The Seminole Wars, also known as the Florida Wars, were three conflicts between various groups of Native Americans collectively known as Seminoles and the United States. The First Seminole War was from 1817 to 1818; the Second Seminole War from 1835 to 1842; and the Third Seminole War from 1855 to 1858. The Second Seminole War, often referred to as the Seminole War, lasted longer than any war involving the United States between the American Revolution and the Vietnam War.
The original peoples of Florida had de-clined in numbers after the arrival of Europeans in the region. The Native Americans had little resistance to diseases introduced from Europe. Spanish suppres-sion of native revolts futher reduced the population in northern Florida. A series of raids extending the full length of the Florida peninsula by soldiers from the Province of Carolina and their Indian allies had killed or carried off almost all the remaining native people by early in the 18th century. When Spain surrendered Florida to Britain in 1763, the Spanish took the few surviving Florida Indians to Cuba.
Bands from various tribes in the southern United States began moving into the unoc-cupied lands in Florida. In 1715, Yamasees
moved into Florida as allies of the Spanish after conflicts with the English colonies. The Creek people, at first mostly Lower Creeks but later including Upper Creeks, also started moving into Florida. One group of Hitchiti-speakers, the Mikasuki, settled around what is now Lake Miccosukee near Tallahassee. This group has maintained its separate identity as today's Miccosukee. Another group of Hitchiti-speakers, lead by "Cowkeeper" settled in what is now Alachua County, an area where the Spanish had cattle ranches in the 17th century. One of the best known ranches had been called Rancho de la Chua, and the area had become known as the "Alachua Prairie." The Spanish in St. Augustine began calling the Alachua Creeks Cimarrones, which roughly meant "wild ones" or "runaways" and which is the probable origin of "Seminole." This name was also applied to the other groups in Florida, although the Indians still regarded themselves as members of different tribes. Other groups in Florida at the time of the Seminole Wars included Yuchis, "Spanish Indians" so called because it was believed that they were desc-ended from Calusas, and Rancho Indians living at Spanish/Cuban fishing camps on the Florida coast.
Also moving into Florida in the 18th century were escaped slaves. Slaves who could reach Spanish Florida were essentially free. The Spanish authorities soon welcomed the escaped slaves, allowing them to settle in their own town called Fort Mose, in close proximity to the town of St. Augustine, and using them in a militia to help defend the city. Joshua Reed Giddings wrote in 1858 on the subject "They held their slaves in a state between that of servitude and freedom" the slave usually living with his own family and occupying his time as he pleased, paying his master annually a small stipend in corn. This class of slaves regarded servitude among the whites with the greatest degree of horror. While most of the former slaves at Fort Mose went to Cuba when the Spanish left Florida in 1763, others were still with various bands of Indians, and slaves continued to escape from the Carolinas and Georgia and make their way to Florida. The blacks that stayed with, or later joined the Seminoles became integrated into the tribes, learning the languages, adopting the dress and inter-marrying. Some of these Black Seminoles became important tribal leaders.
During the American Revolution, the British, who controled Florida, recuited Seminoles to raid frontier settlements in Georgia. The con-fusion of war also increased the number of slaves running away into Florida. These events made the Seminoles enemies of the new United States. In 1783, as part of the treaty ending the Revolutionary War, Florida was returned to Spain
Spain's grip on Florida was not very tight, with only small garrisons in St. Augustine, St. Marks and Pensacola. The border between Florida and the United States was not controlled either. Mikasuki's and other Seminole groups still occupied towns on the United States side of the border, while American squatters moved into Spanish Florida. Florida had been divided into East Florida and West Florida by the British in 1763 and the Spanish retained the division when they regained Florida in 1783. West Florida extended from the Apalachicola River to the Mississippi River. Together, with their possession of Louisiana, gave the Spanish control of the lower parts of all the rivers draning the United States west of the Appalachian Mountains. In addition to the imperative to expand that became known as Manifest Destiny, the United States wanted to acquire Florida both to provide free commerce on the western rivers and, to prevent Florida from being used as a base for an invasion of the United States by a European country.
