View from Prospect Bluff
Gunboats #149 and #154
fired on the fort from just
downstream, blowing it to bits
with a heated cannonball.
Battery of the "Negro Fort"
The earthwork water battery of
the fort was incorporated in
the later Fort Gadsden.
ATTACK ON THE FORT AT PROSPECT BLUFF
Fort Gadsden Historic Site in Florida
Attack on the Fort at Prospect Bluff - Fort Gadsden, Florida
|Site of the "Negro Fort"
The footbridge seen here crosses what
remains of the moat. The magazine stood
directly ahead at the center of the picture.
Note: This article is part of a larger section on
Fort Gadsden Historic Site in Florida.
By the spring of 1816 there were more than
300 people living on farms that extended for
miles up the Apalachicola River from the Fort
at Prospect Bluff or "Negro Fort" (as it was
called in 1816). Most of these farms were
occupied by African Americans, many of
whom had escaped from slavery in the
United States or Spanish Pensacola.
The well-defended colony of free blacks
offered a natural refuge for individuals fleeing
the forced labors of slavery. As might be
expected, this original "Underground
Railroad" was not viewed favorably by the
U.S. Government. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines
was authorized to move against the fort.
Under orders from Gaines, a battalion from
the 4th Infantry Regiment moved down the
Chattahoochee River from Fort Mitchell in
Alabama and established new posts at Fort
Gaines and Camp Crawford (later Fort Scott)
in Georgia. These new posts provided bases
for a move against the "Negro Fort."
Supplies and artillery for the new forts were
sent via the Gulf of Mexico on two schooners
escorted by U.S. Navy Gunboats #149 and
#154 and Clinch started downstream from
Camp Crawford with 116 men in boats.
When the ships arrived in Apalachicola Bay
they sent a party of sailors into the mouth of
the river for fresh water. The sailors, however,
were attacked by men from the "Negro Fort"
in what became known as the "Watering
Reinforced by a large party of U.S.-allied
Creek warriors under the Coweta chief Major
William McIntosh, Clinch surrounded the fort
and demanded its surrender. The garrison
responded by opening fire with their artillery.
On the morning of July 27, 1816, the U.S.
gunboats moved within range of the fort and
opened fire. Cannon fire was returned from
the fort and a brief but intense battle followed.
After firing four shots to test the range, the
sailors loaded their guns with "hot shot"
(cannonballs heated until they were red hot).
The fifth shot overall and the first hot shot
fired by the American vessels sailed over the
wall of the fort and into an open door in the
magazine. The entire "Negro Fort" was blown
to bits in the blink of an eye.
Site of the Explosion
Archaeologists found buried
remains of the destroyed
magazine at this site.
Cemetery at Fort Gadsden
The victims of the "Negro Fort"
explosion may be buried in
this old cemetery at the site.
Deadliest Cannon Shot in U.S.
"The explosion was awful and the scene
horrible beyond description," Col. Clinch
reported a short time later. The death toll was
Of the 320 men, women and children in the
fort when the attack began, 270 were killed
and many others were horribly wounded.
Stunned by the devastation and horror, the
soldiers tried to assist the wounded as best
they could. The commander or sergeant
major of the fort was a man named Garcon.
He had been severely wounded in the blast
but was captured alive, as was a refugee
Choctaw chief. Both were instantly executed
by McIntosh's warriors.
The few survivors of the explosion were
carried upstream to Camp Crawford (Fort
Scott) by Clinch and notices posted so their
former "owners" could come to that post and
claim them. The artillery and other supplies
were seized over the objections of Spanish
officers who arrived in Apalachicola Bay a
short time later.
The site of the Fort at Prospect Bluff (or
"Negro Fort) is preserved at Fort Gadsden
Historic Site in Florida's Apalachicola
Return to the Fort Gadsden main page for
history, hours, directions & more information.
|Copyright 2011 & 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: July 27, 2014