After William Augustus Bowles had been despatched to the Moro prison, The Firm emerged as a full-fledged, multinational force, acting in concert with the masters of the plantation South. Jointly, they brought under the sway of King Cotton eight million acres of cotton land, including the area once called by Bowles his “Muskogean Republic.”
The economy of the borderlands was in transition from a subsistence agriculture of white and Indian yeomen, growing their own crops and supplementing their diets with meat secured by hunting, to a plantation system, growing cotton and rice for sale to international markets. For more than a decade, hides provided by the Creeks and Seminoles had gone to the Bahamas on Panton and Leslie's schooners and brigantines, to be stored in Panton and Leslie's warehouses. The Firm controlled the trade of East Florida with a dozen stations, five of them along the St. Johns River. And they did a lot of business. The Pensacola station alone received 250,000 hides in a year. Panton's salt works cured fish and hides; Leslie's lumbermen along the St. Johns produced wood for the West Indies, and his drovers herded cattle to the shore to be slaughtered for salt beef. From a new headquarters at Pensacola, their trading empire spread to Natchez, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and the port then called Nogales, where the Yazoo enters the Mississippi. As if to memorialize their victory over Bowles, they set about repairing and occupying the trading post at Hickory Ground.
So many deer were slaughtered in the American South to provide gloves, belts, and luggage for fashionable Europeans that the ancient interactions between humans and animals were forever disrupted. Between 1780 and 1830, the buckskin-doeskin trade induced Indian dependence upon firearms to defend themselves, as well as to hunt out that crop of deer required annually to