Indian War Service of the Douglass Family

Special thanks to Wm Lloyd Harris for sharing research and contributing portions of this post.

In 1862, Albert Benjamin Douglass appeared as one of the deserters from the Berrien Minute Men, 29th Georgia Infantry.   He actually had a quite colorful record of service, prompting reader Wm Lloyd Harris to write with additional details relating  “the rest of the story.”   Harris is a great great grandson of Albert B. Douglass.

Military service was something of a tradition in the Douglass family.  Albert’s father and four brothers served in the Indian Wars in Florida between 1836 and 1858.

American Soldier, 1839. Depicted in winter and summer garb.

American Soldier, 1839, with an Indian guide. Depicted in winter and summer garb. Print by H. Charles McBarron.

Albert Benjamin Douglass was born in 1833, probably in Hamilton County, FL. His father, Seaborn Douglass, was born in Montgomery County, GA about 1800 and came to  Hamilton County, FL in the late 1820s. Seaborn Douglass and his family appear in the 1830 census of  Hamilton County.  The Douglass place in Hamilton County, FL was apparently located about eight miles from the home of Captain Archibald McRae.

Douglass Family  in the Indian Wars

Albert Douglass’  four brothers, Allen D. Douglass, Burrell Douglass, William Douglass, and Robert Douglass, and his father, Seaborn Douglass,  all served in  the  Indian Wars 1835-1858.

In 1836, Seaborn Douglass and his son Allen Douglass mustered into Captain Peter W. Law’s Company of the 13th Regiment, First Brigade of the Florida Militia.  Captain Law was the proprietor and post master of Law’s Store in Hamilton County (exact location unknown).  Miltary records of  the 13th regiment note that Seaborn Douglass was on foot. The company was ordered into service on June 15, 1836 at Camp Collins, Middle Florida.  This was just one month before the Indian raid on William Parker’s place and the Battle of Brushy Creek in Lowndes County, just across the state line in Georgia.  The enlistment was for six months, ending October 15, 1836.

On January 27, 1837 Seaborn Douglass mustered in at Fort Reed for six months service in  Captain Francis J. Ross’ Company of the 1st Regiment, 2nd Brigade of Florida Mounted Militia (“Old Greys”).   The fort was situated near present day Speer Grove Park, Sanford, FL according to a “Fort Reid” historic marker placed at the site. The marker indicates Fort Reid was established in 1840, but Florida Militia service records indicate a Fort Reed existed as early as 1837.  There has been much debate over the name of Fort Reed, it being alternately known as Fort Read, and Fort Reid.

“The long-gone stockade dates to the days when the Army established Camp Monroe (later Fort Mellon) as the first of a string of forts that stretched to the gulf as part of the military’s effort to drive the Seminoles out of Florida and capture runaway slaves. Fort Reid was the nearest satellite stockade, just a few miles south. It was used as a commissary and soldiers camp along a portion of the mule team trail (Mellonville Avenue) that Gen. Zachary Taylor laid out to haul supplies to soldiers at Fort Maitland, Fort Gatlin (Orlando) and Fort Brook (Tampa).

Eight two-story frame homes were erected near Fort Reid. From a cupola at one of the larger homes, settlers sent signals to the fort if they saw Seminoles.

Whitner’s history of Mellonville, though, says the settlers sometimes considered the soldiers – many of them uncouth, rough militiamen – as much a menace as the Indians.

”The soldiers depredated the farms, turning their horses into the fields, killed cattle, exterminated poultry, robbed beehives, then overturned and destroyed them,” writes Whitner.

The soldiers also amused themselves by laying out race tracks west of Mellonville Avenue.”

On June 16, 1837, Seaborn Douglass and his son Allen D. Douglass, traveled the eight miles from their home to  the place of Captain Archibald McRae (or McRay) where they were mustered into “Captain A. McRae’s Mounted Company of the 2nd Regiment of East Florida Volunteers, 2nd Brigade Florida Militia commanded by Col. William J. Mills.  This unit entered into the service of the United States on the requisition of Major Thomas S. Jesup to serve for six months, unless sooner discharged.” The company was enrolled at Mineral Springs, FL and was reorganized July 20, 1837 into two companies, Seaborn and Allen Douglass  being placed into Captain George W. Smith’s Company.   Men of the Mounted Volunteers provided their own horses, and Seaborn’s mount was a Bay horse. Apparently, Seaborn’s horse died on December 13, days before the company mustered out at Fort Gilliland, FL.  On December 18, 1837, Major S. Churchhill inspected the company of East Florida Mounted Volunteers at Fort Gilliland, “who are hereby honorably discharged from the service of the United States.”

In 1838, Allen Douglass was mustered back into service in Captain G. W. Smith’s Company of the Battalion of Middle Florida Mounted Volunteers, Major John L.Taylor commanding, from March 22, 1838 to September 23, 1838.  The company was mustered in March 22, 1838 at Hamilton County, FL. Records note Allen Douglas was among those men absent at first muster and subsequent musters.

In 1839 the father, Seaborn Douglass, was mustered back into service in Captain Allen G. Johnson’s Company of Mounted Florida Volunteers Militia ordered into the service of the United States by General Zachary Taylor from September 6, 1839 to January 9, 1840.  A. G. Johnson’s company mustered in at Camp Bailey, Jefferson County, FL, and mustered out at the same location on January 6, 1840.

Burrell Douglass also served in this unit from September 6 until November 30, 1839, according to the sworn affadavits of Captain Allen G. Johnson; of Lieutenant Hansford R. Alford; and of Private James Lee.  Lt. Hansford R. Alford attested that Burrell Douglass rendered all service required, was well armed and mounted, and was discharged because there were more men in service than were authorized. Captain Johnson stated in 1846 that, contrary to his wishes,  Burrell Douglass was discharged.  Johnson reported that Douglass rendered good and efficient service and that he was discharged without pay.

In 1856, Allen D. Douglass and William Douglass went into  Captain William H. Kendrick’s Independent Company of Mounted Florida Volunteers Militia ordered into the service of the United States for a term of six months on December 6, 1856 at Fort Broome and marched 40 miles to station at Fort Brooke, FL. At enlistment, William’s horse was appraised at $150 with $5 worth of equipment; Allen’s horse was a $75 dollar animal with $20 tack.

In 1857, Robert Douglass served in Captain Lucius A. Hardee’s Company, 1st Regiment of Florida Mounted Volunteers. The company was organized at Jacksonville, East Florida, in July 1857 and marched from there to Ocala, FL, the place of General Rendezvous.

William Douglas mustered into Captain Edward T. Kendrick’s Company of Florida Mounted Volunteers at Fort Brooke, FL, February 16, 1858. William deserted April 25, 1858.

∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫

By 1838, Seaborn Douglass had moved his family to Lowndes County, GA. County tax records show Seaborn Douglass was late to pay his poll tax that year, although no taxes were assessed for any land holdings or slaves in Lowndes County. Seaborn Douglass appeared in the 1840 Lowndes County census with his children;   no spouse is found in his household.

Children of Seaborn Douglass:

  1. unknown daughter (b. 1821)
  2. Allen Dickerson Douglass (1822 – 1919)
  3. Burrell Douglass (1825 – September 8, 1884)
  4. William Riley Douglass (1830 – ca. 1895)
  5. Robert Douglass (1833-1862)
  6. Albert Benjamin Douglass (1835 – )
  7. Rose or Rosean  Douglass (1839 – 1905),
  8. unknown daughter (b. 1840)

Seaborn Douglass is believed to have died about 1843 in Lowndes County, Georgia.

 

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Secretary of War Disputes Indian War Claims of Levi J. Knight

Engagements with Native Americans fought in South Georgia in the year 1842, were a topic of Governor George W. Crawford’s address of November 7, 1843 to the Georgia General Assembly.  The Governor referenced reports  submitted by Levi J. Knight and others  documenting Indian movements and attacks.  Knight was captain of militia companies that fought engagements in Lowndes County during the Indian Wars 1836-1842 (see Levi J. Knight Reports Indian Fight of July 13, 1836;   Final Report of General Julius C. Alford on Actions at the Little River and at Grand Bay, August, 1836)

George W. Crawford, Governor of Georgia 1843-1847. In politics, Crawford was a Whig, as was Levi J. Knight of Lowndes County (now Berrien). Crawford was the only Whig elected to the Governors office in Georgia. Appointed Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President Zachary Taylor and served from March 8, 1849, to July 23, 1850; presided over the State secession convention in 1861; died on his estate, “Bel Air,” near Augusta, Ga., July 27, 1872; interment in Summerville Cemetery.

George W. Crawford, Governor of Georgia 1843-1847. In politics, Crawford was a Whig, as was Levi J. Knight of Lowndes County (now Berrien). Crawford was the only Whig elected to the Governors office in Georgia. Crawford was appointed Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President Zachary Taylor and served from March 8, 1849, to July 23, 1850; presided over the State secession convention in 1861; died on his estate, “Bel Air,” near Augusta, Ga., July 27, 1872; interment in Summerville Cemetery.

In the spring of 1842 Levi J. Knight’s company of men was among those activated to pursue Indians fleeing from Florida and to defend against Indian attacks. After these actions, Governor Crawford was engaged in a dispute with U. S. Secretary of War James Madison Porter over  whether Federal funds were owed to the State of Georgia for expenses incurred when militia companies were called out in Lowndes County.

In his address, Governor Crawford cites Document 200. This document was a report prepared for the U.S. House of Representatives, April 22, 1842 and titled “Depredations by Indians and United States troops in Georgia.” The report included all correspondence between the Governor of Georgia and the War Department from March 4, 1841 and April 20, 1842 “in relation to Indian depredations in Georgia; and the complaints made and evidence submitted of depredations on the citizens of Georgia and their property, by the United States troops;”

The question was whether Governor Crawford’s predecessor, Governor Charles McDonald, was warranted in calling out the militia. McDonald and Crawford maintained that the federal government had failed in its responsibility to provide protection and security to Georgia citizens.  The people of Wiregrass Georgia certainly felt exposed, but federal officers believed there was little real threat from Indians in Georgia.  Bad relations between the federal troops and local citizens complicated the issue.  At the heart of matters was the shooting of D.S. Cone, son of Captain William Cone by federal troops; Cone was investigating the theft of livestock by the federal troops. Furthermore, federal authorities disparaged reports by Levi J. Knight that Indians were responsible for the attack and murder of a Mrs. Oglesby in Ware County on February 28, 1842.

The War Department contended the activation of militia companies was unnecessary and disallowed payment to Georgia.

Exerpt from Governor Crawford’s address to the Georgia Assembly, November 7, 1843, Milledgeville, GA:

In execution of the act of 27th December last, “to provide for the pay, forage, subsistence and transportation, of the troops ordered out by His Excellency the Governor, and by Generals Knight and Hilliard, for the protection of the southern frontier of this State, against intrusions of the Seminole Indians, ” Col. James Rogers of this place [Milledgeville], was appointed paymaster, who proceeded to examine and report to this Department all such claims as were presented under said act, together with the evidence in support of the same.

A coppy of his report is laid before you. The evidence on which it was based is to be found on the files of this Department.  Some of the officers are discontented with the allowances made them and the men under their command by the paymaster. I refer you to copies of letters received from Captains [William B.] North and [Matthew M.] Deas on this subject, which will put you fully in possession of the objections urged against the conclusions of the paymaster, and by a comparison of which, with the testimony on file, you will be enabled to arrive at justice in your decision as to further allowances. It will be remarked that the proof consists, generally, of the affidavits of the men who performed the service.
     I call your particular attention to the letter from the paymaster, relative to Captain North’s roll,  and recommend that every dollar to which the men of his company are entitled, be allowed, but that measures be adopted to remedy such abuses as are disclosed on the part of that officer.
     A warrant has been drawn for the sum of $2,000. for the payment of these troops, which exceeds the amount of claims reported. This sum will cover every small amount of additional claims which may be proven and the pay and expenses of the paymaster who will account for any balance. I regret that the illness of this officer has hitherto prevented the execution of the duties assigned him. I addressed a letter to the President of the U. States, on the subject of the payment of the above troops, and also invited the attention of the Georgia delegation in Congress to it.  Unexpectedly to me, the President referred the matter to the then Secretary of War, an officer with whom I could not communicate with regard to it, after the evidence of his insincerity as exposed in my message to the last General Assembly.  After I was informed by the Adjutant General of the army, that the rights of the State were to be controlled by so unworthy and influence, I deemed it due to the people, whom I represented, to have no further intercourse respecting them, with any officer subject to be biased by his prejudices.  I cannot forbear, however, calling your attention to a passage in his letter of the 27th February last, to a portion of the Georgia delegation, a copy of which is herewith communicated, in which to justify his conduct in opposing the right of Georgia to pay, he remarks that,

“there was no outrage committed by any Indians in the State of Georgia, during the year 1842, and there was no probable or plausible ground to apprehend any.  Its southern border was guarded by ten military posts and by an unceasing vigilance which afforded the most effectual protection.”

These assertions are made notwithstanding the Document 200, to which he refers in the sentence immediately preceding this, being a communication made by himself, to the committee on Military affairs, contains a letter from Major Gen. Knight, giving information of an Indian murder, committed on Tom’s creek, in the county of Ware, in the month of February, of that year.

It is true, that in one of the Documents is contained a letter from an officer of the army, which is intended to create a doubt whether the murder was committed by Indians. But the evidence adduced is inconclusive on that point.  I lay before you, an extract from a letter from Captain Clyatt, of the 26th Sept, 1842, which proves that in August of that year, the Indians had passed into Georgia, and there had an engagement with a company of Georgians and Floridians.  Should there bean error in Captain Clyatt’s geography, which seems impossible, as he examined the lines, the Indians had certainly passed the ten military posts, and there was at least “plausible” ground to apprehend Indian outrages.

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Dr. Jacob Rhett Motte: Army Surgeon

In the fall of 1836 at the onset of the Second Seminole War, Dr. Jacob Rhett Motte became perhaps the first surgeon in Lowndes County, GA, which then encompassed a vast area including all of present day Lowndes, Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Lanier and Echols counties. Motte was the first of the medical men anywhere in the vicinity of the pioneer homesteaders at the settlement now known as Ray City, GA. Dr. Motte, a U.S. Army surgeon detailed to serve under the command of Major Greenleaf Dearborn, had come to Franklinville, GA which was the first government seat and post office of Lowndes County.

The early pioneers of the area cheered the deployment of federal troops, and the arrival of a doctor was especially welcome.  But to Dr. Motte, the assignment for duty in Lowndes was most unwelcome, in his words the county “being so far south and in a low swampy part of the country had the worst possible reputation for health, and going there at this season of the year was almost considered certain death to a white man and stranger unacclimated.”

The Milledgeville Federal Union reported the arrival of United States troops in Lowndes County.

September 27, 1836 Milledgeville Federal Union reports Major Greenleaf Dearborn and 200 federal troops have taken up position in Lowndes County, GA.

September 27, 1836 Milledgeville Federal Union reports Major Greenleaf Dearborn and 200 federal troops have taken up position in Lowndes County, GA.

 Milledgeville Federal Union
September 27, 1836

United States Troops in Lowndes.

It is stated that Gen. Jesup has ordered Maj. Dearborn with about two hundred United States regulars, into Lowndes county, for the protection of that and the surrounding country against the depredations of Indians. It is anticipated that when operations shall be renewed in Florida, parties of Creek Indians, perhaps accompanied by the Seminole allies, will return through our southwestern counties to their ancient homes; and this force is designed, we learn, as a preparation for such a state of things. – Gen. Jesup has been at Tallahassee, and it was there understood, that he would be invited by Gov. Call to take command of the Florida forces.

As Native American inhabitants of Georgia, Alabama and Florida forcibly resisted removal to western lands, the summer of 1836 had erupted into a string of violent encounters. On or about July 12, 1836 Levi J. Knight led a company of men in a skirmish at William Parker’s place. In subsequent days, engagements were fought at Brushy Creek, Little River, Grand Bay, Troublesome Ford, Warrior Creek and Cow Creek.

About Dr. Motte…

Young Jacob Rhett Motte,  descendant of two distinguished and colorful South Carolinian families, graduated with an A .B. degree from Harvard University in 1832. Disappointed at his failure to receive an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, he returned to his home in Charleston. There he entered the Medical College of South Carolina and served his apprenticeship under the direction of a Doctor J. E. Holbrook. Upon the completion of his medical studies he became a citizen M. D. at the United States Government Arsenal in Augusta, Georgia. A yearning for a military career finally led the young physician to Baltimore where in March, 1836, he was examined by the Army Medical Board. His application for a commission as Assistant Surgeon was approved on March 21, and around the first of June he was ordered to active duty with the Army in the Creek Nation. For seven months he participated in the so-called Second Creek War in Georgia and Alabama-an action which was nothing more than the employment of about 10,000 regular and volunteer troops in a giant round-up of the demoralized and dispossessed Creek Indians. Early in 1837 he was transferred to the Army in Florida and for the next fourteen months took part in the campaigns against the Seminole Indians.

During his period of service with the Army in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, Motte faithfully kept a journal in which he recorded, in a fascinating style, his travels, experiences, activities, observations and impressions.

-James F. Sunderman

According to The Army Medical Department, 1818-1865,

President Jackson decided that it was necessary to move Army units into Georgia, Alabama, and Florida to force the removal of the Seminoles and Creeks, a step that had the added effect of intimidating the most reluctant members of the other three tribes. Although the Creeks put up less resistance to removal than the Seminoles, the possibility of wholesale active resistance caused the Army to order sixteen companies of regular troops from artillery and infantry regiments, more than 1,000 men, south by mid-1836 to assist over 9,000 state troops in rounding up the reluctant members of this tribe in preparation for their removal. In the course of the following six months, over 14,000 Creeks left the area under Army escort.

The Medical Department provided medical supplies for some of those going west, including the Cherokees, Choctaws, and Chickasaws, for which it was reimbursed from a special fund by the “Indian department,” and medical officers also vaccinated large groups from the various tribes for smallpox. At least one Army surgeon, Eugene Abadie, was sent with the Creeks and specifically designated “Surgeon to Emigrating Indians” although, except for surgeons assigned to Army escorts, physicians accompanying groups of migrating Indians were apparently usually civilians. Abadie reported that many Indians fell sick during their march, fevers, dysentery, and diarrhea being the most common ills, and that many died, especially the very old and the very young. Abadie appears to have left the Creeks shortly after their arrival in the West, for he was at Fort Brooke, Florida, in August 1837.

