One of the biggest things we get asked, to myself, to many libraries, to the state library and archives, and to the Seminole Wars Foundation, is from someone doing genealogy research. They have an ancestor who fought as a soldier in the Florida Seminole War and are looking for more information. Maybe they don't want to pay for a subscription to Ancestry.com. (I have one, but I understand.)
So, where can they look? Well, this will be about the most comprehensive list of sources anywhere.
Here is a good bibliography:
WHO FOUGHT IN THE SEMINOLE WARS
Officers in the Regular Army
• Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army From Its Organization, September 29, 1789 to March 2, 1903. [Google eBook]
• Cullum, George W. Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY [Google eBook]
• U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914. [online at Ancestry.com]. Also available at the National Archives, Microfilm M233, 81 rolls. Arranged chronologically and then alphabetically by the first letter of the soldier’s surname.
• Old War Index to Pension Files, 1815-1926. National Archives, Microfilm T316. Arranged alphabetically by the claimant’s surname.
• Index to Indian War Pension Files, 1892-1926. Card index relates to service in the Indian campaigns, 1817-1898. National Archives, Microfilm T318, 12 rolls. Arranged alphabetically.
State Militia or Volunteer Soldier
• Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During Indian Wars and Disturbances, 1815-1858. National Archives, Record Groups 94 and 407, Microfilm M629, 42 rolls. Alphabetical index gives soldier’s name, rank, unit, and war or disturbance they served in.
• U.S. Army Indian Campaign Service Records Index, 1815-1858 [Ancestry.com] Database contains alphabetical card indexes to compiles service records of Volunteer soldiers who belonged to units from Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee who served during the Cherokee disturbances and removal, 1836-1839. Volunteer soldiers who served in various Indian wars or participated in the quelling or solving of Indian disturbances or problems, 1815-1858.
Gen. R. K. Cal’s Brigade of Florida Mounted Volunteers, 1835
Major Leigh Read’s Battalion of Florida Volunteers, 1836
Warren’s 1st Regiment of Florida Mounted Volunteers, 1836-1837
Resources found at major libraries throughout Florida and at the Florida State Archives.
• Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During Indian Wars and Disturbances, 1815-1858. There is no state index, but participants are included in this master index.
• Compiled Service Records of Volunteers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Florida During the Florida Indian Wars, 1835-1858. Also available at National Archives, M1086, 63 rolls. Organized by war, then by unit, and then alphabetically by surname.
• Original Florida Territorial Muster Rolls, 1826-1849. Includes a few original muster rolls from the Second Seminole War.
• Seminole War Muster Rolls of Florida Militia, 1836-1841, 1856-1858.
• Soldiers of Florida in the Seminole Indian, Civil, and Spanish-American Wars. (Florida Board of State Institutions, 1903; reprinted, Macclenny, Fla.: Richard J. Ferry, 1983) [Check Florida State Library website under Florida History and Materials for digitized copy]
• Florida War Death List, 1836-1842. [Ancestry.com]
• Florida Militia Muster Rolls: Seminole Indian Wars. 10 vols. Florida Department of Military Affairs [online at http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00047719/0001
Check Military Records in other state Department of Archives and History [i.e. www.archives.state.al.us/]
Colonel William Chisolm’s Regiment of Alabama Volunteers (Inf.), 1836
Major Caulfield’s Battalion of Alabama Mounted Volunteers, 1836-1837
• Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the Florida War in Organizations from the State of Alabama. National Archives, M245, 1 roll. Arranged alphabetically by name.
• Public Information Subject file-Alabamians at War—Alabama Department of Archives and History. Box: 2nd Creek War, 1835-36; Folder: Indian War; Location #SG013379; Folder #001; Folder: Muster Rolls, 1836-1838, Location #SG013379, Folder #006; Folder: Soldiers, 1836-1839, Location #SG013379, Folder #007.
• Alabama Militia Service Cards. Alabama Department of Archives and History, Microfilm in Research Room.
District of Columbia
Captain Irvin’s Company of District of Columbia Volunteers, 1836-1837
Major Mark A. Cooper’s 1st Battalion of Georgia Foot (Inf.), 1836
Major Robertson’s Augusta (GA) Battalion (Inf.), 1836
Major Nelson’s Battalion of Mounted Volunteers, 1836-1837
• Georgia Archives Vertical Files: military records [Georgia Department of Archives and History]
Colonel P. F. Smith’s Regiment of Louisiana Volunteers (Inf. & Rifle), 1836
Capt. H. Marks’ Company of Louisiana Volunteers, 1836
• Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the Florida War in Organizations from the State of Louisiana. National Archives, M239, 1 roll. Arranged alphabetically by name.
• Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the War of 1837-1838 in Organizations from the State of Louisiana. National Archives, M241, 1 roll. Arranged alphabetically by name.
