During the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson virtually ended the Creek War with his decisive defeat of the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on 27 March 1814. However, some of the warriors, known as Red Sticks because of their traditional red war clubs, refused to accept Jackson's harsh surrender conditions and fled southward to the perceived safety of Spanish Florida. By May, about 900 Creek warriors gathered near Pensacola and being short on food and clothing, began to raid American and Spanish settlers in the area. Unable to provide supplies to the Creeks, the local Spanish authorities accepted assistance from the British, who hoped that it would encourage the Creeks to renew hostilities against the Americans.
By early fall of 1814, the British had begun using Spanish West Florida as a base from which to launch military operations along the American frontier. They also actively trained and armed the hostile Creeks and slaves. In doing so, the British blatantly disregarded Spanish neutrality and resulted in Jackson's invasion of Spanish Florida. With a force of approximately 4,000 troops, composed of regular army, volunteers, and friendly Native Americans, Jackson captured Pensacola on 7 November 1814. Most of the Red Sticks and some runaway slaves fled to the east, encouraged by the British to meet them at their new base at Prospect Bluff on the Apalachicola River.
After learning that the British were preparing for a major assault on New Orleans, Jackson was forced to leave Pensacola and head to Mobile. However, he was concerned that the Red Sticks could pose a threat to the Alabama and Georgia frontier settlements. As a result, Jackson appointed Major Uriah Blue of the 39th Regiment to perform cleanup operations against the Red Sticks remaining in Spanish West Florida. With the hostile Indians in check, Jackson could to attend to matters at New Orleans.
Uriah Blew was born in Virginia and had been an officer in the U.S. Regular Army since 1799. Uriah had participated in the capture of Pensacola where he commanded over 700 Choctaw warriors. Now, Uriah had a force of about 1,000 men, composed a battalion of Tennessee Mounted Gunmen, a battalion from Knox County, Tennesse, and a considerable number of friendly Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creeks. Among the Native Americans were some of their important leaders, like chiefs Pushmataha, Mushulatubbee and Apuckshunubbee of the Choctaws and the Colbert brothers of the Chickasaw nation. The expedition was to set out east of the Escambia River to seize or destroy any supplies or villages they enountered. One of the men from Tennessee was a scout named David Crockett who described their mission as being to "kill up the Indians on the Scamby river."
The expedition immediately encountered issues. The troops were forced to return to Fort Montgomery, located on the Alabama River, for much needed supplies. Uriah soon grew frustrated at the lack of progress, as bad weather and transportation issues caused major delays. By 8 December, he would wait no longer and left Fort Montgomery. His men were given twenty days worth of rations and a few head of cattle. The poor road conditions restricted the use of wagons so they resorted to having the mounted troops use their horses as pack animals.
The forces reached Spanish West Florida by mid-December, just as the weather turned extremely cold and rainy. The roads got muddier and the Escambia River overflowed its banks. When the American forces arrived at Turvin's Bluff on the Escambia, about twenty-four miles north of Pensacola, Uriah had a boat brought up to ferry the troops across the river. When it arrived, it also brought supplies of sugar, coffee, and various liquors.
Crossing the cold, swollen river was no easy feat. The men who had horses had to swim them over. The rest, according to Crockett, "just put in like so many spaniels, and waded on, sometimes up to our armpits." After finally reaching the other side, everyone was drenched and they had to light fires or keep moving to avoid freezing.
American forces soon located a sizable Creek camp. The Americans and their Indian allies surrounded it and ordered the hostiles to surrender. The Creeks refused and a skirmish broke out, resulting in twenty Creek warriors being killed. One hundred and fifty Creeks, mostly women and children, quickly surrended and were marched back to the Escambia River and then north to Fort Montgomery in Alabama.
The expedition eventually reached the present-day Floridatown area on the northeast shore of Escambia Bay. When news of a group of Indians located near Garcon Point at the southern tip of the peninsula that separated Escambia Bay from Blackwater Bay, the forces moved south. Several Indians were killed and others captured while the rest fled westward across the bay to Pensacola. Uriah ordered some men to follow the escaping Indians by boat who eventually caught up with them in a tan yard in Pensacola where ten Indians were captured. When they returned to the east side of the bay, Uriah had the prisoners escorted north to Fort Montgomery.
The American forces regrouped and on 19 December 1814, they set of to the northeast. Uriah had learned of a large Indian village on the Choctawhatchee River and set it as their destination, in the hopes of finding provisions. As they marched east, a large Creek encampment was reported by several Chickasaw scouts. Quickly crossing the Yellow River, the Americans encircled the camp and opened fire. Thirty Creeks were reportedly killed, among them an old chief called "Alabama King." Approximately seventy-five prisoners were sent to Fort Montgomery. The Americans were able to secure a number of badly needed pack horses.
