Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Scott's Massacre of 1817 - Part Three

This little scene sketch shows Creek and Seminole warriors preparing to ambush Lt. Scott's boat as it nears the east bank of the Apalachicola River at today's Chattahoochee Landing.
The artwork was used as an illustration in a century old book on U.S. history.
Here is more of the story of the massacre from my new book, The Early History of Gadsden County:
By the afternoon of December 30, 1817, Scott’s boat was nearing the present-day site of Chattahoochee. As the boat came around the sharp bend between today’s highway and railroad bridges, the strong current of the Apalachicola forced the soldiers to navigate close to the Gadsden County shore. A force of several hundred Creek, Seminole and African American warriors was concealed there, arrayed along the riverbank in the area just below Chattahoochee Landing. The boat was extremely vulnerable as Scott and his able-bodied men worked to make headway around the bend and the leader of the war party, the Red Stick chief Homathlemico, chose this moment to make his attack.

As General Gaines indicated in his report to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, the assault was sudden and overwhelming:

…It is now my painful duty to report an affair of a more serious and decisive nature than has heretofore occurred, and which leaves no doubt of the necessity of an immediate application of force and active measures on our part. A large party of Seminole Indians, on the 30th ultimo, formed in ambuscade, on the Appalachicola river, a mile below the junction of the Flint and Chattahoochee, attacked one of our boats, ascending the river near the shore, and killed, wounded, and took, the greater part of the detachment, consisting of forty men, commanded by Lieutenant R.W. Scott of the 7th Infantry. There were also on board, killed or taken, seven women, the wives of soldiers. Six men of the detachment only escaped, four of whom were wounded.

The first volley swept the boat and “Lieutenant Scott and his most valuable men fell.” The warriors then splashed into the river and stormed the boat, climbing over the sides and attacking the survivors with knives and hatchets. Only six of the 40 soldiers in the boat escaped. According to their report, the attackers were not seen until they actually opened fire. When the warriors stormed the boat, the survivors – four of whom were already wounded – leaped overboard and swam from the scene.

Of the 51 men, women and children in the boat, 44 died in the attack. The victims included 34 soldiers from the 4th and 7th U.S. Infantries, six women and four children. Officers at Fort Scott reported in private letters that the children were killed by being picked up by their feet and swung against the sides of the boat until their brains were dashed out. The scalps of the dead, both male and female, were later found hanging in a Seminole village near present-day Tallahassee.
Of the seven survivors, six were the soldiers that escaped to Fort Scott. The seventh was a woman named Mrs. Elizabeth Stewart. According to some sources, her husband, a sergeant, was killed in the attack. Other sources indicate he survived. She was taken prisoner by the warriors. She eventually wound up with the Red Stick band of Peter McQueen and was freed the following spring by Creek warriors fighting on the side of the United States. She moved to Fort Gaines after the war where she married John Dill, an officer in the Georgia militia. They lived out the rest of their lives in the town and tradition holds that her home, now a bed and breakfast inn in Fort Gaines, was built using paper money she picked up from the ground after it was thrown away by her captors. Her grave can be seen in the community’s old pioneer cemetery.
(End of Excerpt)
If you are interested in obtaining a copy of The Early History of Gadsden County, it can be ordered online by clicking here. Copies are also available through the West Gadsden Historical Society. Visit their website at for contact information.

No comments: