For those of you participating in the two different Seminole War reenactments this weekend, have fun, and I hope your festivals are successful and nobody gets hurt. I will not be there for very specific reasons.
And specifically; my background as a former safety supervisor with the state parks has made me a marked man and libel if anything goes wrong at your festival.
Back starting in 2007, when I worked for the Florida State Parks, I was a participant with establishing the blackpowder safety standards and rules developed for the reenactments and living history programs. The state parks have a written policy and guidebook that is published for all to see. The manuals of Florida State Parks Historic Weapons Firing Safety Program cover either muskets and small arms, or artillery. And I was very proud to be a Safety Supervisor at various events at state parks for a few years.
Although I no longer work for the state parks, I still have the manuals of the safety program we developed. It has changed for later time periods, but I agree with the program that we developed for our antebellum period.( Read more...Collapse )
A few years back, I met a woman at the Miccosukee festival who was a member of the Miccosukee Tribe. When I mentioned that I I’ve done reenactments, she bristled and said, “They just want to kill Indians all over again!” It made me stop and think of her sentiment, and why she thought that way. Are we just glorifying the bad part of history? Our goal as interpreters is not to show death and bloodshed, or just have a battle.
The woman had a very good point. It was a very difficult part of her history. A documentary I saw of Creek people in Oklahoma, explained that they did not speak about the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and the Creek War that happened 200 years ago at their community grounds because of the bad memories that it brought up. I talked to a Creek friend from Oklahoma who was visiting this past summer, and they do not talk about the history that happened here in the east. These are bad memories for them, even if they were six or seven generations ago.
Jack Martin in his book, “Sacred Revolt,” one of the best that covers the Creek War causes & effects, in my opinion, starts out with a very good point. He writes:
“I was disturbed at the way historians left those people dead on the battlefield without ever bothering to ask who they were and why the fought? It was as if scholars were killing them over and over again by failing to imagine their lives, symbols, desires, and perspectives.”( Read more...Collapse )
I have had several comments and issues on the Seminole War Facebook page this past month that I want to address.
The DNA ancestry tests are more popular than ever. There are several different DNA tests on the market. People are taking them to see if they have Native American Indian ancestry. Often, the results are confusing.
Sometimes these results bring up more questions than answers. My test said that my ancestry was about 12 percent of Italian and Spanish ancestry, of which I had no idea, and do not know where that came from. I thought that most of my ancestors are fairly well document, but I guess not.
Then according to National Geographic, we all came out of Africa 100,000 years ago, and I have some DNA from Denisovan and Neanderthal. Denisovan is related to Australian Aborigine; maybe I should claim that?
This is all very interesting, and fun to talk about, but totally meaningless in the long run. It won’t get me anything. Records written down by my great-grandmother are more meaningful than this test.
People want to take these tests and prove they are Native American Indian. Some even told me to prove they are Creek or Seminole. If they need a box with a test tube to spit in to prove they are Creek or Seminole, then I will tell them that they are not. The only way that you are going to prove to me that you are Creek or Seminole is by the scratches on your arm. It has always been about community and culture, not spitting in a bottle.
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Recently, I saw a fuss raised on facebook. Usually, I would not comment about it. But it has to do with a change of an upcoming event at Dade Battlefield.
Dade Battlefield does an annual World War II event and has for probably the past 20 years. This is relevant to what happened there. Back in World War II, the Army Air Corp took over the park and turned it into a training base and prevented outsiders from visiting, due to the secrecy of the training. I am not sure how long this lasted, but I believe that the dates on Wikipedia are wrong, which only say about five months. There is much more information in the state archives of what happened at the park during that time.
For those not familiar with Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, the park was established in 1921 or 22. The monuments, stone bridges, and a band kiosk are the oldest structures in the park. The museum was not built until 1957. Other than that, there is an activity lodge with a kitchen that can be rented, picnic pavilions with a restroom, and a playground. A nature trail, and in total, 80 acres. It is a small park, and I am not aware of anything that remains from WWII. But, that is still part of the history.
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I enjoyed recently the new program on PBS, “Secrets of the Dead: Spanish Florida.”
This two-hour documentary tells the history of Spanish Florida from Spanish colonization by Pedro Menendez and the slaughter of the French Huguenots to the cessation of the territory over to the US. Apparently, it will be a four-hour program released on DVD.
My favorite parts were some of the marine archaeology and the archival work done by Dr. J. Michael Francis, of whom I am a big fan. Overall, I thought that it was a very good program.
Now, the reason I do not work with film productions and documentaries is because I will tell them where they are getting it wrong. That is why the only recent documentary I worked with, was the New Orleans 200th that I did with the 7th Infantry, and we did everything ourselves, including buying our own camera equipment, to writing and filming all ourselves.
What I think this Secrets of the Dead documentary got seriously wrong was that it highlighted two individuals who claim to be descendants of the Yamasee Tribe. Their claims are dubious.
One individual is shown in one still shot, standing next to a person wearing a t-shirt of the Empire of Washita. Which is a cult that claims to have migrated from Africa 200,000 years ago and built the Native American earth mounds east of the Mississippi. Any association with that group makes me suspicious. I can talk about them some other time.
Then they highlighted this woman from the Ocklawaha Seminole Band (Not federally recognized.) This group is now claiming to be Yamasee. They have claimed to be from numerous tribal backgrounds over the years, as their claims have constantly changed.
They did not always claim to be Yamasee. I have attached below, their own history, provided by the group founder and grandmother of the woman who was featured on the documentary.
Nowhere in this Marion County history booklet is any mention of being Yamasee and coming to St. Augustine after the Yamasee War of 1715. In fact, what Mrs. Little Dove Buford describes is totally contrary. But remember, this whole history itself is totally fabricated. Any historian or person knowledgeable in Florida and Seminole history who reads this will know that it is total balderdash!
This is the same group that made friends with James "Flaming Eagle" (Scamming Eagle) Mooney, that I told about here back in 2011/2012. Who claimed to be a member of this group. He is a self-proclaimed shaman, claimed to be a descendant of Osceola, and was arrested in Utah for possession and distribution of Peyote with false claims of being associated with the Native American Church, which he was not. He later got in trouble in Phoenix with a prostitution cult. I don't know if the Ocklawaha Band and James Mooney have severed ties, but last time Mooney was trolling this site, he was still claiming to be a member.
I am doing this because this falsehood should not be passed off as fact. What these people claim needs to be challenged.
PBS really should have talked to me first, because I could have saved them some embarrassment. I am not the only one who knows this!
Click on the page to read the full size. Then right click to download your own copy!
From: Marion County Remembers, “Salty Crackers” Number Sever by Sybil Brown Bray 1989, cover. Sketch a copy of George Catlin’s painting/sketch of Seminole Chief Coa Hadjo.
(Native words on this page are probably taken from a Ben Hunt Indian Lore craft book.)
(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/seminole_war_heritage_trail.pdf
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