Monday, August 3, 2009

The Remarkable Story of Elizabeth Dill - Fort Gaines, Georgia

One of the early settlers of Fort Gaines came to the community with a remarkable story.

Elizabeth Stewart settled at Fort Gaines after being rescued by the troops of Andrew Jackson during the First Seminole War. She was the sole female surv
ivor of the 1817 battle remembered as Scott's Massacre.

The wife of a soldier then stationed at Fort Scott in what is now Decatur County, Georgia, Mrs. Stewart was making her way to the fort with 6 other wives of soldiers and 4 children. The civilians had come up the Apalachicola River aboard supply boats destined for Fort Scott. When Lieutenant R.W. Scott of the 7th U.S. Infantry came downstream to assist the flotilla, its commander took 20 of the lieutenant's able bodied men and replaced them 20 of his own men who were severely ill with fever. He also asked Scott to take Mrs. Stewart and the other wives and children on to the fort in his faster vessel.

Scott and h
is passengers had no idea that war had erupted between the United States and an alliance of Creek and Seminole warriors as a result of the U.S. Army's unprovoked attacks on the Lower Creek village of Fowltown. The battles at Fowltown enraged the Seminoles and Creeks living along the Florida-Georgia border and they swarmed to the Apalachicola River intending to cut off the flow of supplies to Fort Scott.

As Lieutenant Scott's boat neared the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers (today's Lake Seminole), the current of the river forced the vessel close to the east bank. Several hundred warriors opened fire from hidden positions in trees and brush along the bank. Scott and most of his able-bodied men went down in the first volley. The warriors then stormed the boat, killing the others.

Of the estimated 51 people on the lieutenant's boat, only 7 survived. Six of Scott's men, four of them wounded, escaped by leaping overboard and swiming away underwater. The other survivor was Eliza
beth Stewart. All of the other men, women and children on the boat were killed.

Mrs. Stewart was carried away as a prisoner and spent the next several months working as a slave of Peter McQueen's band of Red Stick Creeks. She was rescued by the Yuchi warrior Timpoochee Barnard during the Battle of Econfina Natural Bridge in 1818.

She went on to live in Fort Gaines and married John Dill, a local merchant and later a general in the Georgia M
ilitia. They raised a family in Fort Gaines and two of their homes still survive there. According to legend, Elizabeth built them with money she had collected while a captive of McQueen. As the story goes, the warriors returning from raids with wads of paper money that was of no value to them. They would simply throw it on the ground and Elizabeth would then collect it and stash it away.

To learn more of the remarkable story of Elizabeth Dill, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortgaines4.


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