(Image above: Fort Fraser from the book, “Florida’s Peace River Frontier” by Canter Brown, Jr. We don’t have many images of Florida forts during the Seminole Wars, and this is your classic style fort. What is unusual is that the horse stable is inside the fort, which would lead to unhealthy living conditions.)
However you spell it, Fort Fraser, Frazer, or even Frazier, is spelled different ways on the Post returns from 1837 and 1838. It depends on which officer was writing it out. The fort was named for Lieutenant Upton Fraser, who was killed with Major Dade’s command. The fort was established in late 1837 during General Jesup’s three-column movement down the peninsula.
Image above: Historical marker, which unfortunately doesn't give enough information because it is outdated. Beside the bike trail.
The Post Returns only cover the months from December 1837 to April 1838. There are no returns for the Florida Militia activity during the Third Seminole War. Fort history is covered in the book, “Florida’s Peace River Frontier,” by Canter Brown, Jr., which is the best history on the area.
As Col. Taylor’s column moved south before the battle of Okeechobee, Lt.Col. William S. Foster ordered construction of a bridge and causeway ahead of the fort in mid-November 1837. The fort was constructed at the former site of Seminole Chief Oponey’s plantation by Lake Hancock. Col. Taylor came through and deposited supplies, and moved on down towards the Kissimmee.
The Post Returns for December 1837 tell us that, Bvt. Major Henry Wilson of the 4th Infantry assumed command of the post on December 20, 1837. Earlier that month at Fort Brooke, Lt.Col. Foster had said that Wilson was one of the few officers who wasn’t sick. Also present were 2d Lt. James McLure, 1st Infantry, fulfilling duties of quartermaster and assistant commander. 2d Lt. R. A. Suthers, 2d Artillery, Commanding the Company. And L. Carswell-Ely, from the Missouri Volunteers, as post Surgeon. Capt. H.L. Thistle’s 2 companies of Philadelphia Volunteers numbered 139 rank & file were listed as attached to the post but not present. Total number present for duty at the post, officers and men, was only 27.
Of the Pennsylvania Volunteers under Captain Hezekiah Thistle, they spent their time constructing bridges and causeways, and constructed the first bridge over the Peace River. For many years thereafter called Thistle Bridge.
Dr. Joe also just reminded me that Capt. Thistle invented and patented a saddle. So I found a picture of it in the Army and Navy Chronicle. It is a stretcher that fits on a horse, for removing sick and injured men off the battlefield. Very ingenious! Not that different from what you have today, used by rescue services and the Coast Guard. (Except with a helicopter instead of a horse.)
Above: Thistle’s stretcher saddle from the Army & Navy Chronicle.
The following month, on January 15, 1838, 2d Lt. James McClure assumed command of the post, still doing his duties as QM. 2d Lt. R. A. Luther of the 2d Artillery became the Company Commander. L. Carswell-Ely from the Mo. Volunteers still remained as the surgeon. The 35 men on the post were composed of the 4th and 6th Infantry, with 3 from the Pennsylvania Volunteers, and almost all the men present are counted as sick, including all the officers.
The February 1838 Post returns are especially interesting as the Commanding Officers page lists all 32 men on the post by name. It lists their regiment, and their status if they are sick or on duty elsewhere.
On March 26, 1838, 2d Lt. Luther assumes command of the post. J.A. Hannah becomes the acting surgeon with the departure of the Carswell-Ely on the 21st. 2d Lt. McClure is sick at the hospital at Ft. Brooke. He will not recover and be dead at Ft. Brooke on April 5, 1838. One death is listed on the returns, although Sprague lists two, and they are down to 23 men total at the post.
In April, Capt. John Munroe of the 4th Artillery assumed command on April 18th. 2d Lt. Luther became company commander, and 2d Lt. Bates was the QM and subsistence agent. Soldiers of Co. G, 4th Artillery arrived and increased the garrison number to 62. This is the last month on microfilm, then the post was abandoned in May.
In Sprague’s history, I found listed three deaths at Fort Fraser/Frazer. Since they did not die from gallant action or circumstances, it is very possible that they were buried on the spot and still remain. Only the enlisted men who died under heroic actions were reinterred under the pyramids in St. Augustine. And I found another death during the Third Seminole War at Fort Frasier from Durrance’s company of the Florida Militia.
Fort Fraser possible burials:
2d Regt Artillery:
Pvt. Stephen Scennet, Co. I, Oct. 16, 1837. Drowned. Since this was before the fort was established, it may have happened during construction of the road and bridge before the fort.
Pvt. Nathaniel Hicks, Co. I, March 14, 1838. Run over by a wagon.
4th Regt Artillery: Pvt William Ponton, Co. K, March 5, 1838. Fever.
Florida Militia, Durrance’s Company of Independent Fla. Mounted Volunteers (Third Seminole War): Thomas W. Hill, age 23, died Apr. 30, 1857.
At the end of Col. Taylor’s campaign, 325 Indians and 30 Blacks were at Fort Fraser before moving on to Fort Brooke for removal to the west. When Fort Fraser was closed in May 1838, Taylor declared it the perfect graveyard, where not ten men in a hundred would survive a summer there.
Fort Fraser was almost reactivated during the Panic of 1849, but it was found that the road could not be used between the old fort site and the Kissimmee River. So, the action stayed further south to Fort Meade.
In the 1840’s, people were taking advantage of the land made available by the Armed Occupation Act. In 1854, a community developed around Fort Fraser, just as it did around Fort Meade, and a road was constructed between the two communities. When the Third Seminole War broke out in December 1855, a stockade was rebuilt at Fraser.
The worst battle of the Third Seminole War was in June 1856 near Fort Meade, when Seminoles attacked the homestead of Willoughby Tillis. (I’ve written about this before.) It was initially fought by seven militia soldiers from Fort Meade. The next day, more militia soldiers arrived from Fort Fraser under the command of Francis Marion Durrance, who was also the brother of Mrs. Tillis. Fighting continued along the Peace River for two more days. This was the bloodiest and longest battle of the Third Seminole War, with several killed on both sides.
