The Second Seminole War

During the nineteenth century the United States engaged in three wars with the Seminole Indians in Florida: 1816 to about 1824; 1835 to 1842; and 1855 to 1858.

Contrary to some popular opinions, there was no traditional overall governmental or political organization among the Seminole at this time. They tended to be politically organized around busk groups, each of which had its own medicine bundle on which the annual busk (green corn) ceremony was focused. Thus, the Seminole military actions against the U.S. military did not have a single leader or coordinator.

The Second Seminole War (1835-1842) stemmed from the American policy of removing all Indians from east of the Mississippi River and relocating them in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Many of the Seminole, however, were not in favor of removal and resisted American attempts at forcing their removal. The war began when a group of anti-removal warriors under the leadership of Osceola killed Charley Emathla, a pro-removal leader, and Wiley Thompson, the Seminole agent. Over a period of seven years, the United States spent nearly $40 million in trying to defeat, capture, and remove the Seminole. As a result of this conflict, most of the Seminole were relocated onto the Creek Nation in Oklahoma. When the government troops withdrew in 1842, declaring victory, several hundred Seminole remained in Florida.

Prelude to Second Seminole War:

The Second Seminole War began during Andrew Jackson’s Presidency and may be seen as an extension of his Indian policy. Jackson felt that the mere existence of Indians was a threat to American peace and tranquility. He felt that Indians should either be removed from the United States or they should be eliminated. In his 1833 annual message to Congress, he stated:

“They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvements which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race, and without appreciating the causes of their inferiority or seeking to control them, they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear.”

With regard to the Seminole, Jackson had a deep personal resentment against them as they sheltered and adopted runaway slaves. Jackson felt that the United States had a duty to seize all runaway slaves and return them to their masters.

The 1832 Treaty of Payne’s Landing, signed by Seminole leaders Charley Emathla and Foke Luste Hadjo, required all Indians to leave Florida in exchange for lands in Indian Territory, plus grants of clothes and money. The men who signed the treaty were not empowered to represent the Seminoles, and the treaty was therefore clearly fraudulent. Micanopy did not make his mark on the treaty and yet his name appeared on the treaty.

As one excuse for the treaty, the U.S. government had declared that the land reserved for the Seminole in Florida was not worth cultivating, a fact well-known among the Seminole. However, the more important reason involved runaway slaves and the conflicts between slave-owning Americans and the Seminole. From a Seminole perspective, they were facing starvation due to a prolonged drought which provided some incentive for signing the treaty.

The Treaty also specified that any Seminole with Black blood were to be considered runaway slaves and were to be returned.

In 1834, the Americans held councils with the Seminole to discuss their removal to Indian Territory. While it was clear that the majority opposed removal, the Indian agent informed them that they were to sell their cattle and horses in preparation for removal and to move to the port of embarkation. If they do not do this, they are told, U.S. troops would use force against them.

The Second Seminole War:

In 1835, 25 Seminole leaders meet with the American Indian agent to discuss their removal concerns. Holata Emathla was selected by the chiefs to speak for the Seminole people. The Indian agent at Fort King was a former Georgia congressman named Wiley Thompson. Thompson intended to take out of office any Seminole chiefs who did not agree to removal.

One of the Seminole concerns was the fate of the Blacks who were living among them. Some of the Blacks had married Seminole; they dressed like Seminole; they spoke the language; and they took part in both hunting and war parties. Yet the Americans had encouraged slave-owners to seize many of these Blacks, an action that aroused a great deal of bitterness among the Seminole. Osceola was one of the leaders who opposed the surrender of runaway slaves. Osceola then made some nasty comments to the Indian agent and was placed in irons and jailed. He was released when he agreed to sign an acceptance of the two treaties requiring the Seminole to be removed to Indian Territory.

A short while later, a war party led by Osceola ambushed Charley Emathla, the Seminole leader who signed the removal treaty with the Americans. As a symbolic gesture, Osceola scattered the money Emathla received from the Americans over his dead body. Osceola’s warriors then ambushed Indian agent Wiley Thompson, killing seven of the Americans. Warriors led by Alligator, Micanopy, and Jumper attacked American soldiers near Tampa Bay, Florida and killed 105 of the 108 soldiers. This marks the formal beginning of the Second Seminole War.

With regard to the war leader Osceola, historian Patricia Wickman, in her book Osceola’s Legacy, writes:

“Osceola lacked the hereditary credentials necessary for the Indians to recognize him as an official leader at any level in his society.”

Osceola is also known by the American name of Billy Powell.

The standard military philosophy which the Americans had used against other Indian tribes—to bring in a massive force, build forts, and to attack villages—failed to work against the Seminole. The Americans were unfamiliar with the terrain and the swamps proved good hiding places for the Seminole.

In 1836, the United States negotiated a deal with Creek leaders Opothle Yaholo, Little Doctor, Tukabahchee Micco, and Yalka Hadjo in which the Creek were to supply 600 to 1,000 warriors for service against the Seminole. The warriors were to be paid like soldiers and they would be able keep plunder (taken to mean slaves) which they captured from the Seminole. Believing that the Seminole War would be of short duration, 776 Creek warriors under the leadership of Jim Boy enlisted in the army. They assumed that they would be released from duty in time to remove to Oklahoma and get their crops planted in the spring. The following year, however, they found that their enlistments had been extended.

In 1837, Seminole leaders Jumper, Davy Elliott, Cloud, and Alligator signed an agreement with the Americans that an immediate cease fire was in effect for the Second Seminole War. The Seminole leaders gave their word that they would remove to Indian Territory.

About 200 Seminole, including Jumper and Micanopy, moved toward Tampa Bay and were lodged in two camps eight miles from Fort Brooke. Another group of Seminole, including Osceola, Sam Jones (Arpeika), Philip, and Coacoochee gathered at Fort Mellon on Lake Monroe, about a hundred miles from Tampa Bay.

