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[194]

Before the expiration of Madison's term the state of anarchy in East Florida, resulting from the utter inability of Spain to maintain an adequate government, had been a source of much uneasiness and annoyance to the people living near the border. Florida had become the refuge of fugitive Indians, lawless white men and runaway slaves, who were formed into clans of robbers and marauders. The most formidable of these organized bands occupied a fort on the Apalachicola river, at the point where Fort Gadsden was afterward constructed. It was at that time called the Negro Fort, and was the rendezvous of Indians and negroes, led by a negro named Garcia. This fort had been constructed during the war by the British officer, Colonel Nichols, who had drawn together a herd of desperadoes, had supplied them with arms and ammunition, and aided them with a British garrison. When the British troops were withdrawn at the close of the war this band was furnished with a large supply of arms and ammunition, and was instigated to continue a predatory warfare against the Americans. British adventurers remained among them, who were suspected of being agents of their government. Among this class were Ambrister and Arbuthnot.

Spain was unable and perhaps unwilling to punish their outrages, and the United States had decided to respect the neutrality of Spanish territory. Taking advantage of this situation, the band at Negro Fort committed depredations with impunity. In August, 1816, Gen. Edmund P. Gaines, commanding United States troops on the Florida frontier, sent a force under Colonel Clinch against this fort. A large body of Creek Indians under command of Major McIntosh, and still another body under Captain Isaacs and Kateha-Haigo, were at the same time bound on the same errand. These three bodies made a junction, and aided by two gunboats, took the fort without difficulty. A red-hot shell from one of the gunboats, taking effect in the magazine, blew up the

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