Heavy rainstorms swept through the countryside between the Chehaw (Chiaha) towns and Fort Early on March 1, 1818. The rear of Jackson’s army marched on, still trying to catch up with the main body that was camped around Old Howard’s town of Aumuccullee (please see Soldiers reach the Chehaw towns).
This article is part of our continuing series that commemorates the first year of the Seminole War. Click here to read other articles in the series.
Lt. John Banks of the Georgia militia was among the troops at the rear of the army. He remembered marching through miserable conditions 200 years ago today:
…On Sunday night, the first of March, we marched till 9 o’clock P.M. We had a rough time of it that night, the rain fell in torrents while it was so dark we could not see to follow the trail. We were endeavoring to overtake the main army which left us crossing the river. In this, however, we were disappointed, for we could no longer follow their track. [I]
Banks did not know it, of course, but conditions were going to get much worse on the following day. The rains were associated with a massive cold front that was sweeping down through the Southeast. Temperatures would plunge and the army would battle snow and ice over coming days.
The heavy rains and snow would keep the Flint River at flood stage for weeks to come.
Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines, meanwhile, remained lost in the Southwest Georgia wilderness. The general’s keelboat had wrecked on February 23 as he tried to make an overnight run from Fort Early down to Fort Scott with emergency supplies (please see Disaster on the Flint River).
Gaines was somewhere around the Chickasawhatchee Swamp on March 1, 1818. It was the sixth day he had been without anything to eat other than what he could find in the woods. He and an enlisted man had made it to shore from the wreck with nothing but their pantaloons and shirts. They had no shoes, no weapons, no coats and no food of any kind and had been roaming in the woods and swamps ever since.
Flooded streams and creeks prevented them from going down to Fort Scott or back up to Fort Early, so they traveled up the east side of Ichawaynochaway Creek in what is now Baker County, Georgia. They reached the Chickasawhatchee Creek to find it also at flood stage but continued up until they found a place where they could cross. Hoping that detachments would be out looking for him, the general left a note on a stick to tell rescuers that he was going to try to make it overland to Fort Gaines on the Chattahoochee River.
Capt. John Allison from Fort Scott was desperately searching for the general 200 years ago today and found the spot where he had crossed the Chickasawhatchee:
…The Ground has been well examined & the place found where he crossed the creek about 15 or 20 miles above its mouth on the north side; on the East I have dispatched with Capt. Bee some of my best men & Indians to look for the General on that side, and on the route to Fort Gaines: also Bill & another Indian to look into any Fork of the Creek. Dr. Bell who found the note of the General & traced him to his cross place, is of the opinion that in his Exhausted State it is doubtful if he succeeded getting over. I have done all that it is in my Power to do in this direction & for want of provisions am now on my return. [II]
The area in which Gaines was lost is the second largest swamp in the State of Georgia. More than 19,000 acres are protected today in the Chickasawhatchee Wildlife Management Area, a state preserve that offers hunting, fishing, hiking, Geocaching, canoeing, camping and much more. Please visit Chickasawhatchee WMA for more information and use the map below to find it.
This series will continue. Remember that you can check out our complete timeline of articles anytime at Seminole War 200th Anniversary.
[I] John Banks, Diary of John Banks, 1936.
[II] Capt. John S. Allison to Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, March 2, 1818.