Sunday, September 29, 2013

Milly Francis: The Life & Times of the Creek Pocahontas - New Book

I'm pleased to announce the release of my new book, Milly Francis: The Life & Times of the Creek Pocahontas. It is now available in both print and Amazon Kindle editions.

If you are not familiar with the story of Milly Francis, it is one of the most remarkable and tragic you will encounter in the long story of the United States and its dealings with American Indians.

Born in around 1803 in central Alabama, Milly was the daughter of Josiah Francis, a man who later became known as the Prophet Francis or Hillis Hadjo ("Warrior of Crazy Medicine"). He was the leader of a religious movement that exploded in the Creek Nation in 1812-184 and one of the key figures of the Red Stick Creeks during the Creek War of 1813-1814. The Prophet later fought on the side of the British during the War of 1812 and alongside the Seminoles of Florida in the First Seminole War of 1817-1818.

Milly Francis Monument at Bacone College
Muskogee, Oklahoma
By the time she was 15 years old, Milly had survived three wars and the cataclysmic destruction of the Red Stick Creeks by the armies of Andrew Jackson, John Floyd and Ferdinand L. Claiborne. She had been forced to flee her home in Alabama to refugee camps in Spanish Florida.

In 1818, however, Milly Francis saved the life of a Georgia militia soldier named Duncan McCrimmon (sometimes spelled McKrimmon). It was a true Pocahontas like incident in which she witnessed the warriors of her town preparing to execute the young white man, but pleaded for his life until they agreed to spare him. In newspapers throughout the United States and even in England, Milly was hailed as a "new Pocahontas" or "modern Pocahontas."

Milly Francis Monument at San Marcos de Apalache
St. Marks, Florida
She gained even greater fame when McCrimmon offered to marry her as a show of his gratitude and she refused, telling him that she would have shown such mercy to any other person under the same circumstances.

Thousands of young girls born in the 1820s-1840s were given the name "Milly Francis" after the woman who became known as the Creek Pocahontas. She also has been called the Florida Pocahontas, the Georgia Pocahontas, the Seminole Pocahontas and the Oklahoma Pocahontas.

Her act of mercy came at a time when the people of a "savage race" were not thought to hold such sentiments. It can truly be said that Milly Francis forced the start of America's long process of rethinking its treatment and attitudes about its original inhabitants.

It was not until the final days of her life, long after she had been sent west on the Trail of Tears, that the United States recognized the debt of gratitude that it owed her. Milly Francis became the first American woman to be recognized with a special medal of honor from the U.S. Congress.

To read her story and the story of her times, please consider the new book. You can order it through by following these links:

Paperback - Milly Francis: The Life & Times of the Creek Pocahontas ($19.95)

Kindle - Milly Francis: The Life & Times of the Creek Pocahontas ($7.99)

You can read a brief version of her story at

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Great Southern Waterfalls #2 - Little River Falls in Alabama

Little River Falls in Alabama
#2 in the series of Great Southern Waterfalls is Little River Falls in Alabama!  (To see #1 in the series, please visit Cedar Falls at Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas).

Easily accessible to the public, Little River Falls is part of Little River Canyon National Preserve, a relatively new national park area near Fort Payne, Alabama. The falls are located where State Highway 35 crosses Little River Canyon.

The magnificent falls flow year round and are 45-feet high.  While they are not among the tallest waterfalls in the South, they make up for it in sheer power and scenic beauty.

Formed where the Little River drops over an escarpment as it flows through Little River Canyon atop Lookout Mountain, Little River Falls are free to visit and are open daily during daylight hours. The parking area includes space for cars, RVs and buses and provides access to a short paved trail that leads down to an overlook just above the falls. From there the more adventurous can venture out onto the rocks and the top of the falls.

A nice but more distant view of Little River Falls is also available from the overlook on Canyon Rim Drive, also part of Little River Canyon National Preserve.

Camping is not allowed at the falls, but campsites are available at nearby Desoto State Park.

To learn more about Little River Falls, please visit

Friday, September 6, 2013

Great Southern Waterfalls #1 - Cedar Falls at Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas

Cedar Falls in Arkansas
This is Part #1 of a special fall series on great waterfalls you can see across the South! I will update this page with links as I add others.

#1 on our list of Great Southern Waterfalls is Cedar Falls at Petit Jean State Park near Morrilton, Arkansas.

Ninety feet in height, Cedar Falls is formed by the sudden drop of Cedar Creek from the top of Petit Jean Mountain into Cedar Canyon. One of the best waterfalls to see in Arkansas because it flows year-round, Cedar Falls is one of the reasons that Petit Jean was made the first Arkansas state park when the land was acquired by the state in 1921.

The falls can be viewed from overlooks on both sides of the canyon, or the more energetic can follow a hiking trail down into Cedar Canyon and to the bottom of the magnificent waterfall.The hike provides a stunning view accompanied by the thundering sound of the waterfall hitting the rocks at the bottom of the canyon.

