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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Standard of Union, August 22.

Lowndes Co., Ga. July 13, 1836.

To his Excellency William Schley:

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

LEVI J. KNIGHT.

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

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

Related Posts:

Norman Campbell Collected Taxes, Fought Indians

Norman Campbell, Wiregrass Pioneer, participated in the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek, near present day Adel, GA.

Norman Campbell, Wiregrass Pioneer, participated in the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek, near present day Adel, GA.

Norman Campbell was a Wiregrass Pioneer who came to south Georgia with his family in 1829.  His parents,  Alexander Campbell and Flora Morrison Campbell, had come to America from the Isle of Skye, Scotland in 1788, the same year the U. S. Constitution went into effect.

Norman Campbell was an early tax collector of Lowndes County, back when it included the present day counties of Berrien, Clinch, Lanier, Echols, Cook, and Brooks.  Three times a year he made a circuit around the county, an eleven days ride, to collect the taxes.

At age 26, Campbell was among the troops who fought in the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek, described as one of the last real Indian fight in the immediate vicinity. Some 65 years later,  the Atlanta Constitution recounted Campbell’s role in the episode:

He also participated in the Indian fight here in July, 1836, when the Creek Indians passed through here in their attempt to reach the Seminoles in Florida. He tells of his encounter with were an Indian in that fight. It was a running skirmish through the woods and he became detached from his party. Suddenly his horse shied and he discovered an Indian behind a tree. The Indian attempted to shoot him, but the gun only snapped. Dismounting, he approached the Indian, slowly raising his gun to his shoulder. He said if the Indian had begged for his life he intended to spare him, but the man stood quite still, clinched [sic] his teeth and looked him in the eyes with no sign of surrender, so he shot him.

Norman Campbell came to the area about 1829 and first made his home in the area of Troupville, GA.  He owned all of land lots #221 and #240,  each consisting of 490 acres. That land was sold at auction to satisfy a debt in 1848:

Albany Patriot
July 15, 1848 pg 4

Lowndes Sheriff’s Sale.

On the first Tuesday in August next. Will be sold before the Court House door in the town of Troupville, Lowndes county, between the usual hours of sale, the following property to wit:
Also, 980 acres of land drawn by lots Nos. two hundred and twenty-one, (221,) two hundred and forty, (240,) all in the twelfth district, of originally Irwin now Lowndes county, levied on as the property of Norman Campbell to satisfy a fi fa from Lowndes Inferior Court, the Central Bank of Georgia vs Mary Graham maker, Dugald B. Graham, Norman Campbell and Moses Smith, adm’r., on the estatd [sic] of Ebenezer J. Perkins, Endorser.

A brief 1896 account of the  early pioneers of Morven, GA  remarked upon Norman Campbell’s early days in the county:

The Atlanta Constitution
May 25, 1896 Pg 3

GEORGIA  PIONEERS: Morven Has a Number of Them in Her Borders

Morven, Ga., May 24. –(Special.)– There are some very old people in this district, among them being Mr. Norman Campbell, who came to this county in 1829. He was then a young man. Mr. Campbell is a full-blooded Scotchman. In 1846 he ran a wagon from Morven, then Sharp’s store to Magnolia, what was then a seaport town near the mouth of St. Marks river on the coast below Tallahassee, Fla.  He hauled cotton down there and brought salt back.  Cotton brought 3 to 4 cents per pound and salt brought in this county from $3 to $7 a sack, yet the people made some money and were contented.  In this section are several other old men. Mr. George Mitchell is about eighty-six and so is John Delk.  Mr. Mitchell came from Robeson county, North Carolina, and Mr. Delk from Liberty county, Georgia.  Messrs. Campbell, Mitchell and Delk are the three oldest men in that section – all over eighty-five years old. Not very far behind these in age are Phillip Hiers, Rev. John Hendry and Richard Scruggs.  Mr. George Mitchell gave Morven its name.

