Fort Barnwell, also called Camp Barnwell, Camp Volusia, and Fort Columbia, was a U.S. Army post established on March 21, 1836, during the Second Seminole War in Volusia County, Florida. It was named for the Barnwell District in South Carolina where the troops were raised. It was built on the east bank of the St. Johns River near its mouth. Captain Elmore’s Columbia, South Carolina Volunteers erected the stockade and it was described as “…rudely constructed, built of imperfect materials, thrown up in great haste…” The fort was also in an unhealthy location and nearly everyone posted there was sick at one time or another.
On April 14, 1836, Seminole warriors ambushed a burial detail at the fort and two men were killed. The remaining members retreated to the stockade without being able to retrieve their bodies. The post was under the command of Major William Gates, 1st U.S. Artillery, who organized a defense but did not organize a group to recover the bodies or give pursuit to the attackers. The bodies of the two es of two slain soldiers who were mutilated and scalped by the Seminole. Major Gates was subsequently court-martialed for cowardice and almost dismissed from service. A defense of his actions was published by the members of his command and apparently was successful in preventing his dismissal. It is not known when the fort was abandoned.
Compiled by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2020.