Battle of Fowltown - Bainbridge, Georgia
Battle of Fowltown - Bainbridge, Georgia
|The Battle of Fowltown
The fighting at Fowltown ignited the First Seminole
War of 1817-1818. The site of the village has never
been identified, but this marker stands in the vicinity.
Monument at Hughes' Grave
This monument was erected by
the U.S. Government in the 1880s
near the grave of Aaron Hughes,
killed at Fowltown.
THE BATTLE OF FOWLTOWN
Decatur County, Georgia
First Battle of the Seminole Wars
|Copyright 2012 & 2015 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Update: November 22, 2015
Described by those who knew him
as a commanding and brilliant
figure, Neamathla was the chief of
Fowltown in November 1817.
Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle
The U.S. troops at the Battle of
Fowltown were led by Lt. Col.
Matthew Arbuckle of the 7th U.S.
The Battle of Fowltown took place a few
miles south of Bainbridge in what is now
Decatur County, Georgia. It was the first
significant action of the Seminole Wars.
The exact site of the encounter has been lost,
but military reports indicate it took place three
to four miles south of a crossing on the Flint
River where Bainbridge stands today. At
about that distance below the city can be
found Fowlstown Swamp, which also was
shown on land lot surveys of the 1820s.
Since army officers said the Creek Indian
village of Fowltown, where the battle was
fought, was almost completely surrounded
by swamp, it is logical to believe the battle
took place somewhere in the vicinity of
In 1817 the village of Fowltown (Tutalosi
Talofa in the Hitchiti language of the Lower
Creeks) was led by the chief Neamathla. The
name as usually given today is actually a
corruption of the Creek title Eneah Emathla
or "Fat Warrior."
Neamathla was not overweight. The title
actually means that he was a "large" or
"exceptionally brave" warrior. As he would
demonstrate over the remaining years of his
life, the title was a well-earned distinction.
Neamathla had led his people south to
occupy the Fowltown site during the winter of
1813-1814. A war party from his original
village near what is now Albany, Georgia, had
been defeated by William McIntosh and his
warriors from the U.S.-allied Creek town of
Coweta at the Battle of Uchee, Alabama. For
the safety of his followers, Neamathla took
them down the Flint River to their traditional
lands near the Florida border.
The site where the new village of Fowltown
was built had been the location of an earlier
town of the same name. The 1778 Stuart-
Purcell Map shows a stream in the vicinity of
Fowlstown Swamp that was then called
"Tootoloosa-Hopunga." The word "Hopunga"
means "to break up" or "broken up" in Hitchiti
and the notation on the map clearly referred
to an old Fowltown site that had been
abandoned years before the American
After returning to this vicinity, Neamathla and
his followers established a new village. The
town was the center of a ranching operation
and a U.S. Army officer reported in 1818 that
the people of Fowltown had many head of
cattle. They also raised chickens or fowl and
had adopted spinning and weaving as well
as the production of row crops.
Neamathla and his warriors allied with the
British when they landed a force on the
Apalachicola River in 1814 during the final
phases of the War of 1812. Lt. Col. Edward
Nicolls, the commander of this effort, gave
Neamathla a British uniform coat and one of
his officers presented the chief with a written
letter stating that the chief had always been a
faithful friend of the English.
The British also gave the Fowltown chief
arms and ammunition for his warriors, a
drum and other military supplies. By the time
the British withdrew from the region in 1815,
Neamathla and his followers were militarily
powerful and prepared to follow Col. Nicoll's
instructions to defend their homes.
During the summer of 1817, U.S. troops
began construction of a permanent fort on a
Flint River bluff about 12 miles east of the
Fowltown settlement. The site had been
occupied for six months the previous year
and was called Fort Scott.
Neamathla was not pleased with the building
of the fort and warned its commander, Major
David E. Twiggs, not to cut timber on the east
side of the Flint or even to cross to that side.
