Fort Gadsden Historic Park
Fort Gadsden is located in Franklin County, Florida, on the Apalachicola River. The site contains the ruins of two forts, and has been known by several other names at various times, including Prospect Bluff Fort, Nichol's Fort, British Post, Negro Fort, African Fort, and Fort Apalachicola. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Fort Gadsden Historic Site is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1972.
During the War of 1812, the British hoped to recruit the Seminole Indians as allies in their war against the United States. In August 1814, a force of over 100 officers and men led by a lieutenant colonel of Royal Marines, Edward Nicolls, was sent into the Apalachicola River region in Spanish Florida, where they began to aid and train local Indians. Although Nicolls claimed he rallied large numbers of Indians, his efforts bore little fruit in terms of actual fighting, and the completion of the war ended his mission a few months after his arrival.
Before Nicolls left, however, he built a fort at Prospect Bluff, 15 miles above the mouth of the Apalachicola and sixty miles below U.S. territory, which he equipped with cannon, guns, and ammunition. The fort, originally known as the British Post, served as a base for British troops and for recruitment of ex-slaves into the new Corps of Colonial Marines, and as a rallying point to encourage the local Seminole Indian tribes to attack the United States. When the British evacuated Florida in the spring of 1815, they left the well-constructed and fully-armed fort on the Apalachicola River in the hands of their allies, about 300 fugitive slaves, including members of the disbanded Corps of Colonial Marines, and 30 Seminole and Choctaw Indians. News of the "Negro Fort" (as it came to be called) attracted as many as 800 black fugitives who settled in the surrounding area.
Under the command of a black man named Garson and a Choctaw chief (whose name is unknown), the inhabitants of Negro Fort launched raids across the Georgia border. The fort, located as it was near the U.S. border, was seen as a threat to Southern slavery. The U.S. considered it "a center of hostility and above all a threat to the security of their slaves." The Savannah Journal wrote of it:
It was not to be expected, that an establishment so pernicious to the Southern States, holding out to a part of their population temptations to insubordination, would have been suffered to exist after the close of the war. In the course of last winter, several slaves from this neighborhood fled to that fort; others have lately gone from Tennessee and the Mississippi Territory. How long shall this evil, requiring immediate remedy, be permitted to exist?