Some of those whose duty it was to assist in the removal of the members of these tribes were well aware of the tragedy involved. Although he was not assigned to accompany the Creeks as they moved west, Assistant Surgeon Jacob Rhett Motte, who was then attached to one of the artillery units in the territory of the Creeks, studied their language and learned to respect them as a people. He watched at least 500 Creeks being brought in chains to Fort Mitchell, Alabama, and deplored the melancholy spectacle as these proud monarchs of the soil were marched off from their native land to a distant country, which to their anticipations presented all the horrors of the infernal regions. There were several who committed suicide rather than endure the sorrow of leaving the spot where rested the bones of their ancestors. The failure of his attempt to escape the round-up drove one warrior to self destruction; the fact that the only weapon at his disposal was an extremely dull knife did not deter him. With it he made several ineffectual efforts to cut his throat, but it not proving sharp enough, he with both hands forced it into his chest over the breast bone, and his successive violent thrusts succeeded in dividing the main artery, when he bled to death.

The troops based at Fort Mitchell during the Creek removal suffered primarily from dysentery and diarrhea, which Motte blamed on “the rotten limestone water of the country.” The sick were sheltered in two small buildings, each with a ten-foot wide piazza shading it from the summer’s sun. Both structures were in poor condition, with split floor boards and rooms without ceilings. Neither had been intended to serve as a hospital, but the building constructed for this purpose was on private land and had been taken over as a home, apparently by the family owning the land. The diseases endured by the men who came to the facility were, for the most part, fevers, probably malarial, and, in hot weather, diarrhea and dysentery. An epidemic of measles broke out in the fall of 1836, and the surgeon was occasionally called upon to treat the victims of delirium tremens or even of poison ivy. By the summer of 1836 the facility was serving as a general hospital, taking in both Regular Army patients from the garrison and men from the Alabama volunteers, recently back from Florida and the war against the Seminoles.

Character of the Second Seminole War

A brief show of strength served to eliminate Creek resistance, but an increasing number of attacks on white families and ambushes of small Army units emphasized the determination of the Seminoles never to leave their homes. In the last weeks of 1835, the conflict erupted into open warfare. In the guerrilla struggle that followed, Army regulars and members of various state units sent to subdue the Seminoles fought in an unfamiliar and dangerous land, “healthy in winter but sickly in summer; . . . a most hideous region,” where insects and bacteria alike throve and multiplied.”

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Edward M. Henderson Mortally Wounded at Brushy Creek

Death came for Edward M. Henderson, Sheriff of Lowndes County, GA  on July 20, 1836, he having been mortally wounded in the Battle of Brushy Creek five days earlier.  In death he joined those killed in action at Brushy Creek –  Pennywell Folsom and Edwin Shanks of Lowndes, and Burton Ferrell of Thomas County. Nine other settlers were wounded in the battle. The names of the Native American dead, “who had been goaded into madness”  are not known.

Captain Levi J. Knight, original settler of the Ray City, GA,  arrived at Brushy Creek with a company of men just after the conclusion of the fighting, having marched across the county from and earlier engagement at  William Parker’s place. Knight and the troops from Brushy Creek were then  engaged in actions along Warrior Creek.

1834 Lowndes County, GA Tax Digest assessment of the property of Edward Marion Henderson.  For his 1,215 acres, Henderson paid $0.78 cents in property taxes.

1834 Lowndes County, GA Tax Digest assessment of the property of Edward Marion Henderson. For his 1,215 acres, Henderson paid $0.78 cents in property taxes.

Edward Marion Henderson, also known as Edwin Henderson, was born in 1810, a son of David A. Henderson. He was born and raised in Liberty County, GA before moving with his parents to Ware County, GA. On July 3, 1829, he was commissioned as Postmaster at Waresboro, Ware County, GA, and served until June 4, 1830. He was Tax Collector of Ware County from 1828 to 1832.

In 1832, he came to settle in Lowndes county, GA on Land Lot # 168, 15th District, in that area which was later cut into Brooks County. He was elected Justice of the Peace for the 659th District of Lowndes, serving from 1833 to 1834. He was elected Sheriff of Lowndes County on April 4, 1834, while Franklinville was still serving as the County Seat. Martin Shaw was his Deputy Sheriff.

According to Lowndes County Tax Digests for 1834, Edward M. Henderson  owned 965 acres on lots 168 and 155 in the 15th District, near the Withlacoochee River, and 250 acres on Lot 150 in the 15th District in Thomas County. In 1835, he retained only the land on Lot 168.

Edward M. Henderson married Martha McMullen in 1835; she was born 1813 in Telfair County, GA, a daughter of James McMullen. Her father was a prominent citizen of Lowndes, and served as a representative in the state legislature.

Child of Edward Marion Henderson and Martha McMullen:

  1. Rebecca Henderson: born 1836, Lowndes County, GA; married Joel M. Morris, April 13, 1854 in Madison County, FL;

When Indian troubles began in 1836 following the uprising at Roanoke, GA, Edward M. Henderson served with the Lowndes County militia. He was mortally wounded in the Battle of Brushy Creek and died a few days later on July 20, 1836, leaving behind his young wife and infant daughter. The site of his grave is not known.

† † †

The estate of Edward M. Henderson was administered by his brother, Samuel T. Henderson, and his home place on Lot 168, 15th District was sold at auction in December 1838.  His widow, Martha McMullen Henderson, with baby Rebecca Henderson returned to her father’s home.  She never re-married.  When Rebecca married Joel M. Morris in 1854, Martha moved into her son-in-law’s household in Jefferson County, FL.

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Henry Blair’s Account of the Skirmish at Cow Creek

In August, 1836 the pioneers of Lowndes and surrounding counties were engaged in local actions against Creek Indians along Warrior Creek, Little River, Alapaha River and at Cow Creek. These Indians were fleeing to Okefenokee Swamp and Florida to escape from forced relocation to the West and presumably to join up with Seminole Indians in Florida.  On the 27th of August, 1836 militia companies commanded by Col. Henry Blair, Captain Lindsay and Captain Levi J. Knight, caught up with a band of Creek Indians at Cow Creek, near present day Statenville, GA (then known as Troublesome Ford.)

Three days later, Col. Henry Blair made his report to Governor Schley, his letter subsequently published in state newspapers:

Milledgeville Federal Union
September 20, 1836

Lowndes County, August 30th, 1836.

His Excellency Governor Schley:

Sir — I have to inform you that a party of Indians were seen in the upper part of this county on Wednesday evening, 24th instant.–
Next morning, an hour by sun, there was a company of eighteen or twenty men of us in pursuit of them. We trailed them about three miles when we came to their camp where they encamped for the night and appeared to have collected together at that place. We supposed from the sign that there were about sixty-five of seventy of them. We pursued their trail, after dispatching an express to captain Knight at his post to join us with his company, which he did forthwith. We pursued them until Saturday, 27th instant, about half past two o’clock in the evening we came in sight of them where they had stopped to refresh themselves near the line of Ware and Lowndes counties on the side of a large cypress swamp, known by the name of the Cow Creek. When we first saw them at the distance of three or four hundred yards they were running some for the swamp and some from the swamp. As we were marching by heads of companies, a charge was ordered at full speed, which soon brought us within forty or fifty paces of their line where they had posted themselves in the swamp — a battle ensued which lasted for ten or fifteen minutes, which was fought with much bravery on the part of the whites. We completely routed the enemy and gained the victory. The loss on our side was one man wounded and one horse killed.–
On the part of the enemy, was two killed in the field that we got, one woman wounded that we captured that died the next day about eleven o’clock. There were signs seen where there were two more dragged into the swamp that we supposed were killed. We succeeded in taking six prisoners with the one that died; the other remaining five, for their better security and safe keeping, I have sent to Thomasville jail, Thomas county, Georgia, where your excellency can make that disposition of them that is thought most requisite.

The information obtained from the prisoners, with regard to the number of Indians, was thirty three warriors, thirty-five women and children — sixty-eight in the whole. Our forces consisted of about sixty or sixty-five men; the advance commanded by captain Lindsey, and right flank by captain Levi J. Knight, and left by myself.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

HENRY BLAIR
Colonel Commanding 81st Regiment, G. M.

Historical Marker: Skirmish at Cow Creek.  Source: David Seibert.  http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=27036

Historical Marker: Skirmish at Cow Creek. Source: David Seibert. http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=27036

SKIRMISH AT COW CREEK

Near here, on August 27, 1836, Georgia Militia companies commanded by Col. Henry Blair, Captain Lindsay and Capt. Levi J. Knight, fought a skirmish with Creek Indians and routed them, killing two and taking several prisoners. During this summer the Indians had committed many raids and massacres as they traversed the border counties on their way to Florida to join the Seminoles. Georgia troops had been following them for weeks, and overtook this band in the cypress swamp on the edge of Cow Creek.

Final Report of General Julius C. Alford on Actions at the Little River and at Grand Bay, August, 1836

As described in previous posts, the July,1836 actions against Indians in this immediate area (Skirmish at William Parker’s Place and the Battle of Brushy Creek) were preceded and somewhat precipitated by the Indian uprising at Roanoke, GA (May 15, 1836) and the Battle of Chickasawhatchee Swamp (June 3, 1836).