A party of about 200 Mikasuki Seminole under the leadership of Osceola and Sam Jones, traveled from Fort Mellon to Tampa where they seized Micanopy, Jumper, Cloud and their followers. They then fled to the interior with their captives.

The cease fire gave the Seminole bands a chance to grow and harvest some crops, to obtain more gunpowder and firearms and to prepare for the resumption of the war.

At a peace council called by the Americans at Fort Augustine, a number of Seminole leaders come in under a white flag of truce. The purpose of the council, however, is to attack and arrest the Seminole leaders. This was a common military strategy used by the Americans. Osceola was struck on the head and then tied up. Osceola died after being in captivity for just a few months. Jerry Keenan, in his Encyclopedia of American Indian Wars, 1492-1890, writes:

“Seminoles who surrendered were immediately deported to the Indian Territory. Blacks unfortunate to be captured were often sold to white slave owners.”

Most of the battles of the Second Seminole War were guerilla skirmishes in which small groups of Seminole warriors quickly vanished. One of the largest battles of the war was the 1837 Battle of Lake Okeechobee. Alligator, Arpeika, and Wildcat led their Seminole warriors against Colonel Zachary Taylor’s troops. The Americans, with 1,000 soldiers, were under orders to destroy any Seminole force which they met. The American troops were met with well-directed fire from the Seminole warriors. The Seminole warriors had breech-loading Spanish long guns with rifled barrels which meant that they were more accurate and could be reloaded quickly. Taylor’s plan was for his militia to retreat at first fire and then re-form behind the regular soldiers. However, the militia sustained heavy losses and the frightened volunteers broke and ran for their horses, too shattered to re-form. The battle left 26 soldiers dead and 112 wounded. The Seminole casualties included 11 dead and 14 wounded.

From the Seminole perspective the Battle of Lake Okeechobee was a victory as they had confronted a military force nearly twice their size and had stalled it long enough to ensure the escape of the Seminole women and children. American officials in Washington, D.C., on the other hand, declared the battle to be the greatest victory of the Second Seminole War. Zachery Taylor was hailed as a hero and promoted to brigadier general.

By 1838, the Americans had learned a lot about the Seminole hiding places. Along with Indian allies from a number of tribes, the American forces were attacking Seminole camps, burning their houses, capturing their livestock, and destroying their fields. During this time, the Seminole began to shift from cabins to chickees: open-sided log shelters that were easily constructed. They also began to use a new style of clothing made by sewing rags together.

During this time, one of the important Seminole spiritual leaders was Otulke-thloco (the Big Wind), a Creek prophet who was living in the Big Cypress Swamp and had influence over Billy Bowlegs, Hospetarke, Assinwar, and Fuse Hadjo. He was able to hear the approaching troops before other people, he knew where the deer were hiding, and he was able to cause the death of another person. He kept in constant touch with the Great Spirit with midnight fires, dances, and songs.

By 1838, Major General Thomas Jesup had concluded that the Seminole War could not be militarily won and recommended ending the hostilities with a truce that would grant the Seminole a reservation in southern Florida. He met with Seminole leaders and found that they would agree to stop hostilities if they were allowed to remain south of Lake Okeechobee. He sent this proposal to the Secretary of War, but President Martin Van Buren, determined to continue Andrew Jackson’s Indian policies of removal and eradication, rejected the idea.

In 1839, a band of Calusa under the leadership of Chakaika joined the Seminole under the leadership of Billy Bowlegs and Hospetarke, in the Second Seminole War. The combined forces attacked the camp and store established by Colonel William S. Harney. Thirteen Americans were killed.

In 1839, the Americans re-opened peace talks with the Seminole. Chitto Tustenugee, Halleck Tustenugee, and Macomb made a verbal agreement to a cease fire and to move to southwestern Florida to await arrangements for removal.

In 1840, a band of nearly 100 Seminole warriors under the leadership of Wildcat ambushed an American army detachment, killing a lieutenant and five soldiers. The group then attacked a number of unescorted wagons traveling to St. Augustine. In response to these attacks the army searched through Big Swamp. They destroyed 500 acres of Seminole corn fields. When the troops had finished searching an area, the Seminole usually moved back in.

In 1840, the army tried using bloodhounds to track down the Seminole. Nearly three dozen dogs were imported from Cuba to be used in the military campaign against the Seminole. The effort failed.

In 1840, the Americans offered Seminole chiefs Tiger Tail and Halleck Tustenugee $5,000 each if they would bring in their bands for removal to the West. The Seminole considered the matter for two weeks while eating army food. The leaders and the warriors then declined the offer.

In 1841, the American army began a scorched earth policy in their war against the Seminole. Second Lieutenant William Tecumseh Sherman writes to his brother that he wants “a war of extermination—the most certain and economical method.” The soldiers burned all crops, canoes, and shelters that they found. In response Wildcat surrendered to the army. He and two of his aides were dressed in Shakespearian costume from trunks which they had captured from a theatrical company.

Halleck Tustenuggee, Tiger Tail, Nethlockemathlar, Octiarche, and 120 of their warriors met in council at the Long Swamp and they agreed that no peace terms with the Americans were to be accepted. Furthermore, they declared that any Seminole or Black who attempted to deliver such terms was to be killed. Similarly, the Big Cypress Seminole bands under the leadership of Billy Bowlegs, Sam Jones, the Prophet, Hospetarke, Fuse Hadjo, and Parsacke met in council and agreed that anyone who brought them terms of surrender from the Americans would be killed.

