Thursday, June 30, 2016
Wednesday, July 27, 2016, will mark the 200th anniversary of the destruction of THE NEGRO FORT on the Apalachicola River from a single U.S. Navy hot shot cannonball which landed inside the fort's powder magazine. One of the major reasons for the U.S. to order the destruction of this British-built fort was in order to protect the surveyors who were in the field surveying the public lands in present-day Georgia and Alabama which the Creek Indians lost under the terms of THE TREATY OF FORT JACKSON following the defeat of the Red Sticks at Horseshoe Bend.
Reprinted from THE NATIONAL REGISTER, Volume 7
Preceding the destruction of the Negro Fort, this letter was sent from General Gaines at Fort Montgomery (near the present-day Baldwin County community of Tensaw) to Colonel Clinch at Fort Gaines, Georgia. It authorized Colonel Clinch to establish what was known as Camp Crawford (later Fort Scott) on the Flint River in present-day Decatur County, Georgia. I have emphasized the portion which deals with protecting the surveyors.
No. 19. General Gaines to colonel Clinch.
Head Quarters, Fort Montgomery, M T.(Mississippi Territory)
23d May, 1816.
Sir, — Your letters up to the 9th instant, have been received. The British agent Hambly, and the Little Prince, and others, are acting a part, which I have been at a loss for some time past to understand. Are they not endeavoring to amuse and divert us from our main object? Their tricks, if they be so, have assumed a serious aspect, and may lead to their destruction; but we have little to apprehend from them. They must be watched with an eye of vigilance. The post near the junction of the rivers, to which I called your attention, in the last month, must be established speedily, even if we have to fight our way to it through the ranks of the whole nation.
THE SURVEYORS HAVE COMMENCED LAYING OFF THE LAND TO BE SOLD AND SETTLED; AND THEY MUST BE PROTECTED. The force of the whole nation cannot arrest your movement down the river on board the boats, if secured up the sides with two inch plank, and covered over with clapboards; nor could all the nation prevent your landing and constructing a stockade work, sufficient to secure you, unless they should previously know the spot at which you intended to land, and had actually assembled at that place previous to. or within four hours of, your landing; but your force is not sufficient to warrant your march to the different villages, as suggested, by land. The whole of your force, (except about forty men, or one company, for the defence of fort Gaines,) should be kept near your boats and supplies, until the new post shall be established. You may then strike at any hostile party near you, with all your disposable force; but, even then, you should not go more than one or two days, march from your fort.
If your supplies of provision and ammunition have reached you, let your detachment move as directed in my letter of the 28th of last month.You can venture to move with twenty five days rations, but you should order a supply to the agency, or fort Gaines, where a boat should be built, and held in readiness to send down, in case any accident should prevent or delay the arrival of a supply which I have ordered from New Orleans.
I enclose you an extract of a letter containing an arrangement for the supply, by water, and have to direct that you will provide a boat, and despatch it with an officer and fifty men to meet the vessels from New Orleans, as soon as you are advised of their being on the river One of your large boats will answer the purpose, provided you have no barge or keel boat. Should the boats meet with opposition, at what is called the Negro Fort, arrangements will immediately be made for its destruction, and for that purpose you will be supplied with two eighteen pounders and one howitzer, with fixt ammunition, and implements complete, to be sent in a vessel to accompany the provision. 1 have likewise ordered fifty thousand musket cartridges, some rifles, swords, etc. Should you be compelled to go against the Negro Fort, you will land at a convenient point above it, and force a communication with the commanding officer of the vessels below, and arrange with him your plan of attack. Upon this subject, you shall hear from me again, as soon as I am notified of the time at which the vessels will sail from New Orleans.
With great respect and esteem, Your obedient servant,
(Signed) EDMUND P. GAINES, ) Major general commanding.
Lieut, col. 1). L. Clinch, or officer commanding on the Chattahooche.
A true copy. — Rob. R. Ruffin, Aid-de-camp.
General Gaines to Commodore Patterson.
May 22d 1816.
Sir, — By a letter I have received from lieutenant colonel Clinch, commanding a battalion of the 4th regiment infantry, on the Chatahoochie, I learn that in the early part of the present month, a party of Indians surprized and took from the immediate vicinity of his camp, two privates sent out to guard a drove of beef cattle, purchased for the subsistence of the troops. The cattle, amounting to thirty head, were also taken; the Indians were pursued forty five miles, on a path leading to St. Marks, but being mounted and having traveled all night, escaped with their prisoners and booty.
