Battle of Fort Peter
The Battle of Fort Point Peter was a successful attack by a British force at St. Marys, Georgia, and a smaller force of American soldiers at a fort on Point Peter on the Georgia side of the St. Marys River. The river was part of the international border between the US and British-allied Spanish Florida.[Note 2] Occupying coastal Camden County allowed the British to blockade American transportation on the Intracoastal Waterway. The attack on Fort Peter occurred in January 1815, after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which would end the War of 1812, but before the treaty's ratification. The attack on Fort Peter occurred at the same time as the siege of Fort St. Philip in Louisiana and was part of the British occupation of St. Marys and Cumberland Island.
Forts at St. Marys
Point Peter is the first landing site on the Georgia side of the St. Marys River. It is a peninsula between the North River and Point Peter Creek, which flow into the St. Marys. The land was granted to James Seagrove and Jacob Weed in 1787, and a military post was established on Point Peter around that time. The garrison eventually included a fort, battery, and a mooring for naval vessels. The U.S. military posted there were responsible for enforcing tariffs and protecting the nation's southern border with Spanish Florida. Paul Hyacinth Perrault was commissioned to built a fort in St. Marys, probably Ft. St. Tammany, and work began in July 1794. The following year, the cost exceeded $1,400.
The fort became involved in the Quasi-War in 1798.
Between 1793 and 1805 the U.S. military manned the fort, and spent $16,000 dollars on the garrison at Point Peter. However, in 1806 dismantled the fort, relying instead solely on gunboats and a fixed battery. In 1809, the block house and battery that formed the new fort were approved.
In 1811, eleven of the United States Navy's 165 gunboats were stationed at St. Marys under High Campbell, making it the third-largest naval station in the United States prior to the War of 1812. The gunboats were powered by lateen sails and oar, and mounted heavy artillery.
In 1811, the commander of Fort Point Peter, Lieutenant Thomas Adam Smith, and his junior officers, Captain Abraham Massias, Captain Joseph Woodruff, Lieutenant Daniel Appling, Captain Fiedler Ridgeway, and Lieutenant Elias Stallings, received orders to assist an American takeover of Spanish Florida if a rebellion or invasion took place. Few of the officers became involved in the Patriot War of East Florida over the next few years. President Madison and Secretary of State Monroe did not give direct orders to the Point Peter garrison to act in the conflict, and later directed their attention to the War of 1812.
Battle of Fort Point Peter 1815
On January 10, 1815, British forces under the command of Admiral Sir George Cockburn landed on Cumberland Island off the Georgia coast. The British force consisted of the three Royal Marines Battalions (560 men in the 1st & 2nd, plus the six companies of the 3rd), ships' detachments of Royal Marines from the squadron (120 men), and two companies from the 2nd West India Regiment (190 men).[Note 3]
The British land force then headed for St. Marys along the St. Mary's River. While they were on their way they encountered a small American force of 160 soldiers of the 43rd Infantry Regiment and the Rifle Corps under Captain Abraham A. Massias. A skirmish ensued before the Americans retreated.
Massias estimated the size of the British force as 1500 men. He reported that American casualties on 13 January numbered 1 killed, 4 wounded, and 9 missing. Although Massias believed that British casualties were numerous, they amounted to only three men killed and five wounded in the entire expedition.
On January 15 the British captured St. Marys. American reports suggest that the British looted the town's jewelry store and stole fine china and other goods from the residents. British reports are that they agreed terms with the town's inhabitants under which the residents gave up all public property and all the British respected all private property. The British captured two American gunboats and 12 merchantmen, including the East Indiaman Countess of Harcourt, which an American privateer had captured on her way from India to London. Prize money for the Countess of Harcourt, the bark Maria Theresa, goods from the ship Carl Gustaff, and the schooner Cooler, was paid in April 1824.[Note 4]
The British ended their occupation of St. Marys and Fort St. Tammany after about a week. They burned Fort Point Peter, including its blockhouses and barracks, and withdrew to Cumberland Island. The officers lived at Dungeness, most of the troops were stationed at the south end of the island, and the ships anchored in Cumberland sound. At the end of February 1815, Rear Admiral Cockburn received news of the Treaty of Ghent through newspaper, but refused to accept it as official proof and continued to ship refugees away from Florida and Georgia. In all, 1485 slaves were freed.
