Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fort Gadsden and the British Post on the Apalachicola - Florida

One of the South's most significant historic sites can be found deep in Florida's Apalachicola National Forest.

Formerly a state park but now maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, Fort Gadsden Historic Site is the location of two 19th century military outposts. The first of these was a British fort built during the War of 1812. Called the "British Post on the Apalachicola" during the war, by 1816 it had become known to American authorites as the "Negro Fort."

The other outpost was Fort Gadsden, from which the park takes its name. Fort Gadsden was built by Andrew Jackson during his 1818 invasion of Spanish Florida.

The British came to the Apalachicola River in 1814 following a plea for military assistance from Creek warriors then being overwhelmed by American armies in Alabama. They established the British Post as a recruiting and training base for thousands of Creek and Seminole warriors, but also appealed to both free and enslaved African Americans along the frontier to come to the fort and join their growing army.

When the War of 1812 ended, the British left the fort along with its artillery, ammunition and supplies in the hands of their Indian and black allies. Most of the Native Americans soon drifted away, but the African Americans set about turning the fort into a colony deep in Spanish territory where they could live in freedom under the protection of the heavy artillery given to them by the British.

U.S. authorities soon began calling the post the "Negro Fort" and in 1816 - despite the fact that it was in Spanish territory - sent a joint land and sea force to destroy it. The fort was blown to bits on July 27, 1816, when a red hot cannon ball fired by an American ship sailed over the wall and into the open door of a gunpowder magazine. The resulting explosion killed 270 of the 320 or so men, women and children in the fort. It was one of the deadliest single shots in American history.

American troops later built Fort Gadsden on the site and the park today preserves the locations of both forts.

If you would like to learn more about this fascinating historic site, please visit our new pages at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortgadsden.

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