Saturday, April 11, 2009

Second Seminole War Attack in Jackson County

By Dale Cox

Fought in virtually every corner of Florida, the Second Seminole War was a bloody conflict that deteriorated into guerrilla raids by the forces of both sides. Jackson County became the target of such a raid in July of 1841 when a party of Creek warriors emerged from the swamps south of Marianna and attacked the home of Morris Simms.

According to a report carried by newspapers across the nation, the attack took place with around 30 warriors struck the Simms’ home, located near the Chipola River about 12 miles south of Marianna. Subsequent events indicate that the warriors responsible for the raid were part of a group that had eluded capture by hiding with their families deep in what was then a wilderness area surrounding St. Andrew Bay. Between 1840 and 1844 they carried out a series of raids against isolated farms and homes, primarily to obtain food and other supplies.

The attacks were usually swift and bloody. In the attack on the Simms’ settlement, for example, the warriors killed two of Morris Simms’ young daughters. “The little girls were found in the cowpen,” read a letter received in Tallahassee from Marianna, “pierced with spiked arrows, and their brains dashed out with lightwood knots.” The oldest of the girls was seven, while the youngest was only two.

The war party also carried away a large quantity of bacon from the smokehouse, a barrel of flour and any other provisions it could find, before killing two hogs and crippling Simms’ horses by shooting barbed arrows into their legs.

Such attacks, sadly, were commonplace during the war and were not limited to Indian warriors. A party of Jackson County militia had been accused four years earlier of killing a number of women and children in a brutal massacre in Walton County.

As soon as news of the raid was received in Marianna, a group of local men took up arms and formed into a volunteer company. Led by Major Bryan, the rode south to the Simms’ settlement. They reached the scene of the attack and managed to pick up the trail of the retreating warriors, “but they had made good their retreat, and their trail could be traced no further than a hammock some three or four miles from the scene of the outrage.”

News of the Simms’ attack prompted the U.S. Army to send regular troops into the region. In November of 1841, about four months after the raid, Lieutenant James W. Smith and a company of men from the 3rd U.S. Infantry established Fort Chipola south of Marianna. Located where the Federal Road crossed the Chipola River on the Jackson-Calhoun line, the fort served as a base for operations against scattered parties of Indians in the region for at least the next year.

Note: This article is excerpted from my 2008 book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years. The book is available at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna or online at www.amazon.com.

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