Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Jackson County Soldiers Accused of Seminole War Attrocity


This image from the Library of Congress shows a Native American town in Florida at the time of the Second Seminole War.
The war attracted widespread criticism in the United States, largely because of alleged attrocities and growing national sympathy with the plight of tribes such as the Seminoles and Creeks.
It was in this environment that a unit of militia soldiers (equivalent of today's National Guard) from Jackson County became involved in a bloody incident remembered today as the Alaqua Massacre.
“One of the Most Outrageous Acts Civilized Men Could Be Guilty Of”
Jackson County Soldiers Accused of Seminole War Atrocity

By Dale Cox

Marianna – During the spring of 1837 brutal warfare spilled over into Northwest Florida from Alabama as militia forces from that state drove a large party of Creek warriors and their families down the valley of the Choctawhatchee River. Fighting soon broke out between the warriors and the early settlers of Walton County and appeals for help went out to other area counties. Jackson County responded by sending a force of local militia (the equivalent of today’s National Guard) to join the fight.

Commanded by Colonel Levin Brown, the force of 73 drafted men left Marianna on the morning of May 6, 1837, and marched to Campbellton where supply wagons were waiting. Supplies to put in the wagons were difficult to obtain, however, and it was not until the morning of May 11th that the little army marched west for the Choctawhatchee River.

Two days later the soldiers crossed the river at Pittman’s Ferry in what is now Holmes County and then turned south for the community of Eucheeanna, the original county seat of Walton County. They did a lot of marching back and forth, but encountered no Creeks until the 23rd of May when Brown and his men succeeded in capturing a party of four warriors and thirteen hungry women and children near Alaqua Creek.
Colonel Brown tried to force one of the warriors to lead the soldiers on to where the main party of Creeks was hiding, but instead he intentionally led them astray. After spending a day hacking their way through dense forests and wading in waist-deep mud, the Jackson County soldiers let their frustrations get the best of them.
As Colonel Brown reported in a letter to Florida’s governor, things turned violent when the men of Captain Stephen Daniel’s company suddenly opened fire on their unfortunate guide:
Captain Daniels’ company having charge of the prisoners in the rear, when Capt. D. and nearly all his company fired on the Indian prisoner who had led us through so many difficulties during the night. The women and children, taking fright at this, started to run, when they were all shot down, and left on the ground.
The massacre of the unfortunate women and children was one of the great tragedies of the conflict remembered today as the Second Seminole War and undoubtedly was one of the darkest days in the history of Jackson County.
Lieutenant J.G. Reynolds of the regular U.S. Army investigated the incident and made clear in his report that the attack was even more brutal than described in Colonel Brown’s account:
The shrieks of the poor children were distinctly heard at the house, distant, I should think, one-quarter of a mile. Several were scalped and all who had earrings had their ears slit with knives in order to possess themselves of the silver. I do think this is one of the most outrageous acts civilized men could be guilty of.
Despite the severity of Reynolds’ report, no action was ever taken against the Jackson County soldiers for their role in the Alaqua Massacre.
Note: This article is based on a chapter in the new book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One. The book can be purchased from Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna or online at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/dalecox.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Alaqua was actually first county seat and courthouse of Walton County ,FL 1824-1834 . Most of the Creek Indian War battles within Walton County will take place in this area. Reference Fort Alaqua location.

Dale Cox said...

Thank you for the note on Alaqua. I have some material on the Alaqua Blockhouse location, etc., and a lot more documentation on the military movements in Walton County in 1837. If you have interest, just let me know and I'll be glad to share.