ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Fort Scott, Georgia
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Fort Scott, Georgia
|Site of Fort Scott
The ground on which the historic fort stood is now
overgrown and forgotten, as are the graves of the
nearly 200 U.S. soldiers buried there.
Fort Scott, Georgia
A marker detailing the history
of Fort Scott can be seen on
the other side of the lake at
Hutchinson Ferry Landing.
Fort Scott - Decatur County, Georgia
A Significant Historic Site in Peril
|Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Update: July 6, 2012
Site of Fort Scott
The site of Fort Scott is sadly
overgrown and neglected. It is
unmarked and uninterpreted,
even though it is on Federal
Fort Scott Monument
The monument from the Fort
Scott site now stands at the
J.D. Chason Memorial Park in
Fort Scott was located on the
lower Flint River. The river at
the fort site is now part of
Lake Seminole, which was
created in 1958.
Fort Scott was an important 19th century
military post located on the Flint River in what
is now Decatur County, Georgia. It served as
the command post for U.S. operations during
the First Seminole War of 1817-1818.
The site of Fort Scott is undeveloped and
neglected today. It overlooks the Flint River
arm of Lake Seminole, a 37,500 acre
impoundment completed in 1958. Despite
projections that the site would be flooded by
the lake, it remains well above the high water
mark of the reservoir.
The first fort on this site was built long before
the creation of the lake, when the bluff still
towered above the cool clear water of the
Lt. Col. Duncan Lamont Clinch landed here
during the first week of June 1816 with his
battalion of men from the 4th U.S. Infantry
Regiment. The colonel had been ordered
down by boat from Fort Gaines to locate and
fortify a defensible position near the border
between the United States and what was
then Spanish Florida.
Clinch selected the high bluff because of its
proximity to the confluence of the Flint and
Chattahoochee Rivers, the obvious defensive
potential of the site and the presence of a
deep spring that flowed nearby. His men built
a gunpowder magazine on the bluff top and
then surrounded it with a rough log stockade.
The compound was named Camp Crawford
after Secretary of War William Crawford of
Because the occupation of Camp Crawford
was expected to be temporary, no barracks
or other structures were built. Less than six
weeks after first setting foot on the bluff,
Clinch led most of his men down the
Apalachicola River into Spanish Florida as
part of the American operation against the
so-called "Negro Fort."
A former British post left in the hands of a
well-trained and armed force of African
American auxiliary soldiers at the end of the
War of 1812, the "Negro Fort" was thought by
the United States to be a haven for runaway
slaves from Georgia and the Carolinas. It
was attacked and destroyed in a joint land-
sea operation on July 27, 1816.
Of the estimated 320 men, women and
children in the fort when it was destroyed,
270 died instantly and many of the survivors
were mortally wounded. Of those who lived,
only a few were found to have actually been
runaway slaves from the United States. Most
were free blacks from Florida.
The survivors determined to have come from
plantations and farms of the United States
were carried back up to Camp Crawford
where they arrived on August 2, 1816. Clinch
immediately sent out a notice that they could
be claimed there by their owners, but it is
unclear whether any actually were returned to
Now realizing that the bluff on the lower Flint
was destined for longer occupation, the
colonel ordered the construction of a second
and more permanent fort. By November the
name of the installation was changed from
Camp Crawford to Fort Scott, probably to
honor Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott of the U.S.
The new fort consisted of a long row of
barracks built of squared longs in a single
line back from the edge of the bluff. So strong
that they could be defended merely by
closing their heavy wooden doors and
window shutters, the barracks formed one
wall of the new compound.
Quarters for officers were built between this
line of buildings and the river, as were a
hospital, magazine and other structures. An
inspector who visited the site that fall
reported that stockade walls would be built at
each end of this compound to secure its
Fort Scott was still incomplete, however,
when orders came for its evacuation. A
military downsizing was underway and the
fort was not thought necessary. No sooner
did the soldiers leave in December of 1816,
however, than did angry Red Stick Creeks
ransack and burn the fort.
Recognizing that the government had been
hasty in abandoning the fort, Maj. Gen.
Edmund P. Gaines ordered Capt. Samuel
Donoho to move his artillery company from
Charleston to Fort Scott and to rebuild the
defenses. Due to slow communications and
the difficulty of the march, Donoho did not
reach the bluff until June of 1817. The work of
rebuilding the fort was not completed until
late December of that year.
Long before the fort was finished, however, a
war of words broke out between the U.S.