On Christmas Day, Uriah's forces were deep in Spanish West Florida territory. "We were...in extreme suffering for want of something to eat, and exhausted with our exposure and the fatigues of our journey. I remember well, that I had not myself tasted bread but twice in nineteen days. I had bouoght a pretty good supply of coffee from the boat that had reached us from Pensacola, on the Scamby, and on that we chiefly subsisted," Crockett wrote. Spies reported to Uriah that they had located the target Indian camp on the Choctawhatchee. Despite being in desperate need of supplies, Uriah ordered an overnight march, arriving at the village at sunrise on 26 December. Uriah ordered an immediate charge upon the village, only to found it deserted and devoid of supplies. The Indians had been alerted to the troops' presence and fled into the surrounding swamps. Disappointed and frustrated, the American forces burned the village and returned to their camp.
Now, without further provisions, Uriah could not proceed to his goal of Prospect Bluff. He was hundred of miles from any supplies. Forced to split his forces, he ordered half northward and led the remaining half back toward the Escambia River. In a letter to General Jackson, Uriah wrote, "My command at this time are without provision of any kind; the horses are unable to go any farther. I am on my return march to Fort Montgomery....If I had been able to procure provisions (at the Indian village) as I had calculated on, I would have routed all the Indians in this quarter, but owing to the want of provisions I am compelled to return."
As the cold and hungry troops marched westward, Uriah sent an officer to Pensacola to secure supplies for them. Unfortunately, he was unable to obtain sufficient provisions at the Spanish port. At the start of the new year, Uriah and his exhausted men made camp on the eastern shore of the Escambia River.
After crossing the river, Uriah received word that there were about 300 Red Sticks at Fort Barrancas near Pensacola. In response, Uriah took 170 volunteers to attack the fort and drive the Indians out while the main body of his forces headed for the American forts in Alabama. When he reached the fort, he prepared to attack at daylight but, once again, the Indians were nowhere to be found. Uriah later learned that they had been warned of his advance and evacuated the fort the night before, boarding some English ships in Pensacola Bay. Uriah and his men had no choice but to rejoin his forces at Fort Montgomery, reaching that destination on 9 January. Thus ended the great "mopping up" of Spanish West Florida.
However, soon after arriving at Fort Montgomery, Uriah was ordered to Mobile to reinforce that city's defenses. He could persuade only 100 Choctaw and Chickasaw warriors to follow him. Upon reaching Mobile, Uriah learned of the British defeat at New Orleans and it was feared that the enemy forces were now headed for Mobile. This turned out to be true when, on 8 February, British forces landed at the entrance to Mobile Bay. When the British attached the American-held Fort Bowyer, Uriah was given command of a large part of Mobile's defenses, about 1,000 men, and sent to help the besieged fort. Uriah and his troops arrived on 12 February, a day too late, as he learned from several captured British seamen who told him that the fort had fallen the day before. Uriah had participated in the last military action of the War of 1812 as news of the Treaty of Ghent reached Mobile.
The war over, Uriah wrote to General Jackson, asking for a much-needed furlough, stating that he had been in the service for twelve years and "never had a Furlough for two days at a time in my life." Uriah's hope was to establish a salt works on the Black Warrior River in the Choctaw Nation. He never received an official response, but was honorably discharged on 15 June 1815. He returned to the service six months later as the captain of the 8th Infantry but permanently resigned in December 1816.
Uriah never accomplished his goal of reaching the British fort on the Apalachicola, mainly due to lack of supplies and support. His men were forced to return to their home fort exhausted and starving. Despite this, he had hastily assembled a force of Indians and whites to penetrate 100 miles into a foreign country where he engaged the enemy, took about 200 prisoners, and destroyed several hostile camps. As far as it is known, there were no American casualties.
Uriah was an experienced solider whom General Andrew Jackson trusted. He demonstrated a rapport with his Choctaw and Chickasaw allies, and the Indians seem to have respected him. He undertook an uneviable task to "beat the bushes" of Spanish West Florida while Jackson dealt with the British at New Orleans. Uriah's expedition possibly prevented the British from launching an attack using their Red Stick allies on Jackson's flank. However, the threat of Indian attacks from the Spanish Floridas was not eliminated. Three years later, Jackson would return to Florida in an attempt to tame that restless frontier.
Uriah apparently settled in Baldwin County and died there on 18 April 1836.