In August, 1836 subsequent local actions were fought  along Warrior Creek, Little River, Alapaha River and at Cow Creek. Levi J. Knight, and other pioneer settlers of Berrien and Lowndes counties, participated in these actions.

The following is the official report of Major Julius C. Alford, addressed to General John W. A. Sanford,  describing these events, which occurred  from August 5 to August 25, 1836:

Federal Union
September 13, 1836

CREEK CAMPAIGN
Lumpkin, August 25, 1836

Major Generel John W. A. Sanford:

Sir – After your departure from Baker county, I continued to scour the swamp and executed the order left by you, for the removal of the troops to the head of Spring creek. Captain [Michael] Hentz’s in obedience to your order, charging him specially with reduction of the Indians fought by me on the fifth of this month, continued his pursuit of their trail to Flint river, where they crossed, near Newton. He sent me back an express stating the fact. In the mean time, I had the same day I received the express from Hentz, before the express arrived, gone in company with Mr. Tompkins and Howard of Baker county, and a considerable number of my own men, and pursued the trail of the Indians from near my battle ground, to where they crossed Spring creek, near where it runs into Chickasahatchie; we found the trail so much larger than we expected, that all expressed astonishment at the fact, that I should have believed I fought only sixty or eighty Indians, as you recollect I verbally reported to you at the time. Who could have induced you to think, general, that there were only fifteen or twenty? I cannot imagine, or is it a matter of any moment. I only mention the fact to correct it, believing as I do, that you would be gratified to know the truth. I requested Mr. Tompkins, Howard, and Greer, with others, to count the principal entering places of the trail as the Indians went into the creek, and there were twelve different trails of at least an average of ten track to a trail, where they crossed. Convinced of the fact, that Hentz was pursuing a body of Indians he could not conquer, I at once determined to follow him and overtake him if possible, although he had been gone several days. On my return to camp, and while I was stating the facts to my officers, his express arrived; it was near night. I issued my order for captains Greer and [Robert H.] Sledge, to prepare to march early next morning. They done so.

We set off on the tenth of this month, went thirty-five miles that night to West’s, near where the Indians had robbed a house on the line of Baker and Thomas counties: here we were joined by captain Everett and his company from Decatur county. We could get no pilot. There were but few people living in the settlement. Mr. West was so much alarmed, he could not tell us the way to his son-in-law’s house, two miles off, the one that was robbed. We started on the eleventh [Aug 11, 1836], as early as we could see, and found our way to the house. – Here we took the trail of a company of horsemen, who had gone up north, to a station, instead of Hentz’s trail, and went twenty miles out of our way. Finding we were wrong, and fearing we should not be able to right ourselves in time to overtake Hentz, I ordered captain Sledge to return to camp Alford. With captains Greer and Everett, and their companies, we took the general course of the Indians, and fortunately landed at night in half a mile of the right trail, but unfortunately only ten miles from where we started; here we camped at a deep steep creek, which I called camp Greer, in honor of my officer, who had that day, when the hope of overtaking the Indians was very faint, still resolved to follow me, if I continued to go ahead. Hentz was a long ways ahead, but so soon as the sign was right, we pursued him with all possible speed. On the 12th we passed two of the Indian camps and several large creeks, the head waters of the Oakalockney [Ochlockonee] and the Okapilca [Okapilco]; joined today by captain Newman and his company from Thomas county. Force increasing, trail warm, men ardent, all anxious for battle. About 3 o’clock in the evening, we saw before us, a house with many people all seemed to be greatly excited; at our approach and when we were still far off, I mentioned to our boys, that from the strange appearance of things all was not right; we galloped up, and the first to salute us was one of captain Hentz’s men, badly wounded. He informed us, that at eleven o’clock that day, they had attacked the enemy in a branch and had been compelled to retreat: the battle ground was four miles off, and captain Hentz, after being reinforced, had gone back about two hours, to try it again. —  Hentz’s defeat, with the sight of his wounded men, created a great sensation in our ranks.– All the men and officers manifested the most ardent wish to retrieve the fortunes of the day and punish the enemy; we strained our horses to the battle ground; the Indians had gone and Hentz after them; we pursued them till night, camped at Fulsom’s [James Folsom’s Place]; heard of Hentz two miles ahead. After we camped, I procured a pilot and found his camp — his men manifested great joy at my arrival, and truly, general, if there was any fight in me, I felt it then. The cowards that had refused to fight that day, had all run home, and here were a few brave fellow encamped near the enemy, mortified at defeat, swearing they would whip the enemy or die in the attempt; the citizens who had joined them in the day, had left them at night; it was now dark and getting late in the night. I ordered them to remain in the morning, until I came up, and returned to my camp. The story of the fight is easily told. The Indians seeing they would be overtaken by captain Hentz, had formed an extended line in a small branch swamp, where two branches ran together, making a narrow swamp of thick bushes, nearly in the shape of a half circle, with an one pine woods to enter it. The line, if straight, would (in the language of all that gave an opinion) have been at least five hundred yards long: of course, as is usual with them, they were in open order to extend their flanks. Their number of warriors must have been at least eighty strong, with the advantage of the cover of the branch swamp, their pick of the ground and superior numbers. That portion of captain Hentz’s company that would fight, could not maintain their ground. — The brave Tinsley, (our pilot in Chickasahatchie, [Chickasawhatchee Swamp] and those that fought with him, were compelled to retreat, after having five men badly wounded. Their number was about thirty, as well as I could learn, and I would mention every name if I could do so, without leaving out any, but I do not know them all, and therefore had better not undertake it, least some brave fellow might have his feelings wounded, by not being known. The balance of the command run and never came back. At three o’clock on the 13th, I was on my horse, with my command; we came up to Hentz’s command before light, on the banks of the Withlacoochy [Withlacoochee River] proper, here called Little river, the eastern branch being called Withlacoochy improperly, (see map of Georgia,) I kept my command in the rear some distance, and so soon as we could see the trail, sent Hentz’s company in pursuit, hoping the Indians would recognize them, and not seeing us, would fight again — we followed near enough to be ready in that event to help. The night before, the enemy had crossed the river, killed two beeves and recrossed and camped on the same side with Hentz, in the river swamp; we of course lost much time in trailing them, on their fox like chase. About ten o’clock, we received news of them going down the river on the west side; we strained off after them, crossed at a bridge where they had just passed. Several companies had now joined us, (to wit.) captains Night [Levi J. Knight],  [John J.] Pike, [Benjamin] Grantham, Burnett and many citizens without officers. The people of Lowndes and Thomas counties, are a gallant set of men, and acted most promptly indeed, submitted themselves to my command most cheerfully, and acted with us like good citizens ought to do, when their country is invaded. Major [Enoch] Hall and [Henry S.] Strickland and colonel [Henry] Blair of Lowndes county was in the field. The pursuit was bold and impetuous. The Indians entered the river swamp about four miles below the bridge, where it is wide and deep; not knowing our ground, we followed on horseback, on the trail made by their horses, (the had stolen three horses the night before the battle with Hentz, and captured eight from his company in the fight.) The Indians crossed the Withlacoochy [Withlacoochee] in the swamp, where there was no ford; so did we.

