The army of Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson left Fort Gadsden 200 years ago today to begin its march to the important Seminole and Miccosukee towns of Tallahassee Talofa and Miccosukee.
This article is part of our continuing series that commemorates the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War. Please click here to read other articles in the series.
The line of march would take the troops through some of the wildest and roughest terrain in Florida. The region was then part of the Forbes Purchase, a tract of over 1,000,000 acres taken from the Muscogee (Creek), Seminole and Miccosukee people by John Forbes & Company as payment for debts owed to the trading house. Much the purchase is now part of the Apalachicola National Forest.
Capt. Hugh Young, Jackson’s topographer, recorded the direction taken as being to the northeast. For the first 6.5 miles, the column retraced the trail it had followed to Prospect Bluff. The soldiers reached Black Creek that afternoon and made camp for the night. The distance covered on March 26th was short but it took time to get the army on the move and in formation for the march.
The army covered a wide path as it marched, with forward and rear guard units ahead of and behind the main body. Ranks of flankers marched along each side.
Black Creek was called “Big creek” in 1818. Young’s campaign map shows that the army camped on the present site of Sumatra along the south side of the creek. The soldiers had crossed the creek here on their way to Prospect Bluff but did not cross this time. They would instead turn east on the next morning (March 27) and head up the south bank of the stream.
The army was being guided on this leg of the campaign by John Blunt, the principal chief of the Apalachicola River town of Iola. His village was located at the site of today’s city of Blountstown and not at Iola Landing, which is further down the river. Blunt’s settlement had been attacked by the forces of the Prophet Francis on December 13, 1817 (please see The Killing of Chief Perryman at Spanish Bluff) and several members of his family were prisoners in the hands of the Red Sticks.
The chief planned to lead the army up a path sketched in 1815 by the Spanish Surveyor General of Florida, Capt. Vicente Sebastian Pintado. Called the “Senda de los Mikasukies a la loma de Buenavista” or “Path of the Mikasukies to the Hill of Good View” by Pintado, the trail curved to the northeast through today’s Liberty and Gadsden Counties until it reached the Ochlockonee River. It crossed the creeks and rivers described by Capt. Young in his “Topographical Memoir.” The Spanish called Prospect Bluff, site of Fort Gadsden, the Loma de Buena Vista or Hill of Good View. [II]
The trail provided a way for the inhabitants of Miccosukee, Tallahassee Talofa and other towns in their environs to reach the Forbes & Company trading post at Prospect Bluff. When the British arrived on the river in 1814, they established a fort – later called the Negro Fort – at the bluff. The chiefs and warriors of Miccosukee and Tallahassee Talofa were among those who allied with them so the trail provided them a means of rapidly moving back and forth between the fort and their towns.
Now, however, Andrew Jackson was using it as a way to reach those towns. He planned to attack them as soon as possible.
The U.S. Navy, meanwhile, prepared to leave Fort Gadsden to cooperate with the army by sailing along the Gulf Coast from Apalachicola Bay to St. Marks. Lt. Commander Isaac McKeever transferred his men and guns to the schooners Thomas Shields and James Lawrence from leaky Gunboats No. 149 and No. 155. Per a request from Gen. Jackson, he would attempt to interdict any British or smuggling vessels that might be bringing arms for the Indians. [III]
McKeever was also requested to thoroughly blockade Apalachee Bay to prevent any escape by the Prophet Francis, Peter McQueen, Alexander Arbuthnot or others who might take to sea in order to elude capture by the army. He would sail from Apalachicola Bay in two days on March 28, 1818. [IV]
This series will continue. If you haven’t seen the new program Fort Gadsden: American Power in Spanish Florida, be sure to check it out on your Roku by adding the free Two Egg TV app. You can also watch it here:
[I] Capt. Hugh Young, “Topographical Memoir of East and West Florida with Itineraries of General Jackson, 1818,” The Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume 13, Number 3 (January 1935), pp. 140-141.
[II] Capt. Vicente Sebastian Pintado, Plano del Rio Apalachicola, 1815, Library of Congress.
[III] Lt. Commander Isaac McKeever to Commodore Daniel T. Patterson, March 28, 1818.
[IV] Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson to Lt. Commander Isaac McKeever, March 25, 1818.