U.S. Army officers met 200 years ago today with a delegation of Lower Creek chiefs in a last ditch effort to head off open warfare.
The council took place at Fort Scott on the lower Flint River in Southwest Georgia and was convened at the request of William Perryman. He was the principal chief of Tellmochesses, a Lower Creek town about 15 miles north of today’s Sneads in Jackson County, Florida. It was described by Brevet Maj. David E. Twiggs of the 7th U.S. Infantry:
…On the 4th of this month some of the chiefs from off the Chattahoochie had a meeting at this place, they stated that they were friends to the U.S. and wished to remain so, but the Indians east of the Appalachicola and Flint they were doubtful of. I have not heard a word from the Seminolas that can be relied on, but in my opinion they never will give up a murderer to the whites.[i]
Twiggs later learned that the council had been called to give Perryman and other leaders a chance to publicly flog Neamathla (Eneah Emathla), the Fowltown chief, for his defiance of the United States. Neamathla had refused to attend, however, telling the major that he had nothing more to say:
…In fact the chief of the Fowl town near this who is very frequently among the Seminolas told me eight days ago [i.e. on August 3, 1817] that the Flint river was the line between us & I must not cut another stick of timber on the opposite side from this, the land was his & he was directed by the Powers above to protect & defend it & he should do so & I would see that talking could not frighten him.[ii]
Cappachimico (Kenhajo), the principal chief of the Miccosukee towns, also declined to appear for the council at Fort Scott. His refusal to attend was of particular concern to U.S. officials who had demanded of him the warriors responsible for several murders along the Georgia border. Please see Violence surges on the Florida-Georgia border for more information on those incidents.
It would take several weeks for the report from Maj. Twiggs to reach Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines in the Mississippi Territory (today’s Alabama), but the general had already taken steps to prepare for action against Fowltown and Miccosukee. A new road had been opened from Fort Crawford at present-day East Brewton, Alabama, across to Fort Gaines on the Chattahoochee, a large supply of rations had been ordered from Forbes & Company and Maj. Twiggs had been sent to build additional barracks at Fort Scott.
Twiggs also expected such a movement, but made clear to Gaines that he expected that war would be result. “The Indians on the east of the Flint will in my opinion in the event of a movement on that side of the river commence hostilities,” he wrote. “It is possible I may be mistaken but I shall think so till the contrary is proved.”
Few details of the Fort Scott Council survive but it is clear that meeting failed to achieve any of its goals. Without the presence of representatives of the growing Creek/Seminole alliance, there was little that could be done to achieve the stated goal of avoiding open conflict in the borderlands.
This series marking the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War will continue.
[i] Bvt. Maj. David E. Twiggs to Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines, August 11, 1817, Jackson Papers, Library of Congress.