Update: The day after I posted this, I just found out that the bones have just been returned to the Seminole Tribe by the Univ. of Penn. That is good, and I hope things go well. I will just leave the rest of the article as is.
I think that you may find this one of the most provocative, shocking, and thought provoking blogs about the Seminole War that I may have written thus far. And in a roundabout way, you can say that the Seminoles had their unwilling contribution to what became modern physical anthropology and CSI Criminal Investigation.
Most of you are familiar with the cruel fate of Osceola that made him the most recognizable Seminole Indian in all of history, as he was captured under a flag of truce. And many of you know about his subsequent death in prison a few months later, and how the attending physician Dr. Weedon, spirited off Osceola’s head as a specimen for the doctor’s collection of medical curiosities.
And as the story goes, Weedon eventually sold the head to Dr. Valentine Mott, one of the most famous physicians of that time, in New York, but that it was destroyed in a fire when Mott’s museum burned down in 1866. I will skip all the other folklore which many of you may have heard.
But, are you aware that Osceola’s head, was just one of many that were collected as specimen for science during the Florida War? That many Seminoles had their cranium added to collections?
During the 1830s and 1840s was the height of the study of Phrenology. It was believed that the shape of the human head could tell character and moral traits. That the brain was not one organ, but a combination of separate organs that were responsible for character, ethics, intelligence, and morality. These beliefs were used by the slave holding south to show that slaves were incapable of freedom on their own and needed to remain in servitude.
Of course, we now know that all this was a mistaken, dead-end pseudo-science. What it was really studying was genetic traits and developments among different societies and cultures. Eventually this turned into a real field of science known as physical anthropology that showed how genetic traits are passed on by certain people from different cultures. About the same time, genetic traits were beginning to be understood by a German Monk named Mendel. With Phrenology, studying skeletal structures had this strange beginning, but it led to actual, real science. And even today, with what we have as identifying skeletal remains, bones, and skulls, we see on television all the time as CSI Criminal Investigation.
The main person who was world famous promoting Phrenology was Dr. Samuel George Morton in Philadelphia. He started collecting skulls in 1830 and continued until his death in 1852. He was widely published, which inspired many to help add to his collection. He obtained an amazing collection of craniums representing almost every people and culture from all over the world. It was not him who traveled, but his loyal readers, from other physicians, military officers, explorers, and other people generally with an interest in science who had read Dr. Morton’s writings.
When Dr. Morton died, his collection of cranium numbered 867, and his successor Dr. Meigs increased it to around 1225. Each skull collected was cleaned and polished, varnished, numbered, marked with information if known. Where it came from or who it was, if known. Important features may have been marked or noted. Dr. Morton had a catalog, and Dr. Meigs improved and sorted the catalog even further.
Included were Egyptian mummies. Peruvian skulls that had cranial enlarged/extended. Vikings from Finland. Romans and Greeks. Hindu and Chinese burials. South Pacific Islanders. And of course from many Native American tribes, some from aboriginal Indian mounds. And of course, the catalog list about half a dozen Cherokee, 4 Creeks, 3 Yamassee from a mound in Tampa. But the biggest tribe represented by far, are the skulls from 16 Seminoles. With half the US Army in Florida, physicians, explorers, and other patrons of Dr. Morton, the Florida Seminoles were a field ripe for the picking.
There are two warriors who were found at the battle of Okeechobee. Some other warriors not identified; men, women, and children remains. It seems that history doesn’t often mention this sordid souvenir hunting.
Below: Some of the listing for the Morton/Meigs catalog for the Seminoles. I refuse to include the drawing of one of the skulls. Notice that it also has the name of the person who donated the skull to Dr. Morton or Meigs' collection.
I have also found record of remains that were collected during the war that are not listed in Dr. Morton & Meigs Crania Americana catalog. Dr. Weedon also had the skull of Uchee Billy who died at the fort at St. Augustine. Morton lists a Euchee Indian, but we don’t know if it is the same as Uchee Billie.
There was an Apalachicola chief by the name of Coa-harjo, but who was not the same as the Seminole Chief Coa-Hadjo who was a Chief with Osceola. The Apalachicola Coa-Harjo was killed by his own people in 1838, and a Phrenology journal by Morton in 1839 describes his head in detail, but the crania is not listed in Morton’s catalog. On a side note, there is also a Chief Old Joe that was killed in the Florida panhandle, and his complete skeleton is supposed to have been on display at the Medical College at the University of Dublin in Ireland. Apparently there are many unknown remains collected during the war that went to various other medical collections still unidentified.
So, what happened to Dr. Morton’s collection? It still exists with the University of Pennsylvania. A recent article told about this amazing collection. Over the years, they have offered the various Native American Tribes if they want to seek repatriation under NAGRA. And some have taken care of this.
Here are my own thoughts on the subject. And it is to leave these skulls where they are, and undisturbed. Further tampering or movement would not help. This is a different situation than a casket of remains. These are specially prepared remains. Not whole skeletons, but craniums, that are cleaned, varnished, painted, and deposited with others. They have been placed with a charnel house of other unique representatives from around the world. I actually think they hold a unique and honored position where they are at, and nobody really bothers them. These remains are in a communion with like representatives. Actually, they are not the body or person, but the husk or remains. They are the evidence that life has once been present. With honored representatives from all over the world.
