Capt. Sanders Donoho and his 39-man company from the 4th U.S. Artillery reached Fort Scott on the Georgia frontier 200 years ago this week.
The soldiers had been on the march for more than five weeks, having left Charleston, South Carolina, on April 27, 1817. They passed through Augusta on May 5th and reached Fort Gaines on the Chattahoochee in late May. After a brief halt to rest, Donoho continued south into the wilderness and finally came within site of the abandoned Fort Scott during the first week of June.
The fort had been partially destroyed by Red Stick Creek and Seminole warriors in January, shortly after it was evacuated by U.S. troops. To read more about that incident, please see Creek and Seminole warriors burn Fort Scott, Georgia.
Maj. John M. Davis had visited the fort during the previous fall. He noted the presence of a small temporary stockade before going on to describe the permanent fort then being built at the site by Lt. Col. Duncan Lamont Clinch’s battalion of the 4th U.S. Infantry:
This cantonment was built on the bank of the river, which is so high & perpendicular that it would be impossible for an enemy to approach or do any injury on that part. The men’s barracks are built of squared logs, laid close together; all in one line parallel to with the river, at a distance of about one hundred yards from it; they were put up in such a manner as by closing the doors & windows, would make them secure in front from small arms; and by closing the flanks with a picket work (which was their intention) would secure three hundred men from any body of Indians or small arms – As long as their supplies of provisions & ammunition would hold out – The Officers Quarters was built between the line of men’s barracks & the river. – (Maj. J.M. Davis to Col. A.P. Hayne, April 30, 1817).
The extent to which this complex was damaged by the Native Americans remains something of a mystery. One report indicated that at least three structures had been destroyed. If these were part or all of the line of connected barracks mentioned by Major Davis, then Donoho and his men probably arrived to find very little still standing.
The men of Donoho’s company found themselves in an extremely exposed and dangerous position at Fort Scott. They were deep in the wilderness almost on the edge of Spanish Florida. Hundreds of Red Stick Creek and Seminole warriors were closer to them than the nearest possible reinforcements, who were two days away at Fort Gaines.
The soldiers had been ordered to repair or rebuild the fort, but their first priority was to protect themselves. They immediately began to cut and drag logs. The larger fort would take six months to rebuild but the danger of an attack was immediate. The captain did not describe the steps that he took to house and protect his men, but a blockhouse or similar structure that could be defended by his small 39-man company was a logical solution.
Such structures were common on the frontier during the 19th century and usually consisted of a two-story log building. The upper floor was larger than the lower floor and sometimes was topped with a sentry post. Reconstructed examples can be seen today at Fort Foster in Florida, Fort Gaines and Fort Hawkins in Georgia, Fort Mitchell and Fort Mims in Alabama and Fort Gibson in Oklahoma.
Donoho and his men may not have looked the part, but they were the tip of a spear that the United States was preparing to aim at the Seminole, Miccosukee, Yuchi, Red Stick Creek and maroon (Black Seminole) bands in Florida and along the frontier. More troops would soon follow as the army began a buildup that would end with the outbreak of hostilities on November 21, 1817.
Learn more about Fort Scott and its history by clicking play below to watch Two Egg TV‘s free documentary: