Brig. Gen. William McIntosh and the U.S. Creek Brigade crossed into Florida 200 years ago today and pushed for the Chipola River camp of the Red Ground chief.
This article is part of a continuing series that marks the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War. Please click here to read other articles in the series.
Econchattimico was the primary leader of the large Lower (Muscogee) Creek town of Ekanachatte or “Red Ground,” an old village that stood at the site of today’s Neals Landing Park in Jackson County, Florida. He had been among the chiefs who met with U.S. Army officers at Fort Scott as late as November 1817 in an effort to head off the war. In this he failed and after the army’s unprovoked attack on Fowltown (please see the Battle of Fowltown), he joined the alliance at war against the United States.
Some of Econchattimico’s warriors took part in the deadly attack on Lt. Richard W. Scott’s command and more were engaged in the Battle of Ocheesee Bluff. As the second of these battles drew to a close, he was among the chiefs who advocated a halt in the fighting so they could remove their women, children and elderly to safer encampments.
Ekanachatte was accordingly evacuated in December 1817 or January 1818 as Econchattimico led his people west from the Chattahoochee to a site on the Chipola River between today’s Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail and Florida Caverns State Park. The former site was the location of a natural ford of the river while the latter surrounds the Natural Bridge of the Chipola. Both points offered places where the river could be crossed and both were connected by trail with the main Ekanachatte town site on the Chattahoochee.
The temporary or “war” encampment was isolated from the main routes by which U.S. troops were expected to advance and Econchattimico hoped that his people would be safe there. The river cane that grew along the Chipola provided good food for the town’s large herds of cattle and horses while the swamps were also rich in game, fish and other natural foods.
Gen. McIntosh, however, learned the general location of the camp from a prisoner of war taken near Fort Gaines. He led his 900 U.S.-allied warriors across the line into Spanish Florida 200 years ago today:
…I went down the creek Chaubellee [i.e. Chipola] the 12th day of March, about ten miles above the camp of Chunchattee Micco or Red Ground Chief, and the creek swamp was so bad we could not pass it for the high waters; my men had to leave their clothes and provisions, and swim better than one half of the swamp, about six miles wide; we marched within about two miles of his station, and the next morning we surrounded his place, but he was gone and we could not follow him till we could get some provisions we had left behind us. [I]
The description of a swamp that was six miles wide undoubtedly refers to the “Forks of the Creek” area in Jackson County. The old Pensacola-St. Augustine Road, in use since at least the 1770s, crossed Cowarts and Marshall Creek between today’s towns of Malone and Campbellton. These creeks unite to form the Chipola River just below the site of the original pathway. The distance across their floodplain swamp is roughly six miles.
McIntosh likely used the old road to get across the swamp, but the creeks must have been at flood stage so he and his men had to strip off their clothes and swim much of the distance. He and his men took only their weapons and ammunition, which they kept dry by holding over their heads.
Once across the vast wetland area, they turned down the west side of the Chipola and arrived within two miles of Econchattimico’s camp that night.
The attack on the next morning (March 13) was initially bloodless. The chief and many of his warriors were away rounding up a herd of cattle and McIntosh encountered little to no resistance as he surrounded the camp and swept in on its unsuspecting occupants. It was then that things turned bloody:
…We have taken 53 men, and about 180 women and children prisoners, without the fire of a gun; and we killed ten men that broke to try to make their escape. I have not lost one man since I left Fort Mitchell. He would not have got away from us, but he had some cattle on hand that he tried to drive out of our way. [II]
There is no indication in McIntosh’s report that the 10 men that he had shot down were either armed or committed violence against any of his warriors.
Still hoping to find Econchattimico and the warriors known to be with him, McIntosh settled his men down in the captured camp and fed his men off the food of his prisoners until his men could cross the river and secure the supplies and clothes that they had left behind. He then sent Maj. Hawkins, a Creek officer, at the head of a mounted force to locate and capture or kill Econchattimico.
“I sent 100 men to take him and his cattle,” wrote McIntosh, “when they came in sight, he and his party being well mounted on horses, they got away; we got what cattle he had with him.” [III]
The location of this second encounter is not known but since they had been attacked west of the Chipola, it is logical to think that Econchattimico and his remaining warriors were trying to get their cattle across the Natural Bridge at what is now Florida Caverns State Park. The skirmish likely took place in the area of the park.
