The Second Attack on that Deadly Day - the Attack on Fort King

On the same day as the Dade Massacre, the Fort King Indian Removal Agent, General Wiley Thompson, was anticipating the arrival of Dade’s reinforcements at any time. General Thompson and Lieutenant Constantine Smith were taking their customary afternoon stroll outside the Fort King palisade, making their way to Erastus Rogers’ cabin a short distance away. During their stroll, sixty Seminole warriors, led by Osceola, orchestrated a brutal attack on Fort King.


Shots rang out from the wood-line killing both General Thompson and Constantine Smith outside of the fort. Osceola scalped General Thompson and then he and his men made their way to the sutlers cabin. There Mr. Rogers, Mr. Kitzler (Hitzler), two clerks, and a young boy were also shot and killed. The Seminole then burned the sutlers store and ran off.


Micanopy and Osceola both led swift and effective attacks on the U.S. troops that day. It was these two attacks on this one deadly day that set the stage for the Second Seminole War.


GRAPHIC ACCOUNT OF THE ATTACK ON WILEY THOMPSON as described by Lieutenant Joseph W. Harris, State Dispersal Agent in his correspondence to the War Department, upon his arrival at the fort shortly after the attack – “Sir: I have the honor to report to you my arrival at this post, which I reached on the evening of the 28th instant, having been delayed by unavoidable detainures upon the road several days beyond the time I fixed upon for the accomplishment of my journey.


I regret that it becomes my first duty after my arrival here, to be the narrator of a story which it will be, I am sure, as painful for you to hear, as it is for me, who was almost an eye witness to the bloody deed, to relate to you. Our excellent superintendent, Gen. Wiley Thompson has been most cruelly murdered by a party of the hostile Indians, and with him Lieutenant Constantine Smith, of the 2d regiment of artillery, Erastus Rogers the sutler of the post, together with his two clerks, a Mr. Hitzler and a boy called Robert. This occurred on the afternoon of the 28th instant, between three and four o’clock.


The troops, with the exception of Captain Lendrum’s company of the 3d artillery, had been withdrawn on the 26th, to reinforce General Clinch, at Lang Syne plantation, preparatory to his striking a blow at the families of the Indians supposed to be concealed in the swamps and hammocks of the Withlacoochee river, with the hope of brining on a general engagement. The departure of the detachment had rendered precaution more necessary, and all those attached to the fort or agency office, about 100 yards beyond the works.

 

The sutler had moved his goods into the fort, but was in the habit of eating his meals at his house, some six or eight yards off, skirting a thick hammock to the northwest of us. His clerks ate with him.


On the day of the massacre Lieutenant Smith had dined with the general, and after dinner invited him to take a short stroll with him. They had not proceeded more than 300 yards beyond the agency office, when they were fired upon by a party of Indians, who rose from ambush in the Hammock, within sight of the fort, and on which the sutler’s house borders.


The reports of the first rifles fired, the war-whoop twice repeated and after a brief space, several volleys more remote and in the quarter of Mr. Rogers’s house were heard, and the smoke of the firing seen at the fort. Upon the first alarm Captain Lendrum drew in his men, who were for the most part busily engaged without the pickets, securing and strengthening the defences. Expecting an assault from the hammock immediately fronting and flanking the fort, and not then knowing the absence of General Thompson and the others, thinking the firing was but a feint to draw him out to be cut off.

 

Shortly, however, the fact was made known to him, and about the same time several whites and colored people, who had escaped from the sutler’s house, came running in and apprised Captain Lendrum that Mr. Rogers, his clerks and themselves, had been surprised at dinner; and that the three former had, in all probability fallen into the hands of the Indians. 

It was at this moment that Lieut. Colonel Crane, of the army, and myself, with an escort of six mounted militia upon jaded horses, arrived at the fort, by the rear of the hammock from which the ambush arose. A command was instantly despatched to succor, and pursue, if not too late. But the butchery had been as brief as it was complete, and the last whoop that had been heard was the signal for a precipitate retreat, and the savage perpetrators were already beyond the reach of our small force. 


The bodies of General Thompson, Lieutenant Smith and Mr. Kitzler, were soon found and brought in; those of the others were only discovered this morning. That of General Thompson was perforated with fourteen bullets and a deep knife wound in the right breast. Those of Lieutenant Smith and Mr. Kitzler, had each received two bullets, and the head of the latter was so broken that the brains had come out. The bodies of the two found to-day were most shockingly mangled; the heads of each very much broken; the body of Mr. Rogers was penetrated by seventeen bullets and that of the boy by two. All, savings the boy, were scalped. The remains of those unfortunates were decently and properly interred to-day.


Two expresses, soldiers, were despatched upon fresh horses on the evening of this horrid tragedy, with tidings of it to General Clinch; but from our not hearing from him or them, we are apprehensive that they were cut off. We are also exceedingly anxious for the fate of the two companies which had been ordered up from fort Brooke, and which should have been so a week ago, of whom we can learn nothing. Our communication with Tampa is cut off. 


I am apprehensive that the hostile disposition is a very general one. All the upper Indians, with but a few exceptions, who were friendly since the council of April last, have gone over the war party. We are told that Micanopy, the head chief, is opposed to hostile measures, though still objecting to emigrate, and has ordered all his people to remain neutral. Upon this statement I have no reliance. There may be in all, from 5 to 600 people in the nation who will consent to remove peaceably. I hear that there are from 3 to 500 already assembled at Tampa Bay. The rest will fight and must be whipped first.


I regret exceedingly, sir, to be the bearer of such unwelcome and melancholy tidings to you, and wish in my heart that the interest of your Department could wear a more promising aspect in this quarter.”

(*Note that all errors in spelling and grammar are of the original writer)



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