They penetrated the very thickest parts of the swamp, in hopes to hide; we followed there; they crossed deep Lagoons, which by the time we came along, had no bottom; we floated our horses over after them; finally our advance, and announced the fact that we had overtaken them. I ordered the men to dismount and charge — when we came up, the Indians had thrown away their clothes and provisions and abandoned their horses, and fled in every direction; we retook the horses taken from captain Hentz’s men, as well as from the citizens, and returned them to their owners. The soldiers done what they pleased with the plunder. We could not pursue the enemy any further now: they had scattered and run off in the swamp in every direction, we hunted for them in vain until night — camped at Mr. Vicker’s. The soldiers and citizens put up at houses nearest the swamp; nothing to eat today for man or horse. Today, the 14th, captain Greer and his company rested. I pressed a fresh horse, and with my friend Graves, who never tires, I went back to the swamp, arranged the various companies who had repaired to scour the swamp. Today Capt. [James A.] Newman’s company came upon the rear, or flank guard of the Indians, and in sight of one of their warriors, fired eight or ten guns after him as he run, do not know whether he was hit or not — could see no more of them today. Determined never to desist so long as there was any hope, I issued my order for all to lie as near the swamp as possible, for hunger forced them to go some where to get something to eat, and to be at the swamp by sunrise, and all that were not there by one hour by sun, not to come at all — the order was promptly obeyed and captain Greer’s company and all the other companies were there at the appointed time; we rushed into the swamp, and after plunging for an hour, we heard guns fires at our horses; we supposed at once that the Indians had made an attack on the guard left to take care of the horses; I ordered every man to rush the spot, and on arriving, an express was the occasion of the firing, with information that the Indians were seen that morning four miles below, going towards grand bay, on the eastern branch of Withlocoochy [Withlacoochee River]. We pursued at the top speed of our horses — just before we came to the place where they were seen, there came upon us a heavy thunder shower, and we could not trail them well. I am of the opinion they had separated to meet at grand bay, a most extensive and impenetrable swamp, in the direction of Oakafonokee [Okefenokee] swamp. By the aid of several good trailers, we pursued their sign with much difficulty to the river, and saw where a few of them had crossed, but never could trail them any further that day. All agreed that if they got to grand bay, we could not drive for them successfully, and the citizens urged upon us to desist, and let them watch for their march from the swamp and cut them off between there and Oakafonokee [Okefenokee], be that when it might.  I gave up the chase and returned to Roundtree’s house, where I was kindly treated in my most exhausted and debilitated condition.  My staff was with me — captain Greer was at Hall’s several miles on our return march. In two nights and a whole day, I had one cup of coffee only, my men were but little better off. General, I done all, and suffered all that man can do and suffer, to crush the cruel and the cowardly savage, but I could not make them fight. I left them on the further bank of the distance Withlacoochy [Withlacoochee] bending their course toward the dismal Oakafonokee [Okefenokee] — where captain Night [Levi. J. Knight] of Lowndes county, informed me he believed all that had succeeded in escaping had concentrated, preparatory to their removal to Florida; he is a man of good sense and great energy, and I rely much upon his opinion; indeed, from all that I can learn, I am deliberately of opinion, that not one Indian has gone to Florida. The squaws I have with me informed the people at Thomasville, that the Indians would stop in Oakafonokee [Okefenokee] two moons, and then go to Florida in a body, and I learned in Lowndes, that the signs around the swamp are fresh and infallible. In anticipation of your order, I brought the Indians prisoners with me, on my return march, and met your express at camp. There are thirty-one women and children. Eighteen were taken at the battle of Brushy creek, in Lowndes county, where the men and officers who fought them, distinguished themselves. — These were Beall’s Indians. This battle has been reported in the newspapers, with the officers who commanded. Captain Snelly [Samuel E. Swilley] from Lowndes, with sixteen men, captured on the Allapahaw [Alapaha River] three prisoners and killed ten Indians. Captain Browning of a station in the upper part of Thomas county, captured ten women and children, out of the company of Indians pursued by captain Kendrick. The warriors of this party we could hear of, on our march to our left, pursuing the same general course with all the other Indians I have heard of. These together, composed the party of prisoners in my possession, which will be sent on towards Fort Mitchell this evening. On returning to my camp in Baker, I found that we had left no Indians behind us, and none have come in during our absence. I herewith transmit a certificate of the citizens of Baker county, that the swamps are now more clear of Indians, than they have been for five years. Under this state of affairs, I have left Camp Alford and marched to Lumpkin, preparatory to our being discharged. I am gratified, general, that my battalion has effected at the point of the bayonet, what heretofore no array of force, or parade of men could otherwise accomplish, the total expulsion of the Indians from Chickasahatchie swamp. Our time is nearly out; we now believe we have no more work to do. The opinion is now predicated upon good evidence, and we hope you will order us up immediately and discharge us. We have today, to bury one of the best citizens of Troup county, who died of congestive fever yesterday, Mr. Brittian Evans, a man of great merit at home as well as in camp. Before I close this my final report to you, permit me to make one suggestion. The frontier of Georgia will now be changed from Alabama to Florida. The war in Florida this winter will send the Indians back upon the people of Lowndes, Thomas, Irwin and the other southern counties. Our State ought to prepare for her defense in time, and prevent a useles sacrifice of the lives and property of our gallant brethren of that portion of our State. I forgot to mention that in driving the swamp, we cut off an aged Indian warrior from a body of his people, and in attempting to get round us to rejoin them, he passed a house in the neighborhood, and was there shot and killed by some boys, very much to the honor of these little warriors. I herewith transmit captain Kendrick’s report, of this operations on the trail you ordered him to pursue. Great Briton  In closing this communication, general, you will permit me to subscribe myself your friend and obedient servant,

JULIUS C. ALFORD,
Maj. Com. 3d Battalion mounted men.

Skirmish at Troublesome Ford

In the summer of 1836 squads of Creek Indians fleeing the prospect of forced relocation to western territories were moving from the Georgia-Alabama line through south Georgia to rendezvous in the Okefenokee Swamp. In their flight, some of these Indians were raiding the homes and livestock of the pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia.   Two actions against Indians which occurred in this immediate area included the Skirmish at William Parker’s Place and the Battle of Brushy Creek, which occurred July 12-15th, 1836  in what was then Lowndes County (now Berrien and Cook counties,) Georgia. Captains Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, and John Pike led the Lowndes County Militia companies that participated in these engagements.

About that same time , Captain Samuel E. Swilley of Lowndes County was in the field in the southeastern part of the county.  With a company of about sixteen militia men, Captain Swilley engaged a squad of Indians on the Alapaha River near Troublesome Ford (now known as Statenville, GA), killing ten Indians and taking three prisoners. 

Skirmish Near Statenville

The late Hon. James P. Prescott of Echols County, prompted by Mr. [Lasa] Adams‘ communication wrote some of his recollections in The Valdosta Times which were published in the issue of Dec. 1, 1895. We quote from his letter:

“About the time the Brushy Creek battle was fought, a squad of about twenty Indians and Negroes came through Lowndes and crossed the Grand Bay near where Fry’s bridge now stands on the Valdosta-Statenville road.

Soon after crossing the bay they stole two horses from Jesse Carter better know as “Uncle Tigue” Carter, who lived there on the same land now owned and occupied by George A. and Paul Carter of Echols.  This was done in the first part of the night.  Uncle Tigue made great haste to Capt. Samuel E. Swilley’s place, who lived at what is now known as the Capt. Bevill old home place.  Capt. Swilley started runners in all directions and by 12 o’clock next day he with eighteen men was at the Carter place.  They took the trail and about 8 pm overtook them in the bend of the Alapaha River one mile below where Statenville now is, then known as “Troublesome Ford,” making rafts to cross the river.  Soon the ro– were seen in a little scrub to the right.  “Capt. Swilley ordered the men to dismount and tie their horses.  Before the horses were made fast the sharpe rifle and war-whoop were heard all around in the bend of the river.  Capt. Swilley ordered the men to get behind the trees which was done in great haste.  As soon as the firing ceased Capt. Swilley with his men made a charge on the Indians who were in a halfmoon circle under the  banks of the river.  The two Negroes made their escape by swimming the river as soon as the battle commenced.

“Ten warriors were killed on the ground, and three women and four children were taken prisoner; one Indian made his escape down the river.  Levi Arnold was mortally wounded and Wiley Swilley slightly. The wounded men with the Indians captured and the stolen goods in the Indian’s possession (identified as being taken from Roanoke) were all brought to my father’s house.  The wounded remained with us until able to get home. The goods were sold and proceeds of sale divided among the company.

“The women and children were placed under a guard and were started for Thomasville.  One night the mother of the children made a cup of tea and asked permission to step out, which was granted.  As was the custom, the guard after waiting a few minutes, went out to see after them. Failing to find them he made a thorough search but the three women had made their escape in the dark.  Returning to the house they found the children all dead having been poisoned by the mother.

“Capt. Swilley was a brave and considerate man and managed the expedition with great skill and ability.”

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Col. Thomas E. Blackshear’s Report on the Battle of Brushy Creek

Col. Thomas Edward Blackshear

Col. Thomas Edward Blackshear made an official report to Governor Schley about the engagement between whites and Indians that took place on Brushy Creek on July 14, 1836 in what is now Cook County, GA  but at that time in Lowndes County.  Image source:  http://thomascountyhistory.org/antebellum-1825-1860/

Col. Thomas Edward Blackshear made an official report to Governor Schley about the engagement between whites and Indians that took place on Brushy Creek on July 14, 1836 in what is now Cook County, GA but at that time in Lowndes County. Image source: http://thomascountyhistory.org/antebellum-1825-1860/

Historian Folks Huxford said the Battle of Brushy Creek was, “An engagement between the whites and Indians took place on Brushy Creek in what is now Cook County  but at that time (1836) in Lowndes County.  This battleground is well known locally in Cook and Berrien counties and the whites consisted of the settlers who were serving in the militia, most of them living within 20 of 25 miles of where the battle took place.”

The Battle of Brushy Creek, GA in the summer of 1836 was part of the larger conflict between the Creek Indians and pioneer settlers of the Georgia frontier. Lasa Adams, who joined the Thomas county Militia in 1836 the week after the engagement at Brushy Creek, gave this synopsis of the escalation:

Mr. Adams gave a different origin of the War of 1836 than that generally understood, and wrote thus:  “The Government was to send the Indians west; between three and five hundred of them were dissatisfied with the treaty and withdrew and though they would go and unite with the Seminoles in Florida near Tampa Bay; so they started and crossed over the Chattahoochee River and burned up a town called Roanoke, Georgia. The whites formed companies and went in pursuit and had a fight with them in Chickasawhatchee Swamp near Albany.  The Indians were scattered and between 100 and 300 were in the gang in the Brushy Creek battle.  Several more small squads went through the country, from fifteen to twenty in the squad, each in a different direction.”

A more immediate and local prelude to the Brushy Creek battle was the Skirmish at William Parker’s place on the Alapaha River, where Levi J. Knight’s company of militia fought  with Indians on July 13, 1836.  Knight’s company then marched toward Brushy Creek to join with militia companies there under the leadership of Major Michael Young (Thomas County),  Capt. James A. Newman (Thomas County),  Capt. John Pike (Lowndes County), Capt. Hamilton Sharpe (Lowndes County), and Capt. Henry Crawford Tucker. By the time Knight’s Company arrived at Brushy Creek, the fighting there had concluded and the burial of the dead (Pennywell Folsom) was in progress.  Levi J. Knight’s official letter informing Governor Schley about the Skirmish at William Parker’s place was transcribed in a previous post; Levi J. Knight Reports Indian Fight of July 13, 1836.

