Ned Holmes and Civil War Epidemics

Edward “Ned” HOLMES, was a soldier of the 25th Georgia Regiment, which shared garrison duties with the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment several camps around Savannah, GA in the spring and summer of 1862. In June, the colonel of the 25th Regiment, Claudius C. Wilson, would assume command of Causton’s Bluff, where the Berrien Minute Men were stationed.

Ned Holmes was born about 1834 in DeKalb County, Georgia, the younger of two sons of James and Martha Thurman Holmes.

Ned’s father, James Holmes, according to family tradition left the family in Atlanta to go west to look for land to homestead. He was never heard from again…  Ned’s brother Mike Holmes, as oldest son, was sole support of his family and supposedly worked as an overseer to support them. Once again family legend says Mike rode a winning horse in a race in Atlanta the purse for which was enough for him to move his mother, five sisters and Ned  to Alabama. About 1845, the family moved to Henry County, AL, settling near Wesley, about 7 miles northeast of Abbeville. – Gordon W. Holmes, Jr

In Henry County, Mike Holmes first worked as a farmer then in 1858 was elected Sheriff of Henry County as a Democrat.  By 1860, Ned Holmes was employed as an overseer and moved out of his brother’s household to a place of his own in Franklin, AL.

When the Civil War broke out Mike Holmes enlisted at Abbeville, AL on May 11, 1861, in Company A (became Company B), 6th Regiment, Alabama Infantry, CSA. 

Edward “Ned” Holmes was enlisted on April 12, 1862, in Henry County, Alabama, by Capt. George W. Holmes (no relation) for 3 years, in Company E, 25th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, CSA. Ned remained at home on furlough through the end of April, 1862. In May, he  joined his unit at Camp Smith near Savannah, Georgia. After joining the 25th Regiment, Ned Holmes would suffer a battery of contagious diseases.

Colonel Claudius C. Wilson gathered a petition from the 29th Georgia Regiment requesting that Elbert J. Chapman's life be spared.

Colonel Claudius C. Wilson gathered a petition from the 29th Georgia Regiment requesting that Elbert J. Chapman’s life be spared.

The Twenty-fifth regiment Georgia volunteers had been organized during the summer of 1861.  Claudius C. Wilson, a member of the Georgia Bar and former solicitor-general for the eastern circuit of Georgia, was elected colonel and commissioned the unit’s first commanding officer. The unit was mustered into Confederate service at Savannah, Georgia, early September 1861.  The Twenty-fifth, after being equipped and drilled, was assigned to the department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and throughout the latter part of 1861 and during 1862 served on the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. By September, 1862 the 25th Georgia Regiment would  serve alongside the 29th Regiment at Causton’s Bluff, east of Savannah, GA.   The initial officers of the regiment were: William Percy Morford Ashley, lieutenant-colonel; William John Winn, major; Rufus Ezekiel Lester, adjutant, and William DeLegal Bacon, quartermaster. The captains were Alexander W. Smith, Company A; Martin L. Bryan, Company B; Jefferson Roberts, Company C; Andrew J. Williams, Company D;  William Sanford Norman, Company E; George T. Dunham, Company F;  William D. Hamilton, Company G;  W. Henry Wylly, Company H; Alexander Hamilton “Hamp” Smith , Company I, [post-war resident of Valdosta, GA];  Mark Jackson McMullen, Company K, Robert James McClary, Company L.

By the time Ned Holmes joined the Regiment in May 1862, the 25th Georgia had already served eight months at posts around Savannah: at Camp Wilson with the 27th, 31st and 29th Georgia Regiments;  at Camp Young; Thunderbolt Battery;  Camp Mercer on Tybee Island; and Camp Smith.

Most of the 25th Regiment had already suffered through a host of communicable diseases. “The fact that a majority of the soldiers were from rural communities made them very susceptible to such “city sicknesses” as measles, chicken pox, and small pox. The death rate from these diseases were very high. In the Federal armies, sickness and disease accounted for 7 of every 10 deaths. One authority has estimated that among the Confederates three men perished from disease for every man killed in battle. Small wonder that a Civil War soldier once wrote his family from camp: “It scares a man to death to get sick down here.” – The Civil War

Isaac Gordon Bradwell, a soldier of the 31st Georgia Regiment at Camp Wilson wrote,”“We had not been in these camps many days before we were invaded by measles the dread enemy of all new soldiers, and many of our men died or were rendered unfit for further service. Other diseases thinned our ranks, and for a while few recruits came to take their places.”  When new recruits like Ned Holmes did come, measles might be contracted within days of the men’s arrival.   Measles had hit The 29th Georgia Regiment and the Berrien Minute Men hard at Camp Security, GA in December 1861. Augustus H. Harrell,, of the Thomasville Guards, took the measles home from Camp Security.   William Washington Knight wrote from Camp Security, “Nearly all of our company have the measles. Capt [John C.] Lamb has it,” along with 60 others of the Regiment.  William A. Jones went home to Berrien County, GA with the measles and died there in January, 1862; a son born after his death suffered from apparent Congenital Rubella Syndrome.

Ned Holmes wrote home from Camp Smith on June 7, 1862, telling his family that he had a very bad cold and cough, and that there was a lot of sickness in the the 25th regiment.  By June 11, 1862 he wrote he was sick with measles.

“Measles [Rubeola] infection occurs in sequential stages over a period of two to three weeks. For the first 10 to 14 days after infection, the measles virus incubates. There are  no signs or symptoms of measles during this time. Measles symptoms typically begin with a mild to moderate fever, often accompanied by a persistent cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and sore throat. This relatively mild illness may last two or three days. Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background form inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek — also called Koplik’s spots. A skin rash develops made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another. Over the next few days, the rash spreads down the arms and trunk, then over the thighs, lower legs and feet. At the same time, the fever rises sharply, often as high as 104 to 105.8 F (40 to 41 C). The measles rash gradually recedes, fading first from the face and last from the thighs and feet. A person with measles can spread the virus to others for about eight days, starting four days before the rash appears and ending when the rash has been present for four days.”- Mayo Clinic

 

In June, 1862  the 25th Regiment’s Colonel, Claudius C. Wilson, was assigned special duty as commander of the post at Causton’s Bluff.  The bluff, about three miles east of Savannah, overlooked St. Augustine Creek and Whitemarsh Island (pronounced Whitmarsh Island). “This twenty to thirty foot bluff strategically commanded the rear approach to Fort Jackson, on the Savannah River, and the approach to the part of the eastern lines of the city.”  Causton’s Bluff had been garrisoned since December 1861 by   the 13th Georgia Infantry, also known as the Bartow Light Infantry, under the command of Colonel Marcellus Douglass .  After the U.S. Army captured Fort Pulaski on April 11, 1862, the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment were brought up to strengthen the garrison.  Soon the 25th regiment moved up from Camp Smith to join the garrison at Causton’s Bluff.  At Causton’s Bluff, the men would suffer with fever, malaria, measles, tonsillitis, mumps,  wounds, typhus, dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis, syphilis, hepatitis, and rheumatism as well as mosquitoes, fleas, and sandflies.

In a letter to his brother, Ned Holmes wrote that he had his gear “hauled from the old camp,” and that he was sick with the mumps.

Early in the morning, 20th of June 1862

Mike,
As I did not get off my letter yesterday I write you a few lines this morning. I feel very well this morning. I am swole up powerful with mumps this morning but they give me but little pain. I am taking good care of myself. Perhaps you think I cant do that in camp but my tent is as dry as any — house. Last night we had 2 pretty hard storms & heavy raining and I never felt a drop of water or a breeze of wind. I managed to get my bed stead hauled from the old camp yesterday. It is as good a bed as I would want at home. I think I will improve all the time now. I want you to write me. I have not heard from you since you were on your way to Richmond. I don’t know how I will like the move we made. I have not been out any since I came to this place. All I know is it’s very level where we are camped.
Tell Sim’s folks he is well. Dick [Knight] is in good health. Be sure to write soon. Dick got letters from home saying that Reuben Fleming has been carried home. I want to hear about it.

Ned

According to the CDC, “Mumps is a contagious disease that is caused by a virus. Symptoms typically appear 16-18 days after infection, but this period can range from 12–25 days after infection.It typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite. Then most people will have swelling of their salivary glands. This is what causes the puffy cheeks and a tender, swollen jaw. Some people who get mumps have very mild symptoms (like a cold), or no symptoms at all and may not know they have the disease. Mumps can occasionally cause complications, especially in adults. In men, complications can include: inflammation of the testicles (orchitis) in males who have reached puberty; this may lead to a decrease in testicular size (testicular atrophy); inflammation in the pancreas (pancreatitis); inflammation of the brain (encephalitis); inflammation of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis); deafness. Inflammation of the testicles caused by mumps has not been shown to lead to infertility.” – CDC
Mumps generally last about ten days.

About the time Ned Holmes recovered from the mumps, he wrote that he was sick with diarrhea.

