Saturday, November 5, 2016

More new details from 1814 British map of Apalachicola & Chattahoochee Rivers

Section of Woodbine's
Map of 1814.
National Archives of Great Britain
(Click to Enlarge)
I first showed you part of the newly discovered Woodbine Map of 1814 in a post earlier this week. If you missed it, just click here to read that part before continuing with this article.

Today we are focusing on the next part of the map, which covers the Apalachicola River from the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico. In the next post, we will look at the section that covers the Chattahoochee River north from the Alabama state line to above Eufaula.

The more than 200 year old Woodbine Map was discovered in the National Archives of Great Britain. It reveals a great deal of new information about the location of Native American settlements and refugee camps along the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers in the days immediately following the Creek War of 1813-1814.

Red Stick Creek refugees were pouring south into Spanish West Florida following the defeat of their last army at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Alabama. They were starving and fleeing for their lives. Not only were they being pursued by U.S. troops, but white-allied Creeks under William McIntosh and Choctaws under Pushmataha had joined the chase. Even William Weatherford, a former Red Stick fighter, was now guiding U.S. troops in pursuit of his former friends and allies.

 The Woodbine Map was drawn at a time when Red Stick families were establishing refugee camps along the Conecuh, Choctawhatchee, Chattahoochee, Apalachicola and other rivers of the region. So many of these refugees had died along the way that one old warrior told a British officer that he knew the trail to his enemy because it was marked by the graves of his children.

Capt. George Woodbine of the British Royal Marines arrived on the Apalachicola in May 1814. Ordered to recruit Creek and Seminole warriors to the cause of Great Britain in the ongoing War of 1812, Woodbine traveled as far upstream as Eufaula on the Chattahoochee River. His map appears to have been drawn during his journey and pinpoints the locations of both established towns and refugee camps.

It should be noted before continuing that the map was drawn at a time when large numbers of Native American men, women and children were still on the move. Many of the sites shown were transitory at best. Some were occupied for no more than a few weeks, which makes the document extremely valuable in understanding the movements of Red Stick groups as they entered Florida.

In our last article about the map, we discussed the massive number of towns and camps that had appeared along the relatively short section of the Chattahoochee River in Jackson County, Florida. Most Red Stick groups had not yet reached the Apalachicola River.

Looking at today's section of the map, we will move south down the Apalachicola from the forks of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers. The Tocktoethla towns of the Perryman family, shown just above the forks, were discussed in the last article.

The Apalachicola River as seen from River Landing Park in
Chattahoochee, Florida. Mosquito Creek enters from the left.
Moving downstream from the forks, the map shows Mosquito Creek flowing into the river from the east were the City of Chattahoochee stands today. The large island in the river below Chattahoochee is also shown.

The first Native American village below the confluence was the town of "Tomathleu" (also spelled "Tomatley" and "Tomathli") on the west bank in what is now Jackson County, Florida. This town had been established in the 1760s by a Creek band that moved down the river at the invitation of the British, who possessed Florida from 1763-1783.

Tomatley was one of the towns where the white trader James Burges had a home and operated a trading post. He also lived, had a family and operated a store on the bluff at today's Bainbridge, Georgia. Burges had died by 1814, but his children and grandchildren by his Tomatley wife still lived in the town.

The village was also the home of a man called Vaccapuchasse by the Spanish and the "Mulatto King" by the Americans. A maroon or escaped slave, he was the child of black and Native American parents and had become one of the principal chiefs of Tomatley. John Yellowhair was also an important leader in the town, which stood near the old Jackson County Port Authority complex.

Section of the Woodbine Map showing "Ocheesee Town" and
"Negro Settlements" in what is now Calhoun County, Florida.
The next village down the Apalachicola was Ocheesee Talofa, which stood on Ocheesee Bluff in what is now Calhoun County, Florida. This well-known town had also been established in the 1760s and was the one-time home of the white trader John Mealy. He had provided horses and other support to the British during the American Revolution. His son, Jack Mealy, was now the principal chief of Ocheesee.

Perhaps the biggest surprise from the Apalachicola River section of the newly discovered map is the large "Negro Settlements" that it shows running down the west side of the river below Ocheesee Bluff. This previously unknown settlement had been established by maroons (runaway slaves) who fled to the Apalachicola during and following the Creek War of 1813-1814. Some had been held by white plantation owners but others had been the slaves of Creek chiefs and principal men.

These individuals were now free and living in Spanish Florida. Woodbine undoubtedly spent considerable time with them as one of his assignments was to recruit a battalion of black soldiers for service in the British Colonial Marines. The maroon settlement below Ocheesee was not shown on later maps and its villagers probably moved downstream to Prospect Bluff at Woodbine's request. A number of the recruits who enlisted in the British service there gave their home town as "Ocheesee Talofa."

Prospect Bluff on the Apalachicola River.
The last Creek town shown on the river was Yawalla (Iola), the primary town of chief John Blunt. This village was at the site of today's Blountstown and not at Iola Landing lower down the river.

Blunt had fled with his people from the Creek Nation during the war and had suffered great losses in the process. White people sometimes called him Lafarka, but this must be a corruption of an Indian name or title as the Muscogee language includes neither the letter "r" nor its equivalent sound.

More Red Sticks would soon arrive on the Apalachicola as the bands of Prophet Josiah Francis, Homathlemico (Hoboithle Mico?) and others made their way east from the western Florida Panhandle. At the time of Woodbine's trip, however, these groups were still on the Choctawhatchee, Conecuh and other rivers to the west.

A noteworthy point of interest is Forbes Island just below Panton's Cliffs. This was not the Forbes Island today, but an upriver island formed by the confluence of the Apalachicola with the River Styx and other streams. It was also shown as Forbes Island on Spanish maps of this era.

Lower Apalachicola River as shown on the
Woodbine Map. Notice Prospect Bluff on the
east bank and the offshore anchorage of the
British warship HMS Orpheus.
Panton's Cliffs was Estiffanulga Bluff. It had been called Estiffanulga as late as 1804, but officers of John Forbes & Company renamed it in honor of William Panton. He had been a partner in Panton, Leslie & Company, the original name of the trading company. The name never stuck, however, and Estiffanulga remains in use today.

Further downstream can be seen the mouth of the Chipola River and Prospect Bluff. The bluff, called the Loma de Buena Vista by the Spanish, was the site of a Forbes & Company trading post and would soon be selected by the British as a location for one of two forts that they would build on the river.

Below Prospect Bluff, no settlements are shown as existing on the Apalachicola River. The map does show the anchorage of the HMS Orpheus off Cape St. George. The Orpheus was a British warship filled with arms and ammunition for the Creeks and Seminoles. She remained offshore while Woodbine made his trip up the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers. The war materials from the ship were being landed on St. Vincent Island where they were housed in temporary structures until they could be transported up to Prospect Bluff.

The next installment in this series will focus on the Chattahoochee River from the Alabama line north to Eufaula. If you would like to learn more about British activities on the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers during the War of 1812, please consider my books Nicolls' Outpost: A War of 1812 Fort at Chattahoochee, Florida and Milly Francis: The Life & Times of the Creek Pocahontas.

Both are available in either book or Amazon Kindle formats.


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