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I need to point out something that has obviously forgotten as a very important part of our history.

If you visit the Florida State Parks web page for Fort St. Marks, or San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park, it will mention in one sentence on the brochure and the website, that, "Andrew Jackson occupied the fort for a brief period in the 1800s."

Such a statement is not acceptable, and would make the late Mark Boyd, former historian for the state park system, roll in his grave. A very important part of the history of the park is overlooked in the brochure and park information. You will only find it mentioned inside the museum if you ever make it there.

That statement, is the same as saying that Florida had a brief succession during the 1860s without even mentioning the Civil War, War of Succession, or War Between the States, whatever you want to call it. Saying that Jackson briefly occupied the site is downplaying the First Seminole War and the importance of St. Marks in our history. In my opinion, this is inexcusable.

jackson and troops
General Andrew Jackson inspecting the soldiers in the First Seminole War (Florida Archives/Florida Memory Project)

What actual physical sites can we visit that remain from the First Seminole War? There are three: Fort St. Marks, Fort Gadsden, and Fort Barrancas in Pensacola.

What you see at Fort Barrancas is Third System fortifications built after the U.S. acquired Florida, and there is really nothing to see from the earlier period except the white washed Spanish arches in the middle. It is a First Seminole War site, but there is nothing to show from 1818.

Fort Gadsden is very remote. Getting there has to be the loneliest drive in the state. It is in the middle of the large Apalachicola National Forest. You can see the earthworks of the fort, a small interpretive kiosk, there is a picnic pavilion, and a very scary pit toilet. It is so far remote that it is forgotten by God.

Fort Gadsden used to be a state park, and was leased by the forest to the state park system for one dollar a year for 99 years. But always the underdog, this was apparently not worth the state retaining as a state park, and they gave it over to the national forest.

So the only First Seminole War site where you can see the history and is easily accessible with some good restaurants nearby, is Fort St. Marks, or San Marcos de Apalachee Historic State Park. So overlooked is the First Seminole War significance, that the Spanish name for the site is used. But what happened here in 1818 is the most significant event that ever happened at this lonely outpost.

ft st marks corner
Corner of the storehouse building at old Fort St. Marks.

Here is what I will add about the history that is missing from the web site and state park brochure.

This was more than just briefly occupied by Jackson. This was an international incident. What happened in here in 1818 is the reason why Florida became a United States Territory three years later and changed the international boarders in North America through the subsequent Adams-Onis treaty. The incident was hotly debated in congress, and almost started a war with two other countries. Jackson had the American Army occupy a fort inside another country by the use of force for about a year. The First Seminole War was Jackson settling scores and taking care of unfinished business after the Battle of New Orleans. Although his reputation was not high among congress for what he did, it only made him more popular among the public who elected him president 10 years later.

Jackson’s pretense for invading Spanish Florida in 1818 was to punish renegade Indians attacking white settlers in southwest Georgia, and stop the Spanish from providing guns and arms to the Indians. Jackson’s evidence of Indian attacks, Spanish support, and British incitement of the Indians has dubious evidence of what actually happened. We can certainly agree that there was violence, but there is no clear evidence that it was orchestrated by the Spanish or British. Jackson’s evidence presented at the trials of Arbuthnot and Ambrister seem fabricated. But it was certainly a volatile time and place where lawlessness was common and opportunist aplenty.

One of the real reasons that Jackson invaded Florida was because he wanted unrestricted access for the Apalachicola river traffic and economy of the south. He had financial interest and business with one of those cotton plantations up river. Spanish insistence of imposing taxes and international border crossings on Florida was unacceptable to Jackson. Control the river traffic in Spanish Florida meant control of the economy of Alabama (Mississippi territory) and Georgia. Jackson did not want taxes enforced at border crossings which would impact the southern cotton economy. The Spanish also wanted to determine what could travel up and down the river thru Spanish Florida into the U.S., and did not allow gunpowder and arms to travel past their port to supply the American forts.

So the very first thing that Jackson did during the First Seminole War, in March 1818, was to construct Fort Gadsden on the remains of the former Negro Fort that he had ordered blown up almost two years prior. Once this was done, the river traffic along the Apalachicola River was pretty much secure. This is the only high ground on the lower end of the river, until 50 or 60 miles up. The American flag was secured at Fort Gadsden starting in March 1818, and never given up afterwards. Fort Gadsden was never surrendered to the Spanish after the First Seminole War ended, and the fort was finally abandoned in 1824 when Florida was a U.S. territory. It was American occupation on Spanish territory and control of the river commerce for three years before it was officially ceded over to the U.S.

Next objective of Jackson was to seize Fort St. Marks where the Spanish were alleged to providing arms and ammunition to Indians, and to incite them to attack the Americans. Jackson took the fort at the protest of the Spanish captain who was even allowing the fort to be used as a hospital for the sick American soldiers before Jackson seized it.

Fort St. Marks would remain in American control for about a year. Records show the Americans issued Army post returns from Fort St. Marks until February 1819, which was when the Adams-Onis Treaty was signed for Spain to cede Florida over to the U.S. Then the Americans gave the fort back to the Spanish for a brief period—two years—until it became the U.S. territory of Florida. And one of the first letters written by the first U.S. Florida territorial governor, Andrew Jackson, was to remove the Spanish garrison from the fort and have them transported to Pensacola where they could catch the next boat to Cuba.

Also at the fort was where Jackson held a trial and executed two British citizens; we know at Ambrister and Arbuthnot. This was a mock trail and execution of foreign citizens who were denied their legal rights. It created an international incident, and almost sparked a war with the British Empire and Spain. But after a year without any punishment of Jackson for his actions, and the unwillingness of the countries to wage war after the recent Napoleonic conflicts and the War of 1812, nothing became of it.

trial at st marks
Trial of Ambrister at Fort St. Marks. (Florida Archives/Florida Memory Project)

Then it must not be forgotten, that Fort St. Marks was the site of incidents involving Josiah Francis and his daughter Milly Francis. Early in the campaign, one of Jackson’s soldiers got lost in the woods and captured by Creek / Seminole Warriors. Milly Francis was a young 15-year-old woman who witnessed preparation for the young soldier to be executed by the warriors, and pleaded to her father for his release. Her father was Red Stick leader and rumored to be a very powerful maker of medicine, Josiah Francis, who refused to get involved. So Milly intervened, and the soldier’s life was spared. He was turned over the Spanish at Fort St. Marks. Milly was awarded a congressional medal for her bravery about 30 years later, and was the first woman in U.S. history to be awarded a congressional medal. Unfortunately she died shortly before it arrived with a pension check; in destitute poverty in Indian territory.

Despite Milly having saved the life of the soldier, about a month later her father, Josiah Francis, was captured and hanged by Jackson at Fort St. Marks. Francis was buried there, in a place that is now lost to the ages.

capture of the chiefs
The Capture of Josiah Francis. (Florida Archives/Florida Memory Project)

And a month after that, Jackson executed Ambrister and Arbuthnot at St. Marks. Milly was now a refugee at St. Marks, and personally knew these two men from her father’s dealings with them. There is even a story of Francis trying to marry his daughter Milly to Armbrister, but the young officer declined the offer.

There is a plaque commemorating Milly Francis in the entrance of San Marcos/Fort St. Marks. It is ironic that she is remembered there, and her father who was hanged by Jackson at nearly the same spot has nothing to commemorate him.

Also check out the new book on Milly Francis by Dale Cox: http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/dalecox.html

So if you check out the website or brochure of Fort St. Marks, or San Marcos de Apalache, then I have just given you some supplemental information not included there.
Current Location:
The Kimball Library of Seminole War Literature
Current Mood:
accomplished accomplished
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A couple months ago, I participated at the shootout at the Swamp Safari. We have been doing this event since 1999. I was at the first one, although I have not been able to make it every year. As always this year, the host, Jay Osceola, was generous and helpful, and I enjoyed it. Jay has been a great host!

Due to ongoing health issues, I could not stay the whole event, but think I did well for being there Friday and Saturday. At least I did not have to go to the hospital afterwards, which happened a couple years ago. I cannot run around like I did 30 years ago.

3-1-14 swamp safari portrait
Myself at the Swamp Safari.

