had 163 barrels of gunpowder, and was given as a prize for compensation to the Creek allies by Lt.Col. Clinch. Loomis also made note of 2,500 muskets, 500 carbines, 500 swords, 4 cases of 200 pairs of pistols, and 300 quarter casks of rifle powder that the Indians also plundered as prizes. These were items apparently not destroyed in the explosion and therefore from another magazine storage. Since Clinch gave these to the Indians in agreement as their payment for services rendered, there was no taking that away from them. Normally the items would be seized by the War Department. But, it was felt not to press the issue since the Creeks were still very disgruntled from losing their land at the Treaty of Fort Jackson, and the chiefs and warriors had felt they were not receiving enough compensation.
There were ten artillery pieces mounted on the fort, recorded by Loomis as follows: Four long 24-pounder cannons. Four long 6-pounder cannons. One 4-pounder field piece. And a 5 ½ inch brass howitzer. Cannon and shot were transported to Camp Crawford (later Fort Scott) by Lt.Col. Clinch.
Also listed among items seized, were shoes that were taken by the Army. Military clothing was taken by the allied Creeks, which would have been British redcoat military uniforms. The Navy also transported off 7 ship carriages that the cannons were mounted on, 3 ammunition wagons, 502 muskets, 1200 bayonets, 1810 cartridge boxes, hundreds of belts, gun slings, sword belts. Dozens of straps, haversacks, accoutrements and boxes. 3500 gun flints, 5 cross-cut saws, 1 whip. 170 24-pd shot, dozens of stands of grape and canister rounds, 80 round for the 6-pdr., 13 water casks and hoops and blocks. (Also items that were obviously not blown up in the exploded magazine, and in an alternate magazine.)
Clinch continues with more tools that he had collected: 26 spades, 48 shovels, 54 pick axes, various tools, block and tackle, saws, 120 shoes, 700 spikes, 460 old belts, 40 new belts, 2 casks flints containing 20,000 each, 100 cartridge boxes, a box of 20 muskets, one corn mill (no doubt small), 50 copper hoops, 4 sets harness, and one set cart harness. Yes, much of Camp Crawford/Fort Scott’s quartermaster was supplied from what was seized here.
As Clinch was loading this aboard the two cargo ships, it was too much weight, and the boats bottomed out on the river. They had to be unloaded on flat boats and ferried up river, which took more time. He became worried, because the gunboats had now left to go back down river, so he would not have them for protection. Clinch was also annoyed by the fact that the allied Creeks had taken their loot of arms and left already. The bulk of his protective force had already departed, and he had word that an angry force of Seminoles and Miccosukees were soon heading his way. He had to get out of there fast. Somehow necessity seems that he was able to do that, or the vengeful party did not make an appearance.
As Loomis’ gunboats were leaving the scene, they met the Spanish schooner Maria in Apalachicola Bay, just arrived from Pensacola. Captain Benigno Garcia Calderon was there to make demands from the Spanish Governor. His Catholic Majesty demanded all the artillery and ammunition taken in possession from the fortress. “I do not doubt you will accede to, considering the perfect harmony which exists between my government and that of the United States of America.” And also requesting a circumstantial account of what occurred in taking and destruction of the fortress, that it may be communicated to the governor of the province of West Florida.
Sailmaster Loomis answered, “The property captured on the 27th of July, 1816, on the Apalachicola river, in East Florida, I consider as belonging to runaway slaves, who had absconded from the United States and elsewhere, to protect themselves against their proper masters. The fort was defended under the English flag accompanied with the bloody flag, therefore I consider it my duty to hold the said property until I receive further instruction from the commanding naval officer of the New Orleans station.”
In other words; you want it? Talk to the US government!
This ends the series on Negro Fort/Fort Gadsden/Prospect Bluff. In honor of the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War, I will start covering some of the letters I have found in the archives from that period of history, and will be reprinting some of that in the future.
I have been to the location of Fort Gadsden / Negro Fort / Prospect Bluff several times. The site is very remote and inhospitable. It is miles from the nearest city in the middle of the national forest. Being so far out of the way, you really have to make an effort to visit. In the spring, the river floods and the road to the site may be impossible to drive down. Mosquitoes and biting flies during various seasons can get unbearable. Visit at your own risk during that time. Because of these environmental factors, there will be a 200th anniversary commemoration, but not on the July date when it is too buggy and muggy. The event will instead be October 22, 2016.
At 5 A.M. on the morning of July 17th, 1816, Sailing Master Jairus Loomis manned a boat with five men, and armed them with a swivel gun and muskets. The ships had patiently waited a week at Apalachicola Bay for word to proceed up river, or assistance from Lt. Col. Duncan Clinch, and were running out of drinking water. In charge of the boat was Midshipman Luffborough, who had just turned in his resignation of enlistment as soon as the cruise had ended, but had volunteered to take the boat out.
At 11 A.M., Sail Master Bassett of Gun Boat 154 found the body of John Burgess, floating at the mouth of the river, who had been shot through the heart. Burgess was one of the crew with Luffborough’s boat. At 4 P.M., they discovered a man on a sand bar, John Lopaz; the only survivor of the Luffborough’s crew.
Below: Interpretive sign at the boat launch at the river at the end of Bloody Bluff Road, which briefly tells about this incident. (Spoilers alert!)
