The U.S. Army pushed east along one of Florida’s most historic roads 200 years ago today as Andrew Jackson continued his march for the Suwannee.
This article is part of our continuing series that commemorates the 200th Anniversary of the First Seminole War.
The Old Spanish Trail is deeply embedded in the consciousness of the U.S. Southeast and Southwest. Opened by early Spanish explorers and missionaries, parts of it have been in use for more than 400 years. Some in Florida also call it the Old Mission Road or the El Camino Real. In the Leon and Jefferson County areas, it is called the Old St. Augustine Road.
It was commemorated – although not precisely followed – by the construction of the Old Spanish Trail National Highway in 1915-1929. A national 100th anniversary commemoration is underway for that highway now, with activities scheduled from Florida to California. Please see Drive the Old Spanish Trail for more information.
The original Old Spanish Trail (or Old St. Augustine Road) for the most part did not follow the route of the modern highway through Leon and Jefferson Counties. The original trail, however, provided a pathway east for Andrew Jackson’s army 200 years ago today. It was a rough march:
…[E]xcellent land with little interruption – tolerably well watered. Sufficiently broken for beauty of aspect and not too much for facility of culture. The branches are small but miry with reedy thickets and without perceptible currents – probably feeding the ponds north of St. Mark and uniting subterraneously with that river. At the end, the path from Mikosukey comes in on the left. [I]
The route did take the army over the upper reaches of the St. Marks River. The camp on the night of April 9, 1818, was located somewhere in the vicinity of today’s Old St. Augustine Road and W.W. Kelly Road intersection immediately south of Apalachee Parkway (US 27) east of Tallahassee. From there the army marched east, crossing the St. Marks and Burnt Mill Creek. The general direction is approximated today by Apalachee Parkway.
A section of the original route can still be followed by turning south off Apalachee Parkway about 5 miles east of Kelly Road and driving along Old St. Augustine Road. (See map at the bottom of this page).
The campaign map prepared by Capt. Hugh Young shows that the army camped near present-day Waukeenah on the night of April 10, 1818. The exact site is unknown, but it was somewhere in the general vicinity.
Jackson did not know it, but another force was also on the move east of the St. Marks River. The prominent old Red Stick chief Peter McQueen was trying to get his people and their livestock to safety by fleeing to the Suwannee. He was ahead of the oncoming force, but was moving at a slower pace than Jackson due to the presence of women, children and elderly members of his band as well as their livestock.
McQueen had crossed into Spanish Florida along with the Prophet Francis, Homathlemico and others after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. One of the Prophet’s principal lieutenants, he was the leader of the Red Stick party that was attacked at Burnt Corn Creek in South Alabama on July 27, 1813. This unprovoked attack by white militia against McQueen led to the Red Stick attack on Fort Mims one month later.
Once in Florida the chief joined the auxiliary force raised by Lt. Col. Edward Nicolls at Prospect Bluff on the Apalachicola River and he was one of the Native American leaders who observed the Battle of New Orleans from behind the British lines. He remained in Florida as the principal Red Stick leader during the Prophet’s mission to Great Britain.
McQueen and his warriors had taken part in the Battle of Ocheesee Bluff and other actions early in the war. Now, though, his primary concern was to save those who depended on him from destruction. His slow moving party was somewhere southeast of the American army 200 years ago tonight, slowly moving east in the direction of the Suwannee.
Among those with McQueen were Elizabeth Stewart, the sole female survivor of the attack on Lt. Richard W. Scott’s party, and Billy Powell, the young nephew of McQueen who would achieve fame as the Seminole warrior Osceola.
The American army, meanwhile, grew stronger on April 10, 1818. The rest of the long awaited Tennessee volunteers joined the main force late in the day, as did Gen. William McIntosh and nearly 1,000 warriors of the U.S. Creek Brigade. McIntosh had been left at Miccosukee when the army marched for St. Marks to continue the job of rounding up livestock and hunting for refugee villagers.
The size of Jackson’s army was now over 3,500 men.
This series will continue. To access our main page on the First Seminole War and the articles that interpret each of its key events, please visit Seminole War 200th Anniversary Timeline. To learn more about Elizabeth Stewart and the attack on Scott’s command, please consider Dale Cox’s book The Scott Massacre of 1817: The First U.S. Defeat of the Seminole Wars.
This map will help you follow the general route taken by Jackson’s army 200 years ago today:
[I] Capt. Hugh Young, “A Topographical Memoir of East and West Florida with Itineraries of General Jackson, 1818,” The Florida Historical Quarterly, :146.