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seminolewar


175 years ago

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I have been asked to write a scenario or a snapshot in time 175 years ago, for April 1837. Here is what I have come up with:

The Second Seminole War in early 1837 has reached a point where it has gone on longer than anyone has anticipated. Everyone thought it would be over in a few weeks because other conflicts between the native tribes ended quickly when large numbers of soldiers were put into the field and forced a conclusion by having over whelming force. It hasn't turned out the same way in Florida. Settlers are still getting killed and scalped. The Seminoles seem to have almost free reign outside the walls of St. Augustine or the numerous forts.

In October 1836, General Richard K. Call led a campaign to try and force the Seminoles out of the Cove of the Withlacoochee, which resulted in the Battle of Wahoo Swamp. But Call did not drive out the Seminoles from the Cove of the Withlacoochee or Wahoo Swamp, and his soldiers ended up short of supplies and starving when they arrived at Fort Micanopy and found out that the post had been abandoned with no supplies available. The campaign was a failure.

The U.S. Marine Corp Commandant Col. Archibald Henderson then left Washington to participate in the war. Call returned to Tallahassee to continue as territorial governor, while General Thomas Sidney Jesup became commander of the forces in Florida in December 1836. Jesup was the Army Quartermaster and understood that an army needed supplies to operate, but it would take almost a year to get the forces in a position for the large campaign that he wanted.

The Creek War in Alabama and Georgia was still going on, even though it was declared over, with a few large battles with the state militias in southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia. Before coming to Florida, Jesup had taken command of the western forces in the Creek War in Alabama, and moved quickly and decisively to end that conflict. General Winfield Scott was to move from Columbus, Georgia from the other direction, but by the time he was ready to move, Jesup had already moved and finished his mission. Jesup believe that he had to move quickly or lose the opportunity to bring an end to the conflict. Scott accused Jesup of not moving in coordination with him, and thus bringing Scott's campaign of a pincer move to a failure because the two sides of the army were not working together. It was pretty much the same thing that went on between Scott and General Gaines the previous February, except that Jesup was not surrounded and under siege.

The President has called a court of inquiry in Frederick, Maryland to determine the cause of failure for General Scott in both Florida and Georgia/Alabama. This is a big deal when a top general in the army is accused of failure and brought before a court. Head of the court is General Alexander Macomb, Commanding General of the Army.

In January 1837, two important Seminole leaders are killed in battle, John Caesar, a Black Seminole, and Seminole Chief Cooper. John Caesar was killed near St. Augustine, and the town residents were alarmed at the number of items in Caesar's camp that were locally purchased in St. Augustine, only two miles away. St. Augustine residents were nervous that hostile Black Seminoles were coming into the town and easily procuring items without being noticed. Also among the refugees in the towns were many slaves who had fled the plantations on the coast that were burned, and the white residents feared that these unsupervised slaves could also be among the hostile forces of the Black Seminoles.

In January 1837, Chief Cooper is killed on the shore of Lake Apopka, and that leads the military on a trail south to Hatchee Lustee Creek.

At the end of January, there is a large battle on Hatchee Lustee Creek near Lake Tohopekaliga in central Florida. This battle involves U.S. Marines, Creek allies, and Alabama militia against the Seminoles. There is heavy skirmishing in the cypress swamps to the shore of Lake Tohopekaliga, where Seminole settlements are found and the inhabitants flee. Although only a few Seminoles are captured and most get away, hundreds of cattle are captured, along with 100 horses loaded with supplies. This would make it very difficult for the fleeing Seminoles because of the loss of their food and supplies.

The battle of Hatchee Lustee Creek with the loss of Seminole provisions is probably one of the reasons that Jesup is able to start negotiations with the Seminoles at Fort Dade soon after. In February, Jesup starts to negotiate with Jumper, Abraham, and Micanopy to end the war.

A Large battle on Lake Monroe in February 1837 where Capt. Mellon is killed, renaming the post Fort Mellon. Seminoles under King Phillip and his son Coacoochee (Wildcat) attack before dawn, but the soldiers are prepared for the ambush and force the Seminoles to flee with the help of artillery from a steam boat on Lake Monroe. It is believe that there were a lot of casualties among the Seminoles, even though they removed the bodies from the scene of battle.

Jesup's negotiations at Fort Dade appear to end hostilities. Agreeing to end fighting and go to Fort Brooke to emigrate are Holatoochie (Davy), Jumper (for Micanopy), Cloud, John Cawyya (Gopher John or John Horse), and representatives for Alligator. The Seminoles are slow to come in to Fort Brooke, so Jesup extends the deadline for their surrender. Most settlers and citizens in Florida are skeptical that the Seminoles intend to emigrate, and feel that the Seminoles only agreed so they could collect supplies from the Army.

By the end of March, Alligator, Jumper, Micanopy, and Abraham have agreed with the Fort Dade treaty and are working to bring their people in. Many arrive at Fort Dade and are sent south to Ft. Brooke. Phillip, Osceola (Powell) and Abiaka (Sam Jones) are not in agreement. Jumper is ill and will eventually die during removal at Fort Pike, Louisiana.

All black Seminoles will be allowed to emigrate with the rest of the tribe, although slaves that the Seminoles seized are to be gathered at Fort Mellon and returned to their masters.

There is no more fighting with the Seminoles after the battle at Lake Monroe. There are a few skirmishes with renegade Creeks in the Florida panhandle, and one instance where a ship lands on Key Largo and a wood cutting party is attacked. (Maybe the Spanish Indians?) The next large battle between the army and the Seminoles will be the next September when Phillip is captured and a battle the next day at Mosquito Inlet. So the war is quiet for 7 months.

29 March 1837 - A letter is published in a Florida newspaper where President Jackson insults the Florida Volunteer Militia Soldiers. Jackson says that he could take 50 women and beat the Seminoles. He says that Florida women should let their men die so they can remarry and have children who won't grow up to be cowards. Jackson just finished two terms as president, and Martin Van Buren is now the new President.

The trial between General Gaines and General Scott in Frederick, Maryland is published in the newspapers. Four issues of the Army and Navy Chronicle are devoted almost entirely to the trail testimony in March and April. When commanding generals are fighting each other in court, it is a good sign that the war in Florida was not going well. Finally the court blames the failure of the campaigns on the climate, lack of supplies, and failure of adequate transportation of the supplies. General Gaines is censured because he had a letter published in one of the newspapers where he complains about the failed campaign and his disagreement with Scott. If Gaines' letter of disagreement had not been published in the newspaper, he would probably not have been censured.

Osceola (Powell) is rumored to be coming into Fort Mellon with Phillip. Osceola will come in to Fort Mellon the next month, but Phillip will not.

Jesup has issued orders that no white men enter in the interior of the peninsula west of the St. Johns to make sure the Seminoles emigrate without trouble. People in St. Augustine are angered by this order and hold a meeting to draft a letter to Jesup in protest. So even though the war appears to be ending, the citizens of Florida are not feeling so friendly with the regular Army.

Indians coming into Tampa are noted to arrive without arms, given rations and ammunition, and then leave under the pretense of finding their cattle. Settlers in Florida are not all convinced that the Indians plan to emigrate.
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