Image: Monument in Fort Meade to the Battle of Tillis Farm and burials.
Fort Fraser played a short but important role in both the Second and Third Seminole Wars. The Durrance family are important settlers in the area, and buried all over the county. Later on, famous Florida cattle baron Jacob Summerlin owned Fort Fraser, who was known to only pay his bills in Spanish gold coins. So it is an important, yet forgotten place in Florida history. (Don't go there digging holes, looking for Summerlin's gold stash!)
Fort Fraser is part of the Seminole Wars Heritage Trail along with the monument in Fort Meade where the soldiers are buried from the Battle of Tillis Farm. Get your copy of the booklet here: http://dos.myflorida.com/media/695430/s
Although many forts were established in Florida during the antebellum period covering the Seminole Wars, only a few of these places are marked. Nearly all of these places are now developed. You can see which ones to visit in the Seminole Wars Heritage Trail booklet.
Image above: Modern bike trail bridge using an abandoned railroad grade, part of the Seminole War Heritage Trail.
We are rapidly losing are historical sites as Florida is being developed quickly. I have seen us lose many of them over the past 50 years. When we lose them, we lose our heritage. We do not get them back. Even places that we thought were safe two years ago are apparently not safe. Even these sites on the Heritage Trail are not safe forever. The actual site where the fort stood, the owner is selling the property. We are losing our historical, cultural, and archaeological sites.
Captain Pitcairn Morrison was assigned as Emigration Agent for removing the Seminoles from Florida. He arrived in St. Augustine in November 1837, two weeks before 20 Seminoles escaped from Fort Marion, which was the old Spanish fortress. At Fort Marion, many of the Seminoles were ill, including Osceola, and Capt. Morrison himself was very ill from late 1837 to the middle of 1838. The old fort in St. Augustine had been condemned and declared uninhabitable by Army Engineers right before the war. The Seminoles were moved to Fort Moultrie, South Carolina where it was believed that the healthier climate would be beneficial for their health.
Above: A picture of Pitcairn Morrison showed up a few years ago when he presentation watch showed up on an auction.
Morrison’s career was not very good when it came to handling Indians. In 1861 in Arizona territory, Colonel Morrison sent a young officer, Lt. George Bascom, to negotiate with Apache Chief Cochise, which became known as the infamous Bascom affair. Because Bascom totally mishandled things, it led to 25 years of warfare with the Apache.
In late 1837, Morrison hired Dr. Frederick Weedon as attending physician to the Seminoles (and for himself.) Weedon was former mayor of St. Augustine, at one time a militia officer; but most famous, or infamous, as the one who removed Osceola’s head at death.
Above: Dr. Frederick Weedon from Floridamemory.com
I found on the microfilm of letters of the office of Indian Affairs, Capt. Morrison’s contract to hire Dr. Weedon. The contract states of Dr. Weedon, “…that no competent physician can be obtained at a lower rate.” Of course in Government speak, the lowest bidder often means the lowest quality! Here is a transcription of Morrision’s letter:
Letter from Capt. P. Morrison to C.A. Harris, Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.:
3 February 1838
C.A. Harris, Esq
Comm of Indian Affairs
I have the honor to transmit a copy of a contract enclosed into with Doctor Weedon to attend to the Indians at this Post. It was the best contract I could make as no experienced physician could be had for a less sum.
This contract would have been forwarded before, but I have been extremely sick for the last few weeks and am now just able to get out of bed.—
With much respect
Your obt serv
Capt., 4th Infy, Supt Disbs
Agent Seminole Emigration
According to Dr. Weedon’s surviving notes in the Alabama archive, when Osceola died, Capt. Morrison insisted that Osceola’s items be removed and sent to Washington. The Army and Navy Chronicle says that these items were given to Major J.H. Hook as personal gifts from Morrison, who had a large collection of Native American artifacts, which he apparently had collected during his tenure as Commissary of Subsistence Agent, to provide for feeding the Indians during removal. (Seems like Hook is the one who benefitted from the contract!) What Morrison did by plundering these items from Osceola’s body and giving them to Hook was clearly unethical, and these days would have gotten him court martialed and drummed out of the Army.
When Major Hook died a couple years later, his estate sold his collection, and the Osceola artifacts were purchased by Captain John Casey. Casey was an Army officer much friendlier to the Seminoles. He was formerly in the Second Seminole War at Camp Izard, and later became Indian Agent in Florida after the war in 1849. He fluently spoke the language of the Seminoles. (I don’t know if that was the Mikasuki, Creek, or both.) He was also a good friend of Billy Bowlegs. Casey was afflicted with Tuberculosis and died in 1856 in Florida at age 47. The Osceola artifacts that he had disappeared. I hope he returned them to Billy Bowlegs or the Seminoles?
Dr. Weedon, infamously known for taking Osceola’s head, was said to have treated the Seminoles kindly. But his attitude of kindness only went so far as his racial attitudes, from evidence by Dr. Andrew Welch, who transcribed from newspapers accounts of what Dr. Weedon did with the head. It is said that the head was loaned to a medical museum in New York, where people were more sympathetic to Osceola. A mob threatened to burn down the museum, so the head was returned to St. Augustine, where it was displayed in a jar of spirits in a drug store owned by Dr. Weedon. (Page 201-202 of the facsimile edition of “A narrative of the early days and remembrances of Oceola Nikkanochee, prince of Econchatti”)
Now Dr. Weedon can be remember as not only as a co-conspirator in the plundering of Osceola’s body and personal items, but as being the cheapest doctor money could buy for the Army.
I need to say a few words about the mounds constructed by the ancient people here in the southeast and in Florida. Some people call them Indian Mounds, but I think that is a term that is too limiting, because there are earthworks of numerous shapes and sizes. Various functions and make-ups. The characteristics are almost as different as individual people are from one another.