The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 put the mouth of the Mississippi River in American hands, but much of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee were drained by rivers that passed through East or West Florida to reach the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. claimed that the Louisiana Purchase had included West Florida west of the Perdido River,
while Spain claimed that West Florida extended to the Mississippi River. In 1810, residents of Baton Rouge formed a new government, seized the local Spanish fort and requested protection by the United States. President James Madison authorized William C.C. Claiborne, governor of the Orleans Territory, to seize West Florida from the Mississippi River to as far east as the Perdido River, although Claiborne only occupied the area west of the Pearl River (the current eastern boundary of Louisiana).
Madison then sent George Mathews to deal with Florida. When an offer to turn the remainder of West Florida over to the U.S. was rescinded by the governor of West Florida, Mathews traveled to East Florida in an attempt to incite a rebellion similar to what had occured in Baton Rouge. The residents of East Florida were happy with the status quo, so a force of volunteers (who were promised free land) was raised in Georgia. In March 1812, this force of "Patriots", with the aid of some United States Navy gunboats, seized Fernandina. The seizure of Fernandina had been authorized by President James Madison, but he later disavowed it. The Patriots were unable to take the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine however, and the approach of war with Britain led to an end of the American incursion into East Florida. In 1813, an American force did succeed in seizing Mobile from the Spanish.
Before the Patriot army withdrew from Florida, Seminoles, as allies of the Spanish, began to attack them. These attacks reinforced most of the American view that the Seminoles were enemies. The presence of black Seminoles in the fighting also raised the old fear of a slave rebellion among the Georgians of the Patriot army. In September 1812, a company of Georgia volunteers attacked the Seminoles living on the Alachua prairie, killing or driving off thousands of head of cattle.
YAHA-HAJO (Mad Wolf) was the second principal war chief of the Seminole nation and had been among the seven chiefs selected to inspect the western lands reserved for the Seminoles.
For a time he wavered between the pro-American faction and Micanopy, who fought against selling any land to the United States. He finally joined Micanopy and was killed by a Dragoon patrol on the banks of the Oklawaha River.
OSCEOLA (Asseola, Assyn-ya-hola) was a fearless and cunning leader of the Seminoles who was born in Alabama between 1800 - 1806. His fighting tactics and daring brought many victories to his people over the United States Army. A noted Seminole leader to whom the name Powell was sometimes applied from the fact that after the death of his father his mother married a white man of that name. He was born on Tallapoosa river, in the Creek country. His paternal grandfather was a Scotchman, and it is said the Caucasian strain was noticeable in his features and complexion. He was not a chief by descent, nor, so far as is known, by formal election, but took his place as leader and acknowledged chieftain by reason of his abilities as a warrior and commander during the memorable struggle of his people with the United States in the Seminole war of 1835.
MENAWA (Great Warrior) was a war chief of the Oakfuskee tribe of the Creek Nation. Menawa, was born about 1765 at the village of Oakfuskee located on or near the Tallapoosa River. Like many of the Creek leaders of his era, he was of mixed Scottish and American Indian ancestry. During the Creek War, he was one of the principal leaders of the "Red Sticks" or Upper Creeks, who went to war against the United States. Menawa was second in command at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend at the end of the Creek War. He was wounded seven times during the battle, but he escaped and survived his wounds.
Menawa died during the general removal of the Creek.
McINTOSH also known as "White Warrior," was the son of Captain William McIntosh, a member of a prominent Savannah, Georgia family sent into the Creek Nation to recruit them to fight for the British during the Revolutionary War (Captain McIntosh's mother was a sister of Lachlan McGillivray of the Clan MacGillivray Chiefs Lineage). His mother, a Creek named Senoya (also spelled Senoia), was a member of the Wind Clan. Raised as a Creek, he never knew his Tory father. Because among the Creeks, descent was determined through one's mother; the fact that his father was white was of little importance to other Creeks.
CHITTEE YOHOLO (The Snake that Makes a Noise) was a Seminole Chief who was born in Florida. Chittee Yoholo was a superb guerilla fighter who attacked numerous outposts and settlements during the Seminole War. He boasted of bringing back so many scalps that he became known as "The Snake That Makes A Noise." He eventually surrendered to the army garrison at St. Augustine and agreed to migrate to Arkansas.