In 1842, the Seminole under Billy Bowlegs surrendered and the government announced the end of the Second Seminole War which cost the United States the lives of 1,500 soldiers and $30 million. Bowlegs refused to relocate in Oklahoma and was given a small piece of land in the Great Cypress Swamp.

The Seminole understood if they remained in Florida they would receive no money or food but would be allowed to occupy their land. While the agreement allowed the Seminole to remain peacefully in Florida, the policy of the federal government was that they should be removed to Indian Territory. Therefore, their reservation was not to have any permanent or exact boundaries. The American understanding of the agreement was that the Seminole would be allowed to remain “for a while.” Historian James Covington, in his book The Seminoles of Florida, writes:

“By concluding a negotiated peace with the federal government, the Seminole Indians had accomplished something that many other larger tribes had not: they had fought a war with the whites during the nineteenth century in the eastern United States and under the peace terms had been allowed to remain in their own land.”

The Seminole bands remaining in Florida at this time include: the Seminole band of Billy Bowlegs; the Mikasuki band of Sam Jones which lived deep in the Everglades; the Muskogee band led by Chipco which lived near Lake Istokpaga; a northern band under the leadership of Octiarche (since Octiarche is a Creek, many do not consider it to be Seminole); the Muskogee band under the leadership of Tiger Tail.

Immediately following the treaty, the Americans captured Creek leader Octiarche and his band while they were visiting Fort Brooke. They were then shipped to New Orleans for removal to Indian Territory. While this appeared to be a violation of the peace agreement with the Seminole, the Americans justified it on the basis that Octiarche would cause problems if his band were moved to the south to be with the other Seminole bands.

The First Seminole War

During the nineteenth century the United States engaged in three wars with the Seminole Indians in Florida: 1816 to about 1824; 1835 to 1842; and 1855 to 1858.

Contrary to some popular opinions, there was no traditional overall governmental or political organization among the Seminole at this time. They tended to be politically organized around busk groups, each of which had its own medicine bundle on which the annual busk (green corn) ceremony was focused. Thus the Seminole military actions against the U.S. military did not have a single leader or coordinator.

Prelude to the First Seminole War:

The colonial administration of Florida was transferred from Spain to Britain in 1763. The Spanish and some of the Indians affiliated with them moved to Cuba. At this time, the British began to use the term Seminole in distinguishing the Indians of northern Florida from those in Georgia and Alabama.

In 1765, 50 Lower Creek chiefs met with the British governor of Florida on the banks of the St. Johns River west of St. Augustine. The chiefs performed a pipe ceremony and smoked with the two English representatives. Cowkeeper of the Alachua band did not participate in this meeting, and made it clear that the Lower Creeks did not speak for him. A month later, Cowkeeper and 60 of his people met personally with the governor and returned home as a “Great Medal Chief”. After this meeting, travelers, traders, and government officials increasingly referred to the Indians of North and Central Florida as Seminoles. Some people feel that this marks the birth of the Seminole nations.

Cowkeepers’s band had migrated south from the Oconee Creek area of South Georgia into Florida where they herded the wild cattle descended from the Spanish herds of the old La Chua Ranch. The earliest use of the term “Seminole” – a corruption of the Spanish term “cimarron” meaning “wild ones” – was in reference to this band.

In 1777, Seminole warriors led by Cowkeeper and Perryman joined with British troops on raids into Georgia.

In 1784, the British left the area and turned the governing of Florida back over to the Spanish. The British held a final conference with some Seminole leaders, including Kinache of Mikasuka, Five Bones of Coweta, and Long Warrior of Cuscowilla. The Seminole expressed their dismay at having the British leave. Cowkeeper told the English that he would kill all Spanish who tried to enter his land. When Cowkeeper died a short time later—he was estimated to be in his seventies—his dying words urged his people to continue fighting the Spanish. With the death of Cowkeeper, the leadership of the Alachua band passed to his nephew, King Payne. With regard to the death of Cowkeeper, historian Colin Calloway, in his book The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities, writes:

“Even though his dying words ostensibly urged his people to continue fighting the Spaniards, his death eased to some degree the transition from the British to the Spanish regime.”

As a preview to the Seminole Wars, the Georgia Militia and other volunteer groups invaded Spanish Florida on several occasions and engaged the Seminole militarily. The Georgian invasions centered around two closely interrelated concerns: (1) to acquire Florida for the United States, and (2) to capture escaped African slaves who had found refuge among the Seminole. It was not uncommon for escaped slaves to become a part of Seminole culture, marrying into the tribe and having children.

In 1811, the Patriot Army composed of 70 Georgians and nine Floridians invaded Florida to seize the territory. The army quickly occupied Fernandina and moved toward St. Augustine. However, the Seminole attacked the invaders and the plantation owners who supported them. The Seminole killed eight Americans and liberated a number of cattle and slaves from the American plantations.

In order to rescue the Patriot Army, the Georgia Militia sent in 177 men who fought three engagements with the Seminole. The Americans attacked Payne’s Town where they caught the Seminole by surprise. However, Seminole leaders King Payne (who was 80 years old at this time) and Bowlegs directed fire against the American attackers and drove them off.

In 1812, the Seminole village of Paynes Town was attacked by Georgia militia who were a part of the U.S.-inspired offensive to seize Florida from the Spanish. The Seminole wealth was in their cattle, which made tempting targets for Americans looking for booty and quick wealth. Archaeologist Brent Richards Weisman, in his book Unconquered People: Florida’s Seminole and Miccosukee Indians, reports:

“The Seminole wealth on the hoof and their agricultural surpluses stored away in corn cribs and potato houses made tempting targets for groups of border ruffians.”

The Seminole, under the leadership King Payne, counter-attacked and drove the militia back. King Payne, however, was killed and his brother Bowlegs assumed leadership. Bowlegs had about 200 Seminole warriors and 40 African Americans and they waged a war to cut off the Patriots’ supply line.