[Above: The Bynum Mounds on the Natchez Trace, on a recent visit to there. I enjoy just walking by and had no need to climb on top or disturb anything. They had some really good interpretive signs.]
Florida now has 200,000 sites listed on the historical and archaeological site files for the state of Florida. Anything from historical buildings, cemeteries, and thousands of these archaeological sites and mounds. There are thousands of mounds and earthworks in southeastern United States, up the Mississippi River Valley, into Minnesota and out to Oklahoma and Texas. The scope is vast, and people lose sight of the fact that they do hold significance to Native American Indians living today. Almost everywhere in Florida you walk, someone else walked centuries before.
I have watched several of you on YouTube climb over the ancient earthworks on your videos. I don’t mind people visiting these places. Few of these videos are interesting. They think they are being educational, but most videos really have no educational value other than alerting people to the fact that these places are there.
This blog has been written for those of you making these YouTube videos. Please start showing more respect and dignity around these Mounds. I understand that a lot of what you are doing on the videos are out of ignorance, but many times it can be annoying and offensive to those of us who follow the culture of the southeastern Native American tribes. You may not be aware that some of the things you are doing could also be interpreted as being offensive or illegal. I will explain all of this.
To Native American people, those who built these mounds long ago, are not considered dead people. They are still very much alive. Their stories and songs still survive today.
Ceremonial songs of the Calusa and the Timuquan still survive with the Seminole and Muskogee people in Florida. Oral history and stories of some of the mounds survive and I have heard them. So, the people did not die out and disappear. As one of the Seminole/Miccosukee elders told me, “If we are still talking about them, they are not really gone now, are they?”
Next, in southeastern cosmology, everything has a form, substance, function, purpose, and place. It has a reason for being here and is part of Mother Earth. They serve various functions. They are sometimes benchmarks between the sacred and the profane. I know this is a difficult concept to explain to people of European background who only have a concept of the earth and land that is to be exploited. Not realizing that you are killing yourselves in the process of using and abusing the land.
I just saw a review in the latest issue of the Chronicles of Oklahoma (Vol. XCIV, #4) of a book review of “Ancestral Mounds: Vitality and Volatility of North America” by Jay Miller. It sounds so intriguing that I have ordered a copy of the book. Miller is Muscogee Creek and ties in the significance of the Mounds with the southeastern ceremonial beliefs. The review clearly presents the Native American perspective of these ancient Mounds and Earthworks:
“Miller describes a Native cosmos that pulses with vibrant energy, which can erupt in ways that are unpredictable and violent. His notion that earthen mounds serve as a safe point and a place of refuge on the thin skin of the land, in a sense weighing it down, is intriguing. He makes fascinating links between cosmic energy, breath, and the rhythm of dancing and drumming. His observations concerning the continued importance of mounds of modern and past Busk ceremonies and how they tie into ancient rituals make for very interesting reading. Perhaps more importantly, Miller makes the case that earthen mounds, which may seem like long-abandoned relics in the eye of the casual observer, still have great religious significance to contemporary Native groups.”(From the review pg. 492)
Even though these places are long since abandoned and no longer in use, to Native American people, they are still powerful places, and very much alive. On dark nights, one might hear dancing where there are no physical dancers. Ethereal beings will remain for centuries after the physical people have gone. To the astute observer, they will know.
We know from archaeological evidence, that even after these places became abandoned, that people still stopped by here and visited for centuries later.
That is why these mounds are to be respected and to be treated with reverence. Do not abuse these places. Leave them as you found them. Remember the signs at all the National Parks? “Leave only footprints; take only pictures.” Do not pull off chunks of shells in your video to show people. This is unnecessary. If you see any artifacts laying on the ground, just leave them there. Do not pick them up.
Which brings us to the next point about the mounds. The Florida Statutes of disturbing archaeological resources on state lands.
In your YouTube videos, you may have unknowingly violated state statutes. And you have filmed it all on video. It could be interpreted as such, when I see you break off chunks of the mound to show everyone. I am not saying that anything is going to happen to you, but someone could interpret it as damaging an archaeological resource.
If you pick up pieces of pottery and show it on camera, you can be charged with collecting without a permit. Even if you throw it back. I am not saying that this is going to happen, but you are opening yourself up to a whole lot of trouble if that is how I am reading the administrative code. The law is broad and vague, which can easily get you into trouble. But, don’t believe me; you can read it yourself with the links below.
Florida Division of Historical Resources FAQs on Archaeology:
Florida Statutes on Historic and Archaeological Resources:
Florida Indigenous Leaders Fight Bill Promoting Citizen Archaeology
Enjoy visiting these places, but do so with the greatest of dignity and respect as you would the home of a friend.
This past month, I travelled to Nashville, Tennessee to participate in a one-time living history event at the Hermitage. This event was with the US 7th Infantry, the same group that put on the 200th anniversary event for the Battle of New Orleans two years ago. This was said to have been the biggest War of 1812 event in Tennessee since the War of 1812. We had over 200 participants or historical interpreters. My friend who portrays the General was so glad that I had come to portray Pushmataha once again! A wonderful evening ball was spectacular as well!
[Final closing ceremony.]
[Our camp cooking area.]
These are quality historical interpreters, and in my opinion, the best that you will see at any event. They come from all over the US and represent different impressions; US soldier, militia, civilian, Native American Indians, wives and children, politicians musicians and an assortment of other sundry individuals. All are well informed of the history and the people that they represent. Impressions are kept to first-person, even when the public is gone for the day.
[Friday night ball.]
[St. Patrick's Day!]
If anyone went, you would find the interpreters like myself more than willing to talk for hours on the history of the War of 1812 or the Creek War. Or daily political debates in the tavern between Andrew Jackson and someone of a different political persuasion. And not even ending in bloodshed, but in civil discord.
[The General talking with the various historical interpreters. You can see the different people represented, and how well job they did.]