Colonel Richard Gentry’s 1st Regiment of Missouri Vol. (Mtd. Inf.), 1837-1838
Major Morgan’s Spy Battalion, Missouri Volunteers (Mtd. Inv.), 1837-1838
New York Volunteer Company, 1837-1838
Pennsylvania Battalion of Infantry Volunteers, 1837-1838
Colonel Goodwyn’s Regiment of SC Mounted Volunteers (Mtd. Rifle), 1836
Colonel William Brisbane’s Regiment of SC Volunteers (Inf.), 1836
Captain Elmore’s Corps of Columbia and Richland Riflemen, 1836
Gen. Armstrong’s Brigade of Tennessee Mounted Volunteers, 1836-1837 (including
the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Tennessee Mounted Volunteers)
Major Lauderdale’s Battalion of Tennessee Volunteers, 1837-1838
And there are a few other states and few other sources. But this should get you started.
I found this posted the other day on YouTube:
I don't know if this student is proposing to build this in his home town in northwest Ohio as a school project, or what the plans are, but I commend him. He was a little unprepared for some of the questions. But, if he or his teacher will email to me the mailing address; the school address would be fine, then I will send him a copy of my book listing all the battles and events of the Seminole Wars.
I wish that we had students in Florida wanting to build such memorials in their home town!
One reason why we feel this is important, is that it puts this in the minds and in front view of people in Florida. That they know that the longest, and most costly war against any Native American tribe, happened right here, 175 years ago.
Yes, I am still around. Been very Busy. Almost 40 years driving and never a car accident, and the day before I was to go to New Orleans for the 201st commemoration of the Battle of New Orleans, I was hit in two separate accidents but two different college students. The first one, I had my front bumper ripped off by an 18 year-old who zoomed past me. The police officer didn't even talk to me, but listened for a half hour to the 18-year old gymnastic sorority girl and her friends who later showed up, talking about things that were irrelevant, such as flips and somersaults. There was no way they were going to believe my side of the story. The next day while limping to the repair shop and sitting at a stop light, I was rear-ended by some other idiot student who was probably texting and didn't see the traffic stopped ahead of him. He was driving his mom's Ford Focus and won't return my phone messages.
Enough about me. There are several new books out.
The first, "Elizabeth's War, A Novel of the First Seminole War" by John and Mary Lou Missall. Printed by the Florida Historical Society. Which I've heard that they had some glitches from ordering from the FHS web page, so just buy it from John and Mary Lou at the reenactments you find them at, at the Seminole Wars Foundation table.
This is a novel about Elizabeth Stuart, a real woman who was captured, and the only survivor of the Scott Massacre, a boat of about 40, 7th Infantry soldiers and some of their wives, on the Apalachicola River, on November 30th, 1817. As told from Elizabeth's point of view and her Indian captors. She spent several months prisoner until being freed, and eventually lived the rest of her life around the community of Fort Gaines in southwest Georgia.
This is a true story set as a historic novel.
The Seminole Wars Foundation is having several books reprinted through Applewood Books, and three of the books are Seminole War classics that were part of the Florida Facsimile Series. They are essential to any Seminole War library collection. They were reprinted in the 1960's, but it has been almost impossible to get a copy of the reprints. You will be glad to find them once again, and can buy them from the Foundation or through Applewood Books. Here they are:
"Notices of the Florida and the Campaigns" (1836) by M.M. Cohen. This is one of the eyewitnesses who published the first year of the 2nd Seminole War. Cohen was with the South Carolina Militia, and was with the Scott campaign.
A couple years ago the Foundation reprinted Potter, another eyewitness from 1836, and there is a third eyewitness book from the same year that has never been reprinted, by W.W. Smith, which we are looking into printing, but it is taking a lot of editing. (It has no index.) In my opinion, Smith is the lesser interesting of the three, and doesn't have all that much historical value since it is written mostly from his sick bed, and not from what he witnessed. (It's not first-hand accounts.)
"The Territory of Florida" (1837) by John Lee Williams. Williams was from Pensacola, and later settled at Picolata on the St. Johns River, and writes about the Florida Militia. His observations of Florida during early territorial days are invaluable.
Both Cohen and Williams have been damn near impossible to find, even as the reprints.
"Red Patriots" (1890) by Charles Coe. Not only does Coe write about the Seminole War, but he writes about the Seminole history up to that time. He was one of the first books about the Seminoles after the war period.
If you take three books about the Seminoles written after the 2nd Seminole War in the 19th Century, Joshua Giddings, 1858, "The Exiles of Florida," Coe, and Minnie Moore Willson's "The Seminoles of Florida" (1896), Coe was more accurate on his history and descriptions. Coe did a great job bringing to light that the Seminoles were still there, and still alive in Florida. Giddings and Willson are so fraught with errors that I don't like to even reference them.
