The head of Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s long column reached the Chehaw (or Chiaha) towns in Georgia 200 years ago today. The rear of the army was still trying to cross the Flint River some 7-8 miles away.
This article is part of our continuing series that commemorates the 200th anniversary of the first year of the Seminole War. Click here to read other articles in the series.
The Chehaw towns were a cluster of settlements made by Muscogee (Creek) Indians from the Hitchiti town on the Chattahoochee River during the second half of the 18th century. They were prosperous and heavily populated, with fields and homes spread out along the Kinchafoonee and Muckalee Creeks in what is now Lee County, Georgia.
Capt. Hugh Young of Jackson’s staff described the primary settlement of Old Howard, the principal chief of the towns:
…The Chehaw village was situated on Makolla creek eight miles from where it enters Flint and in a body of second rate hammock land. It consisted of fifteen or twenty cabbins with a large council house in the center which on our arrival was decorated with the white flag. The creek at the town is eighty-five feet wide with a swamp on the west side one-quarter of a mile wide and a high open bank on the east. The banks and bottom are firm and sandy. The swamp is not miry except near the highland where for one hundred yards there is a mixture of stiff white clay. It has the usual varieties of bottom growth of Palmetto. [I]
The actual town that officers called “Chehaw” was Amuccullee, one of several individual villages that made up the Chehaw settlement. It was located on Muckalee Creek just a few miles northeast of today’s Leesburg, Georgia.
Young estimated the strength of the town at “70 or 80 warriors,” an indication that its total population probably approached 700. He also noted that “Falemma’s Town” on the east side of the Flint River was a small branch of the Chehaw settlements, but did not list its strength separately. Philema Road, which bears the name of the chief that Young spelled “Falemma,” is today an important transportation route that runs northeast from Albany to the Philema community in Lee County.
The captain reported in his “Topographical Memoir” of the country covered by Jackson’s march that the Chehaw farmed good second-rate land, had many cattle and were adept at the arts of spinning and weaving. He reported that Howard was “a good old man” but warned that the warriors of Chehaw were “not to be too far trusted.” [II
Jackson pushed the head of his army miles ahead of its rear due to the severe supply shortage that he was facing. Promised keelboat loads of provisions had failed to reach Fort Early by the time of his arrival there and he had no choice but to either retreat or advance to the Chehaw towns in hope of obtaining food. The general chose to advance and did so rapidly after getting part of his column across the Flint River on February 27, 1818 (please see Jackson crosses the Flint like the “Isarelites of old”).
The march from the encampment on the west side of the river was as rough as had been the passage from Hartford to Fort Early, but the vanguard of the army and the general himself reached Old Howard’s town by the late afternoon of February 28, 1818:
…On my march from Hartford to Fort Scott, the necessities of the army were first relieved at the Chehaw village, and every act of friendship characterized the conduct of their old chiefs. The young warriors immediately entered, and were mustered into the service of the United States; and, under the command of Colonel Kanard, were esteemed one of the most efficient corps of friendly Indians. [III]
The “Colonel Kanard” referenced by Jackson was Col. Noble Kennard of the U.S. Creek Brigade. His name is also spelled Cannard, Kinniard, Kenniard, Kinard and in a number of other ways. He lived on Kinchafoonee Creek a half-dozen miles northwest of Old Howard’s settlement and was part of the wealthy Kennard family. He and John Kennard were engaged in trading and other activities and were reported to be among the richest men in the Creek Nation.
The troops that reached Chehaw 200 years ago today were able to add corn, peas and other foods to their diet of fresh pork. Miles behind them on the Flint, meanwhile, the rear guard of the army finally succeeded in getting across to the west bank where they slept in the mud that had been churned up by the passage of hundreds of soldiers and the swine herd that had gone before them.
This series will continue. Remember that you can catch up with all of the articles by visiting our main Seminole War 200th Anniversary page.
A small portion of the site of Old Howard’s Chehaw town is preserved just northeast of Leesburg, Georgia. Use the map below to help you find it (and be sure not to confuse it with Chehaw Park in Albany!). But first, check out some great imagery of Muckalee Creek set to Luke Bryan singing Muckalee Creek Water. Just click the play button in the video box:
[I] Capt. Hugh Young, Page 134.
[II] Capt Hugh Young, Part 1, Page 88.
[III] Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, May 7, 1818.