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. This is the last part. Read further down for more.
Conclusion of the 3rd Seminole War
For many of these expeditions in what is now Collier County, the soldiers would often enter and exit at the Marco River. But they would return after a week or two, exhausted with most of the soldiers sick and unable to continue the campaign. Commanding the forces in SW Fla from Fort Myers, Col. S. St. George Rogers, said that it would be futile to pursue the Seminoles further, and any more campaigns would prove expensive in supplies and lives of the soldiers. It would cost the life of at least one soldier to remove one Seminole. New soldiers would have to be recruited and brought in for each campaign, because once the scout was over, most soldiers were sick and unwilling to continue. It was impractical to expend so many personnel in pursuit of a small number of Indians. The Seminoles have remained ever since.
The government hoped the Seminoles would still agree to removal, especially if they were offered enough money. Some actually did. Billy Bowlegs took his people west in May 1858, followed by a group led by Chief Assinewah in February 1859.
Billy Bowlegs is buried in the military cemetery at Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. He was given a commission as a Union captain in the War Between the States, but died in 1863. His descendants say that it is Billy's brother who took up the mantle of leadership after Billy actually died in 1859, soon after arriving in Indian Territory.
When the 3rd Seminole War ended and Billy Bowlegs surrendered in 1858, he had an unusual comment. Bowlegs said that a dozen men and one boy were what remained of the "Boat People" and would willingly leave Florida if given the chance. These Boat People may have been among the last of the Spanish Indians, because their name denotes people that have a maritime life. History does not record what ever happened to them.
The various campaigns in Big Cypress in the Third Seminole War resulted in a large number of casualties from the environment alone. Of soldiers who started on the campaign, after a couple weeks in the field, often 60 percent would be so ill that they would not be able to continue on another campaign. This made it very difficult to fill companies of the Florida volunteers when they would not last more than one enlistment.
Desertions became rampant, and by the end of the war in May 1858, there were some companies that had up to a quarter of their men going AWOL. What once was an offense punishable by hanging seems to have become almost common place. Maybe the men knew the war was over and decided they had better things to do. Some deserters included people who would later become well known in Florida history, like young Jacob Summerlin, who later became the wealthiest cattle baron in Florida, who would pay all his bills in Spanish gold coins. (Which he got from selling cattle in Cuba.) Or Willoughby Tillis, who was present at one of the first battles of the Second Seminole War in 1835, at the Battle of Black Point near Gainesville, where his brother was killed, and 21 years later in 1856 had the misfortune of having the largest battle of the Third Seminole War on his farm about 250 miles to the south. Tillis held various positions and commands in volunteer units until he deserted as well. I would guess that he had enough!
On May 8, 1858, Colonel Gustavus Loomis declares the Third Seminole War officially over, ending the last Indian war east of the Mississippi. The Indian population in Florida was estimated about 180, with no more than 30 warriors who could keep up the fight.
Finally in 1902, Florida Governor William S. Jennings was able to get the U.S. Government to pay the salary of the state militia for the Third Seminole War. The same year the governor has a new capitol building constructed in Tallahassee. Maybe he thought about the war when he would see a monument on the capitol lawn, dedicated in 1861? The monument dedicated to Captain John Parkhill, “Killed at Royal Palm Hammock, November 28, 1857.”
[Below: the Parkhill monument in Tallahassee.]
And of course, the Seminoles are still here, and my nearest neighbors are a Miccosukee village.
[Below: A Miccosukee village in the Everglades.]