In the old southeastern Native American traditions, there is a function of a “Bone Picker.” That is what Dr. Morton became. And that is also why he died before his time, and could have lived another 30 years if he had known the correct songs and medicines.
Further tampering of the remains will only cause difficulty, pain and sickness in ways you cannot imagine for the living and dead. Improper tampering can cause problems with the family, their clan or tribe that they are from. Worse can be done by people who think that they are doing the right thing, but doing it improperly. It is better to leave them alone. Trying to move the remains will only cause more sickness and death to those innocents who will have no understanding of what is happening to them. We have in the Native American folklore Ghost Sickness, and I have a lot of experience with it, and do not want to have this become a problem for someone who does not understand it.
It is also better to keep theses skulls as a reminder about what was done to these people and the injustice of removal from their home 175 years ago. And a time when a human head was a sought after commodity. People will forget what I say in a few years. They won’t forget a physical reminder.
They called the Indians as savages for taking scalps, and at the same time, the white men and soldiers stole whole heads.
1839, Morton, Samuel George; Crania Americana, or, a Comparative View of the Skulls of Various Aboriginal Nations of North and South American.
1849, Morton, Samuel George; Catalogue of Skulls of Man and the Inferior Animals, in the Collection of Samuel George Morton.
1856, Meigs, J. Aitken; Catalogue of Human Crania, in the Collection of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.
The American Phrenological Journal and Miscellany, Volume II, No. 1, Philadephia, Oct. 1, 1839; Pg. 139-142.
November 2008, Monge, Janet; and Renschler, Emily S.; Expedition, Vol. 50, No. 3; The Samuel George Morton Cranial Collection, Historical Significance and New Research.
Attention all you U.S. 7th Infantry Cottonbalers, this involves a historical marker for an incident of your regiment. Lt. Richard Scott and the soldiers of Fort (Winfield) Scott in 1817.
Dale Cox from the famous community of Two Egg, Florida, has been successful for promoting the history around northwest Florida. Last year he put up a historical marker for Nicoll’s trading post at Chattahoochee Landing, where British Marine Colonel Nicolls established a fort with Josiah Francis during the War of 1812, known as Apalachicola Fort. Now he has started a new campaign, which you will see in this video:
With that British fort on the north end of the Apalachicola River, and Negro Fort on the southern end of the river, the Brits hoped that their Indian allies would control the river traffic through Spanish Florida and be a hindrance to American cotton trade from Georgia and Mississippi territory during the War of 1812.
Dale Cox has also written several history books on the history of Gadsden County, Jackson County, Milly Francis, Nicolls’ Outpost, and the Scott Massacre. Now Dale is also seeking to put up a historical marker at the site of the Scott Massacre, which is a stone’s throw from Nicoll’s Fort and Chattahoochee Landing. The Scott Massacre is a significant incident which started the First Seminole War.
Picture: From Dale Cox, Attack on the American boat in 1817.
In 1817, Chief Nea-Mathla, was one of the main Seminole / Mikasuki chiefs. His village, named Fowltown, was in Georgia, along the Flint River. Nea-Mathla had always lived there, and considered it his land, not the United States, not the State of Georgia, not Creek land that had been ceded over to the U.S. with the Treaty of Fort Jackson. He was Mikasuki / Miccosukee and not Creek, and did not recognize the Creeks as having any authority over him, who had no authority to give away his land. In contrast, the United States recognized this land as the State of Georgia, as land ceded by the Creeks under the Treaty of Fort Jackson three years earlier.
General Gaines demanded that Nea-Mathla come to Fort Scott about 15 or 20 miles away. Nea-Mathla refused, did not trust the Americans, and had no reason too. Gaines sent his soldiers to Fowltown to bring Nea-Mathla to him. As the armed and uninvited soldiers approached the alarmed town, the people in town fired back and fled. The one Indian killed was a woman. As the soldiers examined the deserted town, they found a British uniform and letter from the British of support to Nea-Mathla.
The soldiers returned, this time 300 in number, finding the town deserted, and burned everything, and taking with them the cattle and stores of crops. As expected, the Indians were outraged. This meant a declaration of war to the Seminole / Mikasukis.
This was the first action of the First Seminole War. The destruction of Fowltown was only the beginning. A week later was what is known as the Scott Massacre, which can be considered as revenge.
Fort Scott had been running low on supplies. Before the attack, a shipment was coming on boats up the Apalachicola of uniforms, supplies, food, with the families, and an escort of sick soldiers in barges that were not easy to maneuver on the river. For whatever reason, when the officer in charge, Lt. Richard Scott, heard of the trouble between the Army and Nea-Mathla’s people, he decided to continue on. That was his fatal mistake. Late at night the wind blew the barges close to shore about a mile south of the confluence of the Flint and the Chattahoochee River, and the Indians attacked. Most all in the boats were killed. Just a few soldiers survived and escaped to make their way to Fort Scott. Mrs. Elizabeth Stewart was captured by the Indians and remained a prisoner among the Indians until she was freed about six months later. (And remember, this is all in Spanish territory.)
