Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Andrew Jackson and the Natural Bridge - Part Two

We continue tonight with the story of Andrew Jackson and the Natural Bridge of the Chipola River.

This article is part two of a series of excerpts from The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One, a new book published this year.


From Fort Gadsden, Jackson’s army swept east through much of the Big Bend region of Florida. He destroyed the Seminole towns of Tallahassee Talofa (“Old Field Town”) and Miccosukee and defeated a large force of Seminole, Creek and African American warriors at the Battle of Miccosukee on April 1, 1818. Turning south, he marched to the coast and forced the surrender of the Spanish fort of San Marcos de Apalache (Fort St. Marks). There he captured a Scottish trader named Alexander Arbuthnot as well as the Creek Prophet Josiah Francis and the Red Stick chief Homathlemico. Arbuthnot was accused of inciting the war, while Francis and Homathlemico were old enemies of Jackson’s from the Creek War. Both of the chiefs were summarily hanged, but Arbuthnot was held as a prisoner.

Three prisoners of the Indians were also found in the fort. William Hambly and Edmund Doyle, the traders captured at Spanish Bluff, had been turned over to the Spanish for safe keeping by their captors. With them was found a Georgia militiaman named Duncan McKrimmon. He had been captured by some of Francis’ warriors near Fort Gadsden and was on the verge of being executed when the prophet’s daughter, Milly Francis, intervened on his behalf and convinced his captors to spare his life. She later became known as the “Creek Pocahontas” and was authorized a special medal of honor and pension by the U.S. Congress in recognition of her act of mercy.

Jackson then turned east for the Suwannee, to attack the large village of Chief Boleck (also called “Bowlegs”) near what is now Suwannee Old Town. En route, however, his scouts discovered a large force of Red Sticks under the chief Peter McQueen at the Natural Bridge of the Econfina River (Note: Not to be confused with Econfina Creek). McQueen was attacked and his warriors all but annihilated in a bloody one-sided confrontation. More than 100 women and children were captured, including Mrs. Stewart, the captive survivor of Scott’s Massacre.

The army pushed on to Suwannee Old Town, where another sharp battle took place. Boleck’s village was destroyed, but most of its inhabitants managed to escape across the Suwannee River to safety. Two British interlopers, however, were not so fortunate. Sending out parties to round up any warriors that might be hiding in the area, Jackson managed to capture a schooner that had tied up near the mouth of the Suwannee. On board were Peter Cook and Robert Ambrister. Cook was a clerk to Alexander Arbuthnot, the trader captured at Fort St. Marks, while Ambrister had been a lieutenant in the British Marines and a subordinate to Colonel Nicolls and Major Woodbine during the War of 1812.
Jackson took them back to St. Marks where a military trial was convened. Cook agreed to testify for the prosecution, as did Hambly and Doyle. Arbuthnot and Ambrister were found guilty and executed by order of the general.
Believing the war was now virtually over, Jackson ordered most of his men back to Fort Scott for discharge and then returned in person to Fort Gadsden. Upon arriving there, however, he received intelligence that Spanish authorities in Pensacola were providing arms and supplies to Red Stick warriors. Assembling a force of 1,092 men and two pieces of artillery, he marched back up the east side of the Apalachicola River and on May 9, 1818, crossed over to Ocheesee Bluff.

The army turned to the northwest on the morning of May 10th and crossed into Jackson County. Their route led them across the approximate site of Grand Ridge to Blue Spring, where they camped for the night. Captain Hugh Young, Jackson’s topographer, called the spot “Big Spring,” a name it would hold for a number of years. He described it as being “forty yards in diameter and of considerable depth with a rock bottom and a clean rapid current.”

The soldiers in Jackson’s army marveled at the beauty and richness of the surrounding countryside. Young himself kept careful records of the quality of the lands through which they marched.
(End of Excerpt)

Copies of The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One are available at Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna (on the same block as the Gazebo Restaurant, across the street from the Battle of Marianna monument). You can also order the book online by clicking here.

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