On the final day, the drill competition was amazing, and even the militia did an outstanding performance. No one can say that the militia / volunteers do not drill!
This was a juried event. No walk-on’s were allowed, and you had to be registered though the unit. If only there were such events in Florida with this many quality interpreters. There are only a few that come close to this, and one is the Collier County Museum Old Florida Festival. (Which covers more than one time period.)
I have been doing living history since 1986, but have been researching the history longer than that. To be brutally honest, I am at the point where I only do quality living history events. My time and budget is limited, and too valuable to waste on bad events.
That is why I went to a juried event two states away. It was a pretty flawless event. There was no woman showing up at the battle reenactment dressed up like YMCA Indian guides. Or fashion models standing in as soldiers, who look like the Keystone cops. Seriously, I saw those at Florida events the past six months. Not at the Hermitage.
(Jackson and his troops, from the Florida Memory website.)
I want to make an observation that I have found while researching. I have been reading these original letters on microfilm, and then I have been finding the printed copies of the same letters in the congressional reports. The difference is that in the congressional reports, they do not include the complete copy of the original letters. And I think that sometimes, there is a crucial difference because of the omissions. For example: In the previous letter from February 1817 by Archibald Clark about the death of Mrs. Garrett, he ends with a request for more troops, and mentions how the settlers have been adventuring into the Indian Country and driving away the Indian cattle, and that was not mentioned in the Congressional report. That certainly puts the biased into the report and makes it look like the Indian is the aggressor without provocation. In reality, the Indians were raiding the settlement because of the raids and aggression by the Georgians, which was completely omitted from the copy of Clark’s letter in the Congressional report. Letters were printed in the congressional report from Alexander Arbuthnot mentioning the Georgians raiding the Indians, but Arbuthnot was looked upon as a British instigator with no sympathy. In another example I found, General Gaines in the second half of a letter, describes all the land in Florida that is suitable for settling and farming, and that is missing when his letter is published in the congressional report. It was obvious that General Gaines was looking towards land speculation in Florida as soon as it would be taken from Spain.
Now, onto our letters!
In this letter written by General Gaines a year before Jackson arrives in Florida, Gaines seeks permission to go down to Florida to destroy the Seminole’s towns. His justification is the death of Mrs. Garrett the previous February.
There is also mention of Alexander Arbuthnot, who is an advocate speaking on behalf of the Seminoles, who Gaines speaks with disdain. The 70-year old British trader will later be hanged by Jackson. Arbuthnot wanted the United States to honor its obligation to the Native American Indian Tribes as outlined in the Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812. Jackson and Gaines considered that superseded by the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814.
In fact, it can be argued that the following letter got the ball rolling, and causeed the First Seminole War, where Gaines writes that he wants to “Destroy their habitations,” and, that he will “write to Major General Jackson upon this subject.” Jackson was overall military commander, and Gaines was subordinate to him. So this is the exactly the action that Jackson took with the blessing of the Secretary of War one year later. It was no secret what was going on. Later, the Sec. of War would tell Gaines to do what he needed, which includes crossing over into Spanish territory.
Here is a transcription of this provocative letter: From the Adjutant General letters received, G64 1817.
From General Gaines at Headquarters, Camp Montgomery, Mississippi Territory (near the site of the former Fort Mims in Alabama), to Isaac Shelby, Secretary of War in Washington City. (Sec. Crawford had resigned, and Calhoun had not yet replaced him.)
April 3rd, 1817
I received by the last mail a letter from Archibald Clark Esquire, Intendant of the town of St. Mary’s, by which it appears that another outrage of uncommon cruelty, has recently been perpetuated by a party of Indians upon the southern frontier, near the boundary of Wayne county-- They have massacred a woman / Mrs. Garrett and two of her children—the mother and eldest child were scalped—the house plundered and burnt. / The high respectability of the Intendant leaves no ground to hope that the report of this afflictive catastrophe may remain at all questionable.
The frequent failures of the mail has prevented my receiving this as well as several other accounts, corroborative of the settled hostility of the Seminole Indians until a delay of several weeks had intervened and although you have probably received these accounts from other sources, I have nevertheless deemed it proper to enclose them herewith, No. 1, 2 and 3. [we previously printed on this blog.]
I have ordered a company of Artillery to Fort Scott, and have desired Major McIntosh of the Creek Nation to keep an eye upon the Seminole Indians. The letter No. 4 Signed by “A. Arbuthnott” appears to have been written by one of those self-styled philanthropists, who have for a long time past contrived to foment a spirit of discord among the Indians of our country, and destroy them with pretended kindness.
Should you be pleased to order me to visit the Seminoles, to wrest from them the murderers of our own offending women and babes; I beg you will authorize my passage by water to the mouth of Appalachicola or to Oklokne Sound, where I can disembark, and in course of a few days afterwards see their warriors, or destroy their habitations. A battalion or two of mounted men from Georgia or Tennessee can be ordered to meet me in Seminole towns.
I shall this day write to Major General Jackson upon this subject, but as we have only a monthly mail from this place to Tennessee, it is not likely that he will get my letter as soon as this may reach you.
My Qr Mr Department is without funds and nearly without forage—nor is there in this country any means of obtaining transportation for a Regiment; the scarcity of corn having put it out of the power of the inhabitants to keep their teams fit for service.
I have the honor to be
Your Obt Servt
Edmund P. Gaines
M. Genl Commd
Secretary of War
A response from General Jackson’s adjutant can be found as an enclosure in the adjutant letters the next year, 1818, G74 Enclosure 2.
Headquarters, Division of the South
Nashville, 22 April 1818.
From J.M. Glassell, A.D. Camp, to General E.P. Gaines.
Your communications of the 2d & 6th Inst. By Lieut Crupper, with their several enclosures, was handed to Major Genl Jackson on yesterday evening.
