An archaeological search for surviving remains of historic Fort Hughes will begin in Georgia this week. The project is a community service of Two Egg TV.
Brian Mabelitini, an archaeologist from the University of South Carolina, will lead the effort. He previously directed excavations of the Confederate gun battery at Torreya State Park near Bristol, Florida, and has worked on a large number of American Revolution, Civil War and other military-related archaeological sites.
Clayton Penhallegon and other members of the Decatur County Historical & Genealogical Society have been helping with logistics and the City of Bainbridge graciously gave its approval for the work.
No surface remains of the old fort are visible today but it is generally believed to have been located at least partially within the J.D. Chason Memorial Park at the intersection of West Jackson and North Donalson Streets in Bainbridge. The U.S. Government placed a monument at the park during the 1880s to mark the site but no archaeology has ever been done to verify that the old fort really stood there.
Fort Hughes was built by U.S. troops on November 23-28, 1817, following the Battle of Fowltown. (Please see The Battle of Fowltown for more information on the engagement).
Stunned by determined resistance from Neamathla and the Muscogee (Creek) warriors of the village, Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle pulled his force back to Burges’s Bluff on the Flint River and directed the construction of a new fort. It was named for musician Aaron Hughes who was killed at Fowltown and was 90-feet square with two-story blockhouses on two diagonal corners. (See The Building of Fort Hughes for more information).
The fort was the scene of a sharp battle on December 15-18, 1817. Seminole and Black Seminole warriors led by a Bahamian mercantile clerk named Peter Cook attacked Fort Hughes but were defeated by Brevet Maj. John N. McIntosh and his small command of 40 U.S. soldiers. (Learn more about the fight at Two Battles shake the Frontier). The fort was abandoned soon after.
Fort Hughes was an important landmark of the Seminole War of 1817-1818 and the predecessor of today’s City of Bainbridge, Georgia. Finding it would be a remarkable archaeological achievement after 200 years and would open the door for additional interpretation of the site in the future.
Remains and artifacts at the site are expected to be minimal as the fort was active for only three weeks, but it is hoped that the project will locate any surviving footing trenches of the log stockade or traces of rotted away logs. If any artifacts are located, they will undergo preservation techniques at the University of South Carolina before being placed on display at the Decatur County Historical & Genealogical Society Museum in Bainbridge.
To learn more about Fort Hughes, please consider the books Fort Scott, Fort Hughes & Camp Recovery and Fowltown. Just follow the links for more information. They are also available at the Decatur County Historical & Genealogical Society Museum in Bainbridge (open Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.) and at Sarah’s Place Gift Shop & Ice Cream Parlor in Chattahoochee, Florida.
This free Two Egg TV documentary will also tell you much more about the historic fort: