Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson led his army across the Flint River 200 years ago today as the Seminole War moved into a critical new phase.
This article is part of a series that commemorates the 200th anniversary of the first year of the Seminole War. Click here to read other articles in the series.
Jackson had reached Fort Early near present-day Cordele on the previous afternoon, but failing to find promised supplies there he decided to move quickly and march to the Muscogee (Creek) town of Chiaha (Chehaw) near what is now Leesburg, Georgia. The troops set out in a long column on the morning of February 27, 1818.
Fort Early was located atop a high hill from which much of the surrounding countryside could be seen, but the Flint River crossing at the fort was not suitable for the army. They soldiers instead marched a couple of hours south to a ferry that had been established by the Georgia militia during the preceding months. Capt. Hugh Young described the route of march:
…From Fort Early the path runs through sand and pine to the Flint which it intersects four and a half miles below the fort crossing a creek with sandy banks in the second mile and a small thickety branch one-quarter of a mile farther. Hence, to the crossing place through high but flat pine woods not so miry as the country north of Cedar Creek and with an occasional mix- ture of scrubby oak. The Flint, at the ferry, is one hundred and eighty yards wide, with a low pine bluff on the east side and a thicket on the west. Steep sandy banks. [I]
As the army was moving south, news reached Gen. Jackson of the attack by a Muscogee (Creek) raiding party on the Old Federal Road near Fort Mitchell (please see Attack on the Old Federal Road). Notes on the two reports from Col. David Brearley show that they were “Recd. at Creek one mile south of Fort Early Feby. 27th, 1818.”
The site of the crossing was southwest of today’s community of Warwick, Georgia. The river was running high and the process of moving men over on the ferry flat took time. The lead elements of the army began moving to the west bank at around midday on February 27, but the rear of the column would not make it across until the next morning.
Capt. Young described the west bank of the Flint at the ferry site:
…From the crossing place the path goes up the river one quarter of a mile to a place where the open pine woods are near the bank -but separated from it by a bayou with a deep rapid current and a width of twenty yards. This had to be bridged. The land on Flint is second rate, that on the west side the best with a mixed growth of pine and the varieties of oak. [II]
The vanguard of the army moved west from the ferry into what is now Lee County, Georgia, following a path that led to the Chiaha (Chehaw) towns. Jackson hoped to obtain corn and other supplies there. He later told his wife Rachel that the situation was extremely desperate:
…I reached Ft Early where I expected & was promised supplies, here I found half a pint of corn & half a pint of flower pr. man, to ration my troops, through a wilderness of upwards of sixty miles, with various large water courses unusually high to pass, I recollected how the Isarelites of old had been fed in the wilderness, encouraged my men, had the pittance of bread stuff issued, (I had hoggs on foot with me) ordered the line of march to be taken up, crossed the flint to draw what supplies I could from the Indians. [III]
The crossing of the Flint River continued into the night 200 years ago tonight. The march of the army would resume the next morning even before the total force could be gotten across the river.
This series will continue. You can read other articles by accessing the main timeline at Seminole War 200th Anniversary.
[I] Capt. Hugh Young
[III] Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson to Rachel Jackson, March 26, 1818.