The 4th and 7th U.S. Infantry regiments marched south for another 15 miles down the Three Notch Road in Southwest Georgia on November 17, 1817. They reached the area of today’s Iron City by nightfall 200 years ago today.
This article is part of a continuing series that marks the 200th anniversary of the Seminole Wars in Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Read other articles in the series by visiting Seminole War 200th.
The morning of November 17th found Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle and the troops of the 4th and 7th regiments breaking camp in the area of Susian Ford Branch and Flat Creek in the northwest corner of Miller County, Georgia. They had been on the march for weeks, having made their way all the way across South Alabama (then the Mississippi Territory) from Camp Montgomery north of Mobile to Fort Crawford at today’s East Brewton and finally Fort Gaines on the Georgia side of the Chattahoochee River. They left Fort Gaines on the morning of the 15th and had arrived in what is now Miller County the previous afternoon.
The standard rate of march for the U.S. military at the time was 15 miles per day. The route 200 years ago today continued straight down the Three Notch Road into modern Seminole County, Georgia, and a 15 mile march would have brought the soldiers to the Iron City area by nightfall (see map at the bottom of the page). It takes only about 20 minutes to drive the route today but it would have taken a long day of marching for the soldiers to cover it in 1817.
Three Notch Road, then the Fort Scott Road, crosses U.S. 84 about one mile west of the center of Iron City today. A small branch or stream crosses the road about 3/4 of one mile south of U.S. 84. This branch corresponds with about 15 miles of marching and the campsite was probably in this vicinity on the night of November 17, 1817. They were now less than two days out from Fort Scott.
It is not known if the warriors at Fowltown knew that the soldiers were on the move. It is difficult to conceive that they could have moved so deep into Creek country without the word spreading that they were marching on the road to Fort Scott. Neamathla, the chief of Fowltown, though, had told the United States that he would keep his warriors east of the Flint River and expected that the army would stay to its west.
The weather had turned cold and the men of the town, which lay about 4 miles south of today’s Bainbridge, Georgia, were likely on their first deer hunts of the season. The corn crop had been gathered and was in the corn cribs and it was time to stock up on venison for the year and to obtain hides for clothing, utilitarian use or trade. Deer hunting remains a popular activity in Southwest Georgia as the weather cools in November and the Native Americans of the region had taken part in the fall and winter hunts for thousands of years.
The outbreak of the Seminole Wars would disrupt the hunt during the winter of 1817-1818 and the first battle of those conflicts was now less than 4 days away. To learn more about the the First Seminole War and the Battle of Fowltown, please consider the books Fowltown, Fort Gaines, Georgia: A Military History and Fort Scott, Fort Hughes & Camp Recovery.
To drive the route taken by the soldiers 200 years ago today, we recommend combining it with yesterday’s section of the march (see Soldiers cross future site of Blakely, Georgia). Today’s route continued south on Three Notch Road from the vicinity of Susian Ford Branch and Flat Creek in northwestern Miller County. Resuming your drive, continue south on Three Notch Road to GA-273 at the community of Mayhaw.
Mayhaw is named for the fruit of the Eastern Mayhaw (Crataegus aestivalis), a small tree or shrub that grows in swamps, ponds and bogs. It is popularly used for making jelly in Southwest Georgia. Nearby Colquitt is home to the annual Mayhaw Festival, the next version of which will take place on April 21, 2018.
Colquitt, in fact, is a great place for a short detour in your drive. This historic town is home to a beautiful square, numerous unique shops and restaurants, the famed Tarrer Inn restaurant and bed & breafast, and “Swamp Gravy” – the official Folk Life Play of Georgia. Colquitt has numerous murals that interpret the history and folklore of the region and is home to one of Peter Toth’s “Whispering Giant” sculptures that commemorate the vanished Native Americans of America. For more information, please visit Colquitt Miller County Chamber of Commerce.
To reach Colquitt, just turn left (east) on GA-273 at Mayhaw and drive the short distance over to town. After touring Colquitt, retrace your steps to Three Notch Road and turn left (south).
From Mayhaw, Three Notch Road continues south through the beautiful farm country of Southwest Georgia and into Seminole County and the Iron City area. Be sure to look for the vast groves of young olive trees as you approach Iron City. Thousands of acres of olives have been planted in the area and are expected to be in production in just a few years. Future plans call for a mill to press the fruit for commercial olive oil and a visitor center.
Cross over US 84 and continue for another mile to reach the general vicinity of the soldiers’ camp on the night of November 17, 1817.
Food and gas is available in Iron City and will will also findrestaurants and limited accommodations in the nearby city of Donalsonville and more in nearby Bainbridge & Decatur County. Just retrace your route back to U.S. 84 and drive the short distance west to Donalsonville or east to Bainbridge. Excellent camping facilities and cabins are available at nearby Seminole State Park.