The Withlacoochee

The site of Fort/Camp Izard on the Withlacoochee River received two state grants to fund an archaeological survey in 1995. Some of you may have even been with us in October '95 when the Seminole Tribe of Florida sponsored a tour of the site. With more funding, plans are for an educational center and living history park.  (But 8 years later with nothing done, I doubt this will ever happen.).

For those of you who are not familiar with the history of the Camp Izard site:
As soon as the word of Major Dade's defeat was known in early 1836, General Gaines started a campaign to strike a blow against the Seminoles. He rushed a command of about 1100 regulars and volunteers from New Orleans to Tampa Bay. Reaching Fort Brooke, the command marched north, where they found and buried the remains of Dade's command. After that, they went to free Fort King from Osceola's blockade. They found no Indians, and were short of supplies; Fort King having little to give. They could only get a short supply northeast at Fort Drane. Gaines' command was left with only two days provisions, and decided to march his men back to Tampa Bay. But, this time return on the west side of the Withlacoochee River; to strike a blow against the Seminoles in their stronghold known as, "the Cove of the Withlacoochee."

Getting to the Withlacoochee River, they found the Seminoles in force, and had a running skirmish for about two days. Gaines sent for General Clinch's forces to back him up, while he kept his command on one side of the river to keep the Seminoles in the area amused until Clinch arrived. This is when things went wrong for Gaines. General Scott had arrived to take command of all forces in Florida. Scott believed that Gaines had spoiled the chance for any surprise strike against the Seminoles, and ordered Clinch to remain at Fort Drane. Gaines was thus trapped and surrounded by a larger sized Seminole and Miccosukie force.

Lieutenant Izard was shot in the head while at the river bank, and suffered a few painful days until his death. The site was named Camp Izard in his honor by Gaines. There was a fort at this crossing during the war, and later a community named Fort Izard. Gaines himself was shot in the mouth, losing two teeth. The army command was there for over a week, and the men were out of supplies and starving. Finally, the Seminoles under Micanopy, Jumper, and Osceola, decided to call a truce and hold a talk with the general. Unknown to everyone, General Clinch had decided to disobey General Scott's orders, and ordered a force to rescue Gaines. (It is said that Clinch's men at Fort Drane could even hear Gaines' cannon fire, but were helpless to do anything about it.) Clinch arrived and fired on the negotiating Seminole party, chasing them away, and ruining any chance of talks to end the war.

In honor of this event and siege at Camp Izard, I have done some library archaeology and discovered two poems that commemorate the event that I hope you will enjoy:


From the Army and Navy Chronicle, Vol. III, pg. 40, Jul-Dec 1836; printed here as it was written.
(From the Richmond Enquirer.)

WITHLACOOCHEE

Resplendent sunbeams glance and flit
Through foliage pictured on the waves,
Wild, fragrant shrubs their sweets emit;
And flowery banks the river laves.

Meridian rays have hush'd the strains
Of southern warblers--far and wide
Noon's influence spreads--and silence reigns
O'er Alachua's wilds and Withlacoochee's tide.

The stillness is disturb'd--a corps
Of gallant forms approaches--never
Were there such martial ranks, before
Reflected in that forest river.

With wary march through copse and glade,
Proceeds the reconnoitring band--
Heedful, lest there, in ambuscade,
The wily savage lurk at hand.

'Till (by the calm deceived) they deem
Their rifles' "useless weight" amiss;
"For fishing-rods," say they, "'t would seem,
Were better in a scene like this."

Fallacious thought! even at the word,
Through the rent air the Indians' yell,
And volleying rifle-shots are heard,
War, famine, death--alas! the dreadful sounds foretell.

"What youthful leader, bold as young,"
"With the advance guard meets the foe?"
When battles cease and deeds are sung,
His name I ween, the world will know.

A noble mien--a speaking eye,
A bosom ardent and sincere;
A purpose over firm and high,
Give promise of a bright career.

And he has trod the forest path,
The field of torture and dismay,
Where, victims of the red-man's wrath,
A hundred murder'd comrades lay.

And he has, shuddering, heard the shrieks
Of orphans, and the widow's moan;
And vengeance for their fate he seeks,
The while all reckless of his own.

But see--as to the fight he rushes--
The fatal ball is sped--Oh God!
Forth from his wound a torrent gushes,
And Izard's life-blood bathes the sod.

He sinks--that soldier-glaive in hand,
(No selfish cares his mind engross,)
And heedful of his little hand
He, fainting, breathes a last command--
"Keep your positions men--lie close."

His days are number'd--we are weeping--
But better far that breath should part,
And he in honor's grave lie sleeping,
Than owe his life to coward heart.

For lo! where late in bold array,
His brothers to the battle press'd;
A camp the verdant field display;
Their camp--surrounded--mock'd--distress'd!!!

And of them, some (aye weep their fate,)
At Oseola's fierce behest,
The savage foe will immolate,
And hideous famine clutch the rest.

They have answered the bugle's thrilling call,
With the woe-fraught sounds of the muffled drum,
And tears on the cheeks of the bravest fall,
As from his untimely grave they come.

They have left thee, Izard--afar and lone
They human heritage doth lie,
Where sad winds through palmettoes moan,
And Withlacoochee's waves reply.

Nor monument, nor lines of praise,
May mark the spot where thou'rt at rest;
But Memory to thee shall raise
A cenotaph in every breast.


From the Army and Navy Chronicle, Vol. III, pg. 47, Jul-Dec 1836; printed here as it was written.
(From the American Monthly Magazine.)

THE BURIAL OF THE WITHLACOOCHEE

Hollow ye the lonely grave,
Make its caverns deep and wide;
In the soil they died to save
Lay the brave men side by side.
Side by side they fought and fell,
Hand to hand they met the foe;
Who has heard his grand-sire tell
Braver strife or deadlier blow?

Wake no mournful harmonies
Shed no earthly tear for them;
Summer dew and sighing breeze
Shall be wail and requiem.

Pile the grave-mound broad and high,
Where the martyred brethren sleep;
It shall point the pilgrim's eye
Here to bend--but not to weep.

Not to weep! oh no! the grief,
Springing from a blow like this,
May not seek a fond relief
In the drops that mothers kiss,
But the kindling heart shall bear
Hence the lessons stern and high,
With as proud a flame to dare--
With as proud a throb to die.

AELAH !


Return to the Chapter 5.

Return Home
 

(c) 1996, 2003 Chris Kimball