The State of Muskogee was an independence movement in the late 1700's and early 1800's started by William Bowles. The goal was to create a united aboriginal nation in the southeast that could resist the expansion of the United States. This revolt had initial success with the native American groups in the area (primarily the Miccosukee, Muscogee) and other groups such as fugitive slaves, white pirates, and Spanish deserters.

But during the siege of San Marcos, everything went to hell, without a navy they were forced to retreat. The Treaty of Amiens in March 1802 briefly ended hostilities between Britain and France and Spain, and news of this ceasefire left Bowles discredited, with many of his supporter leaving him.

By 1803, the U.S. and Spain were conspiring against Bowles, who no longer enjoyed British support. While the four year independence of the State of Muskogee demonstrated Spain's inability to control the interior of Florida, the revolution ultimately failed.


Can this be stopped? What could Bowles have done to keep the State of Muskogee's initial independence? What is the smallest change I can make to history to allow for the State of Muskogee to remain independent?

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    $\begingroup$ Do you want an answer just to say how the state could have kept from its initial collapse? Or a full guess work history of how it may have continued to avoid it? (If it had still existed it could have changed how strict the United state's view on slavery was to restrict support for Muskogee's independence) The possibilities are almost endless once we get past the initial survival of the State. $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2017 at 22:11
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    $\begingroup$ @LioElbammalf just preventing its initial collapse, I'll edit to clarify $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Feb 11, 2017 at 22:30

3 Answers 3


TLDR: If Bowles had managed to keep and hold San Marcos the first time he took it he could have held out

So here is the most detailed information I could find on what went on. There seem to be several turning points, I'm just going to go through them all and point out where minor things could have been different.

On 16 January 1792, Bowles with a large band of Creeks took over and looted the Panton, Leslie, and Co. store in San Marcos (St. Marks). He then tried to negotiate with the Spanish over the establishment of a Muskogee state. The Spaniards turned the tables on him and captured him instead.

If he hadn't been captured things could have turned out very differently, because of this he spends several years away, some of them in captivity.

But! He escapes and stops off in Britain:

While being returned to Spain, Bowles escaped and took charge of a ship to Africa, and eventually made his way back to Florida after stopovers in England and Nassau to regather his British supporters.

If the British had placed a greater value on Bowles and his disruptive actions against the Spanish and United states they could have supplied him with more support when he stopped in England - something the Spanish may not have been duely prepared for and if he had taken more land, key ports and such this could have changed the military capacity entirely. We do know that, with what support he had he hampered the Spanish for a while both at sea and eventually taking a Spanish fort.

Bowles finally came up with a successful plan to capture the fort and Panton-Leslie store at San Marcos.

However, naturally, the Spanish want it back.

On 23 June 1800, a large Spanish force sailed up the St. Marks River and recaptured San Marcos. Bowles escaped with his few white supporters who were left; the Indians had already gone home before the attack.

If at this point Bowles had been prepared for an attack and (maybe with more support from the British) sunk the Spanish before they reached him. This also could have changed the way things went. The losses incurred may make the Spanish think twice about chasing after him again. Instead we now have the Spanish with a large force sitting at San Marcos and specifically looking out for Bowles.

Bowles decides to annoy the United states as well, just to attract more attention. He makes the Muskogee state and demands the U.S return indian land.

The Spanish now march into his new state with a large force, intent on finishing him off.

On 17 August 1800, a well-armed force of 272 Spaniards and Mulattos set out to destroy Miccosukee. They ran into disaster from the beginning, and returned to San Marcos two days later. Even though Miccosukee was only 30 miles away, they did not have good guides and were unfamiliar with the area. On the first day they were only able to go 3 miles; not much of a surprise attack, and with only 6 days' rations. The soldiers were already over-heated and getting sick, and would be in very poor fighting condition by the time they reached Miccosukee.

If Bowles had sufficient scouts and forces he could have taken these sick and tired Spaniards and their weapons - the battle would have been much easier, considering Bowles had the Indians on his side, than confronting them later. And confront them later he did, to his cost:

On 5 January 1802, Bowles took a large force of Seminoles (Miccosukees), Negroes, white pirates, and deserted Spanish soldiers from Pensacola, and laid siege to San Marcos. They were a strong force and gave heavy fire, but would have been more deadly if they had cannons. Twice, one of the Spanish ships approached and destroyed a series of trenches dug by the Seminoles. The Spanish inside the fort were not in great enough number to attack Bowles, and could only defend the fort. The only thing that prevented Bowles from capturing San Marcos was heavy fire from the ships, and more ships arriving. Also, news was received that the war between Spain and England was over. The siege ended after about 10 days.

