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Tiger Tail / Thlocko Tustenuggee

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One of the major Seminole strategists and leaders during the Second Seminole War was one that has often been overlooked, Thlocko Tustenuggee or Tiger Tail.

His name is confusing, because it is alternately seen as Thlocko or Thlocklo in historical records. Sprague calls him Thlocklo or Fish King, but also uses the Thlocko spelling. Thlathlo is the Muskogee word for fish.

Alternately, Thlocko is the title for a head leader, so Thlocko Tustenuggee means, “Big Warrior” or “Head Warrior.” This is not to be confused with the Seminole Chief Big Warrior, an Alachuca Seminole who was host to William Bartram on Paynes Prairie in the 1770s.

The Thlocko Tustenuggee we want to look at was born about 1791 and known as a Tallahassee Seminole. His father was chief of a town in vicinity of the modern city of Tallahassee.

Below: Tiger Tail from Sprague

An informant to Swanton says that the Tallahassee Seminoles were from the Creek town of Sawokli, which were Hitchiti speakers. This would make sense, because Tallahassee is so close to the huge Miccosukee town on Lake Miccosukee. But it is obvious that Tiger Tail also spoke Muskogee Creek, because his village included Creeks during the war.

His older brother Nethlockemathlar was actually the head leader of the family, but it was said that Tiger Tail was more charismatic than his older brother. Both would resist removal until the end of the war.

I always wonder if Seminole names in history are related to clan affiliations. During the Treaty of Moultrie Creek in 1823, Thlocko Tustenuggee was wearing the tail of a Florida panther on his belt. Thereafter he was also known as Tiger Tail because of this. (The term Tiger is the same as Florida Panther among the Seminole & Miccosukee.)

Tiger Tail lived at the plantation of Robert Gamble on the Wakulla River south of Tallahassee. I wonder if that was the old town site of his father’s town, and Gamble was just benevolent enough to let him remain? Whatever the case, it was very helpful to Gamble, who never had any attack or hostility towards him and his plantation during the war.

Tiger Tail spoke perfect English, kept the Sabbath, and was intimately familiar with the habits and customs of the white man. His knowledge of the white man’s ways were no doubt due to his closeness with the Gamble family.

The most amusing incident with Tiger Tail involves territory Governor John Eaton. In 1834, Eaton was appointed as governor, more to get him away from scandal in Washington than anything else. (A story for another time.) The new governor did not have many friends or supporters, even when he moved down to Florida. And the Seminoles were not impressed with him either.

Below: John Eaton

“The Tallahassee chief, Thlocko Tustenuggee (Tiger Tail), is said to have followed Eaton into the governor’s office the first time he appeared there. The Indian stood for a short time with his arms folded, regarding the Governor intently and in silence. Then he turned and stalked out, still without saying a word.” (McReynolds, “The Seminoles”)

Although Tiger TAil did take part in some of the smaller skirmishes, he is not known for fighting in the large battles during the the war. But because of his ability to speak English and knowledge of military tactics, he was an extremely valuable advisor and strategist during the war. He seems to be the one who can be given credit for the second half of the war that turned into a horrific fight of guerrilla warfare. He told his warriors to split into small bands of five and to kill every white man they saw.

In May 1839, General Alexander Macomb met with both Tiger Tail and Halleck Tustenuggee at Fort King to try and bring an end to the war. Both Seminole & Miccosukee warriors that met with Macomb became skillful at meeting with the soldiers to talk about removal, loaded up with food and provisions, and then disappeared back into hiding. They did this several times before the Army learned its lesson.

In November 1840, General Walker Armistead met with several of the war chiefs at Fort King, and tried to persuade and bribe them to remove to Oklahoma. Tiger Tail and Halleck Tustenuggee spent several weeks collecting food and supplies, and then disappeared with nothing left for Armistead. The following year during Green Corn in 1841, both Seminole & Miccosukee leaders made an agreement to refuse any removal, and to execute any among their tribe who would entreat such ideas. Thus they remained the most elusive groups of Seminoles, and the war was not declared over until their capture and removal in 1842.

In the summer of 1841, soldiers discovered Tiger Tail’s village in the cove of the Withlacoochee and burned his dwellings and fields. This was a devastating blow against Tiger Tail, who needed the crops to feed his people. He had to flee to his brother Nethlockemathlar’s village in Annuttiliga Hammock.

Both Alligator and Coacoochee were brought in to negotiate a removal of the Seminoles remaining in Florida. They may have been successful, if not for the constant movement of troops from the Army at the same time. Several officers remarked that this gave the appearance of duplicity and planned treachery of the whites, while talking peace but moving as if they are still at war.

Alligator was actually successful at bringing in Nethlockemathlar and Tiger Tail. But Tiger Tail once more disappeared into the Florida swamp, and right out from under guard at Fort Brooke. Nethlockemathlar felt indignant and betrayed by his brother’s escape after a long and careful negotiation with Alligator.

Tiger Tail was seized after the war was declared over, in late 1842. This was in violation of agreement made between General Worth and the Seminoles at Cedar Key before the end of the war, that they would be allowed to remain in Florida.

Below: General William J. Worth

In late December 1842, Tiger Tail with a few other bands of Creeks and Seminoles left Florida by ship to New Orleans. There they would wait for the river to rise next spring, so the boats could take them to the Indian Territory. Unfortunately Tiger Tail never completed the journey and died in New Orleans. His last wish was that he be positioned on his bed to watch the setting sun. Having his wish granted, his life faded away and disappeared with the daylight.
Current Location:
the hammock
Current Mood:
accomplished accomplished
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On September 28th, 2009 07:53 am (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Your statement -- The term Tiger is the same as Florida Panther among the Seminole & Miccosukee.) -- is incorrect. Please check your facts. Coo-wah-chobee is big cat in the Miccosukee language and it refers only to the brown Florida panther of Florida. There are no tigers in Florida. The rabbit lured them away. But that is a legend too deep for you to understand
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On September 28th, 2009 10:01 am (UTC), seminolewar replied:
Okay, so it was speculation.

As for "Please check your facts", I refer to Sprague, saying that he gained the name from adornment he wore during the stickball game in 1823. I realize that Sprague was not in Florida until 1839, but he gives no alternate source. So "checking the facts" are not easy if there is no other written source from the time. If you refer to oral history and folklore, then that is another matter entirely.

And since you mention the story about rabbit luring away tiger, I suppose you are refering to the story that is the cover to Betty Mae Jumper's book.

As for "too deep to understand," I refrain from mentioning anything of a religious or spiritual nature on this blog, although I have a lot that I could cover, but don't. (You don't know me, and I think that you would be pleasantly surprised.) Degrading or making fun of someone's spiritual status is not my way. I never assume that I know anyone's spiritual status, nor do I assue that I am superior to them. Nor do I feel it would be proper to do a blanket insult or patronizing statement either, but instead to help teach people or help them understand the written record, which I do seem to be good at. And sorry in advance if I assumed too much into your own statement.
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On July 16th, 2015 06:06 pm (UTC), Laverne Hammock Tornow commented:
Tiger Tail and the Annuttiliga Hammock
I live in the hammock, I am quite near the old blockhouse constructed by the first settlers in what would become Hernando County in 1843. Would be extremely interested in learning the location of Tiger Tail's brother's village.

Thank you,
Laverne Hammock Tornow (and yes my maiden name IS Hammock!)
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