Update: The day after I posted this, I just found out that the bones have just been returned to the Seminole Tribe by the Univ. of Penn. That is good, and I hope things go well. I will just leave the rest of the article as is.
I think that you may find this one of the most provocative, shocking, and thought provoking blogs about the Seminole War that I may have written thus far. And in a roundabout way, you can say that the Seminoles had their unwilling contribution to what became modern physical anthropology and CSI Criminal Investigation.
Most of you are familiar with the cruel fate of Osceola that made him the most recognizable Seminole Indian in all of history, as he was captured under a flag of truce. And many of you know about his subsequent death in prison a few months later, and how the attending physician Dr. Weedon, spirited off Osceola’s head as a specimen for the doctor’s collection of medical curiosities.
And as the story goes, Weedon eventually sold the head to Dr. Valentine Mott, one of the most famous physicians of that time, in New York, but that it was destroyed in a fire when Mott’s museum burned down in 1866. I will skip all the other folklore which many of you may have heard.
But, are you aware that Osceola’s head, was just one of many that were collected as specimen for science during the Florida War? That many Seminoles had their cranium added to collections?
During the 1830s and 1840s was the height of the study of Phrenology. It was believed that the shape of the human head could tell character and moral traits. That the brain was not one organ, but a combination of separate organs that were responsible for character, ethics, intelligence, and morality. These beliefs were used by the slave holding south to show that slaves were incapable of freedom on their own and needed to remain in servitude.
Of course, we now know that all this was a mistaken, dead-end pseudo-science. What it was really studying was genetic traits and developments among different societies and cultures. Eventually this turned into a real field of science known as physical anthropology that showed how genetic traits are passed on by certain people from different cultures. About the same time, genetic traits were beginning to be understood by a German Monk named Mendel. With Phrenology, studying skeletal structures had this strange beginning, but it led to actual, real science. And even today, with what we have as identifying skeletal remains, bones, and skulls, we see on television all the time as CSI Criminal Investigation.
The main person who was world famous promoting Phrenology was Dr. Samuel George Morton in Philadelphia. He started collecting skulls in 1830 and continued until his death in 1852. He was widely published, which inspired many to help add to his collection. He obtained an amazing collection of craniums representing almost every people and culture from all over the world. It was not him who traveled, but his loyal readers, from other physicians, military officers, explorers, and other people generally with an interest in science who had read Dr. Morton’s writings.
When Dr. Morton died, his collection of cranium numbered 867, and his successor Dr. Meigs increased it to around 1225. Each skull collected was cleaned and polished, varnished, numbered, marked with information if known. Where it came from or who it was, if known. Important features may have been marked or noted. Dr. Morton had a catalog, and Dr. Meigs improved and sorted the catalog even further.
Included were Egyptian mummies. Peruvian skulls that had cranial enlarged/extended. Vikings from Finland. Romans and Greeks. Hindu and Chinese burials. South Pacific Islanders. And of course from many Native American tribes, some from aboriginal Indian mounds. And of course, the catalog list about half a dozen Cherokee, 4 Creeks, 3 Yamassee from a mound in Tampa. But the biggest tribe represented by far, are the skulls from 16 Seminoles. With half the US Army in Florida, physicians, explorers, and other patrons of Dr. Morton, the Florida Seminoles were a field ripe for the picking.
There are two warriors who were found at the battle of Okeechobee. Some other warriors not identified; men, women, and children remains. It seems that history doesn’t often mention this sordid souvenir hunting.
Below: Some of the listing for the Morton/Meigs catalog for the Seminoles. I refuse to include the drawing of one of the skulls. Notice that it also has the name of the person who donated the skull to Dr. Morton or Meigs' collection.
I have also found record of remains that were collected during the war that are not listed in Dr. Morton & Meigs Crania Americana catalog. Dr. Weedon also had the skull of Uchee Billy who died at the fort at St. Augustine. Morton lists a Euchee Indian, but we don’t know if it is the same as Uchee Billie.
There was an Apalachicola chief by the name of Coa-harjo, but who was not the same as the Seminole Chief Coa-Hadjo who was a Chief with Osceola. The Apalachicola Coa-Harjo was killed by his own people in 1838, and a Phrenology journal by Morton in 1839 describes his head in detail, but the crania is not listed in Morton’s catalog. On a side note, there is also a Chief Old Joe that was killed in the Florida panhandle, and his complete skeleton is supposed to have been on display at the Medical College at the University of Dublin in Ireland. Apparently there are many unknown remains collected during the war that went to various other medical collections still unidentified.
So, what happened to Dr. Morton’s collection? It still exists with the University of Pennsylvania. A recent article told about this amazing collection. Over the years, they have offered the various Native American Tribes if they want to seek repatriation under NAGRA. And some have taken care of this.
