U.S. troops crossed Lake Miccosukee into what is now Jefferson County 200 years ago and engaged in their second battle in two days.
This article is part of a continuing series marking the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War. Please click here to access the entire timeline of stories.
The Battle of Miccosukee ended at sundown on April 1, 1818, with the American army in possession of the largest town in Florida. While Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson and the main body focused on collecting supplies and gathering intelligence from the captured village the next morning, Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines led a column across Lake Miccosukee to challenge warriors reported to be on the opposite shore:
…[I] marched with the detachment assigned to me, pursuant to your order, to the s. east side of the Mickasukee Prairie or Pond, which I crossed about one mile east of our present position. The water at this place is from two to three feet deep, and near seven hundred yards wide – the bottom, though soft at the surface, is sufficiently firm a few inches below to admit the movement of horses and Light Artillery. The Prairie or Pond appears to extend about eight miles in a N.N.E. direction from this place, varying in width from 600 to 4000 yards, and in depth of water from 2 to 5 feet. It is in many places boggy, but for the most part practicable for man and horse. It is principally covered with grass, and is reported to be dry during a part of the summer. [I]
The crossing was made over the southern one-third of the lake. Gaines reached the opposite bank and turned northeast along the shore for two miles to a small village that could be seen on the margin of Lake Miccosukee. It was found to be abandoned.
The general then turned east along a trail that led four miles to the new site of Fowltown. U.S. troops had started the war by attacking the village on November 21-23, 1817 – please see The Battle of Fowltown – when it was still located near today’s Bainbridge in Southwest Georgia. The inhabitants had then fled south into what is now Jefferson County, Florida. The established “new” Fowltown east of Lake Miccosukee.
Gen. William McIntosh and his U.S. Creek force had now joined the army and were moving ahead of Gaines’s main column during this advance. They encountered resistance as they neared the village:
In approaching Fowl town General McIntosh with his warriors routed a small party of savages, killed a negro man and took three others prisoners by whom I learned that the principal force of the Enemy had left their towns some hours before my arrival. I detached two parties of McIntosh’s warriors, each with a drove of cattle, which have arrived safely in camp. From Fowl town I detached the General and upwards of 300 of his warriors (at his particular request) to two small towns which he expected to find in a few hours and to return to camp last night or early this morning. [II]
One of the prisoners taken in this fight was wearing an unexpected trophy:
…General McIntosh, who was with General Gaines, routed a small party of savages near Fowltown, killed one negro, and took three prisoners, on one of whom was found the coat of James Champion, of Captain Cummings’s company, (4th regiment of infantry,) who was killed by the Indians on board of one of our boats descending the river to the relief of Major Muhlenburg. This coat, with nearly all of Captain Cummings’s company’s clothing, was lost on board of Lieutenant Scott’s boat, when he and his party were massacred, on the 30th of November last. [III]
Champion had been killed in the attack on Lt. Richard W. Scott’s command at what is now Chattahoochee, Florida. (Please see The Bloodiest U.S. Defeat of the First Seminole War).
The fight was brief and the outnumbered warriors soon retreated into the safety of the swamps. McIntosh and Gaines continued forward to Fowltown, which they found abandoned. Gaines described the country between Lake Miccosukee and the village as being “generally rich, well timbered” and “in every way adapted” to the production of cotton, corn and other crops:
…The towns had been abandoned by the Enemy and stript of every species of moveable property excepting a few bushels of corn and some few poultry, previous to my arrival. Having witnessed with you, and the army, at the public square of the principal town on this side[i.e. Miccosukee], the preceding evening the savage exhibition of the scalps of a number of the citizens of our country, not only of men, but of women and infants, I could not hesitate to destroy the dens of these barbarians – their towns were accordingly burnt. [IV]
With Fowltown in flames, Gen. Gaines turned back for the army’s main encampment at Miccosukee after first dispatching McIntosh’s warriors to attack two small towns that were reported to be nearby. The rest of the troops made it back to the west side of the lake by nightfall.
The exact location of the “new” Fowltown village and battle site in Jefferson County is not known but some clues do exist. The village was shown on the Vignoles map of 1823 which was based largely on information from the topographical studies conducted during Jackson’s campaign. The map, unfortunately, is not of large scale but does indicate that the town was between Lake Miccosukee and the Aucilla River.
Gaines mentioned that he crossed to the “s. east side” of the lake at a point where it was about 700 yards (2,100 feet) wide. The only line of march he could have taken was from Live Oak Point across to the southeast shore north of today’s U.S. 90. The lake is a bit larger today than it was in 1818, due to the installation of a water control structure at its southern end. He and his troops then marched for two miles along the shore to the small village he said was on the margin of the lake. They turned east from there and marched four miles to Fowltown.
If the shoreline is followed northeast for two miles from a point southeast of Live Oak Point and a straight line is then drawn east four miles to retrace Gaines’s march, then “new” Fowltown was at the site of what is now Monticello.
Circumstantial evidence for this placement is provided by the General Land Office records which show that eight of Jefferson County’s earliest land patents were issued for properties in Section 30 of Township 2 North, Range 5 West. All of these patents were dated prior to December 1830.
Section 30 encompasses the entire downtown area of Monticello, Florida. Since this point also matches in general terms the directions and distances given in Gen. Gaines’s report and because early settlers often claimed fields that had been cleared by Native Americans, it is logical to believe that the destroyed Fowltown village was in the Monticello vicinity.
This series will continue tomorrow. To enjoy a better view of Lake Miccosukee, please check out this video courtesy of Two Egg TV:
To reach Monticello from Cypress Point Landing on Lake Miccosukee (where yesterday’s tour ended), use the map below. Along the way you will see beautiful country and an excellent view of the southern end of the lake.
Be sure to take a short detour off U.S. 90 and see Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaeological State Park. This incredible archaeological site includes the largest prehistoric Indian mound in Florida. The mounds were already ancient by the time that the Miccosukee village was established during the 1700s, but archaeologists did find evidence of a later occupation here by Miccosukee-era families.
From Letchworth-Love Mounds, return to U.S. 90 and continue east to Monticello. Along the way you will catch a panoramic view of the southern end of Lake Miccosukee. To learn more about historic Monticello and its points of interest, check out www.visitjeffersoncountyflorida.com.
It is a great area to visit and features numerous historic sites and homes, beautiful outdoor locations and unique places to eat and stay.
[I] Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines to Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, April 3, 1818.
[III] Col. Robert Butler to Brig. Gen. Daniel Parker, May 3, 1818.
[IV] Gaines to Jackson, April 3, 1818.