Rambling through Creek trails with Yankee troops
I am continuing with the material begun last week and written by Andrew J. McCreary. This will take a while but I believe you will derive some information about the area. He gets away from the raid many times to tell about people who lived in the area and the way they lived that is interesting.
The route that the expedition was going to take through Santa Rosa County, Fla., and Conecuh and Covington Counties, Ala.,is shown on a map drawn under the direction of Lt. S.E. McGregory, U.S. Army commanding Topographical Party of the Army of west Mississippi and southern Alabam,a March and April 1865, by order of Bvt. Major McClester, Bvt. Major U.S. Army.
The first unit landed from the steamer Matamoras was the First Florida Cavalry and two companies under command of Capt. E.D. Johnson were sent to Milton on the 19th to see if the Confederates had reoccupied any of the areas there, and to confuse the Rebels as to when and where the Yankees were going to strike next. A large Yankee force was going to move from Pensacola toward Camp Pollard shortly. Only a few Rebel pickets were found in Milton and they were driven toward Camp Pollard and disappeared into the swamps. Capt. Johnson was to stay only two days and then join the main column on the march into south Alabama.
As soon as the last unit was unloaded at Creigler's Mill, the expedition started moving north, bypassing Milton to the west and crossing the Blackwater River several miles upstream, and made camp 25 miles above Milton at 6 p.m. Travel was slow as it had been raining for several days and the streams were swollen with rain water. The first day a march was through sandy country and notwithstanding the rainy weather, the roads were in good condition, but narrow.
The advance guard under Capt. Robinson joined the expedition that night. He did not leave any troops at Milton because he felt the Rebels did not have enough troops available to cause any trouble in that area.
Not meeting any armed resistance, Col. Spurling moved on through Santa Rosa County into Alabama on the west side of the Conecuh River to his planned crossing of this river at Montezuma Landing, just below what is now River Falls.
The main body of the cavalry rode on roads which followed trails made by Creek Indians and used by Indians and Indian agents to bring furs and other products from the Indian tribes of south and central Alabama to Pensacola from Alexander McGillivary for the Payton and Company in the late 1700s or early 1800s. These products were brought into Pensacola from as far north as Tookabatcha, north of present day Montgomery, Ala.
Ponies raised in the Creek Indian Nation were used as pack animals. They were unusually small animals but were very strong and could carry a load of 150 pounds with ease on the very narrow trails. There were as many as 150 pack ponies in some pack trains moving through the wide and unsettled area of south Alabama and west Florida.
Other than furs, honey, bear oil, bees wax, snake root, hickory nut oil, pine tar and medical plants were transported by pack animal to Pensacola over these trails. Some furs and products were brought down the Escambia River in canoes to Pensacola.
As the Yankees moved north, the road they used, for the most part, was only wide enough for an ox cart to travel on. Side roads were nothing more than Indian trails. In 1865 this was not a well used road north from Pensacola and Milton. Parts of the road were so narrow that two cavalrymen could not ride abreast, they had to ride Indian fashion, one behind the other, as Indian ponies moved 75 and 100 years before, or knees and shins would be injured by trees and brush along the side of the road.
The raiders did not meet any armed resistance after leaving Milton. The only thing that hampered their movement was rain. It rained every day they were on the raid. They passed very few houses until they crossed the Alabama state lien. Shortly thereafter they entered Lewis' Station, which was only a cross road community with a few houses. This is where the Yankees did their first looting and destroying of private property to any extent. They looted the houses, destroyed farm equipment, robbed potato banks, stole sugar cane syrup and replenished their saddle bags with corn for their horses which they had not had a chance to do since leaving Fort Barrancas.