The  official report of the Battle of Brushy Creek was written by Col. Thomas E. Blackshear in a letter (transcribed below) to Governor William Schley on July 19, 1836, just days after the engagement was fought.

Col. Thomas E. Blackshear's letter to Governor Schley reporting the Battle of Brushy Creek.

Col. Thomas E. Blackshear’s letter to Governor Schley reporting the Battle of Brushy Creek.

Milledgeville Federal Union
July 26, 1836

INDIANS IN THOMAS COUNTY

The following is a copy of a letter received by the Governor, on the 24th instant.

“His Excellency, Governor Schley,

“I have to inform your Excellency that on the night of the 11th inst., authentic information reached Thomasville that a party of Indians about fifteen in number were seen in the upperpart of Thomas County marching in the direction of Florida.  By seven o’clock A. M. the next day, a company of men, forty-six in number, under the command of captain James A. Newman, was dispatched in pursuit of them. On Thursday thereafter, this company was joined by a company of about forty men from Lowndes County under the command of captain [John] Pike, when the companies elected Michael Young to take command of the battalion.

“Scouting parties being dispatched, the Indians, fifteen in number, were discovered in the fork of the Big Warrior creek and Little River.  The Battalion immediately proceeded across the River and scoured a very thick, muddy swamp about two miles wide and three long without making any discovery.  A company of thirty-one men from Thomas County under the command of  Captain Luckee  and of thirty-one men, from Lowndes, commanded by Captain  [Hamilton W] Sharpe then joined the battalion. The next morning Captain Sharpe was sent up the east side of the river to ascertain whether or not the Indians had crossed the river and left the swamp.  Having found their trail he dispatched a messenger to the Battalion and proceeded to follow after the Indians.  After pursuing them about three miles he came up with them, about sixty warriors and their families, a battle ensued in which he lost one killed (Mr. P. Folsom) and one wounded when he was forced to retreat.

“The Battalion hastened to his assistance, and in about three miles came up with them again, posted in a very advantageous position on a pine ridge, their rear protected by a cypress pond and in their front a wide, open, boggy meadow.  A general engagement commenced about 9 o’clock A. M., and after a severe fight for about two hours, the Indians were completely routed, with a loss of twenty-two Indians and two negroes killed, that were seen, many wounded and eighteen of the women and children were taken prisoners.–

“The battle was fought over a distance of three miles, through several cypress ponds and bays and a very thick hurricane.  The loss on the part of the whites were two killed (Barton Ferrell of Thomas county and Edmund Shanks of Lowndes,) and nine wounded.  Several horses were killed, several ran off during the engagement and have not since been heard of.  The prisoners have been confined in the county jail under a guard for their safety.  Your Excellency will please direct what disposition to make of them.  The expenses of the detachment will be furnished you as soon as the Quartermaster can make out his account.”

Your’s Respectfully,

THOMAS E. BLACKSHEAR
Colonel commanding 69th R.G.M.

Lasa Adams, who joined the Thomas county Militia the week after the engagement at Brushy Creek listed among the wounded “Daniel McLean of Thomasville, William Drew of Lowndes (now Brooks), James Blackshear of Thomas County, Capt. Charles Screven Gaulden of Lowndes (now Brooks), and Robert N. Parrish of Lowndes (now Cook) County. Mr. Adams could not recall the others who were wounded, saying they were from Lowndes County and he did not know them personally.  Mr. Adams said the Indians who were captured were kept in jail at Thomasville about a month and then sent west.  He said there were eight or ten women and children.”

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Lasa Adams’ Account of the Battle of Brushy Creek and Actions on Warrior Creek

Lasa Adams (1811-1894)

Grave of Lasa Adams, Bethel Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Brooks County, GA

Grave of Lasa Adams, Bethel Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Brooks County, GA.  Image source: Robert Strickland

Lasa Adams  [sometimes referred to as Lacy Adams] was born May 13, 1811, in Georgia, a son of Dennis Adams. While yet a boy, his parents moved first to Alabama then to Gadsden County, FL, where he grew to manhood on a frontier still troubled by conflict with Native Americans who resisted being displaced from their ancestral lands.

According to William Harden’s History of Savannah and South Georgia, Lasa Adam’s  father established the family homestead in Gadsden County, FL:

 “Dennis Adams located near the present site of Wakena, Gadsden county, becoming one of the original settlers of that locality. His brother-in-law, a Mr. Carr, located on a tract of land two miles away. Indians were then very troublesome in that locality, and one night when Mr. Carr and his wife were away from home raided his place, and brutally massacred their two children. A slave made his escape to the Adams farm, and told Mr. Adams the tale, and Mr. Adams sent to Thomasville, Georgia, for aid. The following night the red skins paid a visit to the Adams cabin. The family were well prepared, and after several of the Indians had been killed the remainder retreated.”

It was around 1834 that Lasa Adams came to Thomas County, GA and on December 1, 1834 he married Sarah Wooten, daughter of Redden Wooten of the Tallokas district (territory now in Brooks). Another of Wooten’s daughters married Morgan G. Swain, who owned a hotel at Troupville, GA.

“Lasa Adams was young when the family came from Florida to Georgia to escape the malignant attacks of the Indians, although many red skins were then living in this vicinity, the dense forests being their happy hunting ground. The few daring white people of the county built a strong log fort to which the women and children were sent when ever trouble with the savages was brewing, and he immediately joined the company formed for protection against their raids, and took part, in 1836, in the battle of Brushy creek, when the Indians made their last stand in Georgia.”

Lasa Adams left this area in the 1850s to make his home in Florida, but not long before his death June 17, 1894, he returned to Brooks County after an absence of forty years.  On May 5, 1893 Lasa Adams,  responded to a questionnaire by William T. Gaulden about the Battle of Brushy Creek.  Although he joined the militia the week after the battle was fought, he was intimately familiar with the participants and subsequent engagements against the Indians.

Mr. Adams recalled that the Indians were Cherokees who were fleeing “to the Seminoles in Florida, near Tampa Bay” to escape the forced relocation to western territories.  Adams questioned the purported force of Indians ranging through the district that July of 1836 “estimated to be 300, but I have my doubts. I think 150 would be a fair count. About 300 men were after Indians but only about one hundred were in the battle,” which took place “about the 12th or 13th of July, about 10 or 11 o’clock a.m.” and lasted about two hours.

The engagement at Brushy Creek was fought under the leadership of Major Michael Young (Thomas County),  Capt. James A. Newman (Thomas County),  Capt. John Pike (Lowndes County), Capt. Hamilton Sharpe (Lowndes County), and Capt. Henry Crawford Tucker.  (Captain Levi J. Knight  (Lowndes County) and his company of arrived just after the conclusion of the battle, coming straight from a skirmish with a squad of Indians at William Parkers place in eastern Lowndes County.)

Adams gives an accounting of those killed at Brushy Creek, listing the dead as Pennywell Folsom and Edward Shanks, of Lowndes County, and a man from Thomas County, Gabe Ferrill, who is variously identified in other accounts as Bartow Ferrell or Burton Ferrell. (A Berton Ferrel also appears in the 1830 census of Thomas County). Among the wounded were Captain Charles Screven Gaulden, Lowndes County;  Daniel McClane, Thomasville, GA; William Drew, Lowndes county; James Blackshear, Thomas county; Robert Parrish, Lowndes County. (To this list of wounded Norman Campbell, who also completed a questionnaire, added Agnes McCauley,  Malcolm McLane, Monroe,  and Edward M. Henderson.  Edward Marion Henderson, who was then Sheriff of Lowndes County, GA died on July 20 as a result of his injuries.)

The story of how Pennywell Folsom fell at Brushy Creek was posted previously.  According to Ferrell family research, a brief note on the death of Burton Ferrell appeared in the Milledgeville Southern Recorder a few days after the incident.

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
Tuesday August 2, 1836

KILLED…. On Friday the 15th ultimo in the county of Lowndes, BURTON FERRELL of the county of Thomas, was killed in battle with a band of Creek Indians. It is not the intention of the writer to eulogize the deceased, but this much it is considered necessary to say, that Mr. Ferrell was brave almost to a fault; for he refused to take shelter which the trees might have afforded him in the fight, and rushed fearlessly in the front of the company, and was shot through the body at the first fire of the enemy.

Adams noted that among the Indians, those killed  at Brushy Creek were “about 15 or twenty, including women and children” and captured were “eight to ten women and children…no men taken.”  These prisoners were taken to Thomasville, GA where they were held about a month before being sent west.

Following the Battle of Brushy Creek,  Lasa Adams was drafted to serve in a Thomas County company under Captain Grantham in further actions against the Indians on Warrior Creek.  The local militia was joined on August 12, 1836 by forces of General Julius C. Alford, who had pursued the Indians from the Alabama border above Chickasawhatchee Swamp north of Albany, GA. General Alford assumed command of the combined forces which by now included Capt. Grantham’s company as well as the companies of Capt. Pike, Capt. Newman, Capt. Burnett, and Captain Levi J. Knight. Following the advice of Captain Knight, their goal was to prevent the Indians from reaching Grand Bay, near present day Ray City, GA, and thus cut off their rendezvous with the force of Indians gathering in the Okefenokee Swamp.

