People & Events
Florida's Negro Fort
1815 - 1816
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When the British evacuated Florida in the spring of 1815, they left a well-constructed and fully-armed fort on the Apalachicola River in the hands of their allies, about 300 African Americans and 30 Seminole and Choctaw Indians. News of "Negro Fort" (as it came to be called) attracted as many as 800 black fugitives who settled in the surrounding area.
Under the command of a black man named Garson and a Choctaw chief (whose name is unknown), the inhabitants of Negro Fort not only provided protection for the community, but also launched raids across the Georgia border. According to the Savannah Journal, fugitives ran from as far away as Tennessee and the Mississippi Territory to seek refuge at the fort.
In March of 1816, under mounting pressure from Georgia slaveholders, General Andrew Jackson petitioned the Spanish Governor of Florida to destroy the settlement. At the same time, he instructed Major General Edmund P. Gaines, commander of U.S. military forces "in the Creek nation," to destroy the fort and "restore the stolen negroes and property to their rightful owners."
On July 27, following a series of skirmishes in which they were routed by Negro Fort warriors, the American forces and their 500 Lower Creek allies launched an all-out attack under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Clinch, with support from a naval convoy commanded by Sailing Master Jairus Loomis.
The two sides exchanged cannon fire, but the shots of the inexperienced black gunners failed to hit their targets. A shot from the American forces entered the opening to the Fort's powder magazine, igniting an explosion that destroyed the fort and its occupants.
Garson and the Choctaw chief, among the few who survived the carnage, were handed over to the Creek, who shot Garson and scalped the chief. Other survivors were returned to slavery.
Fort Gadsden was constructed over the site of the ruins of Negro Fort.
Plan of Fort Gadsden
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