Friday, November 14, 2008

The Story of Elizabeth Stewart Dill

This beautiful old home in Fort Gaines, Georgia, was built during the 1820s by John and Elizabeth Stewart Dill.
Mrs. Dill was the sole civilian survivor of the bloodiest battle in Gadsden County history.
On November 30, 1817, she was aboard a U.S. Army flatboat making its way up the Apalachicola River under the command of 1st Lieutenant Richard W. Scott of the 7th U.S. Infantry. As the boat rounded the river bend at present-day Chattahoochee, it was attacked by hundreds of Creek and Seminole warriors.
Lieutenant Scott and most of his 20 able-bodied soldiers were killed in the first volley. The warriors then waded out into the river and stormed the boat, overwhelming the survivors with hatchets, knives and war clubs. By the time the smoke had cleared, 34 men, 6 women and 4 children were dead.
Only six soldiers survived by leaping overboard and swimming underwater to the Jackson County shore. Four of them were seriously wounded. The only other survivor was Elizabeth Stewart, the 26-year-old wife of a soldier who was on her way to Fort Scott (on the Flint River arm of today's Lake Seminole to join her husband). Taken captive by the warriors, she was carried away to a series of Native American villages and was kept in slavery for several months.
In April of 1818, Mrs. Stewart was freed by Andrew Jackson's army at the Battle of Econfina Natural Bridge, Florida. Reports from the time indicate that she was rescued by Timpoochee Barnard, a prominent Creek warrior who had sided with the United States in the First Seminole War.
There is some confusion over the fate of her husband. According to some writers, he was a sergeant killed during Scott's Massacre. The Native American leader General William McIntosh said, however, that her husband and father were present with Jackson's army at the Battle of Econfina Natural Bridge and that she was returned to their care. Available death records for the U.S. Army also do not show that a Sergeant Stewart was killed during the massacre.
Whatever the truth, he died at some point prior to the early 1820s. A widow, she settled in Fort Gaines, Georgia, where she married a local merchant named John Dill. They became one of the wealthiest couples in the region and two of their homes still stand in the community.
If you would like to learn more about Mrs. Dill's remarkable story, please visit The story of the massacre is one of the chapters in the new book, The Early History of Gadsden County. Please click here for more information on ordering the book.

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