June 30, 1862

Dear Mike
I recvd your letter dated 26. I was glad to hear you was all well. I am not as well as I was when I saw you. 2 days ago my bowels was a little out of order tho not bad but just enough to keep week and not able to do anything. I am up all the time but dont have the strength to do anything. You need not be uneasy about me, if I git bad sick I will let you know. I think I will be able for duty in one or 2 days. Tell Mary she need not be uneasy about me that I can come home if I git sick much and I am going to do it. A sick man — tese very depressing and can get a furlough here. I dont want one now, no use of going home. I would not go now if I had a furlough. I will write you all the particleurs that I can gather in a few days. I am writing every other day. I will until I get plum well. Morris and Simm Schick and Zuch is all well. I have no more to write at present.

Write me often.

E. [Ned] Holmes

In July, Ned Holmes wrote that he had suffered a relapse of the measles. In  Civil War times little distinction was made between measles (Rubeola) and Rubella, sometimes called “German measles.”  Both diseases were contagious and both were rampant in the regimental camps. It appears that Ned’s “relapse” may have been Rubella.  Ned’s letters from July 1862 indicate that he had returned to Camp Smith to recuperate.  Soldiers who got sick preferred care in a camp hospital or sick ward over being sent to a hospital in Savannah.

The hospitals in Savannah were feared by the soldiers as death houses. In order to address this fear Lt. Col. Anderson, [commander of the Savannah River Batteries,] set up a separate hospital at Deptford. The less critically ill could be sent there, watched by their comrades and not have all their personal belongings stolen – which would happen when they were sent into Savannah. – Fort Jackson Interpretive Materials

But even while in recovery at Camp Smith,   Ned Holmes found his personal items being pilfered.

Camp Smith, Savannah, Ga., July 1862

(To Mat and the Family)
I thought I was surely well of the measles till yesterdasy, it was a cloudy wet day and the measles made their appearance on me as plain as ever. It’s cleared off this morning & looks like Sept. It’s cool & pleasant, the air stirring brief and is a very pleasant time. I will finish this in the morning and tell you how I am getting along. Dick has got the mumps. He took them yesterday. I hope he will get well soon. Tell Mama somebody has stolen one of my socks and I have an old one and if she sees any chance to send me one, to do it. I shall get out of socks before long anyway.

“Rubella, also called German measles or three-day measles, is a contagious viral infection best known by its distinctive red rash. Rubella is not the same as measles (rubeola), though the two illnesses do share some characteristics, including the red rash. However, rubella is caused by a different virus than measles, and is neither as infectious nor usually as severe as measles. The signs and symptoms of rubella are often so mild they’re difficult to notice, especially in children. If signs and symptoms do occur, they generally appear between two and three weeks after exposure to the virus. They typically last about one to five days and may include: Mild fever of 102 F (38.9 C) or lower; Headache; Stuffy or runny nose; Inflamed, red eyes; Enlarged, tender lymph nodes at the base of the skull, the back of the neck and behind the ears; A fine, pink rash that begins on the face and quickly spreads to the trunk and then the arms and legs, before disappearing in the same sequence.” – Mayo Clinic.

 

July the 6th [Camp Smith]

My health is improving now again finally. If I can keep mending 2 or 3 days more as I have for 2 days I will be well. I have quit discharging blood, have not discharged any in 30 hours & my bowels feel like they are getting well & they are not moving more than 4 times a day. I think today I will be much better than usual. We have most pleasant weather here now I ever saw at this season. It’s clear and cool and the wind stirring like fall of the year. I had almost concluded there was no Yankees about here till I heard them shooting on the 4th. There is plenty of cannon whether there are any Yankees with it or not. I suppose they fired some 2 hundred big guns at 1 o’clock at 2 or 3 different points. I have nothing else to write. Thomas Doswell has just this minute come into camp. I want to see him right soon. get my watch home.

I remain,

Ned

By August Ned’s health was improved. He returned to his unit at Causton’s Bluff and on August 26, 1862 was elected Junior 2nd Lieutenant.   On August 10, 1862, Ned Holmes wrote a letter home to his family.

Camp Costons Bluff,[Near Savannah] Aug. 10, 1862

Dear Mat and Viney,
I write you a few lines that leaves me about well except my mouth. I never was in such a fix with fever blisters before. I received a letter from you, Santanna just a few minutes ago. Alex Gamble is going to start home tonight. I will send this by him. I think my fever is broken entirely up. I have not had any since Friday morning so I feel as well as I did before I was taken. There is a deal good of sickness around —– but they are also not dying as fast as they were ten or fifteen days ago. There is a heap of heavy shooting going on today in the direction of Fort Pulaski. I don’t know what it means.

They are fixing up a volunteer company right now to go to Wilmington Island, a place we have never scouted.
It’s beyond Whitemarsh and from where we are camped and on the way to Fort Pulaski. I don’t know what information they expect to obtain by going to Wilmington. It’s all under the General of the Fort [Pulaski, captured by U.S. Army forces from Tybee Island on April 11, 1862,] and they never expect to hold it unless the fort is retaken which will never be done for there is nothing here to take it with. Morris is well. Miles is getting well. John Nobles is right sick. Washer Nobles came into our company this morning to stay. I may get off home when Sim gets back. I don’t know. Everbody has been here longer than I have. I will be there by the first of September anyway if I keep well. And I am not afraid of being sick anymore this summer.

Love, Ned

P.S. Tell Mike if there are any of Cook’s pills there to send me some. And I can manage my own cases.

In September 1862 Ned Holmes was on detached duty.  He was later reported as “wholly incompetent & probably physically unfit to hold office.

In 1863, Ned Holmes and the 25th Georgia Regiment would be sent to north Mississippi, forming part of the army assembled for the relief of Vicksburg. The The Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment were also sent to join that effort.

Related Posts

Lott Warren and the Arrest of Obed Wright

When Georgia militia troops attacked  the friendly Aumuculee  (Chehaw) Indian village in 1818, the nation was scandalized.

Let not the “star spangled banner” of our country be for a moment polluted with so foul a blot – Augusta Chronicle, May 16, 1818

The friendship of Aumuculle had been long known.  During the Red Stick War (1813-1814), the Aumuculle chiefs had repeatedly demonstrated their friendship and loyalty to the U.S., and to the state of Georgia.  Aumuculle had provisioned troops during the construction of Fort Early and sent 40 of their warriors to join the command of Andrew Jackson in his campaign against the Seminoles, who in the Creek language were called the Iste-Semole – the wild men.  Despite this record, the village was massacred by Georgia militia, under the supposed justification that the attack was a reprisal for earlier Indian depredations.

The attack itself was widely publicized with contradicting reports and a running dispute between General Andrew Jackson and Georgia governor William Rabun. Their dispute over military jurisdiction became so controversial, President James Monroe was required to furnish Congress with a complete set of the correspondence relating to the incident.

 

 

Lott Warren was the presiding judge on the Southern Circuit at the Lowndes County Grand Jury Presentments of 1833.

Lott Warren was the presiding judge at the Lowndes County, GA Grand Jury of 1833.

Lott Warren, who had  been present at the massacre and who followed orders to loot and burn the Indian houses, now had a small role to play in the capture of the perpetrator of the attack, Captain Obed Wright.  Warren would go on to serve as Solicitor-General  of the Southern Circuit, including Lowndes County, GA.  In 1826 Warren prosecuted two Indians before Judge Fort in Thomas County, GA for murder, securing a conviction and sentence that they  be “hung by the neck until they were dead. The judge omitted to invoke the usual blessing, – “May God have mercy on their souls!” – for the reason that the prisoners did not understand English.”  Warren became an ardent supporter of the “States Rights” cause. Among the state rights he was most concerned with were the right of Georgia to incarcerate Native Americans without interference from the Federal Government, and the right of Georgians to retrieve fugitive slaves from other states.  Lott Warren was a slave owner, as shown in the 1860 Census of “Slave Inhabitants” of Albany, Dougherty County, GA.  Elected to the Georgia state legislature, he supported Indian Removal and Georgia’s defiance of U.S. Supreme court rulings that favored Native American rights.  Warren supported the expulsion of sympathetic missionaries from the Indian Territory, and the execution of Corn Tassels for a crime committed in the Indian Nation.  He was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives where he vehemently defended the character of Governor William Rabun and his assertion states rights.

∫∫∫

Following the attack on Aumuculle (Chehaw), Obed Wright, commanding officer at the Chehaw Massacre,  and the militia companies under his command had been discharged at Hartford and had returned to their homes. Lieutenant Lott Warren returned to Dublin, GA and resumed his work as a clerk in the store of Amos Love.  Warren’s employer, Amos Love, was the father of Peter Early Love who became a leading statesman of Georgia, serving as a solicitor general, superior court judge and U.S. Congressman. Peter Early Love, was a judge on the Southern Circuit; Judge Love was a former Solicitor General serving old Lowndes County, GA, and presided at the first session of the Superior Court held in Berrien County in 1856. He was elected as a U. S. Congressman and was among the southern representatives who walked out of Congress when Secession was declared.  Amos Love’s grandaughter, Mattie Love, would marry during the Civil War to Private Robert Hamilton Harris of the Thomasville Guards, Company A, 29th Georgia Regiment.

Meanwhile, pursuant to orders from General Andrew Jackson, Major John M. Davis commenced tracking down Captain Obed Wright to secure his arrest.

