[Author's Note. This series of papers comprising the correspondence of Lieut.
Col. Thomas A. Smith, commander of the detachment of U. S. regulars that invaded
Spanish East Florida in March, 1812, began in the July, 1930, issue of THE QUARTERLY,
which should be consulted for an explanation as to why the American troops invaded
the Spanish province; and also for the details concerning the discovery of these
important Florida records. T. FREDERICK DAVIS]
Lieut. Col. Smith to Gov. Mitchell (copy)
Camp before St. Augustine, 7th September, 1812 Sir :
Nothing of importance has occurred since my communication of the 21st ulto. Colo.
Newnan is at Mr. Fatio's a few miles below Picolata with the Detachment of
Volunteers. I ordered him soon after his arrival on the St. John's to proceed to
& destroy some of the nearest Indian Towns, but I learnt today that he had not
commenced his march probably for the want of guides or the means of transporting his
provision. The Contractor, Maj. Long, is I am told very sick at St. Mary's, For
the want of arrangement in his Department we have not received our necessary supply
My Detachment continues very sickly, between eighty & ninety being confined at a
time at this place & Davis's creek. Indeed it is with difficulty that I can
furnish the necessary camp guards & an escort to the provision wagons. Unless a
part of the Volunteers can be prevailed on to remain after their term of service
expires I dont know what will be the consequences,
as I am persuaded nothing but their presence on the St. John's has prevented the
Indians & negroes from cutting off our communication with the depot at Davis'
creek. I find from experience that Volunteers for one or two months only add to the
difficulty of procuring supplies without rendering any essential service, as by the
time arrangements can be made for any important enterprise their term of service will
have ex pired. If the sick were in a situation to be removed I would fall back to
some healthy situation on the St. John's, but it is impossible at present without
sacrificing the lives of many valuable men. I hope however, by the end of the month
or middle of October to see them in good health and ready for any service they may be
ordered on. I have been so unwell since my return from St. Mary's that I could
pay but little atten tion to duty.
There are parties of Indians constantly in search of cattle; indeed there are very
few left on this side of the St. John's. The inhabitants on the North River have
all gone to Town & one also who was in our camp that had been a Militia officer
in the Spanish service & taken by the Patriots whom he pretended to join; but I
have no doubt he has acted the part of a spy. I console myself with the belief that
if we should be sacrificed it will promote the National good as the Government will
then no longer hesitate about taking im mediate possession of the Province so
important to the Southern States.
I have the honor to be sir With high respect, Your obt. servt., Note: A Marine has
deserted and gone to St. Augustine.
Lt. Col. Smith to Col. Newnan (copy)
Camp before St. Augustine, 12th Sept. 1812 Sir :
I wish you without delay to join me with eighty or ninety of your men & all the
horses you have or can obtain. The escort with the waggons have been cut off &
without your aid I shall not be able to secure our baggage & save the sick,
fifteen or twenty of which are unable to march. If you can possibly bring one or two
waggons or carts they will be very important. Bring as much provision with you as
possible. We want harness or traces for the field pieces, if you can possibly obtain
any bring them with you.
You will perceive the necessity of using every possible dispatch in joining me.
I am Sir respectfully Your obt. servt.
P.S. I intend to fall back as soon as you join me, when measures can be concerted for
the chastisement of our enemies. Your horsemen had better come from Fatio's
direct, as it is nearer than the route by the block house.
I have been unable to ascertain the fate of Captns. Williams & Fort. They are in
all probability both killed. None of the party has come in. I will keep out scouts to
discover if they have any intention of continuing on the road. Capt. Woodruff was
dispatched as soon as I had information that they were out, but he was a few hours
too late. I think if they will venture in the plain they will meet with a warmer
recep tion than their small parties have yet received. You will send a sufficient
number of men down to the Block house to collect Oxen for the Ox carts.
Lt. Col. Smith to Gov. Mitchell (copy)
Depot Davis' Creek 20 Miles North of St. Augustine Sept. 22, 1812 Sir :
The period has at length arrived when it is absolutely necessary to order a
respectable reinforcement to aid me in the reduction of St. Augustine and the
distruction of all the Indian settlements in this province, or that we should be
withdrawn. The latter would be to me the most painful moment of my life & I hope
your Excellency will order the force necessary to effect the former as soon as
The escort with the Provision waggons under the command of Capt. Williams was
attacked on the 12th Inst by a party of Indians & Negroes from St. Augustine to
the number of fifty or sixty. Capt. Williams' command consisted of a Non
Commissioned Officer & nineteen privates besides drivers. Capt. Fort of the
Milledgeville Volunteers was with the party. The attack was made at the Twelve Mile
swamp between eight & 9 o'clock at night & lasted about twenty-five
minutes. The result was unfavorable to us, having lost our waggons, had both officers
& six privates wounded (Capt Williams in eight places & I fear mortally)
& the Non Commissioned Officer killed.
Capts. Williams & Fort acquitted themselves highly to their honor & would
have been victorious beyond a doubt if either of them had escaped for a few minutes,
as an order had been given to charge & the enemy began to give ground. `The
Indians fled the second fire yelling like devils. I would have made an effort to take
St. Augustine immediately, but my Detachment is so reduced by disease that I cannot
furnish the necessary Camp Guards. I expect to remove to a healthy position on the
St. John's in a few days & if
the Volunteers (gone at present against the LotchWay Towns) will consent to serve to
the fall of St. Augustine, I will proceed without delay to procure the necessary
transport & supplies & invest it closely the moment that three or four
hundred additional men can be raised for that service.
The Volunteers have been very unhealthy, as many as one hundred & five on the
sick list at a time & I am fearful that I shall not be able to get more than one
hundred & twenty of my Detachment on their legs in time. Capt Neeley 29 died on
the 20th Inst. His men have acted like veterans, without shoes or indeed clothing of
any kind. They have always been ready for any duty they were ordered on. They would
be infinitely more serviceable if they could be clothed. I hope your Excellency will
devise some plan by which they can be supplied, as the laws of the United States do
not provide for clothing Volunteers.
The following is the plan I have in view if a reinforcement is sent: My Detachment,
One Hundred & Twenty ; Volunteers, one hundred & fifty ; then wanting three
hundred, making 570 to be disposed of as follows, Twenty at Picolata, Forty at the
Depot at six mile creek, a block house to be thrown up; Forty at the big swamp with a
block house being about half way ; two hundred & fifty on the neck formerly
occupied by me, with two field pieces to prevent boats go ing up the North river; Two
hundred & twenty with the heavy pieces and a strong redoubt opposite the lines by
Solinoe's [Solana's] ferry. This arrangement will prevent any communication
with the Indians & secure the convoys with provisions if they should be supplied
by the British. It will then be an easy matter to destroy the Town & see what
effect that will produce. There should be an allowance for sick, lame
29. Captain Samuel Neeley, commander of a company of Georgia Volunteers.
& lazy, as a smaller force capable of duty will not secure the fall of the place.
The Dons did not attempt to molest me on my way to this place. I commenced the
movement about 10 o'clock & set fire to my huts, which was no doubt a
pleasing sight to them.
The inhabitants have all abandoned their homes with as much of their movables as they
could carry with them. Some have stopped on Amelia, but I believe the greater part
have gone to Georgia. The Province, never thickly settled, will soon become a
A Spaniard who escaped from the Indians informed me that they intended to attack St.
Mary's as soon as they had given us a little employment here. They made an attack
some time since on Picolata, but were beaten off. They succeeded however, in burning
the trading houses with what was in them.
I have the honor to be sir With high respect, Your obt. servt.
Lt. Col. Smith to Capt. Massias (copy)
Fort Stallings 30 22nd Sept. 1812. Dear Captain :
I have been very uneasy least your messenger Mr. Holland should have been taken on
his return, as he was the bearer of letters from me under cover to you which gave to
our head men a faithful account of our sufferings & perilous situation, since
which they have attacked our escort consisting of twenty men under the command of
Capt. Williams. Their force from the best information I can obtain was between fifty
30. The post at Davis' Creek was called Ft. Stallings in honor of Lieut. Elias
Stallings, who built the block house and commanded there.
sixty. The attack was made on the 12th at twelve mile swamp about eight o'clock
at night and lasted about twenty-five minutes. The result was unfavorable to us,
having lost our waggons & had the Non Commissioned Officer killed & eight men
Captns. Williams & Fort both wounded, the former badly in eight places, the
latter shot through the knee. They both acted nobly & would have been victors if
they had not been disabled. The order was just given. for a charge as Capt. Williams
received the first shot. He continued to encourage his command to do their duty. As
Capt. Fort was carrying him a few paces in the rear he received several other wounds
while in his arms. Capt. Fort returned, took the command & renewed the order to
charge ; but the men I presume not feeling that confidence in a Volunteer Officer did
not obey the order. They behaved in other respects well, except Hampton of your
company, who is I fear of the dunghill family. The Indians fled the second fire,
yelling like devils.