John Lopaz told what had happened. On entering the river, they saw a black man on the shore by a cultivated area. Luffborough ordered the boat to go over and talk with the man to see if there was a source of drinking water nearby. As soon as they touched shore, a volley of muskets fired upon them from Indians and Blacks that had been concealed. Mr. Luffborough, Robert Maitland, and John Burgess were killed instantly. Lopaz escaped by swimming away. The other seaman, Edward Daniels, was captured and carried off; later it was learned that he was tarred and burned alive. Lopaz estimated that forty Indians and Blacks were involved in the ambush.
Below: From the docks at the city of Apalachicola, you can see that the mouth of the river today is all marsh and cat tails. Lopaz might be referring to the area after pinhook curve just up the river, where there are trees and heavier foliage and cover.
On the 20th, Loomis received a canoe of five Indians with dispatches from Lt. Col. Duncan Clinch, saying that he had arrived a mile above the fort, and requested that Loomis ascend the river and join him with the gun vessels. Odd that Clinch would think that Loomis could easily do that without opposition from the fort!
Clinch further informed Loomis that he had captured one of the enemy with a scalp of Luffborough’s party.
Below: Looking down river from the boat landing at Bloody Bluff Road.
On the 22nd of July, Loomis heard heavy cannon fire from the direction of the fort. (So they hear cannons firing 20-25 miles away, but didn’t hear a volley of muskets firing on Luffborough’s men only a couple miles away?)
On the 23rd, Loomis again received another message from Clinch, this time as a verbal message from one white man and two Indians who arrived by canoe, asking him to again ascend the river to join him. Loomis distrusted this form of communication, felt that it was unwise, since he expected that there were many bends and bluffs in the river that would leave him exposed to musket fire, which he could not defend himself against. He suspected it a trap, and retained two of the men, and told one of the Indians to return to Clinch and tell him that the only orders he would receive, had to be in writing from one of Clinch’s officers.
I can only imagine that by this time, Loomis has gotten impatient with Clinch after waiting in the bay for two weeks, and Clinch making suggestions showing his inexperience.
This campaign was the first time that Clinch was in command of a real battle situation during his military career. He had gone through the War of 1812 without any major combat. Now Clinch is in charge and making some obvious blunders, and it really shows. As an infantry officer he cannot think outside the tactics of an infantry soldier. He does not have enough men or weapons to do any harm to the fort, and is asking his naval commander to put himself in harm’s way under the guns of the fort, in a maneuver that obviously shows that Clinch is unfamiliar with the ship’s abilities and naval tactics.
On the 25th, after sailing upriver about twenty miles to Dueling Bluff, four miles below the fort, Loomis meets with Lt. Col. Clinch himself.
Below: Boat launch from Bloody Bluff Road, what I believe was called Dueling Bluff. From the distance given of four miles below the fort, this would have been where Loomis finally met with Clinch face to face, where they made their final preparations to attack the fort.
Today, if you go down highway 65 to visit Fort Gadsden, a few miles south of the forest road that turns off to the fort, you will find another dirt road heading west off the highway known as Bloody Bluff Road. Follow this road all the way down to the river, and there is a boat launch with an interpretive sign, which I have a photo of at the top of this page. In the springtime, the river floods, and it may be impossible to follow the road all the way down. When I visited in March 2016, it was only a day or two since the flood waters subsided and the road was finally passable.
Below: Forestry kiosk at the turn-off from highway 65 at Bloody Bluff Road. It is very nice, but someone has shot some low caliber bullets through the display! (I am finding that a common occurrence in forestry kiosks, unfortunately.)
I do not believe this is the actual location of where the ambush happened, but another site that was already known as Dueling Bluff. The names of Dueling Bluff, and Bloody Bluff, all show up on early maps. Lopaz says in the naval report, “on entering the river, they discovered a negro on the beach, near a plantation that Mr. Luffborough ordered the boat to be pulled directly for him; that on touching the shore he spoke to the negro and directly received a volley of musketry from two divisions of negroes and Indians who lay concealed in the bushes on the margin of the river.” This places the ambush spot down near the mouth of the river from the description.
Sailing Master Loomis says, “On the 25th, I arrived with the convoy at Duelling Bluff, about four miles below the fort, where I was met by colonel Clinch.” That is exactly where the boat launch is today at the end of Bloody Bluff Road.
I have found one map that marks Dueling Bluff, and a later map by John Forbes in 1821 that marks a non-descript area as Bloody Bluff. The ambush itself was never called Bloody Bluff until modern times. I find it interesting that it is called Dueling Bluff by Loomis before the area was US territory. I would like to know the story behind that!
And of course, the sailors who were ambushed were alive no more than a couple hours once they left the gun vessel. There was no way they could have rowed or sailed approximately 20 miles upriver to where Dueling Bluff / Bloody Bluff Road is today in that short time before getting killed. So I am pretty sure that happened down river. But you wonder how Dueling Bluff got its name, and how did Loomis know to call it that in 1816?
The Army & Navy Chronicle, Vol. 2, No. 8, Page 114-116, Feb. 25, 1836
Navy Doc. # 119, Letter from the Secretary of the Navy, Transmitting, in Obedience to a Resolution of the House of Representatives, of the 26th Ult, sundry Documents relating to the Destruction of the Negro Fort in East Florida, in the Month of July, 1816. February 1, 1819. Washington, 1819.