The main bodies of the 4th and 7th U.S. Infantry regiments began their march down the “Three Notch Road” through Southwest Georgia 200 years ago today. The beginning of the Seminole Wars was now just six days away.
This article is part of a continuing series marking the 200th anniversary of the Seminole Wars. You can read other articles in the series by visiting Seminole War 200th.
The U.S. force had completed its crossing of South Alabama (then the Mississippi Territory) from Camp Montgomery near the site of old Fort Mims a couple of days earlier and was camped outside the log walls of Fort Gaines on the Chattahoochee River on the night of November 14, 1817. The total length of the march so far had been roughly 200 miles and had seen the long column of blue-coated soldiers pass the Tensaw community, Fort Crawford (today’s East Brewton, Alabama), and the blockhouse at the forks of the Choctawhatchee River (between Ozark and Dothan, Alabama) before reaching Fort Gaines in today’s Clay County, Georgia. The heavy supplies of the regiments had been sent aboard two transports that by mid-November were on the lower Apalachicola River trying to make their way upstream to Fort Scott.
Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines, who commanded on the frontier, had traveled ahead of the column and was already at Fort Scott by the time the troops marched away from Fort Gaines on the morning of November 15, 1817. Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle of the 7th U.S. Infantry led the soldiers as they turned south down the newly-constructed trail that led from Fort Gaines through today’s Clay, Early, Seminole and Decatur Counties to Fort Scott.
The road – commonly called the “Three Notch Trail” although it was shown on maps of the time as the “Fort Scott Road” – ran southeast from Fort Gaines along the approximate route of today’s GA-39 and the general route can still be followed today (see the map at the bottom of this page if you would like to travel it).
The average rate of march for an infantry unit of the time was 15 miles per day and the troops likely stopped along the trail about that distance southwest of Fort Gaines. The 1820 District Plat of Survey for District 28 of the original Early County, in fact, shows a symbol for a “breastwork” on the old road at a point roughly 15 miles southeast of Fort Gaines. The site is about 4 miles northwest of today’s Blakely, Georgia. A narrow creek that flows nearby is still called “Breastworks Branch” to this day. The “breastwork” likely marked the site of a U.S. Army camp along the road about one day’s march out from Fort Gaines.
The soldiers likely did not realize it, but they camped 200 years ago tonight just a few miles from one of the most remarkable places in the eastern United States. Kolomoki Mounds State Park preserves a stunning group of prehistoric Indian mounds. The largest is 57-feet tall and from its top it is possible to see for miles in all directions. The mounds date from 350-750 A.D. and it is believed that the Woodland era inhabitants of the site were the ancestors of the Hitchiti-speaking groups that later formed part of the Creek Confederacy. Fowltown was one of these communities and the lineage of its chiefs and warriors likely traced back to the powerful Kolomoki.
The march through Southwest Georgia would resume on the next day. To learn more about the days leading up to the outbreak of the First Seminole War at the Battle of Fowltown, please consider the books Fowltown, Fort Gaines, Georgia: A Military History and Fort Scott, Fort Hughes & Camp Recovery.
If you would like to follow the route of the soldiers from Fort Gaines to Fort Scott and the Battle of Fowltown, please use this map to drive the first segment from Fort Gaines to Blakely, Georgia. Be sure to detour by Kolomoki Mounds State Park! If you need accommodations in Fort Gaines, we recommend the lodge or cabins at George T. Bagby State Park. Campsites are also available. Blakely offers a limited number of hotels and Kolomoki Mounds has an excellent campground.