The press called this incident a massacre of women and children. In reality, it was mostly soldiers of the 40 who were killed. About six women were on board. We are still debating if there were children or not. But this was all the provocation needed.
This incident caused the outrage with the United States government, who gave General Andrew Jackson reason to organize an army to come down to Fort Scott, which started the First Seminole War. These were to opening shots of the next forty years of warfare against the Seminoles-Miccosukees of Florida. The United States would gain possession of Florida from Spain. It all started at Fowltown and here near Chattahoochee Landing on the Apalachicola River. This incident is certainly worthy of recognition of a historical marker, wouldn’t you agree?
Dale has set up a fund to raise money for a historical marker for the Scott massacre, and here is the link. Please feel free to give. He is not asking for much! He has done very well by creating other historical makers by this method.
Looking back over the past 30 years that I have been doing the Seminole War living history and reenactments, sometimes it is good to think of what has been accomplished, and where it has brought me. I will try to be brief, if this is even possible.
Although I only do about two living history events a year now, I can look back to 1994, when I was at an event every weekend from January through March. I do not miss that, because it was exhaustive, even 20 years younger than I am today.
I started making the Seminole coats around 1990. Mainly because I wanted one of my own, and the easiest way was to do it myself. Since then, I have lost track of how many I have made. It has been over 30. A few for museums, and one for FSU’s Chief Osceola. The one I am the proudest, is in the Seminole Tribe Veteran’s Museum on the Brighton Reservation, since I am an Army veteran. And many are being worn that you will never see.
We had a newsletter that we did for about seven years. David Mott and Rick Obermeyer started it. I helped out for three or four years. The internet sort of ended mail-out newsletters. Now people just “goggle it.” It seems that with the newsletter, there was a great amount of sharing that was happening. But it did have a lot of work that included cost, a lot of stamps, and a lot of time and work to put together. After a few years, it wears you out.
Then, the internet appeared. When I created a Seminole War web page, there were none at the time, in 1996. I have created three Seminole War related web sites. Only my blog / journal remains now, because that is the only one I can afford. There were groups and chat rooms, but those things seemed to have disappeared.
I recently retired my county-to-county website after 18 years for a number of reasons. First, was that it cost me a lot of money each year to keep the domain, and I no longer get any feedback. I guess everyone goes to Wikipedia. And, I had not updated it since 2007. With the new Seminole War Heritage Trails and website coming out, it makes my website redundant, and really replaces much of that. So I decided that it was time to retire my website, and move some of my articles from the website to my journal, which doesn’t cost me money and is easier for me to edit.
I would have to say that researching the war, I have a library that has grown quite large. I have more books on the Seminoles and Seminole War than many libraries in Florida. That started out with my research when I would find sources from county or local histories that would have small printing and found only locally. In 2000, I started to print my book of battles and skirmishes from the 3 Seminole wars. The first printing in 2001 was from a local print shop, and very expensive. I re-edited it, and had a decade worth of corrections and additions, and republished with a print-on-demand in 2013. I just did a revised version this past month. I don’t know of many who have done as much research in the Seminole War as I have, over the past 23 years of archival research.
Since 1993, I tried to publish a book on sites to visit in Florida that were Seminole War related. When I was turned down by publishers, I created my website. Then other people published similar books along the way, but their books were not close to containing what I would have included. But, patience paid off, because now the Seminole Wars Foundation is publishing the Seminole Wars Heritage Trail booklet. This booklet is the closest thing to what I have wanted to do, and that accomplishes my goal. I don’t mind that it was co-authored by others besides myself, especially when they are my friends and the best authors writing about the Seminole / Florida wars that you can find. I believe that this will be the greatest thing for getting the word out about Florida Seminole War history that has come out in a long time.
There are many things that I helped along the way and will never get credit for, but certainly left my mark. I remember doing a lot of editing with the Fort Cooper interpretive trail panels with Ken and Kathy Hughes, and very pleased with the way those turned out.
And a story that few people will know: one Saturday morning in 1999 when I was driving past the Fort King property and noticed the “for sale” sign. As soon as I got home, I emailed Dr. John Mahon, Brent Weisman, Frank Laumer, anyone I could who has some authority behind them for Seminole War preservation, and blew the whistle on that cause. Not long after, I got a job out of state and moved away, and missed all the meetings in Ocala pressuring to buy the property, which eventually saved it, but I like to think that I am the one who started the ball rolling on saving the property that has now become the park.
So looking over the past 30 years of the living history and reenacting, and into the research of the Seminole War time period, I can say that I have accomplished a tremendous amount towards educating and giving out information. I probably know more about the subject than most people. I have even been asked to review college papers, and I only have a bachelor’s degree and some master’s course work myself.
This has branched off into so many different studies. Anthropology itself is the basis of many different areas of learning, for the studies of beliefs and culture, history of the native people and the United States and Europe as well as Native American history. Cultural / sociological anthropology, and just opening up my mind to a whole cosmos of thinking and ideas which I would not have thought possible if I never went this route. And this, I would say, would be the greatest thing that I have gotten out of all of this. That it has broadened the mind and my whole outlook on everything. I have not only gotten into the history, but sought the very thinking of the people, and into the mind and beliefs. I have gotten outside of one way of thinking and the very paradigm of how the world and universe is viewed. It would be impossible for me to really explain, but just accept me on this. It only makes me appreciate things in the world even more.
