Lost States: Muskogee
We're thrilled to welcome a special guest blogger, the author of Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It. He'll be sharing tales from his book with us this week. Put your hands together for Mike Trinklein!
Muskogee: Real Pirates of the Caribbean.
More Implausible Than the Movie, If That's Possible.
The big mystery about the Muskogee story is why it hasn't been made into a big budget movie starring Johnny Depp.
Here's a true story of a guy who gets kicked out of the United States military, joins a Creek tribe, marries the chief's daughter, consolidates several Native American nations, becomes their king, rallies the native people against an evil empire, gets captured and thrown into a Spanish prison, escapes, takes over a British ship, becomes a pirate—and there's more.
Leading a ragtag force of sixty men, our hero takes over a Spanish fort. A huge Spanish force is dispatched to capture him, but they get lost. Eventually, after a series of battles, he is betrayed, captured by the enemy, and dies in a castle dungeon in Havana.
And I didn't even get to the part where he worked as a comic actor and portrait painter.
I realize this tale strains credulity, but it's the real life story of an American named William Augustus Bowles. In the midst of his adventures, Bowles also created a new nation-state named Muskogee, in the general area around what is now Tallahassee, Florida. His state had a capital, government bureaucrats, even its own navy. But the boundaries are hard to define, so it's not clear how far Bowles' influence extended. Nonetheless, I'm sure Bowles would consider his state much bigger than the map portrays.
The United States did not recognize Bowles' statehood claim—he was never considered much more than a nuisance by the American government. He was a bigger problem for Spain, since Bowles' main theater of operation (Florida) was Spanish territory at the time.
Despite his rock star charisma, Bowles never really had the resources to match his dreams. Even though Muskogee eventually collapsed, it could be argued that Bowles did succeed at bringing another state (namely, Florida) into the Union. The fact that the Spanish military was unable to stop this guy—for years—illustrated just how weak the Spanish were in Florida. U.S. leaders noticed Spain's ineptitude, and made an offensive move to invade the territory in 1812. Before long, Florida was American soil, and the Caribbean pirates were expelled (except for a small enclave near Orlando).