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seminolewar


Mrs Garrett’s Death--February 1817

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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.
Sir:
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.
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