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General Gaines

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Probably one of the most interesting campaigns from the 2nd Seminole War was from General Edmund Pendleton Gaines.

Among all the journals and eyewitness accounts, many were with Gaines, so we would think that nothing new would show up in print. We several things did a few years ago, when the Prince diary was published.

Gaines was in charge of the western department in the army and stationed in New Orleans. His district did cover the west side of Florida, including Tampa bay. He has received orders to go out further west where things were heating up in Texas. I wonder if things would have been different for the Alamo and Texas if he has complied to his orders and went to west Louisiana immediately?

Instead, Gaines was caught up in the situation in Florida, and decided to make a detour to try and end the war. He had a force of 1200, which were mostly Louisiana volunteers. They had just heard of Major Dade's failure and demise, and wanted to end the situation in Florida.

Yes, Gaines did have orders to go out west, and there is reason to argue that he was insubordinate by going to Florida instead. He arrived in Tampa with the large force, and they quickly traveled down the Fort King road to the site of Dade's Battle. They were the first ones to do so since the battle that was eight weeks earlier. They spent about three and a half hours identifying and holding a military funeral and burial on site.

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The found the body of Major Dade stripped. I wonder where his coat went?

Continuing on, Gaines command reached Fort King and found that there were not enough provisions to support them on the campaign. They found the same thing further down at Fort Drane. So they decided that they had to move on and go back to Tampa from lack of provisions. They would return on the west side, so maybe they could route the Seminoles out of Cove of the Withlacoochee. They reached the bank of the Withlacoochee River and waited for the Seminoles to come and face them, while General Clinch would come from the other side and surround them. The Seminoles would be caught in a pincer and forced to surrender.

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Well Clinch received orders to wait and Fort Drane until General Scott arrived. Scott was not happy that Gaines had beat him to the punch and taken provisions that Scout could use for his campaign. Scott blamed Gaines' interference for ruining his plans to win the war against Seminoles.

Gaines was trapped and soon surrounded by Seminoles on the Withlacoochee for a couple weeks. The men were in a hastily constructed breastwork 250 ft wide. The Seminoles constantly harassed the troops.

Now here is the part that is interesting: The Lt Henry Prince diary was published about 2001. Prince tells some things that are not in other journals. The first is that he says a white man was fighting among the Seminoles. Second, is that at one point, Seminole warriors were dressed in soldier's uniforms, trying to trick the soldiers and setting up an ambush. Who was this white man? And where the warriors get a large number of soldier uniforms? The only way they could have obtained the uniforms was from Major Dade's men. No other accounts of Gaines battle and siege mentioned these two things.

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The property has been part of the Southwest Florida Water Management since about 1995. I would love to see it turned into a park where we could visit the fort site with interpretive signs, but I have not seen anything towards constructing this. There is no public access to the site.

The Lt Henry Prince diary is "Amidst a Storm of Bullets" by Tampa University press.
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