|Andrew Jackson as he appeared late in life.|
(Matthew Brady photo, Courtesy Library of Congress)
Jackson County has no events planned to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Jackson's birth.
The only part of Florida to touch two other states - Alabama and Georgia - Jackson County was established just three years after Old Hickory made his only visit to the area. He came through in 1818 during the closing phase of the First Seminole War.
Florida was still a Spanish colony in 1818, but the borderlands had been the scene of open warfare since U.S. troops attacked the Creek Indian village of Fowltown in Decatur County, Georgia. The Battle of Fowltown was really two separate events that took place on November 21 and 23, 1817. The action was the first battle of the Seminole Wars.
Creek, Seminole and maroon (Black Seminole) warriors retaliated on November 30, 1817, by attacking a U.S. Army supply boat on the Apalachicola River at Chattahoochee, Florida. The first U.S. defeat of the Seminole Wars, the action is remembered today as the Scott Massacre of 1817 and ended with the deaths of around 34 men, 6 women and 4 children.
Outraged over the Scott attack but unconcerned over the U.S. raids on Fowltown, President James Monroe had Secretary of War John C. Calhoun order Major General Andrew Jackson to the frontier. Jackson was authorized to invade Spanish Florida to "punish" those responsible for the attack on Lt. Richard W. Scott's command.
|The site of Fort Scott as it appears today.|
The first phase of Jackson's Florida campaign saw him march into Spanish Florida and battle the Native American alliance at the Battles of Miccosukee, Econfina and Old Town while also capturing the Spanish fort of San Marcos de Apalache. He executed the Creek Indian leaders Josiah Francis and Homathlemico while also capturing and ordering the executions of two British subjects, Alexander Arbuthnot and Robert C. Ambrister.
The general was at Fort Gadsden, the fort he had built on the site of the earlier "Negro Fort" or Fort at Prospect Bluff, when he decided to march into West Florida. Reports had reached him that Creek refugees were being fed and supplied by the Spanish at Pensacola.
Click here to see a great first person interpretation of Andrew Jackson by Billy Bailey of Florida Caverns State Park.
Jackson left Fort Gadsden with an army of 1,092 men and two cannon and marched back up the Apalachicola River to what is now Torreya State Park. Boats had been prepositioned there by soldiers from Fort Scott and the general crossed his army over to Ocheesee Bluff in today's Calhoun County on May 9, 1818. The crossing of so many men was dangerous and took all day to complete.
The next morning, guided by the Creek chief John Blunt for whom present-day Blountstown is named, the army turned northwest and entered the county that now bears his name. The following is excerpted from my book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years:
|Jackson Blue Spring, where Gen. Jackson's army camped on|
May 10, 1818 while marching through West Florida.
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 that it held 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.
The army continued forward on the morning of May 11, 1818. Crossing the hills between Blue Spring and the Chipola River, they reached the Natural Bridge of the Chipola River in today's Florida Caverns State Park by noon. It was here that a supposed incident involving Andrew Jackson took place.
|The Natural Bridge of the Chipola River is seen at left. The|
sink into which the river descends to begin its underground
journey is at the center of the photo.
According to the oft-recited legend, Jackson’s army was moving forward in two columns. One column, led by the general himself and guided by John Blunt, crossed the river at the natural bridge. The second column, maching more to the north, was forced to halt and build rafts so the men and artillery could get across the river. Jackson’s column reached the planned rendezvous point west of the river and the general, known for his temper, supposedly became irate when the second column failed to appear on schedule.
When the bedraggled men of the flanking column finally trudged into camp, legend holds that Jackson berated their officers, demanding to know the reason for the delay. His temper soared even higher when they explained the reason for their lateness. The general had seen no river. The legend holds that it was not until John Blunt explained the phenomenon of the natural bridge that Old Hickory could be placated.
It is a fascinating little story and one of the few about Andrew Jackson that survive in the county today. Mrs. Janie Smith Rhyne, a Jackson County writer and historian of the 20th century, even memorialized the event in poem:
|The "River Rise" where the Chipola River resurfaces after|
flowing beneath the Natural Bridge. It is also part of Florida
Caverns State Park in Marianna, Florida.
|Kelly Banta of Florida Caverns State Park (L) discusses the|
history of the remarkable caves with historian Dale Cox (R)
in a scene from a coming documentary.
Click here to watch a video exploration of Old Indian Cave at Florida Caverns State Park.
|Beautiful formations at Florida Caverns State Park.|
|Curry Ferry, where Jackson's army crossed the|
Choctawhatchee River, remains a Holmes County landmark.
Click here to watch a video on the history of Curry Ferry in Holmes County, Florida.
Please click here to learn more about Florida Caverns State Park: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Florida-Caverns.