The other day (March 6th) Steve Abolt asked me what happened on that date that was important in 1830s history? I answered correctly, saying that it was the anniversary of the fall of the Alamo in 1836.
The Alamo over-shadowed the 2nd Seminole War in Florida. And the irony was that the volunteer troops from Louisiana were not guarding their border with the newly succeeded Republic of Texas, but in Florida surrounded by Seminoles. General Edmund Pendelton Gaines had orders to take the volunteers to the west, but decided that the action would be in Florida instead. So Gaines and his 1,100 soldiers ended up surrounded by Seminoles instead of Santa Anna.
(Below) The command under General Gaines comes upon the remains of Major Dade and his men and buries them on the spot--eight weeks after Dade's battle.
BTW, the Alamo is one of the top 10 "Must Visit US Historic Sites" by the History Channel Magazine. General Gaines camp, Camp Izard on the Withlacoochee, did not make the list.
(Below) General Edmund Pendelton Gaines.
Today, Gaines would be considered insubordinate and going against orders, but back then commanders had more latitude to react to situations that would require a quick response without waiting weeks or months for correspondence from Washington. And Tampa Bay was included in Gaines' military district, so he was not without reason to go there.
We wonder how different it would have been, had Gaines followed his orders and gone west to guard the Louisiana border instead? If he had gotten involved in the Texas revolution, it may have gone very bad for the United States if the country suddenly became involved in another war. It seems that it was a no-win situation for Gaines, whichever way he went.
(Below) Painting by Jackson Walker of Gaines on the Withlacoochee. This is the new cover of the Henry Prince diary published by the Seminoles Wars Foundation and the University of Tampa Press, "Amidst a Storm of Bullets."
General Gaines' campaign in Florida and siege on the Withlacoochee has more written about it than any other campaign in the 2nd Seminole War. In my own library, I have at least 10 different books that talk about his campaign, all written by officers and soldiers who were eyewitnesses in the war.
(Below) Camp Izard on the Withlacoochee where Gaines was penned up.
The Withlacoochee siege also highlighted the biggest conflict and rivalry among the officers of the U.S. Army, with Gaines and General Winfield Scott. A rivalry that goes back to the War of 1812 which was made much worse by Gaines coming to Florida and having a failed campaign conflicting against the wishes of the commander of forces in Florida, General Winfield Scott.
One person who followed Gaines from New Orleans to Camp Izard, and then over to the Sabine River frontier with Texas, was Captain Ethan Allen Hitchcock. I would suggest reading his diary that is in print and easy to find, "Fifty Years in Camp and Field." It includes much important information on the 2nd Seminole War.
(Below) General Ethan Allen Hitchcock at the end of the Southern War of Succession.
In Hitchcock's long military career, he worked with both Generals Gaines and Scott. All three had military careers spanning 50 years.
Hitchcock became the point man to negotiate a cease fire with the Seminoles that ended Gaines' siege on the Withlacoochee. He went out and sat on a log, and personally met and conversed with Osceola, Abraham, Alligator, and Jumper.
A few days before, Gaines was hit by a rifle ball in the mouth that ricocheted off a tree. He exclaimed to Hitchcock, "It is mean of the redskins to knock out my teeth when I have so few!"
Afterwards when Gaines and Scott both met at Fort Drane, where their attitude towards each other was downright hostile, as Hitchcock writes:
"The meeting between the two generals was cold in the extreme. No civilities or courtesies passed between them. They sat opposite to each other at table without any salutations on either side. The aids, however, conversed with each other."
Despite the failed campaign of Gaines, he was probably in a better position to end the hostilities than General Scott. Gaines was a ground-pounding, hands-on officer who reacted quickly and instinctively. He was wounded but stayed firm. I imagine that the Seminoles had more respect for him than the aloof and distant Winfield Scott who traveled on campaign in the same location along the Withlacoochee with a full library and military band. And the Seminoles respected the cease fire they made with Gaines until Scott executed his campaign a few weeks later. Scott bragged that he could defend himself with a goose-quill pen, which would probably not have impressed the Seminoles.
(Below) General Winfield Scott.
Captain Hitchcock left Florida with General Gaines for the Sabine boarder lands, but once again had another unpleasant meeting with General Scott. When Houston defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto, Hitchcock personally took Houston's hastily scrawled message of the victory to President Jackson in Washington. After he arrived in Washington City, Hitchcock found himself representing Gaines in a board of inquiry about the Gaines-Scott feud and military disaster in Florida, facing off against Scott.
Apparently Hitchcock defended himself well, because the Gaines got off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist for all the troubles he caused Scott.
Hitchcock would have several dealings with the war in Florida in the following years, and even later with the Seminoles in Oklahoma territory. It is said that Hitchcock's long letters describing the war were read by President John Tyler and influenced the decision to end the war.
Hitchcock and Scott would reconcile their differences, and Hitchcock would even serve on Scott's staff in the War with Mexico and the Civil War.
Both Hitchcock and Scott are buried in West Point, New York. Hitchcock has a simple military grave, while Scott has a large stone in a family plot. Gaines is buried in the Old Church Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama, with a simple grave.
(Below) Gaines' grave in Mobile, Ala., from findagrave.com .
All three graves are almost characteristic of their military styles and careers. Scott with the large and distinctive stone. Hitchcock with the simple but straight-forward VA stone. And Gaines with the rough & field trodden stone. And Gaines is also the least remembered in history of the three generals!