The frontiersman Davy Crockett was with a large force of Tennessee mounted riflemen, Mississippi Territorial Militia soldiers and Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creek warriors that entered the Florida Panhandle under Maj. Uriah Blue during the closing days of the War of 1812. The expedition proved to be one of the most difficult of his early military career.
Blue’s command left Fort Montgomery near the Alabama community of Tensaw on December 8, 1814, and crossed into Spanish Florida a few days later. The first part of the campaign was spent attacking parties of Red Stick Creeks on the Escambia River and at Garcon Point where Escambia and Blackwater Bays come together. These operations complete, the soldiers turned for the Choctawhatchee River.
According to Crockett, who described the raid tw0 decades later in his autobiography, the men had been in the field for more than one month when they neared the Choctawhatchee:
…At the start we had taken only twenty days’ rations of flour, and eight days’ rations of beef; and it was now thirty-four days before we reached that place. We were, therefore, in extreme suffering for want of something to eat, and exhausted with our exposure and the fatigues of our journey. I remember well, that I had not myself tasted bread but twice in nineteen days. I had bought a pretty good supply of coffee from the boat that had reached us from Pensacola, on the Scamby [i.e. Escambia], and on that we chiefly subsisted. [I]
His memories apparently grew over the decades that passed before he wrote his account, as Maj. Blue reported that his command neared the river on Christmas Day, December 25, 1814. Only seventeen days had passed since the soldiers left Fort Montgomery, not the thirty-four remembered by Crockett. The frontiersman, however, was right about the condition of the troops. Their supplies were exhausted and they were heavily caffeinated, hungry and in a foul mood.
Blue’s command was making camp when scouts came in to report the discovery of the village of a Red Stick chief named Holmes. Darkness was falling, but the men formed ranks during the night and and started out, hoping to raid the town’s food supplies:
…We arrived about sunrise, and near the place prepared for battle. We were all so furious, that even the certainty of a pretty hard fight could not have restrained us. We made a furious charge on the town, but to our great mortification and surprise, there wasn’t a human being in it. The Indians had all run off and left it. We burned the town, however; but, melancholy to tell, we found no provision whatever. We then turned about, and went back to the camp we had left the night before, as nearly starved as any set of poor fellows ever were in the world. [II]
The site of the town destroyed by Maj. Blue on December 26, 1814, has not been found.Available reports indicate only that it is was on the margin of the floodplain swamps of the Choctawhatchee River. The most detailed of these accounts was provided many years later by Dr. Thomas G. Holmes, a surgeon in Blue’s command. He said that Holmes’ town was about about two days march west of the Yellow River and the description he gave of the attack strongly suggests it was on the west side of the Choctawhatchee. Like Crockett, he made no mention of crossing a large river before reaching the village:
…After rapidly marching about four hours, they came in view of the Indian huts on the margin of a heavy swamp. The Major ordered one part of his army to oblike [sic.] to the left. The 2nd Column to the right of the supposed town. The main body he charged at the head of the center of the main part of the town. The Indians got news of the approach of the Army & fled in the swamp with the exception of some 4 or 5 hunters packed with venison who had just come in [and] were captured with their plunder. [III]
Barring the future discovery of its archaeological remains or a more detailed account of the raid, all that can be said about the location of Holmes’ Town is that it was probably on the west side of the Choctawhatchee River in either Walton or Holmes County. Numerous springs such as the beautiful ones at Vortex Spring Resort, Ponce de Leon Springs State Park and Morrison Springs Park feed the river from the west and would have provided good sites for a large village.
One of the hunters mentioned by Dr. Holmes was killed and scalped and three others were taken prisoner.
Their supplies exhausted and finding nothing to eat but the venison taken from the Red Stick hunters, the men turned back to their camp of the previous night. Realizing that he could not feed his entire command, Blue ordered 500 Maj. William Russell to take 500 Tennesseans – Crockett among them – and march cross-country for Fort Jackson at present-day Wetumpka, Alabama. These men suffered intensely over coming days. The main body retraced its route to the Escambia River, likewise suffering from hunger, sickness and exposure.
So far as is known, Davy Crockett never returned to Florida.
Holmes and his followers survived the raid and soon relocated to a new site at the Big Spring of the Choctawhatchee in what is now Washington County. This town was burned by Capt. Thomas H. Boyles four years later during the First Seminole War.
Dr. Thomas G. Holmes, who is quoted above, was one of the few settlers who survived the taking of Fort Mims by Red Stick Creeks on August 31, 1813. Learn more about that battle in this free documentary from Two Egg TV (also available to watch for free on Amazon Prime Video):
[I] David Crockett, A Narrative of the life of David Crockett of Tennessee, 1834: 115
[II] Ibid., pp. 115-116.
[III] A.J. Pickett, “Interesting Notes upon the History of Alabama,” Section 25, Notes of Doctor Thomas G. Holmes of Baldwin County, Ala. In relation to the “Burnt Corn expedition” “the Massacre of 553 Men, Women & children at Fort Mims” and other things which happened in the trying times of 1813.1814., manuscript, Alabama Department of Archives and History.