Before Andrew Jackson took his little trip down the Mississip’ to “N’awlins”, he decided to take a side trip to sunny Florida, specifically “Pens-a-cola.” After the Battle of Horse Shoe Bend, in Central Alabama on 27 March 1814 (US forces, lower Creek, Cherokee, and Choctaw defeated the Red Stick Creeks) many of the Red Stick Creeks fled to what is now Pensacola, Florida. The Red Sticks (who were distinguished by their re-colored war clubs) were mostly from the upper towns of the Creek Confederacy which opposed the assimilation of their tribe into the American culture. What started as a civil war between the Creeks quickly drew in the fledgling United States, and subsequently redirecting Andrew Jackson and on a side trip to the panhandle of Florida.
Earlier in 1814, the British had persuaded the Spanish Governor Mateo Gonzales Manrique to allow them to occupy not only the town of Pensacola, but the fortifications that guarded its approaches. With the exodus of the Red Sticks from the Southern United States into Spanish Florida, this allowed the British to stir up not only the Red Stick Creeks, but to sow seeds of discontent and fear among many of the local tribes, including the Seminole. This effort resulted in forays into southern Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi where American lives were lost and property destroyed.
When word reached Jackson that a potential force of British and Native Americans were being recruited and trained in the “backyard” of the United States, he took action. Gathering a force of approximately three thousand volunteers, mostly from Tennessee and Kentucky, he quickly marched to quash this threat. Arriving on or about 6 November 1814, a flag of truce was offered to the Spanish Governor which was immediately met with distain, whereupon Jackson demanded the immediate surrender of the town. With fortifications, several artillery batteries, and a fleet of British warships in the bay, it was fairly easy to refuse the demand.
However, Andrew Jackson was not to be thwarted, in a brilliant maneuver executed under the cover of darkness, he moved his troops to a flanking position on the east of the fortification and assaulted the town where the enemy couldn’t redeploy the bulk of its forces. This tactic rendered not only the fortifications, but also the warships useless in the defense of the town. The British and their Native American allies quickly vacated the town, boarded the warships and made their exit from Pensacola. The American forces only remained in the area for a couple of days before departing for New Orleans and Jackson’s awaiting destiny culminating in becoming the seventh President of the United States. Before departing however, they rendered all of the enemy fortifications and munitions useless. Jackson would return to Florida in 1818 to settle affairs with the local Native Americans after the “massacre of Lieutenant Scott and his command” on the Apalachicola River—but that’s another story and war to be told!
Like Andrew Jackson, the pension records of the soldiers who fought in Florida are faced with a wily enemy in the form of excessive exposure to light, air pollution, humidity, and deterioration, thus making the papers increasingly yellow and brittle with age. Thus even today a similar battle is being fought to preserve the pension records of these great men! So what can you do?
The Federation of Genealogical Societies is leading the national fundraising effort to support this project and is actively seeking donations from genealogical and historical societies, patriotic and military heritage societies, as well as interested corporations and individuals. Ancestry.com and Fold3 are providing a dollar-for-dollar match of each donation through a provision of digital services.
We are calling on everyone to help lead the charge to generate enough donations to employ more cameras at the National Archives to help in this effort to digitize and preserve the pension files of the heroes who fought and often bled on battlefields such as Pensacola, Florida. Let us show the nation that we can out maneuver the enemy as Andrew Jackson did 6 November 1814, and proudly preserve the pensions of these American Heroes.
Sugden, John “The Southern Indians in the War of 1812: The Closing Phase”. Florida Historical Quarterly LX (January 1982); Publication of Archival Library & Museum Materials, State University Libraries of Florida. http://digitool.fcla.edu///exlibris/dtl/d3_1/apache_media/L2V4bGlicmlzL2R0bC9kM18xL2FwYWNoZV9tZWRpYS8zMTY5NTA0.pdf : 21 October 2014.
Source: Our country : a household history for all readers, from the discovery of America to the present time. (New York : Johnson & Miles, 1877) Lossing, Benson John (1813-1891), Author. Darley, Felix Octavius Carr (1822-1888), Author. Via New York Public Library Digital Gallery