Historic sites saved.
In the mid-1990s, the Seminole War Historic Foundation was created. I had always thought that if I had a lot of money and created a foundation to acquire historic Seminole War properties, this would be it. It even had the same name that I imagined. It was started by the best authors & historians of the Seminole War: Dr. John Mahon, Frank Laumer, Dr. Brent Weisman, John Covington, Billy Cypress of the Seminole Tribe, among others.
With historical properties in Florida quickly disappearing to become shopping malls or landfills, the foundation was created to try and save these sites from the bulldozers. The first success was to purchase the Camp Izard property along the Withlacoochee River near Dunnellon, where General Gaines sat surrounded by Seminoles for 10 days in 1836. When the Fort King property came up for sale a few years later, I notified some of the members in the foundation, and that property was purchased by join cooperation of the state and county. Fort King was saved just in time, because a Japanese developer wanted to build condos on the site. It is a shame that very few historic sites remain from a major war that involved half the U.S. Army and captivated the attention of the national press in the 1830s.
Today the foundation continues by publishing the best books on the Seminole War, with hard to find eyewitness journals, and reprint old classics like John T. Sprague’s 1848 history of the war. Unfortunately several of the original founders of the foundation have passed away, but it is continuing with some very enthusiastic people. After both their passing, Dr. Mahon and William Cypress were honored with commemorative medallions at the annual Dade Battlefield reenactment.
The first of the journals from the Seminole War that the foundation published is the diary of Lt. Henry Prince, “Amidst a Storm of Bullets.” Prince was with Gaines on the Withlacoochee, and many different actions during the war. When his journal was discovered as loose papers in an attic up north, they were brought to the Dade Battlefield for identification. The papers were purchased and put in the Florida collection library in Gainesville. From the diary was located a village of Osceola’s, along the Withlacoochee River, 150 years after Prince saw it. It also contained some information that has not been seen elsewhere, like the execution of Lt. Ward by Col. Parish. Prince takes the view in favor of Ward, unlike newspaper accounts and military records of the day.
Last year John and Mary Lou Missall of the foundation published Col. William S. Foster’s diary, “This Miserable Pride of a Soldier.” Col. Foster constructed Fort Foster and Fort Dade on the Withlacoochee, and participated in the battle at Lake Okeechobee.
These are not the only diaries that the foundation has published, but I am told that there are more to come. In researching history, eyewitness accounts are invaluable. Another note is that both books have cover paintings by artist Jackson Walker, who has made many painting of Florida military themes.