Seminole War
“Nothing but the application of force” (Seminole War 200th)

The Fowltown Village marker in Decatur County, Georgia. Left to right are Dale Cox, historian; CSM David Lanham, FNG and a member of the 7th U.S. Infantry Living History Association; Col. Steve Abolt, 7th U.S. Infantry Living History Association.

The beginning of the Seminole Wars was now less than three weeks away as U.S. soldiers and Native American warriors faced off along the Flint River 200 years ago today.

This is part of a continuing series marking the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War. Please click here to read other articles in this series.

The following is excerpted from my new book, Fowltown: Neamathla, Tutalosi Talofa & the first battle of the Seminole Wars, which is now available. It picks up with Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines’s decision that war against the chiefs and warriors of Fowltown, a Lower Creek village in what is now Decatur County, Georgia, was the only solution to a crisis that had developed along the Flint River:

–Excerpt–

Gaines wrote letters to Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson and the Secretary of War in October 1817, explaining to them that he was preparing for war:

Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines as he appeared later in life. Courtesy National Archives.

…I am convinced that nothing but the application of force, will be sufficient to ensure a permanent adjustment of this affair. I shall therefore put the First Brigade in motion for Fort Scott as soon as I can possibly obtain transportation, and I trust that I shall at least by the 20th or 25th reach that place.

As soon as I can obtain transport I shall report to you by Express. My heavy supplies will go by water with suitable guards; the principal part of the force however will go by Land; and in any event we shall finish the new road, near one third of which is already completed…I shall confer with the agent upon the subject of punishing and removing out of our limits these disorderly Indians.[1]

The general did seem to understand that there was a difference of opinion as to the exact location of the border of the United States as established by the Treaty of Fort Jackson. The whites claimed that they now owned all of Southwest Georgia and what had been Creek territory from the mouth of Cemochechobee Creek to the Florida line. Neamathla and Cappachimico, however, had explained that they believed the border to be the Flint River. Neamathla had asserted this when he told Maj. Twiggs that the land east of the Flint belonged to him. Cappachimico explained further to Gen. Gaines that he and his people had been told to stay “on this side of the river” and had done so. Neither chief explained who identified the Flint River as the line to them but their two independent statements leave little doubt that they were told this by someone.

Neamathla (Eneah Emathla) was the chief of Fowltown in today’s Decatur County, Georgia.

Gaines suggested to both Jackson and the Secretary of War that the actual line dividing Georgia from Florida should be surveyed from the forks of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers to the head of the St. Marys River. Doing so would eliminate any confusion as to the location of the border:

To put at rest any doubt upon the subject of limits, and to enable us to confine the Indians to their own territory, it is very desirable that the national Boundary should be surveyed and marked from the East bank of the appalachicola river to the Okafonoka Swamp. Should the President be pleased to authorize the work there can be no period more suitable for its execution than the next two months, whilst the troops are in that quarter. This part of the line it will be recollected has never been run. Whether it can or cannot be completed without an agent or Commissioner on the part of Spain, is a question about which I know nothing, but which I presume the President could at once determine.[2]

The suggestion by Gen. Gaines that the boundary be surveyed became an afterthought as the U.S. military prepared for war against Fowltown and Miccosukee. Maj. Peter Muhlenberg was sent with a detachment to escort two supply ships from Mobile along the Gulf Coast to Apalachicola Bay and then up the Apalachicola River to Fort Scott. Gaines then ordered the main bodies of the 4th and 7th Infantry regiments to prepare to march. They would cross from Fort Crawford to Fort Gaines using the new military road cut by Maj. Twiggs. From the latter post they would continue on to Fort Scott. The general expected them to be in place by the end of October, but it was November 19 before the lead elements arrived at the post on the Flint River.

–End of Excerpt–

If you would like to read more about the Battle of Fowltown and the beginning of the Seminole Wars, please consider my new book: Fowltown: Neamathla, Tutalosi Talofa & the first battle of the Seminole Wars. It is available in both print and Kindle formats.

The Battle of Fowltown and the beginning of the First Seminole War will be commemorated at the Kirbo Center at 2500 E. Shotwell, Bainbridge, GA on Monday, November 13, at 6:30 p.m. (Eastern). For information on attending this dinner meeting, please contact the Decatur County Historical & Genealogical Society at: https://www.facebook.com/pg/DecaturCountyHistoricalAndGenealogicalSociety/.

References:

[1] Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines to Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, October 1, 1817 (2), Jackson Papers, Library of Congress. See also Gaines to the Secretary of War of the same date.

[2] Ibid.



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