His complexion, which is of a darker hue than that of our other Indians, marks his descent; and there is an expression of fierceness in the countenance indicative of a race living in perpetual hostility.
TUKO-MALTHIA (Known as John Hicks) was chief of the Seminole Indians of Florida from 1824-1833. His portrait was painted in 1826 when he was in Washington on a diplomatic mission.
ITCHO YUSTENNUGGE (Deer Warrior) was a chief of the Seminole nation. He, along with Chief Micanopy and five other chiefs, went to Washington in 1826 to confer with President Adams.
MICANOPY Chief Micanopy was the chief of the Seminole Nation during the 2nd Seminole War, 1835-1842. His capital village was Cuscowilla, built at the cross of two ancient Indian trails, which later became the American settlement of Micanopy, founded in 1821.
Chief Micanopy at first was friendly and helpful to the Americans. As time went on and more of the land which the Seminoles believed to be theirs became American farms and settlements, treaties were broken. The Indians were forced against their will to live on a reservation and hostilities began.
After the seven bloody years of the 2nd Seminole War, Chief Micanopy and the remnants of his Alachua band were captured and sent to the Oklahoma Territory where he died in January of 1849.
Chief Micanopy's Suprise
By Paul Goddard: January 20, 2006
It was a cold day in Florida when multiple gun shots were fired, sending the blue-coated Federal soldiers scrabbling for cover...
Just five days before on December 23, 1835, Major Francis Dade led his men out of Fort Brooke (Tampa) to reinforce the troops at Fort King (Ocala). Fort King was 100 miles to the north and, Dade commanded 107 soldiers armed with the best modern weapons. On Dec. 28th, he announced to his men that they could relax because they had passed through the Seminole Territory. "Have a good heart. Our difficulties and dangers are over now, soon, as we arrivve at Fort King you'll have three days of Christmas to rest gaily." Filing into two single lines, the men put their flintlock rifles under their standard cold weather "Great Coats" to protect them from the rain.
Near the Little Withlacoochee River, just 25 miles from their destination, 180 Seminoles lead by Chief Micanopy, struck with surprise from the palmetto bushes. Micanopy fired the first shot, killing Major Dade. This was followed with a volley killing 50 more. All the remaining soldiers struggled furiously to get their weapons out and, a guerrilla-style battle was waged for eight hours. At the end, only two soldiers survived the ambush to tell of the "Dade Massacre." That morning when the soldiers set out on their journey, they were reassured that they were safe, but Micanopy's coming was a complete surprise.
Although little is known of his early life, Micanopy was born near present day St. Augustine, Florida... sometime around 1780. Succeeding Bolek as hereditary leader of the Seminoles following Bolek's death in 1819, Micanopy soon began acquiring large amounts of land and cattle and, as a common practice among other Seminoles, employed more than 100 runaway slaves to work his estates during the early 19th century. Encouraging intermarrige between the Seminoles and runaway slaves, their descendants would eventually gain influence within tribal councils.
Following the American purchase of Florida from Spain in 1819, large numbers of emigrating American settlers began colonizing northern Florida during the next decade. Micanopy would soon become a strong opponent towards futher American settlement of the region.
The beginning and ending dates for the First Seminole War are not firmly established. The U.S. Army Infantry tells that it lasted from 1814-1819. The U.S. Naval Historical Center gives dates of 1813-1818. Another Army site dates the war as 1817-1818. Finally, the unit history of the 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery describes the war as occuring solely in 1818.
Creek War and the Negro Fort:
The next big event to affect the Seminoles of Florida was the Creek War of 1813-1814. Andrew Jackson became a national hero in 1814 after his victory over the Creek Red Sticks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. After his victory, Jackson forced the Treaty of Fort Jackson on the Creeks, resulting in the loss of much Creek territory in southern Georgia, central and southern Alabama. As a result, many Creeks left and moved to Florida.