Arriving in Hartford in mid-May, 1818 Major Davis found Captain Wright had already departed for Savannah, GA. Davis pursued, first going by way of Fort Hawkins and Milledgeville.  Major Davis finally tracked Wright to Dublin, GA. There, Davis sought out Lieutenant Lott Warren. In a statement to the U.S. Congress, Lott Warren later recounted, “Major Davis called upon me, and in great confidence disclosed his business, and inquired for Capt. Wright, to whom in a few minutes I introduced him…” – Georgia Journal, 26 Apr 1842

Major Davis… stated that he had orders from Gen. Jackson to arrest Capt. Wright. Lieut. Warren accompanied him to the hotel, where he introduced him to Capt. Wright, who at once submitted. It may as well be remarked here that Capt. Wright had not been mustered into the service of the United States, and was, of course, not subject to the orders of Gen. Jackson. His arrest, by the authority of the latter, was therefore regarded by Gov. Rabun and the justices of the Inferior Court of Baldwin county, as a usurpation of power.

 

Major Davis presented Captain Wright with an official, written letter of arrest.

Capt. Obed Wright, Georgia militia

Dublin, Georgia, May 24, 1818

Sir,
I am directed by major general Jackson, commanding the division of the south, to arrest you and conduct you to fort Hawkins, where you are to remain, until the pleasure of the President of the United States, be known on your case.
You will therefore, consider yourself in arrest, and proceed accordingly.

I am, respectfully yours, &c.

JNO. M. DAVIS
Ass’t inspr. gen. U.S. army;

 

Having taken Captain Wright into custody, Major Davis proceeded with his prisoner toward Fort Hawkins, at Macon, GA.  Wright prevailed upon Davis to go by way of the state capitol at Milledgeville, where he said he had papers important to his defense.  At Millegeville, however, Wright attempted to escape… or at least to delay the march long enough for his attorney to file legal proceedings.

Extract of a letter from a gentleman in Milledgeville to his friend in Raleigh, (N.C.) dated June 4.

Our metropolis has been in considerable commotion for several days past. Captain Obed Wright, the murderer of the friendly Indians, was arrested by order of gen. Jackson, the first of last week below this, and at his request was permitted to come to this place [Milledgeville], for the purpose of procuring some papers which he said would be necessary at his trial. On Thursday morning last, when the officer [Major John M. Davis] was about to proceed on his journey, the prisoner broke ground, and moved with such velocity that he succeeded in reaching the top of one of our longest hills before he was overtaken by persons on horseback. His conduct so enraged the officer, that he looked as if he intended severing the fellow’s head with his sword, which he “waved in fiery circles” (as Weams would say) above the trembling prisoner, who looked as if he expected every moment to meet old Howard in another world. This affair afforded time enough for a friend of Wright to procure a writ of habeas corpus, which was served on the officer, and he notified to attend a court called to try the case, in a few hours. The court decided that the orders of gen. Jackson were informal, as they contained no charge for which the prisoner was arrested, or to be tried – Jackson simply directs the officer to arrest and confine him until instructions can be received from the president. The prisoner was discharge, and the officer went off, cursing our governor and the whole state and threatening us with vengeance, to tell gen Jackson how he had been treated, who has never shewn much courtesy towards our chief magistrate. Jackson considered Wright in the service of the United States, and our governor thinks he was in the service of this state. There is much difference of opinion on the subject. The governor is censured, generally – perhaps justly too.  – The New York Evening Post, 25 Jun 1818

Wright’s attorney, Seaborn Jones, filed the writ of habeas corpus with the Inferior Court of Baldwin County, Milledgeville;

Chambers, May 28, 1818
Present: Their honors Robert Wynn, William Bevin, and James Fleming, Justices.
The court met for the purpose of hearing Obed Wright, who was brought up before them upon a writ of habeas corpus, which is as follows:
Georgia, Baldwin county.
To any Justice of the Inferior Court.
The petition of Obed Wright showeth: That he is detained in confinement by Major Davis, an officer in the United States service, and he therefore prays the benefit of a habeas corpus, to inquire into the cause of his confinement and detention.
Seaborn Jones
Attorney for petitioner.

Pursuant to the petition a writ of habeas corpus was issued by the court.

Habeas corpus, by the Constitution of the United States, and of the State of Georgia.
To Major Davis,
an officer in the United States service.

Georgia, Baldwin county:
It appears, from the petition of Obed Wright, that he is now kept in custody by you, and he having prayed a writ of habeas corpus, you are, therefore hereby commanded, that you bring before me, at the court-house of the county, by the hour of 11 o’clock of the forenoon of the day, the body of the said Obed Wright, by whatever title he may be known to you, together with the cause of his commitment and detention, that he may be dealt with according to law. Fail not, and have you then and there this writ.
Given under my hand and seal, the 28th of May, 1818.

William Bevin, J. I. C.

Major Davis produced Obed Wright in court in Milledgeville, GA

Milledgeville, May 28, 1818
I have the said Obed Wright in court, together with the cause of his commitment and detention.
John M. Davis,
Ass’t Inspector General U.S.A.

After hearing the case, the court ordered the immediate release of Obed Wright.

Major John M. Davis, assistant inspector general of the United States’ Army, in obedience to a writ of habeas corpus, this day served on him, having produced the body of said Obed Wright, mentioned in the habeas corpus, before the court, together with the cause of his commitment and detention:
And the court, on consideration, deeming that no sufficient cause is shown for his detention: on motion, ordered, that he be discharged forthwith.
Robert Wynn.
William Bevin.
James Fleming.

 

Upon reaching Fort Hawkins, Major Davis wrote a letter to Gen. Jackson explaining the circumstances of Wright’s release:

Fort Hawkins 30th May 1818

Sir,
By express I hasten to communicate to you, that in pursuance of your order to me of the 7th inst. I came up with Captain Obed Wright of the Georgia Militia, in Dublin on the 24th Inst. I arrested him, and brought him on with me as far as Milledgeville, where civil authority interfered and discharged him. A copy of the proceedings is herewith enclosed to you – I also enclose you copies of my letters to the Secy. War, & Govr. of Georgia, together with a copy of your order to me (which you kept no copy of) – and a copy of Wright’s arrest.
So far as I have had an opportunity of discovering, the minds of the Georgians is much agitated on this occasion, and many of them warmly advocate Wright’s conduct – I had to brook several insults while I had him in custody – The General impression of the rable was that Wright would be delivered up to the Indians – The enlightened class new better, & said that you were incapable of doing such an act – I did not let the court know the extent of my orders -I only shew my first order, which directs him to be delivered over to the military authority at Fort Hawkins there to be kept in close confinement untill the will of the President be known. The Govr. of Georgia is absent at present, whether he will on his return order him to be delivered over to me on my application, or not is uncertain, I dont expect he will.
I deem it necessary & therefore have communicated the facts as herein related to the Secy. War, I have enclosed him a copy of the proceedings of the court, and a copy of Wrights arrest – I notified him that I have communicated the circumstance to you.
I have the honor to very Respectfully your Obt Sert
Jno. M. Davis
Asst Ins. Genl

Augusta Herald

Friday June 5, 1818
Milledgeville, June 2.
Capt. Wright —Major Davis, of the United States army, in compliance with orders from General Jackson, arrested Captain Obed Wright in Dublin, a few days ago, for the purpose of carrying him to Fort Hawkins, and securing him until instructions could be received from the President. Whilst in this place, on Thursday last, the prisoner was released from custody by a writ of habeas corpus, before a Court called to determine the case. The Court, after suitable investigation, decided that the orders of Gen’l Jackson were informal, as they contained no specific charge against the prisoner, who was accordingly released from custody. We understand Capt. Wright has been arrested by order of Gov. Rabun, and is now on parole in this place, waiting the organization of a court-martial.

Meanwhile, among the Creeks over there was growing resentment over the attack…

Milledgeville Reflector
June 2, 1818

The Chehaw Indians estimate the property lost by the late attack on their town, at $8000. We understand that there will be a general meeting of the Creek Nation at Fort Mitchell on the 7th instant, for the purpose of investigating the late affair.

On June 28, 1818, President James Monroe finally wrote,

An officer of rank should be ordered to visit the Chehaw town in the name of the executive of the United States, to examine into the loss and damage that indemnity may be made and to console the survivors.

Chief William McIntosh

Chief William McIntosh

In a letter dated July 8, 1818 Nashville, Tennessee  Major General Andrew Jackson informed Creek leader General William McIntosh that he had ordered the arrest of Captain Obed Wright for the “wanton outrage and murder” at Chehaw, but that Wright had been released by civil authorities in Milledgeville. Jackson wrote that he was awaiting President Monroe’s instructions on how to proceed further in the matter.