In a three-week campaign, the Americans burned 386 Seminole houses and destroyed or consumed 1,500 to 2,000 bushels of Seminole corn. Twenty Seminole were killed and nine were captured. With the aid of Florida’s free black militia troops commanded by Lieutenant Juan Bautista Witten, the Seminole turn the tide of the war and the Patriots withdraw.

In 1815, the British withdrew their troops from Florida in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Ghent which ended the War of 1812. However, when it became obvious that the Americans had no intention of honoring article 9 of the Treaty which specified that the Indians would not lose any land, the British left a large supply of arms and ammunition behind for the Indians to use.

First Seminole War:

The first Seminole War erupted in 1816 when the United States army, aided by Creek allies, invaded Spanish Florida. The rationale for the invasion centered around escaped slaves and Seminole raids. The war involved a series of raids and counterraids and culminated with General Andrew Jackson’s scorched earth campaign against the Seminole. As a result of this war, the United States acquired Florida from Spain.

American soldiers together with 200 Creek warriors under Chief William McIntosh invaded Spanish territory in an attempt to capture blacks who were living among the Seminole. The 300 Seminole – including 30 Seminole men and 70 black men – took refuge in Fort Apalachicola. The fort was blown up by the Americans, killing 270 people. The survivors were taken to Georgia where they were enslaved. In revenge, other Seminole began a campaign of attacking American settlements along the Georgia-Florida border. This marked the beginning of what would later be called the First Seminole War.

In 1817, the United States demanded that Neamathla, a Red Stick Seminole leader, surrender some alleged murderers. When Neamathla refused, the army sent in a force of 250 men to attack his village. Five Seminoles—four men and one woman—were killed and the rest escaped into the swamp. In his book The Seminoles of Florida, historian James Covington reports:

“This episode marked the first action in what has come to be known as the First Seminole War.”

Neamathla’s band then joined forces with the Seminole under the leadership of Kinache.

In 1817, the Seminole attacked and killed a party of 40 Americans. In retaliation, American troops under the leadership of Andrew Jackson invaded Seminole erritory, burning homes, and capturing some slaves.

In 1818, American troops under Andrew Jackson and Creek warriors under William McIntosh invaded Spanish Florida and attacked the Seminole village of Chief Bowlegs on the Suwanee River. Jackson’s force outnumbered the Seminoles by at least ten to one, so the Indians simply directed some scattered shots toward the advancing soldiers and then fled to nearby lowlands. Although the Seminole escaped the attack, the Americans captured two Englishmen who had been living with the Seminole. The Englishmen were tried and hanged for aiding the Indians.

The army also captured a number of women and children, including Billy Powell (who would later be known as the warrior Osceola).

In 1819, Spain sold Florida to the United States. The United States promised to honor the rights of the Indians. Historian Louise Welsh, in an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, notes that the Seminoles

“certainly had no reason to welcome the substitution of the United States control for the weak and distant authority of a Spanish sovereign.”

Two years later the United States formally took possession of the territory, which included an estimated 5,000 Seminole. The Americans immediately began making plans to relocate the Seminole who were living near the American settlements. The American governor viewed the area between the Suwanee River and Alachua, the area in which most of the Seminole lived, as the richest and most valuable in the territory. The Americans assumed that this land should be given to American settlers for development and the Seminole should be moved to Alabama or to west of the Mississippi River. The Americans did not recognize any Seminole rights to land ownership. According to historian John Mahon, writing in the Handbook of North American Indians:

“As far as the new owner of the land was concerned the Seminoles were an unwelcome appendage to the soil, clearly without any right of permanent ownership in it.”

The United States decreed that Neamathla was the chief of the Seminoles in Florida. In actuality, Neamathla was an eneah, an advisor to the village chief. As a Hitchiti (one of the tribes considered to be Seminole by the Europeans), Neamathla was determined to retain his culture and economic way of life.

In 1823, the Seminoles signed the Treaty of Moultrie Creek. The terms of the treaty called for the Seminoles to give up all land claims in Florida except for a reservation to be designated for them by the government. In addition, all Seminoles were to move to the reservation where they were to be provided with tools, annuities, and rations. Historian Louise Welsh reports:

“Government officials had decided that the ideal solution to the Seminole problem was to remove them to the West or merge them with the Creeks. The Seminoles opposed both proposals so vigorously that they were removed to a reservation in the interior of the Florida peninsula below Tampa Bay.”

The Treaty also divided the Seminoles into two divisions: a northern group and a southern group.

In 1824, President James Monroe recommended that the Seminole either be removed from Florida or placed on a reservation.

Seeking Refuge In Mexico

Following the creation of the United States, Mexico was seen by some Indian people as a place of refuge, a place where they might be able to escape from the brutality of American Indian policies designed to eradicate Indian cultures and Indian peoples. Initially Indian groups could obtain sanctuary in Mexico by simply crossing the Mississippi River. During the first half of the nineteenth century, however, American imperialism drove the border between the two countries farther south and following the Mexican American War, the Río Grande (Río del Norte in Mexico) was designated as the border. For the next century, however, many tribes from the eastern United States continued to establish villages in northern Mexico, particularly in the Mexican state of Coahuila where they could continue their languages and traditional ways of life without governmental interference. One of the attempts to relocate in Mexico during the 19th century was led by the Seminole war leader known as Wildcat.  

Background: Wildcat and the Seminole

During the 19th century, the United States engaged in a series of three wars against the Seminole in an attempt to remove them from Florida and relocate them in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Wildcat was one of several Seminole leaders who led small bands against the Americans and their army. While Wildcat led a number of successful raids, the Americans in 1841 began a scorched earth policy in which they burned all of the Seminole crops, homes, canoes, and supplies which they could find. As a result, Wildcat surrendered to the army.