In August of 1836 the Georgia newspapers were full of celebratory news of victory over the Indians in engagements all across the state. From the perspective of half a century of reflection on the conflict, Adams offered “My opinion is the whites were in the wrong.”

Lasa Adam’s  responses to the questionnaire on Indian Times, along with his sketch (provided below) of his service in Captain Benjamin Grantham’s company of Thomas County militia during the 1836 Indian War, was posthumously published in the Valdosta Times, November 16, 1895.  Adams describes how  his company came to the aid of a  Company of men, who were the advance force of General Alford.  Adams variously refers to the captain of this company as  Captain Hawthorne, Hatthorn or Haththorn.  Undoubtedly, he is actually referring to Captain Michael Hentz, and his Company of Baker County Militia  who was operating under the orders of General at the time and place described.

“Government let out Indian Claims at Cherokee, Georgia, and were to send them out west. Between 3 and 5 hundred were dissatisfied with the treaty made with the chief – and they withdrew and thought they would go and unite with the Seminoles in Florida near Tampa Bay. So they started and crossed over the Chattahoochee River and burned up a town called Roanoak, Georgia. The whites formed companies and went in pursuit of them, and had a fight in Chickasawhatchee Swamp above Albany. Indians were scattered and between 100 and 300 were in the gang that was in the Brushy creek battle. Several more small squads went through the country from 15 to 20 in squads, in different directions.

At Brushy Creek, Capt. Scriven Gaulden had a company from Lowndes county, Col. Mike Young from Thomas county, Capt. Hamilton Sharp of Lowndes county, Georgia.

They all united, and Capt. Scriven Gaulden led the front guards to battle and made the attack on Indians at Brushy creek and then the fight commenced. Captain Scriven Gaulden was hit by three balls from Indian guns only one took effect  right cheek “I think,” one passed through his hat, one hit his pistol in pants pocket (pistol saved his life.) Several more were slightly wounded but don’t remember the names of none, as they were from Lowndes county and strangers to me. All Indians not killed and captured kept their course for Tampa, Fla.

In about a week or so after the Brushy creek battle, I was drafted together with 30 or 40 more men, and Capt. Grantham was elected our captain. We were ordered up on the Warrior creek, as squads of Indians were continually passing down that creek. One day while on a scout we heard guns firing. Capt. Grantham ordered a force march and we went as quick as he could in order, and when we got nearly to the place Capt. Hawthorne had followed a squad of Indians from above Albany and had attacked them, and the Indians had whipped him out and he was retreating and the Indians had captured six horses from his men.

Then Capt. Grantham, with his men and a few of Capt. Hatthorn’s pursued the Indians and run them in the Little River swamp near James Rountree’s place in Lowndes county (now Cook), and we had to stop, as night overtook us. We camped over the other side of the river, expecting the Indians to come through next morning. That night Buckston, Ison Vaun and myself were detailed to go to Capt. Hatthorn and tell him to come down and draw supplies at Lawrence Folsom’s place. We returned from Capt. Haththorn’s to our camp, and we received news that Indians had gone across the river that night. The Indians had used a little stratagem to fool us. They made a display that night with torch lights as if they were going across the river, so next morning we had to go back to Capt. Haththorn to carry the news that Indians had crossed the river, and about daylight as we were on our way to carry the news we discovered Indians jumping over the road to keep from making any sign, and they were going down the river. So we returned to our camp and reported what we had seen and Capt. Grantham ordered a force march to a ferry three miles below on the river, expecting to head them off, but they had beat us to the ferry and kept down the river swamp. We struck their trail and followed them down the swamp near Maj. Simmon’s plantation and pushed them so close that the Indians took into the swamp and we recaptured the six horses taken from Capt. Haththorn’s men. That night General Aulford [Julius C. Alford] came to us with 30 or 40 men and took command of the forces. A good many volunteered and joined us. Gen. Aulford ordered all the men to string across the river 20 yards apart and drive up, as we had got ahead of the Indians. We had gone about one mile up the river when the Indians used another trick to draw us off. The Indians were seen in Jones’ peach orchard on one side of the rive and in John Blacksher’s peach orchard on the other side. They were fired at by scouts at long range in John Blackshear’s orchard. This shooting frustrated our drive up the river, and we made for Blackshear’s.  A little Indian girl about eight or ten years of age went next day to the house of James Williams and Mrs. Williams was at the wash tub washing. The little girl went and put her hands in the tub before Mrs. Williams saw her, and like to have frightened Mrs. Williams to death. Mrs. Williams kept the little girl and raised her and sent her to school and she married a man by the name of Artley. This was another one of their tricks, sending the child in to make us believe they were in that neighborhood.

General Aulford went over the river after the squad in Jones’ peach orchard, and I never saw him in about two weeks. We were ordered back to the Warriors and General Aulford followed Indians down in Florida and the Indians went into the Okeefenokee Swamp and he gave them up. 

I think that was the last squad that passed through. If any more passed, the squads were so small they made no signs and did not bother anyone.

Lasa Adams.”

Additional Notes about Lasa Adams:

“Lasa Adams bought land in what is now the Tallokas district, Brooks county, and engaged in farming. He married Sarah Wooten on December 1, 1834 in Thomas County, GA. There was one son born to that marriage, Dennis R. W. Adams, born 1839.

“There being no railways in the state all transportation was by teams, and after his land became productive he used to take his cotton to Newport, Florida, going in company with several of his neighbors, some of whom perhaps lived miles away from him, each man taking provisions with him, and camping and cooking by the wayside.”

After the death of his first wife, Mr. Adams married Miss Orpha Lee Holloway, born 1825, youngest daughter of William and Orpha Holloway who were among of the very first settlers of what is now Brooks county.  This marriage took place April 17, 1842. There were four children by the second wife:

  1. Rhoda Ann Adams, born 1843, married William Hurst of Brooks County, GA.
  2. Jane Irene Adams, born 1845, married J. M. Yates of Brooks County, GA.
  3. James C. Adams, born 1850, married Mary Holman of Jefferson County, FL.
  4. Cason F. Adams,  born 1852, married Texas Smith, daughter of J. R. M. Smith.

Lasa Adams was elected Sheriff of Thomas County in 1842 but resigned a few months after assuming office.

Lasa Adams Sheriff's Sale, 1842

Lasa Adams Sheriff’s Sale, 1842. [Note: This legal advertisement appeared in the Milledgeville Southern Recorder, Mar. 29, 1842 – the date printed in the ad is typo.

During his short term as Sheriff of Thomas County, one task Lasa Adams dealt with was the sale of two town lots in Troupville, and other goods, to satisfy a debt owed by Joseph S. Burnett and Hiram Hall to Bazzel Kornegay, of Thomas County

In 1852, Lasa Adams returned to Florida:

“In 1852, Lasa Adams sold his Brooks county land, moved to Florida, locating in Madison county, where he purchased a squatter’s claim to a tract of government land situated about sixteen miles northeast of Monticello, and about the same distance northwest of Madison. A few acres had been cleared, and a log cabin had been erected. He continued the improvements, and there carried on general farming for some time. In 1864 he enlisted in the Florida Reserves, and continued in the Confederate service until the close of the war, when he again assumed charge of his farm. Selling out in 1870, he was for four years a resident of Jefferson county, Florida. Coming from there to Thomas county, Georgia, he bought land three miles south of Boston, and was there employed in tilling the soil for many years. Shortly before his death, which occurred in  1894, he returned to Brooks county, Georgia, and there spent his last days, passing away at the venerable age of eighty-three years.”

Lasa Adams was buried at Bethel Primitive Baptist Church cemetery. His second wife (Orpha Lee Holloway) died September 28, 1887, and is also buried at Bethel.

Related Posts:

Lasa Adams account of the Battle of Brushy Creek, Lowndes County, GA

Lasa Adams account of the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek, Lowndes County, GA

John Gaskins, Pioneer of Old Berrien

John Gaskins (1802 – 1865)

Grave marker of John Gaskins (1802-1865), Riverside Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave marker of John Gaskins (1802-1865), Riverside Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

 John Gaskins was one of the early pioneers of Berrien County, settling along with his father, Fisher Gaskins,  and brothers near present day Bannockburn, GA.  They made their homes on the west side of the Alapaha River about 16 miles distant from today’s Ray City, GA location, settling there about the same time the Knights and Clements were homesteading in the area around Beaverdam Creek.

John Gaskins was born June 29, 1802 in Warren County, GA. He was the eldest child of Fisher Gaskins and Rhoda Rowe, and a grandson of Thomas Gaskins, Revolutionary Soldier.  When John was around four or five years old, his parents  and grandparents  moved  the family back to Beaufort District, South Carolina, from whence they had originated.  The family appears there in Beaufort District in the Census of 1810. By the time of the 1810 enumeration, John Gaskins’ parents had given him four siblings – two brothers and two sisters.

