I am posting my talk from a recent program I gave at the Marco Island Historical Society. Several people who could not attend wanted to hear it, so I am posting the entire talk here.
The period of history known as the Seminole Wars actually covered about 60 years, until 1859. Only about 300 Seminoles remained in Florida out of an estimated 5,000 before the war.
The Seminole Wars were the longest and most costliest war the United States ever fought against the native tribes. At one point it involved half the United States Army in Florida. But tragically, the war is mostly forgotten.
The state of Florida lists 185,000 archaeological and historical sites on the Master Site File. The number listed for Collier County is 1066. It seems that more should be identified in Collier County with our rich history. Of the Seminole war sites in Collier, few are listed on the site files, and none of the exact locations of any of the battles are known for certainty. We even have a monument on the lawn of the old capitol building in Tallahassee that commemorates one of these battles.
In southwest Florida, the war was different than a few hundred miles north in the peninsula. The territory in the southwest did not have any cities or large American settlements. The area was unmapped and the coastline was charted very inaccurately. The war would be the first time any Americans had entered Big Cypress and the Everglades. One of the generals in the 2nd Seminole War said that we knew more of the interior of China than we did of Florida.
In north Florida, the Seminoles had been pushed out and away from the cities and settlements. But in south Florida, it was very different. The Seminoles took their final stand against removal and the final battles were fought here in Collier County. Since the Seminoles had been forced out of their home in north Florida, it was considered that the objectives of the war had been won up there. In south Florida, the United States was not able to win against the Seminoles in an inhospitable terrain, and found it impossible to round them up for removal. They are still here today.