The Americans loaded Wildcat and his people onto boats to begin their removal to Indian Territory. At New Orleans, the Americans stopped the ship and had Wildcat and his warriors return to Florida. The Americans wanted to use Wildcat’s services to convince other Seminole to agree to removal. As a result of Wildcat’s efforts, 211 Seminole were shipped out for Indian Territory.

Background: Mexico

While American-oriented history books often tell about Mexican-based Indian tribes raiding the American ranches and settlements in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, Mexico faced a similar problem. Mexico’s northern border was its “wild west” and Mexican settlements in the north were often raided by Comanche, Apache, and other Indian warriors from the United States. Mexico, with limited resources and a small army, was often unable to do much to deter these raids. One way of dealing with the raids was to encourage other Indian groups, including the Cherokee, Seminole, Kickapoo, Delaware, and others, to settle in the area. In addition, the Mexican army often employed these warriors as scouts and soldiers in their wars against the northern raiders.

In 1839, for example, some of the Kickapoo, seeking refuge from the Texans, fled to Mexico where they established a village. Many of the warriors enlisted in the Mexican army where they were used as scouts. The new village also served as a base for the Kickapoo warriors as they raided into Texas communities.

The Mexican Venture

Life for the newly removed Seminole in Indian Territory was not pleasant. First, the climate and ecology of Oklahoma is somewhat different than that of Florida. Second, the Americans, in their infinite wisdom, had placed the Seminole on the lands reserved for the Creek Nation, thus placing them under Creek jurisdiction.

In 1849 Seminole leader Wildcat wanted to separate the Seminole from the Creek government. After a series of discussions with the Mexican government, he decided to locate the new community in the Mexican state of Coahuila. This would place the new Indian community outside of the jurisdiction of the United States. He then visited the Kickapoo, Comanche, Kiowa, Caddo, and Wichita in an attempt to persuade these tribes to join his intertribal venture. Of these, only the Kickapoo showed any interest.

In attempting to persuade the other tribes to join him in Mexico, Wildcat emphasized the many injustices to the Indians committed by both the United States government and the American settlers who had invaded Indian lands. He emphasized the evils of contact with these intruders, and the necessity for a unified Indian resistance to their eternal impositions. His words had a familiar ring to the Kickapoos. The teachings of Tenskatawa (the Shawnee Prophet) and his brother still lingered in the traditions of the Kickapoos. Wildcat’s words were welcomed by them.

In 1850, Wildcat led a party of 250 Seminole and Kickapoo warriors into Mexico where they temporarily settled at Piedras Negras. The Kickapoo were under the leadership of Papequah. The Mexican officials in Coahuila, faced with regular and devastating forays by the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache raiders into the northern settlements, welcomed Wildcat and his Seminole and Kickapoo followers. The Mexicans promised to provide the arrivals with livestock and farming tools if they helped defend against the raids by other Indian groups.

Wildcat then returned from Mexico for the purpose of recruiting additional mercenaries for Mexico’s northern defense. Once again, only the Kickapoo showed any interest in joining him in Mexico. However, Chief Pecan, the leader of the Canadian River Kickapoo, opposed the idea of any his warriors leaving as he felt they were needed to protect the Creek from raids by the Comanche, Pawnee, and Osage. Chief Pacanah, head of the Wild Horse Creek Kickapoo, told his warriors that they shouldn’t go to Mexico.

Wildcat promised the Kickapoo warriors that they would be able to keep all booty taken from the Comanche and Apache raiders. In addition, he told them that the Mexican government would pay them for their services. Finally, 200 warriors agreed to go to Mexico with him.

In 1851, Comanche and Apache raiding parties attacked the Mexican settlements to the west of Wildcat’s Seminole and Kickapoo villages. The Seminole and Kickapoo relentless tracked down the raiders in West Texas, recovering several hundred horses and mules as well as a great deal of plunder.

In 1851, Kickapoo chiefs Pecan and Pacanah travelled to Coahuila, Mexico to persuade their warriors who had joined with Wildcat’s Seminole to return home. After several days of pleading, all of the Kickapoo warriors decided to return to their people on the Canadian River and Wild Horse Creek in Indian Territory. Their departure left Wildcat with only 40 Seminole warriors and about 80 African-Americans. The Kickapoo warriors took with them the plunder, horses, and mules which they had captured from the Comanche.

The Seminole and Kickapoo villages established by Wildcat would continue to attract American Indian refugees from United States oppression over the next century. The warriors continued to defend Mexico’s northern frontier. New immigrant villages were also established as new immigrants arrived, sometimes only a handful of family members, while at other times entire bands would move to Mexico. Mexico, unlike the United States, gave its Indians citizenship and voting rights.  

The Third Seminole War

( – promoted by navajo)

During the nineteenth century the United States engaged in three wars with the Seminole Indians in Florida: 1816 to about 1824; 1835 to 1842; and 1855-1858.  

Contrary to some popular opinions, there was no traditional overall governmental or political organization among the Seminole at this time. They tended to be politically organized around busk groups, each of which had its own medicine bundle on which the annual busk (green corn) ceremony was focused. Thus the military actions against the U.S. military did not have a single leader or coordinator.

In this diary, I’m going to look at the Third Seminole War.  

The Third Seminole War (1855-1858) was over American encroachment on Seminole lands. The Seminole who were living in Florida at this time were refugees who had avoided removal to Oklahoma and were living in the Everglades. The war started when Billy Bowlegs retaliated against a crew of surveyors who had looted his camp. Three years later, many of the Seminole accepted the government’s terms of surrender and were removed to Oklahoma. However, some Seminole remained in Florida.