Here are my own thoughts on the subject. And it is to leave these skulls where they are, and undisturbed. Further tampering or movement would not help. This is a different situation than a casket of remains. These are specially prepared remains. Not whole skeletons, but craniums, that are cleaned, varnished, painted, and deposited with others. They have been placed with a charnel house of other unique representatives from around the world. I actually think they hold a unique and honored position where they are at, and nobody really bothers them. These remains are in a communion with like representatives. Actually, they are not the body or person, but the husk or remains. They are the evidence that life has once been present. With honored representatives from all over the world.
In the old southeastern Native American traditions, there is a function of a “Bone Picker.” That is what Dr. Morton became. And that is also why he died before his time, and could have lived another 30 years if he had known the correct songs and medicines.
Further tampering of the remains will only cause difficulty, pain and sickness in ways you cannot imagine for the living and dead. Improper tampering can cause problems with the family, their clan or tribe that they are from. Worse can be done by people who think that they are doing the right thing, but doing it improperly. It is better to leave them alone. Trying to move the remains will only cause more sickness and death to those innocents who will have no understanding of what is happening to them. We have in the Native American folklore Ghost Sickness, and I have a lot of experience with it, and do not want to have this become a problem for someone who does not understand it.
It is also better to keep theses skulls as a reminder about what was done to these people and the injustice of removal from their home 175 years ago. And a time when a human head was a sought after commodity. People will forget what I say in a few years. They won’t forget a physical reminder.
They called the Indians as savages for taking scalps, and at the same time, the white men and soldiers stole whole heads.
1839, Morton, Samuel George; Crania Americana, or, a Comparative View of the Skulls of Various Aboriginal Nations of North and South American.
1849, Morton, Samuel George; Catalogue of Skulls of Man and the Inferior Animals, in the Collection of Samuel George Morton.
1856, Meigs, J. Aitken; Catalogue of Human Crania, in the Collection of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.
The American Phrenological Journal and Miscellany, Volume II, No. 1, Philadephia, Oct. 1, 1839; Pg. 139-142.
November 2008, Monge, Janet; and Renschler, Emily S.; Expedition, Vol. 50, No. 3; The Samuel George Morton Cranial Collection, Historical Significance and New Research.
Attention all you U.S. 7th Infantry Cottonbalers, this involves a historical marker for an incident of your regiment. Lt. Richard Scott and the soldiers of Fort (Winfield) Scott in 1817.
Dale Cox from the famous community of Two Egg, Florida, has been successful for promoting the history around northwest Florida. Last year he put up a historical marker for Nicoll’s trading post at Chattahoochee Landing, where British Marine Colonel Nicolls established a fort with Josiah Francis during the War of 1812, known as Apalachicola Fort. Now he has started a new campaign, which you will see in this video:
With that British fort on the north end of the Apalachicola River, and Negro Fort on the southern end of the river, the Brits hoped that their Indian allies would control the river traffic through Spanish Florida and be a hindrance to American cotton trade from Georgia and Mississippi territory during the War of 1812.
Dale Cox has also written several history books on the history of Gadsden County, Jackson County, Milly Francis, Nicolls’ Outpost, and the Scott Massacre. Now Dale is also seeking to put up a historical marker at the site of the Scott Massacre, which is a stone’s throw from Nicoll’s Fort and Chattahoochee Landing. The Scott Massacre is a significant incident which started the First Seminole War.
Picture: From Dale Cox, Attack on the American boat in 1817.
In 1817, Chief Nea-Mathla, was one of the main Seminole / Mikasuki chiefs. His village, named Fowltown, was in Georgia, along the Flint River. Nea-Mathla had always lived there, and considered it his land, not the United States, not the State of Georgia, not Creek land that had been ceded over to the U.S. with the Treaty of Fort Jackson. He was Mikasuki / Miccosukee and not Creek, and did not recognize the Creeks as having any authority over him, who had no authority to give away his land. In contrast, the United States recognized this land as the State of Georgia, as land ceded by the Creeks under the Treaty of Fort Jackson three years earlier.
General Gaines demanded that Nea-Mathla come to Fort Scott about 15 or 20 miles away. Nea-Mathla refused, did not trust the Americans, and had no reason too. Gaines sent his soldiers to Fowltown to bring Nea-Mathla to him. As the armed and uninvited soldiers approached the alarmed town, the people in town fired back and fled. The one Indian killed was a woman. As the soldiers examined the deserted town, they found a British uniform and letter from the British of support to Nea-Mathla.
The soldiers returned, this time 300 in number, finding the town deserted, and burned everything, and taking with them the cattle and stores of crops. As expected, the Indians were outraged. This meant a declaration of war to the Seminole / Mikasukis.