The U.S. Creek Brigade was still on the Chipola as late as March 16, 1818:
We are very scarce of provisions and I have to send the women and children up into our nation – As for the men I am going to take them to Gen. Jackson. Now there is no danger on the west side of the Chatahoochie river, as this was all the party that was on this side – we have to look for our enemy on the east side of the river now. You will be so good as to inform my head men and agent of this, I send to you my friend and brother. [IV]
Time would prove McIntosh wrong in his belief that Econchattimico headed the only force of concern west of the Chattahoochee River. The Red Stick chief Holms, in fact, was on the Choctawhatchee with a large force and would continue to battle U.S. forces for another nine months.
When his work of scouring upper Chipola area for cattle and Econchattimico was done, Gen. McIntosh led his men east to Fort Scott by way of Yellow Hair’s town. This village stood just east of Sneads. He soon reported to Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson that he had killed 14 warriors during his operations.
As McIntosh was moving across the Forks of the Creek 200 years ago today, Jackson was continuing his march down the east side of the Apalachicola River. The army was now almost completely out of food and to make make matters worse the soldiers were marching up and down the steep ravines and bluffs that characterize the east side of the Apalachicola. They covered only six miles on this date in 1818 after leaving from their camp near present-day River Junction in Gadsden County:
…In half a mile the path crosses a creek nearly as large as Musquito, entering it a short distance below. This stream is twenty feet wide with sandy bottom, and banks a little miry. It has a narrow swamp with a miry lagoon on the north side. In the second mile, there is some good land with a number of small Indian mounds similar to those on Fowl creek above Fort Scott. In the third mile the path goes over the point of a ridge which stretches down to the river and forms a high bluff opposite to the upper settlement of Yellow Hair. The top of the ridge is red sand stone, but at the water edge there is a stratum of porous limestone with a siliceous mixture. Thence over long high ridges with reed in the intervals three miles to the Ochese path coming on the right. Along this path it is about three miles to the Ochese Bluff over broken sand hills near the river the hills are entire masses of sand rock cut by the rains into fantastic shapes of many colours from the metalic oxides with which the stone is variously mineralized. [V]
The day’s march saw the army cross the high hills south of Chattahoochee, some of which rise more than 150-feet above the level of Mosquito Creek and the Apalachicola River. The creek described in the above account by Capt. Hugh Young as being one-half mile from their starting point was the unnamed stream that flows into Mosquito Creek from the south just southwest of the River Junction area.
From there the army went up and down hill to the “small Indian mounds” which were near today’s Dolan Road east of River Hill Church. The “high bluff opposite to the upper settlement of Yellow Hair” was the one that overlooked the Apalachicola near the end of Dolan Road. From there the route crossed the corridor of today’s Interstate 10 and reached Aspalaga Bluff and finally Rock Bluff, both of which are now within the limits of Torreya State Park. Camp for the night was pitched at a site that is inside of the park near Rock Bluff.
The last of the pork and corn issued to the men at Fort Scott was eaten that night, leaving the soldiers completely destitute of provisions. There had still been no sign of the keelboat said to be making its way up from Apalachicola Bluff with supplies and the situation looked increasingly gloomy. Jackson, however, determined to continue forward – with or without food – until he met the boat and could supply his men.
This series will continue. The map below will help you follow the approximate route of McIntosh’s march across the Forks of the Creek and down the Chipola River using modern roads. The brief tour begins at Neals Landing, the site of Ekanachatte, where you will find an interpretive kiosk near the boat ramp. From there it heads west to Malone (be sure to stop by Yates Pharmacy for ice cream!) via State Road 2 which follows the approximate route of the old Pensacola-St. Augustine Road.
Heading west from Malone, the highway crosses both Cowarts and Marshall Creeks near the point where McIntosh’s men crossed the flooded swamp. Turn left down Dudley Road to State Road 162 (Jacob Road), turn left and travel to the parking lot for Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail on your right. The interpretive kiosk provides information about the Battle of the Upper Chipola and the trail will lead you to Florida’s most haunted bridge!
After exploring the trail, continue east on State Road 162 to Old U.S. Road and turn right. Follow Old U.S. Road to Caverns Road and turn right. Florida Caverns State Park will be just ahead on your right.
[I] Brig. Gen. William McIntosh to Maj. Daniel Hughes, March 16, 1818.
[V] Capt. Hugh Young, “A Topographical Memoir of East and West Florida with Itineraries of General Jackson, 1818,” The Florida Historical Quarterly,