Okay, I know a few of you are from Central Florida and maybe even from Sanford. The original name of the town was Mellonville. This was not from a local agriculture crop. It was named after Fort Mellon, established here in 1837. We are coming up on the 170th anniversary.
The Army established a camp on Lake Monroe, as a post to bring troops into the interior of the territory. At first they called it Camp Monroe, named after the lake it was on and the former President the lake was named after.
The beginnings of the fort were not very much. The soldiers established a crude picket works to protect their detachment.
On the morning of February 8th, 1837, the soldiers came under attack by the Seminole / Miccosukee warriors of King Philip and his son Wildcat. These warriors had been very successful the previous 15 months, destroying the sugar plantations on the east coast and driving out the settlers. This is a battle where the tide was turned.
The soldiers successfully defended the pickets and artillery fire from a steamer on the lake drove off the Seminoles. The only soldier killed was Captain Charles Mellon. The post was renamed Fort Mellon in the captain's honor.
Look at earlier entries in this blog for more information on the fort and some interesting artifacts from Capt Mellon.
The above drawing of Fort Mellon was made by Capt John Vinton. Vinton took command after Mellon fell from his mortal wound. Vinton would go on to describe many other future events at the fort, including his friendship with Osceola and several sketches of the war leader. During the Mexican War, Vinton was killed at the Battle of Vera Cruz.
Even if the Army beat back the Seminole / Miccosukee warriors, the warriors put up a good fight that lasted several hours. For casualties other than the death of Mellon, 15 soldiers were wounded, which is a high casualty count for a single battle. Seminole deaths and wounded are unknown, because they removed their casualties from the field of battle.
Christine Kinlaw-Best at the Sanford Historical Museum at the site of the former Fort Mellon, sent me an interesting article that she found. It turns out that Captain W. Gordon of the Dragoons had with him an experimental rifle, known as "Cochran's Many-Chambered Gun."
The Cochran gun had a revolving cylinder that held nine shots. This was a percussion cap gun with the caps in the center of the cylinder. It revolved horizontal. Talking to Dave Southall who is familiar with the weapon, Dave said that like the early Colt revolvers, it had an alarming tendency to have a chain reaction where the fire might jump the chamber and set off other rounds. If a cap was loose, it could cause a chain reaction with the other caps. This is particularly hazardous since one of the rounds is pointing at the operator of the weapon. So that is probably why the weapon wasn't adopted for wide use at the time. Maybe it would have been a good thing to have if you were surrounded by the opposing force.
Still, Capt Gordon spoke highly of the weapon, and it's durability and good service that he had with it at the battle on Lake Monroe. He was particularly impressed with how it kept the rounds dry, and fired it after it had been loaded for two weeks.