Head Quarters
Division of the South
Nashville 8 July 1818
General William McIntosh.
Friend and Brother

Shortly after the capture of Pensacola, I was taken very ill which prevented my writing you; I have continued indisposed ever since & on my return to Nashville was taken seriously ill, — From this attack I have just recovered sufficiently to write you —

On my march from Fort Gadsden to Pensacola I received the disagreable  intelligence of the wanton and outrageous attack by Capt Wright, commanding a detachment of Georgia Militia, on the Chehaw Village — I immediately sent the Chehaws a talk which you have seen, and ordered Capt Wright to be apprehended & confined for trial. Major Davis executed this order, arrested Capt Wright, and in passing through Milledgeville, Capt Wright was released from his confinement by the Civil Authority. I am awaiting the instructions of your Father the President of the United States on this subject. That Capt Wright ought to be punished for this wanton outrage and murder all good men agree, and I have no doubt Your Father the President of the U. States will have ample justice done in this case —

Your Friend & Brother
Andrew Jackson
Major Genl Comdg

After the discharge of Capt. Wright, upon Habeas Corpus, at Milledgeville, the Governor had him immediately arrested for disobeying orders, in not destroying the Hoponee and Philemi towns, as well as Chehaw,… Portraits of Eminent Americans.    However, Wright  while still officially under arrest was soon released on a “parole of honor” pending instructions from the President on the disposition of the case.

Secretary of State John Quincy Adams followed up with another letter to Governor Rabun, telling him that “The President of the United States has directed that Captain Obed Wright should be prosecuted for the murder of friendly Indians.” – Massacre of American Indian Allies, 1818

The Savannah Republican reported the instructions from President Monroe; Captain Wright would be tried before justices of the Supreme Court, and if convicted, would be executed.  In a second article The Savannah Republican explained to the legal authority to prosecute Wright in federal court.

Savannah Republican
July 14, 1818

The President has issued orders for the arrest of captain Obed Wright, which the marshal of this district will execute forthwith. A special court has also been ordered for the trial of Wright, to be held in September next, in this city, or Milledgeville, at which two of the judges of the supreme court are to preside. Wright is charged with having committed murder, and the destruction of the Chehaw town.

Savannah Republican
Milledgeville, July 23.

The law of Congress passed in 1802 to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, and to preserve peace on the frontiers, under which Captain Wright is to be tried, enacts, that “if any citizen, or other person, shall go into any town, settlement, or territory belonging to any nation or tribe of Indians, and shall there commit murder, by killing any Indian or Indians, belonging to any nation or tribe of Indians in amity with the United States, such offender, on being thereof convicted, shall suffer death.”
“And when the offender shall be apprehended or brought for trial into any of the United States, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States to issue a Commission to any one or more Judges of the supreme court of the United States, and the judge of the district in which such offender may have been apprehended, or shall have been brought for trial; which Judges, or any two of them, shall have the same jurisdiction, in such capital cases, as the Circuit Court of such district, and shall proceed to trial and judgement in the same manner, as such circuit court might or could do.”
For the immediate attainment of the objects of the general government in relation to captain Wright, the acting attorney of the United States for the district of Georgia, (Mr. Davies having temporarily left the state for the benefit of his health, which has been considerably impaired by an incessant devotion to business) has written to the Creek agent for Indian Affairs, we are informed, requesting him to pursue such steps as will authorize the Marshal to take captain Wright into custody; and the Governor has been desired to cause him to be delivered to any judicial officer of this county, whenever he shall be demanded by virtue of a warrant from the proper authority, and to detain him, till then, under his present military arrest. – Journal.

Wright heard that rather than facing a military courtmartial he was  to be tried before a federal court as soon as federal charges could be preferred. He petitioned Governor Rabun for immediate release from his arrest, but receiving no reply decided to flee from justice.

ESCAPE OF CAPTAIN WRIGHT.
From the Milledgeville Journal, 4th instant.
Capt. Wright, of noted memory, has broken his parole of honor, and absconded. On the 26th ult. [July 26, 1818] (the day previous to his dissappearing) he addressed the following note to the governor;-

“Sir – On the 28th of May last, I was arrested by order of your excellency. Since that time I have waited in the expectation, that a courtmartial would be ordered for my trial. No charge has yet made its appearance against me. I therefore pray that your excellency would withdraw the arrest. If you should think proper not to do so, suffer me to call and see you, as I have business of importance. (signed) Obed Wright.”

To this communication no answer was returned. His fears, we understand, were considerably excited by the statement in the Savannah Republican, of the determination of the president of the U. States to have him tried before the federal court for murder. Dreading a long and loathsome imprisonment in gaol [jail], and probably apprehending, from the “hue and cry” which had been raised against him, that his conduct would not be impartially investigated, he took the fatal resolution to flee from justice.
A reward of 500 dollars has been offered by the executive for his apprehension. The deputy marshal and assistant agent for Indian affairs, arrived here on Thursday with a warrant to take him into the custody of the civil authority- but the “bird had flown.”  – Savannah Republican, Aug 8, 2018

Governor Rabun then informed Secretary of State John Quincy Adams that Wright had fled.

Executive Department of Georgia
Milledgeville, 29th July, 1818

SIR
I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 30th ultimo, containing the determination of the President of the United States relative to the case of Captain Obed Wright; and was highly gratified that the affair should be brought before the civil authority of the United States, where, I have no doubt but ample justice would have been administered.
I had determined to detain him agreeably to your request, and would have cheerfully submitted him to the custody of the marshall, whenever he might have appeared; but the President’s instructions to the District Attorney were unfortunately made public in the newspapers of Savannah, and from them copied into others, and were thereby improperly communicated to captain Wright, who, being alarmed at the prospect that awaited him, (on the night of the 27th inst.) made his escape from the custody of the Adjutant General of this state, *who had been instructed to arrest and detain him) and I have received no information of him since.
I shall use every possible exertion to cause him to be arrested again, and hold him subject to the proper authorities of the United States.
I have the honor to be, Sir, very respectfully, your most obedient and very humble servant,
WM. RABUN
Hon. John Quincy Adams, Sec’y. of State.

Governor Rabun issued a proclamation offering a reward of $500 for the apprehension of the fugitive Obed Wright.

July 30, 1818 Proclamation of Governor William Rabun offering $500.00 reward for the capture of Captain Obed Wright.

July 30, 1818 Proclamation of Governor William Rabun offering $500.00 reward for the capture of Captain Obed Wright.

A proclamation, by his excellency William Rabun, governor and commander in chief of the army and navy of the state of Georgia, and of the militia thereof-
Whereas, captain Obed Wright, late of the Georgia militia, was on the 29th day of May last, arrested and confined by the executive authority of this state, for a violation of orders, in the commission of an outrage on the friendly Indians of the Chehaw village, in order that the president of the United States with regard to the manner in which he should be tried for said offence should be known: And whereas I have received information, that the said Obed Wright did on the night of the 27th inst. break his said arrest, and abscond from the place of his confinement and probably from this state: I have therefore though proper to issue this proclamation, hereby offering a reward of five hundred dollars, to any person or persons, who may apprehend the said Obed Wright, and deliver him into the custody of the deputy marshall of the United States, for the district of Georgia, residing at Milledgeville.- And I do moreover, hereby require and command all officers, civil and military, to be found within this state; and to give all aid and assistance in their power, to any person or persons, who may apprehend him for confinement, in order that he may be brought to trial for the crime of which he is charged.
Given under my hand and the great seal of the state, at the state house in Milledgeville, this thirtieth day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighteen, and of the independence of the United States of America the forty-third.
WM. RABUN
By the governor,
AB. HAMMOND, sec. of state.

Obed Wright is supposed to be about 30 years of age, 5 feet 11 inches high, slender, trim built, said to be very active, fair complexion, light blue eyes, and light brown hair. – Lancaster Intelligencer, 22 Aug 1818

In plotting his escape, Wright turned to Jacob Robinson, who had been his second in command at the Chehaw massacre. Robinson would later be court-martialed for falsifying the payroll report for the service of his men at Chehaw, keeping the excess pay for himself. “And in that trial his loyalty to Wright and his part in effecting his escape was brought out. A witness testified that Wright had gone to Robinson’s home in Laurens County and informed him that the Governor had “released him from under arrest,” and told him “that he had to fly his country,” and that Robinson helped. A third witness testified that Robinson had told him that he had “hope” Wright along by giving him “a wooden horse [canoe]” in which to float down the Ocmulgee River, and that by now he was in Florida or “gone on to South America.” A fourth witness stated that Wright had said that a United States marshal was going to arrest him and keep him in jail in irons and that his health would not stand it, but that he was willing to be tried if at once. Robinson, himself, testified that Wright called at his home “on his way to the low country,” stating that his arrest had been withdrawn, “and that a different course would be pursued and to contend with the ilnature and influence” of Jackson he could not, “that being destitute of friends and money, that confinement in a common jail would be death,” and that his health could not stand it, he had decided to leave. Robinson said, “I treated the man with that hospitality honest men at all times receive in my house. I permitted him to take a canoe of mine which I felt willing to spare.” – The Chehaw Affair

From Dublin, GA Wright could have canoed down the Oconee River some 50 miles to where the river merges with the Ocmulgee River near Lumber City, GA to form the Altamaha River. The Altamaha then flows some 130 miles to Darien, GA at the mouth of the river.  By land or sea, Wright made his way to Spanish Florida. In a story that was picked up by national newspapers, The Savannah Republican reported that Wright had been spotted at St. Augustine, FL.

