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seminolewar


Native Americans as British Allies

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(Below: Jackson inspecting his troops during his invasion into Florida in 1817.)



The other day I mentioned the Battle of New Orleans. And it is true, that the Choctaw, Cherokee, and Creek that supported the Americans and fought side-by-side with General Andrew Jackson himself, still ended up being removed to Oklahoma 20 years later.

But if Old Hickory had lost at New Orleans and the British had succeeded with breaking apart the United States, what would become of the Natives? Would the American Indian tribes have fared better under a British rule?

This is actually not hard to answer, because we can already see how they were being treated by the British by January 1815.

Now I must make the distinction between political policy and goals, and individual treatment by British citizens. There are British citizens where were very friendly and at times would often join the Native tribes. The most extreme is William Augustus Bowles, who eventually became the self-proclaimed Chief of the Creeks and Cherokees.

So individuals who lived among the tribes got along very well.

But there had been killings by both sides for the past couple centuries, and that was not forgotten by anyone.

As far as politics and how the British government treated the tribes, they basically threw them under the bus.

It was a long way to the British Isles, so the Parliament and Monarchy had their attention towards political interests closer to home. They were more worried about Napoleon than Madison. Although, they certainly were not going to allow some radical Americans to take Canada away from the Crown.

Let us look at some of the Native American allies and how they were treated by the British during the early 1800s.

William Augustus Bowles failed to get any real support from England. His backers in the Bahamas vanished, and he was given up by his own Creek people. Benjamin Hawkins let the Spanish have him, where Bowles died in prison in Cuba.

Tecumseh was also abandoned. He did not get the British to back him up, and was defeated and killed by the Indiana soldiers.

After Josiah Francis spent a year in England and failed to get substantial support from the Crown, he returned to Florida and was captured and hanged by Jackson.

The British wanted the Creek and Seminoles to be their buffer against the American and start another front by land during the War of 1812. That never developed. And when the Seminole and Miccosukee warriors failed to rush against the cannons of Fort Bowyer in Mobile Bay in September 1814, the British realized they could not use them for cannon fodder. And so the 500 Seminole and Miccosukee warriors that the British had ready on the ships at New Orleans never left the boat, and were not used in any fighting.

So it has all the appearances that the British had already given up on their own Indian allies.

The Jamaican or West Indies soldiers that the British had in New Orleans froze to death, because they did not have any winter clothing. Apparently the British were not concerned about them either.

After New Orleans, the British left in a hurry. They dumped off their Indian allies, and many of their British soldiers were abandoned in the Bahamas. The British officers left behind started to arm and supply the Seminoles to agitate the Americans. And the supplies they left in Negro Fort on the Apalachicola were more as a thorn in the side of the Americans than anything else.

In 1819 when the United States completed the treaty with Spain to make Florida US territory, Seminole / Miccosukee Chief John Hicks went to Pensacola to inquire with the Americans on the future of his own people. He said the British had treated him poorly, and never paid him for the service he rendered during the War of 1812. By 1819 the British had clearly abandoned their Indian allies, and the Creeks, Seminoles, and Miccosukees were well aware of this.

And the tribes had no reason to think that things would get much better under the Americans either.
They tried to co-exist, but the people moving onto their land did not always seem interested.
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