Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson completed his crossing of Cedar Creek and marched into Fort Early on the Flint River 200 years ago today. The route of march was through what is now Crisp County, Georgia.
This article is part of our continuing series that marks the 200th anniversary of the first year of the Seminole War. Please click here to access the entire series.
The crossing of Cedar Creek was not easy. Capt. Hugh Young, Jackson’s topographer, wrote that the stream was flooded and turbulent:
…Cedar Creek rises E. S. E. from Fort Early and enters Flint six miles above the Fort. When we crossed it, the rains had swelled it into a formidable river obstructed by bushes and logs and with a current of dangerous rapidity. Where the old road crosses it the swamp is almost impervious and the creek at high water impassable. But at the ford below, the banks are open and altho miry – the army was enabled by felling trees over the deeper parts of the stream, to cross in one night. When low, Cedar Creek cannot be more than thirty feet wide at this point and has sandy bottom and banks. [I]
The difficult crossing behind him, Jackson marched on to Fort Early. The distance from the creek to the fort was about six miles and the road ran through rolling pine country with occasional boggy branches to be waded. The fort itself was less than two months old and Young described it as “a picketed square with two block houses” and noted that it stood atop a high hill.
Maj. Gen. Jackson penned a letter to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun that evening, informing him of a desperate mission by Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines to relieve Fort Scott on the lower Flint River before Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle could carry out a threat to abandon the post. Jackson did not yet know that Gaines had nearly been killed when his keelboat had collided with rocks on the night of February 23, 1818. (Please see U.S. Army meets disaster on the Flint River).
The general went on to tell Calhoun that he was facing severe supply shortages:
…On the night of the 22d I received, by express, a letter directed to General Gaines, and dated the 19th instant, from Captain Melvin of the 4th infantry, who had been charged by General Gaines to build the boats at the Agency, and have the provisions transported thence, stating that two boats would be finished in two days which would transport upwards of one hundred barrels of flour each; these I had strongly calculated on, but they have not arrived. [II]
The boats would not reach the fort in time for Jackson to resupply his men before he resumed his advance to Fort Scott on the next morning. His only option would be to seek help from Old Howard, the chief of the nearby Muscogee (Creek) town of Chiaha or Chehaw:
…[T]o-morrow I shall proceed for Fort Scott, and endeavor to procure from the Indians a supply of corn that will aid in subsisting the detachment until we reach that place. How those failures have happened under the superintendence of regular officers I cannot imagine, but blame must rest somewhere, and it shall be strictly investigated as soon as circumstances will permit. [III]
The night of February 26 was another miserable one for the troops in Jackson’s army. There was not enough food on hand for the men to have a full meal and rain hampered their efforts to build fires for cooking and warmth. They survived on half-cooked pork and little else.
In worse shape was Gen. Gaines, who spent the 26th lost in the deep wilderness with only one soldier. The two had made it to the west bank of the Flint after the wreck that destroyed the general’s boat, but found themselves separated from the other survivors who wound up on the opposite shore. With no food or supplies and wearing nothing more than pants and shirt in freezing weather, they gave up on their effort to reach Fort Scott and instead turned for Fort Gaines in fear that Arbuckle had evacuated the former post when promised supplies failed to arrive.
This series will continue tomorrow with Andrew Jackson’s crossing of the Flint River and the beginning of his advance from Fort Early to Fort Scott.
[I] Capt. Hugh Young, “A Topographical Memoir on East and West Florida with Itineraries of General Jackson’s Army, 1818,” with notes by Dr. Mark F. Boyd and Gerald Ponton, Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume XIII, Number 3 (January 1935): 131-132.
[II] Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, February 26, 1818.