Army and Neamathla, the chief of the Lower
Creek village of Fowltown. Because he had
not signed the Treaty of Fort Jackson by
which the Creek Nation ceded most of
Southwest Georgia to the United States,
Neamathla refused to be bound by that
agreement. The land was his, he said, and
he was "directed by the Powers above to
Anticipating violence, Gen. Gaines marched
the full strengths of the 4th and 7th Infantry
Regiments from Alabama to Fort Scott. On
November 21, 1817, troops from Fort Scott
marched on Fowltown with orders to bring
the chief back with them. The Indians
resisted and the first shots of the First
Seminole War rang out.
The skirmish, along with a second encounter
at Fowltown on the 23rd, stirred up a hornets'
nest for the soldiers at Fort Scott. Thousands
of Creek, Seminole and African-American
reinforcements marched to Neamathla's
support from villages as far away as the
Sites of the First Seminole War
On November 30, 1817, they retaliated for the
attacks on Fowltown by ambushing a U.S.
Army boat on the Apalachicola River near the
modern city of Chattahoochee. Lt. R.W. Scott
was killed, along with 34 of his men, 6
women and 4 children. Of the 7 survivors, five
were badly wounded and one, a woman
named Elizabeth Stewart, was carried away
as a prisoner.
The Indian forces, now led by the Creek
Prophet Josiah Francis and the Seminole
chief Boleck (often called Bowlegs), followed
up their bloody success by attacking Fort Scott
on December 2, 1817. Firing from across the
Flint River, the warriors sent the soldiers
scrambling for cover and kept up their attack
until the fort's cannon were directed against
News of the Scott Massacre reached
Washington, D.C., in December and sent a
shock wave through the halls of power. Maj.
Gen. Andrew Jackson was ordered from
Nashville to assume command of an army
that would be assembled to punish the
Indians for the attack. Militia troops were
called up from Georgia, Tennessee,
Kentucky, the Carolinas and the Mississippi
Jackson reached Fort Scott on March 9, 1818
only to find the soldiers there on the verge of
starvation. Determined to march to his
supplies, which were believed to be on their
way up the Apalachicola River, he left the fort
the next day and shortly thereafter invaded
With the exception of a few late raids, the First
Seminole War was over by June. The army,
however, did not repeat its mistake of 1816
and this time maintained a strong presence
at the fort.
By 1820, in fact, a major reinforcement of Fort
Scott was underway. Concerned that the
Spanish might refuse to peacefully give up
Florida to the United States, the American
government prepared to seize the colony. The
main bodies of the 4th and 7th Infantry
regiments once again were ordered to the
This time, however, the army encountered not
enemy warriors but mosquitoes that
swarmed up from the swamps to infect the
men with malaria. The monthly reports of the
post indicate that at one time as many as 769
of the 780 soldiers at Fort Scott were sick with
malaria. Many died.
A few dozen men able to withstand the short
march were moved across the Flint River to a
high hill a few miles away in hope that a
change of air might benefit them. Malaria was
then thought to be caused by bad air. A tent
camp was pitched in a grove of tall pine trees
at a place still known today as Camp
Recovery. The experiment, unfortunately,
failed. Many of the men in this small group
died at Camp Recovery and the rest were
moved back to Fort Scott after a few months.
Despite such fearful sickness and the deaths
of over 100 U.S. soldiers, a large force was
maintained at Fort Scott until September of
1821. Once the peaceful transfer of Florida
from Spain to the United States had taken
place, the fort was ordered abandoned and its
garrison was sent west to the new frontier
west of the Mississippi.
There is some evidence that Confederate
troops may have camped at the site in 1861,
but the top of the bluff was never again
occupied by the U.S. military.
A monument was erected on the site during
the 1880s to mark the burial ground where so
many forgotten soldiers were buried. It
remained there until the 1950s when it was
moved to the J.D. Chason Memorial Park in
Bainbridge after engineers predicted that the
site would be flooded by Lake Seminole. The
projections turned out to be wrong, but the
monument was never returned.
The site of Fort Scott is protected today by
Federal law, but otherwise is unmarked and
neglected. The entire site is covered with
dense underbrush and aside from a few
earthen embankments, no trace can be seen
of either the fort or its forgotten burial ground
in which nearly 200 American soldiers rest in
While the fort itself is not accessible, those
interested in learning more can read a marker
on the opposite side of Lake Seminole at
Hutchinson Ferry Landing (Wingate's Lodge).
The monument originally placed at the fort
can be seen in Bainbridge at Chason Park.
Lt. Col. Duncan L. Clinch
The builder of the original Fort
Scott, Clinch would serve on
the frontier again during the
Second Seminole War.
Neamathla (Eneah Emathla)
Neamathla battled the whites
again in the Creek War of
1836, even though he was
then more than 80 years old.
Nearly 200 U.S. soldiers are
buried somewhere in the
thick woods that now cover
the site of Fort Scott.