An Indigenous American Retells History; The State of Muskogee
Ah, the state of Florida! The land of sunshine, oranges, and Colombian cocaine. Before that it was a Spanish colony called the Land of Flowers (Florida). And way before all that European-American fluffery, 14,000 years, to be exact. Paleo-Indians inhabited the place. The Apalachee, Timucua, Ais, Tocobaga, Calusa, and Tequesta Natives called those people ancestors. These tribes and others numbered an estimated 350,000 Indians during Spanish contact. That history is currently well-known. Little known among the modern Americans is the story of the Muscogee Indians. In 1799 this tribe joined forces with a dramatic white-man. Creating their own State in the process. It’s a freaking classic Florida story if you ask me.
Like most great blunders in American-Indian history it starts with a white man. A white man named William Augustus Bowles. Also known by his sweet nickname, Estajoca, whatever the hell that means? Was an English Adventurer born in Maryland. At the age of 13 Billy Bowles was already a Junior Officer Ensign in the Maryland Loyalist Battalion. Big fucking whoop, right? We will call them the MLB. Sadly, the MLB were not major league baseballers. They were the pompous descendants of rich British colonizers. You can call them historical fuckboys. Who remained loyal to the Crown, during the American Revolution.
The MLB didn’t fight long in that war. They got some punches in during 1778, but soon sent to West Florida to fight some Spaniards. When they arrived smallpox spread among the MLB and many died. With the help of the disease the Spanish besieged Pensacola and defeated them in 1791. The Spanish captured the remaining MLB and made them bitches prisoners of war in Cuba. They were later sent back to the Redcoats in New York. They weren’t there long either as the British Government sent them to Nova Scotia as Refugees. The ship carrying the MLB exiles shipwrecked off the Canadian coast. The surviving British American Citizens soon made home here. Where they became the first British American citizens of New Brunswick. Apparently, this is how New Canadians made; They simply wash up on shore. This was the fate of most the MLB. But, it wasn’t the fate for William Goddamn Bowles. No, he was on Earth for better things than exile in Canada.
In Pensacola the Commanders stripped him of his rank for insubordination. This forced to him leave the fortification. Which made him vulnerable to attack. Billy Bowles managed to get himself captured by Creek Indians. While living with the Muscogee he became fluent in the language. He even married Chief Benjamin Perryman’s daughter. Inheriting a Muscogee Chiefdom in the process. During this time Spanish naval forces embarked upon Creek Tribe ships. And then began attacking British Forts along the Gulf. Bowles wanted those greedy Spanish to leave him alone. So, he asked his new native homies to help the British besieged in Pensacola. They agreed, but it didn’t make much of a difference because the fort fell from heavy artillery fire. Billy Bowles didn’t like their odds and escaped into the wilderness with his Creek band. He had a real talent for running away from danger.
Billy embarrassed himself in front his new friends, so he decided to take a break from playing Indian. He reinstated in the British Army. During his service he relaxed in the Bahamas for a few months. Until some British Governor sent him back to the Creek Indians to establish a trade among them. Bill was also charged with creating a company to compete with the monopoly of Panton, Leslie & Co. He found himself successful in establishing a trading post along the Chattahoochee River. Though, Billy failed at breaking up the monopoly. He botched an attempt to capture Panton’s St. Johns store in a raid, and became a fugitive of Spain. Again, he dipped the heck outta dodge.
On the run from Spanish Authorities Billy spent the next few years visiting ol’ British pals. Making his way to Nova Scotia where the MLB Canadians were. Saying hi to the governor in the warm Bahamas and his motherland of England. All this free time allowed him to do some thinking. If there was anything William Bowles was more talented at than running away. It was thinking up some pretty shit ideas. Inside his head he imagined a utopia of an American Indian state. Billy developed this idea when he returned to the Chattahoochee basin. He began gathering support for his free state of Muskogee. The Lower Creeks and Seminoles followed him after his assurances of British support.
Billy’s big fat lie led to him acquiring a large band of Indian warriors. Who helped him capture and loot Panton, Leslie, and Co. store. The asshole actually tried to negotiate with the Spanish government. He thought he could get away asking for the establishment of a Muscogee controlled state. Instead the Spaniards captured him without even trying. This led to him being their prisoner for years in faraway places such as Cuba, Madrid, and the Philippines. When his captors finally decided to take him to Spain Billy Bowles escaped. Taking command of a ship on its way to Africa in the process. While living out the dream of attacking Spanish ships as a pirate he decided to visit England. King George III received his presence. Bowles presented himself to the King as ‘Chief of the Embassy for Creek and Cherokee Nations’. The King was so impressed by the bullshit title that he gave William British backing. Their plan was to train the Muscogee as pirates to attack Spanish ships.