Savannah, Sept. 8

From the South. – We have just seen a gentleman from St. Augustine, who informs us…that he saw captain Obed Wright in St. Augustine – that he had taken a Spanish protection, and intended in a few days to go to the Havana. -The United States Gazette, 19 Sep 1818

President Monroe consulted with Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, and Attorney General William Wirt regarding the propriety of issuing a proclamation offering a reward for the apprehension of Obed Wright. The Attorney General advised that the President should instead seek an indictment from the next grand jury for the circuit court of Georgia. If Wright was indicted a federal warrant would be issued and the president could offer a reward for his arrest. U.S. marshals and federal authorities would be instructed that “if Wright should make his appearance anywhere within the United States, to cause him to be arrested according to law.” – Washington Daily Union, May 26, 1850

Probably reflecting on Andrew Jackson’s lack of respect for the sovereignty of the Spanish government in Florida, Obediah Wright decided to place a little more distance between himself and the U.S. authorities. By November Wright was spotted in Havana, Cuba.

From Havana. – Mr. Topliff’s correspondent at Havana writes him as follows, under date of Nov. 21 [1818]:… Capt. Obed Wright, late of the U. S. army, arrived here a few days since from St. Augustine. Capt. Wright was of the Georgia militia. – New York Evening Post, 14 Dec 1818.

National Intel.
A resolution has passed both branches of the Georgia Legislature, without a dissenting voice, exculpating the Governor from any blame on account of the unfortunate attack on Chehaw town, and the escape of Obed Wright. – Vermont Intelligencer, 21 Dec 1818 

Wright was never heard from again, and no one was ever held legally responsible for the massacre of the Chehaws.

In 1912, the Daughters of the American Revolution dedicated a monument  commemorating the Chehaw Massacre.

 

Chehaw Monument dedicated June 14, 1912 by the Americus Chapter of the DAR. The Atlanta Journal said the monument commemorated "the bloody massacre of innocent tribesmen, women and children by Captain Obed Wright, commanding a company of Georgia Militia, in 1818. The memorial is intended asa slight reparation for the great wrong thus done against a tribe of friendly Indians, and at a time when the men of the tribe were fighting in the ranks of Gen. Andrew Jackson;s two regiments sent against the Seminoles in the Florida Everglades in 1818."

Chehaw Monument dedicated June 14, 1912 by the Council of Safety (Americus) Chapter of the DAR. The Atlanta Journal said the monument commemorated “the bloody massacre of innocent tribesmen, women and children by Captain Obed Wright, commanding a company of Georgia Militia, in 1818. The memorial is intended as a slight reparation for the great wrong thus done against a tribe of friendly Indians, and at a time when the men of the tribe were fighting in the ranks of Gen. Andrew Jackson;s two regiments sent against the Seminoles in the Florida Everglades in 1818.” The inscription reads: Large Indian town, home of the Chehaws, a friendly agricultural people of the Creek Tribe, who aided our early settlers. They contributed men, food and horses to subdue the hostile Seminoles; Here Andrew Jackson rested with his starving army and was given help in 1818. Here also in 1818, through misunderstanding, were massacred seven of this tribe by Georgia troops, for which all possible amends were made. Erected in 1911 by Council of Safety Chapter, D. A. R.

 

Council of American Safety [Chapter of the DAR]. (Americus, Ga.) – Chehaw monument, near Leesburg, Ga., erected by the Chapter, was unveiled June 14th, 1912. The picture shows a scene after unveiling, and those of the rostrum who took part in the exercises on this occasion, follows from left to right: Mr. J.E.D. Shipp, orator; Miss Anna Caroline Benning, a former State Regent; Miss Annie May Bell; the three children who unveiled the monument: Lucy Simmons, Frank Harrold, Jr., Louise Dudley; Mrs. William Lawson Peel, Vice-President General; Mrs. Charles A Fricker, Chapter
We have done other good work, but erecting this monument by our Chapter is the greatest accomplishment since our organization five years since. Chehaw was an Indian town on the DeSoto Trail. The people were agricultural and friendly to our settlers. They were of the Creek tribe of Indians, and were of superior intelligence and civilization. In thus perpetuating the memory of this tribe, in recognition of their aid to our country, we emphasize the fact that Andrew Jackson, on his march in 1818, to subdue the uprising Seminoles in Florida, rested at Chehaw, and to him were contributed by the natives, shelter, food and horses for his starving army.
This monument is located exactly where stood the great “Council Oak” of the Chehaw Indians, a tree famous for its great size. The trunk was 8 feet in diameter, covering a space of 120 feet across, the outer circumference being clearly defined by a circle of oaks of perfect symmetry, sprung from the acorns dropped from the outspreading branches of the old tree, making one of the loveliest spots in Georgia. – Mary Charlton Fricker, Regent

Related Posts:

Attack on Aumuculle (Chehaw)

Lott Warren was the presiding judge on the Southern Circuit at the Lowndes County Grand Jury Presentments of 1833.

Lott Warren became judge at the Lowndes County Grand Jury of 1833.

The people of the Native American village of Aumuculle had a long history of friendship with the American government and white settlers in Georgia. Yet,  on the morning of April 23, 1818, soldiers of the Georgia militia under the command of Captain Obed Wright massacred the village.  In the attack, a young lieutenant named Lott Warren followed orders to loot and burn the Indian houses, some with people still in them.

Attack on Aumuculle (Chehaw).

Obed Wright’s expedition  had been formed as a punitive strike against the hostile Creek Indian villages of Philema and Hopaunee, for depredations made by these Indians on white settlers along the Ocmulgee River.  The expedition arrived at Fort Early on the Flint River on April 22, 1818.  Despite the specific orders from Governor Rabun, Wright planned to bypass the villages of Philema and Hopaunee and advance his force on Au-muc-cu-lee (Chehaw) where he believed hostile Indians were in residence.  Wright ordered the commanding officer of Fort Early, Captain Ebenezer Bothwell, to provide an additional company to support the attack. Although Bothwell disapproved of the plan and insisted that the Aumuculle Indians were friendly, he provided the men Wright required.

“A pilot employed by Capt. Wright took him to the Chehaw town,” according to a later statement by Lott Warren before the U.S. Congress.    Captain Jacob Robinson alleged that upon approaching “within a half mile of the town, we found an Indian herding cattle, the most of which appeared to be white people’s marks and brands. A Mr. McDuffee, of Telfair attached to my corps, swore to one cow as the property of his father, and taken from near where the late depredation on the frontier of Telfair was committed.

Now absolutely convinced that hostiles were holed up at Chehaw, the expedition advanced on the town. Captain Obed Wright ordered the attack on the Native American village just before noon on April 23, 1818.  Captain Dean, a veteran of the War of 1812, ordered a charge, but  it was countermanded by Capt. Wright. Captain Robinson led the attack on the right. Half of the village’s warriors were absent, having volunteered to serve with General Jackson in Florida. The town was soon decimated. 

The outcome of the attack was reported by Captain Wright in a letter to Governor Rabun dated April 25, 1818, which was published in the Georgia Journal on May 5, 1818.

The Georgia Journal
May 5, 1818

Hartford, (Ga.) April 25, 1818.
His Excellency Governor Rabun;
Sir – I have the honor to inform you that agreeable to your orders, I took up the line of march from this place on the 21st instant, with Captains [Jacob] Robinson’s & [Timothy L.] Rogers’s companies of mounted gun-men, Captains [Elijah] Dean’s and [Daniel] Child’s infantry, together with two detachments under Lieutenants Cooper and Jones, Captain Thomason acting as Adjutant, in all about 270 effective men.
      On the night of the 22d I crossed Flint river, and at day break, advanced with caution against the Chehaw Town. The advance guard, when within half a mile of the town, took an Indian prisoner, who was attending a drove of Cattle, and on examination, found some of them to be the property of a Mr. M’Duffy (who was present) of Telfair County.
      The town was attacked, between 11 and 12 o’clock, with positive orders not to injure the women, or children, and in the course of two hours, the whole was in flames; they made some little resistance, but to no purpose.
      From the most accurate accounts, 24 warriors were killed, and owing to the doors of some of the houses being inaccessible to our men, and numbers of guns being fired at us through the crevices, they were set on fire; in consequence of which, numbers were burnt to death in the houses; In all probability from 40 to 50 was their total loss; some considerable number of warriors made their escape, by taking to a thick swamp; a very large parcel of powder found in the town, was destroyed. It is supposed their chief is among the slain. The town is laid completely desolate, without the loss of a man. We re-crossed the Flint to Fort Early the same evening, making a complete march of 31 miles (exclusive of destroying the town) in 24 hours.
The conduct of the officers and soldiers on this occasion, (as well as on all others) was highly characteristic, of the patriotism and bravery of the Georgians in general.

I am sir, with respect, your most
ob’t humble serv’t,
OBED WRIGHT Capt.
(Ga.) Dft. militia Comd’g

Miniature portrait of Thomas Glascock, Jr.

Brigadier General Thomas Glascock, Jr. constructed and commanded Fort Early in 1818.

