Levi J. Knight Reports Indian Fight of July 13, 1836

The Ray City history Blog has previously reported various versions of the last Indian fights in Berrien (then Lowndes) County,  the 1836 skirmish near Short-arm Bill Parker‘s place and the Battle of Brushy Creek, all published some 19 to 90 years after the fact.

Below is Levi J, Knight’s own account of the skirmish near William Parker’s place, written immediately after the encounter.

This letter, dated July 13, 1836, is from Levi J. Knight to William Schley, Governor of Georgia (1835-1837) is perhaps the only primary source documentation of the fight, written by one of the principal participants at the time of the event.

Knight writes from Lowndes County, Georgia to inform the governor of the defeat of a band of Indians 20-25 in number following their raid on the homestead of William Parker. Over a three day period from July 10 to July 12, 1836 Levi J. Knight and a party of about 75 men, pioneers of old Lowndes County,  pursued and engaged the Indians near the Alapaha River.  Knight reports that the engagement occurred  on the banks of the Alapaha River about 10 miles above Gaskin’s Ferry.  According to Knight, only six Indians escaped, the rest being killed in the skirmish.  Knight’s group suffered one casualty; William Peters receiving two wounds in the encounter. This skirmish was a prelude to the Battle of Brushy Creek, which occurred some days later in the western part of the county.

Knight’s account of the skirmish made the national press, the content of his letter being published in newspapers all over the country. (Plain text transcript provided below image.)

July 13, 1836 letter from Levi J. Knight to William Schley, Governor of Georgia.

July 13, 1836 letter from Levi J. Knight to William Schley, Governor of Georgia.

The Constantine Republican
Constantine, MI
September 21, 1836, Front Page

From the Standard of Union, August 22.

Lowndes Co., Ga. July 13, 1836.

To his Excellency William Schley:

    Dear Sir: – I hasten to inform you of a defeat met by the hostile Creek Indians, in trying to pass through our country.  On the 10th of this instant a party of Indians, about 15, were discovered near Aaron Mattoxe’s, in the 10th district of this county, by two of his sons, and were travelling an east course, and on the same day about 8 miles from where they were then by Mattox, and in the direction they were travelling, three were seen by Mrs. Boyett and daughter; on the next day, Monday, a number of us, say 40, repaired to where they were discovered by Mattoxe’s sons, and took their trail; they travelled very near east to the Allappaha swamp, almost twelve miles, and passing them were discovered by Mrs. Boyett, about one mile south.
    Night setting in we were compelled to make up camp on the swamp of the Allappaha, and about dark, and in a few minutes after we had encamped, two runners came to us, stating that the Indians at two hours before sunset, were at Wm. Parker’s four miles above, plundering his house.  In the morning of Tuesday, we divided our force, which had increased in the day to near eighty men, and sent all but 35 men over the river to rendezvous where they were expected to cross; we then repaired to Wm. Parker’s, found that they had robbed his house of every thing of value in it; had many other things about 25 lbs. of powder, 30 bars of lead, and 140 weight of shot, also $308 in money.  We took their trail through a most desperate swamp – through lakes and creeks, several of them up to our arm pits, and bushes and briers almost impenetrable by any human being other than a savage, for two miles, when we came to their camp, on a large lake near the river bank, here the trail bore up the river, a north course to Gaskin’s ferry, eight miles of Parker’s; here we despatched a runner to our force, which had crossed the river, to recross, and come up to us, as the trail continued up the river, and now a little north west; our men pressed forward with a zeal and fierceness that would surmount any difficulty; by night we were so near them, that we knew where the camp was – about ten miles above Gaskin’s ferry – an open bluff opposite Mr. Mitchell’s, was examined by a party of our men after sunset, and found the Indians had not passed, and continuing up within two miles.  Night now setting in our reinforcement coming up we encamped at Mr. Mitchell’s; in the morning at day break our party again divided, thirty-eight men were posted on the bluff, their left resting on the river bank, and their right extending about two hundred yards right out from the river, who were silently to await the approach of the enemy; Jesse Carter was chosen to command on the left, William A. Knight in the centre, and William Peters on the right;  thirty-three repaired down to where we could again find the trail, and bearing up until we came in sight of our men that were posted at the bluff where we saw them charging down towards us, and bearing into a point of bushes, in a small bend of the river, a tremendous fire ensuing, our trailers dashed off at the top of their speed, and Mr. Peter’s company who were in the lead, dashed up among the enemy, who had selected their position in a clump of pines and bushes, at the river bank, fired at our men who were coming up with great bravery;  Mr Peters was badly wounded in the right breast, and the left side of the abdomen; he fell, but cried out to his men to charge on the whole force, now bearing in from above and below, and but few had discharged their guns, reserving their fire to see an object to shoot at, and charging at the top of their speed, the Indians dropped every thing, throwing their guns into the river, and plunged in for life; our men ran to the bank and shot them while swimming; only six made their escape to the other bank, and from their trail two or three of them were wounded;  there were about from 20 to 25, one squaw, was shot in the back with four buck shot, as we ascertained by the dress which she dropped at the edge of the water, and was perforated with holes; she was heard to make a noise until she arrived to the middle of the stream, when all was silent, as the warriors never yelled after they dropped their guns, 15 of their packs were found, and ten of ther guns was got out of the river by our best swimmers, two of the Indians that were nearest the bank were got out, and left a prey to the buzzards and wild beasts on the bank.  Parker’s property was nearly all obtained, and his money was found in one of the shot-bags found in the river in his own pocket book, his name being written in several places.  On of the number of these marauders was from every appearance a white man, from his dress and complexion : it was in the shot-bag carried by him, that the money was found ; he was never seen to climb up the opposite bank, so he has paid for his treachery : the six that got across the river reached the bank naked, except their flaps ; we trust this rebuke will be a caution to the next party that may try to pass through our country.
     I have the honor to be your excellency’s most obedient and humble servant,

LEVI J. KNIGHT.

N. B.  We had but two commissioned officers among us, and they both captains, who only filled the place of privates as the company claimed the right of choosing their own leaders.  I forgot to state that myself was chosen to lead  on the trailers, Ivy Simmons to second, and Wm. C. Knight third or in the rear.
L. J. K.

P. S. – Their guns and ammunition and property of every kind was sold on the spot, and the proceeds given to Wm. Peters, as he was the only sufferer – their property amounted to $170.  They had some valuable guns.

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4 Comments

  1. P. Puckett said,

    August 14, 2013 at 6:37 am

    This man Levi J Knight was my Great Grand Mother’s father and lived on the land that we visited while you were visiting…The house with horse stuff…Have a great Wednesday…Blessings pat

  2. August 16, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    William W. Knight’s Civil War letters have just been digitized and can be found online at this link: William W. Knight Letters I assume there is a direct relation between William A Knight and William W. Knight.

  3. John Mangum said,

    August 19, 2013 at 3:17 am

    Thank you ever so much for sending this information on Levi J. Knight and family. Levi was my 3rd. Great Grandfather. His son William W. Knight was my 2nd Grt. Grandfather. J.W. Knight Mangum

    Sent from my iPhone


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