It has arrived. The official inaugural for the Florida Seminole Wars Heritage Trail will be on August 15th, in St. Augustine, at our ceremony to commemorate the 2nd Seminole War.
Afterwards, you can find the trail listed on the Florida Department of State website at:
You can download a free copy of the trail book at the website listed above, or pick up a copy at several museums and locations throughout the state of Florida, or at state highway welcome centers for free. That’s right; it is free.
This is a beautiful, 56 page booklet. 60 pages, if you count the covers, front and back.
I have several copies of this book with me right now, but have been asked to keep it under wraps until the 15th. But, I hope that you will not mind if I share with you the front cover.
There is so much more. It turned out better than expected. I cannot wait to share more with you.
It has been two years of hard work, especially John and Mary Lou Missall. From our brainstorming of what to include in the book, to what we now have.
This is something that I dreamed about publishing since 1993. But instead of just myself, it has been a collaborative effort with my friends and the most knowledgeable people on the subject of the Florida Seminole Wars. It turned out much better than I could have ever imagined. Even better, it will be easily accessible to everybody. I think that it will be one of the greatest things imaginable that we have ever seen to boost interest in the subject of Florida Seminole War history. I would imagine that Dade Battlefield and Fort Cooper will show a significant increase in park visitor attendance.
Due to my family situation and death, it has been a while since writing for this blog. My very unique father passed away in July. Much of this year, has been spent out of town visiting Dad, doing his taxes, and saying goodbyes, then finally his funeral. We were strongly connected, my father and I. His passing was not easy for me. It was not unexpected. He long struggled with Parkinson’s disease. The hard part was saying goodbye. And, what sadness lingers most is not being able to talk about the things with him about the things we spoke of often, as the flying squirrels, airplanes, and so many other things. We shared an amazing diversity of interests.
When I would visit, his condition would cause our discussions to bring out of him a jumbled mass of memories, and I would hope to follow along the various references of people, places, and things over his 80-something years of life. I knew him so well, I usually could follow along with the tiny references of people and places that few others knew. It was actually pleasant, seeing which things I could remember, like a trivia game of his life. I would never know what he would bring up, as I was talking about one thing, and he would bring up an entirely different subject. I would just hope to hang on for the wild ride. It was all enjoyable, exciting, and will be sorely missed.
After many years of deep study into Muskogee and Seminole culture and cosmos, views and insights have been developed that I do not often share with many of you in regards to the afterlife or other worlds. Let us not get into comparisons between your religion and my philosophy. Thus there will be intentionally vagueness with some of my descriptions.
My father’s dying process was slow and happened over several days. Because of my close connection with him, a few days before he took his last breath and started the final process, I experienced it too. I became pale and ill with what the Creek and Seminoles describe as Ghost Sickness. Both Florida Seminole Josie Billie and Oklahoma Seminole Willie Lena talked about it. It started on a Wednesday, and lasted until Dad passed away Saturday morning.
Before I heard from the nurse of Dad’s last hours, a few days before, I actually started to do things in preparation for my trip up to Kentucky for Dad’s funeral. Got my hair trimmed, packed for the trip and gathered necessary insurance paperwork. Went to quiet, sacred places to meditate, think about my Dad and the journey he was soon to take.
When I heard from the nurse that Dad had less than 24 hours left, I packed everything in my car and was ready to go. There are certain signs that one may see when a warrior passes on. And, I saw one clearly as I was preparing to leave--clear indication to me that I would not make arrive before he passed on. Even if I had driven straight up without stopping, I would not have made it on time. That was okay. I had said to Dad what I needed to say the month before. Less than 24 hours after returning home from the funeral, I had a second sign that I was fully expecting. It was a sign that a warrior’s soul has moved on. Both these signs of the warrior’s soul are very powerful, were very clear to me, and very unmistakable.
Both my parent’s ashes were brought home with me. They will soon be placed together in a national veteran’s cemetery. Having both urns in my apartment did seem strange. In one respect, I was glad to have both parents here, but saddened to have them here in this state.
Within a day of coming back, I started to once again fall ill. It was the symptoms of the Ghost Sickness. This time worse, and encompassing my whole body. Each day it got worse.
Finally on the fifth day, I was very ill. I covered up the urns in a proper manner, and within minutes, all the symptoms, and all the sickness, went away. The cycle was complete. I just needed to do a little adjustment to have everything cleared up.
So in conclusion, know that traditional ways, the old ways, are alive and well, and something to be taken seriously.
I am on the move and wanted to post a quick update.
The Seminole War Commemoration in St. Augustine will be August 15th, but the deadline to register for the lunch and the talk and social Friday night is July 31st. Go to our Seminole Wars facebook page for the flyers.
The parade on Saturday at 10 a.m. and the following ceremony are free and open to the public. The lunch afterwards needs registration because we need to know how many chickens to slay.
But more important, we have Major Dade's sponge staff!
This is the actual artifact used by Major Dade's men to operate the cannon at Dade's battle, on that fateful date on December 28th, 1835. Held by several soldiers who would die soon after. Maybe even still soaked in their blood. Picked up at the battle site eight weeks later, this artfact became the piece that started the Army museum system.
