Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Battle of Fowltown - Decatur County, Georgia

The exact site of Fowltown has never been identified.
Military reports placed it 3-4 miles south of modern Bainbridge.
Most people today associate the Seminole Wars of the 19th century with Florida, but the series of three conflicts actually began near what is now Bainbridge, Georgia.
On November 21 and 23, 1817, U.S. troops attacked the Lower Creek Indian village of Fowltown. Headed by Neamathla, a chief who would figure prominently in early Florida history, the town was located three or four miles south of the site where Bainbridge would later be established.

Neamathla was not a signer of the Treaty of Fort Jackson, which had ended the Creek War of 1813-1814. That treaty ceded most of what is now Southwest Georgia to the United States. Neamathla, however, lived on the land and refused to give it up. When Major David E. Twiggs, who commanded Fort Scott on the lower Flint River, told the chief that he and his people must move, Neamathla replied that the land was his and that he was "directed by the Powers above to defend it."

Gen. Edmund P. Gaines
(Late in Life)
To overcome the chief's determined resistance, Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines ordered Major Twiggs and 250 men from Fort Scott to march on Fowltown and bring Neamathla back to the fort. The troops marched on November 20, 1817, and arrived outside the village before daylight the next morning.

Twiggs attempted to surround Fowltown in the darkness, but the movement of his troops was discovered. A party of warriors opened fire on the American lines as others helped get the women and children away to safety in the surrounding swamp. The U.S. troops responded with a single volley of fire, killing five of Neamathla's followers, one of them a woman. No U.S. casualties were suffered.

This first skirmish did not rise to the level of battle and the soldiers failed in their mission to capture Neamathla. Unwilling to let the matter end there, Gen. Gaines send a second force back to Fowltown two days later.

Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle
On the morning of November 23, 1817, a command of 300 soldiers from the 4th and 7th Infantry Regiments arrived at Fowltown under the command of Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle. The soldiers found the village abandoned and began to load corn from the Indian storehouses into a wagon they had brought along.

As this operation was underway, however, Neamathla and around 60 of his warriors suddenly emerged from the swamp that nearly surrounded the town and opened fire. The U.S. troops responded and this time a pitched encounter broke out.

Remembered today as the Battle of Fowltown, the firefight was the first battle of the Seminole Wars. You can learn more about it and what happened next by visiting

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