This was the first action of the First Seminole War. The destruction of Fowltown was only the beginning. A week later was what is known as the Scott Massacre, which can be considered as revenge.
Fort Scott had been running low on supplies. Before the attack, a shipment was coming on boats up the Apalachicola of uniforms, supplies, food, with the families, and an escort of sick soldiers in barges that were not easy to maneuver on the river. For whatever reason, when the officer in charge, Lt. Richard Scott, heard of the trouble between the Army and Nea-Mathla’s people, he decided to continue on. That was his fatal mistake. Late at night the wind blew the barges close to shore about a mile south of the confluence of the Flint and the Chattahoochee River, and the Indians attacked. Most all in the boats were killed. Just a few soldiers survived and escaped to make their way to Fort Scott. Mrs. Elizabeth Stewart was captured by the Indians and remained a prisoner among the Indians until she was freed about six months later. (And remember, this is all in Spanish territory.)
The press called this incident a massacre of women and children. In reality, it was mostly soldiers of the 40 who were killed. About six women were on board. We are still debating if there were children or not. But this was all the provocation needed.
This incident caused the outrage with the United States government, who gave General Andrew Jackson reason to organize an army to come down to Fort Scott, which started the First Seminole War. These were to opening shots of the next forty years of warfare against the Seminoles-Miccosukees of Florida. The United States would gain possession of Florida from Spain. It all started at Fowltown and here near Chattahoochee Landing on the Apalachicola River. This incident is certainly worthy of recognition of a historical marker, wouldn’t you agree?
Dale has set up a fund to raise money for a historical marker for the Scott massacre, and here is the link. Please feel free to give. He is not asking for much! He has done very well by creating other historical makers by this method.
Looking back over the past 30 years that I have been doing the Seminole War living history and reenactments, sometimes it is good to think of what has been accomplished, and where it has brought me. I will try to be brief, if this is even possible.
Although I only do about two living history events a year now, I can look back to 1994, when I was at an event every weekend from January through March. I do not miss that, because it was exhaustive, even 20 years younger than I am today.
I started making the Seminole coats around 1990. Mainly because I wanted one of my own, and the easiest way was to do it myself. Since then, I have lost track of how many I have made. It has been over 30. A few for museums, and one for FSU’s Chief Osceola. The one I am the proudest, is in the Seminole Tribe Veteran’s Museum on the Brighton Reservation, since I am an Army veteran. And many are being worn that you will never see.
We had a newsletter that we did for about seven years. David Mott and Rick Obermeyer started it. I helped out for three or four years. The internet sort of ended mail-out newsletters. Now people just “goggle it.” It seems that with the newsletter, there was a great amount of sharing that was happening. But it did have a lot of work that included cost, a lot of stamps, and a lot of time and work to put together. After a few years, it wears you out.
Then, the internet appeared. When I created a Seminole War web page, there were none at the time, in 1996. I have created three Seminole War related web sites. Only my blog / journal remains now, because that is the only one I can afford. There were groups and chat rooms, but those things seemed to have disappeared.
I recently retired my county-to-county website after 18 years for a number of reasons. First, was that it cost me a lot of money each year to keep the domain, and I no longer get any feedback. I guess everyone goes to Wikipedia. And, I had not updated it since 2007. With the new Seminole War Heritage Trails and website coming out, it makes my website redundant, and really replaces much of that. So I decided that it was time to retire my website, and move some of my articles from the website to my journal, which doesn’t cost me money and is easier for me to edit.
I would have to say that researching the war, I have a library that has grown quite large. I have more books on the Seminoles and Seminole War than many libraries in Florida. That started out with my research when I would find sources from county or local histories that would have small printing and found only locally. In 2000, I started to print my book of battles and skirmishes from the 3 Seminole wars. The first printing in 2001 was from a local print shop, and very expensive. I re-edited it, and had a decade worth of corrections and additions, and republished with a print-on-demand in 2013. I just did a revised version this past month. I don’t know of many who have done as much research in the Seminole War as I have, over the past 23 years of archival research.
Since 1993, I tried to publish a book on sites to visit in Florida that were Seminole War related. When I was turned down by publishers, I created my website. Then other people published similar books along the way, but their books were not close to containing what I would have included. But, patience paid off, because now the Seminole Wars Foundation is publishing the Seminole Wars Heritage Trail booklet. This booklet is the closest thing to what I have wanted to do, and that accomplishes my goal. I don’t mind that it was co-authored by others besides myself, especially when they are my friends and the best authors writing about the Seminole / Florida wars that you can find. I believe that this will be the greatest thing for getting the word out about Florida Seminole War history that has come out in a long time.
There are many things that I helped along the way and will never get credit for, but certainly left my mark. I remember doing a lot of editing with the Fort Cooper interpretive trail panels with Ken and Kathy Hughes, and very pleased with the way those turned out.
