Second Seminole War Forts: Fort Many, Macomb, and Stansbury
Where the Wakulla and St. Marks Rivers meet has always been an area of strategic importance. There is evidence of ancient Floridians living in this area, as well as at Wakulla Springs several miles up river.
In 1528 the doomed Narvaez exhibition decided to give up on their search for gold, and built boats or rafts in this area to sail to Mexico City. A storm drowned most of the exhibition, and only four out of the original 300 ever made it back to Mexico several years later. In 1539, the De Soto exhibition noted this area as an important landmark.
Finally in 1679, the Spanish constructed a crude log outpost here. Life for the soldiers on this remote outpost was difficult, because besides catching fire and burning to the ground once, it was also washed away by a hurricane that drowned the garrison. In 1718 another fort was built out of logs. Finally, a fort was constructed out of stone in 1739, but not completed until decades later.
Although this place was very remote in the Spanish realm, it was still one of the few permanent outpost that the Spanish had within the modern borders of Florida.
The English flew their flag over the area from 1763 to 1787. At this time they set up an extensive trading system with the Indians. The Panton, Leslie & Co. set up one of their many trading stores here. It was so successful, that they were allowed to remain and trade with the Indians after Spain regained Florida.
San Marcos during the years of Bowles' attempt to capture it.
From State of Florida Archives
The adventurous William Augustus Bowles caused much trouble in the area from 1792 to 1803. Bowles was an Englishman from Maryland that joined the Creeks in Georgia during the American Revolutionary War. He became a member in the tribe and appointed himself chief of the Creeks and Seminoles, and sought to establish a Muskogee nation free from America and Spain, but allied with England. He had the support of powerful businessmen in the Bahamas who wanted to break the Panton-Leslie trading monopoly in the southeast. Bowles finally captured San Marcos from the Spanish on the third try, but only occupied it for five weeks until the Spanish recaptured it.
When andrew jackson invaded Florida during the First Seminole War in 1818, he took over San Marcos and raised the American flag, even after the Spanish had already allowed him to use the fort as a hospital. He set up his headquarters here for his illegal invasion of Spanish soil. Here he executed two prominent Indian chiefs and two British citizens who were trading with the Indians, risking war with England.
Jackson's gratitude. During the First Seminole War, andrew jackson captured Prophet Josiah Francis and Chief Homathle-Micco at St. Marks and hanged them. Francis' daughter Millie had saved the life of an American soldier Duncan McKrimmon during the previous month.
In 1821 San Marcos became United States territory along with the rest of Florida. The fort soon fell into ruin, but was reactivated as a federal hospital. The hospital remained until after World War I.
Today there is a small museum here, and interpretive trails around the foundations of the fort walls.
Read here for more information on William Augustus Bowles.
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© 1998, 2002 Chris Kimball
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