The army marched northwest from Ocheesee Bluff 200 years ago today, crossing into what is now Jackson County, Florida. The solders camped for the night at beautiful Blue Springs – or Jackson Blue Spring – near today’s Marianna, Florida.
This article continues our special series commemorating the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War. Please click here to see the entire timeline of stories.
Led by John Blunt, a Tuckabatchee chief who had settled on the Apalachicola River, the soldiers followed a well-beaten path from Ocheesee Bluff and passed around the southern and western edges of Ocheesee Pond. The pond is a beautiful and wild wetland that stretches several miles from north to south and even more from east to west. It was an important hunting and fishing ground for early Native American residents of the area.
The path of the army leads through today’s Shady Grove and Grand Ridge communities and along Reddoch Road to Blue Springs. The road is a surviving section of the original Old Spanish Trail or Old Mission Road. It connected the 17th century Spanish missions of San Nicolas, San Carlos and San Antonio with the large fort and mission of San Luis at what is now Tallahassee. The King’s soldiers and Apalachee militia marched along this road more than 140 years before Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson and his men and Native American warriors likely used it for hundreds if not thousands of years before either of them.
…[T]he path runs through second-rate land with oak and hickory for one mile – then a pine flat for three miles, then rolling for four miles – then flat but high for two miles – then a little uneven for six miles – and thence two miles through a rolling country to the spring. . .Good pine land with reddish soil in the sixth, seventh, eighth, eleventh, twelfth and thirteen miles. The path then enters an excellent body of land with a growth of oak and hickory – somewhat similar to the pine land in East Florida, and continues to the end. [I]
The goal of the day’s march was Blue Springs, often called Jackson Blue Spring to differentiate it from all the other Blue Springs in Florida. Jackson’s topographer, Capt. Hugh Young, called it the “Big Spring of the Chipola.” The only first magnitude spring in the Chipola River basin, this magnificent spring was a landmark of the region. Early Spanish explorers described it in the 1600s and Capt. Hugh Young now added his pen to those of early chroniclers:
…The country even where flat is high and dry – and where it becomes hilly, a mixture of sandstone gravel makes the route excellent – the Big spring which is tributary to Chapulle is forty yards in diameter and of considerable depth with a rock bottom and a clean and rapid current. [II]
The army camped at Blue Springs on the night of May 11, 1818. The cold clear water likely delighted Jackson’s soldiers much as it does visitors to Jackson County’s Blue Springs Recreation Area today. The park is open to the public in the summer months with plenty of room for swimming, picnicking and outdoor family fun. Please click here to learn more.
The men of the army got their first look at the rich Chipola country as they approached Blue Springs, rich lands that some of them soon turned into the most productive farms in Florida. They encountered no resistance and reported no signs of Indian activity.
This series will continue. To learn more about the history of Blue Springs, please enjoy this mini-documentary from Two Egg TV:
You can follow the approximate route of the army by using the map below. Some sections of the original road are no longer in use, but you will be close enough to see the terrain through which the soldiers marched.
[I] Capt. Hugh Young, “A Topographical Memoir of East and West Florida with Itineraries of General Jackson, 1818,” The Florida Historical Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 3 (Jan., 1935):152-153.