This outrage, preceded by the murder of two of our citizens, Johnson and McCaskey, by Indians below the lines, and followed by certain indications of general hostility, such as the war dance, and drinking war physic, leaves no doubt that we shall be compelled to destroy the hostile towns.
The detached situation of the post, which I have ordered lieutenant colonel Clinch to establish near the Apalachicola, will expose us to great inconvenience and hazard, in obtaining supplies by land, particularly in the event of war, as the road will be bad, and the distance from the settlements of Georgia near one hundred and fifty miles.
Having advised with the commander in chief of the division upon this subject, I have determined upon an experiment by water, and for this purpose have to request your co-operation; should you feel authorized to detach a small gun vessel or two as a convoy to the boats charged with our supplies up the Apalachicola, I am persuaded that in doing so, you will contribute much to the benefit of the service, and accommodation of my immediate command in this quarter: the transports will be under the direction of the officer of the gun vessel, and the whole should be provided against an attack by small arms from shore. To guard against accidents, I will direct lieutenant colonel Clinch, to have in readiness, a boat sufficient to carry fifty men, to meet the vessels on the river and assist them up. Should you find it to be convenient to send .a convoy, I will thank you to inform me of the date of its departure, and the time which, in your judgment, it will take to arrive at the mouth of the river (Apalachicola.) Enclosed you will receive the best account I can give you, from the information I have received, of the Negro fort upon the Apalachacola. Should we meet with opposition from that fort, it shall be destroyed: and for this purpose the commanding officer above, will be ordered to prepare all his disposable force, to meet the boats at, or just below, the fort, and he will confer with the commanding officer of the gun vessels, upon the plan of attack.
I am, with great consideration and esteem,
Your obedient servant,
(Signed) EDMUND P. GAINES, Major general by brevet.
Com. Daniel T. Patterson, U. S. Navy,
J. Loomis to Commodore Patterson.
Bay St. Louis,
13th August, 1816,
U. S. Gun Vessel, No. 149
Sir, — In conformity with your orders of the 24th June, I have the honor to report, that with this vessel and No. 154, sailing master James Bassett, I took under convoy the schooners General Pike and Semilante, laden with provisions and military stores, and proceeded for Apalachacola river; off the mouth of which we arrived on the 10th July. At this place I received despatches from lieutenant colonel Clinch, commanding the 4th regiment United States infantry, on the Chatahoochie river, borne by an Indian, requesting me to remain off the mouth of the river, until he aould arrive with a party of men to assist in get ting up the transports; desiring me also, to detain all vessels and boats that might attempt to descend the river.
On the 15th, I discovered a boat pulling out of the river, and being anxious to ascertain whether we should be permitted peaceably to pass the fort above us, I despatched a boat with an officer to gain the necessary information; on nearing her, she fired a volley of musketry into my boat, and immediately pulled in for the river, 1 immediately opened a fire on them from the gun vessels, but with no effect.
On the 17th, at 5 A. M. I manned and armed a boat with a swivel and musketry and four men, and gave her in charge of midshipman Luffbolough, for the purpose of procuring fresh water, having run short of that article. At 11 A. M. sailing master Bassett, who had been on a similar expedition, came along side with the body of John Burgess, 0. S. who had been sent in the boat With midshipman Luffborough; his body was found near the mouth of the river, shot through the heart. At 4 P. M. discovered a man at the mouth of the river on a sand bar; sent a boat and brought him on board; he proved to be John Lopaz, O. S. the only survivor of the boat's crew sent with midshipman Luffborough He reports, that on entering the river, they discovered a negro on the beach near a plantation; that Mr. Luffborough ordered the boat to be pulled directly for him; that on touching the shore he spoke to the negro, and directly received a volley of musketry from two divisions of negroes and Indians, who lay concealed in the bushes on the margin of the river; Mr. Luffborough, Robert Maitland, and John Burgess, were killed on the spot; Lopaz made his escape by swimming, and states that he saw the other seaman, Edward Daniels, made prisoner. Lopaz supposed there must have been forty negroes and Indians concerned in the capture of the boat.
