Last battle in War of 1812 wasn't in Georgia

Historians discover Alabama final conflict site
St. Marys, war of 1812
Display shows pottery shards as part of a War of 1812 display at the Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum. The display shows artifacts unearthed in 2005 that, at the time, were described as proof the war's last battle was fought in St. Marys.

ST. MARYS, Ga. - A 2005 archaeological survey done prior to the startup of construction at the Cumberland Harbour residential community in St. Marys caused a stir.

 

It revealed the last battle of the War of 1812 was not fought in New Orleans, as commonly believed. Another battle was fought in St. Marys four days after Gen. Andrew Jackson led a group against British troops Jan. 12, 1815, in New Orleans.

And as the 200th anniversary of the battle approaches, talk of creating an event to commemmorate the war is at hand in St. Marys.

The HMS Dragon, with 74 guns, sailed from Cumberland Island to attack a battery at Point Peter, a lightly defended frontier outpost at what was then the southernmost point of the United States.

Archeologists called the battle "The Forgotten Invasion" and hailed the conflict between British and American troops as the last battle of the War of 1812.

It turns out they were wrong. A member of the Guale Historical Society has found proof that the last battle was actually fought weeks later on Feb. 8, 1815, at Fort Bowyer in Mobile, Ala.

Historical society member Barry King discovered the information while researching the Point Peter battle to prepare his presentation on pirates in the area two centuries ago.

King, of St. Marys, told historical society members about his discovery when he contradicted another member who talked about the war's last battle being in St. Marys.

"When I was doing that [research], I kept seeing Fort Bowyer pop up," King said. "I later confirmed it in a U.S. Army history book. I just want the truth out."

John Mitchell, a National Park Service historian and curator of the Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum where many artifacts from the battle are on display, said the information "doesn't change the fact."

"This wouldn't be the first time mistakes were made," he said. "It's extremely important to get history right."

The battle at Point Peter is significant because it was the site of the last occupation by British troops, he said.

"St. Marys was a frontier fort," he said. "It was right on the cusp of Spanish-held territory."

After archaeologists released the information about St. Marys being the site of the last battle, State Rep. Cecily Hill, R-St. Marys, introduced legislation to create a War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission to coordinate activities to commemorate the conflict.

Hill said the attention the city would receive would be a boon to the local economy. State legislators decided instead to focus on the Civil War. But Hill said she plans to get support for the event as the 200th anniversary of the battle nears.

News of the last battle being in Alabama surprised Hill. But she said Friday the battle in St. Marys should still be commemorated.

"We were a part of the War of 1812 even if we weren't the last," she said. "History books have never mentioned we were part of it. I feel like it's worth celebrating."

Hill said it's just as important to ensure the city's history is accurately portrayed.

"If it's not history, it's not real," she said. "We will have to celebrate under a different title instead of the last battle."

gordon.jackson@jacksonville.com, (912) 729-3672