Friday, November 14, 2008

Remembering Scott's Massacre of 1817

The grave visible in the background here (near the fence) is that of Elizabeth Stewart Dill, the only female survivor of a fierce battle that took place on the Apalachicola River between Chattahoochee and Sneads in November of 1817.
Remembered today as Scott's Massacre, the devastating attack on a U.S. supply boat by a combined force of Creek and Seminole warriors was the action that prompted Washington to order General Andrew Jackson to invade Florida...
Remembering Scott’s Massacre: Forgotten Battle Took Place 191 Years Ago This Month

By Dale Cox

Apalachicola River – The deadliest battle in the history of Jackson County took place 191 years ago this month on the Apalachicola River between Sneads and Chattahoochee. Remembered by history as Scott’s Massacre, it was the event that led Andrew Jackson to invade Florida and eventually brought many of his soldiers to Jackson County as settlers.

In November of 1817, following a determined but peaceful standoff between the Lower Creek Chief Neamathla and Major David E. Twiggs, the commanding officer at Fort Scott (located on the Flint River arm of today’s Lake Seminole), Major General Edmund P. Gaines ordered the movement of nearly 1,000 U.S. troops to the fort. Supplies for the soldiers were sent via the Gulf of Mexico and Apalachicola River on boats escorted by troops from the 4th U.S. Infantry.
When he arrived at Fort Scott in person, General Gaines ordered Lieutenant Richard W. Scott to take 40 men down the Apalachicola on a boat to assist the supply vessels in reaching the fort. He then sent 250 men under Major Twiggs to Fowltown, the village of Neamathla, with orders to bring the chief to Fort Scott.
Neamathla and his warriors resisted and on November 21 and 23, 1817, the first and second Battles of Fowltown opened the conflict remembered today as the First Seminole War.
Infuriated by what he considered unprovoked attacks, Neamathla called for reinforcements from other Creek and Seminole villages across North Florida and ordered one of his sub-chiefs to stop the supply boats from reaching Fort Scott. Hundreds of warriors (some reports estimated as many as 2,000) flooded to the banks of the Apalachicola River in anticipation of a battle against the supply flotilla.
Unexpectedly, though, the commander of the flotilla did not keep all of Lieutenant Scott’s men to reinforce his own force. Instead he took only 20 of Scott’s men and then put 20 men that were sick with fever, 7 women (wives of soldiers) and 4 children on the lieutenant’s boat and ordered him to return upriver to the fort. Neither officer knew of the attacks on Fowltown or the outbreak of war with the Seminoles and Creeks.
Following his orders, Lieutenant Scott started back upriver but on November 28, 1817, was warned at present-day Blountstown by the friendly chief John Blunt and the traders William Hambly and Edmund Doyle that a large force was assembling upstream and it would be extremely dangerous for him to continue. He sent a letter overland to Fort Scott requesting help, but then inexplicably continued his journey up the Apalachicola.
On November 30, 1817, as Scott’s boat rounded the sharp bend in the Apalachicola River between today’s Sneads and Chattahoochee, he was suddenly attacked by hundreds of Native American warriors.
The Creeks and Seminoles had formed along the Gadsden County bank of the river at a point where they knew the current would force the military boat close to shore. According to the reports of survivors, they ambushed the lieutenant and his men from the cover of trees and brush, killing Scott and most of his able-bodied men with their first volley. They then waded out into the river and stormed the boat, fighting hand to hand with the rest of the soldiers and killing most of them with hatchets, knives and war clubs.
Only 6 of the 40 soldiers on the boat survived and four of them were wounded. They leaped overboard and swam across the river to the Jackson County shore and safety. Six of the women and all 4 children were also killed. In less than 15 minutes, the Creeks and Seminoles had taken their revenge for the attacks on Fowltown and killed 44 of the 51 men, women and children on Lieutenant Scott’s boat.
The six surviving soldiers made their way overland to Fort Scott with news of the disaster. The only surviving woman, Mrs. Elizabeth Stewart (or Stuart), was taken captive by the warriors and carried away to their villages. Her story became one of the most remarkable of the era and we will detail it in next week’s article.
Scott’s Massacre outraged authorities in Washington, D.C., and Major General Andrew Jackson was ordered to assemble an army and head for the frontier. His campaign would carry him through today’s Jackson County, where many of his soldiers were so impressed with the quality of the lands that they returned over the next few years as the area’s first settlers.
Editor’s Note: The story of Scott’s Massacre is told in-depth in Dale Cox’s book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One. The book is available at Chipola River Book and Tea in Marianna or for order directly from the printer at


Anonymous said...

Wasn't aware there was another Fort Scott - only heard of Fort Scott, Kansas.

Dale said...

Yes, Fort Scott, Georgia, was built in 1816 on the Flint River just upsteam from its confluence with the Chattahoochee.

Held by the U.S. Army from 1816-1821, the fort was the headquarters for the Department of the South for part of its existence. It was the post from which Andrew Jackson launched his 1818 invasion of Florida.

There were also a couple of other Fort Scotts. One was located on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. during the War Between the States.

Thank you for the comment, by the way!