Rebellion June - August 1816     
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Explosion of the Negro Fort
Painting by Pat Elliott of Negro Fort being shelled by the American army in 1816. Courtesy Apalachicola National Forest.
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The U.S. "Spin" on the attack

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Though the attack on the Negro Fort was a fairly straightforward act of aggression by the United States, Generals Jackson and Gaines demonstrated their abilities as statesmen by staging the affair in a way that allowed the U.S. to appear in the best possible light. This spin process began with the military strategy, under which the army pursued elaborate ends to provoke the Black Seminoles into striking first, so that the U.S. could appear to be acting in self-defense. The official story surfaced in the report of Sailing Master Loomis. As Commodore Patterson notes,

"You will perceive by Mr. Loomis' statement that the unprovoked and wanton aggression committed by a party of negros on his boats, as also their hostile disposition and conduct toward the army and the gun-vessels approaching the fort rendered it necessary to silence their fire and capture the fort."

We can contrast this public relations gloss with the more candid instructions from the Secretary of War that were written before the attack:

"On receipt of this letter, should the Seminole Indians still refuse reparation for their outrages and depredations on the citizens of the United States, it is the wish of the President that you consider yourself at liberty to march across the Florida line and to attack them within its limits, should it be found necessary, unless they should shelter themselves in a Spanish post."

Note that the Secretary makes it plain that the Army is at liberty to attack the Seminoles regardless of provocation. The fort was considered provocation enough. Since it was not a Spanish post, but had been constructed by the British filibuster Woodbine, it was open for destruction.

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Sources : ASPFR 4: 559-61, House Doc. 122, 15th Cong., 2nd Sess cited in Coe 17.
Part 1, Early Years: Outline  l  Images
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 Trail Narrative
 + Prologue
 + Background: 1693-1812
 - Early Years: 1832-1838
+ World at Birth
+ Encroaching America
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Andrew Jackson
Negro Fort
First War
+ A New Country
 + War: 1832-1838
 + Exile: 1838-1850
 + Freedom: 1850-1882
 + Legacy & Conclusion

Clinch's first-hand account of the attack

The U.S. "Spin" on the attack

The buried history of the attack

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