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the Battle of Loxahatchee

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The Battle of Loxahatchee has been overlooked as one of the more significant battles of the 2nd Seminole war. Maybe it was because of the Battle of Lake Okeechobee the previous month that made Taylor famous, which overshadowed Loxahatchee. Or maybe it was because the site of the battle was unknown for 150 years.

I know it is a month late from the anniversary of the battle, but I have been tremendously busy. And I didn't want to write about it until I had researched it more.

An excellent website on the battle is: the Forgotten Florida Series by Richard Procyk, who also wrote the book, "Guns Across the Loxahatchee." He was selling the book on ebay for a while, and you may still find one there. I am going to borrow a couple maps from the website to describe the battle here. The maps also appear in Procyk's book. I hope he won't mind.

Another good book which I also got on ebay a few years ago, also sold by its author, is by Kenneth J. Hughes: "A Chronological History of Fort Jupiter and U.S. Military Operations in the Loxahatchee Region, 1838-1858."

Below: the 1837/1838 campaign by Procyk.

Loxahatchee can be considered more important battle than Okeechobee. It closed the largest campaign of the war and started negotiations with the Seminoles. Jesup afterwards wrote to Washington City, a proposal for the Seminoles to remain in south Florida and far from the American settlements. Secretary of War Joel Poinsett rejected the proposal, and the war continued. In the interim, Sam Colt came down and tested out his repeating guns in an effort to get Army approval for his new revolver. Colt failed on his campaign as well.

This was the largest campaign of the war. Almost half the U.S. Army was brought down into Florida. It included state volunteer soldiers who outnumbered the federal troops about two to one. Along with Native American allies, Shawnee and Delaware Scouts. The Creek Regiment had just left Florida in September 1837 after a year in Florida. There was also a delegation of Cherokees who tried to negotiate with the Seminoles, but were unsuccessful. This was the largest campaign of the war, and if Jesup wanted to end it by asking Washington to let the Seminoles stay in south Florida, they would hear nothing of the sort.

A new presidential administration was starting in Washington under the newly elected President Martin Van Buren. MVB was Jackson's ordained successor and it probably would have been political suicide for him to start his term of office by appearing to give up on the Seminoles and their removal.

150 years after the 1838 battle, the location of both battles were found in what is today Riverbend Park in Palm Beach County. Archaeology work confirmed this, although these areas of the park are still closed off to the public.

A couple things are usually overlooked about the battle. First is that the force under Jesup was larger by about 300-400 than Taylor's force at Okeechobee. Second, these were not the last organized battles of the war. Col. Worth's battle near Lake Apopka in April 1842 was. Still, these were all significant battles.

The first battle of Loxahatchee on January 15, 1838 involved Army & Navy forces under command of naval officer Lt. Levin Powell. The expedition was ambushed while approaching a village, and came under heavy fire and driven back. It would have been even more disastrous for the soldiers were it not for the cover fire from the artillery by the young Joseph E. Johnston, who would later become a Confederate General. The Seminoles won this battle, but Johnston was the one who saved the expedition from disaster.

Photo: Joseph E. Johnston years later as the Confederate general.

Once General Jesup got word of the first battle, he brought his forces down into what ended up as the second battle of Loxahatchee on January 24, 1838. This battle was on the opposite side of the river as the first battle. This time the soldiers won the battle when they charged across the river and overran the Indian position. But unlike Okeechobee, the Seminoles regrouped on the other side of the river and continued firing. When Jesup charged up to the river and started to cross, he turned around and found that the Tennessee soldiers had not followed him into the river, when he was struck by a bullet in the cheek. This caused enmity between Jesup and the militia soldiers, and may have even contributed to why volunteer solders were not used in major campaigns the rest of the war.

Below: Battle order map of the January 24th battle by Procyk.

The history of this battle and the later history of the fort that was established around Jupiter involves soldiers who were prominent on both sides during the civil war, like later Confederates David Twiggs and Jubal Early, and later Union officers Joseph Hooker and Robert Anderson.

Recently some videos appeared on Youtube about a commemoration that apparently happens every year. It is a very odd ceremony. They have representatives of the Sons of Union Veterans, who give incorrect knowledge of the Seminole Wars. (Where did they find out that Chief Alligator served as a Union officer? Wouldn't he have been about 70 years old in the Civil War?) Logically, shouldn't they also invite the Sons of the Confederate Veterans as well? And one of the videos even said that the war started here!

And even more curious is the "Native American purification ceremony" by "Ms. Hummingbird, Queen of the Calib Tribe of the Miami Circle." Ms. Hummingbird is not Seminole, and her ceremony has nothing to do with the battle, the Seminoles, or the Florida/Seminole Wars. I suppose they can do any type of strange ceremony that they like, but it will not attract any support from any of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Current Location:
the hammock
Current Mood:
accomplished accomplished
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On February 26th, 2009 02:11 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Ms. Hummingbird
Sometimes I wonder how I would be received if I went to a F&! War reenactment as a black robed Catholic priest and, with all sincerity and respect, performed a Mass. Isn't that essentially what Ms. Hummingbird is doing? Except that my Mass just might be more accurate than her purification ceremony.
There is a purification ceremony that I do every day. It involves a small private chapel, a special pool of water, and some dedicatory papers that conveniently come on a roll. I do my thing with all sincerity, and almost always feel refreshed afterwards. I'm pretty sure that what I do is as close to an accurate Native American way of doing it as anything Ms. Hummingbird does. - Rick O.
[User Picture]
On February 26th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC), seminolewar replied:
Re: Ms. Hummingbird
[User Picture]
On February 27th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC), connor_campbell replied:
Re: Ms. Hummingbird
or, as another knowledgeable in Native American lore once said: "welvnmv" or "holvnetv"...lol
[User Picture]
On February 27th, 2009 11:07 am (UTC), seminolewar replied:
Re: Ms. Hummingbird
What gets me is the big huge pot of smoking sage she is smudging everyone with. That is definitely not southeastern.
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