Creek, Seminole and Miccosukee warriors withdrew from around Fort Hughes at what is now Bainbridge, Georgia, 200 years ago today. The U.S. Army took quick advantage of the lull to get the garrison to safety.
This article continues our series that commemorates the Seminole War 200th Anniversary.
The Battle of Fort Hughes began on December 15, 1817, when a force of several hundred Native American warriors surrounded the small outpost on Burges’s Bluff and attempted to storm the works. Capt. John N. McIntosh and his small company of 40 men waged a fight for their lives over three days, holding off the attackers by sweeping the approaches to the 90-foot square fort with musket fire. No soldiers were reported killed or wounded in the fighting – likely due to their secure positions in the two blockhouses of the stockade – and Capt. McIntosh was unable to say how much injury his men inflicted on the attacking force.
The sound of the gunfire faded away on the morning of December 18, 1817 – 200 years ago today – and a courier was sent to alert Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle at Fort Scott that the battle was over.
The two forts were about 10 miles apart so the “runner” covered the distance by afternoon. Lt. Col. Arbuckle immediately ordered the evacuation of Capt. McIntosh’s company from Fort Hughes while there was an opportunity to do so:
In consequence of the situation of our vessels, and the difficulty of supplying Fort Hughes, I have thought it best to recall the command. During the time Captain McIntosh commanded that post, he was surrounded by a large force, and his arrangements were such as to do him much credit; he did the enemy some injury, and had no men killed or wounded.[i]
The operation to rescue the garrison was carried out by Capt. Sanders Donoho of the U.S. Corps of Artillery. The “Register of Details for Command from Fort Scott” shows that he was provided with a force of 2 sergeants, 2 corporals and 60 privates. [ii]
The soldiers marched up the approximate routes of today’s 10 Mile Still Road and Spring Creek Road to reach the Flint River crossing below Fort Hughes. The 1820 survey plat of the land lot immediately west of the river shows both the route of the original road and the site of the crossing, as well as the approximate location of the fort on the opposite shore.s.”[iii]
Plats for the land lots east of the river show that Fort Hughes was oriented with one of its corners pointing in the direction of the river. Since it is known that the stockade was 90-feet square with blockhouses on two opposite corners, it is probable that one of the blockhouses stood at this corner. Such a position would allow the garrison to watch the bend of the Flint for a considerable distance above and below the fort without exposing itself to enemy fire. The blockhouses were reported to be 2-story structures, with the second or upper story overhanging the lower.
Capt. McIntosh’s infantrymen were able to protect Donoho’s command as it crossed the Flint and marched up the hill to the fort.
The evacuation of Fort Hughes took place on the next morning, December 19, 1817. Taking any remaining supplies with them, the soldiers marched down the hill to the river crossing and made their way across the Flint and on back to Fort Scott.
The departure of the troops was a significant victory for the strategic plan being carried out by Native American forces. The Prophet Josiah Francis continued to attack two U.S. supply ships on the Apalachicola River in Florida and had temporarily halted their progress upstream to Fort Scott. The second large body of warriors had forced the evacuation of Fort Hughes and the withdrawal of the U.S. Army back to the west side of the Flint River. Stocks of provisions at Fort Scott itself, meanwhile, were dwindling rapidly and smaller groups of warriors were blocking communications between the post and the populated areas of Georgia. The Prophet’s plan to starve out the military was succeeding.
All indications are that the outpost was left standing as the soldiers withdrew. It was clearly shown on the 1820 land lot survey plats and is referenced several times in military reports from the following year. There is no reason to believe, however, that it was ever again garrisoned by the U.S. Army. A monument placed in the 1880s and an interpretive kiosk installed by the Historic Chattahoochee Commission mark the site today.
The site of Fort Hughes is at the J.D. Chason Memorial Park in Bainbridge, Georgia. The park is at the intersection of Jackson and Donalson Streets, four blocks west of North Broad Street.
To learn more about Fort Hughes, please consider the book Fort Scott, Fort Hughes & Camp Recovery.
[i] Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle to Major General Edmund P. Gaines (dated Fort Scott), December 20, 1817, ASPMA Vol 1, No. 164 p. 689-690.
[ii] Register of Details for Command from Fort Scott, from the 18th of December, 1817, until the 19th of March, 1818, whilst under the command of Lt. Col. Arbuckle, Office of the Adjutant General, Letters Received, 1805-1821.
[iii] Plat of Fractional Land Lot 332, District 15, Survey Book DDD, Surveyor General Department, State Archives of Georgia, January 3, 1820.