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On this date in 1815, the Seminole Wars began when a U.S. government, under pressure from Georgia slaveholders, ordered Colonel Edmund Gaines to attack and destroy Fort Gadsden, a Negro Fort on the banks of the Apalachicola River in Florida.
The government planned to capture the more than 250 runaway Black slaves living there. The fort (about 60 miles from the then-U.S. border) had been rebuilt by a company of British soldiers under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Edward Nichols. He had recruited Native Americans and runaway slaves to conduct hit-and-run raids into Georgia, disrupting the slaveholders' lifestyle.
The Black leader Gracon led the Negro Fort settlement. There was little time to prepare for the attack. A government gunboat cannon strike hit the fort’s powder magazine, which exploded and killed nearly 300 of the men, women, and children living there. The attack and destruction of the fort marked the beginning of the federal government's attempt to recapture runaway slaves, destroy Native American villages, and make way for the ceding of the Florida territory to the United States in 1819.