I have been compelled to fall back for the want of Provisions. I intend however to
present to them a more formidable appearance in a short time than they have witnessed
since the revolutionary war. Mr. Ryan is the only officer with me for duty, the
others all being sick. We have had nearly two hundred in the different camps on the
report at a time. They are however mending. I fear Capt. Williams will not be able to
weather the storm. I will however cause every possible exertion to be made to save so
brave and honest a brother Officer. The others will I think recover, some of them may
be disabled in their limbs. Neeley's Volunteers act like veterans ; their Captn.,
poor fellow, died on the 20th. I had him interred with all due honors.
I wish you to do with my little Affrican as you would if he were your own until I can
have him with
me. The Patriots having acted so ungratefully towards my Detachment it will be well
in no instance to acknowledge them as a, Public body, but afford all the aid in your
power to deserving individuals.
Your favour of the 21st Inst has this moment reached me. I have given the Patriots no
instructions or authority whatever & you ought to cause the horse taken from
Lieut. John D. Kerr to be returned. You must in all respects be governed by the
instructions you receive from the Governor & your own discretion.
When I wish any service performed you will receive it in writing.
I am Sir respectfully, Your obt. servt.
Lt. Col. Smith to Gen. Floyd 31 (copy)
Mr. Hollingsworth's 32 30th Sept. 1812 Dear General :
I have at length been compelled for the want of provision & to save the
Detachment confided to my care to fall back to this place. My force for duty does not
exceed seventy, among which are only two Officers. Colo. Newnan at the head of one
hundred & ten men had an action on the 27th Inst with the Indians to the number
of 120 within 7 miles of the Lotchway Town. He charged them repeatedly &
succeeded in giving them a complete defeat. He is how ever unable to advance or
retire without leaving his wounded to be sacrificed to the savages. He has sent to me
for aid, but I can with my force afford him
31. Brig. Gen. John Floyd, commanding the Georgia state militia.
32. Wm. Hollingsworth's farm was immediately on the east bank of the St. Johns
River about ten miles above the Cowford. The Cowford was at the foot of Liberty
Street in Jacksonville.
little, there being one hundred blacks & some Indians on the river below me said
to be coming up it. I will however collect and send to him all the horses in the
neighborhood. Are you not authorized to attack their Towns? One hundred & fifty
or two hundred mounted Infantry & Riflemen can effect a great deal against such
an enemy, & the safety of our own frontier requires that it should be done. What
in the name of God can our rulers be about that they have not before this time
ordered a force to join me sufficient to enable me to maintain my position before St.
Augustine in opposition to all the Spaniards & their Indian allies could do?
Without a change in their policy the little force they have at present or the
establishment will be sacrificed. It is to be hoped however that they will benefit by
experience. I have received information from a Spaniard who deserted from the Indians
that they intended to attack St. Mary's as soon as they had given us a little
employment here. I have no doubt but the party met by Colo. Newnan was on their way
to join the Spaniards to carry into effect their long threatened attack on me.
Poor Capt. Williams has just expired & will be interred with the honors of war in
the morning. 33
I have the honor to be sir, With high respect, Your obt. servt.
33. The remains of Capt. John Williams, U.S.M.C., were afterward removed to the
cemetery at St. Marys, Georgia, where they rested until August, 1904, when they were
removed by officers of the U. S. Marine Corps and reinterred in Arlington National
Cemetery. This information was procured for me by Capt. Chas. Dunbeck, U.S.M.C.,
Col. Smith 34 to Gen. Flournoy 35 (copy)
Hollingsworth's 10th Oct. 1812 Sir :
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 21st Ulto. I will
meet the Militia ordered to my support at Point Petre & have that part of them
intended by his Excellency, Govr. Mitchell, to act with me ordered to my present Camp
immediately. I hope a sufficient supply of Arms, Accoutrements & Camp equippage
may be sent on with them, as a supply cannot be procured in this quarter; indeed I
have had my doubts about the propriety of furnishing them from the U. S. stock; The
loss and destruction of those articles will be found very great among Troops where
neither officers nor privates have any idea of subordination or are sensible of the
necessity of preserv ing their Arms.