In 1855, army engineers and surveyors were sent into the Great Cypress Swamp to make note of the Seminole villages and their crops. They were under orders not to provoke the Seminole. However, some of the men stole crops and destroyed banana trees belonging to the Seminole under the leadership of Billy Bowlegs. When confronted about these incidents, the army offered neither apology nor compensation. As a result, 40 Seminole warriors began a series of raids known as the Third Seminole War.  Some historians feel that the American intent was to provoke Billy Bowlegs into an armed response which would then justify military intervention. On the morning after the vandalism, Mikasuki Seminole warriors attacked the army camp, killing four soldiers and wounding four others. In response the army marches against the Seminole, outnumbering them by about 14 to 1.

After a series of skirmishes, the final fight in the Third Seminole War came in 1857 when the Seminole camp of Billy Bowlegs was burned by the army. In addition, the soldiers took large quantities of corn and rice, as well as some oxen.

In 1858, the Americans met with Seminole leaders Billy Bowlegs and others to discuss an end to the Third Seminole War. The Americans offered Billy Bowlegs $7,500, $1,000 to each of the other Seminole leaders, $500 to each warrior, and $100 to each woman and child. The money was payable when the Seminole boarded the ship at Egmont Key to leave the state. The Seminole held council and agreed to accept the offer.

It is estimated that the United States spend between $20 million and $60 million on this war against the Seminole. The United States used 30,000 regular army troops and volunteers, as well as the Navy and some Marines.

Aftermath:

About 200 Seminole remained in Florida after Billy Bowlegs and his people had been removed to Indian Territory. The remaining Seminole withdrew from all willing contact with whites and existed for the next twenty years in relative isolation. The Muskogee band under the leadership of Chipco hid in the Lake Okeechobee area and could not be located by the Americans. Mikasuki leader Sam Jones refused to negotiate and his band remained deep in the Everglades. These two hundred were the cultural and biological ancestors of the Seminoles and Miccosukees of today.  

The Second Seminole Indian War

( – promoted by navajo)

During the nineteenth century the United States engaged in three wars with the Seminole Indians in Florida: 1816 to about 1824; 1835 to1842; and 1855-1858.  

Contrary to some popular opinions, there was no traditional overall governmental or political organization among the Seminole at this time. They tended to be politically organized around busk groups, each of which had its own medicine bundle on which the annual busk (green corn) ceremony was focused. Thus the military actions against the U.S. military did not have a single leader or coordinator.

In this diary, I’m going to look at the Second Seminole War.  

The Second Seminole War (1835-1842) stemmed from the American policy of removing all Indians from east of the Mississippi River and relocating them in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Many of the Seminole, however, were not in favor of removal and resisted American attempts at forcing their removal.  The war began when a group of anti-removal warriors under the leadership of Osceolo killed Charley Emathla, a pro-removal leader, and Wiley Thompson, the Seminole agent. Over a period of seven years, the United States spent nearly $40 million dollars in trying to defeat, capture, and remove the Seminole. As a result of this conflict, most of the Seminole were relocated onto the Creek Nation in Oklahoma. When the government troops withdrew in 1842, declaring victory, several hundred Seminole remained in Florida.

Prelude to Second Seminole War:

The 1832 Treaty of Payne’s Landing, signed by Seminole leaders Charley Emathla and Foke Luste Hadjo, required all Indians to leave Florida in exchange for lands in Indian Territory, plus grants of clothes and money. The men who signed the treaty were not empowered to represent the Seminoles, and the treaty was therefore clearly fraudulent. Micanopy did not make his mark on the treaty and yet his name appeared on the treaty.

As one excuse for the treaty, the U.S. government had declared that the land reserved for the Seminole in Florida was not worth cultivating, a fact well-known among the Seminole. However, the more important reason involved runaway slaves and the conflicts between slave-owning Americans and the Seminole. From a Seminole perspective, they were facing starvation due to a prolonged drought which provided some incentive for signing the treaty.

The Treaty also specified that any Seminole with Black blood are to be considered runaway slaves and are to be returned.

In 1834, the Americans held councils with the Seminole to discuss their removal to Indian Territory. While it was clear that the majority oppose removal, the Indian agent informed them that they were to sell their cattle and horses in preparation for removal and to move to the port of embarkation. If they do not do this, they are told, U.S. troops would use force against them.

The Second Seminole War:

In 1835, 25 Seminole leaders meet with the American Indian agent to discuss their removal concerns. One of the Seminole concerns was the fate of the Blacks who were living among them. Some of the Blacks had married Seminole; they dressed like Seminole; they spoke the language; and they took part in both hunting and war parties. Yet the Americans had encouraged slave-owners to seize many of these Blacks, an action that aroused a great deal of bitterness among the Seminole. Osceola was one of the leaders who opposed the surrender of runaway slaves. Osceola then made some nasty comments to the Indian agent and was placed in irons and jailed. He was released when he agreed to sign an acceptance of the two treaties requiring the Seminole to be removed to Indian Territory.

A short while later, a war party led by Osceola ambushed Charley Emathla, the Seminole leader who signed the removal treaty with the Americans. As a symbolic gesture, Osceola scattered the money Emathla received from the Americans over his dead body. Osceola’s warriors then ambushed Indian agent Wiley Thompson, killing seven of the Americans. Warriors led by Alligator, Miconopy, and Jumper attacked American soldiers near Tampa Bay, Florida and killed 105 of the 108 soldiers. This marks the formal beginning of the Second Seminole War.

The standard military philosophy which the Americans had used against other Indian tribes-to bring in a massive force, build forts, and to attack villages-failed to work against the Seminole. The Americans were unfamiliar with the terrain and the swamps proved good hiding places for the Seminole.

