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.

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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

In the January 8, 1859, issue of the Georgia Watchman was an advertisement of General Thomas E. Blackshear offering everything on his plantation in the Duncanville District for sale which could not conveniently be moved to his plantation in Texas.  Duncanville, 37 miles north of Tallahassee, FL, was the southern terminus of the Coffee Road in Georgia.  Two decades earlier, then Col. Thomas Edward Blackshear had commanded the 69th Georgia Militia Regiment in the Indian Wars. Col. Blackshear filed the final report on the Battle of Brushy Creek, fought in Lowndes County, GA in the summer of 1836.

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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