Also in 1814, Britain, at war with the United States, landed its forces in Pensacola and other places in West Florida and began to recruit Indian allies. In May 1814, a British force entered the mouth of the Apalachicola River handing out arms to Seminoles, Creeks and runaway slaves. The British moved upriver and began building a fort at Prospect Bluff. After the British and their Indian allies were beaten back from an attack on Mobile, an American force led by General Jackson drove the British out of Pensacola. Work on the Prospect Bluff Fort continued, but when the war ended, the British forces left West Florida, except for Major Edward Nicholls of the Royal Marines. He directed the provisioning of the fort with cannon, muskets and ammunition, and told the Indians that the Treaty of Ghent guaranteed the re-turn of all Indian lands lost during the war, including the Creek lands in Georgia and Alabama. The Seminoles were not interested in holding a fort however, and returned to their villages. Before he left in the summer of 1815, Major Nicholls invited the runaway slaves in the area to take possession of the fort. Word spread about the fort, and it was soon being called the "Negro Fort" by whites in the Southern United States, who saw it as a dangerous inspiration for their slaves to run away or revolt.
Andrew Jackson wanted to eliminate the Negro Fort, but it was in Spanish territory. In April 1816, he informed the governor of West Florida that if the Spanish dod not get rid of the fort, he would. The governor replied that he did not have the means at his disposal to take the fort. Jackson assigned Brig. Gen. Edmund Pendleton Gaines to deal with the fort. Gaines directed Col. Duncan Lamont Clinch to build Fort Scott on the Flint River just north of the Florida border. Gaines then made known his intenion to supply Fort Scott from New Orleans via the Apalachicola River, which would mean passing through Spanish territory and past the Negro Fort. Gaines told Jackson that using the Apalachicola to supply Fort Scott would allow the U.S. Army to keep an eye on the Seminoles and the Negro Fort, and if the fort fired on the supply boats, it would give the Americans an excuse for destroying the fort.
A supply fleet for Fort Scott reached the Apalachicola in July 1816. Clinch marched down the river with a force of more than 100 American soldiers and 150 Creeks. The supply fleet met Clinch at the Negro Fort, and the two gunboats with the fleet took positions across the river from the fort. The blacks in the fort fired their cannon at the U.S. soldiers and their Creek allies but had no experience in the aiming of the cannon. The Americans fired back and the 9th shot fired by the gunboats, a hot shot (a cannon-ball heated to a red glow), landed in the fort's powder magazine. The resulting explosion, which was heard more than 100 miles away in Pensacola, leveled the fort. Of about 320 people who had been in the fort, more than 250 died instantly, and many more died from their injuries later. After the destruction of the fort, the U.S. Army withdrew from Florida, but American squatters and outlaws carried out raids against the Seminoles, killing the Indians and stealing their slaves and cattle. Resentment over the killings and thefts commited by white Americans spread among the Seminoles leading to retaliation, particularly stealing back from the settlers. On February 24, 1817, the Seminoles murdered Mrs. Garret, a woman living in Camden County, Georgia, and her childern, one three years old and the other two months.
Fowltown was a Mikasuki village in southwestern Georgia, about 15 miles east of Fort Scott. Chief Neamathla of Fowltown got into a dis-pute with the commander of Fort Scott over the use of land on the east-ern side of the Flint River, essentially claiming Mikasuki sovereignty over the area. The land in southern Georgia had been ceded by the Creeks in the Treaty of Fort Jackson, but the Mikasukis did not con-sider themselves Creek, did not feel bound by the treaty, and did not accept that the Creeks had any right to cede Mikasuki land. In November 1817, General Gaines sent a force of 250 men to seize Chief Neamathla. The first attempt was beaten back by the Mikasukis. The next day, November 22, 1817, the Mikasukis were driven from their village. Some historians date the start of the war to this attack on Fowltown. David Brydie Mitchell, former governor of Georgia and Creek Indian agent at the time, stated in a report to Congress that the attack on Fowltown was the start of the First Seminole War.
