Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s 1818 mach on Pensacola is common knowledge among those with an interest in Florida history. Less well-known, however, is a similar expedition by Maj. White Youngs that began 200 years ago today.
This article is part of our continuing series: 200th Anniversary of the First Seminole War.
Brevet Maj. White Youngs of the 8th U.S. Infantry was the commanding officer at Fort Crawford in what is now East Brewton, Alabama, during the spring of 1818. He was frustrated over his inability to intercept Red Stick Creek raiders who were crossing into Alabama from Florida to strike against frontier settlements.
He had tried, for example, to cut off the parties that were responsible for the Ogly-Stroud attack and the Butler massacre near today’s Greenville, Alabama. The warriors, however, eluded Youngs and his troops and retreated across the line into Spanish Florida. Further raids took place and one group of Red Sticks even attacked a U.S. Army supply boat on the Escambia River between Pensacola and Fort Crawford on April 1, 1818. One soldier was killed and two wounded but the vessel – commanded by Lt. Farley Eddy – was not taken. The encounter took place on the same day that Jackson’s army attacked Miccosukee (please see Battle of Miccosukee).
Determined to stop such raids and emboldened by Gov. William Wyatt Bibb’s decision to allow Alabama’s militia to cross the international border, Maj. Youngs decided to launch an expedition down the Escambia River to attack Red Stick camps at Pensacola. He put together a strike force of regulars from Fort Crawford, Alabama militia from Camp Montgomery near Tensaw and Choctaw warriors who were helping to patrol the frontier, the total numbering around 74 men. He boarded them into boats and set off from Fort Crawford 200 years ago today. [I]
The Red Stick camps at Pensacola were well-known to U.S. officers. They had received numerous reports about them from Americans living in the Spanish city. They were being supplied with food by authorities in Pensacola and some reports indicated that other bands were coming there for arms and ammunition as well.
The Red Stick camps were located along the Bayou Texar, which enters Pensacola Bay just east of the main downtown historic district. Gov. Jose Masot reported that Upper Creek refugees were settled there in the “villages of Colome, Canaan, Cowale, and Forsatche.” They were, he said, “very miserable and wretched.” [II]
The Muscogee (Creek) people living along the bayou were refugees who had fled south to Florida after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. The British had helped them during the War of 1812 but for the last three years they had relied on the Spanish for food. The governor and his officers did what they could, but there was never enough.
Maj. Youngs and his men crossed the international border into Florida and continued down the Escambia River on April 24, 1818. They traveled by water but none of the known surviving reports detail what types of boats were used. At least one was probably the small keelboat that the army had built to carry supplies from Pensacola up to Fort Crawford.
The soldiers would reach the outskirts of Pensacola on the next day and fight one of the least-known battles of the First Seminole War.
This series will continue.
Learn more about the First Seminole War this weekend at Two Egg TV’s first ever Seminole War Symposium! It will take place at the Clark Barn near Grand Ridge, Florida and will feature presentations, musket firing demonstrations, cultural discussions and a guided candlelight tour of the Scott 1817 Battlefield in Chattahoochee, Florida. Please click here for more information.
[I] Report from St. Stephens, Alabama, dated May 9, 1818, published in the City of Washington Gazette, June 9, 1818.
[II] Gov. Jose Masot to Bvt. Maj. White Youngs, April 30, 1818.