Along the Apalachicola River was "The Brickyard". This was a store north of present day Fort Gadsden that was an Indian trading post. It was one of the "branch offices" of the Panton-Leslie trading monopoly from Pensacola.
This site is the place of one of the most tragic events in Florida history. Today it is far removed from anywhere, and you have to travel on three miles of dirt road in the Apalachicola Forest to get here. There are no major cities nearby, and you must be willing to go off the beaten path just to visit. When I visited here in 1993 there was a local church group having a picnic, and that was probably the only substantial crowd this park ever sees.
The Apalachicola River has always been an important waterway. Further north it connects the Chattahootchee and Flint Rivers, being the main waterway into the heart of Creek Indian country. After John Forbes took over the Panton-Leslie Trading Monopoly in Pensacola, he established a trading post at Brickyard Landing near present day Fort Gadsden.
At the end of the War of 1812, the British left a fort here as an arms and supply depot for their Indian allies on the site of the future Fort Gadsden. Commonly known as Negro Fort, the British attempted to get the support of all the Indians and Blacks in the southeast to start an uprising against the United States. When the British left, they gave all their supplies and weapons over to the Indians and escaped black slaves. The escaped slaves joined with local Choctaws, and established their village at the fort. (Local Creeks say that the former slaves allied with the local Choctaws, and not them.)
The United States wanted to travel on the Apalachicola River to bring supplies up into western Georgia, and didn't want any renegade Seminoles and escaped slaves to inhibit their movement. Even though Florida was still Spanish territory at that time, the U.S. was determined to bring commerce up the river. The encampment around Negro Fort was constantly harassing river traffic, so the Americans were determined to destroy the place.
In July 1816, Colonel Duncan Clinch (who later was a general during the Second Seminole War) left Fort Scott on the Flint River on a mission to eliminate the fort. He was joined by Creek leader William MacIntosh and 150 Creek warriors, who were recruited by promises of loot from what could be found in the fort.
On 27 July 1816, Clinch's force was travelling down river when they were fired upon from Negro Fort. The American gunboat responded by firing a "hot shot" round into the fort. This super heated cannon ball landed in the powder magazine of Negro Fort. The resulting explosion was too horrible to describe. Of the 300 free Blacks and their Choctaw allies who were in the fort at the time, 90 percent were killed instantly. Flesh and body parts were everywhere. The Americans still felt obligated to execute the surviving chiefs for the murder of four Americans a few days earlier. MacIntosh's Creek force that came along looted any weapons and supplies they could find.
During the First Seminole War two years later, andrew jackson had Lt. James Gadsden build a supply base at the same location. Gadsden, who the fort is named after, would also play a major part negotiating the Treaty of Moultrie Creek with the Seminoles, and the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico years later. After jackson left Florida, the fort was forgotten until a brief time during the Civil War.
Today the only thing left of the two forts is the remains of the earthworks that were part of the walls. There is also a small exhibit nearby. Everything is outdoors, and it does not take very long to see it all.
There was a small archaeology survey done in the 1940's, but only a few minor items were recovered. There has been no extensive excavation of the site. Hopefully one day a proper survey can be conducted to examine the history of this place of such tradgedy.
John Gorrie State Museum:
In 1833, John Gorrie arrived in Apalachicola as a young physician. He served as town mayor and other local civic and government posts. His greatest contribution was the invention of an ice machine that cooled rooms for patients stricken with yellow fever. Although he is not well known for his invention, we all thank him for it, because we all have air conditioners today. The museum has many items on displays that were common during the Second Seminole War period.
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(c) 1998, 2002 Chris Kimball
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