Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers The Seminole Wars (1812-1858) - June 24th, 2003
Posted on 06/24/2003 12:00:03 AM PDT by SAMWolf
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The wars against what we now call the Seminoles started somewhat earlier than this, but these years would greatly influence the upcoming conflicts. While Spain was in control of Florida it had several problems to deal with. First, the climate and unhealthy conditions of the territory was not attractive to people in terms of settlement. Second, there was a gentleman named Napoleon that roamed Europe at will and proved to be of greater importance in the minds of the rulers of Spain as the decade progressed.
To solve the first of the problems stated above, in 1790, Spain invited Irish Catholics, English citizens, and citizens of the United States to settle inside the borders of the territory. They offered titles of land to any and all individuals who stayed on a land claim for ten years at the end of the term of occupancy the individuals would be exempt from taxes and military service to Spain. Thomas Jefferson stated that he wished 100,000 U. S. citizens would take Spain up on their gracious offer.
In 1804, due to problems that U. S. citizens were causing the local authorities and Spanish citizens of the territory the invitation to settle was cancelled (remind anyone of Texas prior to the Mexican War). In 1812, the Governor of Florida had encourage the Seminoles of the Alachua area to raid U. S. farms and settlements inside the territory. This date should sound familiar, yes thats right, same time frame as the War of 1812. Due to uprisings of the Seminoles and the war against England, the Governor of Georgia organized his state militia and decided he would take Florida before the British did and rid the territory of Georgia's troublesome neighbors to the south, the Seminole. The Seminoles were becoming extremely bothersome to Georgia. Since the war with Britain started, the British encouraged the Seminoles and Creeks to raid settlements along the Georgia-Florida frontier to draw forces from the Canadian border.
Although Florida was under Spanish rule in the early 1800s, the Seminole Indians did not respect Spanish authority. The Seminoles made it a practice, for example, to harbor runaway slaves. General Andrew Jackson, having achieved a major military success against the Creek Indians in 1814, led an army into Florida against the Seminoles in 1817, looting and burning their villages. These advances led to a war between the United States and Spain. Jackson seized Pensacola in northern Florida, bringing the U nited States and Spain to a point where they had to negotiate or fight. On February 22, 1819, the Florida Purchase Treaty was signed, ceding Florida to the United States. When Jackson became President in 1828, he set about moving the Seminoles out of Fl orida altogether, an effort which led to the Second Seminole War of 1835-42.
In Fall of the year 1812, the so-called Patriot army had already established a provisional government under President John H. McIntosh, with Col. Ashley as his Minister of War, and had its capital at St. Mary's, Georgia, in March, 1812, before the Georgia forces arrived. General Geo. Matthews of Georgia had charged of the movement, and was promised help from the U. S. regulars should he need it. Col. Daniel Newnan, of the Georgia Militia, who was at Fort Picolata was attacked by a party of Seminoles at the fort. After a fierce battle the forces under Col. Newnan defeated the beseiging force. He soon started making plans to hit the Seminoles were they lived. On September 24th, 1812 a force of 110 men he undertook to penetrate the enemy's country over one hundred miles, and attack two formidable chiefs surrounded by their warriors on Spanish territory while the U. S. and Spain were supposedly at peace. Upon reaching the area near what is today Gainesville, Fla., Col. Newnan engaged the Alachua Seminoles. Over a period of about 10 days, Col. Newnan's force was under constant danger from attack while it retreated back to Fort Picolata, out of the original force he left with all but 50 were effectively out of action, and he had completely exhausted all supplies. After reaching the safety of reinforcements they hailed this action as a victory and celebrated their supposed triumph. The Patriots would soon give up their crusade to acquire the territory of Florida, but the United States would soon be back to try again.
General Gaines and Colonel (later general) Duncan Clinch in response to reports of a fort being manned by runaway slaves and a variety of Seminole and Creek warriors on the Apalachicola River, ordered the build up of armed camps in the vicinity. This in the eyes of the United States was many things; a beacon for slaves in Georgia to run to for safety, the possibility of Spain's collaboration and support of the hostile bands, and a base of operation for bands to raid U. S. settlements on the frontier. General Gaines ordered Col. Clinch to take provisions for Camp Crawford (north of the fort), which included cannons, powder and other war supplies. On the 17th of August Lieutenant Loomis, USN, arrived at the mouth of the Apalachicola River with two gunboats on the same mission. In order for the gunboats to get to Camp Crawford they had to pass the fortification. The orders to both commands was if any opposition was made by the negro fort that it should be reduced to rubble.
