U.S., Choctaw and Alabama militia troops staged an amphibious attack on Red Stick Creek camps at Bayou Texar on April 24, 1818. The fight took place within the modern city of Pensacola, Florida.
This article is part of a continuing series that commemorates the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War. Please click here to read other articles in the series.
The American strike force led by Brevet Maj. White Youngs of the 8th U.S. Infantry completed its move down the Escambia River 200 years ago today. Coming ashore not far from the site where Tristan de Luna established his ill-fated colony in 1559, the soldiers surprised a cluster of villages or camps inhabited by Red Stick families that had fled into Florida at the end of the Creek War of 1813-1814.
Youngs blamed warriors from the camps for raids against the Alabama frontier and set out from Fort Crawford with 74 men in boats on the previous day. Please see U.S. troops on the Escambia River for more information.
The soldiers struck the Muscogee camps with a fury, opening fire on men, women and children:
…[M]ajor Youngs, who commanded at Fort Crawford, that he had organized a force consisting of regulars, militia from camp Montgomery, and Chocktaws, proceeded down the Escambia in boats, attacked the hostile Indians on Pensacola bay within one mile of Pensacola, on the 25th ult. killed nine, wounded 12 or 13, and took 8 prisoners, with the loss on his part of one man only. Lieut. Allen commanded the militia. The expedition was so cautiously and properly conducted that the enemy were not apprised of danger until the attack was made. [I]
Bayou Texar enters Pensacola Bay about one-mile from the limits of historic Pensacola as it existed in 1818. The sound of the gunfire would have been audible to residents of the city and undoubtedly created confusion and concern. What action the Spanish garrison took in response to the attack is not clear as many key documents about the affair have not been found. There is no evidence that Spanish soldiers engaged the American troops.
Gov. Jose Masot did lodge a written protest with Bvt. Maj. Youngs over the action:
…I shall merely state, that the small number of peaceful Indians who were in this place, and its vicinity retired on the [25th], at dawn of which day several of them, both women and children, were killed by the troops of the United States. As it is not my purpose to investigate the motives of this act, or of the violation resulting from it, I shall only say that, in compliance with my duty, I shall give an account of the whole proceeding to my superior; and, in the mean time, I hope you will allow no further hostilities to be committed on this territory, on any pretence whatever. [II]
Young and his men burned the cabins or huts of the refugee villages and the surviving inhabitants fled into the woods or Spanish defenses of Pensacola. Some of them soon moved to the environs of the Barrancas, a strong fortification that stood on the site of today’s Fort Barrancas. The Bateria de San Antonio, which still stands, was part of the works.
The Americans withdrew quickly after the attack and were back at Fort Crawford by the next morning. Maj. Youngs wrote to Gov. Masot during his return to complain of raids by warriors into Alabama and of an attack on a supply boat commanded by Lt. Farley Eddy that had taken place on the Escambia on April 1, 1818. He further urged a return to the Creek Nation in Alabama by any of the refugees still in the Pensacola vicinity.
Masot responded by denying any knowledge of the Alabama attacks:
…If the Indians should give any further cause of complaint, I trust you will inform me of it, that they may receive due punishment, should that depend on my authority. If there are any Indians still remaining within this territory, I will have them sought for and informed of your letter, and advise you of the result. I can assure you, both under my hand and on my word, that the information, as stated in your letter, of the aggressions committed by the Indians is the first I have had of them, for at the time I agreed to the return of the escort referred to, I had no knowledge of any others than those who were concerned in the attack on Lieutenant Eddy. [III]
The governor kept his word to present the offer from Youngs for the Red Sticks to return to the Creek Nation. He convened a council of chiefs at which he urged them to accept the proposal:
…I assembled the chiefs of the Upper Creeks at the villages of Colome, Canaan, Cowale, and Forsatche, and communicated to them the contents of your letter. They all replied that they had for a long time been very miserable and wretched, without shelter or home, that by the counsel of a good friend they had at length found one, that they had listened attentively to it, and accepted with gratitude the offers you had made them. [IV]
Masot reported that there were 87 men, women and children from the destroyed villages and that they would set out immediately in three parties. He relayed to the American officer a request from them that he restrain the Choctaw warriors under his command:
…[The Choctaws, who, if not seasonably apprized of the circumstances, might attack them, in which case the pacific arrangemnets, in which we both take so strong an interest, would be entirely defeated. Opahi-hola, an Aliliamon chief, on account of his advanced age, and infirmities, will, for the present, remain here with his family. I have given orders for his relief, and pledge myself for his good behavior. [V]
The Alabama chief was still at the Barrancas when Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s army attacked it one month later. Surrender negotiations for the post included him and Jackson approved his departure for Cuba with the Spanish soldiers. The other Red Sticks made their way north to Durant’s Bluff and eventually on to the Creek Nation where they established new homes. Some were likely still alive two decades later when the Muscogee people were forced west on the Trail of Tears.
The strike by Maj. White Youngs ended the support of Red Stick refugees by authorities in Pensacola. Jackson did not know this, however, and soon decided to march his army across the Apalachicola River and through the Florida Panhandle to attack the city. Had communications of the time not been so slow, he might never have taken Pensacola in 1818.
This series will continue. If you would like to learn more about First Seminole War actions in and around Pensacola, please attend Two Egg TV’s Seminole War Symposium this weekend in Jackson County, FL and across the river in Chattahoochee. Please click here for more information.
If you would like to learn more about Pensacola during the Spanish Colonial Era, take the time to walk the Colonial Archaeological Trail in historic Pensacola. It was developed by the University of West Florida Archaeology Institute, the UWF Historic Trust and the City of Pensacola and connects surviving landmarks and archaeological sites. Please click here for more information.
Also of interest are the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Museum, the 1805 French-Creole Lavalle House, the Julee Cottage and Fort George Park, the site of Fort San Miguel. For more information on these and many other historic points of interest in Pensacola, please visit Historic Pensacola.
Also make plans to attend this year’s Scott 1817 Seminole War Battle, a living history event and reenactment to be held in Chattahoochee on November 30-December 2. It features living history encampments, demonstrations, exhibits, vendors, food, memorial services and battle reenactments. You can see a quick preview in this 60-second video:
[I] Report from St. Stephens, Alabama, dated May 9, 1818, published in the City of Washington Gazette, June 4, 1818.
[II] Gov. Jose Masot to Bvt. Maj. White Youngs, April 26, 1818.
[IV] Gov. Jose Masot to Bvt. Maj. White Youngs, April 30, 1818.