It having been reported at Fort Brooke that Fort King was assailed by the Indians and in danger of being cut off, and this opinion being strengthened by the noncompliance of General Clinch with the request of General Gaines to co-operate with him, it became General Gaines’s duty to ascertain the cause. A large number of General Gaines’s troops were in a destitute condition, and the senior assistant quartermaster, Captain Shannon, had a letter from the Quartermaster General at Washington, dated January 19th, which stated that large supplies of provisions had been ordered from New York to Fort King. With these facts before him, General Gaines determined to move to Fort King, where he could ascertain the position of the enemy and at the same time strengthen the garrison.
The army under General Gaines arrived at Fort King on February 22d. Finding the post poorly supplied with subsistence, he dispatched Lieutenant-Colonel Foster, with an escort of the Fourth Infantry, to proceed to Fort Drane, twenty-two miles distant, where General Clinch was stationed with four companies of artillery and one of infantry and two companies of volunteers, and endeavored to get a supply of provisions. The detachment returned on the 24th with seven days’ supplies. Here for the first time General Gaines was informed that General Scott was in command in Florida, and that he was then at Picolata organizing forces and gathering supplies.
General Gaines then determined that he could not remain at Fort King, as supplies were being exhausted as fast as they came in, and that to remain there would necessarily embarrass the operations of General Scott. It was also evident that the enemy would not be found by retracing his march to Fort Brooke, but that by moving by the battle ground of General Clinch, even should he not succeed in meeting the enemy, the mere presence of a large force would perhaps tend to concentrate him, and thus give security to the frontier and enable the inhabitants to give attention to planting their crops. Besides, he would find supplies at Fort Brooke, and on his arrival the command of Colonel Lindsay would be strengthened.
The army, being provided with two days’ rations, moved out on the 27th, and arriving at the river, a halt was called, the baggage train being under protection of the rear guard, while General Gaines, with the main column and artillery, moved forward for the purpose of making a reconnoissance preparatory to crossing. Finding the river too deep to ford at the point reached, General Gaines and Colonel Smith made an attempt to cross about two hundred and fifty yards higher up. Reaching a small island in the middle of the river, a sharp fire was opened upon them, accompanied by the Indian war-whoop.
The troops returned the fire, and the field piece under Lieutenant Grayson was brought into action, which quickly silenced the war-whoop. The engagement lasted about three quarters of an hour, during which one volunteer was killed and seven wounded. General Clinch’s old breastwork was enlarged and occupied by the troops during the night.