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The Establishing of Fort Hamer

This article was originally written by staff for the Bradenton Herald column History Matters. Research for this article was conducted by staff.


During the 19th Century, the United States was a rapidly growing nation, acquiring many new territories. This rapid acquisition of land led to a direct need for settler expansion in these newly formed territories. After the end of the Second Seminole War in 1842, the United States legislature passed the Armed Occupation Act, which allowed settlers to homestead in the Florida Territory. Soon settlers began to push closer to the Seminole Reservations, located in the center of the state. By 1848, the governor of Florida began to restrict Seminoles to the reservations, and organized the removal of the Seminoles to the “Indian Territory” established by the Indian Removal Act of 1830. In 1849, the majority of the Seminole population lived within a 6,700 square mile reserve located in Big Cyprus Swamp.

During the summer of 1849, a small group of men referred to as “outsiders” started to attack various pioneer outposts throughout Florida. It is important to note, that while these men were Seminoles, they had been previously outlawed by the tribe, and forced to remove themselves. Soon they became a group that freely roamed outside of the reservation lines. The first outpost to be attacked during this period, called “The Crisis of 1849”, was a small town north of Fort Pierce, located on the East Coast of Florida. Next traveling inland, the men attacked the Store of Kennedy and Darling located along the Peace River. Soon after hearing of the two attacks, Secretary of War George W. Crawford sent Major General David E. Twiggs to Florida. While the men, who committed the attacks were caught by Billy Bowlegs and brought to Twiggs, the damage had already been done. In October of 1849, Major General David E. Twiggs, had been ordered for the full removal of the Seminole people from Florida.


Major General David E. Twiggs, planned for a campaign that required a 200 mile stretch of forts stretching from the Manatee River to the Indian River. Out of the many posts established across the state, four of these were located in the area that would eventually become Manatee County in 1855, which comprised of modern day Manatee, Desoto, Hardee, Sarasota, and parts of Charlotte County. That November, Major General David E. Twiggs, ordered a supply depot be built at the mouth of the Manatee River, due to the highly accessibility of the port. Located along the south bank of the river, the fort was placed on a high spot west of modern day Gates Creek, seven miles upriver from Manatee Village.

On November 28th, Fort Hamer was established, and named in honor of General Thomas L. Hamer, a brigadier general of the Florida Volunteers. The fort was hastily constructed and consisted of several log buildings, though it lacked a palisade. The fort had a hospital, a commissary, a hay barn, and three sheds to accommodate the three companies stationed at the fort, totaling 165 men. Yet despite these buildings, the fort was not an impressive installation. By 1850, Major General Twiggs began to offer Seminoles financial incentives to any group who surrendered peacefully. On February 28th, 1850, the first group of seventy-four Seminoles shipped from Fort Hamer to New Orleans.

The stretch of forts constructed under Major General David E. Twiggs’ command soon were abandoned only a year after opening. In 1856, during the Third Seminole War, Fort Hamer was once again used in service, if only for a brief time. Here, a detachment of ten men in Captain William Hooker’s Company, from the Florida Mounted Volunteers were stationed. Twenty seven years after the fort was first established, Fort Hamer was decommissioned. On February 26th, 1876, the War Department formerly turned over the property to the Department of the Interior. After the closing of the fort, the property had many owners, including cattlemen.


Images:

Area Fort Hamer was located, c. 1920s, courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Digital Collection

Sketch of General Thomas L. Hamer, courtesy of The Bradenton Times

Artifacts unearthed during an archeological dig of Fort Hamer, c. 1886, courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Digital Collection

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