On the subject of the outrages committed by the Seminoles on the Georgia frontier, I had the honor to be the medium of the Generals views to you on the 2d ult. which you will have received in this. He is now more fully convinced of the necessity and directs that you immediately demand the delivery of the murderers holding yourself in readiness and in the event of their non-compliance to take such vengeance as will completely sate the thirst which that nation has for the blood of our citizens.—the mode and route is left to your discretion, and the means being at your disposal, it is expected that the perpetrators of those recent outrages will be promptly brought to condign punishment, and safety ensure to our frontier.
The instructions given to Lieut. Gray for his government in passing Pensacola are approved by the Major General, as also the precautions you have taken with regard to the defense of Fort Gaines.
I have the honor to be
Your Most Obt Svt
(Signed) J.M. Glassell
Major Genl. E.P. Gaines
& Lt. Taylor, A.D. Camp
Next time on the Adjutant letters: Gaines tries to transport supplies up the Escambia River, but the Spanish impose tariffs and import fees. Gaines protests! How dare the Spanish impose their national
General Gaines asks the Spanish Governor to establish an American base in Pensacola Bay.
March 18, 1817 in a letter from General Gaines to the Spanish Governor in Pensacola. General Gaines is having problems getting forage & provisions to the US Fort Crawford on the Conecuh River (Alabama), and asks the Spanish Governor for passage to transport the supplies through Spanish territory through Pensacola and the Escambia River, hoping this will not present a problem. (It later will.)
In a letter dated March 20, 1817, Gaines writes to Sec. of War Crawford:
“The prospect of Pensacola being shortly assailed by the revolutionary forces, appears to have subsided.”
“The Creek Indians, and the people of this part of the territory, it seems, were invited, and many of them were expected to cooperate with the revolutionary troops.”
“But, much to the credit of our red and white people of the woods, though strongly disposed to see Pensacola change masters, they had suffered too much by the war which had been sanctioned by their country and government to volunteer in that which might be even more disastrous, and in which their country had not seen fit to authorize their participation.”
“I have ordered the supplies for Fort Crawford to be sent, in future, by water, by the way of Pensacola. With the first cargo I have sent an officer, who is instructed to obtain, on reasonable terms, upon the Pensacola Bay, near the mouth of Escambia, a place of temporary deposit, where the supplies may be discharged from coasting vessels, and put on board the barges, or batteaux for ascending the rivers, Escambia and Conecuh.”
“I enclose a copy of my letter to the Governor. He is at this time, I understand disposed to be unusually civil towards us—and I will have little doubt but he will yield to the measure, as it cannot but be viewed by him as sanctioned by sound policy.”
General Gaines is simply asking the Governor in Pensacola for the Americans to operate freely, as an army of another country, in Spanish territory. To not be charged any taxes to transport goods for their army across Spanish territory. And to have a place to unload supplies off coasting vessels onto barges or canoes, to travel up river. Essentially to permit them to do what they did not allow the British to do at Pensacola back in 1814.
The Spanish may have been grateful for removing the threat of the Negro fort a few months earlier, but international trade and foreign treaties negotiate over the things that Gaines is asking for, and the Governor will ask for payment. Jackson and Gaines will be furious over that response, as we will see later.
I will end here, because the next letter from Gaines is his reaction of the death of Mrs. Garrett, and he makes a very profound statement that I need to save for a separate entry in the blog. You really need to see that!
Continuing the adjutant letters that lead up to the First Seminole War.
After the destruction of Negro Fort, the border remains in a constant state of alert between the Mississippi Territory to the Atlantic coast.
The following attack on the homestead on the St. Mary’s River in Southeast Georgia was a revenge killing. Seminole warriors claimed that militia soldiers had killed one of their young men tending to their cattle herd, and stolen their cattle. The warriors tracked the guilty party back to Georgia and found his homestead, and determined who it was by a stolen cooking pot found in the homestead. Three of their people had been killed, so they killed three white people, which was their custom of revenge. The white people did not see it the same way, but as an unprovoked attack upon one of their homesteads. This would be one of the sparks of the powder keg that would eventually ignite into war with the Seminoles by the end of the year.
St. Marys, 26 February 1817
From Archibald Clark, Intendent of St. Marys, writing to Major General Edmund Gaines.
In consequence of a recent and most atrocious act perpetrated by a party of Indians (supposed to be of the Lower Creeks in this country in the murder of an unfortunate white woman and her two infant children—by which the defenseless inhabitants on our Frontier have been thrown into a distressing state of alarm.—I avail myself of the earliest opportunity in giving information that may be relied on—under the fullest assurances that immediate measures will be adopted, to guard & prevent repetition of such cruel and barbarous acts.
On the 24th Instant the house of a Mr. Garret residing in the upper part of this Country near the boundary of Wayne Co., was attacked during his absence, near the middle of the Day by this party consisting of about fifteen, who shot Mrs. Garret in two places, and then dispatched her by stabbing and scalping.—Her two children one about three years, the other ten months were also murdered, and the eldest scalped; the house was then plundered of every article of value, and set on fire.—A young man in the neighborhood at work hearing the report of guns went immediately towards the house where he discovered the murdered family.—The flames having only commenced, they were soon extinguished-- and he spread the alarm.—
The workmen from my mills and a few others assembled to pursue—but having but few arms—and not otherwise equipped, their pursuit proved fruitless.-- The Indians were tracked as far as the men dare venture.-- Their course was parallel with the western branch of Spanish Creek—which induces the belief of their being Indians of the Lower Tribes.
On this open, extensive, and entirely unprotected frontier, -- the poor and innocent inhabitants have ever been exposed to these calamities.-- Representations after representation to the several Governors of this State—of the cruel and unprovoked murders in this quarter by the Indians have been made.-- A momentary disposition was manifested to afford relief—but a little time however would lapse before the alarm would subside and the subject never more thought of, until again revived by an occurrence, such as I have just related.—
To you Sir, therefore the inhabitants on the frontier as well as others thro’ me appeal—for some protection—a small detachment—upon the head of the St. Marys would answer a most valuable purpose—by at once checking the invades of the savage and preventing our abandoned and unprotected Citizens from adventuring into the Indian Country and driving in herds of Cattle.—
[It seems that at the end of the letter; above, that Mr. Clark finally mentions what might be the cause of the problem of the attacks. That the settlers keep raiding the Seminoles and taking their cattle!]
A few weeks later, a letter responding with action is written from Fort Gaines in Southwest Georgia, from Lt. Richard Sands, 4th Infantry, to Col. William King, on 15 March, 1817.
Intelligence has come to Lt. Sands from the Creek Perryman brothers, William and George, that Chief [Peter] McQueen is head of the hostiles who recently killed Mrs. Garrett and her two children. Also, that talks are going through the lower towns that the hostiles plan to meet the English on the Ochlockonee River in three months. An Indian runner has been sent down there to ascertain what preparations the hostiles are making.
This intelligence is all hearsay, but Lt. Sands takes the information as serious and believable.
Although the frontier killing is apparently common for the times, we will read more about it in the future in responding letters.
Photo: A staged scalping in the 19th century. (I think those are California Indians, but you get the idea.)
This was a little nugget I found in the Military Affairs papers. A handwritten letter from 1840, by the Secretary of War, Joel Poinsett, to the President of the Senate and Vice President, Richard Johnson. (The same Richard Johnson who started the Kentucky Choctaw Indian Academy and is credited, although never verified and doubtful, with killing Tecumseh.)
This is an excellent letter because it mentions several attacks that few others pay attention too. It also acknowledges that the newspapers of the day are wildly inaccurate. But, where the newspapers mention names, we can trace the events, so they do have some value.
I will insert comments where needed. I had to check with other sources to get some names right, and spellings vary. For example: Poinsett writes Sgt. Harret, and Sprague writes Harriet. Other names and sources had to be checked to verify some of the names when I couldn’t read the handwriting of the letter, and John L. Williams and M.M. Cohen were very useful for this.
Above: From Florida Memory: "The above is intended to present the horrid Massacre of the Whites in Florida, in December 1835, and January, February, March and April 1836, when near Four Hundred (including women and children) fell victims to the barbarity of the Negroes and Indians."
This is from, The New American State Papers, Military Affairs, Vol. 9, Combat Operations; Page 305-308. “Letter Recounting Massacres in Florida”; from Sec. of War Joel R. Poinsett to Pres of the Senate Richard M. Johnson, Washington City.
Hon. R[ichard] M. Johnson
President of the Senate
January 28, 1840
In compliance with the directions of the President, the following report is respectfully submitted in answer to the resolution of the Senate of the 30th ultimo, requesting “the President of the United States to cause to be communicated to the Senate all the information which the War Office contains, or can conveniently procure, of the massacre of individuals, of families, of small parties, and of shipwrecked crews or passengers, which have taken place in Florida during the present hostilities, and including those which took place before the war became open on the part of the Indians; noting, as far as it conveniently can be done, how far families have been broken up, and driven from their homes, their houses burnt, and their fields and property destroyed.”
There were but two sources within the reach of this Department to which it could resort for the information called for by this resolution; first the reports of the Commanding Generals in Florida and other communications received at the Department, and Second the Newspapers published in that territory. Neither of which can be relied upon as being very accurate. There were probably cases which did not become known to the Commanding Generals and the Officers making reports to the Department, or which, coming to their knowledge during the intervals of making reports, were forgotten when the next report was made.
Respecting particularly the breaking up of families, the burning of houses, and the destruction of property, the files of the Department furnish but little certain information, those things being referred to, only in very general terms, in the reports of the Officers.
The accounts contained in the Newspapers are in many cases known to have been greatly exaggerated, and in others entirely unfounded.
On examination of the files of the Department shows that,
In 1835 Eleven persons are reported to have been murdered chiefly in the settlements on the St. Johns River--
In 1836—Five persons are reported to have been murdered near Cape Florida [the Cooley family, Jan. 6, 1836.]
In 1837—No murders appear to have been reported.
In 1838—Fourteen are reported, and one family (number not stated).
In 1839—Forty persons are reported to have been murdered, and one family (number not stated)—of this number, one was a commissioned officer and fifteen non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the regular Army and four of the Florida Militia. [Since everyone is lumped together in general terms, it is impossible to determine who he is referring to unless names are given.] Thirteen of the regular soldiers were killed in surprise of a party under command of Lieutenant Colonel Harney on the Colosohatchee River the 23d of July 1839.
In 1835—The Plantations and houses of Denham, Dummett, Hunter, Depeyster, Williams, Harret, Andrews and Brush destroyed in the latter part of December.
In 1836—Plantations of Bulow, Hernandez and Williams destroyed.
In 1837 and 1838 and 1839 None reported.
In 1838 The crew of a fishing smack massacred, and the smack burnt. Brig Alva’s crew massacred—the Brig was broken and burnt by the orders of the Commander of the United States Schooner Wave.
The Captain of the Revenue Cutter Campbell reports that, after defeating a party of Indians, he took a number of pouches attached to which were eleven scalps, supposed to have been taken from persons cast away on the coast.
A French brig reported to have gone to pieces near the Ratones, crew aided and saved by the Indians.—
Two fishing smacks went ashore—crews of both massacred with the exception of one man, who saved himself by joining the crew of the French vessel, Schooner Caroline sunk—crew all lost. [Apparently the Indians have no argument against the French, only against the Americans!]
On examination of the Newspapers as far as they are within reach of the department, shows that,
In 1835 the following murders were committed—Dalton a private (mail carrier) [Killed near Ft. Brooke in August 1835.]
Mr. Brown and four children
Dade’s Brigade—117 men— [We all know the story here, but were there ten more men than what we always counted, or is this number incorrect?]