On the 20th July, I received by a canoe with five Indians, despatches from colonel Clinch, advising that he had arrived with a party of troops and Indians at a position about a mile above the negro fort requesting that I would ascend the river and join him with the gun vessels He further informed me, that he had taken a negro bearing the scalp of one of my unfortunate crew, to one of the unfriendly Indian chiefs. On the 22d, there was a heavy cannonading in the direction of the fort. On the 23d, I received a verbal message from colonel Clinch; by a white man and two Indians, who stated that colonel Clinch wished me to ascend the river to a certain bluff, and await there until I saw him. Considering that by so doing, in a narrow and crooked river, from both sides of which my decks could be commanded, and exposed to the fire of musketry, without enabling me to act in my own defence; and also, that something like treachery might be on foot, from the nature of the message; I declined acting, retained the white man and one of the Indians as hostages, and despatched the other, with my reason for so doing, to colonel Clinch, that his views and communications to me in future must be made in writing, and by an officer of the army.
Lieutenant Wilson and thirteen men joined me on the 24th to assist in getting up with the transports; he likewise informed me that colonel Clinch had sent the canoe the day before.
On the 25th I arrived with the Convoy at Duelling Bluff, about four miles below the fort, where I was met by colonel Clinch: he informed me that in attempting to pass within gun shot of the fortifications, he had been fired upon by the negroes, and that he had also been fired upon for the last four or five days, whenever any of his troops appeared in view; we immeditely reconnoitred the fort, and determined on a site to erect a small battery of two eighteen pounders to assist the gun vessels to force the navigation of the river, as it was evident from their hostility we should be obliged to do.
On the 26th the colonel began to clear away the bushwood for the erection of the battery; he however stated to me that he was not acquainted with artillery, but that he thought the distance was too great to do execution. On this subject we unfortunately differed totally in opinion, as we were within point blank range; he however ordered his men to desist from further operations; I then told him that the gun vessels would attempt the passage of the fort in the morning, without his aid. At 4 A M on the morning of the 27th, we began warping the gun vessels to a proper position, at 5 getting within gun shot, the fort opened upon us, which we returned, and after ascertaining our real distance with cold shot, we commenced with hot, (having cleared away our coppers for that purpose,) the first one of which entering their magazine, blew up and completely destroyed the fort. The negroes fought under the English Jack, accompanied with the red or bloody flag.
This was a regularly constructed fortification, built under the immediate eye and direction of colonel Nicholls of the British army ; there were mounted on the walls, and in a complete state of equipment for service, four long 24 pounders, cannon; four long 6 ditto; one 4 pounder field piece, and a 5 and one half inch brass howitz, with three hundred negroes, men, women, and children, and about 20 Indian warriors of the renegade Choctaws; of these 270 were killed, and the greater part of the rest mortally wounded; but three
escaped unhurt; among the prisoners were the two chiefs of the negroes and Indians On examining the prisoners they stated that Edward Daniels, O S who was made prisoner in the boat on the 17th July, was tarred and burnt alive. In consequence of this savage act, both the chiefs were executed on the spot by the friendly Indians.
From the best information we could ascertain there were,
2,500 stand of musketry, with accoutrements complete.
500 steel scabbard swords
4 cases containing 200 pair pistols.
300 qr. casks rifle powder.
762 barrels of cannon powder, besides a large quantity of military stores and clothing, that I was not able to collect any account of, owing to an engagement made by colonel Clinch with the Indians, in which he promised them all the property captured, except the cannon and shot.
The property captured on the 27th July, according to the best information we could obtain, and at the lowest calculation, could not have been less than $200,000 in value, the remnant of the property, that the Indians did not take, was transported to fort Crawford, and to this place, an inventory of which I have the honor to transmit for your further information.
On sounding the river, I found it impassable for vessels drawing more than four and a half feet water, consequently, colonel Clinch took the provision from the General Pike into flats, and lightened the Semilante, so as to enable her to ascend the river as high as fort Crawford. On the 3rd August, after setting fire to the remaining parts of the fort and village, I left the river and arrived at this anchorage on the 12th current.
I cannot close this letter without expressing to you. my entire approbation of the conduct of sailing master James Bassett, commanding gun vessel No. 154, for his cool, deliberate, and masterly conduct, and the support I received from him in all cases of difficulty and danger. In fact, Sir, every man and officer did his duty.
Very respectfully, Your obedient servant, (
Signed) J. LOOMIS,
Commodore Daniel T. Patterson, commanding U. S. Naval Forces, New Orleans station.