The only unpleasant experience at the event, was when I wandered out to the modern vendors outside the front gate. At one booth, I was berated, insulted, and cussed at by a guy who thought that I was too white, and had no business admiring and adopting any of the Native American culture. I don’t think this guy is a member of the Seminole Tribe, but I have seen him at tribal festivals. This person obviously had a prejudicial attitude about me without even knowing who I am. He judged purely by outside appearances and stereotypes. I would hope that he would strive to be a True Human Being and judge by the heart and the soul instead. His main items of sale in the booth were dvd movies, and maybe he is just blaming me for declining sales of an item that has almost disappeared like vhs cassettes. I do not see that as very good business plan, besides insulting potential customers with racial insults at festivals. I have seen him do the same before at other events to other people.

This brings to light a conflict that has existed among the southeastern tribes for the past 200 years. What we know as the Five Civilized Tribes; Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and even Seminoles, do not always fit a standard racial appearance. Saying that someone does not look Indian is not a valid argument. These tribes have been inter-marrying with the settlers, slaves, and soldiers since the Spanish landed here.

As mentioned in John Ellisor’s recent book on the Second Creek War (2010), the Creeks being removed from their home in Alabama had a multi-ethnic appearance as written in many eyewitness and contemporary accounts. They looked anywhere from your tanned and more aboriginal looking Indian, to white land owner, to black farmer. It was truly a diverse society of multi-ethnic backgrounds that lived in close proximity to each other. This made the removal difficult for those who were not removed, because they saw people who looked just like themselves being taken away.

The Cherokee were the same way. I have seen a lot of blonde or red haired Cherokee and Chickasaws. And I have even seen one or two Seminoles. I know a fluent Muscogee speaker in northern Florida, who may be the last, and you would not be able to pick this person out in a crowd from anyone else. So skin pigment and outward appearance are not determining factors for being Native American Indian. Years ago, I met a very attractive blonde Apache girl!

But the argument of what exactly is a Creek, Cherokee, or Seminole, has gone on for the past 200 years. It was a big issue during the Creek War of 1813-1814, when you had traditional Red Sticks on one extreme, and white Creeks who owned land, slaves, and all the appearances of white plantation owners on the other side. Look who we have from history that show this: William Weatherford (known as Red Eagle) was red haired. First Lady Abigail Adams told Alexander McGillivray that if she had not known that he was Indian, she would not have been able to tell. And looking at his portrait, he is no different from myself. I found his portrait on Wikipedia (below), and I would guess that is the same one I saw in the Creek Council House Museum back in 1997, which was made when he was alive. His father was Scottish, but he certainly took the opportunity to make himself self-proclaimed chief and co-owner of the large Panton-Leslie trading monopoly in the southeast.

Alexander_McGillivray
Alexander McGillivray

Last month the Fort Lauderdale newspaper ran a series of articles about the traditional Seminole-Miccosukees who live in south Florida, who are not members of either federal recognized Tribe. They are said to number about 100, but there is probably no way to verify that. According to their beliefs, anyone except themselves are sell-outs, and they are the only true traditional carriers of history and tradition. This narrow view held by a minority of the population of the tribe, of who are the true members of the tribe, or who are God’s chosen, is not uncommon. Every society all over the world has such a small minority that make similar claims.

It the newspaper story, it told of one of the women among the non-recognized Seminole-Miccosukees who had married into the small group but was an enrolled member of the Miccosukee tribe. Enrolled because it was a decision made by her parents and not her. But since she is an enrolled member, her married family of the non-reservation folks say that she is not among the elect and automatically going to hell for being enrolled in the tribe. This is unbelievably cruel to tell anyone, and is just wrong. It is religious extremism. These are the Taliban of the Seminoles-Miccosukees.

Now, I am not all against what these non-enrolled & non-federally recognized people profess. I love their fight for environmental issues and clean water in the Everglades. This is a fight that will affect us all. And I am in total agreement with them about clean-up and restoration of the Everglades. And I hope that they can just live their lives the way that they want without interference. If they can be left alone to do what they want, then that would be great.

