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Osceola's Wife--Legend vs. History

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You would think that historians are mostly non-controversial, but I sometimes get flames, hate mails, whatever you want to call it on the email. I talked to the folks at the Seminole Tribe Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, and they get the same thing; people who say that they are all wrong.

I especially receive emails about my Osceola myths web page, where I compare what is known in historical sources, with the legends of Osceola that are not supported with any historical documentation.

(Above: Osceola, the famous painting by George Catlin. Painted about the time of Osceola's death at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina.)

So, I received the following email from Daniel Gerald (grammar unchanged.)

"Your information regarding Osceola was wrong!!!! he did have a black wife/ however he owned no slave... He always went to war with fifty Black Seminole Warriors."

So, I always ask people to provide a source if they have something different than what I propose.
So he answered,
"I have sources from the seminole negro tribe!"

Okay, let me explain something. I am a historian. The sources that I use are from written documentation, and scientific studies from archaeology, anthropology, and oral histories. History is not the same as legends or folklore. There are other people who record and collect those stories. Sometimes there are thin lines between the two, but I have to work with the main body of accepted documentation. I cannot accept something that may totally disagree with the accepted sources.

As a historian, I prefer to use eyewitness accounts and written newspapers, books, and journals that are contemporary with the time I am looking at. If people tell me legends or folklore, I cannot use this as history if it is in variance and disagreement with the accepted historical sources. I can only put it aside and say, "that's nice."

We know that Osceola had Black Seminole allies with him. When he was captured, he was captured with 79 other people, most of whom were Black Seminole warriors. This is documented, it is written down in historical sources, and therefore accepted as historical fact. So he did have Black Seminole allies, and that is well accepted by all. As far as always having fifty, no more or no less, is not in any historical sources that I know of. So that bit of information goes on the shelf.

We have no record of Osceola owning slaves, so I don't know where that statement came from, because I have never said that.

But there is no record of Osceola having a black wife. Maybe he did, but there is no acceptable historical source that I know of that backs this up. There is some literature about Osceola having a black wife that was published after Osceola died, but it is in the form of a poem or folklore, and the source was not an eyewitness and not reliable.

Osceola is said to have two wives by his side at his death, but they are not identified as black. Their names given are Creek or Muskogee language. Nothing else identifies their race other than having Creek names.

So as far as Osceola having had a black wife, that is only folklore or legend. It is not history. There is a difference. I have to separate the two.

If you want to read more, I suggest the book, "Osceola's Legacy" revised edition by Pat Wickman. I do not always agree with everything she has always said, but she has done her research and it is a good book.
Current Location:
the hammock
Current Mood:
annoyed annoyed
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On March 14th, 2011 02:53 am (UTC), duck113 commented:
Someone can always find reason to be upset about something- I once was told off for wishing someone "good luck" (he said I was invoking Satan)
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On March 18th, 2011 09:45 am (UTC), seminolewar replied:
good luck?
That's a wierd reaction. You never know sometimes.
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