Well, a lot of that is self explanatory. If he had been given cannons by the British, if he had taken cannons from the invading Spaniards mentioned above, if his ships had sunk the Spanish before they sailed up the river. If he could have taken the fort before those ships arrived. If the war between Spain and England hadn't ended... This was the start of the end, any how:

Bowles was discredited when he failed to take San Marcos. Finally, on August 20, 1802, the neighboring Seminoles signed a peace treaty with the Spanish. Even Bowles' strongest supporter, Chief Kinache of Miccosukee, signed. Bowles' war with Spain failed, and he no longer had British support. Britain had declared peace with France and Spain, and now considered Bowles a troublemaker, his state an illusion, and his supporters nothing more than pirates. Spain started to blockade the coast and choke an important trading supply line of Bowles.

From here the Spanish and Americans gang up on him and, details aside, he didn't have much of a chance once he failed to take San Marcos.


Muskogee ideally would have a patron. The obvious ones are one of the European powers (Britain, France, Spain) or the US itself.

I could imagine the US supporting Muskogee as a buffer state if the Spanish posed more of a threat.

But how about this for a cool alternative history: in this time period and area what nation is opposed to slavery? And has not yet descended into destitute ruin. Haiti. The Haitians have just captured all of the island of Dominica and defeated the French.

The story: Bowles is received in Haiti as a friend of the disadvantaged and he saves Toussaint Louverture from Napoleon by spiriting him away to Florida. With Louverture's military genius, the combined forces of the Muskogee in Florida catch the British by surprise and commandeer the fleet based in Key West. Then they and Haitians coming from the south catch Cuba between them: slaves rise up and Cuba is added to the growing nation. 10 years later, seeing the writing on the wall and themselves in need of a powerful patron, the Cherokee Nation to the north adds itself to Muskogee.


The relentless Spanish military and diplomatic efforts to undermine it seems to have been critical in Muskogee's collapse.

So, one approach would be for Spain under what in real history was the reigns of Charles III and Charles IV to be otherwise occupied by some pressing concern that would cause it to divert resources away from Florida and towards more pressing demands elsewhere. There are several ways this could be achieved.

What was going on in Spain at the time?

Under the rule of Charles III and his ministers – Leopoldo de Gregorio, Marquis of Esquilache and José Moñino, Count of Floridablanca – the economy improved. Fearing that Britain's victory over France in the Seven Years' War (1756–63) threatened the European balance of power, Spain allied itself to France but suffered a series of military defeats and ended up having to cede Florida to the British at the Treaty of Paris (1763) while gaining Louisiana from France. Spain regained Florida with the Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the American Revolutionary War (1775–83), and gained an improved international standing.

Charles IV seen by some as mentally handicapped. Dominated by his wife's lover, Manuel de Godoy, Charles IV embarked on policies that overturned much of Charles III's reforms. After briefly opposing Revolutionary France early in the French Revolutionary Wars, Spain was cajoled into an uneasy alliance with its northern neighbor, only to be blockaded by the British. Charles IV's vacillation, culminating in his failure to honour the alliance by neglecting to enforce the Continental System led to Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, invading Spain in 1808, thereby triggering the Peninsular War, with enormous human and property losses, and loss of control over most of the overseas empire.

One possibility would be that in the Treaty of Paris (1783), Florida might not have been returned to Spain, and instead might have been awarded to the newly independent United States which did not have sufficient military clout to put down the Muskogee insurgency. Spain, instead, might have gotten something different out of the Treaty of Paris (1783) such as favorable trade agreements with the newly independent United States.

Another possibility would be that Charles IV would have turned on his wife's love, Manuel de Godoy, and had him executed for adultery, and then fallen under the influence of some other courtier who might, for example, have urged Charles IV to redirect Spanish military resources from Florida to the fight this Revolutionary France, sacrificing Florida in the hope of securing greater success in France which was closer to home and more important to the Bourbon family.

A third possibility is that Charles IV could have been killed by revolutionary French agents in a move that would have triggered the Penisular War many years earlier with revolutionary France instead of Napoleon I, or could have led to a successor who retreated from the policies of Charles IV including the diversion of military resources to Florida.

A fourth possibility is that if the Muskogee's could have held on just six more years, the Spanish would have had to sacrifice their military effort in Florida to focus on fighting with Napoleon I. One of the most plausible ways that this could have happened would have been for a spy to warn the Muskogee Republic that a major naval offensive was planned sometime early in the year 1800, and for a small group of saboteurs to have mounted a stealthy pre-emptive attack on the Spanish fleet destroying many of its ships and scuttling its planned offensive directed at San Marcos before it could be launched. In the face of this defeat, Charles IV might not have been willing to commit more forces to what would have seemed like a lost cause at that point.


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