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Collier County Part 9, the 3rd Seminole War Cone, Parkhill, & Stephens Expeditions

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Capt. Cone's Expedition

In November 1857, an Army command under Capt. William Cone had success finding villages in Big Cypress, and destroyed up to 40 structures and several acres of crops. But capturing Indians remained difficult, and all he had to show for prisoners from his campaign was one old man, 5 women, 13 children, while they killed one warrior and one boy. The Seminoles retaliated a few days later for the destruction of their towns by killing three dozen of the soldier's horses that were out grazing.

[Below: This illustration in the book, "The Seminole Wars, 1818-1858" (part of the Men-at-Arms series by Osprey publishing, depicts Capt. Cone's destruction of Seminole villages.]

Capt. John Parkhill's Expedition

About the same time in November 1857, Capt. John Parkhill leads and expedition to search for the Seminoles into what is now Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. This command has 110 men, mostly volunteer troops from Leon County, Tallahassee. They stop on Marco Island before continuing to Chokoloskee, and up the Turner River. Incidentally, the Turner River is named for their guide, Captain Turner, "Though a most excellent and fearless guide, has not a correct idea of the geography of the country."

[Below: Capt. John Parkhill, the highest ranking officer killed in battle in the 3rd Seminole War.]

The soldiers find an Indian village of 30 lodges and 40 cultivated acres they call "Royal Palm Hammock" and destroy the structures and crops. Then they sit down and start cooking supper, and prepare to encamp for the evening.

The next morning Parkhill takes 25 men, leaving the rest behind in camp, and continues to scout the trail for Indians. He follows a trail for three miles, and as they are crossing a creek or slough, the soldiers are ambushed and Capt. Parkhill is killed, and five men wounded. The day after the battle, Parkhill's body is taken to a large lake and buried, which is most likely Deep Lake. Four years later in 1861, a monument is erected in honor of Parkhill, “killed November 28, 1858, near Royal Palm Hammock,” on the capitol lawn in Tallahassee. We have no word that Parkhill's grave was ever discovered when Barron Collier grew citrus around Deep Lake 70 years later.

There are some similarities between Parkhill's skirmish and Major Dade's battle at the beginning of the 2nd Seminole War. Dade's battle was one of the first battles at the beginning of the 2nd Seminole War, and happened when Dade's command of 110 soldiers were ambushed, killing Major Francis L. Dade, the commanding officer, at the beginning of the battle. Parkhill's skirmish was one of the last of the Third Seminole War, and happened when Parkhill, also commanding 110 soldiers, was killed at the beginning of a skirmish. Both Dade and Parkhill are the highest ranking officers killed in battle in the 2nd and 3rd Seminole wars.

Capt. Stephens' Expedition

The next week, about December 3rd, 1857, Capt. Winston Stephens' company was in pursuit of the Indians who had killed the horses out grazing. The former company commander Capt. Cone was a state legislator and had returned to Tallahassee for the opening session, giving command over to Stephens. They were in what is today the north side of Big Cypress National Preserve.

There is an old daguerreotype photograph on the state archives website of Stephens during the Civil War. He is armed to the teeth with several guns and large knives worn about his person. He was apparently very experienced as a fighter. That's what you call, "prepared." (For some reason I was not able to load the photo onto this site cannot show it here.)

They find another Seminole village with fields, and as they try to destroy the corn crib, find that there is another village nearby. As they go to investigate, they are fired upon and start to skirmish with the Seminoles. They go further into the swamp and realize that they are being surrounded and prepared for another ambush. More and more Seminole warriors seem to be joining the fight! So they retreat three miles to a cypress dome and prepare to fight. They shoot several Seminoles who approach, but are forced to continue their retreat as more warriors keep arriving. They make it back to Fort Myers and decide that they will need at least twice the number of soldiers they had if they are to continue any more campaigns. D. Graham Copeland identified the location of this last battle near Hinson Mounds in Big Cypress.
Current Location:
Royal Palm Hammock
Current Music:
Kate Ryan
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