Another view of Cedar Falls
The waterfall is the centerpiece of the state park, which is one of the most beautiful in the South. Covering 2,568 acres, Petit Jean State Park offers a remarkable collection of natural and historic points of interest.

In addition to Cedar Falls, there are rock formations, caves with prehistoric Indian art, magnificent views, a pre-Civil War pioneer cabin and even Petit Jean's Grave, the place where legend holds a young French girl was buried when she died of sickness after stowing away aboard a ship during Colonial times to come to America in search of her true love.  Her ghost is said to haunt the mountain.

To learn more, please visit

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Preview Chapter of the "The Scott Massacre of 1817"

I thought you might enjoy reading a chapter from my book, The Scott Massacre of 1817. Published in January of this year for the benefit of the West Gadsden Historical Society, it tells the story of the bloody battle on the Apalachicola River that led to Andrew Jackson's 1818 invasion of Spanish Florida and ultimately the cession of the colony to the United States.

The book is available in both print and Kindle editions through or at

Chapter One

The Year without a Summer

 On November 30, 1817, a boat carrying soldiers and supplies, as well as seven women and four children, rounded the sharp bend of the Apalachicola River where the city of Chattahoochee stands today. The current was strong and despite the efforts of the men pulling at the oars, the boat was pushed close to the east bank of the river. Lieutenant Richard W. Scott of the 7th U.S. Infantry regiment commanded the vessel and had been warned that he might face an attack from Red Stick Creeks and their Seminole Indian allies before he reached the confluence of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers.

Scott and his soldiers, half of whom were sick and unarmed, had kept careful watch but so far the attack they expected had not materialized. By the morning of the 30th, the boat was less than two miles from the confluence and only twelve miles from the safety of Fort Scott. Fighting to keep the boat moving forward as it was pushed near the east bank by the current, the lieutenant and his men never saw the warriors who were waiting there for them.

The shoreline erupted with a sheet of flame as lead balls exploded from hundreds of rifles and muskets, all aimed at Lieutenant Scott and his command. The bloodbath that followed forever changed American history. The U.S. Army sustained its first defeat of the Seminole Wars, a series of conflicts that would plague the nation for four decades to come. In their victory, the Seminoles and their Red Stick allies assured their defeat in the greater war. Andrew Jackson would be sent to invade foreign soil, clearly demonstrating to Spain that it could not hope to hold Florida. The old colony became a U.S. territory just four years later.

The autumn of 1817 came during a time of tumult and chaos in the world. The spell started in 1811 when a brilliant comet appeared in the skies. Massive earthquakes shook the New Madrid Fault that same year, so rattling the United States that politicians took to the streets in Washington, D.C., believing that the capital was somehow under attack. The natural phenomena at least partially helped spark a time of great disturbance in the course of world history. The once mighty Creek Nation was shattered at Horseshoe Bend in March 1814 and that same year Andrew Jackson smashed the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Napoleon fell, rose, and fell again. And just as it seemed as if peace might return to the world, the volcano Timbora erupted in the Pacific.

Ash from the explosion drifted high into the atmosphere and slowly spread around the world. So much of it infiltrated the sky that the year of 1816 was remembered for decades to come as the “Year Without a Summer.” Strange weather destroyed the corn crops in New England and Europe. Hundreds of thousands died and food riots shattered the peace of Switzerland. In the United States, the light of day glowed in a strange golden or orange color and unseasonable cold persisted far longer than anyone had ever seen. The unusual and deadly weather continued for two years to come.

In Florida during the summer of 1816, U.S. forces destroyed the so-called “Negro Fort” on the Apalachicola River. A heated cannonball passed through the open door of a gunpowder magazine, instantly ignited an explosion that shook the ground as far away as Pensacola. In a blinding flash, 270 of the estimated 320 men, women and children in the fort perished.

With them was destroyed or captured a vast armament of muskets, carbines, swords, gun flints, cannon, powder and other military supplies that had been left behind by the British at the end of the War of 1812. The totality of the disaster so stunned the Lower Creek and Seminole Indians of Florida, Southwest Georgia and South Alabama that they did not resist the movement of the American troops as they marched back up the river to Georgia. Returning to a temporary outpost called Camp Crawford on the lower Flint River, they began building a more permanent fort with squared log buildings and comfortable quarters. The new post was called Fort Scott, after General Winfield T. Scott, and was described as “elegant” by one inspector who reviewed the work in progress.

The fort was still incomplete in December 1816 when orders came for Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Lamont Clinch and his men from the 4th U.S. Infantry to evacuate it. Leaving the buildings and supplies stored there in the care of George Perryman, the mestizo brother of the Lower Creek chiefs William and Ben Perryman, the troops evacuated Fort Scott and headed north to Fort Gaines and then Fort Mitchell.