Not on display to the public, Dade's sponge staff is on temporary loan from West Point and will be on display at St. Francis Barracks on August 15th, the day of our ceremony in St. Augstine. This may be the only time you get to see this valuable relic from the Second Seminole War. If you miss out, then sorry!
I am reprinting this from my former web page, with a few edits.
I came across this interesting source: "Autobiography of an English Soldier in the United States Army Comprising Observations and Adventures in the States and Mexico" by George Ballentine, printed in New York by Stringer and Townsend, 1853. This autobiography is by a soldier in the War in Mexico in the 1840's. In the summer of 1846, he spent several months at Fort Brooke, Tampa Bay. His observations on the Seminoles are particularly interesting. Since most libraries probably don't have this in their collection, and I thought that you would enjoy seeing how life in the fort was when there was peace between the whites and Seminoles. The most interesting part is the friendly interaction between the Seminoles and the soldiers.
The 2nd Seminole War was over, and the Seminoles were allowed to come into Fort Brooke to trade. This led to some interested incidents!
Fort Brooke, 1838, from the Florida archives.
It looks like an officer, a militia soldier watching over three Indians, and some other people scattered about. Fort Brooke was at one time one of the largest military reservations in the United States & territories.
Finally after describing the Seminoles, the author goes on to tell about the rich country that makes up Florida and remarks, "Still, as long as the Indians remain in its borders, its resources will never have a fair chance of development, as the distant settlers can have no security for life or property while they are in the vicinity."
Without any more comment, I will let this eyewitness account speak for itself:
"On arriving at Tampa Bay we found another company of our regiment stationed there, two companies being considered requisite for the protection of the inhabitants against any sudden outbreak of the Indians. These, to the amount of several hundred warriors, beside squaws and children, still occupy a large tract of Florida called the Everglades; where they live in the same state of rude savage life to which they were accustomed ere the first of the pale faces left a footprint on their sandy shores."
"They have game in abundance, herds of deer roam through the plains and glades, and crop their luxuriant herbage; numerous flocks of wild turkeys roost in the hammocks at night, and feed in the openings and pine barrens by day; and in the creeks and bays of the sea coast, or in the large fresh water lakes of the interior, incredible quantities of delicious fish are easily caught."
"Round their villages, in the selection of a site for which they display excellent taste and judgment, they usually cultivate a small portion of the soil in raising maize, or edible roots; and the little labour which this requires is performed by the women and children. In this delicious climate, where there is perpetual verdure, and where the existence of cold or winter is scarcely known or felt, the mode of living of these savages seems not so very disagreeable, and with their ideas of comfort they must find Florida a complete Indian paradise."
"It is not much to be wondered at, therefore, to find them so reluctant to leave for a new home among the tribes of the Indian Territory. Sooner than submit to this, about fifteen years ago they waged an unequal war with the United States; which lasted several years, and cost America nearly as much, it is said, as the late war in Mexico. At the present time there are not in Florida more than a fourth, it is supposed, of the number who were there at commencement of the war; as a great many of them at various times accepted the terms offered by the government of the United States, and were transported to a tract of land called the Indian Territory, lying between Arkansas and the Rocky Mountains. Those who refused to leave, and who were finally permitted to remain in a portion of Florida defined by certain boundaries, have been variously estimated at from three to five hundred warriors. But as they have almost no intercourse with the inhabitants, white men not being suffered to approach their villages, it is very difficult to form anything like a correct estimate of their numbers. The government agent, stationed at Fort Charlotte, a small settlement near their boundary line, for the purpose of trading with them, and who has been desired by the government to endeavor without exciting their suspicions to ascertain their numbers, reckons them at five hundred, exclusive of women and children."
"Those who remain are part of the tribe or nation of Seminoles; they were as tall on an average as the men of our regiment, and though not near so athletic or muscular, generally more graceful in personal appearance. They have more yellow than copper in their complexion, and have the high prominent cheekbones, and that quick, furtive, and suspicious glance of the Indian race, which seems watching every moment to make a sudden spring in the event of any appearance of treachery. Some of their young squaws have a very pleasing expression of countenance, and I have seen one or two of these who I believe would be pronounced beautiful if compared with the prouder belles of European cities. The men, or warriors, walk with a most dignified and majestic carriage, and an air of stoic composure highly imposing."
"They wear moccasins made of deer-skin, and of their own manufacture; and go bare-legged in a short sleeved sort of tunic, confined at the waist and falling down nearly to the knees in the manner of a Highlander's kilt, to whose ancient costume that of the Florida Indians of the present day bears a considerable resemblance, especially when seen at a short distance. Some of them ornament their dress with beads and shells, which they sometimes wear in their hair also, and both men and women are fond of wearing large silver rings in their ears and through their nostrils."
[Ballentine is probably correct in his comparison to the Highlander's dress, because that is what is generally believed that the southeastern Tribes copied their clothing from, the Scottish tradesmen in the 18th century.]