But assuming that someone has to fit a narrow criteria to be Indian is just being prejudiced and is an unacceptable attitude. The southeastern tribes are very racially diverse and have been that way since the Spanish arrived. But this is an argument that is still going on, even among the tribes themselves. Maybe we could also call this attempted ethnic cleansing. But history proves that it will not go away; change is always happening. And their demand that Clewiston, Naples, or all development in south Florida just disappear, will not happen either. Maybe if everyone realized we were all in this together, then maybe we could get some really great environmental legislation passed before all the water in Florida is poisoned or everything is choked out by exotic plants and pythons.
Current Location:
The Kimball Library of Seminole War Literature
Current Mood:
accomplished accomplished
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Artist Guy LaBree was honored on March 18th with the Florida Folk Heritage Award. The Award is from the Florida Department of State, which has the state library and archives in Tallahassee, and was held at Mission San Luis.

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From the program: “Guy LaBree is a self-taught artist and cultural advocate who grew up near the Seminole Reservation in Hollywood, Florida. Mr. LaBree’s early interactions with members of the Seminole Tribe fueled a lifelong passion for their traditional way of life. Over the years, he has worked closely with tribal elders and medicine men to accurately represent Seminole culture thorough the paintings of traditional stories and legends.”

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If you have been to the tribal museums, you have no doubt seen his artwork on the wall or in books for sale in the museum gift shop. I believe he has an insight into the culture and traditions of the Seminoles that few outside the tribe will ever have.

He is a featured artist at nearly all the Tribal festivals, where you can see his paintings of Seminole history, culture, and native animals like bears or otters.

He paints scenes of the Seminole War, like this painting of the Battle of Okeechobee.

Okeechobee btl

His beautiful works are in books, like Betty Mae Jumper’s “Legends of the Seminoles.”

Legend of the Seminoles

And a recent book about his life by Carol Mahler, “Guy LaBree, Barefoot Artist of the Florida Seminoles.”

guy-labree-green book

Currently his work is on display at the Collier County Museum until June, with items made by my Seminole Friends, Brian and Pedro Zepeda.

IMG_20140221_104846

Mr. LaBree is also doing the artwork for the Seminole Heritage Trail interpretive panels at Fort Cooper State Park, and the Friends of Fort Cooper were the ones who nominated Mr. LaBree for this award, and were represented last night.

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Here are I am with the Fort Cooper folks and Mr. LaBree.
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Current Mood:
awake awake
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One of the things that we have always debated among the reenactors, is what type of musket or rifle would the Seminoles have had during the 2nd Seminole War?

What we would call a trade musket or Indian rifle varies widely over time. So we will concentrate on what they might have had during the 2nd Seminole War.

In the American State Papers, Indian Affairs, it lists the gifts for the Seminoles given out at the Treaty of Paynes Landing in 1832. You can find this list after the gifts for the Choctaw Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830. Congress usually lumps all the expenditures together.

The expenditures for the Treaty of Panes Landing, in north central Florida, lists “2200 Deringer Rifles.”
As typical in history, the government armed the whole Seminole nation before they decided to go to war with them. With a Seminole population estimated around 5000 at the time, that would cover all the warriors.

So what is a Deringer rifle?

Before the War of 1812, the government would gift rifles to Indians in treaties. This would continue until 1871. At the time, parts were ordered from Britain; especially lock mechanisms. But due to supplies embargoed during the War of 1812, the government ran out of supply. Henry Deringer, Sr., was approached to make a rifle just as good as the previous British trade rifle. Deringer had been successful making what everyone called Kentucky rifles.

So the government wanted Deringer to make something exactly like what the British traded to the Indians, because that was the weapon of choice that the Native nations wanted in trade. He did exactly that, and the government came back and said they were too superior quality and too expansive. So, he went back and tried again.

Henry Deringer, Jr., carried on the work of his father, and obtained a contract to manufacture trade rifles for the government. From 1815 onward, father and son Deringer would supply tens of thousands of trade rifles to the U.S. government under contract, until about 1840.

for trade and treaty

Two examples of these rifles can be seen in full color, in the book, “For Trade and Treaty, Firearms of the American Indians, 1600-1920,” by Ryan R. Gale. The pictures are so large that it is impossible to get it all on the scanner. So I will only show you a portion. But I enjoyed it so much that I got my own copy of the book. The tiny reprints here do not to justice to the full color, double page photos.