The 1902 article from the Atlanta Constitution gave a more complete account of Campbell’s life:

The Atlanta Constitution
October 13, 1902  Pg 3

PATRIARCH OF BROOKS MARRIED AT 63, NOW 92

Quitman, Ga., October 12. –(Special Correspondence.)– There are perhaps few more interesting characters in Brooks county than Norman Campbell.  As the name indicates, he is of Scotch descent.  His father and mother came to North America from the Isle of Skye in 1788, when they were children.  He remembers that his grandmother  could not speak a word of English and his parents invariably spoke Scotch with each other and their children spoke Scotch, Mr. Campbell not learning English until he was 8 years old.  The Campbells came here in pioneer days from Telfair county.  Mr. Campbell, who was born in 1910, is now 92 years old and has spent most of his life here and knows much of the early history of the country, and has played a part in all of it. He has now come down to a serene old age, as his picture shows.
    These latter years he spends all of his time, winter and summer, when the weather is dry, under a giant chinaberry tree in front of his house.
    It was here your correspondent found him one sunny afternoon recently in the very attitude of the picture.  Mr. Campbell has lived in this house seventy-two years.
    He was the only son of the family and he had seven sisters.  He did not marry, and after his parents’ death took care of his sisters until they married and left him.  Two of them died and he took their children and reared them.  In time these nieces and nephews also grew up and left him, and at the age of 63 he found himself quite alone, so he decided to marry.
    After three visits to Miss Wilkes, a young woman of 30 years, who lived in Berrien county, he asked her to marry him, and she did.  When they got home they found a long table erected in front of the house with a wedding dinner on it, and everybody in the neighborhood present to welcome them.  The couple had three children, and now there are three little grandchildren, all of them remarkably beautiful babies.
    Naturally Mr. Campbell has a store of reminiscences.  He was the first tax collector of the county when it included all of the present Brooks, Berrien , Lowndes, Clinch and Echols counties.  This was in 1836, and the taxes amounted to $332.  He also participated in the Indian fight here in July, 1836, when the Creek Indians passed through here in their attempt to join the Seminoles in Florida.  He tells of an encounter with an Indian in that fight. It was a running skirmish through the woods and he became detached from his party. Suddenly his horse shied and he discovered an Indian behind a tree. The Indian attempted to shoot him, but the gun only snapped. Dismounting, he approached the Indian, slowly raising his gun to his shoulder. He said if the Indian had begged for his life he intended to spare him, but the man stood quite still, clinched his teeth and looked him in the eyes with no sign of surrender, so he shot him.  At that time this country, now so populous and cultivated, was virgin forests ans was overrun with bears and deer, ans well as Indians.  In his hardy, outdoor life, Mr. Campbell contracted rheumatism when a very young man, and could not stand erect for several years.  He heard of a doctor who gave steam baths for rheumatism, but being unable to go to him, he treated himself.  He dug a pit and burned oak and hickory wood to coals –  as for a barbecue.  Over the pit he laid stout green poles and covered them with every herb he had ever heard of as possessing curative properties.  Stripped of clothing, he wrapped himself in a heavy blanket and laid down on this, which, of course, induced heavy perspiration.  After six or seven treatments he was practically cured, and has never been so badly afflicted with it since.
  Long before the war Mount Zion campground, near the Campbell home, was known throughout south Georgia as a rallying place for the religious, and it was in 1827 that the Campbells assisted in organizing the first camp meeting held there.  The old patriarch recalled the past very vividly as he talked.  He is still in good health and attributes it to his continued outdoor life, even when activity is forbidden him.  The thing most impressive about him is his entire serenity, the natural outcome of a well-spent and well-rounded life.

Norman Campbell died on Monday, April 9, 1906. He was buried at the Zion Camp Ground, near Morven, GA.  His obituary ran in the Tuesday April 10 edition of the Valdosta Times, repeated in the Saturday edition:

The Valdosta Times
April 14, 1906 Pg 3

A PIONEER CITIZEN DEAD.

Uncle Norman Campbell Died Yesterday Near Morven.

(From Tuesday’s Daily.)
     News has been received here of the death of Mr. Norman Campbell at his home near Morven yesterday after an illness of several weeks. Mr. Campbell was the oldest man in the county, being 96 years old and was prominent in the history of the county from the days of the earliest settlers. He was of Scotch descent and was a man of wonderfully fine character.  No man ever lived in the county who was more generally beloved and esteemed and in his late years he has been surrounded by the tender care and veneration of friends and family. He retained his strength and faculties to a remarkable degree almost to the end of his long life.
     Mr. Campbell is survived by three children, Mrs. Robert Ousley, Alex Campbell and Norman Campbell Jr, all of Morven.
The funeral and internment will take place today at three o’clock at the old Camp ground cemetery near Morven. Mr. Campbell was a devoted member of the Methodist church and a prominent Mason. – Quitman Free Press.