"Parties of twenty or thirty of these strange-looking visitors frequently came into the village of Tampa Bay while we lay there. They were always accompanied by a sub-chief, a sort of lieutenant, who had charge of the party, and their object was to exchange deerskins for powder and other necessary articles. They frequently brought a few turkeys or a few pieces of venison, part of the game they had shot as they came along; these they sold cheap enough, a turkey fetching a quarter, and a piece of venison of fifteen or twenty pounds weight, half a dollar."
Fort Brooke in 1837, from the Florida Memory/Florida Archives.
"They always visited the barracks when they came to the village, walking through the rooms and shaking hands with the soldiers in a perfectly friendly manner. None of them, however, understood English, and we were all equally ignorant of the Seminole, so that our discourse was necessarily limited to the language of pantomime, at which they seemed a vast deal more apt than our men. They showed us marks of gunshot wounds they had received in the Florida war on various parts of their bodies, pointing to our muskets at the same time and shaking their heads; and they seemed highly delighted when one or two of our soldiers, who had been in the Florida war, showed them similar marks, making signs that they had received them from the Indians. They laughed and talked to one another with great animation and glee at this circumstance. But the great attraction for them was two six-pounder pieces, which stood in front of the quarters; they always approached these with looks of the greatest curiosity, and apparent awe, cautiously patting them as if to propitiate them. They have the most exaggerated ideas of the destructive effects of artillery, of which they stand in horrible dread; and some of our men who were in the Florida war asserted that a chief cause of so many Indians having surrendered towards the close of the war, was owing to the Americans having procured two or three light field-pieces, though, owing to the swampy nature of the country, they could not have used them. As they always behaved quietly in the garrison, they were never hindered from strolling round any part of it, strict orders being given to the soldiers not to molest them. They used no more ceremony with the officers than with the men, frequently walking up to them on the parade, or into their quarters, and offering to shake hands with them with the most perfect nonchalance."
"On paying one of these visits to the village it was customary for them to have a bout of drinking and dancing; a sort of Indian ball, which they held in a yard behind a house in the village appropriated exclusively to their use. The entertainments of the evening, on these occasions, usually consisted in smoking and drinking whiskey until pretty late, a few of them dancing at intervals in the most ungraceful and even ludicrous attitudes imaginable. They wound up the evening generally with a war dance, in which all who were not too drunk joined. This dance commences slow at first to a low monotonous chant, and increases in rapidity of time and movement until, like the witches' dance in Tam o' Shanter, "the mirth and fun grow fast and furious," and they yell and whoop like a set of demons or incarnate fiends. On these occasions, they sometimes quarreled among themselves, and ended the night with a general squabble; yet as care was always taken, on their arrival, to have their arms taken from them and locked up, until they were ready to return home, there was no danger or any serious accident occurring."
Some of the most eloquent speeches made during the Second Seminole War are recorded by Captain John T. Sprague in 1841, in his book "The Origin, Progress and Conclusion of the Florida War."
Coacoochee, also known as Wildcat, was Miccosukee and one of the most resistant war leaders during the war. (He is often referred to as Seminole, but it is more correct to call him Miccosukee. During that time, most all of the Florida Indians were called Seminoles.) He had made a daring escape from Fort Marion, the former Spanish fortress in St. Augustine, in November 1837, and continued the Seminole resistance to remain in Florida. In 1841 he was finally captured and put in chains. He was forced to send a message to his people to come in and surrender, or he would be hanged. During this series of "peace talks," are recorded some of the most emotional speeches that we have of this war. Let us start after Col. Worth had finished speaking to a Seminole / Miccosukee delegation. This speech is found on pages 288-292 of Sprague's book, as well as in, "Coacoochee, Made of the Sands of Florida," by Arthur E. Francke, Jr. This talk took place, ironically, on July 4th, 1841, and means the end of independence for these brave warriors. Grammar and punctuation are the same as in the original book, published in 1848.
Coacoochee (Wildcat) by John T. Sprague
Colonel William J. Worth finished speaking. Silence pervaded the company as the speaker closed. The harsh grating of the handcuffs broke the spell, as each warrior raised his hand to wipe away the tear which never before stole down his rugged cheek. Coacoochee rose, evidently struggling to suppress a feeling which made his manly form quiver with excitement:
"I was once a boy, " said he, in a subdued tone, "then I saw the White man afar off. I hunted in these woods, first with a bow and arrow; then with a rifle. I saw the white man, and was told he was my enemy. I could not shoot him as I would a wolf or a bear; yet like these he came upon me; horses, cattle, and fields, he took from me. He said he was my friend; he abused our women and children, and told us to go from the land. Still he gave me his hand in friendship; we took it; whilst taking it, he had a snake in the other; his tongue was forked; he lied, and stung us. I asked but for a small piece of these lands, enough to plant and to live upon, far south, a spot where I could place the ashes of my kindred, as spot only sufficient upon which I could lay my wife and child. This was not granted me. I was put in prison; I escaped. I have been again taken; you have brought me back; I am here; I feel the irons in my heart. I have listened to your talk; you and your officers have taken us by the hand in friendship. I thank you for bringing me back; I can now see my warriors, my women and children; the Great Spirit thanks you; the heart of the poor Indian thanks you. We know but little; we have no books which tell all things; but we have the Great Spirit, moon, and stars; these told me, last night, you would be our friend. I gave you my word; it is the word of a warrior, a chief, a brave, it is the word of Coacoochee. It is true I have fought like a man, so have my warriors; but the whites are too strong for us. I wish now to have my band around me and go to Arkansas. You say I must end the war! Look at these irons! Can I go to my warriors? Coacoochee chained! No; do not ask me to see them. I never wish to tread upon my land unless I am free. If I can go to them unchained, they will follow me in; but I fear they will not obey me when I talk to them in irons. They will say my heart is weak, I am afraid. Could I go free, they will surrender and emigrate."
The commander, [Col. Worth] in reply, told him, with firmness and without disguise, that he could not go, nor would his irons be taken off until his entire band had surrendered; but that he might select three or five of the prisoners, who should be liberated, and permitted to carry his talk; they should be granted thirty, forty, or fifty days, if necessary.
Worth said, "I say to you again, and for the last time, that unless the band acquiesce promptly with your wishes, to your last wish, the sun, as it goes down on the last day appointed for their appearance, will shine upon the bodies of each of you hanging in the wind."
"This injunction was given in such a manner as to impress the prisoners with the firm belief that it would be literally fulfilled. It was manifest in the convulsive expression of their stern and rugged faces. To escape, was beyond all hope. The vessel lay moored in deep water, two miles from shore. Firmly ironed, and surrounded night and day be sentinels, their fate was inevitable; and as the reality rose upon them they were sad and depressed. Here was a chief, a man whose only offense was defending his home, his fireside, the graves of kindred, stipulating, on the Fourth of July, for his freedom and his life."
An incident occurred, when Coacoochee was most excited, which carried forcibly to the minds of all present the import of the day, and impressed in a manner not to be forgotten, the scene in which all were participating. A government schooner lay moored in the immediate neighborhood; at 12 Noon., as is customary, she opened [fired] her batteries. Coacoochee, hearing the repeated discharge, and seeing the interest manifested, ceased speaking, and asked, "What is that for?" Again he inquired, but silence was the only response. The Indian instinctively seemed to think it the jubilee of freedom. Well might the white man deny the natal day of his country. That flag, waving from the masthead of Coacoochee's prison-ship, symbolical of freedom, was saluted by the roar of artillery, announcing to the world the liberty of twenty millions of people, free, independent, intelligent, and happy.
Coacoochee then consulted with his warriors who were chosen to talk with his people:
"Has not Coacooche," he said, "sat with you by the council-fire at midnight, when the wolf and white man were around us? Have I not led the war dance, and sung the song of the Seminole? Did not the spirits of our mothers, our wives, and our children stand around us? Has not my scalping-knife been red with blood, and the scalps of our enemy been drying in our camps? Have I not made the warpath red with blood, and has not the Seminole always found a home in my camp? Then, will the warriors of Coacooche desert him? No! If your hearts are bad, let me see them now; take them in your hands, and let me know they are dark with bad blood; but do not, like a dog, bite me, so soon as you turn your backs. If Coacoochee is to die, he can die like a man. It is not my heart that shakes; no, it never trembles; but I feel for those now in the woods, pursued night and day by the soldiers; for those who fought with us, until we were weak. The sun shines bright to day, the day is clear; so let your hearts be: the Great Spirit will guide you. At night, when you camp, take these pipes and tobacco, build a fire when the moon is up and bright, dance around it, then let the fire go out, and just before the break of day, when the deer sleeps, and the moon whispers to the dead, you will hear the voices of those who have gone to the Great Spirit; they will give you strong hearts and head to carry the talk of Coacoochee. Say to my band that my feet are chained. I cannot walk, yet I send them my word as true from the heart, as if I as on the warpath or in the deer-hunt. I am not a boy; Coacoochee can die, not with a shivering hand, but as when grasping the rifle with my warriors around me."
"My feet are chained, but the head and heart of Coacoochee reaches you. The great white chief (Po-car-ger) will be kind to us. He Says, when my band comes in I shall again walk my land free, with my band around me. He has given you forty days to do this business in; if you want more, say so; I will ask for more; if not, be true to the time. Take these sticks; here are thirty-nine, one for each day; this, much larger than the rest, with blood upon it, is the fortieth. When the others are thrown away, and this only remains, say to my people, that with the setting sun Coacoochee hangs like a dog, with none but the white men to hear his last words. Come then; come by the stars, as I have led you to battle! Come, for the voice of Coacoochee speaks to you!"
"Say this to my wife and child --"
Here the chieftain, who had struggled during these remarks with feelings almost over-powering, paused, and turned away his head, to hide the tears flowing profusely down his melancholy, but youthful and manly countenance. Deep Silence pervaded the entire company. The experienced soldier, to whom carnage had been familiar, the hardy sailor, acquainted with privation and danger, the savage, whose stoical heart is seldom warmed by felling, now stood around, giving evidence of their sympathy in these last injunctions of a captive, by a participation in the gloom and silence, which none was so bold as to break. Without confusion, and without the utterance of a word, the irons were taken off the five messengers, when preparations were made for them to proceed to the shore. Coacoochee shook each by the hand as the passed over the side of the vessel. To the last he gave a silk handkerchief and a breast-pin;
"Give these," said he, "to my wife and child."