Four days after Wright’s attack , Brigadier General Thomas Glascock came upon the scene of destruction. He had returned to Chehaw village on his way to Hartford, his drafted Georgia militia men having completed their term of enlistment in Florida. In early 1818, Glascock had spent considerable time near Chehaw supervising the construction of Fort Early. He had depended on the friendly village for supplies and for intelligence on the movements of hostile Indians in the area.

Some of the men traveling with General Glascock were warriors from Chehaw who had served with him in the campaign against the Seminoles in Florida.  All were shocked at finding the people massacred and the village burned out.  Glascock, having arrived with depleted provisions had again hoped to resupply his command at Chehaw, but was forced to march his troops on to Fort Early.

In a letter written a week afterwards,  Glascock reported the attack to his superior officer, General Andrew Jackson. Glascock’s account of the Chehaw affair is important not only for its description of how 230 militiamen killed “seven men . . . one woman and two Children” but also for how it shaped Jackson’s response to the massacre.

Fort Early, April 30, 1818.

SIR,
I have the pleasure to inform you, that my command has safely reached this place having suffered some little for the want of meat. The Gods have proved equally propitious to us, on our return as on our advance at Mickasuky. Some of my men were nearly out of corn, and searching about some old houses that had not been consumed, to see if they could make any discovery, in entering one of them, to their great astonishment and surprize, they came across the man who was lost from captain Watkin’s company, on the 2d of April. It appears from his statement, that he was taken with a kind of cramp, and was unable to move and became senseless. — When he recovered, he became completely bewildered, and never could reach the camp; he therefore concluded it was prudent to secrete himself in some swamp, and after wandering about some time came across a parcel of corn, on which he subsisted until we found him: he was very much reduced, and apparently perfectly wild. On that night Gray struck a trail, pursued it about a mile and half, came to a small hut, which fortunately contained 50 or 60 bushels of corn, some potatoes and peas, which enabled us to reach the Flint, opposite Chehaw village; when arriving within thirty miles of the place, I sent on major Robinson, with a detachment of 20 men to procure beef. On his arriving there, the Indians had fled in every direction. The Chehaw town having been consumed about four days before, by a party of men consisting of 230, under a captain Wright, now in command of Hartford. It appears that after he assumed the command of that place, he obtained the certificates of several men on the frontier, that the Chehaw Indians were engaged in a skirmish on the Big Bend
[Ocmulgee River – Breakfast Branch]. He immediately sent or went to the governor, and received orders to destroy the towns of Filemme and Oponee. Two companies of cavalry were immediately ordered out and placed under his command, and on the 22d he reached this place. He ordered captain Bothwell, to furnish him with 25 or 30 men to accompany him, having been authorized to do so by the governor. The order was complied with. Captain Bothwell told him, that he could not accompany him, disapproved the plan, and informed captain Wright, that there could be no doubt of the friendship of the Indians in that quarter; and stated, that Oponne had brought in a public horse that had been lost that day. This availed nothing; mock patriotism burned in their breasts; they crossed the river that night, and pushed for the town. When arrived there, an Indian was discovered grazing some cattle, he was made a prisoner. I am informed by sergeant Jones, that the Indian immediately proposed to go with the interpreter, and bring any of the chiefs for the captain to talk with. It was not attended to. An advance was ordered, the cavalry rushed forward and commenced the massacre. — Even after the firing and murder commenced, major Howard, an old chief, who furnished you with corn, came out of his house with a white flag in front of the line. It was not respected An order was given for a general fire, and nearly 400 guns were discharged at him, before one took effect — he fell and was bayonetted — his son was also killed. These are the circumstances relative to the transaction — Seven men were killed, one woman and two children. Since then three of my command, who were left at fort Scott, obtained a furlough, and on their way one of them was shot, in endeavoring to obtain a canoe to cross the Flint. I have sent on an express to the officer commanding fort Scott, apprising him of the affair, and one to adjutant Porter, to put him on his guard. On arriving opposite Chehaw, I sent a runner to get some of them in, and succeeded in doing so. They are at a loss to know the cause of the displeasure of the white people. Wolf has gone to the agent to have it inquired into. We obtained from them a sufficient quantity of beef to last us to Hartford, at which place I am informed there is a plentiful supply of provisions. I have the honor to be very respectfully,
Your friend and obedient servant,
[Signed]
THOMAS GLASSCOCK,
Brig. gen. comg. Ga. militia, U.S.S.

General Glascock gave orders that Major James Alston, paymaster to the Georgia Militia, should not pay the soldiers who marched against Chehaw under the orders of Captain Wright, but to pay only those who had remained behind to garrison the station at Hartford, GA.

♦♦♦

Augusta Herald May 5, 1818 edition reports massacre of Chehaw Indians.

Augusta Herald May 5, 1818. The first sketchy newspaper reports on the Chehaw expedition assumed that Captain Obed Wright had followed orders to attack two hostile Indian villages.

Lott Warren’s Account of the Massacre

Among the soldiers in Captain Wright’s command at the Chehaw Massacre was a young lieutenant Lott Warren, who would later serve as the judge on the Southern Circuit of Georgia. Judge Lott Warren presided over the Lowndes County Grand Jury of 1833, at Franklinville, GA,  then the county seat of Lowndes County. The role of Lott Warren in these events is described in Portraits of Eminent Americans,

Arrived within a few miles of the Chehaw town, which was supposed to be Philemi [Now the site of Philema, Lee County, GA?], a council of war was called, and it was determined to send forty of the best mounted men to reconnoitre. They discovered large herds of cattle that had been stolen from the whites on the Ocmulgee, and an Indian minding them. Captain Obed Wright, of the Chatham militia, who had volunteered his services, had positive orders from the Governor to destroy the Hoponee and Philemi towns, which were known to be hostile. Captain Wright then formed the command into a column, and gave express orders that the women and children should not be hurt, and that a white flag should be respected. Within half a mile of the main town a gate was opened by an aged warrior, and the troops passed in. Every thing was quiet. The children swung in their hammocks, and the women were beating meal. The cavalry in front fired several pistols to the left, killing the warrior who opened the gate. Capt. Dean ordered a charge, but Capt. Wright countermanded the order. Two Indians were seen loading their guns. About this time, Howard, a friendly chief, was killed, while holding up a white flag. The men dashed off in pursuit of the Indians, who fled in every direction. Lieut. Warren was ordered, with eighteen men, to burn the cabins. First removing whatever was valuable, two or three cabins only were burnt. The command then returned to Fort Early that night, sold the plunder next day, and divided the spoil. Lieut. Warren refused his portion.

It was the opinion of all concerned at the time, that it was Philemi town which had been destroyed. The chief Howard, and two other Indians who placed themselves in the power of the troops, were murdered in cold blood. But the error had been committed rashly, under excitement, and could not be repaired. 

∫∫∫

Lieutenant Lott Warren’s recollection of the plundering and selling of trophies taken during the raid supports a report published in the Augusta Chronicle, May 16, 1818, about three weeks after the attack. The Chronicle reported that Wright’s troops sacked and looted the village, the “spoils, consisting of breech-clouts, flaps, shirts, and blankets, some of which were sold (the products divided among the victors), and the remainder kept as patriotic mementos. The ear ornaments of poor old Howard were worn by a Mr. Thompson, of Elbert, acting adjutant of the expedition, as a trophy of his gallant conduct. This being, we understand, boasted of having killed with his own hand, two Chehaws, one of whom had been previously mortally wounded!”

Calls for Justice

Indian Agent D. B. Mitchell wrote to Governor Rabun, requesting an official inquiry “into the conduct of the officers engaged in the enterprise,” and to present the case for reparations to be paid to the survivors of the attack. A copy of this letter is in the collection of the Newberry Library, Chicago. Transcriptions were subsequently published in the Milledgeville Reflector, May 26, 1818, and the National Register, June 13, 1818.

Letter written May 5, 1818 by David Brydie Mitchell, Indian Agent, to William Rabun, Governor of Georgia, protesting the destruction of Chehaw village.

Letter written May 5, 1818 by David Brydie Mitchell, Indian Agent, to William Rabun, Governor of Georgia, protesting the “unwarrantable and barbarous” destruction of Chehaw village.

Indian War. DESTRUCTION OF THE CHEHAW VILLAGE.
Copy of a letter from D. B. Mitchell, esq., agent for Indian affairs, to governor Rabun, dated Milledgeville, May 5, 1818.

Sir,
On the 2d inst I rec’d information that a party of mounted men had attacked and destroyed the Chehaw town on Flint river, and killed many of the inhabitants. From all I could then learn it appeared to be uncertain what troops they were, and under whose command, or by whose order this unwarrantable and barbarous deed had been done; and as the consequences cannot be foreseen which may result, when the justly exasperated warriors of the town return, and find their town and property destroyed;—their unoffending and helpless families killed or driven into the woods to perish, whilst they were fighting their and our enemies, the Seminoles, I deemed it best to come to the state and endeavor to procure correct information. I now find that the party had been sent out by your orders, but failed to execute them; and that the attack on Chehaw was unauthorized. I present the case for the consideration of your Excellency, under a confident hope, that as the people of Chehaw were not only friends, but that their conduct during the present war entitle them to our favor and protection, some immediate step will be taken to render that satisfaction which is due for so great an injury.
The extent of their loss in a pecuniary point of view, I am not at this moment prepared to state, but so soon as I return to the agency I will loose no time in having that ascertained; and in the mean time, permit me to suggest the propriety of instituting some legal inquiry into the conduct of the officers engaged in the enterprise. I leave this early in the morning for the agency, from whence I will address you again upon this subject.
I have the honor to enclose an extract of a letter rec’d from old Mr. Barnard on this subject, the contents of which is corroborated by a verbal statement of the Wolf Warrior, who came to me directly from the spot.
I am, sir,
      with high consideration and respect
      Your Very Ob Servt,
     D. B. MITCHELL, agent for I. A.
P. S.—Since writing the above, I have rec’d a letter from the Little Prince, [speaker of the Lower Creeks,] upon this subject, a copy of which l also enclose.