Both these rifles are conversion to percussion firing. Deringer would take the flint lock mechanisms and convert them to percussion. Some of the conversions are what we would expect, and some look pretty unique.
Wiley Thompson, Indian Agent to the Seminoles, at one point complained that some of the rifles sent to trade with the Seminoles were flint locks, and he wanted all percussion cap. He insisted that they deal exclusively to the Indians with percussion cap, so the natives would remain peaceful or risk losing their supply of caps from the traders.

Below, is a photo of a Deringer rifle that showed up on gun auction. It says it is original, but I have no way of verifying that. It looks exactly like the one show in Gale’s book mentioned above. And not too different from the old CVA kit rifles, like I started out with in reenacting.

deringer auction piece

This is a simple percussion rifle. In the book, it shows a nice brass serpentine lock plate, which was common brass furniture in earlier British trade muskets. This was the earlier model. Such a beautiful piece, on what was overall a plain rifle.

deringer details_0001

The earlier Deringer has an overall length of 50.7 inches, barrel length of 36 inches, and bore size of .588 inches.

The next example of a Deringer rifle shown in Gale is nicer. It is also percussion with an octagon barrel. It has brass furniture and parts, with a lovely brass rectangle patch box on the stock. It has a plain brass J lock plate instead of the serpentine one, but overall looks much nicer than the earlier version. The little cheek plate with the deer on in is a very nice addition.

deringer details_0002

deringer details_0003

The second rifle was an overall length of 59 inches, and a barrel length of 42.5 inches. It had a .44 inch bore size.

Some of the British manufactured locks that were converted to percussion look very unusual, and might have been used by Deringer, who did buy those British locks for his rifles. Here is a surviving example of a conversion. Very odd, with a cap hammer just welded onto a flint hammer. (I hope I am getting the terminology correct, but you will see what I mean here.)

deringer details_0004

One thing that has not been published, is the report for Camp Izard on the Withlacoochee. Archaeologist Gary Ellis was able to determine the shots that were fired by the soldiers, and those which were fired by the Seminoles, due to their position in the ground in relation to the breast work.

The Seminoles had a very consistent shot size, about 35 to 45 cal shot. The soldiers had a wide variety, ranging from buckshot to one or two .75 cal balls. The soldiers had 700 Louisiana militia, who often had shotguns, and militia soldiers were supposed to provide their own arms, often from home. The widely varied force under General Gaines at Izard would account for the variation. Since the Seminole shots were relative consistent, we know they probably had a consistent source of firearms.

And I hope you don't mind me making a shameless plug for Gale's book, but it is one of the few I have found that shows an example of a Deringer rifle, which we know was given out to the Seminoles. I do not know of any on display in any museums in Florida.
Current Mood:
accomplished accomplished
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Rubin Askew, governor of Florida from 1971 to 1979. I actually remember him. He passed away Thursday morning, and will lie in state in the old capitol building on Tuesday.

Here is a photo with me and Governor Askew back in 2009. Sorry that the person taking the pictures stood too close!

047 - Copy

Rubin Askew was one of whom I consider among the three great governors of Florida during the 20th century. He was very active in making open government and did what was right, even if the party or public held a different opinion. He was one of those who did not matter on party lines. Florida open sunshine law was something he did. He also helped to end segregation in Florida. He ran for President but lost the nomination, in 1984. And the past years he has taught at FSU and other state universities.

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I found this newspaper article in the vertical file.

Remains of Fort Fanning were visible in 1958, and were bulldozed to build the subdivision. The article shows that they knew what it was. Such a shame, because this would have been one of the best archaeological sites of Seminole War forts.

But, the cisterns might still be under the ground.

fanning bulldozed

The photo is hard to see, but it shows a brick well or cistern surround by grass.

The Gainesville Daily Sun--Gainesville, Florida, April 29, 1958.

Fort to Subdivision?--About 10 acres in the vicinity of Fort Fanning eight miles west of Trenton on the banks of the Suwannee are being bulldozed, plowed and graded with streets platted for a future subdivision. The brick cistern structure in the center of this wooden area is the only remains of the wooden fort used about 1837-38 in the Seminole War. [Actually until the end of the war in 1842.]