If the health of my Detachment should be sufficiently restored I will lose no time in
investing St, Augustine closely on the land side. If Commodore Campbell feels
authorized. to co-operate, I will take such steps with the aid of some of the
Gunboats as will insure the speedy surrender of the place, unless they should have
been reinforced & have received a supply of provision. The good of the service
requires that there should be a Quarter Master appointed to this District, as it is
impossible for me to attend to that & my other duties. Forty Dragoons would be of
the greatest service & unless there is a speedy termination of hostilities in
this quarter will be found abso lutely indispensable. Lieuts. Haig & Barton of
the 1st Regt are with me & there is not perhaps a more enterprising or competent
officer in the service than
34. Promoted to colonel.
35. Brig. Gen. Thomas Flournoy, U.S.A., commanding U. S. quota of militia in Georgia.
the former. I am therefore induced to request when they are furnished that the
Command may be given to him. I wish authority also to purchase as many horses as may
be found necessary to convey the heavy & field artillery to the points where they
may be wanting. For this service also you will readily perceive the necessity of at
least a subaltern's command of artillerists. It is impossible that our men should
be com petent to every kind of service & the guns unless properly served can be
of but little utility. A sufficient number of wagons to transport our baggage, sick
& wounded are indispensably necessary.
If the severe handling Colo. Newnan has given the Indians & Negroes (many of the
latter being in the several engagements with the former) does not check their
depredations, it will be absolutely necessary for the preservation of our own
frontiers to destroy all their Towns in this Province. If mounted Infantry &
Riflemen are not employed on this service it will require a considerable number of
pack horses. Colo. Newnan's not being able to destroy Lotchway & the little
Towns near it is entirely owing to the insufficiency of transport.
I have been compelled from a sense of duty to arrest Capt. Ridgeway on the inclosed
Charges & Speci fications 36 & if he can be brought to trial before the
witnesses are dispersed, I have not the smallest doubt but each of them will be fully
supported. As a majority of the Officers of the Detachment do not hold him in the
highest estimation I would be glad if it could be done without injury to the service
that the Court may consist entirely of Officers from other posts.
I have the honor to be sir With high respect, Your obt. servt.
36. Mainly drunkenness while on duty.
Col. Newnan to Gov. Mitchell. 37
New Hope, 38 St. John's, Oct. 19, 1812. Dear Sir:
I have now the honor of transmitting to your excellency an account of the several
engagements which have taken place between the Lotchaway and Alligator Indians, and
the detachment of Georgia volunteers under my command. As the object of this
expedition, and the views of the persons engaged in it, have been misconstrued and
mis-statements relative to its protraction circulated, I ask the indulgence of your
excellency to detail every transaction from its commencement to its termination.
I arrived upon the St. John's, in obedience to your orders, about the 15th of
August, with the whole of my detachment, consisting, including officers, of about 250
men, and with few on the sick report. I immediately waited on Col. Smith before St.
Augustine, and received orders dated the 21st of August, to proceed immediately
against the hostile Indians within the province of East Florida, and destroy their
towns, provisions and settlements. I then returned to the detachment upon the St.
John's, and made every preparation to comply with my orders, by dispatching par
ties to procure horses from the few inhabitants that had not fled from the province ;
in preparing packs and provisions ; and taking every step which I deemed necessary to
insure success to the enterprise. In consequence of the sickness of myself and nearly
one half of the detachment, the period of our maching was delayed; and when just upon
the eve of departing, an express arrived from Col. Smith informing me that his
provision wagons and the escort was attacked by
37. Niles' Weekly Register, December 12, 1812.
38. The U. S. encampment at Hollingsworth's was named "Camp New Hope"
about Oct. 12th. The name was probably suggested to Col. Smith by the brighter
prospect of procuring reinforcements sufficient to attack St. Augustine.
a body of Negroes and Indians, and ordering me to join him immediately with 90 men,
and bring all the horses and carriages I could command, for the removal of his
baggage, field-pieces, and sick, he having only 70 men fit for duty.
I marched to the relief of the colonel with 130 men and 25 horses, and assisted him
in removing to the Block-house upon Davis's creek. This service delayed for a few
days our expedition to the nation ; and when the detachment again assembled upon the
St. John's, and were about to commence to march, the men had but six or seven
days to serve. About this time I received a letter from Col. Smith, advising me to
pro pose to the detachment an extension of their service for 15 or 20 days longer, as
the time for which they were engaged was deemed insufficient to accomplish any object
of the expedition. This measure I had contemplated, and its sanction by the colonel
met with my most hearty approbation ; for I was unwilling to proceed to the
enemy's country with a single man, who would declare that, in any event, he would
not serve a day longer than the time for which he had originally volunteered. I
accordingly assembled the detach ment, and after stating the necessity of a tender of
further service, proposed that the men should volunteer for three weeks longer; when
84 men, including officers, stepped out and were enrolled, which, with the addition
of 23 volunteer militia sent to my aid by Col. Smith, and 9 Patriots under the
command of Capt. Cone, made my whole force amount to 117. With this small body,
provided with four days' provisions and 12 horses, I was determined to proceed to
the nation and give those merciless savages at least one battle; and I was emboldened
in this determination by the strong expectation of being succored by a body of
cavalry from St. Mary's, and which it has since
appeared did assemble at Colerain, but proceeded no farther.
On the evening of the 24th of September we left the St. John's, marching in
Indian file, Capt. Humphreys' company of riflemen in front; Capt. Fort's
company, under the command of Lieut. Fannin, 39 in the center; and Capt.
Coleman's company, with Cone's detachment, under the command of Lieut.
Broadnax, in the rear. A small party marched in front of the main body, and another
in the rear, the openness of the country, except in particular places, rendered it
unnecessary to employ men upon the right and left.
Our encampment at nights, there being three companies, was in the form of a triangle,
with the bag gage in the center, the men with their clothes on, lying with their feet
pointing outwards, and their fire locks in their arms. In case of an attack, the
officers were instructed to bring up their companies upon the right and left of the
company fronting the enemy, and attend to the Indian mode of fighting until ordered
to charge. In case of meeting the enemy upon our march, Humphreys' company was
instructed to file off to the right; Fort's company to advance and form to the
front in single rank ; and Coleman's company to file off to the left; the whole
then to advance in the form of a crescent, and endeavor to encircle the enemy.
On the morning of the fourth day of our march, when within six or seven miles of the
Lotchaway towns, our advanced party discovered a party of Indians marching along the
path meeting us, and at the same moment they appeared to have discovered us. As soon
as I was informed of it, I lost no time in giving the necessary directions for the
companies to advance, and
39. Captain Fort, owing to wounds received in the fight at Twelve Mile swamp, was
unable to be with his company, the Milledgeville Volunteers, on this expedition.
obey the instructions which had been previously given to them, and which appeared
exactly suited to the situation in which we found the enemy. As soon as Fort's
company, at the head of which I had placed myself, had advanced to its proper ground,
I discovered the Indians falling back, and making every preparation for battle, by
unslinging their packs, trimming their rifles, and each man taking his place. We
continued to advance, taking advantage of the trees in our progress, until we were
within 130 yards of the Indians, when many of them fired, and I immediately ordered
the charge, which drove them from behind the trees, and caused them to retire with
the greatest precipitation ; our men all the while firing at them, slew sev eral, and
by repeated charges, drove them half a mile, when they took shelter in the swamp. It
unfortunately happened, I presume through inadvertence, that Humphreys' company
in filing to the right took too great a circuit, got a small swamp between them and
the enemy, and thereby rendered the victory less decisive than it would have been had
the whole charged together, and before the Indians had dispersed themselves and
extended their force, which they soon did, nearly half, a mile up and down the swamp.
The company, however, was of service afterwards, in prevent ing the enemy, after
their dispersion, from entering our camp, retaking their baggage and provision, all
of which fell into our hands, or falling upon the wounded that had been sent to the
rear. The action, including the skirmishing upon the flanks, lasted two hours and a
half, the Indians frequently attempting to outflank us and get in our rear, but were
repulsed by the companies extending to the right and left. We had one man killed and
nine wounded, two of which have since died of their wounds. The loss of the enemy
must have been considerable. I saw seven fall to the ground with my own eyes, among
whom was their
king, Payne ; two of them fell near the swamp, the rest our men had the curiosity to
scalp. 40 The rifle company on the right and Broadnax's on the left, speak of
killing several near the swamp, who were borne off by their comrades, it being a
principle among the savages to carry off their dead at the risk of their lives.
We remained on the battle ground watching the movements of the Indians, who were near
the swamp painting themselves, and appeared to be in consultation, all of which
indicated an intention to renew the combat. Accordingly, a half an hour before
sunset, having obtained a considerable reinforcement of Negroes and Indians from
their towns, they commenced the most horrid yells imaginable, imitating the cries and
noise of almost every animal of the forest, their chiefs advancing in front in a
stooping, serpentine manner, and making the most wild and frantic gestures, until
they approached within two hundred yards of us, when they halted and commenced
firing. Our men were not to be alarmed by their noise and yells, but as instructed,
remained perfectly still and steady behind logs and trees until the enemy, by this
forbearance, had approached somewhat nearer, when a brisk and well-directed fire from
our line soon drove them back to their original ground. I would now have ordered the
charge, but being under the necessity, from the extension of the enemy's line, of
detaching nearly one-half of my force to protect our camp and wounded, the assailing
of which is a great object with Indians, I was left to contend with a force three
times as numerous as my own. The action lasted until eight o'clock, when the
enemy was completely repulsed in every attempt, whether made upon our center or
40. Here the whites scalped the Indians. These scalps were brought back and decorated
the walls of Zephaniah Kingsley's house at "Laurel Grove". The Indians
found this out and afterwards besieged "Laurel Grove" causing great damage
there. [picture caption] SECTlON 21, T. IO S., R. 2l E.
flanks. We had two men killed and one wounded; the enemy carried off several of their
men before it was dark-after which all firing, of course random, was at the spot from
whence the flash arose.
After fighting and fasting the whole day, we had to work throughout the night, and at
daylight had a tolerable breastwork of logs and earth, with port holes, on the ground
on which the battle was fought. 41 We were reduced to this necessity, for in
dispatching Capt. Whitaker about dark to the St. John's for a reinforcement, six
more men took the liberty to accom pany him, taking with them our best horses ; our
pilot and surgeon, who was sick, was among the number.
The two days succeeding the battle, we neither saw nor heard anything of the enemy,
but on the evening of the third day they commenced firing at our work at a long
distance, and renewed it every day for five or six days, but without killing or
wounding any of our men. After killing two or three of them through our port holes
they seldom came within gun-shot.
Seven or eight days had now elapsed since our express had left us, hunger was staring
us in the face, and we were now reduced to the necessity of eating one of our horses
; we had no surgeon to dress the wounded, and apprehensions were entertained that the
enemy would receive reinforcements from Augustine or the Makasukie Indians. Expecting
relief every hour, I was unwilling to leave our breastworks while we had a horse left
to eat, but I understood from some of my officers that a certain captain was
determined to leave us with his company, and that many of the men, giving up all
hopes of relief, talked of deserting in the night, rather than perish, or fall a
sacrifice to the
41. A part of Newnan's breastwork is still in evidence. It is in the NW corner of
the SE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Sec. 21-10-21, on the farm of Andrew J. Feaster, near
Windsor, Alachua County. This historic spot is very accessible, being within 100
yards of a paved road. See the accompanying chart.
merciless negroes and Indians, whom they were taught . to believe would surround us
in great numbers in a few days. In this trying situation, when our few remaining
horses were shot down by them, and the num ber of our sick daily increasing, I
reluctantly assented to leave our works that night, and directed the litters to be
prepared to carry the wounded. About nine o'clock we commenced, our distressing
march, carrying five wounded men in litters and supporting two or three more. We had
not proceeded more than eight miles when the men became perfectly exhausted from
hunger and fatigue, and were unable to carry the wounded any farther. About two hours
after we left our breastworks, 25 horsemen, with provisions, arrived to our relief,
on a different road from the one we had taken, but, from motives best known to
themselves, instead of following us, returned to the St. John's, and we were left
to encounter new difficulties, two men that I had dispatched on the path the horsemen
came, by some means or other missing them. 42
We again constructed a place of defence, and I dispatched Sergeant-major Reese with
one private to Picolata, to learn what had occasioned the delay of our expected
supplies, and told him I should remain where I was until I could hear from him, and
endeavored to procure cattle, as we discovered signs of their being near us. The evil
genius of Captain [name deleted] again prevailed, and I have since learned from
Captain Cone, that this person instigated not only him, but many of the privates to
urge a departure from our works even in the day time, when I was convinced that the
Indians knowing our weak situation would endeavor to ambuscade. This
42. The horsemen reached Col. Newnan's breastwork in the night and being unable
to tell in what direction the Colonel had marched, they returned by the path they had
gentleman, if innocent, will have an opportunity of proving himself so before a
With a burning fever on me, and scarcely able to walk, the march was ordered about
three. o'clock in the afternoon. I had directed the adj't., Captain Hardin,
to march in front, to avoid all places where there could be an ambuscade, and the
litters should be distributed among the different companies. Being ex tremely weak I
marched in the rear with Captain [name deleted], who carried my firelock, Lieutenant
Fannin, and about fifteen or twenty privates. We had scarcely marched five miles
before the front of the detachment discovered the heads of several Indians on both
sides of the path, from among several pine trees that were laid prostrate by the
hurricane ; the same instant, the enemy fired upon our advanced party, and shot down
four of them, one, a Spaniard, died on the spot, and two survived a few days ; my
negro boy was one of them. The moment I heard the firing I ordered the detachment to
charge, and the Indians were completely defeated in fifteen minutes, many of them
drop ping their guns, and the whole running off without ever attempting to rally.
