Chapter 28: Death of McGillivray -- Bloody Scenes

Albert James Pickett: HISTORY OF ALABAMA.
(Kindly contributed by William C. Bell)



1792: The Spanish authorities of Louisiana and the Floridas were accused of producing the bloody scenes, to which allusion was made in our last chapter. Great jealousies and difficulties existed between them and the southwestern people of the United States, and even between them and the Federal Government. John Jay, on the part of the latter, and Don Guardoqui, representing Spain, began a correspondence at New York, then the seat of the Federal Government, as early as 1785, for the purpose of settling the matters in dispute. Jay insisted upon the right of the people of the Union, now fast settling upon the head branches of the Tennessee, the Cumberland and the Ohio, to navigate the Mississippi to the Gulf, with their commerce, free of duty, and also the right to occupy, exclusively, all the territory east of that river, as low down as the line of 31°, all of which, he contended, was consistent with our treaty with England, made in 1782. Guardoqui resisted these claims, with great show of reason. He contended that Don Galvez, in 1780, by his victories, took from England, Mobile, Baton Rouge, and Fort Panmure, at Natchez, with all their dependencies; that, at the same time, Captains Parre and Villars, with Spanish troops, took formal possession of the English posts on the Upper Mississippi, east of that river, one of which was situated two hundred and twenty-two leagues above St. Louis; that, in 1781, Don Galvez completed these conquests by the reduction of Pensacola; that the territories now in dispute were, at the time of the signing of the treaty between England and the United States, solely in the occupation of Spain, and that England had no right to negotiate in regard to them, and, in fact, did not really do so, but rather "tacitly left safe the territorial rights of his Catholic Majesty." These positions were met by Jay, by a reference to the treaty which Spain made with England, seven weeks after the latter had made the one with us. In the eighth article, Spain agreed to restore, without compensation, all the English territories conquered by Her, except the Floridas, the northern limit of which, he asserted, was 31°; that Spain was bound, by this article, to have delivered up to England (who was to deliver to the United States) all the territory claimed by Georgia, from the Chattahoochie to the Mississippi, between 31° and 35°. But there was the rub. Which was the northern boundary of Spanish West Florida? We have impartially examined this subject. The charter of Charles II. to the lords proprietors of South Carolina, under which Georgia claimed all the present States of Alabama and Mississippi, that monarch had no right to make. The territory of these States was discovered (to say nothing of the conquest of De Soto) by the French, under Marquette and La Salle, and then by Iberville. Alabama and Mississippi were immediately occupied by France. That power continued to hold possession for sixty-two years. We have seen that she did not surrender these territories to England until 1763. These territories were occupied, then, by England from 1763 until 1780 or 1781, when they fell by conquest into the hands of Spain, who immediately occupied them with her troops and extended over them her government. Well, now, where was the just claim of the United States for Georgia? Did England have any right to transfer to us, in a treaty, territories of which she had three years before been deprived by Spanish conquest? Nay, England not only had no right to do that, but she admitted she had no right when, seven weeks afterwards, she concluded a treaty with Spain, and confirmed to her West Florida, the British northern line of which was 32°28', and not 31°, as contended for by Jefferson, Jay, and various American historians.

March 1792: The negotiations between Guardoqui and Jay resulted in nothing, and the navigation of the Lower Mississippi remained closed against American citizens. In the meantime Spain became alarmed. The treaty with McGillivray at New York and the movements of the first Yazoo companies aroused her. She asked for a renewal of negotiations. The President responded by sending to Madrid Carmichael and Short, who entered into negotiations once more with Guardoqui, who had been recalled to Spain, and was then Secretary of Foreign Affairs.* After much correspondence, in which both powers frequently accused each other of improper interference with the Indians inhabiting the disputed region, over whom they each exclusively claimed the superintendence, the negotiations terminated, without arrangement satisfactory to US. April 1793: All that Spain would admit, was the probability of her ultimately allowing the northern boundary of her West Florida possessions to be the line of 32° 28', while she was also disposed to allow the establishment of a warehouse at the mouth of the Yazoo, in which American citizens could deposit their produce, from their own boats, brought down the Mississippi. These productions were then to be taken to New Orleans in Spanish boats, and sold or exported, subject to Spanish duties.** All this time the agents of Spain, near the Federal Government, were constantly annoying Jefferson, the Secretary, with a series of complaints against Governor Blount, of Tennessee, and Seagrove, the Creek Agent, which were answered by similar complaints against the Spaniards on the part of the latter. Much ill-feeling was elicited between these parties, while the people of Georgia were perfectly rampant, censuring the Federal authorities for the weakness, irresolution and tardiness displayed in conducting the negotiations. They proclaimed that, if the United States much longer neglected to drive the Spaniards from their territory, they would undertake it themselves. The horizon of this vast Indian wilderness was still further darkened by the incessant border warfare between the Indians and the frontier Americans.*** Spain assumed very high and unwarrantable grounds, in one respect. She even opposed the running of the line around the Oconee lands, and it was made the subject of remonstrance to the Federal Government. She claimed a surveillance over the affairs of the Creeks, by her treaty with them, at Pensacola, and avowed her determination to protect them against the encroachments of the Georgians. As none of the Oconee territory lay within the limits of West Florida, Spain certainly stepped beyond reason in seeking a quarrel with the Americans about it.

* American State Papers, Boston edition, vol. 10, pp. 131-137; also, Foreign Affairs, vol. 1, pp. 252-255.
** American State Papers, Boston edition, vol. 10, pp. 159-162.
*** American State Papers, Boston edition, vol. 10, pp. 185-186.

General McGillivray continued to make visits to Governor Carondelet. In returning from New Orleans, late in the summer of 1792, a violent fever detained him long in Mobile. Recovering, he went to Little Tallase, where he wrote his last letter to Major Seagrove. He appeared to deplore the unhappy disturbances which existed, and ascribed them to the interference of the Spaniards with our affairs. He had often responded to the letters of the Secretary of War, in relation to carrying out the provisions of the New York treaty, and, several times, assured him that he had explained that instrument frequently to the Chiefs, and had urged them to comply, but that the Spanish influence had defeated his recommendations. In one of his letters, he says to the Secretary: "You will recollect, sir, that I had great objection to making the south fork of the Oconee the limit, and, when you insisted so much, I candidly told you that it might be made an article, but I could not pledge myself to get it confirmed, or that of the restoration of the negro property, which had so often changed owners."

1792: But this remarkable man was fast approaching dissolution. He had long been afflicted, and was always of a delicate constitution. He spent the winter upon Little river, and which now divides the counties of Monroe and Baldwin. 1793: The account of his death is presented in the language of the great merchant, William Panton, in a letter, dated Pensacola, April 10, 1794, and addressed to Lachlan McGillivray, the father of the Chieftain, who was, at that time, still alive at Dunmaglass, Scotland.

* * * "Your son, sir, was a man that I esteemed greatly. I was perfectly convinced that our regard for each other was mutual. It so happened that we had an interest in serving each other, which first brought us together, and the longer we were acquainted the stronger was our friendship.

"I found him deserted by the British without pay, without money, without friends and without property, saving a few negroes, and he and his nation threatened with destruction by the Georgians, unless they agreed to cede them the better part of their country. I had the good fortune to point out a mode by which he could save them all, and it succeeded beyond expectation.

* * * "He died on the 17th February, 1793, of complicated disorders--of inflamed lungs and the gout on his stomach. He was taken ill on the path coming from his cow-pen on Little river, where one of his wives, Joseph Curnell 's daughter, resided, and died eight days after his arrival here. No pains, no attention, no cost was spared to save the life of my friend. But fate would have it otherwise, and he breathed his last in my arms.

* * * "He died possessed of sixty negroes, three hundred head of cattle, with a large stock of horses.

* * * "I advised, I supported, I pushed him on, to be the great man. Spaniards and Americans felt his weight, and this enabled him to haul me after him, so as to establish this house with more solid privileges than, without him, I should have attained. This being the case, if he had lived, I meant, besides what he was owing me, to have added considerably to his stock of negroes. What I intended to do for the father I will do for his children. This ought not to operate against your making that ample provision for your grandson and his two sisters which you have it in your power to make. They have lately lost their mother, so that they have no friends, poor things, but you and me. My heart bleeds for them, and what I can I will do. The boy, Aleck, is old enough to be sent to Scotland to school, which I intend to do next year, and then you will see him." *

* I found Panton's letter among the bundle of papers in the District Court of New Orleans.

General McGillivray was interred with Masonic honors in the splendid garden of William Panton, in the city of Pensacola. He was a severe loss to that gentleman and to the Spanish government. His death, among the Indians, everywhere, produced deep sorrow and regret. The great Chieftain, who had so long been their pride, and who had elevated their nation, and sustained it in its trials, now lay buried in the sands of the Seminoles.

General McGillivray was six feet high, spare made, and remarkably erect in person and carriage. His eyes were large, dark and piercing. His forehead was so peculiarly shaped, that the old Indian countrymen often spoke of it: it commenced expanding at his eyes, and widened considerably at the top of his head. It was a bold and lofty forehead. His fingers were long and tapering, and he wielded a pen with the greatest rapidity. His face was handsome, and indicative of quick thought and much sagacity. Unless interested in conversation, he was disposed to be taciturn, but, even then, was polite and respectful. When a British colonel, he dressed in the British uniform, and when in the Spanish service, he wore the military dress of that country. When Washington appointed him a brigadier-general, he sometimes wore the uniform of the American army, but never when in the presence of the Spaniards. His usual dress was a mixture of the Indian and American garb. He always travelled with two servants, David Francis, a half-breed, and Paro, a negro, who saved the lives of over a hundred royalists, in 1781, as we have seen. He had good houses at the Hickory Ground and at Little Tallase, where he entertained, free of charge, distinguished government agents, and persons travelling through his extensive dominions. Like all other men, he had his faults. He was ambitious, crafty, and rather unscrupulous; yet he possessed a good heart, and was polite and hospitable. For ability and sagacity, the reader will admit that he had few superiors. We have called him the Talleyrand of Alabama. Will not his political acts, but a few of which have been presented for the want of space, entitle him to that appellation?

Mar. 1793: The Indian sky still remained darkened by scenes of murder and robbery. The Chehaw Creeks, upon the Flint, instigated by William Burgess, a trader in the Spanish interest, plundered the store of Robert Seagrove, at Trader 's Hill, upon the St. Mary's, killed Fleming, the clerk, and two travellers, named Moffit and Upton, most cruelly beating, with sticks, a woman residing there, named Ann Grey. Six miles from the hill, they killed a family of men, women and children, moving in their wagons, and made prisoners a woman and a child, whom they reserved for greater sufferings. April: The inhabitants of the new counties of Glynn and Camden often felt such attacks. At the Skull Shoals, of the Oconee, Richard Thrasher, two children and a negro woman, were shot down., while his wife, plunging into the river with a babe in her arms, received a ball in her head, turned over and sank beneath the waves. Governor Telfair determined at once, to raise a large force for the invasion of the Creek country. Washington, at the solicitation of the Georgia delegation in Congress, sent to Augusta a large stand of arms and ammunition. He authorized Governor Telfair to enlist a few companies for the protection of Georgia, but remonstrated against the contemplated invasion, stating that it was unauthorized by law, would embarrass the negotiations still pending between the Federal agents and the Creeks, and also those going on with Spain, and that the enemy had only killed some people upon the remote frontiers. But Governor Telfair, with the true spirit of a Georgian, heeded him not, and resolved to "carry the war into Africa." He disdained to accept of the troops which the President had authorized him to raise, but placed General Twiggs at the head of seven hundred mounted men. That gallant officer, of revolutionary memory, marched to the Ockmulgee river, where a mutinous spirit and the want of provisions caused a retreat. This abortive attempt at conquest emboldened the Creeks to new scenes of pillage and blood. Although mortified at the failure of his first attempt at invasion, Governor Telfair did not relax in his exertions to protect the people, but constantly secured the country between the Oconee and Ockmulgee, with a large force of mounted militia, which, for a time, stopped the Indian ravages. These operation s again called out the remonstrances of Washington which had no effect whatever upon the Georgians, many of whom entertained for the President the most implacable hostility, and placed his effigies upon pine trees, and fired guns at them. It is a very common belief, with people of modern times, that Washington, during his extensive career, had no enemies. He received as much abusem not only in Georgia, but in various portions of the Union, as any of our Presidents. *

* Indian Affairs, vol. 1, pp. 362-368.

March 1793: Although Seagrove had been Superintendent over two years, he had never entered the Creek nation, but had communicated with the Chiefs through an honest and intelligent man, named Timothy Barnard, who had long resided among the red people. At Cusseta, that gentleman met a council of Chiefs, the most prominent of whom were the White Lieutenant, John Kinnard, the Mad Dog, the Head King, and Alexander Curnells, representing the Upper and Lower Towns, who requested him to assure Seagrove that they desired to see him in their country, and promised to protect him while he remained with them. But the efforts of the agent to restore peace, and to procure the marking of the boundary, were embarrassed by the military operations of Governor Telfair, who assured him that his contemplated mission to the Creek nation would result in no good; that his mind was made up to chastise the Creeks, until they restored the white prisoners, the negroes, and other stolen property, and delivered up ten hostages from the Upper, and an equal number from the Lower Towns, together with thirteen principal hostiles, to be put to death by the people of Georgia; that he would submit to no treaty made with the Creeks, where Georgia agents were not allowed to participate. Such was the treaty of New York. It is singular that this treaty, made by Washington, for the good of all parties concerned, should have been so violently opposed. The Spaniards, as was anticipated, denounced it, but it received equal opposition from the Creeks and Georgians.

Sept. 21 1793: Notwithstanding the high grounds assumed by Governor Telfair, Seagrove resolved to go into the nation; but was deterred by information which he received that a body of armed men, under Captain Peter B. Williamson,* intended to intercept and prevent him, and that the Georgia troops had destroyed Little Ocfuskee, upon the Chattahoochie, which resulted in the death of six Indians, while eight others were carried prisoners to Greensboro. Barnard was again sent to the Chattahoochie, who, after a council with the Chiefs, returned, with another invitation for Seagrove to visit their country, and that, although they were much aroused against the Georgians for this attack upon a peaceable town, they imputed no blame to the Federal authorities. Finally, the agent set out from Fort Fidius, escorted by a military guard, to "prevent," as he wrote to the Secretary of War, "my being robbed by the frontier banditti, who two days ago stole ten of the horses upon which I had to carry goods to the Indians." Seagrove had the reputation of being a timid man, and of not entertaining a very high sense of honor. Arriving at the Ockmulgee the escort was dismissed, when one hundred and thirty Indian warriors took charge of his person from thence to Cusseta, upon the Chattahoochie. At this place he was saluted by the Indians with the beating of drums and the roars of a piece of artillery. Nov. 23: He advanced to Tookabatcha, the capital of the nation, which lay upon the west bank of the Tallapoosa. He occupied one whole day in a speech to a vast assembly, and, although surrounded by Spanish agents and enemies, he rose above his character, boldly pointed out the aggressions of the Creeks, and their faithlessness in not complying with the New York treaty.

* Afterwards Judge of the County Court of Lowndes, Alabama.

The council sat forty-eight hours without adjournment, and then rose, having stipulated, on the part of the Creeks, to deliver to Seagrove the negroes, horses, cattle, and other property taken from the Georgians during the last twelve months. They further agreed to put to death two or more of the principals engaged in the late murders upon the frontiers. The Spanish agent, Captain Don Pedro Oliver, was present, and congratulated Seagrove upon what he was pleased to term his fortunate mission.

Having remained at Tookabatcha some weeks, arranging his business with the Chiefs, Seagrove one night was attacked by the Tallase King at the head of a party; his house was plundered, and he was forced to fly for his life to a pond, thick with trees and bushes. There he remained several hours, up to his waist in cold water, expecting every moment to be scented out, dragged forth and put to death. In the morning the Chiefs interposed, pacified the Tallase King, and the trembling agent came out from his watery place of refuge. The Tallase King was one of those who had conveyed away the Oconee lands, at Augusta, and who, like the Georgians, entertained no good feeling for the Federal agent.*

* Indian Affairs, vol. 1, pp. 305-412-422-471-472. Also conversations with old Indian countrymen.

A spirited border war continued to be waged upon the northern frontiers. Captain Hadley, whose troops had been attacked upon the Cumberland mountain, was brought to Willstown by the victorious party, composed of Creeks, Cherokees and Shawnees. They debated, for several days, upon his life, which was at length saved, through the solicitations of Alexander Campbell and John McDonald, two old British traders of Willstown, but now in the Spanish interest. Great preparations were on foot, in this region, for the final extermination of the Cumberland people. John Watts, a Cherokee half-breed, had regularly organized three companies of mounted Indians, who had been furnished with the necessary arms by Governor Carondelet. A large deputation of Shawnees, from the north, had just completed a campaign through the Creek nation, endeavoring to enlist recruits for that end, and had succeeded in collecting six hundred and seventeen warriors, who passed through Willstown on their way up. June 12 1793: The people of East Tennessee, also, felt the attacks of these marauding parties. They defended themselves with bravery, but sometimes were guilty of acts of great imprudence, which served to irritate the Indians who were friendly. Captain Beard, at the head of mounted militia, attacked the peaceable people of Hiwassa, wounded Hanging Maw, the Chief, and killed his wife and a dozen others. The Indians rallied and repulsed the assailants. Such was the state of feeling and alarm, that Governor Blount placed General Sevier at the head of six hundred mounted men. Oct. 17 1793: That officer, crossing the Tennessee below the mountains, marched for the Oostanaula, where he made some Cherokee prisoners. Proceeding to the site of the modern Rome, he discovered Indian entrenchments on the opposite bank of the Etowah. Plunging into that stream, the troops gained the southern bank, and, after a fight of an hour, the Indians gave way, bearing off their dead and wounded, but leaving their camp equipage, horses, Spanish guns and ammunition. General Sevier afterwards scoured this whole region, without opposition, and returned to East Tennessee. It appeared that the evil one, himself, was stalking through this wild region, for, independently of the commotions upon the frontiers of Georgia and Tennessee, the Creeks and Chickasaws were engaged in a bloody war, while French emissaries were at work to estrange the affections of the Southwestern people from the Federal Government.*

* Indian Affairs, vol 1, pp. 434-439-441-454-464-470

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