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Fear and Anxiety on the Florida Frontier

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Fear and Anxiety on the Florida Frontier
Articles on the Second Seminole War
by Joe Knetsch
2008, Seminole Wars Foundation

Dr. Joe's book is a collection of his various articles and essays on the Seminole War. So it is therefore not so much a history on the war, but small windows into lesser known incidents and people of the war.

A prevailing theme seems to be the general panic and horror these people were facing during the war. The future was uncertain, and people fled from their homes, leaving behind all their possessions and running to the safety of the local forts needing government rations and assistance. Life inside the fort could be even more dangerous than outside. There is one case where a private at Fort Micanopy killed his wife and was put on trial.

Dr. Joe writes about incidents in the war that have been forgotten or ignored. He has an excellent chapter that explains the Spanish fishing rancheros at Charlotte Harbor, and how the United States broke them up. Not so much to prevent trade to the Indians, but to end a Spanish industry that was still supplying fish to Cuba. And even more intolerable was that peoples of different races and color lived and worked equally, while Florida entered the union as a slave territory. Breaking up the rancheros seems to have been more an issue of control with keeping the political & economic system in the south from being threatened by this anomaly where people of mixed race can live free and as equals among each other. I never completely understood about the fishing rancheros in the war and what happened until I read this chapter. But this is just one chapter in the book, while there are many others.

(Below) Lighthouse & museum at Charlotte Harbor today, Gasparilla Island State Park.

Another chapter deals with the Battle of Dunlawton, and how it was more significant than people have paid attention to it in the past. The Seminole's victory over the Florida volunteer militia exposed major flaws with the state militia and totally destroys their confidence as an effective fighting machine. Because of early Seminole victories over the militia and small number of federal troops in Florida, the Seminoles pretty much had almost full control over the interior peninsula within the first month of the war.

Dr. Joe shows that all the top Army officers tried and failed to remove the Seminoles from Florida. Officers in charge all used the tactics they were familiar with to try and round up the Seminoles, but still failed. Officers of the infantry, artillery, engineers, logistics and master tacticians all tried their hand. The environment that the Seminoles hid themselves in made it impossible to remove them. Each of the generals (and colonel) in charge of the forces in Florida ran their campaigns differently than their predecessor, and still came to the same conclusion that nothing could work. And junior officers under them realized this almost immediately from their field notes and journals reprinted in the book.

The cover of the book has a Jackson Walker painting of Osceola being taken as a prisoner through the streets of St. Augustine. This happens to be one of my favorites of Walker's paintings. I guess the publishers wanted a good cover jacket, but there is nothing in this book that deals with Osceola. What is expressed in the book is the people in the paintings, who are looking from the balcony or closing the shutters even when the prisoner poses no threat to them.

(Below) Jackson Walker painting that is the cover of the book.

Current Location:
the hammock
Current Mood:
awake awake
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On June 27th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC), indianrivguy commented:
Thanks Chris, might have to check that one out. I am also interested in the ranchero's. I finally finished Swamp Sailors in the Second Seminole War and thought overall it was worthy. Buker discusses Charlotte Harbour and some of the actions there but he didn't mention or discuss the ranchero's. He did however,cover the importance placed on stopping the smuggling from that area with Cuba. Commodore Dallas gave direct operational orders several times concerning the blockade of that area by the West India Squadron. Interesting stuff.. I'm still trying to digest what I read.

I ran across a website awhile back that might interest you. Dr. Bird has a ton of info and images there all laid out in a reader friendly manner.
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