The first troops to move in support of the U.S. Army forces on the Georgia-Florida frontier were from the Georgia Militia. They closed in on the Flint River near today’s city of Cordele on this date 200 years ago.
This article is part of a continuing series marking the 200th Anniversary of the Seminole Wars.
Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines, the commander on the frontier, called for support from the Georgia Militia as he prepared to move against the Lower Creek village of Fowltown during the fall of 1817. By late December, those citizen-soldiers were finally on the move:
…The militia, consisting of one regiment of infantry and two troops of cavalry, amounting in the whole to about 700 men, under the command of Brigadier General Glasscock, are on the march, by the way of Hartford, to a point on the Flint River, distance about sixty miles from Fort Scott, where they will erect a small work, and remain until the arrival of gen. Gaines, who is in the neighborhood of St. Mary’s. No offensive operations will take place until a junction is formed by our troops.[i]
The officer in command of the movement was Brig. Gen. Thomas Glascock, the son of a noted Revolutionary War officer of the same name. He was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives and would later represent his state as a Member of Congress. His name is often misspelled as “Glasscock.”
Glascock’s force was supported by a company of artillery with two 6-pounders and moved with it a train of 50 wagons, 13 of them loaded with supplies for Fort Scott. The rest were weighted down with ordnance supplies and ammunition for the Georgia Brigade. The general only had 10-12 days food for his men, but put them in the field after learning of the disastrous attack on Lt. Richard W. Scott’s command:
…Gen. Glasscock has been very anxious and active to hasten the movements of the army….In crossing the waggons over the [Ocmulgee] river, one very heavily loaded, sunk. The current was deep and swift, and the banks very steep. It was dangerous and difficult to save – nothing however was lost, though its contents injured. In this affair, Major W. of Baldwin, really distinguished himself. [ii]
The objective of the militia column was a point on the Flint River near its confluence with Cedar Creek. The site is today on the shores of Lake Blackshear just southwest of Cordele, Georgia. Another force of militia under Gen. David Blackshear had reached the vicinity during the War of 1812 and had started construction there on a “breastworks” or fort, but had been recalled before the work could be completed.
It has long been assumed that Glascock incorporated this incomplete fortification into his new post, which he named Fort Early, but subsequent reports indicate that this was not the case as troops used Blackshear’s breastworks on occasion when caught away from Fort Early at nightfall.
The new fort was intended to serve as a supply depot for operations down the Flint River and Glascock expected that his command would be followed by additional Georgia Militia troops as well as regular forces under Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines. The river was more or less navigable from the site all the way down to Fort Scott and supplies could be moved down aboard flatboats and keelboats, although the journey was dangerous due to rocks and other obstructions.
The fort overlooked a place where the Flint could be forded and a trail led from the site to the nearby Cheaha (Chehaw) villages, which for the most part had aligned themselves with the United States in the War. The general expected to be reinforced by 200-250 warriors from these towns and hoped that he would also be able to obtain provisions from them.
The site of Fort Early was acquired by the Fort Early Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in the early 20th century and the ladies continue to own and preserve it today. A large stone monument was placed there in 1916 and can be seen today along Lakeshore Drive on the heights above Lake Blackshear. Please refer to the map below for directions. For more information on Fort Early, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortearly.
[i] Officer of the Army to a member of Congress, December 29, 1817, from the American Beacon, January 29, 1818, Page 2.
[ii] “Gentleman with the Army” writing in late December 1817, published in the American Beacon, January 22, 1818, Page 2.