And a story that few people will know: one Saturday morning in 1999 when I was driving past the Fort King property and noticed the “for sale” sign. As soon as I got home, I emailed Dr. John Mahon, Brent Weisman, Frank Laumer, anyone I could who has some authority behind them for Seminole War preservation, and blew the whistle on that cause. Not long after, I got a job out of state and moved away, and missed all the meetings in Ocala pressuring to buy the property, which eventually saved it, but I like to think that I am the one who started the ball rolling on saving the property that has now become the park.
So looking over the past 30 years of the living history and reenacting, and into the research of the Seminole War time period, I can say that I have accomplished a tremendous amount towards educating and giving out information. I probably know more about the subject than most people. I have even been asked to review college papers, and I only have a bachelor’s degree and some master’s course work myself.
This has branched off into so many different studies. Anthropology itself is the basis of many different areas of learning, for the studies of beliefs and culture, history of the native people and the United States and Europe as well as Native American history. Cultural / sociological anthropology, and just opening up my mind to a whole cosmos of thinking and ideas which I would not have thought possible if I never went this route. And this, I would say, would be the greatest thing that I have gotten out of all of this. That it has broadened the mind and my whole outlook on everything. I have not only gotten into the history, but sought the very thinking of the people, and into the mind and beliefs. I have gotten outside of one way of thinking and the very paradigm of how the world and universe is viewed. It would be impossible for me to really explain, but just accept me on this. It only makes me appreciate things in the world even more.
It has arrived. The official inaugural for the Florida Seminole Wars Heritage Trail will be on August 15th, in St. Augustine, at our ceremony to commemorate the 2nd Seminole War.
Afterwards, you can find the trail listed on the Florida Department of State website at:
You can download a free copy of the trail book at the website listed above, or pick up a copy at several museums and locations throughout the state of Florida, or at state highway welcome centers for free. That’s right; it is free.
This is a beautiful, 56 page booklet. 60 pages, if you count the covers, front and back.
I have several copies of this book with me right now, but have been asked to keep it under wraps until the 15th. But, I hope that you will not mind if I share with you the front cover.
There is so much more. It turned out better than expected. I cannot wait to share more with you.
It has been two years of hard work, especially John and Mary Lou Missall. From our brainstorming of what to include in the book, to what we now have.
This is something that I dreamed about publishing since 1993. But instead of just myself, it has been a collaborative effort with my friends and the most knowledgeable people on the subject of the Florida Seminole Wars. It turned out much better than I could have ever imagined. Even better, it will be easily accessible to everybody. I think that it will be one of the greatest things imaginable that we have ever seen to boost interest in the subject of Florida Seminole War history. I would imagine that Dade Battlefield and Fort Cooper will show a significant increase in park visitor attendance.
Due to my family situation and death, it has been a while since writing for this blog. My very unique father passed away in July. Much of this year, has been spent out of town visiting Dad, doing his taxes, and saying goodbyes, then finally his funeral. We were strongly connected, my father and I. His passing was not easy for me. It was not unexpected. He long struggled with Parkinson’s disease. The hard part was saying goodbye. And, what sadness lingers most is not being able to talk about the things with him about the things we spoke of often, as the flying squirrels, airplanes, and so many other things. We shared an amazing diversity of interests.
When I would visit, his condition would cause our discussions to bring out of him a jumbled mass of memories, and I would hope to follow along the various references of people, places, and things over his 80-something years of life. I knew him so well, I usually could follow along with the tiny references of people and places that few others knew. It was actually pleasant, seeing which things I could remember, like a trivia game of his life. I would never know what he would bring up, as I was talking about one thing, and he would bring up an entirely different subject. I would just hope to hang on for the wild ride. It was all enjoyable, exciting, and will be sorely missed.
After many years of deep study into Muskogee and Seminole culture and cosmos, views and insights have been developed that I do not often share with many of you in regards to the afterlife or other worlds. Let us not get into comparisons between your religion and my philosophy. Thus there will be intentionally vagueness with some of my descriptions.
My father’s dying process was slow and happened over several days. Because of my close connection with him, a few days before he took his last breath and started the final process, I experienced it too. I became pale and ill with what the Creek and Seminoles describe as Ghost Sickness. Both Florida Seminole Josie Billie and Oklahoma Seminole Willie Lena talked about it. It started on a Wednesday, and lasted until Dad passed away Saturday morning.
Before I heard from the nurse of Dad’s last hours, a few days before, I actually started to do things in preparation for my trip up to Kentucky for Dad’s funeral. Got my hair trimmed, packed for the trip and gathered necessary insurance paperwork. Went to quiet, sacred places to meditate, think about my Dad and the journey he was soon to take.