The cistern is about 12 feet deep and about three feet across the top. Of brick and masonry construction, it was used for water storage inside the walls of the from, named for Captain Fanning. [Actually, Lt. Colonel Alexander C.W. Fanning.]

This location, near Fanning Springs, is about 250 yards from U.S. 19. Cone brothers Construction Co, Tampa, have started development of the property which it owns.
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I have seen quite a contrast at different events of the same genre the past month.

First, I went to a festival known as a flint knapper's gathering. That is where people chip away and make arrowheads and spear points, just like aboriginal people have done here for thousands of years.
It looked like a prehistoric hardware store. And after seeing so many, it all seems to look the same.

The first knap-in that I visited was at Silver River (now Silver Springs) State Park, near Ocala. It was okay, but it seemed that the knappers or vendors in the tents were not interested in talking with me. They gave the appearance of being an exclusive club that is only interested in other knappers. The atlatl and primitive archery looked good, and I did have a good conversation with the archaeologists, but I was not there for more than 30 minutes, and felt that it was somewhat of a waste of time.

The very next weekend I went to a different flint knap-in at Ochlockonee River State Park, between Tallahassee and Apalachicola, near the interesting town of Sopchoppy. Check out the potty guy if you are in Sopchoppy—you’ll find him easy enough.

The Ochlockonee/Sopchoppy knap-in was a completely different experience. People were talkative and friendly. Adults and kids were sitting there, chipping away at rocks. Seemed more of a family event more than the one the week before. I even talked with the former park manager from there who had taken the weekend off to come and knock rocks with his old friends. I saw him mentoring some kids to develop their chipping skills. I really liked it.

Below is a photo from that event. I took the picture mainly to show people what a flint knap-in is, because they don't seem to understand when I try to describe it to them. Notice the spear points these guys are making, and their tools. It was entertaining just watching.

flint knappers 1 - Copy

Two events, both at state parks. Same type of events, but one was very good and friendly, and the other seemed like a waste of my time. And the event that was free and didn't charge admission was the better event. Why are they different? This would take longer study it closer to find out, which I won’t dwell on right now.

Then, the same thing happened again. I went to two living history events. Both involved black power and musket firing. One, I enjoyed the show, the other was a let-down.

I went to the garrison muster at Mission San Luis in Tallahassee. Part of the site has interpreters who show what life was like around the year 1690, including the fort with the Spanish garrison who do cannon and musket firing.
Their blackpowder demonstrations went great. They fired match locks, flint locks, and a cannon. Their cannon drill was flawless. One of the best that I have seen in a while. I will link the video I took of it here:



I had trouble with my camera and missed the first few minutes of the cannon firing drill, but got the best part. I think that unless you are familiar with the whole drill, it might seem a bit drawn out, so having only a minute of video will make most people happy.

So that was enjoyable.

To contrast, I went to the reenactment at Natural Bridge battlefield near Tallahassee the week before. I really enjoyed talking with the reenactors like the USCT black soldiers, and the sewing lady.

But then it was time for a black powder demonstration. First was the cannon demonstration. We went to watch, but found out that they were only demonstrating the drill and not actually firing the cannon. What is the point, then? That's no fun! Most people are there to see and hear the boom! Then going through the drill, they don't even have all their equipment; no vent pick, so don't even demonstrate a while drill properly. I was pretty disgusted at that point and walked off.

I heard from another of my friends who was there, that they had an infantry/musket drill, and didn't fire off the musket, either.

Is this proper interpretation, if you have a reenactment but don't fire off any black powder for the demonstrations?

I am really opinionated on this and believe that you have to provide a good show. Good interpretation is more than just talking your way through it. It is those provocative experiences that involve all the senses. I once had a job where I would fire off these things, so I know them well.

It was like signing up for a boat trip, and standing on shore to watch the boat float by. This is something that people come to experience.