 The Chief on the left hand in this Etching, was the well known Little Prince was head of the Creek Nation of Indians, and a man of considerable energy of purpose and respectability of character...The position of his fingers, was described as being characteristic of the old man. [On the right] - One of those settlers who, in other parts of the country, are called squatters, but who bear the appellation of Crackers in Georgia, - men who set themselves down on any piece of vacant land that suits their fancy, till warned off by the legal proprietor. The man here sketched lived...almost entirely by hunting and shooting. Drawn with the Camera Lucida by Capt B. Hall, R.N.


The Chief on the left hand in this Etching, was the well known Little Prince was head of the Creek Nation of Indians, and a man of considerable energy of purpose and respectability of character…The position of his fingers, was described as being characteristic of the old man. [On the right] – One of those settlers who, in other parts of the country, are called squatters, but who bear the appellation of Crackers in Georgia, – men who set themselves down on any piece of vacant land that suits their fancy, till warned off by the legal proprietor. The man here sketched lived…almost entirely by hunting and shooting. Drawn with the Camera Lucida by Capt B. Hall, R.N.

Copy of a letter from the Little Prince, speaker of the Lower Creeks, to D.B. Mitchell, Indian Agent to the Creeks, dated Fort Mitchell, April 25, 1818.

Fort Mitchell, April 25, 1818

“My Great Friend: I have got now a talk to send to you. One of our friendly towns, by the name of Chehaw, has been destroyed. The white people came and killed one of the head men, and five men and a woman, and burnt all their houses. All our young men have gone to war with General Jackson, and there is only a few left to guard the town, and they have come and served us this way. As you are our friend and father, I hope you will try and find out, and get us satisfaction for it. You may depend upon it that all our young men have gone to war but a few that are left to guard the town. Men do not get up and do this mischief without there is some one at the head of it, and we want you to try and find them out.”
(signed) TUSTUNNUGGIE HOPOIE

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Copy of a letter from Timothy Barnard, esquire (a white man), residing on Flint River, to D. B. Mitchell, agent for I. A.

April 30, 1818.

Sir,
The Wolf Warrior, the bearer of this, has just arrived here, and brings bad news from the Au,muc,culla town (Chewhaw.) Nearly all the warriors belonging to that town are now with our army. Seven days past a company of white people collected and rushed on the town; and as there were but few red people there, and all friendly, just what few were left to guard their town, the rest still with our army, the white people killed every one they could lay their hands on: killed the old chief Tiger King, and one other chief, both I have known always to be friendly to our color, ever since I have been in this land. The whole of what are killed is nine men and one poor old woman. They took of what horses were there, the owners of some of which are still living; they took the horses to the fort, which is not far from the town they have destroyed. The chiefs that are still alive, beg that you will get their horses, or any thing else returned. The red people don’t know whether it is the regular troops, or Georgia militia that have committed this unwarrantable act. I have wrote you all that I think necessary – If you see cause to write anything to me, to inform them of, I will do it with pleasure. If these people do not get some friendly treatment for the damage done them, I am afraid, when their warriors return back from our army, something bad will happen to some of our color. I am very sorry to have to write you on such a horrid piece of business. I write you in haste, as the bearer is in great hurry to see you.
I remain, sir, your friend, and most ob’t serv’t
(Signed) T. BARNARD

Timothy Barnard wrote with some authority:  He was the “first white settler known to live on land now in Macon County, operated an Indian Trading Post on the west bank of the Flint River, from pre-Revolutionary days until he died in 1820. For his loyalty to the American cause, his sons by his Uchee wife were give reserves in the County. Trusted by his Indian neighbors, he became Assistant and Interpreter to Benjamin Hawkins, Indian Agent… He blazed Barnard’s Paths, principal early trails from the Chattahoochee River to St. Mary’s and St. Augustine. = Waymarking.com

Every one will admit that the anger which blazed up in the heart of General Jackson when he received this intelligence was most natural and most righteous. He instantly dispatched a party to arrest Captain Wright, and convey him in irons to Fort Hawkins. The following letters, all dated on the same day, are of the kind that require no explanation:—

GENERAL JACKSON TO MAJOR DAVIS.

“HEADQUARTERS Division of the South,
“May 7th, 1818. }

“SIR: You will send, or deliver personally, as you may deem most advisable, the inclosed talk to Kanard, with instructions to explain the substance to the Chehaw warriors.

“You will proceed thence to Hartford, in Georgia, and use your endeavors to arrest and deliver over, in irons, to the military authority at Fort Hawkins, Captain Wright, of the Georgia militia, who has been guilty of the outrage against the woman and superannuated men of the Chehaw village. Should Wright have left Hartford, you will call upon the Governor of Georgia to aid you in his arrest. To enable you to execute the above, you are authorized to take a company with you of the Tennesseans that went from hence lately for Fort Scott, and await, if you think it necessary, the arrival of the Georgians, now on march, under Major Porter. “You will direct the officer commanding at Fort Hawkins to keep Captain Wright in close confinement, until the will of the President be known. “The accompanying letters, for the Secretary of War and Governor of Georgia, you will take charge of until you reach a post-office. “ANDREW JACKSON.”

∫∫∫

Major General A. Jackson.
Gen. Jackson to the Chiefs and Warriors of Chehaw Village.
On my march to the west of Apalachicola, May 7, 1818.

Friends and Brothers,
I have this morning received, by express, the intelligence of the unwarrantable attack of a party of Georgians on the Chehaw village, burning it, and killing six men and one woman.

Friends and Brothers,
The above news fills my heart with regret and my eyes with tears. When I passed through your village your treated me with friendship, and furnished my army with all the supplies you could spare; and your old chiefs sent their young warriors with me to fight, and put down our common enemy. I promised you protection: I promised you the protection and fostering friendship of the United States by the hand of friendship.

Friends and Brothers,
I did not suppose there was any American so base as not to respect a flag; but I find I am mistaken. I find that Captain Wright of Georgia has done it. I cannot bring your old men and women to life, but I have written to your father, [James Monroe] the President of the United States, the whole circumstance of your case, and I have ordered Captain Wright to be arrested and put in irons, until your father, the President of the United States, makes known his will on this distressing subject.

Friends and Brothers,
Return to your village; there you shall be protected, and Capt. Wright will be tried and punished for this daring outrage of the treaty, and murder of your people; and you shall also be paid for your houses, and other property that has been destroyed; but you must not attempt to take satisfaction yourselves; this is contrary to the treaty, and you may rely on my friendship, and that of your father, the president of the United States.

I send you this by my friend, Major [John M.] Davis, who is accompanied by a few of my people, and who is charged with the arrest and confinement of Captain Wright; treat them friendly; they are your friends; you must not permit your people to kill any of the whites; they will bring down on you destruction. Justice shall be done to you; you must remain in peace and friendship with the United States. The excuse that Captain Wright has made for this attack on your village, is that some of your people were concerned in some murders on the frontiers of Georgia; this will not excuse him. I have ordered Captain Wright, and all the officers concerned in this transaction, in confinement, if found at Hartford. If you send some of your people with Major Davis, you will see them in irons. Let me hear from you at Fort Montgomery. I am your friend and brother.

ANDREW JACKSON
Maj. Gen. Com’dg, Division of the South

∫∫∫

GEN. JACKSON TO WILLIAM RABUN, GOVERNOR of GEORGIA.

“Seven miles advance of Fort Gadsden, May 7th, 1818.

“SIR:

I have this moment received by express the letter of General Glascock (a copy of which is inclosed) detailing the base, cowardly and inhuman attack on the old women and men of the Chehaw village, while the warriors of that village were with me fighting the battles of our country against the common enemy, and at a time, too, when undoubted testimony had been obtained and was in my possession, and also in the possession of General Glascock, of their innocence of the charge of killing Leigh and the other Georgian at Cedar Creek.

“That a Governor of a State should assume the right to make war against an Indian tribe, in perfect peace with and under the protection of the United States, is assuming a responsibility that I trust you will be able to excuse to the government of the United States, to which you will have to answer, and through which I had so recently passed, promising the aged that remained at home my protection, and taking the warriors with me in the campaign, is as unaccountable as it is strange. But it is still more strange that there could exist within the United States a cowardly monster in human shape that could violate the sanctity of a flag when borne by any person, but more particulaly when in the hands of a superannuated Indian chief, worn down with age. Such base cowardice and murderous conduct as this transaction affords has not its parallel in history, and shall meet with its merited punishment.

