On Down the Tallapoosa to the Gulf of Mexico

As I mentioned in an earlier post from about six months ago, I have been working on a complete rewrite of Gathering Leaves (and not just another edition.) My goal is to eliminate repetition, remove superfluous minutia, and strip out all the endnotes (I admit I was in competition with Edward Gibbon for most endnotes ever.) In addition to there being deletions, there are also additions. And most of the new material, including corrections, has come from posts I have made here over the past two years. I estimate there will be about 12 chapters total, and I just today completed chapter 6.

Here is an excerpt from chapter 6-Georgia on My Mind, wherein I describe the military service of my great-great-great-grandfather:

In 1813, when David Dobbs was 21 years old, he began military service in the 4th Regiment of the Georgia Militia as a 3rd Lieutenant under the command of Colonel David Booth. He first saw action in the Creek War.

The Creek War (1813-1814), also known as the Red Stick War, began as a civil war among the Muskogee people. Historians want to lump it in with the poorly named War of 1812, but it was an isolated event in which all hostilities took place within what is now the state of Alabama, and there were some activities within the state of Georgia and the Spanish territory of Florida. Back then, Alabama was partly American territory, Indian land, and part of a territory still owned by the Spanish – East and West Florida. On one side, the American side, were the Lower Creeks, along with their friends the Cherokee and the Choctaw. On the opposing side were the Upper Creeks, also known as the Red Stick Creeks. The Americans believed Red Stick Creeks were in league with Tecumseh and his Confederacy, and together, they conspired with the British and the Spanish.

Fort Hawkins c. 1876 Courtesy of the Middle Georgia Archives

The United States was pulled into the conflict in present-day southern Alabama at the Battle of Burnt Corn in July 1813. In September of 1814, the Governor of Georgia received a request from the U.S. War Department to send 2,500 troops of the Georgia militia to Fort Hawkins on the Ocmulgee River near present-day Macon, Georgia, to provide support and reinforcements for General Andrew Jackson. The latter was enroute to Mobile due to British and hostile Indian activity in the west Florida region.

A regiment, detached from Major General Daniel’s division, commanded by Col. David S. Booth, and whose home was Elbert County, arrived at Fort Hawkins sometime in November along with other units of the Georgia militia. The units were divided between Major General John McIntosh and Brigadier General David Blackshear. The plan was for McIntosh to proceed west to Fort Mitchell on the Chattahoochee River in present-day Alabama. At the same time, Blackshear was to take his units south to Hartford in Pulaski County Georgia where he was to cross the Ocmulgee River and then proceed about 40 miles west to the Flint River. There were reports of a Seminole uprising and British activity north of the Florida territory.

Georgia in 1810. All counties are crowded in the eastern part of the territory agreed to by Georgia and the US in the Compact of 1802

Knowing that David Dobbs was in Booth’s regiment did not tell me if he was with Blackshear forces cutting a road through the wilderness to get to the Flint River, or with McIntosh forces in Alabama. Then I found something that informed me that it was more likely that he was part of a force of the Georgia militia sent to support Jackson’s effort to stop another British invasion of the U.S. which was expected at either Mobile or New Orleans. 

We know this because there is a letter from General McIntosh to General Blackshear dated January 9, 1815, in which McIntosh mentions that the battalion sent to Alabama to build boats was commanded by Col. Booth, David’s commander:

“I have sent a battalion from this [camp west of Chattahoochee], under Col. Booth, to the Tallapoosa [probably to Fort Jackson near Wetumpka, Alabama], with all the artificers I could collect, to build boats to take us down that river, and the Alabama to the Mobile, with our provisions, — considering this mode as the best I could adopt under existing circumstances, being informed that provisions are not to be had in that quarter, and the want of wagons to convey them any other way compels this alternative.” [Source: Memoir of Gen. David Blackshear By Stephen Franks Miller (1858) Page 441]

Given that a soldier would have gone wherever his commander led him, it is more likely than not that David Dobbs was with Col. David Booth and the rest of his regiment.

The purpose of sending more troops down to Mobile was to support General Jackson. McIntosh already knew that a large British force was threatening New Orleans, but he did not know that the Battle of New Orleans had already been fought and won by the U.S. the day before writing this letter.

The Georgia militia accomplished their mission in about two weeks. In a letter from Major General McIntosh at Fort Decatur, dated January 22, 1815, to General Blackshear ordering him to proceed to Mobile, pays compliments to Colonel Booth and his men in building boats for transportation down the Tallapoosa and Alabama Rivers to Mobile.

The last significant engagement of the now-ended war occurred on February 12 when American forces surrendered Fort Bowyer at the mouth of Mobile Bay to the British, only for all to learn of the peace treaty two days later from an arriving British warship. News traveled slowly in those days before the invention of the telegraph. News of Jackson’s victory over the British at New Orleans would have had to travel from New Orleans to Havana to New York City and back down to Savannah before trickling down into the depths of the Georgia swamps along the lower Chattahoochee. Thus taking several weeks for news to travel.

After the Indian wars in Florida, or the First Seminole War as it is barely known, David continued service in the Georgia militia, was promoted to Major, and shortly afterward to Colonel, the rank he held for the remainder of his life. He was a founder and on the board of trustees for Georgia Military Institute (GMI) from its inception in 1851 to 1857.

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