In 1836, the United States negotiated a deal with Creek leaders Opothle Yaholo, Little Doctor, Tukabahchee Micco, and Yalka Hadjo in which the Creek were to supply 600 to 1,000 warriors for service against the Seminole. The warriors were to be paid like soldiers and they would be able keep plunder (taken to mean slaves) which they captured from the Seminole. Believing that the Seminole War would be of short duration, 776 Creek warriors under the leadership of Jim Boy enlisted in the army. They assumed that they will be released from duty in time to remove to Oklahoma and get their crops planted in the spring. The following year, however, they found that their enlistments had been extended.

In 1837, Seminole leaders Jumper, Davy Elliott, Cloud, and Alligator signed an agreement with the Americans that an immediate cease fire was in effect for the Second Seminole War. The Seminole leaders gave their word that they would remove to Indian Territory.

About 200 Seminole, including Jumper and Micanopy, moved toward Tampa Bay and were lodged in two camps eight miles from Fort Brooke. Another group of Seminole, including Osceola, Sam Jones (Arpeika), Philip, and Coacoochee gathered at Fort Mellon on Lake Monroe, about a hundred miles from Tampa Bay.

A party of about 200 Mikasuki Seminole under the leadership of Osceola and Sam Jones, traveled from Fort Mellon to Tampa where they seized Micanopy, Jumper, Cloud and their followers. They then fled to the interior with their captives.

The cease fire gave the Seminole bands a chance to grow and harvest some crops, to obtain more gunpowder and firearms and to prepare for the resumption of the war.

At a peace council called by the Americans at Fort Augustine, a number of Seminole leaders come in under a white flag of truce. The purpose of the council, however, is to attack and arrest the Seminole leaders. This was a common military strategy used by the Americans. Oceola was struck on the head and then tied up.

Most of the battles of the Second Seminole War were guerilla skirmishes in which small groups of Seminole warriors quickly vanished. One of the largest battles of the war was the 1837 Battle of Lake Okeechobee. Alligator, Arpeika, and Wildcat led their Seminole warriors against Colonel Zachary Taylor’s troops. The Americans, with 1,000 soldiers, were under orders to destroy any Seminole force which they meet. The American troops were met with well-directed fire from the Seminole warriors. The battle left 26 soldiers dead and 112 wounded. The Seminole casualties included 11 dead and 14 wounded.

By 1838, the Americans had learned a lot about the Seminole hiding places. Along with Indian allies from a number of tribes, the American forces were attacking Seminole camps, burning their houses, capturing their livestock, and destroying their fields. During this time, the Seminole began to adopt the chickee-an open-sided shelter that was easily constructed-and to make their clothing by sewing rags together.

In 1839, a band of Calusa under the leadership of Chakaika joined the Seminole under the leadership of Billy Bowlegs and Hospetarke, in the Second Seminole War. The combined forces attacked the camp and store established by Colonel William S. Harney. Thirteen Americans were killed.

In 1840, a band of nearly 100 Seminole warriors under the leadership of Wildcat ambushed an American army detachment, killing a lieutenant and five soldiers. The group then attacked a number of unescorted wagons traveling to St. Augustine. In response to these attacks the army searched through Big Swamp. They destroyed 500 acres of Seminole corn fields. When the troops had finished searching an area, the Seminole usually moved back in.

In 1840, the army tried using bloodhounds to track down the Seminole. Nearly three dozen dogs were imported from Cuba to be used in the military campaign against the Seminole. The effort failed.

In 1840, the Americans offered Seminole chiefs Tiger Tail and Halleck Tustenugee $5,000 each if they would bring in their bands for removal to the West. The Seminole considered the matter for two weeks while eating army food. The leaders and the warriors then declined the offer.

In 1841, the American army began a scorched earth policy in their war against the Seminole. The soldiers burned all crops, canoes, and shelters that they find. In response Wildcat surrendered to the army. He and two of his aides were dressed in Shakespearian costume from trunks which they had captured from a theatrical company.

Halleck Tustenuggee, Tiger Tail, Nethlockemathlar, Octiarche, and 120 of their warriors met in council at the Long Swamp and they agreed that no peace terms with the Americans were to be accepted. Furthermore, they declared that any Seminole or Black who attempted to deliver such terms was to be killed. Similarly, the Big Cypress Seminole bands under the leadership of Billy Bowlegs, Sam Jones, the Prophet, Hospetarke, Fuse Hadjo, and Parsacke met in council and agreed that anyone who brought them terms of surrender from the Americans would be killed.

In 1842, the Seminole under Billy Bowlegs surrendered and the government announced the end of the Second Seminole War which cost the United States the lives of 1,500 soldiers and $30 million. Bowlegs refused to relocate in Oklahoma and was given a small piece of land in the Great Cypress Swamp.

The Seminole understood if they remained in Florida they would receive no money or food but would be allowed to occupy their land. While the agreement allowed the Seminole to remain peacefully in Florida, the policy of the federal government was that they should be removed to Indian Territory. Therefore, their reservation was not to have any permanent or exact boundaries. The American understanding of the agreement was that the Seminole would be allowed to remain “for a while.”  

The First Seminole Indian War

( – promoted by navajo)

During the nineteenth century the United States engaged in three wars with the Seminole Indians in Florida: 1816 to about 1824; 1835 to 1842; and 1855-1858.  

Contrary to some popular opinions, there was no traditional overall governmental or political organization among the Seminole at this time. They tended to be politically organized around busk groups, each of which had its own medicine bundle on which the annual busk (green corn) ceremony was focused. Thus the military actions against the U.S. military did not have a single leader or coordinator.

In this diary, I’m going to look at the First Seminole War.  

Prelude to War:

The colonial administration of Florida was transferred from Spain to Britain in 1763. The Spanish and some of the Indians affiliated with them moved to Cuba. At this time, the British began to use the term Seminole in distinguishing the Indians of northern Florida from those in Georgia and Alabama.

