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:
September 13, 1836
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.