But immediately following the birth of her fifth child, John’s mother died.  He was eight years old at the time.  His widowed father packed up the five young children and moved the family back to Warren County, GA.  There, on January 17, 1811 his father married Mary Lacy. Her father, Archibald Lacy, was also a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and her brother was the Reverend John B. Lacy, who would later become a prominent  Primitive Baptist Minister.  Around this time John’s father was expanding his livestock business and began looking for good grazing land for his growing herds of cattle.

By 1812, John Gaskins’ father moved the family to Telfair County, GA where he acquired good grazing land for his cattle. His father and his uncle, David Gaskins, were very successful in the cattle business and soon had large herds, not only in Telfair County where they were enumerated in 1820, but also in Walton and other surrounding counties where good natural pasturage could be had.

Around 1821, the Gaskins again moved their families and cattle herds to the south, crossing the Ocmulgee River at Mobley’s Bluff and pushing into the new frontier of Appling County,GA.  John, now a young man of 17 or 18 years old, made the move with his family.  His uncle, David Gaskins, halted in an area of Appling County known as “The Roundabout”, situated in present day Atkinson County, where he found good range land for his cattle. John’s father took his herd across the Alapaha River into then Irwin County at a location that for many years was known as the John Ford.

The Fisher Gaskins clan, John’s father and his brothers, settled west of the Alapaha River a little south of present day Bannockburn, GA near the site of Riverside Church. On April 14, 1825  John Gaskins married Mary Pollie Barrow in Irwin County, GA.      This was about 15 miles north of the area where the Knights and Clements were settling their families above Grand Bay, near present day Ray City, GA.  John and Mary Gaskins established their homestead just to the north of his father’s place. By the end of 1825, the Georgia Legislature divided Irwin County and from the southern portion formed the new county of Lowndes.

On August 11, 1826 Mary Gaskins delivered to John his first son, Gideon Gaskins. A second son arrived on February 16, 1828, whom they named Fisher Jackson Gaskins; Fisher – after his paternal grandfather, and Jackson perhaps after Andrew Jackson, the Hero of New Orleans who would be elected President that year.

John Gaskins appeared as a head of household in Lowndes County in the Census of 1830, as did his father, Fisher Gaskins.  About 1829 or 1830, John’s father moved his cattle across the county and settled on Lot 91 of the 9th Land District, which was subsequently known as the Chambliss place, and later became the home of George D. Griffin.

About 1831 a contagious disease struck Fisher Gaskins’ herd, killing off several hundred head of cattle and inciting the elder Gaskins to seek new pastures yet again. With the help of hired hands, he drove his remaining cattle into North Florida to settle in the area of Alachua County, FL.   John and Mary stayed behind in Lowndes County (now Berrien), as well as John’s brothers,  William and Harmon.

“When he moved to Florida, he [Fisher Gaskins] left much of his herds behind in Georgia to be looked after by his sons, John, William, and Harmon who by that time were grown.  These herds multiplied and in turn, other herds were formed and placed about at various points in what is now Clinch, Echols and Lowndes counties and over in Florida, under the management of herdsmen, who for their services were paid at the end of the year a percentage of the proceeds of the cattle sold that year.  The beef cattle were driven to Savannah and other distant places each year and sold. This arrangement with the herds and herdsmen continued with the elder Gaskins making periodic visits of inspection until his death, after which the three sons in Georgia received the Georgia herds in a division of the estate.”

Cattlemen like John Gaskins sold their Berrien County livestock at points like Savannah, GA or  Centerville on the St. Mary’s River, or Jacksonville, Florida.

John Gaskins fought in the Indian War 1836-1838, serving in Levi J. Knight’s Militia Company.   Georgia historian Folks Huxford wrote,  “His home was visited  by the savages on one occasion while the family was absent, and a good deal of vandalism and theft was committed.”   John Gaskins and his brother William were among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

At age 38, John Gaskins and family were enumerated in the Census of 1840, still living in the northeast area of old Lowndes county now known as Berrien County. His brother, William, was living next door, and nearby were the homesteads of David Clements and William Clements, and other early settlers.

In 1850 the Gaskins remained in  Lowndes County.  Enumerated nearby the Gaskins home place were the residences of General Levi J. Knight, William Patten, Hardeman Sirmans, David Clements, Moses C. Lee, and other early settlers. John Gaskins was a farmer, with $600 in real estate.

Around 1855 the Gaskins were involved in some sort of public disturbance in Lowndes county.  Hardeman Sirmons, Benjamin S. Garrett, Drewry Garrett, Will Garrett, John Gaskins, William Gaskins, Gideon Gaskins, and Lemuel Gaskins were all brought before the Lowndes Superior Court for their involvement in a riot.  In 1856, however, the Gaskins and their neighbors were cut out of Lowndes county and placed in the new county of Berrien. The defendants were able to have their case  transferred to Berrien County in June of 1856, and apparently escaped serious consequences.

In the Census of 1860 John Gaskins appeared on the enumeration sheets listed next to Thomas M. Ray, who would begin construction of Ray’s Millpond just a few years later.

From 1858 to 1861, John Gaskins served as a Justice of the Peace in Berrien County.

During the Civil War five of his sons joined Georgia Volunteer Infantry regiments: Fisher J. Gaskins, William Gaskins, Lemuel Gaskins, Joseph Gaskins, and Harris Gaskins, .

Children of John Gaskins and Mary Pollie Barrow:

  1. Gideon Gaskins, born 1826, Berrien County, GA; married Sarah Knight (July 17, 1831 – February 03, 1902); buried Riverside Baptist Church, Berrien County, GA.
  2. Fisher J. Gaskins, Sr., born February 16, 1828, Berrien County, GA; married Elizabeth Sirmans, daughter of Abner Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment; died November 14, 1908, Berrien County, GA; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church.
  3. John Gaskins, Jr., born January 16, 1830, Berrien County, GA; married Catherine Calder; died May 6, 1886.
  4. Emily Gaskins, born 1832, Berrien County, GA; married Joseph Newbern.
  5. William Gaskins, born March 5, 1833; married Elizabeth Clements, daughter of David G. Clements; served in Company I, 54th GA Regiment; died August 27, 1910; buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.
  6. Lemuel Elam Gaskins, born 1836, Berrien County, GA; married Sarah Ann Sirmans, daughter of Abner Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment;  died October 26, 1862, Richmond, VA; buried Richmond VA, memorial marker at Riverside Baptist Church.
  7. Joseph Gaskins, born April 28, 1840, Berrien County, GA; married Harriet Sirmans, daughter of James Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment; died February 4, 1911; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church.
  8. Harmon Gaskins, born 1842, Berrien County, GA; died young.
  9. Harrison  “Harris” Gaskins, born April 5, 1842, Berrien County, GA.; married Roxanna “Roxie” Sirmans, daughter of James Sirmans, on April 17, 1862; served in Company K, 29th GA Regiment; died January 7, 1926; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church
  10. Bryant Gaskins, born 1846, Berrien County, GA

Clinch County News
April 23, 1937

John Gaskins – 1802-1865

Oldest son of Fisher Gaskins by his first wife. Came to Berrien while a youth, grew to manhood here. His wife was a daughter of Joseph Barrow… Immediately after their marriage John Gaskins and his wife settled on the Alapaha River a short distance north of the old home of his father and near where Bannockburn now is, and there they spent their entire married life together.   The death of John Gaskins occurred at this home July 18, 1865; and 23 years later, January 6, 1888 his widow joined her husband in the spirit-land, at the age of 83.  Both are buried at Riverside Cemetery and their graves are substantially marked. They were the parents of a large family of sons and daughters and their living descendants in this county to-day are very numerous.

John Gaskins was a man who spent his life at home and gave his time and attention to his avocation.  The farm was made self-sustaining; work was the rule and grim want never came to stare the inmates of this farm-home in the face.  Food for family and stock was well and abundantly supplied and the excellence of the range went a long way in helping him to provide meat for family and lay up money from the sales of beef-cattle.  Deer and turkeys were plentiful and could be taken at any time. Fish abounded in the river and with all of these good things around life on the frontier was not so bad after all.  Hogs grew almost wild in the hammocks and only required a few weeks’ finishing off with corn or field crops to be ready for slaughter. Cattle were let to go at large all the time except they were penned regularly for about six weeks during the months of April and May so that they may be marked and branded and kept under control; and the annual sale of these beef-cattle brought the gold in their homes against the rainy-day and old age.

John Gaskins took part in driving the last of the wandering bands of Indians from Georgia soil, and one of the last engagements with the redskins fought on Berrien county soil took place near the home of this old pioneer.  His home suffered from Indian predations to the extent that the feather beds were taken out, the ticks ripped open, the feathers emptied and scattered and the ticks carried away with some other articles of the household.  Some of these articles were recovered, among which was a beautiful pitcher which had been treasured as an heirloom for many years.  The place where the pitcher was recovered after it had been cast aside by the Indians in their flight across the Alapaha River, is known to this day among the local inhabitants as “Pitcher Slough.”

Following the death of John Gaskins in 1865 his sons Fisher J. and John, Jr. served as the administrators of his estate.

Milledgeville Federal Union
August 21, 1866 — page 4

Georgia, Berrien County.
Two months after date application will be made to the Court of Ordinary of said county for leave to sell the lands belonging to the estate of John Gaskins, Sen., deceased, for the benefit of the heirs and creditors of said deceased.
F. J. Gaskins,
John Gaskins, Jr.   Adm’r’s.
July 2d, 1866.        WEC       50 9c

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