Seminole warriors again struck deep into the Georgia frontier on January 19, 1818 – 200 years ago today.
This article of part of our continuing series that marks the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War. Please click here to access the entire series.
The attack took place on the Satilla River near the road that ran from Hartford in Pulaski County to St. Marys on the Georgia coast. The river rises north of the Okefenokee Swamp near the modern city of Fitzgerald and flows southeast for 235 miles to enter the Atlantic Ocean between the southern tip of Jekyll Island and the northern end of Cumberland Island.
The old Hartford or Blackshear road crossed the river between today’s cities of Blackshear and Baxley. This trail should not be confused with the better known Blackshear road that was built by Gen. David Blackshear during the War of 1812 and linked Fort Hawkins at present-day Macon with Darien. Both were in use at about the same time, but were different trails. The site of the attack was in what is now Pierce County, Georgia.
The best account of the incident appears in a deposition given in Camden County by a man named Basil Lowe:
State of Georgia,
Appeared Basil Lowe, who being duly sworn, saith, that on Sunday, the 25th inst. the deponent was at the Satilla river, where the Hartford (or Blackshear’s) road crosses the river, and was informed by three or four persons, that the Indians had, on Monday, the 19th inst. killed a family that lived at that place, consisting of six persons – that two or three of them were scalped. One of the children left for dead had survived, and was alive on the 25th; but little hopes were entertained of its recovery – that there were six or seven Indians – that his informants were at the house, and buried the dead – that they got their information from a young woman who was left for dead – recovered and related the facts; but survived but a short time thereafter, and only to relate the melancholy tale.(1)
It was not recognized at the time, but the attack had missed one of the most important military officers on the frontier by a matter of just days.
Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines used the Hartford road when he began his return to Fort Scott from St. Marys where he had been sent to oversee the taking of Amelia Island by U.S. troops. Gaines had arrived too late to take part in that operation and soon began his long return trip to the Flint River by way of Coleraine on the St. Marys River and the crossing of the Satilla. He had just arrived in Hartford when the warriors struck on the Satilla.
The general did not learn of the attack for nine days:
I have just now received a letter from Wm. Harris, Esq. of Telfair, containing the painful intelligence of the massacre of Mr. Daniel Dikes and his family, by a party of Indians, on the Satilla, 40 miles from Telfair Court-House. Mr. Harris adds that there was reason to apprehend some other families have fallen near the residence of Mr. Dikes. I have ordered a detachment of cavalry to that frontier, to pursue the Indians as far as practicable.(2)
The cavalry ordered out by the general were from the Georgia militia. He also ordered out a detachment of militia infantry to scour the Flint River below Fort Early, the new fort being built near present-day Cordele, ordering the citizen-soldiers to “arrest or attack any parties found in that quarter.”(3)
The “Daniel Dikes” mentioned in Gen. Gaines’ letter appears to have been identical with Daniel David Dykes who died in 1818 and was listed as deceased on the “List of Administrators, Guardians and Executors, 1810-1824” for Pulaski County, Georgia. George Dykes, the father of David Dykes, was killed on the same day and his (David’s) brother, James, served as an administrator for the estates of both men.(4)
The attack on the Dykes family was the beginning of a bloody 30 days that would see multiple attacks, a pitched battle and numerous deaths along the Georgia frontier.
This series will continue.
(1) Deposition of Basil Lowe, January 31, 1818.
(2) Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson to Gov. William Rabun of Georgia, January 28, 1818.
(4) List of Administrators, Guardians and Executors, 1810-1824, Pulaski County, Georgia.