If the public wanted to see just a cannon demonstration without the boom, they can watch it on youtube. This is a total failure. Apparently they still got an idea how to do it at the 1690 fort & Spanish Mission park.
Current Mood:
frustrated frustrated
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See this photo? This was 20 years ago. I am on the left. I have not worn this outfit in about 15 years (thankfully), but I have that same musket, and it still works well.

ft foster 1994 4 amigos - Copy

We are all familiar with the credit card commercial with the Vikings and barbarians, where they say, “What’s in your wallet?”
So okay, “What is?”

Here are laminated cards that I just put in my wallet:

National Rifle Association Life Member
National Rifle Association card for Instructor, Certified Rifle and Certified Muzzleloading Rifle.
Florida State Parks Historic Weapons Firing Safety Program Safety Supervisor.
American Legion Member of Sauls-Bridges, Post # 13, Tallahassee (I am a veteran.)
National Association of Interpretation Life Member

Do you know anyone with similar credentials? I want to establish that what I am about to say is not just an opinion, but technical skill and expertise.

There was a discussion on facebook by some of the reenactors who dislike the safety rules that have been implemented in the state parks.

Quit whining and suck it up cupcake, because what is so difficult? There is a reason why they do a safety check of the muskets. And there is a reason why they are requiring flashguards on the flintlocks. These are rules that we can work with, despite opinions. And if you have paid close attention, we have had pretty much all of them in the past 20 years; it is just in the last 5 years that we started to make them official. What some of you thought optional is now required.

People, safety is not an option. I have had my flintlock since 1992, and the first thing I did when I brought it was to put on a brass flashguard. It is still there.

The problem is not the safety rules.

People in the 1830s were intimately knowledgeable about their firearms. It was their very survival and they had to keep them in top working shape. Things would wear out and they would fix them. Just as if you drive your car every day, at some point you will have to replace parts and get things fixed. And if you do not do periodic maintenance with your car, you will go out one day and it will not start. People were highly skilled on the workings and use of their firearms because they had to be.

What I have seen on muskets and rifles the past few years, shows that there is a general need for many reenactors to become familiar with the maintenance of their firearms. Here is what I have seen.

Firearms that are not cleaned since the last event they were fired. And that was a year ago.
Nipple plugs for percussion locks that are worn out or loose.
Other parts that are loose and would only take a minute to tighten up.
Hammers for the percussion or flintlocks that are not striking in the proper location.
Worn out springs for the hammer.
Worn out trigger safety.
Barrel and parts deteriorated and metal eroded from black powder.
Touch holes that have widened from being fired hundreds of times, and now shot out a jet of sparks every time it is fired.
Barrels with so much powder residue that your ram rod will not fit in the barrel.

Some of these things can easily be fixed. Others require the help of a gun smith. A few years ago I needed to get help to have my frizzen tempered. You might have to get a new liner installed with your touch hole. You may need help getting a new main spring replaced.

When I see some of you complain about the flashguard, I hate to tell you this; but you are really showing that you need to become more familiar with your firearm. The problem is not the flashguard. The problem is elsewhere, and it would be a great benefit to all when you figure it out.
Current Mood:
annoyed annoyed
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Many of us in Florida are familiar with Ft. Caroline, the French fort and settlement that was wiped out by the Spanish near what is today Jacksonville. The recreated fort we have today is a national park. This is the 450th anniversary of the final fort in 1564. After this bloody episode in history, Florida remained firmly in Spanish control for the next 140 years without much challenge.

This is also one of those incidence where the weather played a part, and a hurricane changed the events of what would happen. The balance of European power in the western hemisphere was changed by one hurricane.

The French had a larger fleet, better ships, and more soldiers than Pedro Menendez who was settling St. Augustine at the same time. But as the French fleet pulled up to attack St. Augustine, they were hit with a hurricane and wrecked further south. So before it had even stopped raining, Menendez went up to the fort about 40 miles to the north of St. Augustine, and killed the French who were there, then returned to St. Augustine, When Menendez heard about survivors from the shipwrecks, he went and found them and killed them, too!

One of the mysteries, has been where the original French fort was exactly located? The recent issue of the Florida Anthropologist, Dec. 2013, Vol. 66, number 4, takes on that question. An article titled, “Searching for Fort Caroline: New Perspectives,” by Rebecca Douberly-Gorman.