In 1765, 50 Lower Creek chiefs met with the British governor of Florida on the banks of the St. Johns River west of St. Augustine. The chiefs performed a pipe ceremony and smoked with the two English representatives. Cowkeeper of the Alachua band did not participate in this meeting, and made it clear that the Lower Creeks did not speak for him. A month later, Cowkeeper and 60 of his people met personally with the governor and returned home as a “Great Medal Chief”. After this meeting, travelers, traders, and government officials increasingly referred to the Indians of North and Central Florida as Seminoles. Some people feel that this marks the birth of the Seminole nations.

Cowkeepers’s band had migrated south from the Oconee Creek area of South Georgia into Florida where they herded the wild cattle descended from the Spanish herds of the old La Chua Ranch. The earliest use of the term “Seminole” – a corruption of the Spanish term “cimarron” meaning “wild ones” – was in reference to this band.

In 1777, Seminole warriors led by Cowkeeper and Perryman joined with British troops on raids into Georgia.

In 1784, the British left the area and turned the governing of Florida back over to the Spanish. The British held a final conference with some Seminole leaders, including Kinache of Mikasuka, Five Bones of Coweta, and Long Warrior of Cuscowilla. The Seminole expressed their dismay at having the British leave. Cowkeeper told the English that he would kill all Spanish who tried to enter his land. When Cowkeeper died a short time later-he was estimated to be in his seventies-his dying words urged his people to continue fighting the Spanish. With the death of Cowkeeper, the leadership of the Alachua band passed to his nephew King Payne.

As a preview to the Seminole Wars, the Georgia Militia and other volunteer groups invaded Spanish Florida on several occasions and engaged the Seminole militarily. The Georgian invasions centered around two closely interrelated concerns: (1) to acquire Florida for the United States, and (2) to capture escaped African slaves who had found refuge among the Seminole. It was not uncommon for escaped slaves to become a part of Seminole culture, marrying into the tribe and having children.

In 1811, the Patriot Army composed of 70 Georgians and nine Floridians invaded Florida to seize the territory. The army quickly occupied Fernandina and moved toward St. Augustine. However, the Seminole attacked the invaders and the plantation owners who supported them. The Seminole killed eight Americans and liberated a number of cattle and slaves from the American plantations.

In order to rescue the Patriot Army, the Georgia Militia sent in 177 men who fought three engagements with the Seminole. The Americans attacked Payne’s Town where they caught the Seminole by surprise. However, Seminole leaders King Payne (who was 80 years old at this time) and Bowlegs directed fire against the American attackers and drove them off.

In 1812, the Seminole village of Paynes Town was attacked by Georgia militia who were a part of the U.S.-inspired offensive to seize Florida from the Spanish. The Seminole wealth was in their cattle which made tempting targets for Americans looking for booty and quick wealth. The Seminole, under the leadership King Payne, counter-attacked and drove the militia back. King Payne, however, was killed and his brother Bowlegs assumed leadership.

In a three-week campaign, the Americans burned 386 Seminole houses and destroyed or consumed 1,500 to 2,000 bushels of Seminole corn. Twenty Seminole were killed and nine were captured.

In 1815, the British withdrew their troops from Florida in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Ghent which ended the War of 1812. However, when it became obvious that the Americans had no intention of honoring article 9 of the Treaty which specified that the Indians would not lose any land, the British left a large supply of arms and ammunition behind for the Indians to use.

First Seminole War:

The first Seminole War erupted in 1816 when the United States army, aided by Creek allies, invaded Spanish Florida. The rationale for the invasion centered around escaped slaves and Seminole raids. The war involved a series of raids and counterraids and culminated with General Andrew Jackson’s scorched earth campaign against the Seminole. As a result of this war, the United States acquired Florida from Spain.

American soldiers together with 200 Creek warriors under Chief William McIntosh invaded Spanish territory in an attempt to capture blacks who are living among the Seminole. The 300 Seminole – including 30 Seminole men and 70 black men – took refuge in Fort Apalachicola. The fort was blown up by the Americans, killing 270 people. The survivors were taken to Georgia where they were enslaved. In revenge, other Seminole began a campaign of attacking American settlements along the Georgia-Florida border. This marks the beginning of what will later be called the First Seminole War.

In 1817, the Seminole attacked and killed a party of 40 Americans. In retaliation, American troops under the leadership of Andrew Jackson invaded Seminole territory, burning homes, and capturing some slaves.

In 1818, American troops under Andrew Jackson and Creek warriors under William McIntosh invaded Spanish Florida and attacked the Seminole village of Chief Bowlegs on the Suwanee River. Jackson’s force outnumbered the Seminoles by at least ten to one, so the Indians simply directed some scattered shots toward the advancing soldiers and then fled to nearby lowlands. Although the Seminole escaped the attack, the Americans captured two Englishmen who had been living with the Seminole. The Englishmen were tried and hanged for aiding the Indians.

The army also captured a number of women and children, including Billy Powell (who will later be known as the warrior Osceola).  

In 1819, Spain sold Florida to the United States. The United States promised to honor the rights of the Indians. Two years later the United States formally takes  possession of the territory, which includes an estimated 5,000 Seminole. The Americans immediately began making plans to relocate the Seminole who were living near the American settlements. The American governor viewed the area between the Suwanee River and Alachua, the area in which most of the Seminole lived, as the richest and most valuable in the territory. The Americans assumed that this land should be given to American settlers for development and the Seminole should be moved to Alabama or to west of the Mississippi River. The Americans did not recognize any Seminole rights to land ownership.

In 1824, President James Monroe recommended that the Seminole either be removed from Florida or placed on a reservation.