“You, sir, as Governor of a State within my military division have no right to give a military order whilst I am in the field; and this being an open and violent infringement of the treaty with the Creek Indians, Captain Wright must be prosecuted and punished for this outrageous murder, and I have ordered him to be arrested and to be confined in irons until the pleasure of the President of the United States is known upon the subject. If he has left Hartford before my order reaches him, I call upon you as Governor of Georgia to aid in carrying into effect my order for his arrest and confinement, which I trust will be afforded, and Captain Wright brought to condign punishment for this unparalleled murder. It is strange that this hero had not followed the trail of the murderers of your citizens; it would have led to Mickasucky, where we found the bleeding scalps of your citizens; but there might have been more danger in this than attacking a village containing a few superannuated women without arms or protectors. This act will to the last age fix a stain upon the character of Georgia.

“I have the honor, etc.,
“ANDREW JACKSON.”

∫∫∫

There were those who came to Captain Wright’s defense. Jacob Robinson, captain of the Laurens County Light Dragoons, who participated in the attack, gave an account that significantly differed from that of Lieutenant Lott Warren. Robinson wrote in the May 5, 1818 edition of the Milledgeville Georgia Journal:

I find some people are misled, or under wrong impressions, as to the late expedition to the Nation, supposing the town destroyed by Capt. Wright’s detachment (acting under the orders of the Executive) was actually friendly. As an officer commanding a volunteer corps on that occasion, I feel it my duty to state, that when the army, or rather the advance, appeared within half a mile from the town, we found an Indian herding Cattle, the most of which appeared to be white people’s marks and brands. A Mr. M’Duffee of Telfair, attached to my corps, attached to my corps, swore to one cow as the property of his father and taken from near where the late depredation on the frontier of Telfair was committed. We found in the town a rifle gun, known to be the one taken from a man of the name of Burch, who fell in the before mentioned skirmish [Battle of Breakfast Branch]. When we determined to attack the town, positive orders were given to spare the women and children, and all such as claimed protection; which was strictly enforced by the Officers, so far as was practicable, or came within my observation. My Troop was directed to advance on the right of the Town, which was done speedily. On our approach & before a man of my company fired a gun, the Indians, from a sink or cave near the path we were in, fired apparently 12 or 15 guns at my men; the bullets were distinctly heard by all, and slightly felt by two or three of the men. Some of the Indians found in the town were painted; all I saw evinced a disposition to fight or escape. We killed 24 warriors and burnt the town, agreeable to orders. A considerable number of new British muskets, carbines, &c. were destroyed – in nearly all of the houses there were explosions of gun-powder. The Indian we found herding cattle informed us that Hoponee resided there, and was then in the town. I am not certain whether he was slain or not. In possession of the last Indian killed, who was painted red, was found letters, one from Col. Milton, the other from Maj. Minton, both addressed to Gen’l Gaines, the seals of which had been broken.
JACOB ROBINSON
April 30th, 1818

Captain Jacob Robinson was later court martialed and cashiered for making out a false payroll report for the service of his men who participated in the Chehaw Massacre, keeping the excess pay for himself (Georgia Journal, Sept 28, 1819).  Those serving on the military court that convicted Robinson included Captain Elijah Dean and Lieutenant Charles S. Guyton, who served with Robinson at the attack on Chehaw.  Robinson later attempted to coerce them and other members of the court, under threat of law suit, to certify that his men had been paid properly.

On May 20, 1818 Governor Rabun responded to Mitchell,  U.S. agent to the Creek Indians regarding letters that he has received about Captain Obed Wright’s unwarranted attack on innocent Creeks in the Chehaw Village. Rabun tries to justify the attack by explaining that Captain Wright’s detachment descended on the village because they had been told by credible sources that the Indians living there were under the leadership of Chief Hopaunee, whose warriors had been hostile towards frontier settlers. Rabun apologizes for the mistake but says that civilian casualties are an unfortunate part of war. He laments the negative attention that this attack has generated among the people of the state, particularly as it obscures the recent “outrages” committed by the Creeks. To appease the public, Rabun has ordered a tribunal to investigate the attack. In the meantime, he urges Mitchell to express his apologies to the Creeks.

Executive Department Georgia Milledgeville 20th May, 1818.
Sir

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of yours of the 6th inst. [instant] enclosing a Copy of a letter from Old Mr. Barnard, & one from the Little Prince, Speaker of the Lower Creeks, both on the subject of the late unfortunate attack made by a detachment of Georgia Militia under Captain Wright on the Chehaw Village which had previously been supposed to be friendly.

I have examined these Communications with the candor their importance naturally required. It is unquestionably your duty as Agent to attend to the complaints of the Red people and cause justice to be done to them as far as your powers will extend. — It will also readily be acknowledged by all, that my duty as Governor of the State, requires that I should defend the cause of the Whites as far as that cause can be supported by the great principles of Justice. — As you have furnished me with the Indian account of this transaction, and assured me of the friendship towards the whites that existed among them prior to the attack; I feel it incumbent on me to explain to you and thro’ you to the Nation over which you preside, the motives by which the Officers were actuated who conducted the enterprise and the grounds upon which they will attempt to justify the proceeding, or extenuate the guilt that may in the view of some men be attached to them — You will readily acknowledge the decided and inveterate hostility of those Indians which belong to the Vilages under the immediate direction and controul of the Chiefs Hopaunee and Phelemmee, and that the orders which eminated from this department for their chastisement was both necessary and proper — You are also well apprised that the orders given confined them Specially to that object — So far then as respects myself I feel perfectly justified in the measures I adopted and which I deemed essentially necessary to prevent a repetition of the horrid murders and depredations committed by those Indians on our unprotected frontier —

I will now undertake to offer in behalf of the detachment the best apology for their conduct that I may be able to furnish and which I am authorized to state, can be supported by ample proof. — When the detachment was on their way to and reached the neighborhood of Fort Early they were credibly informed by several persons of veracity that the celebrated old Chief Hopaunee (whose town had all joined the hostile party) had removed and was at that time living in [added: the] Village upon which the attack was made, and was considered as their principal leader, and that a great portion of them was alledged to be under his immediate direction, altho’  part of them might be with [Chief William] McIntosh — They therefore considered themselves authorized to attack it as being one of Hopaunee’s Towns. — The result I need not mention, as you have seen the statements made by Captains Wright and Robinson which I am authorized by very respectable testimony to assure you, was substantially true, except as to the number reported to have been killed, which was fortunately incorrect. —

Now Sir if I have been misinformed and given a wrong construction to this affair, I should like very much to have more Correct information, but if it should be founded in fact, what more can you or the Indians require, than for me to assure you, that I regret the circumstance, and consider it as one of the misfortunes attendant on war, where the innocent frequently suffer in Common with the guilty — I have however, for the satisfaction and information of the public, as well as for the reputation of the Officer who commanded the expedition, Ordered him to this place for the purpose of having his conduct investigated by a military tribunal. — This unfortunate affair has been shamefully misrepresented by many of our Citizens, whose delicate feelings seem to have forgotten the many wanton outrages that have been committed on our frontier by the Indians, and would even cover the whole State with disgrace, merely because this small detachment have in this instance  carried their resentment to an improper extent. —

The experience of all ages have shewn, that it it is much easier for us to complain of the conduct of others (and especially those in responsible Stations) than to correct our own. —

I have ascertained, that the property left by the Indians who were run off from, or near Docr.  Birds Store on the Ocmulgee, some time past, is now in the possession of Mr. Richard Smith in the lower end of Twiggs County, and will be delivered at any time when proper application shall be made. —

You will please to assure the Red people under your care, that I feel a disposition to maintain peace and friendship with them on liberal terms. —

I have the honor to be,
Very Respectfully your Ob. [Obedient] Servant.
[Signed] Wm [William] Rabun

A heated exchange of letters ensued between General Jackson and Governor Rabun regarding the jurisdiction of military authority in Georgia. The full text of the correspondence of Governor William Rabun and General Andrew Jackson is available in the Life of Andrew Jackson: In Three Volumes. II The incident came under intense national scrutiny and was eventually reviewed by Congress.

The whole issue became an early States’ Rights argument. Jackson maintained that a Governor had no right to issue orders to the militia while a Federal officer was in the field, and in a series of heated letters with Rabun, called Telfair county residents ” . . . a few frontiers settlers . . . who had not understanding enough to penetrate the designs of my operations.” Rabun fired back that Jackson’s own actions at St. Augustine were on par with Wright’s at Chehaw, and that Jackson was more interested in his career than in protecting Georgians. – Kevin J. Cheek

General Jackson viewed the incident as shamefully disloyal and extremely dangerous, with the potential to turn the friendly Chehaws, who Glascock described as “at a loss to know the cause of this displeasure of the white People,” into enemies. Soon after he received Glascock’s account of the massacre, Jackson wrote to William Rabun, the governor of Georgia, calling Wright a “cowardly monster in human shape” and demanding that “Capt. Wright must be prosecuted and punished for this outrageous murder.”  – Massacre of American Indian Allies, 1818

 

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