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Raid on the Lighthouse and Caloosahatchee

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The previous month was the anniversary of two significant events in Seminole War History, both on July 23rd. Not remembered by anyone, except a website on the other side of the state, in Jacksonville.

"This Weekend in Florida History."

Unfortunately the article doesn't get everything right, which is no surprise. Here I am reposting what they said with some corrections.

Below: Cape Florida lighthouse.

JULY 23rd, 1836
"On this day, Seminole Indians attacked the Cape Florida lighthouse on Key Biscayne. Assistant keeper, John W. B. Thompson, and a slave returned fire until evening. The two men were wounded and the slave died. The Seminoles set the lighthouse afire, and when a large drum of oil was punctured, the entire building appears ready to burn. Thompson retreated to the top of the lighthouse to escape the flames. In desperation, he throws a keg of gunpowder to the bottom of the tower. The explosion rattled the building, momentarily suppressing the fire. The Seminoles were convinced that both men were dead and withdrew. Thompson managed to survive, although he was badly burned by the fire. He was rescued a few days later by the crew of the U.S.S. Motto, whose crew had heard the explosion although they were about twelve miles at sea."

It sounds like that little description was taken from the official report of what happened. Besides being the 175th anniversary of this event, it is the only time in history where Native Americans attacked and laid siege to a lighthouse. It didn't exactly happen as written above. I don't know about them returning fire, but the slave died when Thompson climbed on top of his back to try and escape the fire, while they were both on the roof of the lighthouse. The unfortunate slave was roasted to death by the fire. It is true about the gunpowder keg, which destroyed the staircase and thus cut off any way to go up and down the tower. The navy sailors shot a line up so they could get a rope to lower Thompson down.

July 23nd, 1839
"Twenty-four U.S. soldiers were killed in a surprise dawn raid by 250 Indians on the Caloosahatchee River near present-day Fort Myers. The detachment of 28 soldiers, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Harney were enroute to Charlotte Harbor to establish a trading post pursuant to General Macombs’s reaty. The attacking force of more than 200 Seminoles were led by Holata Micco (Billy Bowlegs) and Chikika, the last of the Caloosa chiefs."

Col. William S. Harney was second in command of the 2nd Dragoons, which today is the 2nd Cavalry. Now in Iraq, the 2nd Cav is one of the most decorated regiments in the Army. I looked at the website for the 2nd Cav but did not see this incident listed in their history. Maybe they don’t want to remember it?

Well, I sure think it was important. The attack on the Caloosahatchee Trading post has the third largest battle death rate of the soldiers during the war, behind Dade’s Battle and Okeechobee. It was held at night, which is very significant since most battles during the war were not.

And Chakaika was not the last of the "Caloosa" Chiefs since he was not Calusa. (See my earlier blogs on the Spanish Indians.)

Below: A 2nd Dragoon Officer in Mexican War uniform.
Current Location:
the hammock
Current Mood:
awake awake
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