Forces at today’s Lake Seminole were last to learn of war’s end.
by Dale Cox
British and American troops facing each other at the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers simultaneously learned that the War of 1812 was over on February 25, 1815. They were the last land forces in North America to ground their weapons.
A bloodless but armed confrontation had continued for three weeks on the border between Southwest Georgia and Spanish Florida. Col. Benjamin Hawkins, the U.S. Agent for Indian Affairs, commanded a 700-1,000 man force at “115 Mile Camp” on the Chattahoochee River in today’s Seminole County, Georgia. Ten miles away, Lt. Col. Edward Nicolls headed an 800 man British force at Nicolls’ Outpost, a log and earth fort at today’s Chattahoochee, Florida. Neither side attacked the other, but both were prepared to fight if threatened.
Hawkins first noticed signs of a change on February 24 when the British pulled back their advance parties:
…I find that Woodbine and his followers are returned to their
Major George Woodbine, referenced above, was a Bahamian trader of mixed English and African descent who served as Nicolls’ second-in-command during the War of 1812. He commanded the raiding parties of Seminole and Red Stick Creek warriors that the British sent against the Georgia frontier in the winter of 1814-1815.
The withdrawal of Woodbine’s parties from Georgia was a sign that the British knew the war was over. Hawkins’ suspicions were confirmed the next afternoon at 1 p.m.:
Yesterday [February 25, 1815] about one o’clock I received
Benjamin Hawkins was the last commander of an American armed force arrayed against the enemy to learn of the end of the War of 1812. The two truce parties met between the colonel’s encampment at what later became Fairchild’s Landing and the British fort at today’s River Landing Park in Chattahoochee. The exact spot is likely under the waters of Lake Seminole today. The 37,500-acre manmade reservoir covered the land around the original confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers with the completion of the Jim Woodruff Dam in 1958.
The British army and fleet at the mouth of Mobile Bay learned of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on February 14, 1815 – St. Valentine’s Day – and went into camp on Dauphin Island. A truce was observed with the U.S. forces at Mobile from that day forward.
The other major offensive armies in the field at the time were those opposing each other along Georgia’s Atlantic coast. Brig. Gen. David Blackshear, commander of the American force headquartered at Darien, learned of the war’s end on the night of February 24, 1815. He immediately sent an officer to inform British Admiral George Cockburn at Cumberland Island of the news.
Cockburn’s forces received Blackshear’s flag of truce on the morning of February 25, several hours before a messenger arrived with official news for Col. Hawkins.
The end of the war was a moment of relief and celebration for the American and British forces at the forks of the Chattahoochee and Flint. The American colonel invited the British emissaries to his camp and the expected battle between the two commands became a barbecue instead:
…The officers remained with me last evening and returned today. This event yesterday was communicated to our command who fired a feu de joie, and this morning they paraded in one line as the British officers received with us the line and one other feu de joie was fired. – I have ordered the regiment to prepare to
A feu de joie or “running fire” was a unique military salute received for major occasions such as the inauguration of a new President. The soldiers taking part fired in rapid succession, the muzzles of their muskets giving out bursts of fire that literally rippled from left to right down the length of the entire line. The
At the British forts on the Apalachicola River, the news was received with mixed emotions. The defeat of their army at the Battle of New Orleans left a sour taste in the mouths of many of the redcoat officers, a taste only partially relieved by the subsequent capture of Fort Bowyer at Mobile Bay.
The black troops who escaped slavery to enlist in Nicolls’ battalion of Colonial Marines were greatly concerned about their futures, as were the Seminole, Red Stick Creek and Choctaw warriors who had allied themselves with the British.
Lt. Col. Nicolls assured his marines that their freedom would be preserved. He also called for a council of Native American chiefs and warriors to assemble at Nicolls’ Outpost on March 10, 1815. His plans for how to protect them from vengeful American settlers would be made more clear at that time.
Editor’s Note: Watch for our article about the Nicolls’ Outpost Council on March 10. Until then, learn more about the War of 1812 on the Apalachicola and lower Chattahoochee Rivers in Dale Cox’s books Nicolls’ Outpost: A War of 1812 Fort at Chattahoochee, Florida and Milly Francis: The Life & Times of the Creek Pocahontas.
This free documentary from TwoEgg.TV will tell you more about the fates of nearly 300 of the maroons (escaped slaves) who joined the British on the Apalachicola River:
[I] Col. Benjamin Hawkins to Gov. Peter Early of Georgia, February 24, 1815, Telamon Cuyler Collection, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.
[II] Col. Benjamin Hawkins to Gov. Peter early of Georgia, February 26, 1815, Telamon Cuyler Collection, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.