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Image above: The U.S.S. Constitution captures the British war ship Guerrier, War of 1812. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Right: Battle of New Orleans, E. Percy Moran, 1910. Image courtesy Library of Congress.
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1818 - Detail
March 15, 1818 - Andrew Jackson and his American army invade Florida in the Seminole War, causing repercussions with Spain as negotiations to purchase the territory had just begun.
Yes, there were three of them, these Seminole Wars. And yes, actions that some consider part of that conflict had been going on since the end of the War of 1812, for several years. But when Andrew Jackson started south in conflict, first in southern Georgia and then in Seminole Indian territory of East Florida, still owned by Spain, most historians consider these actions as the first true blush of the First Seminole War. Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of New Orleans in that War of 1812 and future President, had fought the Creeks in Alabama and Georgia for several years in the Creek War (Red Stick War), considered part of the War of 1812.
The Treaty of Fort Jackson in August 1814, ending the Red Stick War, had forced the Creeks to cede twenty-one million acres and pushed some of the leaders in the Red Stick War south to join the Seminoles, which had been a band of the northern Creek that settled in Florida the century before. Their name had been coined by the British to distinguish them from their Creek brethren in Georgia and Alabama. It was thought that the Seminoles harbored English sympathizers, too, as well as free black and runaway slaves, which became known as Black Seminoles.
What Occurred Before the Invasion
Prior to the War of 1812, settlers in Georgia north of the Spanish line had begun to settle in sections of East Florida. The Spanish were not pleased, and at first, the Seminoles remained neutral. They had not been happy with Spanish rule, but were displeased with Patriot authority as well. Black Seminoles wanted to war against the Patriots, afraid that American rule, if it came to Florida, would result in slavery for them again. This convinced the Seminole nation to fight on the side of the Spanish, which occured from the end of 1812 through May of 1813. With the War of 1812 beginning to be waged, the American left East Florida, although that departure would not last. They had burned three hundred and eighty-six Seminole houses, consumed up to two thousand bushels of Seminole corn, and killed twenty.
With the Treaty of Fort Jackson let in August of 1814, and the War of 1812 still in battle, British authorities had spent several months recruiting Seminole warriors and fugitive slaves to their side, gathering them, one thousand strong, in Pensacola. General Jackson would have none of that; he drove the British and their allies out of Pensacola in November 1814. When the War of 1812 ended and the British left East Florida, what remained of the forces aligned were the fugitive slaves. They congregated at Negro Fort along the Apalachicola River in today's Florida panhandle. In response, the Americans built Fort Scott in southwest Georgia in April 1816. For several months, incidents from the defenders at Negro Fort had killed several men who were gathering or bringing supplies to Fort Scott. On July 27, 1816, General Jackson removed what he deemed that threat; burning the fort and killing almost all of the warriors, women, and children in the fort, estimated at three hundred. Jackson and his forces retreated back to Georgia.
During the next two years, incidents against residents of the United States in southern Georgia continued, as well as raids into Seminole territory by American squatters and outlaws. The Fowltown, a Mikasuki Creek village in Georgia, incident on November 22, 1817, forced the Indian tribe to flee after an attack the day before. Seminole retaliation against boats from Fort Scott took the lives of an estimated forty soldiers, women, and children. The Scott Massacre convinced authorities in Washington, D.C. that these activities must be stopped. General Andrew Jackson was sent back into Spanish East Florida to quell them.
Jackson Attacks the Seminoles
Although historians disagree on whether any of the actions above were within the First Seminole War or just precipitated it, the fact or time and place were moot. General Jackson, with over four thousand men, left Fort Scott for the Seminole villages of Spanish East Florida. He had, within that number, fourteen hundred Lower Creek allies under the command of William McIntosh. On March 15, 1818, he entered Spanish territory, marching down the Apalachicola River. Once reaching the site of the former Negro Fort, he ordered his men to build another, which became known as Fort Gadsden.
In the ensueing months, Mikasuke villages were assaulted; Tallahassee, known as Anhaica, burned on March 31, Fort St. Marks, occupied, on April 6. Fort St. Marks (San Marcos) was Spanish property, defended lightly, and residents there had been trading with the Indians, guns for deer skins. Two Indian leaders, when caught, were hung without trial. Two suspected British agents, Robert Ambrister and Alexander Arbuthnot, were later taken to trial, then executed.
The raids into Seminole territory continued. Villages along the Suwannee River were attacked through April. After these raids, General Jackson considered his mission complete, sending his soldiers back to Fort St. Marks or their homes in Georgia. A later attack on Pensacola, in West Florida, was completed on May 28, with the Spanish surrending Fort Barrancas. The Americans were now in effective control of West Florida.
The attack on West Florida caused discontent in Washington, D.C., as negotations with the Spanish by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to purchase Florida had started. The Spanish left the negotiating table; Adams apologized and gave Pensacola and Fort St. Marks back to the Spanish. By 1919, Spain would cede their territories of Florida to the United States in the Adams-Onis Treaty. At this juncture, there were an estimated five thousand Seminoles living in Florida.
What Andrew Jackson Wrote About the Campaign
To Rachel Jackson
Fort Gadsden March 26th. 1818. East side of the appelachecola, where the Negro Ft formerly stood.
My Love. No opportunity of writing you has occurred since I left Hartford, Georgia,
untill now, nor have I heard from you, since I left that place untill
yesterday, & that through a note from Doctor [Jabez Wiggins] Heustis,
now at Ft Scot Sixty miles in the rear, adressed to Colo Butler who says
he saw you, Mrs. Butler & Colo Hays family on the 8th. ult all well, this
gave me much pleasure, as I suppose, if the dear little fellows the two Andrew
had not been well you would have named it, or that he would have
heard it. Untill a few days past we have experienced bad roads, high waters,
& constant rain, with the dreary prospects of great scarcity of provisions,
the supplies ordered from New orleans, having been detained by adverse
winds. This situation is changed, and the prospect of plenty is ours, Colo
[George] Gibson with Capt [Isaac] McKeever comdg the armed vessells
reached me last evening, several of his vessells laden with supplies are in
the bay, part of which I have recd, and the vessells separated in the gale are
daily ariving, to detail to you our march from Hartford to this place, and
the various incidents that has occurred, would occupy more time & space,
than the limits of a letter will allow, time will only permit me to say to you,
that scarcity of supplies from the commencement of our march, from the
neglect of those who Gen. Gains had charged with forwarding them began
to shew itself, I had confidence in the exertion of Colo. Gibson who was
charged with forwarding the supplies from N. orleans, on these, altho far
in advance I depended, and I was determined to endeavour to reach them,
trusting to the deity to aid my exertions, and supply the means to allay
hunger, and preserve the health of my troops, untill I could meet them.
dispatches, arrived from the commanding officer of Ft Scott, informing of
the great scarcity there, and of his determination to abandon that post in
a few days if supplies did not reach him, this occasioned Gen. Gains to set
out for that post, to reach it in time to prevent such a disgracefull catastrophy
& which would have threw some dificulty in the way in prosecuting
the campaign, he got shipwrecked decending the river flint, lost his asst
adjt. Gen. & two soldiers drowned, and joined me six days after-nearly
exausted with hunger and cold, having lost all his cloathing & baggage,
in the mean time I was endeavouring to push on the Georgia Brigade to
cover & protect my supplies expected in the Bay & river appelachecola,
that was threatened to be arrested by the enemy, I reached Ft Early where
I expected & was promised supplies, here I found half a pint of corn &
half a pint of flower pr man, to ration my troops, through a wilderness of
upwards of sixty miles, with various large water courses unusually high to
pass, I recollected how the Isarelites of old had been fed in the wilderness,
encouraged my men, had the pittance of bread stuff Issued, (I had hoggs
on foot with me) ordered the line of march to be taken up, crossed the flint
to draw what supplies I could from the Indians, altho detained many days
making bridges, I reached Ft Scott on the night of the 9th. instant, the
troops in good health not having lost one man by sickness or any other
casualty-at Ft Scott I found a few poor Beeves which added to the scanty
supply of Pork I had on hand would ration my men for three days, and one
quart of corn pr man, on this I determined to look in to the bay for the
supplies, and on the 10th. marched for this place, god favoured my exertions,
I have met them, built a garrison for their reception & safety and
march this day to reach the enemy, & endeavour with the smiles of heaven
to put a speedy end to the campaign, this will be much facilitated by the
cooperation of the navy commanded by that valuable officer Capt McKeever
who is now here, and has readily agreed to cooperate with me, this
will ensure me supplies along the coast, & capture such of the enemy who
may attempt to make their Escape to the smaller Hands bordering on our
coasts. At Ft Scott I expected to meet the Volunteers from Tennessee, in
this I was disappointed, I had caused supplies to be laid in for them at Ft
Mitchell and advised them of a supply of corn at Ft Gains. Colo. Hayne
recd. my despatch & the supplies at Ft Mitchel, with my instructions to
pass by Ft Gains to Ft Scott, the idea of starvation had spread far & wide,
and a panic was every where, he was told by officers of high grade that no
supplies could be had at Ft Gains, if he advanced to Ft Scott he would
starve, he changed his rout by Georgia, where the frontier has been drained
of supplies, and where they will experience great scarcity. I hear the Tennesseens
are in the wilderness and I hope will join me to day or tomorrow,
But how grating to their feelings-how grating to mine, that those brave
men, who have marched so far, should be thrown in the rear by false statements,
by men of high grade in the army, whose duty it was to have urged
them on to have saved the supplies coming by water & on which the safety
of the army, & the future progress of the campaign rested, but an enquiry
has been entered into, which will bring to light those who have been & are
to blame for our scarcity and the change of rout by Colo. Hayne-was the
Tennesseens up, I, under present circumstances, would be contented.
I with my whole staff & army enjoy good health Shew this to Colo.
