Prospect Bluff Historic Sites is the new name for one of America’s most important historic landmarks.
Formerly known as Fort Gadsden Historic Site, Prospect Bluff is the site of British Post National Landmark. This was the site that many remember as the Negro Fort on the Apalachicola River.
The fort was built by the British in 1814 as the War of 1812 entered its final months. It was a supply depot and training base for a battalion of Colonial Marines and became the centerpiece of the largest free black settlement in North America.
The British withdrew in 1815 but left the fort, its artillery and a massive stockpile of arms, ammunition and other supplies in the hands of a company of maroon (escaped slave) soldiers and their families. The United States moved to destroy this colony even though it was in Spanish Florida.
A joint land and sea expedition was sent against the post in July 1816. Scroll down for articles that provide a day by day history of that campaign from July 10, 1816 – July 28, 1816, but first enjoy the new documentary from Two Egg TV:
Prospect Bluff is often called the “Negro Fort” because it was the site of the largest settlement of free blacks in North America in 1814-1816. The fortified community was established by the British during the War of 1812 and destroyed by the United States in 1816.
The fort is sometimes described as an early stop on the “Underground Railroad,” but in reality it was the primary station on an “Above Ground Railroad.” Maroons (escaped slaves) came there from the United States, Spanish Florida, the Creek Nation and the Seminole towns of Florida.
Four ships were sent from New Orleans and Pass Christian to join in the expected attack on the “Negro Fort.” The transport/supply vessels General Pike and Similante carried heavy artillery and ordnance stores while Gunboats No. 149 and No. 154 served as their escort.
A strange red sky and remarkably cold temperatures were facts of life in 1816. The explosion of a volcano in Indonesia caused multi-year climate change in the Northern Hemisphere. Starvation and untold deaths were reported in Europe while crop failures, frosts and even snow were reported deep into the South.
The fortifications at Prospect Bluff were the most elaborate constructed by the British during the Gulf Coast Campaign of the War of 1812. They included multiple layers of defenses that made use of entrenchments, moats, ditches, stockades, a water battery and a central citadel.
The occupants of the “Negro Fort” did not sit idly and wait for the American attack to materialize. Garcon and the Choctaw chief led a detachment to Apalachicola Bay to reconnoiter the U.S. ships. This movement led to a skirmish between the two forces on July 15, 1816.
Lt. Col. Duncan Lamont Clinch and the men of his battalion from the 4th Infantry Regiment made preparations to march against the “Negro Fort” or Fort at Prospect Bluff on July 16, 1816. Despite his rank, Clinch had seen no action during the War of 1812. That would change in a matter of days.
The first bloodshed of the Negro Fort Campaign took place on July 17, 1816. A detachment of maroons and Choctaw warriors attacked a U.S. Navy boat party that had rowed into the mouth of the Apalachicola River in search of fresh water. The result was a devastating defeat for the American sailors.
Lt. Col. Clinch, the commander of the U.S. expedition, held an important council with prominent Creek leaders on July 18, 1816. This meeting resulted in an agreement to join forces for an attack on the Negro Fort, increasing the size of the U.S. force from 112 to around 500 men.
The U.S. alliance learned the fate of one of the sailors captured during the Watering Party Attack as Clinch continued his push down the Apalachicola River on July 19, 1816. The unfortunate man had suffered a gruesome fate and a courier was carrying his scalp to area Native American towns.
The Battle of Negro Fort began on July 20, 1816. U.S. forces landed just north of the fort and moved to surround it. Clinch plan to storm the works and end the battle quickly but was driven back when Garcon and his men opened fire with cannon and a terrifying new weapon.
The men, women and children at Prospect Bluff engaged American and Creek troops with heavy cannon fire on July 21, 1816. Their determined defense kept the attacking forces from closing to within one mile of the outer defenses. Plans for an immediate U.S. assault were quickly cancelled.
The sounds of an intensifying battle could be heard by U.S. sailors at Apalachicola Bay on July 22, 1816. Each time U.S. soldiers or allied Creek warriors tried to advance to within range of the Fort at Prospect Bluff, they were driven back by heavy cannon fire.
Garcon refused a demand that he surrender the Negro Fort and allow his people to be returned to slavery. Instead he made clear to the chiefs who delivered Clinch’s demand that he would fight and was ready to do so.
The U.S. Navy began its long awaited move up the Apalachicola River to join the Prospect Bluff attack on July 24, 1816. The ships had remained in Apalachicola Bay from fear that they would be attacked by forces hidden in the heavy growth along the banks of the river.
The commanders of the U.S. land and naval forces met at appropriately named Bloody Bluff on July 25, 1816. They discussed the stalemated battle and debated their next move. U.S. soldiers and Creek warriors continued to hover around the Nego Fort, keeping Garcon’s defenders pinned down.
They had no way to know it, but most of the defenders of the Negro Fort were living the last full day of their life on July 26, 1816. U.S. soldiers worked to clear ground for building a heavy battery while Clinch and Loomis conducted a long-range surveillance of the fort’s defenses.
The deadliest cannon shot in American history was fired from U.S. Gunboat No. 154 into one of the powder magazines of the Fort at Prospect Bluff (or Negro Fort) on July 27, 1816. The blast killed an estimated 270 men, women and children.
The devastation at Prospect Bluff was horrible beyond belief. Bodies and body parts were spread across the one-mile plateau of the bluff and some could even be seen in the top branches of the tall longleaf pine trees that grew there. Somehow around 50 people managed to survive the initial explosion.
The following free videos from www.twoegg.tv provide more detail on the destruction of the fort, the history of Prospect Bluff and a chance to see more of the site:
You can learn more of the story of Prospect Bluff and the Negro Fort/British Post in these books: