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Order to pay a pilot who guided U.S. navy ships into Florida waters, enabling Jackson to remove Spanish influence there. The order includes payment for piloting the schooner that carried captured British agent Alexander Arbuthnot. Jackson’s hanging of the Scotsman would lead to an international outcry and a Congressional investigation.
Also signed by John Baptiste, the pilot, with his mark, and witnessed by Surgeon Moses H. Elliott. Baptiste took this document back to the quartermaster at Fort Gadsden, where it was paid: “Fort Gadsden, May 7, 1818. Received of Maj. Milo Mason, Dept. Q.M.Genl., twenty six dollars in full of the above account.”
“The United States to John Baptiste for his service, as pilot on board the United States armed Schooner Thomas Shields under the command of Capt. McKeever from the 30th March to 14th April inclusive-16 days. For the same on board the Schooner Milo, Capt. Snow, from the 15 to 22nd April inclusive being- 8 days. For the same in piloting the Schooner Chance from the Bay of Apalache to St. Marks- 2 days. Total 26 days. One dollar per day-- $26. The Q.M. Genl. will pay the above account.” ANDREW JACKSON.
Manuscript Document Signed as Major General Commanding Department of the South. May 7, 1818. 8 x 9 ¾ in. 1 p.
Jackson’s great victory in the Battle of New Orleans at the end of the War of 1812 (actually after the peace treaty had been signed), determined indisputably that the Mississippi Valley would belong to the United States. Jackson was then ordered to the chaotic Georgia-Florida frontier. Defeated Creeks, along with hostile Florida Indians such as the Seminoles, were now using it as a base to harass Georgia. Moreover, runaway slaves from the plantations of Georgia and South Carolina were escaping there. Florida at that time was owned by Spain, but the British had designs on obtaining more influence. Assigned by President Monroe to stabilize the situation, Jackson wrote “Let it be signified to me through any channel that the possession of the Floridas would be desirable to the United States, and in sixty days it will be accomplished.”
Channels or no channels, Jackson meant to take Florida! On March 10, 1818, he invaded with some 3000 volunteers and 2000 Indian allies, beginning the First Seminole War. Desperately short of provisions, the troops immediately set out for two supply ships waiting at the mouth of the Apalachicola River near the Gulf of Mexico. By March 15th, they had reached the Negro Fort (destroyed by U.S. forces in 1816) on the river, where they re-provisioned. Jackson left Lt. James Gadsden in charge of rebuilding the fort (subsequently renamed “Fort Gadsden”), and set out into the heart of Seminole territory.
Meanwhile, a small flotilla commanded by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Isaac McKeever sailed from New Orleans with additional supplies; Jackson warned the Spanish not to interfere. When McKeever arrived in the bay of St. Marks on April 1, his ship, the Thomas Shields, flew a British flag. The ruse fooled both the Spanish and the Indians, and McKeever was able to lure on board the Creek chieftains Francis the Prophet (or Hillis Hadjo) and Himollemico. The unlucky Indians thought they had discovered allies and expected to find ammunition and powder. Instead, Jackson had the two Creek leaders hung.
On April 7th, a day after arriving in St. Marks, Jackson seized the military fortress there, replacing the Spanish flag with The Stars and Stripes. Jackson soon captured the two leading British operatives in Florida, Robert Armbrister and Alexander Arbuthnot, a 70-year-old Scottish Indian trader. Armbrister revealed that Arbuthnot’s schooner, the Chance, was moored at the mouth of the Suwannee River, and Jackson sent a detachment to take the ship. Lt. Gadsden boarded the Chance with little difficulty and sailed her back to St. Marks, arriving on April 25th. This pay order suggests that John Baptiste piloted the schooner on that trip. On board, Jackson found documents convincing him that both Armbrister and Arbuthnot should pay for their “crimes.” He immediately convened a special military court, which found the two men guilty and sentenced them to death. When the court advised a reduction of Armbrister’s sentence to fifty lashes and a year’s imprisonment, Jackson rejected the recommendation and had him shot. Arbuthnot was hung, reportedly from the yardarm of his own ship, the Chance.
On April 29, Jackson went on to Pensacola, the Spanish capitol, with just 1,200 men and his supporting ships. On May 24, they arrived, and proceeded to take the city. A week later, Jackson notified Pres. Monroe that he had taken northern Florida; soon the entire future state would be in American hands. By the time he marched out of Florida in early June, Jackson had quelled Indian resistance, routed the organized Negroes, deprived runaway slaves of their sanctuary, and brought British and Spanish influence in the region to an end.
Though Jackson returned as a hero to the American people, his actions prompted international condemnation and brought the U.S. to the brink of war with Spain. Secretary of War John C. Calhoun recommended his censure; the January 1819 report of the House Committee on Military Affairs did the same, though the House rejected the motion. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams supported the general, recognizing that Jackson’s campaign would force Spain to get rid of her troublesome colony. By the time the Senate committee investigating the affair was ready to report, Spain had renounced its claims to West Florida and ceded East Florida to the U.S. in the Adams-Onís Treaty.
“Witness M. H. Elliott,”is most likely Moses H. Elliott, born ca. 1789 in East Haverhill, Massachusetts, and served as a Surgeon in the Army from 1814 until his death at Pensacola, Florida, September 8, 1822, from yellow fever.
Andrew Jackson (1776-1845) Seventh President of the United States, nicknamed “Old Hickory.” Trained as a lawyer, he became a member of Congress for Tennessee in 1796 and a senator in 1797. Between 1798 and 1804, Jackson became a judge of Tennessee’s Supreme Court. In the War of 1812 against Britain, he was given command of the South, and his first military fame came from action against the Creek Indians. His victory over the British at New Orleans in 1815 made him a national hero. His election as president was the result of a campaign in which he gained the support of the mass of voters – a new development in US politics that came to be called “Jacksonian Democracy.” As president, he encouraged Western expansion and paid off the national debt.
“American State Papers, 15th Congress, 2nd Session – Military Affairs: Volume 1, pp.
681-768, No. 164. Defeat of the Seminole Indians – Capture of Spanish posts in Florida – and the trial and execution of Arbuthnot and Ambrister.” American Memory. Library of Congress. memory.loc.gov.
“List of Officers of the Army of the United States from 1779 to 1900…” (NY: Hamersly, 1900).
Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson & His Indian Wars (NY: Viking, 2001).
Thwing, Walter Eliot. “The Livermore Family of America.” (Boston: W.B. Clark, 1902).