Hays, & present him my best wishes. Tell Rachel B[utler] that her Colo. is
remarkable well, kiss my two little fellows for me, and tell them papa is
well-accept of my prayers for your health and happiness untill I return,
day begins to appear, I must prepare the Troops for a march. I must bid
you for the present adieu. I shall write you the first opportunity. May god
bless you. I salute you with an affectionate farewell. I am your affectionate
P. S. we have taken a few prisoners, Gen. McIntosh commanding the
friendly creeks, who was ordered to pass down & reconnoitre the right
bank of the appelachicola reports to me on the 19th. that he has without
the fire of a gun captured of the red ground chiefs party 180 weomen &
children & 53 warriors, With all their cattle & supplies the red ground
chief with thirty warriors making their Escape on horseback-Ten of the
warriors, after having surrendered, attempted to make their Escape, he
killed fourteen in all of warriors has been killed. I have reached this point
without the least interruption from the enemy, we have obtained from them
a small supply of corn on our march, which was much wanted
P. S. Capt John Gordon has joined me, on his way he overtook the Tennesseens
when they took the rout to Georgia he shaped his course to me braving
all dangers, the gods preserved him.
To Francisco Caso y Luengo
Head Quarters Divis of the South Before St Marks. 6 (March) April 1818.
To chastise a Savage foe, who combined with a lawless band of Negro
Brigands, have for some time past been carrying on a cruel & unprovoked
war against the Citizens of the U States; has compelled The President to
direct me to march my army into Florida - I have penetrated to the Mekasukian
Towns & reduced them to ashes. In these Towns I found every
indication of a hostile spirit - On a red pole in the center of the Council
houses of Kenhagees Town more than fifty fresh scalps of all ages from the
Infant to the aged matron, were found suspended-In addition to this upwards
of three hundred old scalps were found in the dwellings of the different
Chiefs settled on the Mekasuky pond - Those Barbarians who
escaped death have fled-From information communicated by the Governor
of Pensacola to Two of my Captains, Gordon and Call, I was induced
to believe that they had fled to St Marks for protection. The Governor
stated that the Indians & Negroes had demanded of you large supplies of
munitions of war, with a threat in the event of a refusal, of taking possession
of your fortress. He further expressed an apprehension that from your
defenceless state, They were already in possession of St Marks-The Wife
of Chenubbee, a noted chief, now a prisoner in my camp informs me that
the Hostile Indians & Negroes obtained their supply of amunition from
- To prevent the recurrance of so gross a violation of neutrality
& to exclude our savage Enemies from so strong a hold as St Marks I deem
it expedient to garrison that fortress with American Troops untill the close
of the present war - This measure is justifiable on that universal principal
of self defence & cannot but be satisfactory, under existing circumstances
to his Catholic Majesty the King of Spain - Under existing treaties between
our two governments, The King of Spain is bound to preserve in peace with
the Citizens of the U States not only his own subjects, but all Indian Tribes
residing within his territory - When called upon to fulfil that part of the
treaty in relation to a savage tribe who have long depredated with impunity
the American frontier, incompetency is alledged, with an acknowledgement
that the same tribe have acted in open hostility to the laws, & invaded the
rights of the subjects of his Catholic Majesty - As a mutual Enemy therefore
it is expected that every facility will be afforded by the Agents of the
King of Spain to chastise these lawless & inhuman savages - In this light
is the possession of St Marks by the American forces to be viewed - I came
not as the Enemy but as the Friend of Spain. Spanish rights, and property
will be respected; The property & rights of Spanish Subjects will be guaranteed
them; An Inventory of all public property, munitions of war &c
shall be made out & certified by an Officer appointed by each of us, and
a receipt given for the same to be accounted for to his Catholic Majesty
by the U States - The subject of my possession of the garrison of St
Marks, will be referred to our respective governments for an Amicable
Some Armed vessels of the U States are in the Bay of St Marks; with
whom I wish to communicate: You will I trust furnish me with a small
vessel to convey a letter, as well as some sick & wounded that are with
As our mutual savage Enemies are concentrating their forces near or on
the Sewaney, an early & prompt answer is requested to this letter, with an
english translation, as neither myself or staff are acquainted with the
Spanish - I have the honor to be with great respect your Most obt Servt.
This will be handed you by my aid de camp Lt James Gadsden, by whom
an answer is expected I have the honor to be with great respect your Most
Major Gen. Comdg.
Image above: Lithograph of Andrew Jackson on horseback during the War of 1812, 1834/1845, Breucker and Kessler Co. Courtesy Library of Congress. Image below: Army Soldiers fighting Indians in the First Seminole War, 1848, Illustration from John Frost's "Life of Jackson." Courtesy Florida State Library and Archives. Source Info: "First Seminole War," nativeamericannetroots.net; Seminolenationmuseum.org; Florida Department of State; "The Papers of Andrew Jackson, Volume IV, 1816-1820," Andrew Jackson, University of Tennessee Press; Wikipedia Commons.
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Resolution for federal aid from the Missouri Territory during the time of the New Madrid earthquakes in 1811-12. Courtesy National Archives.
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