Richard Thornton | May 9, 2017 | 23
1718 Map in UK National Archives shows Fort Caroline ruins in Glynn County, Georgia
In 1715, at the onset of the Yamasee War, Major Maurice Moore, Captain John Herbert, Lt. John Beresford and Colonel George Chicken led a military expedition, which explored the the back country of what are present-day South Carolina and Georgia. Beresford sketched a map as they went, which was used by military officials in the Province of Carolina to prosecute the war against hostile tribes. It is the first map ever to use a word like Cherokee.
Herbert produced the map above in 1718 , based on the experiences of 1715, but reflecting the vast ethnic changes caused by the intervening Yamasee War. He obviously traced a 1717 French map by Guillaume De Lisle then corrected the mistakes and added details in English. The map included a specific label for “An old French fort.”
The map labels the Altamaha River as the “Coweta or May River.” May River is the name used on all French Maps from 1562 onward. Three years later, Colonel John Barnwell built Fort King George on the north side of the Altamaha River and renamed it to “the King George or Altamaha River.” Apparently, Herbert’s 1718 map was sent to the Colonial Office in Westminster Palace (England) and forgotten in the colonies. It is tragic that no one in the National Park Service examined such historic maps as this one, before investing millions and millions of dollars into the Fort Caroline National Memorial in Jacksonville.
All French maps from the late 1500s to the late 1600s showed Fort Caroline to be on the south channel of the Altamaha River in Georgia. An official Spanish map in 1566 also showed Fort Caroline’s ruins at that location. However, once Charleston was settled in 1670, French maps became increasingly less detailed and inaccurate for the South Carolina and Georgia coast until the onset of the French and Indian War in 1754, when French spies made them extremely accurate . . . but no longer mentioning Fort Caroline.
Oddly enough, French maps from 1568 until the late 1600s had shown a very accurate description of the Savannah River and its details. This apparently reflected the secret explorations of Captain Dominique de Gourgues, whose old fort appears on the Ogeechee River in the 1735 map of Savannah. Later French maps didn’t even show the Savannah River!
The fortification at Fort Caroline National Memorial in Jacksonville, FL is a fake, because no evidence of either a French or Spanish fort has ever been found at that location. The 1/12th scale “model” that visitors see, was constructed in 1962 in order to create a tourist attraction in Jacksonville that could compete with St. Augustine.
The famous explorer and botanist, William Bartram, visited ruins of an earthen fort on the South Channel of the Altamaha River in 1776. Local residents told Bartram that it was either a French or Spanish fort from the 1500s. Bartram described the ruins in his famous book, but for over two centuries, scholars have ignored his words. Ancient earthworks appear on satellite imagery near the I-95 bridge, exactly where Bartram said he visited the ruins.
Fort Caroline is directly linked to Native American research
I first became aware of a major discrepancy in history and anthropological texts in 2007, while doing background research for architectural work on St. Catherines Island, GA. Late 16th century Spanish and French eyewitness accounts place several Native American villages and provinces near St. Catherines Island, but contemporary maps published by well-known historians and anthropologists in Florida universities had placed those same villages and provinces in northeastern Florida.
It took several years to figure out what was going on. For over 150 years, Florida academicians had used a presumed location of Fort Caroline near Jacksonville as a benchmark for locating Native American provinces in their state. Their presumption was based on a history book, written by a New York transplant, who had speculated on over a thousand acres of land near his mythical location for Fort Caroline.
Georgia and South Carolina academicians had not questioned this presumption and merely quoted the Floridians as experts on the matter. Generation after generation of dissertations, theses and professional papers had taken the process farther and farther out of sync with reality. This is probably the primary reason that archaeologists never realized that many of the indigenous peoples on the southern South Carolina coast and Georgia coast were of South American origin.
What this map also provides is a snapshot of Native American village locations, two years after the Creek-Cherokee War exploded. Several Cherokee villages have moved northward from the 1715 Beresford Map. Many Lower Creek towns and villages have moved westward to the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers. Most of the Echete (Itsate~Hitchiti) villages in North Carolina and extreme northeast Georgia had moved southward into Georgia to be safely in Creek territory. Several Upper Creek villages had moved downstream on the Tennessee River. However, the Middle Tennessee River continued to be Chickasaw territory.
Other maps from the Colonial Office
There is a treasure trove of information to be obtained from the Colonial Office archives. One of the more interesting ones was the actual survey of the boundaries of the Creek Confederacy after the 1773 Treaty of Augusta. At that time, there was only one Cherokee village in the Province of Georgia, Tugaloo. It had about 100 residents and was located on the banks of the river that separated Georgia and South Carolina.
Most of Northeast Georgia was labeled Creek Hunting Territory, while Northwest Georgia was occupied by the Upper Creeks and Chickasaws. Cherokee hunting territory was located east of the Chattahoochee River and Brasstown Bald Mountain and north of Yonah Mountain. The neutral Itsate-speaking Elate villages in the Georgia Mountains were not labeled. The mountains of Northeast Georgia were called the Potato Mountains.
A 1781 map was entitled, “A new Map of the Southern District of North America from surveys taken by the compiler and others, from accounts of travellers and from the best authorities, etc. Compiled in 1781 for Lieut. Colonel Thomas Brown, H.M.’s Superintendent of Indian Affairs, etc. By Joseph Purcell. MS.” It is scaled at 16 miles to 1 inch and includes minute geographic details of the region. This map or sections of this massive map were distributed to British Army officers . It contained a list of all Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw villages. The Creeks were estimated to have 5400 warriors, while the Cherokees had 3200.
At some point in the 1800s, Southeastern historians stopped looking at colonial maps and archives, or perhaps they just didn’t have access to them . From then on, the understanding of Native Americans before the American Revolution became increasingly conjecture and speculation. Once those inaccurate speculations were published by a respected academician, they became orthodox facts, which no one else ever challenged. That is the main source of the inaccurate history that we see on historical markers today.
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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.
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