Brevet Maj. David E. Twiggs began a forced march 200 years ago tonight that would bring him to the outskirts Tallahassee Talofa, a Seminole town on the site of what is now Florida’s capital city.
This article is part of a continuing series that commemorates the First Seminole War of 1817-1818. Please click here to access the entire timeline of stories.
Andrew Jackson’s army resumed the process of slowly crossing the Ochlockonee River on the morning of March 30, 1818. Moving the soldiers over in the 18 canoes hollowed out on the previous day was slow and dangerous. Lt. John Banks of the Georgia militia was with one of the last companies to cross and described the river as “being very high.” [I]
The forward movement of the army resumed at around 11 a.m. Capt. Hugh Young reported that the trail led northeast from Jackson Bluff across much higher terrain:
…Six and a fourth miles to a branch of Okalokina – country high and open-crossing three small branches different in character from those of Okalokina, being clear running streams with steep banks and hemmed in by hills of moderate height – growth a mixture of pine with scrubby oaks. [II]
The route up the east side of the Ochlockonee is approximated today by State Highway 20. The trail followed by the soldiers crossed a branch near present-day Jackson Bluff Church, Freeman Creek another 1.5 miles away and then a third small branch before arriving at Harvey Creek, the “branch of Okalokina” described by Capt. Young. His faded campaign map shows that the soldiers went up the south side of Harvey Creek for a short distance so they could cross more easily above its forks. [III]
The trail then returned to the approximate route of State Highway 20 and continued northeast across the high ground of today’s Fort Braden community before crossing Polk Creek. The military outpost of Fort Braden did not exist in 1818. It was built some two decades later during the Second Seminole War.
Once across Polk Creek, the troops continued their march for another two miles before making camp about halfway between the creek and Allens Well Pond. The entrance to the Fort Braden Trails area of Lake Talquin State Forest was in the general area of the army’s encampment on the night of March 30, 1818.
By now, however, intelligence had been received that Elizabeth Stewart – the only female survivor of the Scott 1817 Battle at present-day Chattahoochee – was being held at Tallahassee Talofa. Gen. Jackson ordered Brevet Maj. David E. Twiggs of the 7th U.S. Infantry to push forward in an attempt to set her free:
…On this evening Brevet Major Twiggs of the 7th infantry was detached with one company and about two hundred warriors, with orders to advance on an Indian village called Tallahassie, and surprise it at day-break. On his near approach, he dispatched a party to ascertain its situation, who reported it evacuated some days before. [IV]
Twiggs did not attempt to occupy Tallahassee Talofa that night but instead waited for daybreak on the next morning (March 31, 1818). He probably remembered how Neamathla’s warriors had evacuated Fowltown as U.S. troops approached in November 1817 only to launch a surprise attack as soon as the soldiers were in the village. (Please see The Battle of Fowltown: Day Three).
This series will continue tomorrow with the capture of Tallahassee Talofa. The map below will help you follow the general route taken by Jackson’s army 200 years ago today on March 30, 1818. Be sure to visit Lake Talquin State Park for a beautiful view the lake that was created by the damming of the Ochlockonee River in 1929. Also of interest along the way is the old Fort Braden School (now a community center). Its historical marker will tell you much about the history of the area.
If you enjoy walking or hiking, be sure to check out the trails at the Fort Braden Tract of Lake Talquin State Forest. The trailhead is where this marked section of highway ends:
[I] Lt. John Banks, Diary of John Banks, 1939.
[II] Capt. Hugh Young, “A Topographical Memoir of East and West Florida with Itineraries of General Jackson, 1818,” The Florida Historical Quarterly,Vol. 13, No. 3 (Jan., 1935), pp. 142-143.
[III] Capt. Hugh Young, Map of the Seat of War in East Florida, 1818, National Archives.
[IV] Col. Robert Butler to Brig. Gen. Daniel Parker, May 3, 1818.