Wilie Thompson, Lieut. C. Smith, Erastus Rogers & two others [Osceola killing Thompson near Ft. King and attacking the sutler store, Dec. 28, 1835.]
An old man named Castillo
A family (number not mentioned) near Cape Florida. [Cooley family killed, Jan. 6, 1836.]
A Boy about 15 years of age.
Four men killed and two wounded.
Mr. Dupont’s overseer killed
One negro and one boy killed—Mr. Gorman wounded.
Carter shot and scalped
Light house on Cape Florid burnt—two killed— [July 1836]
Two wounded—three dwellings burnt.
Five men murdered—
Mr. and Mrs. Jones murdered
Edward Gold, Jo Walker, Mr. Falk & one other killed
The Collector at Charlotte Harbor killed—two men wounded—[at Boca Grande, in April 1836.]
In 1836—One Negro.
Fifty families reported to have been killed by the Creeks— [in North Florida.]
Mr. and Mrs. Uptegrove killed
Mr. Johns, Mr. Wallace and daughter and one man killed
In 1837 One family reported to have been killed
Mrs. Clements and five children, Captain Gilleland, Captain Whalton and seven men, Mr. Wilkinson killed. [Capt. Whalton and his ship crew landed on Key Largo, and were ambushed in June 1837.]
Father, mother and 8 children murdered.
Several men no number mentioned reported to have been murdered.
In June of this year, 12 women and children (Indians) were murdered by a party of whites. [Maybe referring to an incident in May 1837 on Alaqua Creek/Walton County, where militia soldiers captured and slaughtered captive Creeks.]
In 1838 Eleven men killed
One family killed
Mr. Sasley and daughter killed.
Five families murdered at Black Creek.
Mr. Singletenary, wife and two children murdered
Eight persons murdered in Ware, County, Georgia, by the Seminoles
Mr. Wilde and family, Mr. John Davies & family murdered near Okefenokee Swamp.
Mr. Baker, wife, and two children were murdered near Monticello.
A wagoner killed in Ware County, Georgia
One man, Mr. Tippin, wife and two children, and two of Mr. Green’s family murdered near Okefenokee Swamp.
Two men killed near Fort Floyd. [Georgia/Okefenokee.]
In 1839 Eighteen men killed and two wounded
Colonel Harney’s detachment (15 men) [Once again, July 1839.]
Three men, one woman and two children killed—two wounded and others reported, but no number mentioned.
The Florida Herald of November the 14th says that 70 murders are recorded since peace was declared.
Sergeant Harriet and one man killed—five wounded— [Ambush of 6th Infantry Soldiers from Ft. Andrews working on a bridge, probably on Fenholloway River.]
Two volunteers murdered
Thirteen men murdered.
Twenty one killed—four wounded.
Fifteen murders reported to have been committed near Tallahassee—
Seven men killed—six wounded—four mules killed
Six men killed—two wounded.
It appears by the same papers that during the years 1835, 1836, 1837, 1838 and 1839 there were destroyed by fire.
Twenty three dwellings
One light house, and several plantations are reported to have been destroyed or deserted.
J.R.P. (Joel R. Poinsett)
Okay, that is the end of the letter. That was only the first four years of the war. There were still three more years to go. 1840 and 1841 would prove to be among the bloodiest of the war, and the highest casualty rate. There will be the attack and destruction of the Dade County seat on Indian Key in August 1840, through December 1841 with the attack on the town of Mandarin on the St. Johns River. There will be devastating attacks near Micanopy with the Battle of Bridgewater, Martin’s Point with the killing of Mrs. Montgomery, and the killing of Methodist Minister McRea. Soldiers ambushed near Fort King. Numerous mail riders attacked. The McLane family massacre in Gadsden County. When Poinsett gave his report in January 1840, the troubles were far from over!
Continuing what the Adjutant letters say about the First Seminole War, I noted previously in January 1817, how General Jackson instructed General Gaines to establish a headquarters to observe the Spanish in case the Spanish cause trouble for New Orleans, at Fort Montgomery near where Fort Mims was. This is obviously for other reasons, because they know from after destroying Negro Fort / Prospect Bluff that the Spanish in Pensacola didn’t even have enough gunpowder to fire a salute for a flag raising. Maybe what they are really doing, is looking for some provocation to jump in and take Florida from the Spanish, like when Jackson took Pensacola in 1814 when the British came there.
At the same time, the Secretary of War is giving instructions to scale down the force at Fort Scott. In a letter dated February 14, 1817, Jackson’s headquarters from Nashville sends the following to the Sec. of War:
“Col. King has, some time since, been instructed to remove the 4th Regiment [of infantry] from Fort Scott, near the confluence of the Flint & Chatahouchy [sic] Rivers, with directions to leave a sufficient detachment of men under an intelligent officer, to maintain that post, and a discretionary power to call on the Governor of Georgia for militia aid, if circumstances should render such aid necessary. It has been, & still contemplated to garrison and defend that, as well as all other fortifications with artillery, so soon as the Battalions in the Division are filled by enlistments; and a company of that corps will be immediately ordered from the Harbor of Charleston to join Infantry left at Fort Scott.”
Things do not work out that way. The soldiers leave and the two Perryman brothers, Creeks friendly to the US, become caretakers of the fort. The Army is small and there are only a few hundred soldiers between New Orleans and Charleston to garrison all the posts, so Fort Scott is left behind. The militia proves to be less than reliable, and only effective at home, and not elsewhere. After the Army is gone, Seminoles from Miccosukee will come in and chase out the Perryman brothers from the fort, and burn the remaining buildings of Fort Scott. The Army will come back the next summer and have to rebuild Fort Scott all over again.
Next: Murder of Mrs. Garrett at St. Marys starts up border tensions.
Book Review: Ticks and Politics in South Florida: The Fourth Seminole War and the Photographs of Roy Komarek; By Robert L. Crawford, 2015. Printed by Tall Timbers Press, Tallahassee, Florida.