FAS cover dec 2013

Looks like the Army Corp of Engineers wiped out the original site back in the 1960s when they dredged out a shipping channel for the St. Johns River, by getting rid of a bend in the river and making a straight channel. That is the theory. Unfortunately we don’t have much to go on, except one piece of French pottery from the period, but it seems pretty certain this is what happened.

If you want to learn more about Fort Caroline, there is an excellent program by the History Channel. You can order it from the website, or probably find it on Netflix? It is “Conquest of America; the Southeast.” It is about a 42 minute program, but is well produced as a drama/documentary with reenactors & actors portraying the periods and events. It is one of my favorite programs from the History Channel, when they still did really good history programs. It is one of those programs that is so riveting, I watch it all the way through.

conquest of america
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I just finished reading this book, “Biocultural Histories in La Florida, A Bioarchaeological Perspective,” by Christopher M. Stojanowski.

biocultural histories - Copy

It is highly technical & anthropological. But what I like, is to find something that challenges our beliefs about history, and goes into the archaeological evidence to prove it.

This book looks at the effects of the Spanish missions on the indigenous communities in Florida during the 16th and 17th century. Human remains that were excavated from sites in Florida examine the bone structure that tells us the healthiness and diet of the people, and the genetic variability. What was the population’s response to the Spanish contact, and what eventually happened to them?

The book says, “Results suggest considerable difference in diachronic response to the mission environment for each cultural province [in Spanish Florida.]”

“Apalachee demonstrate a marked increase in variability while the Guale demonstrate a decline in variability. Demographic models of population collapse are therefore inconsistent with predicted changes based on population genetics, and the determinants of population structure seem largely local in nature. This book highlights the specificity with which indigenous communities responded to European contact and the resulting transformations in their social worlds.”

The common held theory is that the Apalachee were destroyed by disease and plagues. After examining anthropological evidence, it paints a different picture.

The Spanish did not find gold or mineral riches in La Florida. But the riches were the people, the human resources. The labor of the natives was used to build St. Augustine, and sent elsewhere in the Spanish realm in the western hemisphere as workers and labors after other indigenous populations had disappeared.

Each of the tribes in Florida had a different response to Spanish contact, and not all the same fate. The Timucuan and Guale were the first to encounter the Spanish, and they suffered immediately from sickness and plague. The Apalachee were not settled with missions until decades later. By that time, they had built up a resistance to some of the plagues, and it did not have as big an effect upon them.

So the Timucuan and Guale, were wiped out within 100 years of settling St. Augustine. The Apalachee survived. The population was spread out by the Spanish as they needed the workers elsewhere to replace the local indigenous populations that died out and disappeared. Or the Apalachee were filled with refugee remnants of other tribes who joined them as those other tribes were wiped out by slavery or disease. Later, several native uprisings by the Apalachee towards the demanding Spanish would force the populations to scatter elsewhere.

Finally the English Carolina colony under Governor Moore came down and wiped out the Spanish mission chain in north Florida, either enslaving, killing, or driving off the people. Many of the Apalachee went west to Pensacola and then Mobile. No doubt many of them were eventually assimilated into what became the Creeks. Today there is a small remnant of Apalachee descendants in Louisiana, and they are Catholic.

So the bottom line is that different tribes were impacted differently by the European colonization. Not all suffered the same fate. And it would seem to indicate that more Calusa survived than what has been previously thought, but that has been an ongoing study by Dr. John Worth.

This enslavement of indigenous tribes continued for centuries later, as told by Siggy Second-Jumper in his book, “Second-Jumper: Searching for His Bloodline.” I did a book review of his book here, a couple years ago. His Apache great-grandparents were secretly taken from St. Augustine in 1886 and forced to work in slavery on plantations in Cuba. What they found there, was remnants of other native tribes, forced to live together. A mix of different people and cultures. This was slavery almost a century after it had been outlawed, but still following the model of what happened to the indigenous tribes in Florida 200-300 years earlier. In this case, though, his family made it back to Florida in the 1950s; and incredibly, traced down their Apache cousins out west. I apparently loaned out my copy of the book, because I can’t find it in my library!
Current Location:
The Kimball Library of Seminole War History
Current Mood:
accomplished accomplished
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