When I heard from the nurse that Dad had less than 24 hours left, I packed everything in my car and was ready to go. There are certain signs that one may see when a warrior passes on. And, I saw one clearly as I was preparing to leave--clear indication to me that I would not make arrive before he passed on. Even if I had driven straight up without stopping, I would not have made it on time. That was okay. I had said to Dad what I needed to say the month before. Less than 24 hours after returning home from the funeral, I had a second sign that I was fully expecting. It was a sign that a warrior’s soul has moved on. Both these signs of the warrior’s soul are very powerful, were very clear to me, and very unmistakable.
Both my parent’s ashes were brought home with me. They will soon be placed together in a national veteran’s cemetery. Having both urns in my apartment did seem strange. In one respect, I was glad to have both parents here, but saddened to have them here in this state.
Within a day of coming back, I started to once again fall ill. It was the symptoms of the Ghost Sickness. This time worse, and encompassing my whole body. Each day it got worse.
Finally on the fifth day, I was very ill. I covered up the urns in a proper manner, and within minutes, all the symptoms, and all the sickness, went away. The cycle was complete. I just needed to do a little adjustment to have everything cleared up.
So in conclusion, know that traditional ways, the old ways, are alive and well, and something to be taken seriously.
I am on the move and wanted to post a quick update.
The Seminole War Commemoration in St. Augustine will be August 15th, but the deadline to register for the lunch and the talk and social Friday night is July 31st. Go to our Seminole Wars facebook page for the flyers.
The parade on Saturday at 10 a.m. and the following ceremony are free and open to the public. The lunch afterwards needs registration because we need to know how many chickens to slay.
But more important, we have Major Dade's sponge staff!
This is the actual artifact used by Major Dade's men to operate the cannon at Dade's battle, on that fateful date on December 28th, 1835. Held by several soldiers who would die soon after. Maybe even still soaked in their blood. Picked up at the battle site eight weeks later, this artfact became the piece that started the Army museum system.
Not on display to the public, Dade's sponge staff is on temporary loan from West Point and will be on display at St. Francis Barracks on August 15th, the day of our ceremony in St. Augstine. This may be the only time you get to see this valuable relic from the Second Seminole War. If you miss out, then sorry!
I am reprinting this from my former web page, with a few edits.
I came across this interesting source: "Autobiography of an English Soldier in the United States Army Comprising Observations and Adventures in the States and Mexico" by George Ballentine, printed in New York by Stringer and Townsend, 1853. This autobiography is by a soldier in the War in Mexico in the 1840's. In the summer of 1846, he spent several months at Fort Brooke, Tampa Bay. His observations on the Seminoles are particularly interesting. Since most libraries probably don't have this in their collection, and I thought that you would enjoy seeing how life in the fort was when there was peace between the whites and Seminoles. The most interesting part is the friendly interaction between the Seminoles and the soldiers.
The 2nd Seminole War was over, and the Seminoles were allowed to come into Fort Brooke to trade. This led to some interested incidents!
Fort Brooke, 1838, from the Florida archives.
It looks like an officer, a militia soldier watching over three Indians, and some other people scattered about. Fort Brooke was at one time one of the largest military reservations in the United States & territories.
Finally after describing the Seminoles, the author goes on to tell about the rich country that makes up Florida and remarks, "Still, as long as the Indians remain in its borders, its resources will never have a fair chance of development, as the distant settlers can have no security for life or property while they are in the vicinity."
Without any more comment, I will let this eyewitness account speak for itself:
"On arriving at Tampa Bay we found another company of our regiment stationed there, two companies being considered requisite for the protection of the inhabitants against any sudden outbreak of the Indians. These, to the amount of several hundred warriors, beside squaws and children, still occupy a large tract of Florida called the Everglades; where they live in the same state of rude savage life to which they were accustomed ere the first of the pale faces left a footprint on their sandy shores."
"They have game in abundance, herds of deer roam through the plains and glades, and crop their luxuriant herbage; numerous flocks of wild turkeys roost in the hammocks at night, and feed in the openings and pine barrens by day; and in the creeks and bays of the sea coast, or in the large fresh water lakes of the interior, incredible quantities of delicious fish are easily caught."
"Round their villages, in the selection of a site for which they display excellent taste and judgment, they usually cultivate a small portion of the soil in raising maize, or edible roots; and the little labour which this requires is performed by the women and children. In this delicious climate, where there is perpetual verdure, and where the existence of cold or winter is scarcely known or felt, the mode of living of these savages seems not so very disagreeable, and with their ideas of comfort they must find Florida a complete Indian paradise."
"It is not much to be wondered at, therefore, to find them so reluctant to leave for a new home among the tribes of the Indian Territory. Sooner than submit to this, about fifteen years ago they waged an unequal war with the United States; which lasted several years, and cost America nearly as much, it is said, as the late war in Mexico. At the present time there are not in Florida more than a fourth, it is supposed, of the number who were there at commencement of the war; as a great many of them at various times accepted the terms offered by the government of the United States, and were transported to a tract of land called the Indian Territory, lying between Arkansas and the Rocky Mountains. Those who refused to leave, and who were finally permitted to remain in a portion of Florida defined by certain boundaries, have been variously estimated at from three to five hundred warriors. But as they have almost no intercourse with the inhabitants, white men not being suffered to approach their villages, it is very difficult to form anything like a correct estimate of their numbers. The government agent, stationed at Fort Charlotte, a small settlement near their boundary line, for the purpose of trading with them, and who has been desired by the government to endeavor without exciting their suspicions to ascertain their numbers, reckons them at five hundred, exclusive of women and children."
"Those who remain are part of the tribe or nation of Seminoles; they were as tall on an average as the men of our regiment, and though not near so athletic or muscular, generally more graceful in personal appearance. They have more yellow than copper in their complexion, and have the high prominent cheekbones, and that quick, furtive, and suspicious glance of the Indian race, which seems watching every moment to make a sudden spring in the event of any appearance of treachery. Some of their young squaws have a very pleasing expression of countenance, and I have seen one or two of these who I believe would be pronounced beautiful if compared with the prouder belles of European cities. The men, or warriors, walk with a most dignified and majestic carriage, and an air of stoic composure highly imposing."
"They wear moccasins made of deer-skin, and of their own manufacture; and go bare-legged in a short sleeved sort of tunic, confined at the waist and falling down nearly to the knees in the manner of a Highlander's kilt, to whose ancient costume that of the Florida Indians of the present day bears a considerable resemblance, especially when seen at a short distance. Some of them ornament their dress with beads and shells, which they sometimes wear in their hair also, and both men and women are fond of wearing large silver rings in their ears and through their nostrils."
[Ballentine is probably correct in his comparison to the Highlander's dress, because that is what is generally believed that the southeastern Tribes copied their clothing from, the Scottish tradesmen in the 18th century.]
"Parties of twenty or thirty of these strange-looking visitors frequently came into the village of Tampa Bay while we lay there. They were always accompanied by a sub-chief, a sort of lieutenant, who had charge of the party, and their object was to exchange deerskins for powder and other necessary articles. They frequently brought a few turkeys or a few pieces of venison, part of the game they had shot as they came along; these they sold cheap enough, a turkey fetching a quarter, and a piece of venison of fifteen or twenty pounds weight, half a dollar."
Fort Brooke in 1837, from the Florida Memory/Florida Archives.
"They always visited the barracks when they came to the village, walking through the rooms and shaking hands with the soldiers in a perfectly friendly manner. None of them, however, understood English, and we were all equally ignorant of the Seminole, so that our discourse was necessarily limited to the language of pantomime, at which they seemed a vast deal more apt than our men. They showed us marks of gunshot wounds they had received in the Florida war on various parts of their bodies, pointing to our muskets at the same time and shaking their heads; and they seemed highly delighted when one or two of our soldiers, who had been in the Florida war, showed them similar marks, making signs that they had received them from the Indians. They laughed and talked to one another with great animation and glee at this circumstance. But the great attraction for them was two six-pounder pieces, which stood in front of the quarters; they always approached these with looks of the greatest curiosity, and apparent awe, cautiously patting them as if to propitiate them. They have the most exaggerated ideas of the destructive effects of artillery, of which they stand in horrible dread; and some of our men who were in the Florida war asserted that a chief cause of so many Indians having surrendered towards the close of the war, was owing to the Americans having procured two or three light field-pieces, though, owing to the swampy nature of the country, they could not have used them. As they always behaved quietly in the garrison, they were never hindered from strolling round any part of it, strict orders being given to the soldiers not to molest them. They used no more ceremony with the officers than with the men, frequently walking up to them on the parade, or into their quarters, and offering to shake hands with them with the most perfect nonchalance."
"On paying one of these visits to the village it was customary for them to have a bout of drinking and dancing; a sort of Indian ball, which they held in a yard behind a house in the village appropriated exclusively to their use. The entertainments of the evening, on these occasions, usually consisted in smoking and drinking whiskey until pretty late, a few of them dancing at intervals in the most ungraceful and even ludicrous attitudes imaginable. They wound up the evening generally with a war dance, in which all who were not too drunk joined. This dance commences slow at first to a low monotonous chant, and increases in rapidity of time and movement until, like the witches' dance in Tam o' Shanter, "the mirth and fun grow fast and furious," and they yell and whoop like a set of demons or incarnate fiends. On these occasions, they sometimes quarreled among themselves, and ended the night with a general squabble; yet as care was always taken, on their arrival, to have their arms taken from them and locked up, until they were ready to return home, there was no danger or any serious accident occurring."