A badly wounded man crawled into Fort Mitchell 200 years ago today to report that his family had been attacked on the Old Federal Road.
This article is part of a continuing series that marks the 200th anniversary of the first year of the Seminole War. Please click here to access the entire series.
The main body of Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s army was moving west on the trail from Hartford to Fort Early on February 20, 1818, battling mud and the elements in a difficult march to the Flint River. Parties of Seminole, Miccosukee, Muscogee (Creek) and Yuchi warriors, however, continued to sweep north in a determined effort to disrupt the movement of U.S. supply wagons and other traffic.
Col. David Brearley of the 7th U.S. Infantry was in command at Fort Mitchell 200 years ago this morning:
The Indians attacked the camp of a travelling family last night on the Federal road about 15 miles from this place, towards Fort Hawkins.
Parks Mosely arrived here about 4 o’clock this morning severely wounded, and states, that the Indians fired upon them while asleep, killed his wife and child, and John Harris. [I]
Fort Mitchell stood on the west side of the Chattahoochee River in today’s Russell County, Alabama. The attack site has not been identified but was probably in the eastern edge of today’s Fort Benning near the town of Cusseta, Georgia. It was part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in 1818.
Col. Brearley immediately ordered out a party of mounted civilian volunteers with the officer in charge of the Creek Factory at Fort Mitchell, Maj. Daniel Hughes, at their head. The Factory was not an industrial complex but a government trading post, part of a system established by the U.S. Congress in 1795. It stood near the post and was an important commercial center for the Muscogee (Creek) Indians who lived within the limits established by the Treaty of Fort Jackson.
Hughes and his party rode east and soon found that Mr. Mosley’s family was not dead as he had thought:
I am happy to have it in my power to inform you that Mrs. Mosely and her child, an infant not five months old, two of the party who were attacked by the Indians on the night of the 19th Inst. have been brought to this place, and hopes are entertained for their recovery; the woman was shot through the thighs and one arm; both were severely tomahawked in the head. Harris was found on the Spot dead and scalped. [II]
A party of Muscogee (Creek) warriors allied with the United States immediately went in pursuit of the attackers, trailing them for several miles before concluding that they were out of reach on their way back to the Florida borderlands:
The Hostile party it is believed did not consist of more than 12 or 15 and I presume from the course of their trail, which was pursued several miles, that they returned immediately after committing the outrage.
In order to prevent a similar occurrence and to protect the publick waggons loaded with provisions and supplies for this place, I have ordered two parties of warriors consisting of 25 men each to patrol the road from this to the Creek Agency which will be competent to render travelling perfectly safe.
I feel gratified in having it in my power to say, it is probable that in the course of this day there will be upwards of One Thousand Warriors assembled at this place who uniformly express great anxiety to be engaged in active service. [III]
The 1,000 warriors reported to be gathering at Fort Mitchell were volunteering for service in the U.S. Creek Brigade of Maj. Gen. William McIntosh, the war chief of Coweta. He had fought alongside Jackson during the Creek War and was on the field at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. McIntosh’s Brigade would play a critical role in the campaign.
It took until February 27 for Col. Brearley’s two reports to reach Maj. Gen. Jackson, who was one mile below Fort Early on the Flint River when they arrived. The Georgia Journal carried news of the attack on March 10, 1818:
…One of the men was shot dead & scalped, the other though wounded made his escape; the woman was shot in three places and tomahawked but not scalped; the child had a cut on the head, apparently made with a knife. They were both found alive and conveyed to Fort Mitchell, where the woman under the benevolent care of Maj. Hughes, U.S. Factor, is likely to recover – the child has died. The woman says there were fifteen Indians, but in her situation it is not likely she could ascertain the number. It cannot be long before these wretches will be made to suffer ten-fold the evils they have inflicted – a terrible vengeance awaits and will shortly overtake them. [IV]
The “terrible vengeance” promised by the editor was, of course, a reference to Jackson and his army. He did not mention, however, that the entire bloody war had started when U.S. soldiers attacked the Native American village of Fowltown on November 21-23, 1817 (please see The Battle of Fowltown for more information).
This series will continue. Remember that you can check for new updates anytime by visiting Seminole War 200th Anniversary.
Fort Mitchell has been reconstructed and is open the public on Fridays (11 a.m. – 3 p.m.), Saturdays (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) and Sundays (12 noon – 4 p.m.). Please click here to learn more about the historic site and use the map below for directions:
[I] Col. David Brearley to Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, February 20, 1818.
[II] Col. David Brearley to Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, February 21, 1818.