After a pit stop in Nassau, for a Pirate-Captain Vacation. Billy returned to the Apalachicola Bay Florida. His passion for life reinvigorated by having his ego jerked off by a King. The year was 1799 and Bowles was at the peak of his power. He bound several tribes under his leadership. Then even made up another bullshit title. “Director General and Commander-In-Chief of the Muskogee Nation”.
The new Director then declared that the 1796 treaty between Spain and the United States void. Because it ignored the Indians sovereignty over Florida. He threatened war against the U.S unless it returned Muscogee lands. At one point he issued a death sentence against an American agent named Benjamin Hawkins who worked for George Washington. William Bowles had zero chill.
William’s ego couldn’t be more inflated. Right away he designed history’s ugliest flag. Quartered by a blue-white cross with three red quarter squares. And a blue square with a yellow sun-face-thing in the top left corner. You can’t make this stuff up. He established his capital at Miccosukee. A village near present day Tallahassee. Ruled by his father in law, and strongest ally. Billy envisioned the Cherokee, Upper Creeks, Lower Creeks, Chiasaw, and Choctaw tribes joining his State. I guess no one told his that in 1790 that the Muscogee and Choctaw were in conflict over land.
The two nations agreed to settle the dispute by playing a violent ball-game. With roughly 10,000 players and bystanders, the two tribes went at it in the game of a century. The Muscogee won the game. This caused a bloody fight that lasted until sundown. 500 Indians killed and so much more wounded. These Natives made the Aztecs look tame. His dream of uniting warring tribes was just that; a dream. He was never able to make it a reality. The native’s who did support him only loved him for his gun powder. They never cared for his white savior complex.
Muskogee State further defied the Americans and Spanish by welcoming runaway slaves. Along with the Black Seminoles into his rule. Bowles raised an army of 400 Frontiersmen, former Slaves, Indian warriors, and Spanish deserters. He built a schooner-ship navy and carried out Raids in Spanish Gulf territories. This war on Spain in 1800 saw him capture the Spanish presidio and trading post of San Marcos de Apalache. They retreated when Spanish ships arrived. Spain was mad pissed and offered $6,000 and 1,500 kegs of rum for his capture. You don’t give out large liquor amounts out like that for any wanted fugitive.
Spain further responded by sending a force to destroy the Muskogee State capital. The force sent to complete this task got lost in the swamps and never made it. I guess the Spaniards were never good at finding things anyway. An Italian (The most controversial Indian-Murderer) ‘discovered’ the new world for them and Juan Ponce de León (Indian-Murderer) struggled to find gold at San Juan Bautista.
William then attempted to retake San Marcos. The siege was a disaster that caused the death of most of his armed forces. Shortly after an armistice between the U.S.A, Britain, and Spain discredited Bowles. This left Billy without the support of his sugar daddy Britain. He soon lost the entirety of the Lower Creek to Washington’s agent Benjamin Hawkins. The next big blow to his rule was the Seminoles signing a treaty with Spain. By this time it was 1803 and Bowles had found many powerful people conspiring against him. His State was in its 4th year and wouldn’t see the 5th at this rate.
During a tribal council Lower Creek Indians and Benjamin Hawkins laid a trap for Bowles. The council was going well in the mind of William Augustus Bowles. He must’ve been feeling full of himself because at one point he declared that. “I, Estajoca, am Chief over all Indians present’ at this tribal council!” It wasn’t much longer when they sent him to the Spanish Governor in Pensacola. I always thought it served him right. You can only play ‘Dances With Wolves’ for so long until one bites off your dick.
The Director General and Commander-In-Chief of the Muskogee Nation spent his days imprisoned in Havana. He died in 1805 having refused to eat. Spain’s inability to control his acts led to America’s further involvement in Florida. Americans sure do love to attack when they smell blood. The State of Muskogee never had a chance. Even if Billy Bowles was never captured, Indian-Murderer Andrew Jackson still would’ve showed up eventually. In 1818 Andrew Jackson ended what remained of Muskogee State. By burning the former capital Miccosukee to the goddamn ground.
Still, in a way, William Bowles disastrous utopia helped create the reality of Florida. I can’t imagine a world without sunshine, oranges, and Colombian Cocaine. We should thank him for that.
Further information about the Muskogee can be found here:
River Barnes, professionally known as River Rivers, is an emerging writer from Southern Oregon. He is a Modoc and Klamath American Indian. His most recent stories are currently featured in Literally Stories, Who Writes Short Shorts, TallTaleTv, Snow Leopard Publishing, the Drabble Dark Anthology, Paper Trains Literary Journal.
You can follow River Rivers on Twitter @Catch22Fiction and on instagram @riverrivers921.