Bvt. Maj. David E. Twiggs of the U.S. Army reached Fort Scott on the Georgia frontier 200 years ago in early July 1817.
He and his company of 76 men from the 7th U.S. Infantry had spent weeks blazing a new trail across South Alabama from Fort Crawford at today’s East Brewton to Fort Gaines on the Chattahoochee River. They left Fort Gaines on or about July 2nd and reached Fort Scott on present-day Lake Seminole a few days later.
The arrival of Twiggs and his men was a welcome one to Captain Sanders Donoho, the commander of Fort Scott. He had arrived at the burned fort in June with a small artillery company of only 39 men having received orders to rebuild the post. Donoho and his men labored feverishly to prepare defenses, all the while facing the very real possibility of an attack by an overwhelming force of Red Stick Creek, Miccosukee, Seminole, Yuchi and maroon (Black Seminole) warriors.
Twiggs assumed command of the fort and the joining of his company with Donoho’s gave him enough men to defend the post for the time being. He was concerned about a shortage of flour, reporting that the entire stock then on hand at both Fort Gaines and Fort Scott amounted to less than 40 days. There was plenty of beef on the hoof to be had, but that would rapidly change once a larger force arrived or should hostilities erupt.[i]
Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines was then at Camp Montgomery in Tensaw in the Alabama Territory, and sought to head off future supply problems by ordering provisions to Fort Scott by water:
…I have ordered a supply of provisions and other military stores to the Appalachicola by water, to be delivered at Fort Scott by the 30th of next month – at which time I wish to be in readiness to adjust our difference with the Indians. – Should they be disposed to continue in a state of war, they shall receive a full portion of its evils; but, should they desire peace, and yield to the demands of justice, they shall be gratified.[ii]
The chiefs and warriors in Spanish Florida and Southwest Georgia, of course, felt that the whites were responsible for growing hostilities along the border. This sense grew in part from the 1816 expedition by U.S. forces that resulted in the destruction of the “Negro Fort” on the Apalachicola River where the British had left a large supply of arms and ammunition for the use of their War of 1812 allies.
The attacks and counter-attacks that followed along the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers were also blamed by each side on the other. Indian Agent David B. Mitchell, the former Governor of Georgia, agreed somewhat with the American Indian point of view that the outbreak had been instigated by the whites.
Gen. Gaines, however, placed the blame squarely on the Miccosukee and demanded that they surrender the warriors responsible for killing white people along the frontier. Cappachimico, sometimes called Kenhajo, had been the principal chief of Miccosukee since the late 1700s. He declined to turn over any of his people to the whites.
…Having been instructed by Major Gen. Jackson to demand in the Seminole Indians the delivery of the murderers of our citizens, and in the event of noncompliance to take such vengeance as will completely slake the thirst those Indians have for the blood of our citizens – I in May last, despatched an officer to the Chattahoochie, with an order to invite the chiefs to attend near the boundary line, for the purpose of presenting to them my communication demanding the delivery of the murderers. The principal Chief of the Mickasukee town has refused to attend the meeting, nor has any other chief for the purpose of hearing my communication; and I have ascertained that a strong spirit of hostility towards us still exists among them.[iii]
Gaines also prepared to march the full strength of the First Brigade to Fort Scott from its quarters at Camps Montgomery and Montpelier in Alabama. The brigade included the 4th and 7th U.S. Infantry regiments as well as artillery companies from the 4th U.S. Artillery. The troops would move by way of the trail blazed by Maj. Twiggs in June. They would improve and complete the road as they advanced.
Our series marking the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War will continue. If you would like to learn more about the “Negro Fort” on the Apalachicola, mentioned in this article, please click the play button to enjoy this free documentary:
[i] Maj. David E. Twiggs to Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines, June 29, 1817, Andrew Jackson Papers, Library of Congress.
[ii] Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines to the Governor of Georgia, July 20, 1817, included in Georgia Journal, September 15, 1817.