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John Lee Williams Territory of Florida

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Dr. John Lee Williams of St. Augustine wrote several books and pamphlets of Florida during territorial days. In 1837 he had published "The Territory of Florida," which was reprinted in the Florida Facsimile Series many years back. Unfortunately even the facsimile is as hard to find as the 1837 original these days.

There were several books written on the Seminole Wars in 1836-7. I consider this one among the most important. Since Williams was from Florida, he published much of the reports from the Florida militia, which are missing from other accounts. He also gives commentary and analysis of the battles he details involving the Florida troops.

It is quite interesting reading about the campaign that resulted in the Battle of Wahoo Swamp on November 21, 1836. The week before Wahoo, there were several battles where the Army did inflict heavy casualties among the Seminole Warriors and take off with several hundred head of cattle. But all the villages they came across were abandon, and they failed to capture any Seminoles.

All this eventually led to the climax of the Battle of Wahoo Swamp, which Williams is highly critical of Governor/General Richard K. Call.

Call had 2,300 men (twice the number that Taylor would have the next year at Okeechobee) and engaged the main Seminole force on a shallow creek with a battle line that was a mile and a half, yet failed to cross until after the warriors had fled. Comparing this battle of Okeechobee, it is quite damning against Call. The heaviest fighting in the battle involved the Creek regiment, where David Moniac was killed.

When the battle was over, Call retired to Volusia and handed over the command to Gen. Thomas Jesup. A large force of Tennessee volunteers went to Tampa bay and returned home because their time of service had expired.

Another thing that Williams is very critical of Gov. Call is the handling of supplies and logistics. The Gov. had 85 wagons, yet only enough rations for 10 days. All the rations were expired by the time they found the Indians. The Seminoles had to abandon hundreds of cattle and hogs when they evacuated the towns, which the soldiers found and butchered. But the soldiers still ended up eating their own horses around Micanopy. The irony was that unknown to them at Micanopy, was a large number of barrels of forage and supplies that had been buried right underneath their camp months before when the post was abandon for the sickly season.

Williams had suggested that a number of forts be established inland and near the end of river routes, to keep an Army well supplied in the interior during campaigns. This was actually done by Jesup as soon as he took command. Fort Mellon on Lake Monroe was one of these places that Williams suggested a depot to be established.

One of the boats that was attempting to supply Call's army, broke apart on the shallows of the Withlacoochee River. Although Williams does not mention it, the captain of that boat was a young Naval officer named Rafael Semmes, who would later become famous as a Confederate Naval officer who raided Union ships on the high seas with the C.S.S. Alabama. The Alabama sunk under Semmes too, but that is another story.
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