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The Destruction of Negro Fort Part 2

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Photo: Reconstructed blockhouse at Fort Gaines, Georgia.

Following the Treaty of Fort Jackson, the Creeks were forced to cede all land south of what is today Fort Gaines in southwest Georgia. What we would consider today about a fifth of the state of Georgia, and about a third of Alabama.

From Wikipedia: Land cessions ceded under the Treaty of Fort Jackson. See why even the Creeks allied with the United States were unhappy with it?

Of course, there were Creek/Seminole towns who did not attend the treaty talks for the Treaty of Fort Jackson, and they didn’t think it applied to them. The United States was of a different opinion. As far as the non-attendees were concerned, they never agreed to give up their land. Other Creek towns were in the ceded area living in destitute, still suffering from the devastation of the Creek War a couple years earlier.

All Creek land taken over a hundred year period from 1733 to 1832 from the Georgia Colony, Mississippi Territory, and United States and State of Alabama. What an injustice was done to these people!

Not far away across the border in Spanish Florida is the large town of Miccosukee. And as far as an international border, I doubt you could tell where American Georgia ended and Spanish Florida began. The Miccosukee did not consider themselves a part of the Treaty either. The Americans had not yet recognized the Seminoles and Miccosukee separate from the rest of the Creeks.

In early 1816, there are surveyors trying to survey land in southwest Georgia that was taken from the Creeks as part of the Fort Jackson treaty. They are constantly stalked and threatened by Indians, and of the belief that they are under the threat of imminent attack, so they flee and refuse to continue their work. This will be repeated again 40 years later, as a cause of the Third Seminole War, when soldiers are surveying land that is Indian reservation land, and are attacked.

Fort Gaines Historical Marker.

Location of Fort Gaines in southern Georgia, the fort between the Creek land to the north, and the land just ceded to the US to the south.

Historical Marker at Fort Gaines about General Gaines, next to an oak tree that is said to have been planted by the general 200 years ago.

On March 20, 1816, General Edmund, in charge of the southern border writes to his commander, General Jackson, about Negro Fort. Gaines says, “The negro establishment is (I think justly) considered as likely to produce much evil among the blacks of Georgia, and the eastern part of the Mississippi territory. Will you permit me to break it up?” Gaines is asking permission to cross the international boundary for a military invasion to destroy the fortification established by a third nation, which he doesn’t have authority to do. This is what Jackson will be blamed for doing a few months later, but Gaines is asking to do it first.

Portrait of Lt. Col. Duncan L. Clinch in the Florida Museum of History in Tallahassee, Fla. One of only two portraits that exist of a US officer wearing the 1808 uniform. (The other being Zebulon Pike.)

Finally in June 1816, a site was selected by Lt.Col. Clinch near the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint River for the establishment of the fort, first known as Camp Crawford, later called Fort Scott.

Steve Abolt and Dale Cox (and myself, not shown) visited the site of Fort Scott this past winter. It is extremely remote. During the summer, you will find an abundance of ticks and copperheads.

The Creek allies complained about Fort Scott being established. In a letter by Little Prince / Tustannuggu Hopoy, writing to the commander of the US forces at Fort Hawkins, complaining that the United States had promised that no forts would be established on land seized by the treaty, and now three were built. They were very unhappy with the land they had lost in the treaty and other stipulations that had been forced upon them. But, the allied Creeks promised that they would go down and break up Negro Fort, which they received rations to do.

Some of the Creek Chiefs were trying to be peace keepers between the US and other tribes in the area, but things did not work out. Relations between Little Prince and Seminole chiefs soured. Two soldiers driving 30 head of cattle from Fort Gaines were taken prisoner by warriors of Fowltown and Miccosukee Town. This was a pretty bold move, Fort Gaines being about 60 miles north of Fowltown and the Georgia / Florida border.

Trying to negotiate a release, the British trader Hambly who was friendly with the Americans, and the chief Little Prince went down to talk to the captors, but were chased off. From what Little Prince said, it seemed that the herd was being driven down to St. Marks to be sold to the Spanish, and the soldiers were to be either killed or ransomed to the Spanish. The Americans had expected the soldiers to be killed, but they were eventually returned alive with some of the cattle.

Due to the cattle incident, and two settlers named Johnson and McGaskey killed around the same time, Gaines orders the urgency of the fort being established at the confluence of the three rivers in May 1816. He orders supplies, ammunition and ordnance, from New Orleans with a gun boat, and directs Lt.Col. Duncan Clinch that if any opposition is met from Negro Fort, then to coordinate a land and naval force operation to destroy it. This will be the operation that will destroy the fort two months later.

Fort Scott is established 200 years ago, and events has been set in motion for the destruction of Negro Fort.

Reference used was 1819, House of Representatives document, “Letters 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; 26 pages.

To be continued…

It will take me a few days to read over and write the next part. Be patient, please, I know you are enjoying this!

Books currently available on the subject:

“Fort Scott, Fort Hughes & Camp Recovery, Three 19th Century Military Sites in Southwest Georgia” by Dale Cox, 2016, Old Kitchen Books, www.exploresouthernhistory.com

“Nicolls’ Outpost, A War of 1812 Fort at Chattahoochee, Florida” by Dale Cox, 2015, Old Kitchen Books, www.exploresouthernhistory.com

“Elizabeth’s War, A Novel of the First Seminole War” by John and Mary Lou Missall, 2015, The Florida Historical Society Press.

(I have mentioned them on this blog before, so no need to post the covers again.)
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