The morning of November 24, 1817 – 200 years ago today – found the U.S. soldiers that had retreated from Fowltown engaged in cutting and hauling timber. Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle had ordered the construction of a new outpost to protect the Flint River crossing at present-day Bainbridge, Georgia. His men would spend the next three days building it.
This article is part of a continuing series that commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Seminole Wars. Visit Seminole War 200th to read the full series.
The accounts of officers who were present indicate that Lt. Col. Arbuckle was shaken by the determined attacks carried out against his troops by Neamathla’s warriors on November 23, 1817. Instead of taking time to destroy Fowltown as he expected to do, the lieutenant colonel began an immediate withdrawal from the village. The troops marched roughly four miles north to Burges’s Bluff at the site of what is now Bainbridge where they camped on the night of the 23rd.
The next morning – 200 years ago today – they began work on a new log fort that they named Fort Hughes after Aaron Hughes, the unfortunate Army musician killed in the Battle of Fowltown:
The scite of the Fort is on a Bluff sixty or seventy feet above the River and distant about one hindred yards from its edge, the space between the fort and the River and for a considerable distance above and below is very open from this position both on and off the River. There is a considerable portion of good land. The surface of the country is very pleasant and from every appearance must be healthy. This I consider a very advantageous position for a post, it being eight or ten miles nearer to Fort Gaines than this place is and more than that distance nearer to that portion of the Creeks who have commenced the war..
The area around the fort was open in 1817 because it had been the site of the late 18th and early 19th century trading post of James Burges. He had cleared fields around his home and store and though the fields were fallow now, they provided a clear field of fire all the way around the new fort.
It is interesting to note that Lt. Col. Arbuckle blamed the Creeks of Fowltown for starting the war. It is true that they had fired the first shots, but only after U.S. troops arrived in the dark and tried to surround their village in order to take them hostage.
Arbuckle reported that the new fort was square in form, measuring 90-feet on each side. This was relatively small for a fortification of the era, but Fort Hughes was apparently designed to be garrisoned by only one company of troops.
The fort had two blockhouses with overhanging upper stories. They were located on corners diagonally opposite each other. One overlooked the Flint River while the other provided a view of the surrounding countryside. These structures provided quarters for the troops being left to garrison the fort, as well as storage room for supplies and provisions.
The work of building Fort Hughes would continue for the next three or four days.
You can visit the site of the fort today. It was located in the west half of the J.D. Chason Memorial Park in Bainbridge, Georgia (see map below). The Historic Chattahoochee Commission placed an interpretive station there where you can learn about Fort Hughes and the Battle of Fowltown. You can also see the cannon monument placed by the U.S. government during the 1880s.
This series will continue. A memorial service to honor the men and women of both sides who lost their lives at the Battle of Fowltown will be held at Chason Memorial Park on Thursday, November 30, at 6:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 p.m. Central. The public is encouraged to attend.
 Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle to Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines, November 30, 1814.