Saturday, May 10, 2014

British arrive on the Gulf Coast, 200 years ago today

Union Jack flies over the Gulf Coast
Today marks the 200th anniversary of the arrival of British forces on the Gulf Coast as the War of 1812 shifted south.

The warships HMS Orpheus and HMS Shelburne arrived at Apalachicola Bay on May 10, 1814. Florida was then Spanish territory and Spain was ostensibly neutral in the conflict between the United States and Great Britain, but the British prepared to land on the Apalachicola to open a southern front against U.S. forces.

The commander of the expedition, Captain Hugh Pigot, had been directed to land a small force of British Royal Marines and a massive stockpile of arms and ammunition at the mouth of the Apalachicola River. The weapons would be delivered to Seminole and Creek warriors in order to secure their allegiance to the British.

Waters off Apalachicola Bay where the British arrived
To achieve this goal, Pigot ordered Brevet Captain George Woodbine of the Royal Marines to enter the river and make contact with any chiefs in the vicinity:

You are hereby directed to proceed up the river Appalachicola and endeavour by every means in your power to procure an interview with the Chiefs of the Creek Nation. You will inform them that the Orpheus Frigate has arrived on the coast with two thousand muskets, ammunition, &c. &c. for them, and...should cavalry be able to act inform me what arms and furniture they stand in need of. - Captain Hugh Pigot, Royal Navy, to Brevet Captain George Woodbine, Royal Marines, May 10, 1814. 

Apalachicola Bay, Florida
The British had come to Apalachicola Bay at the request of Chiefs Thomas and William Perryman, who lived on the lower Chattahoochee River in what is now Seminole County, Georgia, and Jackson County, Florida. The two leaders had headed a delegation that met with a British officer in September 1813 to request military support from the British. They had recently learned of the American attack on Red Stick Creek warriors at Burnt Corn Creek in what is now Alabama and were concerned that the United States was preparing to open an indiscriminate war on Creek towns, including their own.

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
By the time their request was delivered to the Bahamas and then on to London, the Creek War of 1813-1814 had erupted into a full scale conflict between the Red Stick faction of the Creek Nation and the United States. When the British arrived at Apalachicola Bay 200 years ago today, they were unaware of the devastating defeat inflicted on the Red Sticks by the army of Major General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Thousands of Red Stick warriors and their families were fleeing into Florida.

Site of the British Post at Prospect Bluff
Over the days ahead, the British established a depot at Prospect Bluff on the lower Apalachicola River. This post would later be known as the "Negro Fort" and finally as Fort Gadsden. It would play a major role in the history not only of Florida, but of the entire United States.

To learn more about the fort, please visit:

Later in the year 1814, the British built a second fort at the head of the Apalachicola where the City of Chattahoochee stands today. Often overlooked or confused with the post on the lower river, this outpost was intended to serve as a base of operations for a major British invasion of Georgia.

Learn more about it at

I will follow the history of the British invasion of the Gulf Coast over coming days, weeks and months so be sure to check back often here at