Picture: "Sorrow of the Seminoles" as they are removed from their homes, by John T. Sprague.
Coacoochee and his band were taken into exile to the western Indian Territory. Had he remained in Florida, he would have been hereditary chief after Micanopy. After many hardships, Coacoochee led his people and many of the Black Seminoles to freedom in Mexico in 1850, where he received an appointment as a Colonel in the Mexican Army. He died in 1857 of small pox; free but still exiled from Florida.
Sorry for the long period of long inactivity. I have had some serious issues that has required my attention. No, they have not been resolved. I just have a weekend where I am stuck at home with no money.
I have a few change for my website and blog.
This is my blog, and I had a web page on Florida and Seminole War history.
First, if you tried to access my web page, you may have noticed that it is missing. I have decided to retire it after 19 years. It was difficult to update through ftp , and I had not done so in eight years. I have not gotten any feedback from anyone in recent years, and when I did a search on the regular search engines, it would be at the bottom of the list for Seminole War searches, or not show up at all. So this really didn’t justify the large amount of money that I was paying each year to keep it around.
Another reason that I let it retire is that the Seminole Wars Heritage Trail booklet is coming out in August, with a companion website, hosted by the Florida Department of State. The trail booklet is almost identical to my website, but updated. I’ve had a contribution to the project as well as many other authors on the Seminole War. So I feel this will be a replacement to my website.
Second, is that my former website had a few miscellaneous articles that were separate from the sites and the museums. I will re-post those, here on my blog, as well as updated county information. So some of the same information from my old website will be here on my blog, which I can edit and change. I could not easily edit and change the old website.
I will start out with information on the 4th of July in 1841, and Fort Brooke in Tampa Bay, because I will be at the Tampa Bay History Center for their living history day, coming up next Saturday on July 4th. Come see me there! Update: It is not free, which I said earlier, but still only five dollars a person. Still a bargain and well worth it. Not much else you can go for entertainment at that price. The museum just had 2.5 million dollars cut from the state budget last week, and they need all the money they can get. It is an outstanding museum.
Then I will talk about St. Francis Barracks and St. Augustine. We have a special event there, coming up on August 15th. That one will be worth attending as well. We have been finding out some interesting things about the burial grounds were Dade’s men are buried.
Also, an artifact will be on loan from West Point for the event, which you will want to see. This will be an artifact from Dade’s command that is not normally displayed in public.
And final, this is in the category of Florida news of the weird. This is like one of those stories where a guy named Lincoln kills a guy named Booth, or a guy named Kennedy kills a guy named Oswald.
In a sad news story this weekend in the Tallahassee newspaper, the former FSU Osceola rider (2004-2007) Caleb Joshua Halley, was killed by a coworker named Orlando Thompson in a dispute over the ingredients of cooking gumbo. So a guy named Thompson killed a former FSU Osceola. Some of you may know, that the original Osceola, killed Indian Agent Wiley Thompson, near Fort King on December 28, 1835.
I didn’t know Josh Halley, but still want to give a tribute, with the following photo of him as he portrayed FSU’s Osceola, and an accompanying article from the St. Pete Times:
This past March during the annual reenactment at Fort Cooper State Park, there was also the inauguration of the four Seminole War Heritage trail Kiosks in the park.
We have seen the first, previous one that was finished a couple years ago. Now, the other three are up and completed. This is wonderful, because not only are they beautiful interpretive panels, but there are four of them.
The artwork is done by both Guy LaBree, who unfortunately past away last January 1st, and Jackson Walker.
The first kiosk starts off at the pathway to the restroom and far picnic area. You can still donate funds for a brick for your name on it, from the Friends of Fort Cooper. This is a three panel kiosk with a roof, and from what I have heard, this has become a model for interpretive kiosks in the entire state park system.
Going past the end of the main parking area where the fort trail starts, is kiosk number two. This covers Seminole life in the Cove of the Withlacoochee. The path is paved from here to the third kiosk.
Once you reach the third kiosk, there are the intersection of trails. The old military road is still visable, and we will take that path down to the final kiosk and fort site. There is also access to the Withlacoochee Trail from here, and 50-mile rail-to-trails pathway that is close by. Or you can be more adventuresome and take a park trail that meanders around the park from here.
But at this point, is the third kiosk. It talks about warfare in the Cove of the Withlacoochee. This was thought of as the stronghold of the Seminoles in the beginning of the war. The first year of the war had four campaigns that attempted to rout the Seminoles/Miccosukee, and their Black Seminole allies out of here, without success. And it was here the Fort Cooper was established to observe the area.
From kiosk number three, we will turn and walk down the dirt path, which is also the remnant of the military road. This is also where I have had the most wildlife sightings in the park, which would include animals like flying squirrels and woodpeckers.
We reach kiosk number four right before we arrive at the fort site on the lake shore. This kiosk is about the fort, and life of the soldiers here. The Georgia battalion was tasked with observing the Seminoles, which they did their observations for two week while under siege by the Seminoles, until relieved and evacuated by General Clinch.
As far as Seminole War interpretive panels, these are the best outside panels at any of the state parks, in my opinion. Great job to the Friends group for having these created. And to Ken and Kate Hughes, who were instrumental in getting it done.
I have made a video of the panels: