Seminole War
“Thirty head of poor cows” (Seminole War 200th)

The Chattahoochee River as seen from the site of Fort Gaines in Clay County, Georgia. The landing on the opposite shore is Franklin Landing, named for a community that developed while the fort was still garrisoned.

U.S.-allied Creek warriors arrived at Fort Gaines on the Chattahoochee River with a small but desperately needed herd of cows on January 11, 1818 – 200 years ago today.

This article is part of a continuing series that you can access here: Seminole War 200th Anniversary.

The soldiers at Fort Scott on the Flint River were suffering from a lack of food as the winter grew worse. Capt. George Birch of the 7th Infantry had been sent up the old Three Notch Road to Fort Gaines (please see “We are now on half rations”) with orders to round up as many beef cattle from the neighborhood as possible. His instructions were to obtain the animals through the contractor’s agent if possible, but he was to confiscate them if he could not. A third party would be appointed to appraise the animals and payment was to be promised from the regimental quartermaster.

A reconstructed blockhouse in Fort Gaines, Georgia.

Birch arrived at Fort Gaines on January 9th after a hard march through winter rains. A party of Native American allies were sent out to look for cows that might be roaming freely in the woods:

…On the 11th the Indians returned with about thirty head of poor cows and yearlings & reported 80 o 100 head, but could not drive them in for want of horses. I ordered the Indians to get their horses next morning and drive them in, which they promised to do. (1)

The situation at Fort Gaines was somewhat better than that at Fort Scott. Fewer soldiers were stationed there so the quantity of provisions needed was smaller. A handful of settlers had also arrived since the establishment of the fort in 1816 and were already producing limited amounts of corn, beef and pork on the small farms that they were carving from the wilderness.

The river as seen from the upper floor of the blockhouse.

The army was grateful for the presence of these farmers although technically they did not yet have permission to settle on the lands that the United States had taken from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation by the Treaty of Fort Jackson. The Red Sticks were not at all happy about their presence and had warned them off. Settlers flooded into the little log fort whenever threats appeared but went back to their farms when the coast seemed clear.

There had been some violence on the road that connected Fort Gaines to Fort Hawkins in present-day Macon, Georgia. A courier had been killed and a supply wagon was attacked along the trail during the fall of 1817 but thus far no attack had taken place in the immediate vicinity of the post. That would change on the following day as unbeknownst to Capt. Birch and local civilians, a party of Red Sticks was even then on the move.

To learn more about old Fort Gaines, please consider the book Fort Gaines, Georgia: A Military History.

This series will continue.

(1) Diary of Maj.George Birch, 1809-1825, manuscript.

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