I was delighted to find something new! Or I should say, new material of old photos! This book uncovers 75 year-old photos found in the archives of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Birdsong Nature Center, north of Tallahassee, Florida. Tall Timbers and Birdsong are conservation areas that study longleaf pines and the effects of prescribed burning with the benefits of fire on natural habitats, and have been doing so for almost the past century. I have hiked both areas, and am a member of Birdsong.
If I have a complaint about this book, is that it is too short! I read through in one sitting! 68 pages and 70 photos / figures on the inside. It is a complicated subject, but very interesting!
Back in the 1940s, the Florida cattle industry was devastated by a tick infestation. This was a serious, because the two major agriculture industries in Florida were citrus, and cattle. I will try to make this as simple as I can.
The Department of Agriculture developed a mandatory program where all the cattle in Florida were to be dipped in cattle vats and treated for ticks. A second part, was that they believed that the ticks were spread by the Florida white tail deer, so the solution by the Department of Agriculture was to just shoot the deer. So, deer were being shot by the tens of thousands all over the state, to the point that the species was on the brink of extinction.
As the program progressed, the Dept. of Ag slowly made its way down the state until it reached south Florida, to the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. A few years earlier, the Seminoles had restarted cattle herding. The Seminoles were naturally suspicious of anything government, because government attempted to remove the Seminoles from Florida, and nearly succeeded. About 90 percent of the Seminoles were removed or killed during the previous century, and they hadn’t forgotten it.
The Dept. of Ag demanded that the Seminoles comply with this cattle program, and they resisted. When the gov’t wanted to kill all the deer on the Seminole reservation, the Seminoles said, Absolutely Not! This non-compliance is what it means by the Fourth Seminole War in the title of the book.
Enter the Department of Interior, Indian Affairs, which was another branch of the government. They sided with the Seminoles, and told the Dept. of Ag that they could not force the tribe to comply with something that was against their tribal sovereignty, that they had rights as a Native American tribe, and that the government could not just walk in and demand to do whatever they wanted, to the detriment of the tribe.
“The Seminoles insist that their deer are not ticky.” And, this would later prove to be true! Now, it must be understood that the deer are a big part of the Seminole history and culture, and there is even a Deer Clan within the tribe. So, you just don’t go killing off the symbol of a whole clan! Especially not the animal where folklore describes it as saving mankind at one point in the distant past!
Still, the state wanted to force compliance on the Seminoles and kill the deer. A state legislator was even quoted as saying, “Well, we got people down there who would just as soon kill the Seminoles as the deer.” Unfortunately, this was true.
So, the solution was to bring in a neutral party, and find out if ticks were carried by deer on the Seminole reservation. If it could be proven that the deer were not carrying the ticks, then the killing of the deer would not be necessary. Tall Timbers Research station was contacted, because they had previously done research for the Dept. of Ag.
The Audubon Society, which was at Tall Timbers, was brought in because everyone agreed that Audubon was a reputable mediator for the dispute, with Roy Komarek representing Audubon. Roy and his brother Ed Komarek had split their work between Tall Timbers and Birdsong Nature Center, and took on the task. But one thing they brought to the table that was never previously looked at, was a scientific basis for the whole tick eradication program, and the deer killing, known as “deer reduction program.” Roy said that all he wanted to do, was to prove if killing the deer was necessary or not.
Roy Komarek spent one year on Big Cypress researching the tick question, from June 1941 to June 1942. He had a chickee office and residence, and saw life away from the tourist attractions, and the Seminoles as they were rarely seen by people at the time. He collected birds, went through the swamps and prairies, and tried as much as he could to collect ticks. And in the whole year, he found out that the Seminoles were correct, for he only was able to collect a single tick on his clothing. (My own experience down there is the same; in 10 years living down there, I have only heard of one of my co-workers finding a single tick.) Eventually 51 deer were hunted and killed to be examined for ticks, and none were found to be carrying any. The finding led to the end of the cattle tick program. The Seminole won their fight against the government intrusion.
Roy’s work was extremely important to settle the question of the cattle tick program. It also vindicated the Seminoles and made the government leave them alone. It ended the conflict between the two government agencies. Unfortunately Roy was between the warring factions of government. But he proved through scientific evidence that the Seminoles were right. The Seminoles won against the government with the help of Roy.
The photos Roy took are very unique. They are not posed tourist photos, but candid shots. None of the people are identified, but I am sure that Josie Billie is one of the prominent ones, and I could probably figure out some more looking at photos from the same era. One particularly poignant photo shows Josie reclined on a fence with a tired expression. Another looks like Charlie Cypress working on a dugout canoe under a tree. Photos of children playing in ragged trousers. Women under the chickees or by the canal washing clothes. Seminole men dressed in modern clothes on the swamp buggies or doing everyday labor. Seminole cattlemen. A white couple are probably teachers or missionaries on the reservation.
A statement in the book brings home a point that I think is very important. It is written by Aldo Leopold, famous conservationist from the time who is considered the founder of scientific wildlife management. “The region in question contains the last Seminole culture, the last wild eastern cougar, and one of the last groups of pure eastern wild turkey. All of these wild resources would be damaged or obliterated by the extermination of the deer. Each of them is more valuable, to me, than any local cattle industry which might supplant them. Each of them is so rare and valuable that the nation as a whole should have a voice in their disposition; more is involved than the temporary wishes of local citizens.”
And that, is the key point. The Everglades, and Big Cypress, are a unique habitat that are found nowhere else in the world. The Seminoles and Miccosukee people are unique, with a culture that needs to be preserved. The Florida panther, west Indian manatee, Everglades mink, ghost orchid, and numerous other plants and animals that I could name off are unique. They do not need to be supplanted by anything. We do not need any more roads, bike trails, cattle, houses, or oil wells. They are more valuable than anything else that we would bring into their environment. The exact same holds true today, as when Also Leopold said it at that congressional hearing in 1942.