The merchant ship Nassau set sail from Mobile Bay 200 years ago today, carrying with it news of the westernmost raids yet of the Seminole War.
This article is part of a continuing series that commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Seminole Wars. Please click here to access the entire series.
The westward spreading war panic struck Mobile and Blakeley during the last week of January 1818. The two Alabama towns then competed to see which would rise as the major port for Mobile Bay. News of a nearby raid by Muscogee (Creek) warriors who had joined in the Seminole conflict put the citizens of both places on age:
Capt. Hitchcock, of schooner Nassau, arrived at New-York from Mobile, states that considerable alarm existed among the inhabitants of the town of Blakely on account of the reported movements of the hostile Indians. Thirty warriors had crossed the Perdido, and were said to be on their way to the town of Blakely; they had reached the Cowpens, killed many cattle and committed other depredations. The inhabitants of Blakely were under arms…Captain H. brought a file of the mobile Gazettes to the 27th Jan. inclusive. In the latest a meeting of the inhabitants of the town of Mobile was called on business relating to the safety of the town from the attacks of the savages. (1)
Blakeley, where citizens were reported to be under arms, has vanished from the landscape of Alabama but in 1818 was a prosperous community. The site is preserved today at Historic Blakeley State Park just north of Spanish Fort, Alabama. The community is best remembered as the scene of a major battle of the War Between the States (or Civil War), but it was also a thriving community from 1814 until the 1820s when yellow fever caused its evacuation.
Despite the concern in Mobile, the immediate threat was in Blakeley. Creek raiders could strike up to the very edges of the town and there was little that settlers could do to stop them. The rivers and bay that separated Mobile from the Eastern Shore served as natural defenses to protect that city. Blakeley had no such natural defenses and its residents could do little other than take up their arms and wait to see if an attack materialized.
The first lots at Blakeley were sold in 1813 and in less than a decade it grew to become a community of 1,200 people with a bank, post office, several hotels and even one of Alabama’s earliest newspapers. Only ruins, ancient roadbeds and a cemetery remain today to remind visitors to Historic Blakeley State Park that the once thriving port ever existed.
The warriors that had struck west of the Perdido did not attack Blakeley, but they caused considerable alarm there and would soon appear elsewhere.
This series will continue.
(1) Rutland Herald (Vermont), February 25, 1818, Page 3.