Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson reached Fort Gadsden on the Apalachicola River 200 years ago today, completing his march from that place to the Suwannee River and back. He did not know it, but even then a courier was making his way down the Flint River from Fort Early with news of the Chehaw Massacre.
This article continues a series that commemorates the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War. Please click here to see the entire timeline of stories.
It would take the dispatch several more days to reach Fort Gadsden, but the news it contained would infuriate Old Hickory:
…[W]hen arriving within 30 miles of [Chehaw] I sent on Major [Jesse] Robinson with a detachment of 20 men to procure beef. On his arriving there the Indians had fled in every direction, the Chehaw Town having been consumed about four days before by a party of men consisting of 230 men under a Cap. Wright now in command of Hartford. [I]
Brig. Gen. Thomas Glascock, the author of the report, wrote that Capt. Obed Wright had obtained certificates from several frontiersman who claimed that warriors from Chehaw had attacked militia troops on the “big bend” of the Ocmulgee River. Upon seeing these reports, Gov. William Rabun ordered the captain to destroy Philemena and Opony’s towns, two Creek villages on the Flint River near Chehaw and Fort Early.
…Two companies of cavalry were immediately ordered out and placed under his command and on the 22nd he reached this place [i.e. Fort Early]. He ordered Capt. Bothwell to furnish him with 25 or 30 men to accompany him having been authorized to do so by the Governor. The order was complied with. Capt. Bothwell told him that he could not accompany him himself, disapproved the plan and informed Cap. Wright that there could be no doubt of the friendship of the Indians in that quarter and stated that Oponee brought in a public horse that had been lost on that day. This availed nothing. Mock patriotism burned in their breasts. They crossed the river that night and pushed for the Town. [II]
By “the Town,” Gen. Glascock meant the main Chehaw town on Muckalee Creek near present-day Leesburg, Georgia. Capt. Wright’s account of what happened next – which he described as a “battle” in which his troops performed heroically – can be read in our April 23 article: The Chehaw Massacre: Georgia troops attack a peaceful village.
The courier sent south by Glascock would deliver to Jackson the real story:
…When arriving near there an Indian was discovered grazing some cattle. He was made a prisoner. I am informed by Sergt. Jones that the Indian immediately proposed to go with the Interpreter and bring any of the chiefs for the Cap. to talk with. It was not attended to. An advance was ordered. The Cavalry rushed forward and commenced the massacre. Even after the firing and murder commenced Major Howard an old chief who furnished you with considerable corn came out from his house with a white flagg in front of the line. It was not respected. An order for a general fire was given and nearly 400 guns weredischarged at him before one took effect. He fell and bayonetted. His son was also killed. These are the circumstances relative to the transaction. [III]
Gen. Glascock heard that the Chehaw people suffered the loss of 7 men, 1 woman and 2 children killed but Capt. Wright himself reported a much worse result. His self-congratulatory account of the massacre listed 24 warriors dead and another “40 to 50” men, women and children burned alive in the firing of their homes. The Georgia troops that carried out the attack did not lose a single man. [IV]
Other officers on the field that day confirmed Wright’s estimate.
Brig. Gen. Glascock informed Jackson that was doing what he could calm the situation and reassure the Chehaws that they would receive justice. He further reported that despite the massacre, the people of the town provided food to his men:
…On my arriving opposite Chehaw I sent a runner to get some of them in & succeeded in doing so. They are all at a loss to know the cause of the displeasure of the white people. Wolf has gone to the Agent to have it enquired into. We obtained from them a sufficient quantity of beef to last us to Hartford at which place I am informed there is a plentiful supply of provisions. [V]
What Glascock did not say but Jackson knew was that the Chehaws and their allies were a strong and well-armed fighting force. The massacre had taken place while more than 100 of the town’s warriors were serving along-side Jackson under Maj. Noble Kinnard in Florida. Also left unsaid was the fact that Major Howard – the elderly chief killed by Wright’s men – was the uncle of Brig. Gen. William McIntosh who headed the U.S. Creek Brigade. If they chose to do so, McIntosh and Kinnard could unleash a powerful army of more than 2,000 warriors.
Andrew Jackson, his constitution worn down by the march to the Suwannee, rested at Fort Gadsden that night. The report from the Georgia general was not yet in hand, but it was coming.
This series will continue. If you would like to learn more about Fort Gadsden, the new post on the Apalachicola River where the army camped that night, please enjoy this free mini-documentary from Two Egg TV:
[I] Brig. Gen. Thomas Glascock to Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, April 30, 1818, Jackson Papers, Library of Congress.
[IV] Capt. Obed Wright to Gov. William Rabun, April 25, 1818.
[V] Glascock to Jackson, April 30, 1818.