Forts
An Alliance with Creek warriors (July 18, 1816)
Apalachicola River as seen from Aspalaga Bluff (part of Torreya State Park).

Apalachicola River as seen from Aspalaga Bluff (part of Torreya State Park).

U.S. troops en route to attack the Fort at Prospect Bluff (or “Negro Fort”) formed an alliance with hundreds of Creek Warriors  200 years ago today (July 18, 1816).

This story is part of a series marking the 200th anniversary of the U.S. campaign to destroy the Fort at Prospect Bluff. Please click here to access the entire series as it is unveiled.

Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Clinch had left Camp Crawford (later Fort Scott) on the lower Flint River in Georgia on the previous day. His men encountered a force of 150 Lower Creek warriors under Major William McIntosh of Coweta during the evening and by today spotted another large force of Creek warriors under Captain Isaacs.

New directional signs are part of the U.S. Forest Service's redesign of Fort Gadsden Historic Site, the location of the Fort at Prospect Bluff.

New directional signs are part of the U.S. Forest Service’s redesign of Fort Gadsden Historic Site, the location of the Fort at Prospect Bluff.

A council was held and the three commands agreed to coordinate their movements as all three were on their way to attack the Fort at Prospect Bluff:

Art. 1    We agree to unite in reducing the Negro Fort.

Art. 2    In case the Fort should be taken the Indians are to have all the Powder (cannon excepted) small arms, clothing &c. & Fifty Dollars for every…Negro taken by them, not the property of the Creek Nation.

Art. 3    Lt. Col. D.L. Clinch is to take possession in the name of the U. States of all the Cannon, Ordnance Stores &c. & all the property the Indians cannot carry from the Fort.[1]

The document resulting from the council was signed by Lieutenant Colonel Clinch on the part of the United States. Major McIntosh, Captain Isaacs and Kotchaharja (“Mad Tiger”) signed for the Creek forces. Lieutenant Kendal Lewis of McIntosh’s command served as interpreter.

Ocheesee Bluff is the traditional site of the meeting between Clinch and the Creek chiefs.

Ocheesee Bluff is the traditional site of the meeting between Clinch and the Creek chiefs.

Surviving documents do not identify the location of the July 18th council, but local legend holds that it took place at Ocheesee Bluff on the west side of the river in today’s Calhoun County, Florida. This would be a logical site as it was the location of a large Creek village headed by the mestizo (or mixed race) chief Jack Mealy.

The three chiefs involved in the movement on Prospect Bluff represented three distinct branches of the Creek Nation. William McIntosh was from the Lower Creek town of Coweta and had served under Andrew Jackson during the Creek War of 1813-1814. Mad Tiger was a prominent leader in the Coushatta or Coosada band and had been at the signing of the Treaty of New York in 1790. Captain Isaacs, meanwhile, had been an early convert to the teachings of the Prophet Josiah Francis but switched his allegiance from the Red Stick prophet to the Big Warrior before the Creek War of 1813-1814.

It is somewhat remarkable that Clinch’s meeting with McIntosh, Mad Tiger and Captain Isaacs was “accidental.” He reported after the campaign that the Creek expedition against Prospect Bluff had been “long since projected.”

Col. Benjamin Hawkins, the longtime U.S. agent to the Creeks, died just one month before the Prospect Bluff campaign.

Col. Benjamin Hawkins, the longtime U.S. agent to the Creeks, died just one month before the Prospect Bluff campaign.

This was true. Reports from U.S. Agent for Indian Affairs Benjamin Hawkins and Major General Edmund Gaines show that efforts to launch a Creek campaign down the Apalachicola had been underway since the summer of 1815. Hawkins, in fact, believed that the Lower Creek warriors had marched months earlier:

The Chiefs are making an effort of themselves, to aid the Seminolie Chiefs in destroying the negro establishment in that country, capturing and delivering up Negro’s belonging to Citizens of the United States, to me, or some of our military establishment. The Little Prince and some warriors are by last report on the march for effecting this object. They have applied for some aid in corn which after conferring with the General is sent them 300 bushels.[2]

It took longer than Colonel Hawkins expected, but the Creeks finally marched on around July 10th and make contact with the soldiers under Lieutenant Colonel Clinch on the 17th and 18th.

The Apalachicola River as seen from Alum Bluff at the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve near Bristol, Florida.

The Apalachicola River as seen from Alum Bluff at the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve near Bristol, Florida.

The council between Clinch and the chiefs was brief and the now combined force continued its movement down the Apalachicola River 200 years ago today. The majority if not all of the warriors followed the trail that ran along the top of the high bluffs on the east side of the river, following orders from Clinch to “secure every Negro they fell in with and to join me near the fort.”

Please click here to access a directory of all of the articles in this series.

The next article in this series is Torture and Scalping on the Apalachicola River.

 

[1] Articles of Agreement, July 18, 1816, enclosed in Lt. Col. Duncan L. Clinch to Col. Robert Butler, August 2, 1816, Andrew Jackson Papers, Library of Congress.

[2] Benjamin Hawkins to Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, April 21, 1816, Andrew Jackson Papers, Library of Congress.

 

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