Capt. Sanders Donoho of the U.S. Army’s Corps of Artillery continued his march south through Georgia on May 9, 1817, 200 years ago today.
He commanded a small company of 39 artillerymen that had been sent as “red-legged infantry” – artillery soldiers temporarily assigned to serve as infantry – with orders to reoccupy and rebuild Fort Scott on the Georgia frontier. The fort stood on the lower Flint River in today’s Decatur County about 14 miles below the City of Bainbridge. It had been evacuated by U.S. troops the previous winter and burned by Red Stick Creek and Seminole warriors following the departure of the soldiers.
Please see Creek & Seminole warriors burn Fort Scott for more information.
It is generally believed, and probably accurately so, that the Fowltown warriors were among those who raided Fort Scott. Fowltown or Tutalosi Talofa was a Lower Creek village located about three miles south of present-day Bainbridge, Georgia. Its inhabitants had relocated down the Flint River from their earlier home on a tributary of Kinchafoonee Creek near Albany. This move was caused by the military defeat of the town’s principal chief, Neamathla.
The Fowltown warriors had joined with the Yuchis in “taking the talk” of the Prophet Josiah Francis and his followers during the Creek War of 1813-1814. These groups were on the front line of the westward expansion of the American frontier and found much appeal in the Prophet’s message.
Francis could communicate with the water spirits. He was often seen walking down into a flowing stream or river from which he would not emerge for many hours. A practitioner of the Nativistic religion of the Shawnee Prophet Tenskwatawa, Josiah Francis taught the converts who gathered around him that they should separate themselves from the whites. He also preached that chiefs who favored the “plan of civilization” of the U.S. Government should be overthrown. While many writers have claimed that his message was one of violence, it was not. Francis taught that the Creeks should live in peace with all people, but that they should be subject to none.
On one point, however, he was particularly emphatic: no more Native American land was to be surrendered.
Such talk resonated with the head chief of Fowltown (called Tutalosi Talofa or “Chicken Town” in the Hitchiti tongue of the Lower Creeks). His name or title was Eneah Emathla, which translates roughly to “Fat Warrior.” He was not an overweight individual, but was enormous in courage. The whites, who were never very good with Indian names, called him everything from E-nee-hee-maut-by to Eneamathla before finally settling on the name Neamathla. Several other sub-chiefs in his band bore the same title, but Neamathla was well-known as the most important of these during his day.
A man of courage and talent, Neamathla was said by one contemporary to be able to command his warriors with a mere look. He agreed with Josiah Francis that the Creeks should no longer submit to the expansionist desires of the whites. When the Creek War of 1813-1814 erupted, he led his warriors to join the Prophet’s force at Holy Ground on the Alabama River. They were joined on the march by most of the Yuchi.
The followers of the Prophet were called Red Sticks or Red Clubs, a term that originated from the fact that they displayed red war clubs in their towns. The Tutalosi and Yuchi Red Sticks , however, were cornered and defeated at the Battle of Uchee in what is now Russell County, Alabama, before they could reach Francis and the main army at Holy Ground on the Alabama River.
The attack, according to U.S. Agent for Indian Affairs Benjamin Hawkins, was carried out by an overwhelming party of Cowetas under the U.S.-allied chief William McIntosh.
Blocked in his objective of joining the Red Sticks in Alabama and fearing that the women and children of his town would be subjected to punitive raids by McIntosh’s warriors, Neamathla abandoned his town on a tributary to Kinchafoonee Creek west of present-day Albany and withdrew down the Flint River into the deep wilderness near the Florida border.
Neamathla and his warriors allied themselves with the British, who appeared on the Apalachicola at about the same time. The War of 1812 was underway and Lt. Col. Edward Nicolls of the Royal Marines had been sent to raise an auxiliary force of Indian and maroon (escaped slave) warriors. The Tutalosis were given arms, ammunition and a drum for their town. Neamathla was presented with a military uniform coat of scarlet color and a letter signed by Captain Robert Spencer testifying that the chief was a loyal and good friend of Great Britain.
Neamathla was present at Nicolls’ Outpost, a British fort at today’s River Landing Park in Chattahoochee, Florida, on March 10, 1815, when a large gathering of Creek and Seminole chiefs signed a written appeal to the Prince Regent in London. They sought a permanent alliance with Great Britain and help in enforcing the provisions of the Treaty of Ghent. That treaty had ended the War of 1812 and required that all combatants returned to their prewar land holdings.
Colonel Nicolls and other British officers on the Apalachicola believed that the Creeks were covered under the terms of the treaty as their war with the United States had been a subsidiary part of the larger conflict. The United States disagreed and maintained that the Creeks had already entered into a separate treaty and therefore were not covered under the Treaty of Ghent.
The agreement referred to by U.S. negotiators was the Treaty of Fort Jackson. It had been negotiated by Andrew Jackson in 1814 and was, in effect, a Creek surrender. A delegation of chiefs, all but one of whom had sided with the United States during the Creek War, agreed to Jackson’s terms and ceded to the whites 23,000,000 acres of Creek land.
The largest swath of this cession was along the Florida border. Unfortunately for Neamathla and his followers, it included the land on which they had established their new village.
The presence of Fowltown and other Lower Creek villages on the Treaty lands was not an immediate concern to anyone. Few whites were brave enough to settle in the new territory and the Indians for the most part just wanted to be left alone. The burning of Fort Scott by Red Stick warriors in January 1817, however, changed this equation and events soon spiraled out of control.
A flurry of letters and reports traveled back and forth between the frontier and both the War Department in Washington, D.C., and the headquarters of Major General Andrew Jackson in Nashville, Tennessee. They quickly placed the blame for the burning of Fort Scott on Neamathla and his warriors at Fowltown. Although they often debated the proper policy to pursue with regard to the Indians of the Southeast, in this case U.S. officials were almost unanimous: Neamathla and his people had to go. They would be warned to leave the treaty lands without delay.
The chief, however, believed the land was his and that he was “directed by the powers above to defend it.” He took his stand on the south side of the Flint as Captain Donoho’s little band of troops approached.
The stage was set for war and the conflict was not long in coming.
To learn more about these events, please press the play button to enjoy this free documentary from TwoEgg.TV:
Also please consider the growing series of books by historian Dale Cox on the First Seminole War: