Battles
Cannon fire at Prospect Bluff (July 22, 1816)
Archaeologists use advanced technology to learn more about the design of the fort destroyed in 1816.

Archaeologists use advanced technology to learn more about the design of the fort destroyed in 1816.

The sounds of an intensifying battle could be heard by U.S. sailors at Apalachicola Bay 200 years ago today on July 22, 1816.

This is part of a series marking the 200th anniversary of the U.S. campaign against the Fort at Prospect Bluff (or “Negro Fort”). Please click here to access all of the articles in this series.

The crews of the U.S. gunboats and supply ships could hear thundering barrages of artillery on July 22, 2016. “There was a heavy cannonading in the direction of the fort,” wrote Sailing Master Jairus Loomis of Gunboat No. 149. Uncertain of what was happening, Loomis did not attempt to move his boats up the river to Prospect Bluff. [1]

It was the third day of the battle and it is unclear whether the gunfire from the fort had intensified for some reason or if atmospheric conditions had changed and the sound could be heard better for some reason.

The remains of the water battery of the Fort at Prospect Bluff were incorporated into the later Fort Gadsden. This is the probable point from which Garcon's gunners were firing 24-pounders at American troops.

The remains of the water battery of the Fort at Prospect Bluff were incorporated into the later Fort Gadsden. This is the probable point from which Garcon’s gunners were firing 24-pounders at American troops.

An unidentified American officer remarked that Garcon’s gunners continued “firing from 24 pounders – and throwing shells,” but that the cannon fire remained ineffective. [2]

19th century historians often attributed the ineffectiveness of the artillery fire coming from the fort to a lack of skill among the African-American gunners. The reality of the situation, however, was that none of the U.S. soldiers were killed or wounded because Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Clinch pulled his offers and men back out of range. Dr. Marcus C. Buck, a surgeon with the 4th Infantry, noted in a letter to his father that the colonel had moved his camp beyond the range of the fort’s cannon on the evening of July 20th.

The intense cannon fire from the Fort at Prospect Bluff served a clear purpose. It kept American troops back and prevented them from firing into the works with their muskets or launching an assault on any key point.

One-third of the Creek warriors under Major William McIntosh and Captain Isaacs continued “hover” around the fort at any given time, while Clinch let the men of the 4th Infantry do the less hazardous duty of burning fields. The soldiers, according to Dr. Buck, “were engaged in scouring, foraging, preventing the escape of the enemy, and destroying their provisions, which consisted of green corn, melons, &c.” [3]

The fields of the maroon community at Prospect Bluff extended for 45 miles up and down the river. The Watering Party Attack a few days earlier had taken place near “a plantation” that was literally within one mile or so of Apalachicola Bay. The destruction of the crops was a major task but it also allowed the American commander to keep his men out of harm’s way. The more mobile Creek parties hovering around the fort were also careful to avoid the fire of the big guns.

Sounds of the battle could be heard for the first time at Apalachicola Bay 200 years ago today.

Sounds of the battle could be heard for the first time at Apalachicola Bay 200 years ago today.

By the end of the day there had been no real change in the situation. Clinch and his men had destroyed some crops, but there is no indication that anyone had been injured on either side as the third day of the battle came to an end.

This series marking the 200th anniversary of the U.S. attack on the Fort at Prospect Bluff will continue tomorrow. Please click here to access the full series.

 

 

[1]  Sailing Master Jairus Loomis to Commodore Daniel T. Patterson, August 13, 1816.

[2]  An officer at Camp Crawford to a gentleman in Charleston, SC, August 5, 1816, published in The American on September 18, 1816.

[3]  Dr. Marcus C. Buck to his father, August 4, 1816, included in “General Clinch and the Indians, The Army and Navy Chronicle, Volume II, New Series. p. 116.

 

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