The return of soldiers to Fort Scott with news of fighting at the Lower Creek village of Fowltown seems to have surprised U.S. commanders at the post. Inexplicably, they had not expected the warriors of the town to resist the army’s kidnapping attempt. Please see The March to Fowltown and The Battle of Fowltown: Day One for the first two articles about the engagement.
This article is part of a continuing series marking the 200th anniversary of the Seminole Wars. Please visit Seminole War 200th to read the complete series.
There was a lull in the fighting 200 years ago today as leaders of both sides contemplated what they should do. Neamathla and the other chiefs and warriors of Fowltown sent out an appeal for help to other Lower Creek, Red Stick, Seminole, Miccosukee and Black Seminole groups in the region. The story told by runners from the town was simple. U.S. soldiers had arrived in the night and attacked the village, three warriors and one woman were dead and reinforcements were needed. The first help to reach Fowltown likely came in the form of chiefs and warriors from the nearby village of Attapulgas. This community was only some 3-4 miles away and the people living there may have even heard the sounds of the fighting on the morning of November 21, 1817.
At Fort Scott, meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines pondered what action he should take. Brevet Maj. David E. Twiggs had returned from Fowltown late the previous afternoon and the general now had a good understanding of how his plan to bring in Neamathla had fallen apart. He was particularly concerned by the news that Twiggs’ command had shot and killed a woman:
It is with deep regret I have to add that a woman was accidentally shot with some warriors in the act of forcing their way through our line formed for the purpose of arresting their flight. The unfortunate woman had a blanket fastened round her (as many of the warriors had) which amidst the smoke in which they were enveloped, rendered it impossible, as I am assured by the officers present, to distinguish her from the warriors.
Gen. Gaines knew that the fighting at Fowltown could lead to further action and he needed immediate intelligence on what Neamathla and his warriors were doing. The only way to gather that information was to send a second military force to the village. The first signs of a provision shortage were also appearing at Fort Scott and the general decided to raid the corn cribs and beef herds of Fowltown to augment his own stocks of supplies.
Gaines immediately ordered Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle of the 7th U.S. Infantry to lead a larger force of 300 men back to Fowltown. The purpose of the move, according to the general’s report to the Secretary of War, was “to ascertain the strength of the hostile Indians in the vicinity of Fowltown, and to reconnoiter the adjacent country.”
Arbuckle decided to approach Fowltown from a different direction than had Maj. Twiggs, a move that would allow him to reconnoiter more of the countryside beyond the Flint River while also avoiding the necessity of using the crossing at Burges’s Bluff which might by now be guarded by Neamathla’s warriors. An approach from the south would allow the soldiers to cross the Flint River under the protection of the cannon at Fort Scott.
The soldiers began crossing the river just below the fort on November 22, 1817 – 200 years ago today – and established a beachhead on the east bank at a site that is now flooded by the waters of Lake Seminole. From there the column turned north up the east side of the Flint, opening a new road as it advanced.
It is not known how far the troops marched on the 22nd but they made good speed considering the need to open a new road – or at least wide a Native American trail – as they advanced. The column this time included 300 men from the 4th and 7th U.S. Infantry regiments as well as a detachment from Capt. Sanders Donoho’s company of the U.S. Corps of Artillery with at least one cannon. Wagons were also taken for use in carrying away Fowltown’s corn stocks.
There is no indication that Arbuckle and his men encountered resistance from Native American scouts as they advanced, but Neamathla almost certainly now had warriors out and watching the approaches to his town. They probably watched the movement of the column from hidden spots and relayed the information back to the chief so he could make preparations. The women and children were evacuated from the town as the warriors prepared to give the U.S. soldiers a much warmer reception than they had received on November 21st.
The Battle of Fowltown would resume the next day. I will post tomorrow about the fighting of November 23, 1817. If you would like to read an in-depth account of Fowltown, please consider the book. You can order it at the bottom of this page.
 Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines to Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, November 21, 1817, Jackson Papers, Library of Congress.
 Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines to the Secretary of War, November 26, 1817, American State Papers – Indian Affairs, Part II: 160.