The Army at Fort Strother.—Crockett’s Regiment.—Crockett at Home.—His Reenlistment.—Jackson Surprised.—Military Ability of the Indians.—Humiliation of the Creeks.—March to Florida.—Affairs at Pensacola.—Capture of the City.—Characteristics of Crockett.—The Weary March,—Inglorious Expedition.—Murder of Two Indians.—Adventures at the Island.—The Continued March.—Severe Sufferings.—Charge upon the Uninhabited Village.
The army, upon its return to Fort Strother, found itself still in a starving condition. Though the expedition had been eminently successful in the destruction of Indian warriors, it had consumed their provisions, without affording them any additional supply. The weather had become intensely cold. The clothing of the soldiers, from hard usage, had become nearly worn out. The horses were also emaciate and feeble. There was danger that many of the soldiers must perish from destitution and hunger.
The regiment to which Crockett belonged had enlisted for sixty days. Their time had long since expired. The officers proposed to Jackson that they and their soldiers might be permitted to return to their homes, promising that they would immediately re-enlist after having obtained fresh horses and fresh clothing. Andrew Jackson was by nature one of the most unyielding of men. His will was law, and must be obeyed, right or wrong. He was at that time one of the most profane of men. He swore by all that was sacred that they should not go; that the departure of so many of the men would endanger the possession of the fort and the lives of the remaining soldiers. There were many of the soldiers in the same condition, whose term of service had expired. They felt that they were free and enlightened Americans, and resented the idea of being thus enslaved and driven, like cattle, at the will of a single man. Mutinous feelings were excited. The camp was filled with clamor. The soldiers generally were in sympathy with those who demanded their discharge, having faithfully served out the term of their enlistment. Others felt that their own turn might come when they too might be thus enslaved.
There was a bridge which it was necessary for the soldiers to cross on the homeward route. The inflexible General, supposing that the regulars would be obedient to military discipline, and that it would be for their interest to retain in the camp those whose departure would endanger all their lives placed them upon the bridge, with cannon loaded to the muzzle with grape-shot. They were ordered mercilessly to shoot down any who should attempt to cross without his permission. In Crockett’s ludicrous account of this adventure, he writes: