Soldiers from the 4th U.S. Infantry spent this day 200 years ago preparing for their campaign against the Fort at Prospect Bluff, Florida.
Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Lamont Clinch had brought his men down the Chattahoochee River from Fort Gaines in June, moving pursuant to orders received from Major General Edmund Pendleton Gaines. Clinch and his men were to establish a new fort near the head of the Apalachicola River in anticipation of a move against what Gaines called the “Negro fort.”
The movement was made by boat and the soldiers soon built a temporary fort about nine miles up the Flint River from its confluence with the Chattahoochee. The two rivers combined on the border of Spanish Florida to form the Apalachicola. The fort was named Camp Crawford to honor Secretary of War William Crawford of Georgia. Its name would later be changed to Fort Scott to honor War of 1812 hero Winfield T. Scott. It is best known by the latter name today.
This article continues below. Please enjoy this free online documentary to learn more about the role of Fort Scott (Camp Recovery) in the U.S. campaign against the Fort at Prospect Bluff:
Clinch’s men were for the most part veteran soldiers who had enlisted for five years during the War of 1812. They originally served in other regiments but were moved into the 4th during a post-war reduction and reorganization of the U.S. Army.
As orders rang out for the men to prepare for their long expected campaign down the Apalachicola River, they probably did what soldiers normally do in such circumstances. The infantrymen undoubtedly prepared cooked rations with which to sustain themselves for several days. They also received fixed cartridges for their flintlock muskets and otherwise equipped themselves for field duty.
Since it was summer, albeit in the “Year without a Summer,” they probably wore their fatigue uniforms instead of the heavy woolen uniform coats of the time. Fatigue uniforms were of lighter material and were were of a whitish color. They were not much different from the fatigue uniforms worn by Garcon and his men at Prospect Bluff.
In fact, aside from their race, the white soldiers at Camp Crawford wore uniforms and carried arms and equipment that were very similar to their black counterparts at Prospect Bluff. The men of each side wore fatigue uniforms, carried flintlock muskets and were equipped with cartridge boxes and other standard accouterments of the time.
The movement down the Apalachicola River would take place by water. The soldiers had built a small fleet of boats at Fort Mitchell, Alabama, earlier in the year, each capable of carrying more than 50 men and their supplies. These vessels had been used to move the battalion from Fort Mitchell down to Fort Gaines and from there on to Camp Crawford. They were shallow draft enough to navigate the rivers without difficulty but maneuverable enough to be moved upstream as well as down. Whether they were like traditional “flatboats” in appearance or more like the keel boats used on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers is not known.
It is likely that Lieutenant Colonel Clinch also knew that a large force of Creek warriors was on its way down the Chattahoochee River. Headed by the Coweta chief Major William McIntosh, they were several hundred strong.
McIntosh was a well-known figure in the Creek Nation and was bitterly hated by the Red Stick Creeks now living in North Florida. He gained his military title through service with his Creek soldiers under Major General Andrew Jackson during the Creek War of 1813-1814 and had notably served at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (Tohopeka). He had gained the eternal enmity of the Prophet Josiah Francis, Peter McQueen and other Red Stick leaders by opposing them in the civil war that broke out in the Creek Nation ahead of the broader conflict with the United States.
The Creeks under Major McIntosh were largely from the Lower Creek towns between modern Eufaula and Columbus on the Chattahoochee River. They had been provided provisions of corn by the United States for their expedition against the Fort at Prospect Bluff.
It is not clear if Clinch knew that a second force of Creeks was also on the move for the bluff. This group was led by Captain Isaacs, an old Upper Creek chief who had been a Red Stick leader before switching sides and allying himself with the Big Warrior and his followers. The “Captain” in his name does not seem to have been a military designation but rather was part of the name he was called by whites. He and his warriors also planned to attack the fort.
The movement of the two Creek forces to attack the fort does not seem to have been coordinated with Clinch as he did not know the time of his departure from Camp Crawford until the previous day. McIntosh and Captain Isaacs had already been on the move for some time.
This series will continue tomorrow. Until then you can read previous installments by clicking here:
The next article in this series is now online:
To learn more about Fort Scott (Camp Crawford), please consider the new book Fort Scott, Fort Hughes & Camp Recovery:
(Also available as an Amazon Kindle e-book).