Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s army camped in the Bainbridge vicinity 200 years ago today as his army neared Fort Scott in Southwest Georgia. He would begin his invasion of Spanish Florida in less than three days.
This article is part of Seminole War 200th Anniversary, a special series that commemorates the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War.
U.S. forces converged on the Florida frontier from two directions on March 8, 1818. Jackson continued his march down the Flint River with the main body of the army – now numbering nearly 2,000 men – while Maj. Gen. William McIntosh moved south from Fort Gaines on the Chattahoochee with around 900 warriors from the U.S. Creek Brigade. McIntosh would reach Florida first, crossing into what is now Jackson County on the next day. The main army would reach the Spanish line at present-day Chattahoochee on the morning of March 11.
The commanding general had camped on west side of the Flint about half-way between today’s cities of Newton and Bainbridge on the preceding night (March 7). The march continued 200 years ago today down the heights that generally characterize the west side of the Flint north of Bainbridge. Capt. Hugh Young described the road in his Topographical Memoir:
…From this point the route continues down the river-generally in sight of it to Fort Scott. The country gets more uneven and altho’ the soil and timber differ but little from the flatter districts, the ground is much firmer and better adapted to roads. Flint rock is here very abundant – the path intersects the road from Fort Hughes, nine and a half miles from Fort Scott. [I]
The “road from Fort Hughes” mentioned by Young intersected the U.S. Army or “Jackson Trail” at today’s West Bainbridge in Decatur County, Georgia. It was a short pathway of less than 2 miles that led from the main road to the Flint River crossing and then up the bluff to Fort Hughes, the now-abandoned stockade built by Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle following the Battle of Fowltown (please see The Building of Fort Hughes).
There is no indication that any of Jackson’s soldiers crossed over to the empty fort at this time, but some of his flankers may have seen it as they paralleled the main column. Young left no description of Fort Hughes, but Arbuckle described it as being 90-feet square with blockhouses on two diagonal corners.
Capt. Young did take interest in the geology of the land along the west bank of the Flint:
…In the mineralogy of the country thus far there is little variety. The secondary formation continues of a siliceous character but there is some secondary limestone and on the tops of the higher eminences sandstone is found with the different varieties of ferruginous colouring. The limestone is found near- est the water, and is probably the basis of the flint. The general course of the creeks entering the Flint is S.S.E. and of their extent but little is known. Occasionally they have wide swamps, but on all of them points have or may be found, where the open ground comes to the bank on both sides. [II]
The exact site where the army camped 200 years ago tonight is not known but it was probably in the West Bainbridge area. Newton and Spring Creek Roads approximate the route of the original Jackson Trail. The monument that originally marked the pathway is on display at the J.D. Chason Memorial Park in Bainbridge. The park is also the site of Fort Hughes.
Jackson would reach Fort Scott on the next afternoon even as McIntosh’s Creek force crossed into Florida in pursuit of a force of warriors reported to be on the upper Chipola River under Econchattimico. The shooting phase of the war was about to resume.
This series will continue. You can access all of the articles anytime you like by visiting our timeline page at Seminole War 200th Anniversary.
This map will help you follow the route taken by the army on March 7-8, 1818. It begins at the Flint River boat ramp near the intersection of Lee Heard Road and Hoggard Mill Road south of Newton and ends at Chason Memorial Park in Bainbridge, the site of Fort Hughes and location of an interpretive stop that provides information on the First Seminole War. You can also learn more about the war from the books at the bottom of this page.
[I] Capt. Hugh Young, “A Topographical Memoir on East and West Florida with Itineraries of General Jackson’s Army, 1818,” The Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume 13, Number 3, January 1935: 135-136.