The British departed from Cumberland on March 15, although a ship stuck on a bar and Albion remained in Cumberland Sound until March 18.
Point Peter 1815-1821
In 1818, the federal government purchased the land. In 1819, the Adams–Onís Treaty was signed and Florida was transferred to the United States in 1821. By the Civil War, Fort Point Peter had become a ruin.
In 1953, a Georgia Historical Marker was placed at the Point Peter battlefield.
In 1870, Daniel Proctor purchased the property from the United States, who sold it to Alexander Curtis. In 2002, a planned housing development at Point Peter spurred archaeological interest in the former site of the fort. (Elliott) The development came under pressure to survey the cultural resources of Point Peter, and hired Scott Butler, an archaeologist for Brockington and Associates, to conduct a study. As of 2009, archaeologists have found thousands of artifacts, including cannons, muskets, musket balls, knives and uniform buttons.
Fort St. Tammany, the fort in St. Marys, was located where Howard Gilman Memorial Waterfront Park is today. It is identified as site 9Cm164, although no detailed study of the ruins has been conducted.
A semi-permanent exhibit, "The Forgotten Invasion," was opened at the Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum in downtown St. Marys in remembrance of the battle, and includes a recovered sunken anchor from a British warship in addition to finds from Scott Butler's excavation.
History of Camden County, Georgia
- War of 1812
- Seminole Wars
Notes, citations, and references
- The vessels were: Albion, Dragon (74-guns), Regulus (44 guns; en flute), Brune (56 guns; en flute), Severn (40 guns), Hebrus (36 guns), Rota (38 guns), Primrose (18 guns), Terror and Devastation (both bomb vessels of 8 guns), and the schooners Canso (10 guns) and Whiting (12 guns).
- Today, the St. Mary's River forms the boundary between Georgia and Florida.
- One source reports a deployment (from the force) of Captain Wills with 150 men of the 1st Battalion. In addition, Lieutenant Fraser with a company of the 2nd Battalion, and Lieutenant Agassiz with a company of the 3rd Battalion, and a company of the 2nd West India Regiment amounted to 160 men.
- A first-class share of the prize money was worth £17 2s 0½d; a sixth-class share was worth 3s 6¼d.
- Jane Lucas de Grummond (ed), and George S. Gaines, Richard Terrell, Alexander C. Henderson, Andrew Jackson and Alexander Cochrane. "Platter of Glory", Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 3, No. 4 (Autumn, 1962), pp. 316-359.
- Smith, Gene (2013) The Slaves' Gamble, Choosing Sides in the War of 1812. Palgrave McMillan.
- Elliott, 4-6.
- Reddick, 26-27.
- Elliott, 9.
- Cusick, 75.
- Nicolas, Paul Harris - "Historical Record of the Royal Marine Forces", Volume 2, pp. 266-268, 287.
- HSC Heritage Auctions Manuscripts Auction Catalog #6031, Heritage Auctions, Inc., Editor James L. Halperin.
- The London Gazette: . 3 April 1824.
- Bullard, 120-22.
- Reddick 1976, 25.
- Mike Toner. The Last Invasion. Archaeology Magazine. January/February 2007.
- (Georgia Archaeological Site Files 2002)(Elliott 4)
- Elliott, Daniel T. "Point Peter and the St. Marys River Forts". The LAMAR Institute, Vol 62. August 2002.
- Waciuma, Wanjohi. Intervention in Spanish Florida, 1801-1813: A Study in Jeffersonian Foreign Policy.
- Cusick, James G. The Other War of 1812: The Patriot War and the American Invasion of Spanish East Florida. University of Georgia Press, 2003)
- Bullard, Mary R. Black Liberation on Cumberland Island in 1815. (University of Georgia Press, 1983).
- de Grummond, Jane Lucas(ed), and George S. Gaines, Richard Terrell, Alexander C. Henderson, Andrew Jackson and Alexander Cochrane. "Platter of Glory", Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 3, No. 4 (Autumn, 1962), pp. 316-359.