Fort Lauderdale’s namesake, Major William Lauderdale, built a fort in the area in 1838 during the Seminole Wars (1817-1858); the city could have been named after U.S. Navy Lieutenant Levin M. Powell who established a fortified tent base along the New River two years before, in 1836.
Instead of having a city named after him, Powell is known today as the pioneer of riverine warfare. The Navy lieutenant was ordered to seek out Indian encampments in the Everglades but he determined that his boats were unsuitable for shallow waterways and dense tropical flora. He used flat-bottom boats, as the Seminoles did, with better success. His riverine warfare model, which included small-boat assault tactics, has been used by the military since then, including during the Vietnam War.
Powell led several battles in Florida, including the bloody Battle of Loxahatchee (now Palm beach County) in 1838. He also opened, with orders from Commodore Alexander James Dallas, Fort Dallas in 1836, near where the City of Miami was established. Powell served as its commandant 1836-1838. In 1838 he was deployed to the New River to support Maj. Lauderdale’s mission. Copyrighted JaneFeehan
1.McIver, Stuart. Glimpses of South Florida History. Miami: Florida Flair Books, 1988.
2. Vandervort, Bruce. Indian Wars of Mexico, Canada and the United States 1812-1900. New York: Rutledge, p. 134.
Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, Levin Powell, riverine warfare, first military base in Fort Lauderdale