The move gave new confidence to the refugee Red Stick fighters concentrated near the confluence of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers. They had fled to the region after their bloody defeat at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend seeking and receiving resupply from the British who had built two forts on the Apalachicola. Irate over the destruction of their depot at the “Negro Fort,” they now exacted their revenge on the unfinished and unguarded buildings of Fort Scott. Appearing almost as soon as the soldiers departed, they threatened Perryman and drove him off from the place. He was only able to secure his family and a few personal possessions before fleeing the scene in a canoe. The supplies left at the fort were ransacked and stolen and fire was set to the log buildings. George Perryman saw at least three buildings burning as he fled. The Indians, he said, were “in numbers.”[i]

It is generally believed, and probably accurately so, that the Fowltown warriors were among those who raided Fort Scott. The town had joined with the Uchees (Yuchis) in “taking the talk” of the Prophet Josiah Francis and his followers during the Creek War of 1813-1814.

Francis, it was said by his followers, could communicate with the water spirits. He was often seen walking down into a flowing stream or river from which he would not emerge for many hours. A practitioner of the Nativistic religion of the Shawnee Prophet Tenskwatawa, Francis taught the converts who gathered around him that the Indians should separate themselves from the whites, that accommodationist chiefs should be overthrown and that the Creeks should live in peace with all people, but subject to none. No more Native American land was to be given up.

Such talk resonated with the head chief of Fowltown (called Tutalosi Talofa or “Chicken Town” in the Hitchiti tongue of the Lower Creeks). His name or title was Eneah Emathla, which translates roughly to “Fat Warrior.” He was not an overweight individual, but instead was enormous in courage. The whites, who were never very good with Indian names, called him everything from E-nee-hee-maut-by to Eneamathla before finally settling on the name Neamathla.

A man of courage and talent, Neamathla was said by one contemporary to be able to command his warriors with a mere look. He agreed with Josiah Francis that the Creeks should no longer submit to the expansionist desires of the whites and led his warriors to join the Prophet’s force at Holy Ground on the Alabama River. The Tutalosi warriors, however, were cornered and defeated at the Battle of Uchee in what is now Russell County, Alabama, by an overwhelming party of Cowetas led by the U.S.-allied chief William McIntosh.

Blocked in his objective of joining the Red Sticks in Alabama and fearing that the women and children of his town would be subjected to follow-up attack by McIntosh’s warriors, Neamathla abandoned his town on Kinchafoonee Creek near present day Albany, Georgia, and withdrew down the Flint River into the deep wilderness near the Florida border. There he resettled his people and established a new town, also called Tutalosi Talofa or Fowltown.

Neamathla and his warriors quickly allied themselves with the British, who appeared on the Apalachicola at about the same time. Joining the auxiliary force being raised by Lieutenant Colonel Edward Nicolls, they were given arms, ammunition and a drum for their town. The chief himself was presented with a military uniform coat of scarlet color and a letter signed by Captain Robert Spencer testifying that Neamathla was a loyal and good friend of Great Britain.

Neamathla was present at the British outpost near the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers on March 10, 1815, when a large gathering of Creek and Seminole chiefs signed a written appeal to the Prince Regent in London for help in enforcing the provisions of the Treaty of Ghent. The treaty had finally ended the War of 1812 and required that all combatants returned to their prewar land holdings. Colonel Nicolls and other British officers on the Apalachicola believed that the Creeks were covered under the terms of the treaty as their war with the United States had been a subsidiary part of the larger conflict. The United States disagreed and maintained that the Creeks had already entered into a separate treaty and therefore were not covered under the Treaty of Ghent.

That agreement, called the Treaty of Fort Jackson, was negotiated by Andrew Jackson in August 1814. Signed by many Creek leaders, it was in effect a Native American surrender. In exchange for peace, the chiefs agreed to Jackson’s terms and ceded to the United States a vast stretch of territory including 23,000,000 acres. The largest swath of this cession was along the Florida border and, unfortunately for Neamathla and his followers, it included the land on which they had established their new village.

The presence of Fowltown and other Lower Creek villages on the Treaty lands was not an immediate concern to anyone. Few whites were brave enough to settle in the new territory and the Indians for the most part just wanted to be left alone. The burning of Fort Scott by Red Stick warriors in January 1817 changed this equation, however, and events on the frontier soon spiraled out of control. A flurry of letters and reports traveled back and forth between the frontier and both the War Department in Washington, D.C., and the headquarters of Major General Andrew Jackson in Nashville, Tennessee.
The blame for the burning of Fort Scott quickly focused on Neamathla and his warriors at Fowltown. Although they often debated the proper policy to pursue with regard to the Indians of the Southeast, in this case U.S. officials reached an almost unanimous conclusion: Neamathla would have to remove himself and his people from the ceded lands. The chief, however, believed the land was his and that he was “directed by the powers above to defend it.” The stage was set for war and the conflict was not long in coming.

To read the rest of this book, please order it online through Amazon in either print or Kindle format:

The Scott Massacre of 1817: A Seminole War Battle in Gadsden County, Florida (Book, $17.96)

The Scott Massacre of 1817 (Kindle, $8.95)

[i] Lt. Richard Sands to Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines, February 2, 1817.