Friday I did a Seminole program at Palmetto Elementary in Golden Gates Estates. A brand new school surrounded by pinewoods. The kids behaved wonderfully--I almost wished that I had a few. Almost. Maybe there are a few parents who would want to give me theirs. They may be monsters at home, but they acted like angels at the school. 3rd & 4th grades are the best. Once they get older and hormones kick in, they are better suited as indentured servants.
Speaking of slaves, I usually try to mention the Black Seminoles, and how they were a thorn in the side of the plantation south. When Florida became a state in 1845, laws were enacted that made it basically illegal for a free Black person to remain in Florida. Unless they wanted to become a slave again. I found reference to when the Florida militia organized units to chase down the Seminoles in November and December 1835, that the Jacksonville volunteers were given order to seize any freedmen/free blacks they found, along with any slaves that were not under direct supervision by their master. As long as there were free Blacks in Florida, they were considered a threat that might incite a slave rebellion, which was one of the greatest fears in the south.
And the Seminoles had among them freed and former slaves like Abraham, and non-slave Blacks like John Horse, also know as Gopher John and John Cavalo. John was a good friend of Wildcat / Coacoochee, and escaped with him from the Spanish fortress in St. Augustine on the night of November 29th, 1837.
Accounts of the escape vary widely. All agree that there was some type of escape. You can read Sprague, Dr. Motte, or Ken Porter in the FHQ, Vol. 22 issue 3.
The accounts at least agree that it was Coacoochee, and most of the accounts say that 18-20 Seminoles escaped total. Including John Horse and probably two women. Exactly how they did it is up for debate. Coacoochee was not large, and still had a difficult time squeezing through and even skinning himself up, how did John and the others probably bigger than him get through? It is not as clear as I once thought.
Some Seminole accounts say they used medicine and shrank. Or turned into cute little screech owls. I don't know of anyone who still knows the Owl medicine, and if they do, they won't tell anyone because it is dangerous. But it is a real possibility in Seminole culture. And it has been a few years since I have heard about anyone able to do it. Don't try it.
Some of the rangers at the National Park said they uncovered documentation that the escape happened at Fort Peyton or Searle. I have yet to see that, and I asked them about it 7 years ago and never heard anything more about it. I even gave them a copy of my book and never heard another word, which I thought was very rude on their part. Not even so much as a thank you. So until they can show their documentation, I am sticking with Fort Marion in the town as where the escape occurred. And no more free books.
Anyway, the escape invigorated the Seminoles and Miccosukee warriors. It made them more determined to resist and not surrender. And some credited it for making the war continue for another five years.