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Today in Levy County History: The military dilemma

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By Toni C. Collins
Levy County Historian
A problem that has faced military tacticians throughout history is how to effectively move men and equipment to areas of conflict. When Gen. Zachary Taylor became commander of the forces fighting the Seminole Indians in the Territory of Florida in 1838, he quickly devised a scheme to facilitate a more rapid response to emergency situations.
North Central Florida was divided into two areas of combat, East Florida and Mid Florida. East Florida encompassed all the lands to the east of the Suwannee River stretching to the Oklawaha and St. Johns rivers and south of the Georgia border to a line south of Fort King (present day Ocala). Mid Florida encompassed the lands between the Suwannee River and the Tallahassee Meridian, an imaginary North-South line running through the center of Tallahassee. East Florida was divided into 21 zones of approximately 20 square miles each.
A fort named for the zone number where the fort was located was established in each zone. Fort No. 1 was Fort King. Several forts retained their numbered names while others were renamed for notable military commanders.
Fort No. 3, located in southeastern Levy County in the vicinity of present day Tidewater, was established in April 1839. The first company to occupy the fort was Company “F” of the 7th US Regiment under the command of Capt. B.L.E. Bonneville.
As soon as the fort was established and the hospital set up, Prt. Peter Eichelberger, Company “K”, 7th Regiment was assigned as Hospital Steward to care for Pvt Corey and Pvt. Duff of his company, who were sick in the hospital. From April through December 1839, the military strength of the fort remained at 44 men.
However, on Dec. 26, Troop “H” of the 2nd Dragoons, under the command of Capt. Henry W. Fowler, arrived with 72 men and relieved Capt. Bonneville.
In February 1840, hostilities between the soldiers and Seminoles escalated.
Pvt. Charles F. Bushman of Company “H” was lost in a hammock on Feb. 10, 1840, and was supposed to have been killed by the Indians. Also during February, 1st Lt. Croghan Kerr took a detachment of men to Fort Fanning to escort a supply train back to Fort No. 3. On February 16th, Pvt. John Cummings of Capt. Fitzgerald`s Company of Volunteers died.
Cummings had been left at the hospital on Jan. 10. On Feb. 18, Regimental Headquarters at Fort Micanopy sent an Order directing the commander of the fort to immediately notify the surrounding posts in case of an Indian attack. On February 22nd, Captain Fowler receive an Order directing him to proceed to Fort No. 4 (located on the mainland at the Cedar Keys) and re-occupy that post as soon as Company”I”, 2nd Infantry arrived to relieve him.
On April 25th, Assistant Surgeon J. Byrnes was ordered to transport the sick to the Cedar Keys and Fort No. 3 were abandoned in June 1840.