Scott 1817
Seminole War Battle

Chattahoochee, Florida

The First U.S. Defeat of the Seminole Wars

Military victories and defeats often change history. Few such events, however, have resulted in changes as far-reaching as those caused by a Seminole War battle fought on the upper Apalachicola River in 1817.
The Scott 1817 Seminole War Battle  - sometimes called the Scott Massacre - takes its name from Lt. Richard W. Scott of the 7th U.S. Infantry. A veteran of the War of 1812, he commanded a keelboat that was carrying sick soldiers, civilians, military clothing and other supplies upriver to Fort Scott, a frontier outpost on the lower Flint River in Southwest Georgia. Scott did not know that war had erupted between the United States and an alliance of Seminole, Miccosukee, and Red Stick Creek (Muscogee) Indians.

He commanded a keelboat and was carrying sick soldiers, civilians, military clothing, and other supplies up the river to Fort Scott, a frontier outpost on the Flint River in Southwest Georgia. 

The First Seminole War began when U.S. troops attacked the Lower Creek village of Fowltown on November 21-23, 1817. The attack was unprovoked and came under cover of darkness. Blood flowed on both sides.

Neamathla, the principal chief of Fowltown, was outraged by the attack. He called for help from other Native American towns in the region and as many as 1,000 warriors soon assembled on the Flint and Apalachicola Rivers. Led by the Prophet Josiah Francis, a noted Red Stick religious leader, the army of American Indians decided to cut-off supply shipments to Fort Scott in hopes of forcing the soldiers there to abandon the post and withdraw from the frontier.

The desperate fight did not last long. Six of the soldiers - five of them wounded - leaped overboard at the last minute and swam away underwater to the west bank of the river. Lt. Scott and the other 34 men of his command died in the battle.

The only other survivor was a young woman named Elizabeth Stewart. 
Outraged warriors flooded to the area where the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers meet to form the Apalachicola, determined to avenge Fowltown. One force of 300-400 gathered just below the forks of the rivers to attack any supply boats on their way up to Fort Scott. They were led by Homathlemico, a Red Stick chief who had evacuated to Florida after the Creek War of 1813-1814, and Chenubby, the war chief of Fowltown.

Lt. Scott was warned that this force was gathering on the upper Apalachicola and sent a courier overland to the fort with a request for support. He did not expect to be attacked, as he did not realize that active fighting was taking place.

The heavily-laden keelboat made slow progress as it continued upstream. The river was running high and the current was strong. Scott's command included 40 soldiers from the 4th and 7th U.S. Infantry Regiments, half of whom were sick with fever and did not have their muskets. Seven women and four children, family members of soldiers, were also aboard.

The boat reached a point one mile below the confluence of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers on the morning of November 30, 1817. The strong current swept the vessel toward the east bank, distracting the lieutenant and his able-bodied men who struggled with oars and rudder to prevent it from running aground. They did not see the warriors concealed along the shore until it was too late.

Homathlemico and Chenubby gave the signal to fire and flames burst from the muzzles of muskets and rifles, all of which were carefully aimed at the men on the boat. Lt. Scott and most of his able soldiers went down in this deadly first volley. The keelboat ran aground as warriors waded into the river and stormed over its sides.

The men of Scott's command fought hand-to-hand but were quickly overwhelmed. The boat was equipped with at least one small swivel cannon and frontiersman Thomas Woodward, who later interviewed some of the survivors, claimed that Sgt. Frederick McIntosh used it to deadly effect. Woodward told of how the sergeant picked up the cannon and fired it from his arms, sweeping the deck of attacking warriors. The recoil knocked McIntosh over the side of the boat and he was never seen again.