In one of the first combined arms attack made by U. S. forces the fort was dessimated in short order. On the 26th of August the gunboats try to pass the fort, which was replied with cannon fire. Col. Clinch's and his forces at Camp Crawford heard the gunboats open fire upon the fort and headed for the Negro Fort by land. After only the 5th discharge from the gunboats, a round known as a "hot shot" (a round ball of iron heated over a fire till it is red hot) found the powder magazine of the fort. Around 100 men and 200 women and children were insidethe fort for protection, only a sixth of the total occupants survived the horrible blast. A force was seen advancing by Col. Clinch's scouts, but it dispersed before engaging him. Florida from this time through 1816 was in a state of anarchy.
The U.S. regular army had manned outposts and small forts all along the Florida Georgia line until mid 1817, which was successful in maintaining peace in that region. The army decided to pull its forces closer to the Alabama River which was west of the border areas. It is during this time that altercations between the Georgia settlers and Seminoles started to increase. General Edmund P. Gaines learned of the hostilities there and ordered Major Twiggs with a detachment of 300 men to take an Indian village named Fowl Town near the Florida line. During the initial attack an alarm was sounded and many Seminoles escaped into the swamps. This would start a series of events that would effectively start the war. Fowl Town was again visited by U. S. forces this time by Captain McIntosh with an equivalent number of men as the first time. This was to obtain the supplies that were left at the town after the first visit. Only this time the Seminoles were waiting for them. A small skirmish commenced and light casualties were felt by both forces engaged.
In retaliation to the attacks upon Fowl Town the Seminoles gathered support from other local clans and made an assault against Fort Scott. The garrison force at Fort Scott of 600 regular soldiers, commanded by General Gaines was confined to their post and the seige began. General Jackson upon hearing of the predictament faced by Gen. Gaines musters up a force of 1800 men comprised of regulars, Tennesee volunteers, and Georgia Militia, to relieve the beseiged troops at Fort Scott. At the same time General Gaines is able to muster a force of 1600 Creek Indians to the service of the U. S. under Brigadier General McIntosh. McIntosh and Jackson joined forces on the 1st of April and proceeded to the beseiged fort. The force of Seminoles only numbered from 900 to 1000 men and did not wish to contend with such a force. The Seminoles fled back into the swamps and Fort Scott was saved.
The force under Jackson then focused on Miskasuky towns, destroying them on their way to St. Marks. Jackson took St. Marks without firing a shot at the small Spanish garrison stationed there. Upon taking over control of St. Marks, April 7, 1818, he promptly arrested and held a trial against two British agents (Arbuthnot and Ambrister) in Florida and accused them of arming and inciting the natives to rise up in force against the U. S. The two British agents were found guilty and one was hung from the yardarms of the U. S. vessel that was in port at the time and the other shot. Gen. jackson then proceeded to Pensacola. This move was according to Gen. Jackson to take control over territory that the Spanish could not control due to their weak military and political influence in the territory. If the Spanish couldn't control the natives he would.
St. Marks, Fla., April 1818 -- Two Seminole chiefs, or micos are captured by Jackson's forces who used the ruse of flying the British flag to lure the Indians to them.
Picture from the Florida State Archives.
On May 24, 1818, Gen. Jackson's force was outside Pensacola and preparing to seige the town and the small Spanish garrison in the territorial capitol. Upon Jackson's arrival the Spanish governor fled to Santa Rosa Island and escaped capture by Jackson's forces. This according to Jackson was the only great failure of his campaign, his inability to capture, hold trial, and hang the Spanish governor for assisting the enemy of the U. S. In the following year the U. S. Army would build up the frontier fortifications to help quell the Seminole raids into Georgia. This would lead to the treaty of 1819 which would make West Florida officially the territory of the United States. Later in 1821, a treaty would be signed by the U. S. and Spain for the rest of Florida and the islands off the coast of Georgia and Florida.
The first significant event, which would be considered the start of hostilities, was the defeat of the column commanded by Brevet Major (Captain) Francis Langhorne Dade. This column included a detachment of Company "B", 4th Infantry , Company "C" and detachments from Companies "B" and "H" of the Second Regiment of Artillery and Company "B" of the 3rd Regiment of Artillery, along with a guide, surgeon, and teamsters. the force totalling approximately 100 men and eight officers bound for Fort King from Fort Brooke, now known as Tampa. Dade's force was told upon leaving Fort Brooke to be ready for any hostilities. There had been reports of recent uprisings north of the reservation and their route would take them into the heart of Seminole country. The messages sent by General Clinch from Fort King were vague in the description of the current situation. In his dispatches he had just stated that he needed troops at Fort King immediately, never stating why.
The Seminole force had been covering the U. S. force for many days and knew that their guard was down. Due to normal proceedures the enlisted men had their muskets inside their greatcoats or on the wagons to keep moisture from the weapons. This would have devastating consequences for Dade's men. Hidden by pines and palmettos, 180 Seminoles waited. Their initial musket volley at point blank range killed or wounded half the command. Major Dade and Captain Upton S. Fraser were the first to be killed. Three of the six surviving officers were wounded. Captain George W. Gardiner rallied the men and returned fire with the six-pound cannon.
The scene of the ambush remained deserted for seven weeks. On February 20, 1836, an expedition under General Edmund P. Gaines identified the bodies and gave them proper military burials. The officers' bodies were placed on the east side of the trail, the 98 enlisted men in two graves within the log breastwork. The cannon was retrieved from a nearby pond where the Seminoles had thrown it. They mounted it. Muzzle down, at the head of the officers' grave, as a monument to the dead. Six years later on August 14, 1842, Dade's silent command was laid to rest at the National Cemetery in St. Augustine. This was made possible by contributions from the officers and men of the army. This battle was one of the most terrible defeats ever suffered by the U. S. Army at the hands of the native peoples, second only to Custer's Last Stand.
September 18, 1823 the Treaty of Camp Moultrie, for the Apalachicola clans, was signed. It stipulated that the Seminoles would be reimbursed for cattle, and property for a period of 20 years, all slaves that were taken, up to that time, were to be turned into the proper authorities so they may be return to their owners, and that the clans agreed to be relocated. The date for relocation was debatable. The U. S. believed that it was to be at the earliest convienence. The Seminoles believed that they could stay for 20 years, the period of time the payments were to be received. In order to clarify this the U. S. sought to establish a new treaty with the Seminole nation.
Several incidents took place during the later part of 1835 which would rapidly start hostilities between the United States and the tribes in Florida. The first incident in the Florida Territory happened near present day Gainesville, Florida at a settlement called Hog Town. In June a party of seven Seminoles had left the reservation boundary, which was just south of Paynes Prairie, to hunt and gather supplies. The party of Seminoles had five days earlier split up and agreed to regroup near Kanapha Hall, just west of Gainesville. On the 19th of June, five of the seven were camped and waiting for the rest of their group. A party of white men came up upon the group and an altercation soon ensued between them, about the Seminoles being off their reservation and/or the killing of a settler's cow. The white settlers commenced to flogging the Seminoles with their bull whips. At this time the other two Seminoles had just arrived at the predestined meeting place and seeing that their comrades were being battered, shot a volley of musketry at the assailants. An enlivened skirmish soon took place between the whites and Seminoles. In this action one Seminole was killed and another fatally wounded, while the settlers had experienced three men wounded.
| The Seminoles of Florida, a tribe said to have been derived from Creek refugees, resisted the efforts made to remove them, and started a war which proved to be the longest and most costly Indian war to which the United States had ever been subjected. Instead of being concluded in one or two severe campaigns, as in ordinary cases, it dragged its slow length along for seven years, until the government almost despaired of subduing its adversaries.
The Florida War may be said to have commenced with the massacre of Major Dade's command, on the 28th of December, 1835, and closed, by official proclamation, on the 14th of August, 1842. It was generally said to have cost the United States forty millions of dollars. The number of deaths among the regular troops during the war amounted to an aggregate of fourteen hundred and sixty-six, of whom the very large number of two hundred and fifteen were officers.
The Seminoles of Florida call themselves the "Unconquered People," descendants of just 300 Native Americans who managed to elude capture by the U.S. army in the 19th century. Today, more than 2,000 live on six reservations in the state – located in Hollywood, Big Cypress, Brighton, Immokalee, Ft. Pierce, and Tampa.
This site is dedicated to the rich history and culture of the Florida Seminole Tribe.
A short biography
For nearly twenty years, the Seminoles refused to live with and under the Muscogee Creek government, in 1856, a treaty was made with the Muscogee Creeks and the Federal government establishing the first Seminole Nation in Oklahoma. This nation, recognized as an independent nation within the United States and under its protection, consisted of the land between the South Canadian River and North Canadian River bounded on the East by a line where the present city of Tecumseh OK now exists, and on the west by the western boundary of the United States (in 1856), which was the 100th meridian.
In the early days of its existence, the fledgling United States government carried out a policy of displacement and extermination against the American Indians in the eastern US, systematically removing them from the path of "white" settlement.
In 1830 the Congress of the United States passed the "Indian Removal Act." Although many Americans were against the act, most notably Tennessee Congressman Davy Crockett, it passed anyway. President Jackson quickly signed the bill into law.
My gr-gr-grandaddy often traveled to south FLA on sales trips in the 20's and 30's. He remembers sleeping in his car and hearing the Indians off in the distance and seeing their campfires in the swamps as he bedded down for the night. One morning he awoke with a bunch of natives around his car and hovering over him. He was a little scared at first, but relived that they were friendly and brought him some whiskey as an offering of friendship.
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