The land there, Neamathla said, was his and
he was directed by the "Powers above" to
The United States saw it differently. Most of
Southwest Georgia had been ceded to the
U.S. by the Treaty of Fort Jackson. Twiggs
demanded that the chief leave and go with
his followers to lands designated for the
Creeks. Neamathla refused, pointing out that
he had not been party to the Treaty of Fort
Jackson and did not consider himself bound
As the war of words intensified, Maj. Gen.
Edmund P. Gaines ordered the 4th and 7th
U.S. Infantry regiments to Fort Scott and then
headed there in person. The troops reached
the fort on November 19, 1817, and on the
following day Gaines ordered Major Twiggs
to go to Fowltown with 250 soldiers and bring
Neamathla back to the fort.
Sites of the First Seminole War
Battle of Fowltown, Georgia
The exact site of Fowltown
remains a mystery, but it was said
to be 3-4 miles south of today's
city of Bainbridge.
The troops marched out on the evening of
November 20, 1817, and reached Fowltown
early the next morning. As they were forming
to surround the village, their presence was
discovered and Indian warriors opened fire
on their lines. The soldiers responded with a
single volley, killing four warriors and one
woman. Neamathla guided his people into
the surrounding swamps and escaped.
This first skirmish at Fowltown resulted in no
U.S. casualties. Both the Indians and the
soldiers felt they had been attacked and each
blamed the other for starting the war.
Twiggs returned to Fort Scott without the chief
and Gaines decided to try one more time. On
November 22 he ordered Lt. Col. Matthew
Arbuckle to go back to Fowltown with 300
men and bring in Neamathla. The soldiers
marched out that same evening.
Arbuckle's force reached Fowltown after
daylight on November 23, 1817. This time the
town was found to be abandoned and the
soldiers took up positions in and around the
Indian cabins. A wagon was pulled up to one
of the corn cribs and some of the soldiers
were engaged in filling it with corn when
Neamathla and about 60 of his warriors
suddenly emerged from the surrounding
swamp and opened fire.
The surprised soldiers returned fire and the
Battle of Fowltown began. The soldiers were
hard pressed by the outnumbered warriors
and for 15 to 20 minutes the sound of
musketry echoed through the area.
The duration of the fight indicates that the
warriors were probably beginning to run low
on ammunition by the time it ended. The
firing finally stopped when they evaporated
back into the swamp, leaving the smoke-
shrouded village to the now alarmed soldiers.
Arbuckle estimated Indian losses at 6-8
killed, but also reported that his own force
had lost 1 killed and 3 wounded. The U.S.
soldier killed was Aaron Hughes, a fifer from
the 7th Infantry. The unfortunate musician
was the first U.S. soldier killed in the
Seminole Wars. Many others would follow.
As quickly as they could, the soldiers finished
loading their wagon, rounded up a few head
of cattle, and began their return march to the
Flint River. There they halted on the bluff at
the present site of Bainbridge and built Fort
Hughes, a small blockhouse named for the
Fifer Hughes was buried at the fort and the
vicinity of his grave is marked today by a
Federal monument in the J.D. Chason
Memorial Park. Please click here for more
The battle is interpreted with the Creek
Heritage Trail exhibit at the Chason Park.
The exact site of Fowltown has never been
determined. The undrained portions of
Fowlstown Swamp are on private lands
behind Bainbridge Country Club on Country
Club Road south of Bainbridge. The battle
was probably fought somewhere in that area.
A marker to Fowltown can be seen on nearby
Highway 97 (Faceville Road) about 6/10 of a
mile north of Green Shade Road.
An interpretive display at the site of old Fort
Hughes details the battle. It is in the J.D.
Chason Memorial Park at the intersection of
Jackson and Donalson Streets in Bainbridge.
Fowltown Historical Marker
Although the site of the village has
not been found, a marker
commemorating it has been
placed on Faceville Road about
6/10 of a mile north of Green