Four were left dead on the field, and I am convinced from the constant fire we kept
up, that many more must have been slain, but were hid from our view by the thick and
high Palmetto bushes. We lay on the battle ground all night, and started next day at
10 o'clock, marched five miles and again threw up breastworks between two ponds,
living upon gophers, alligators and Palmetto stocks, until Sergeant-major Reese
arrived with provisions, and 14 horses, when we were enabled to proceed to the St.
John's with all our sick and wounded, where a Gun-boat by the direction of
Colonel Smith was in waiting for us, which conveyed us to his camp, where we met with
every attention that humanity or benevolence could bestow.
I cannot refrain from expressing the high sense I have of the care and anxiety which
Colonel Smith has manifested for the detachment under my command, and his promptitude
in affording every aid in his power, when apprized of our situation. My pen can
scarcely do justice to the merits of the brave officers and men under my command,
their fortitude under all their privations and distresses never forsaking them.
Captain Hamilton, who volunteered as a private, his company having left him at the
expiration of their time ; Lieutenant Finnin, Ensign Hamilton and Adjutant Hardin
distinguished themselves in a particular manner, being always among the first to
charge, and first in pursuit; Sergeants Holt and Attaway likewise acted very bravely,
and Fort's company in general, being always near me, and under my immediate view,
advanced to the charge with the steadiness of veterans. Lieutenant Broadnax shewed a
great deal of courage and presence of mind, and Ensign Mann, who was wounded in the
first action, fought well. Captain Cone, who was wounded in the head early in the
action, behaved well, and Lieutenant Williams did him self great honor in every
action, but particularly in the bold and manly stand he made in the night engagement.
Sergeant Hawkins and Corporal Neil of Cole man's company acted like soldiers, and
Sergeant-major Reese's activity was only surpassed by his courage; he was
everywhere and always brave. Captain Humphreys' company acted bravely,
particularly Lieuten ant Reed, Sergeant Fields, Sergeant Cowan, Sergeant Denmark, and
many of the privates. I can only speak of Captain Humphreys from the report of some
of his men, who say he acted well; it so happening he never met my eye during either
of the engagements, while the conduct of every other person that I have mentioned,
except one or two, came under my personal observation.
The number of Indians in the first engagement, from every circumstance that appeared,
must have been seventy-five to an hundred-in the second engagement, their number,
including negroes who were their best soldiers, was double ours, and in the third
engagement there appeared to be fifty, which was nearly equal to our force, after
deducting the sick and wounded. From every circumstance, I am induced to believe that
the number of killed and wounded among the Indians must be at least fifty.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant, DANIEL NEWNAN
His excellency David B. Mitchell
Accounts of Col. Newnan's expedition were published throughout the country and he
was proclaimed a hero, especially in the South. Georgia has honored his name. In
Florida, Newnansville in the early days was the county seat of Alachua and the most
important town in central Florida. Newnan's Lake, a beautiful body of water near
Gainesville, was named for him, as also an original and principal street in
Three soldiers were killed in the fights with the Indians on Sept. 27th, and they
were probably buried within or just outside Col. Newnan's breastwork. Some years
ago Mr. Feaster found the hilt of a sword at the breastwork, and he has musket balls
of varying sizes that he picked up in the surrounding fields.
The memory of this detachment of American volunteers can appropriately be honored by
the erection of a marker there.
(This series will be continued in the following issue. of the QUARTERLY.)
Click here for Part Four.