A week later, a boat carrying supplies for Fort Scott, under the command of Lt. R.W. Scott was attacked on the Apalachicola River. There were fifty people on the boat, including 20 sick soldiers, seven wives of soldiers, and possibly some children. While there are reports of four children being killed by the Seminoles, they were not mentioned in early reports of the massacre and their presence has not been confirmed. Most of the boat's passengers were killed by the Indians. One woman was taken prisoner and 6 survivors made the fort.
General Gaines had been under orders not to invade Florida. When news of the Scott Massacre on the Apalachicola reached Washington D.C., Gaines was ordered to invade Florida and pursue the Indians but not attack any Spanish installations. However, Gaines had left for East Florida to deal with pirates who had occupied Fernandina. Secretary of War John C. Calhoun then ordered Andrew Jackson to lead the invasion of Florida.
Jackson gathered his forces at Fort Scott in March 1818, including 800 U.S. Army regulars, 1,000 Tennessee vol-unteers, 1,000 Georgia militia and about 1,400 friendly Lower Creek warriors. On March 13th, Jackson's army entered Florida, marching down the Apalachicola River. When they reached the site of the Negro Fort, Jackson had his men construct a new fort, Fort Gadsen. The army then set out for the Mikasuki villages around Lake Miccosukee. The Indian town of Tallahassee was burned on March 31, and the town of Miccosukee was taken the next day. More than 300 Indian homes were destroyed, then Jackson went south reaching St. Marks on April the 6th.
At St. Marks, Jackson seized the Spanish fort. There, he found Alexander George Arbuthnot, a Scottish trader working out of the Bahamas. He traded with the Indians in Florida and had written letters to British and American officials on behalf of the Indians. He was rumored to be selling guns to the Indians and to be preparing them for war. Two Indian leaders, Josiah Francis, a Red Stick Creek, also known as the "Prophet" and Homathlemico, had been captured when they had gone out to an American ship flying the British Union Flag that had anchored off of St. Marks. As soon as Jackson arrived at St. Marks, the two Indians were brought ashore and hanged.
Jackson laft St. Marks to attack villages along the Suwannee River, which were occupied mostly by the fugitive slaves. On April the 12th, the army found a Red Stick village on the Econfina River. Close to 40 Red Sticks were killed and about 100 women and children were captured. In the village, they found Elizabeth Stewart, the woman who had been captured in the attack on the supply boat on the Apalachicola River the previous November. Harrased by the Black Seminoles along the route, the army found the villages on the Suwannee empty. Robert Ambrister, a former Royal Marine and self-appointed British "agent", was captured by Jackson's army. Having destroyed the major Seminole and black villages, Jackson declared victory and sent the Georgia Militia and the Lower Creeks home. The remaining army then returned to St. Marks.
At St. Marks a military tribunal was convened, and Ambrister and Arbuthnot were charged with aiding the Seminoles, inciting them to war and leading them against the United States. Ambrister threw himself on the mercy of the court, while Arbuthnot main-tained his innocence, saying that he had only been engaged in legal trade. The tribunal sentenced both men to death, but then relented and changed Ambrister's sen-tence to fifty lashes and a year at hard labor. Jackson however, later reinstated Ambrister's death penalty. Ambrister was executed by a firing squad on April 29, 1818. Arbuthnot was hanged from the yard-arm of his own ship. Jackson left a garrison at St. Marks and returned to Fort Gadsen and had first reported that all was peaceful and that he would be returning to Nashville. He later reported that Indians were gathering and being supplied by the Spanish. He then left Fort Gadsen with 1,000 men on May the 7th, headed for Pensacola.
The governor of West Florida protested that most of the Indians at Pensacola were women and children and that the men were unarmed, but Jackson did not stop. When Jackon reached Pensacola on May the 23rd, the governor and the 175-man Spanish garrison re-treated to Fort Barrancas, leaving the city of Pensacola to Jackson. The two sides ex-changed cannon fire for a couple of days and, then the Spanish surrendered Fort Barrancas on May the 28th. Jackson left Col. William King as military governor of West Florida and went home.
There were international repercussions to Jackson's actions. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams had just started neg-otiations with Spain for the purchase of Florida. Spain pro-tested the invasion and seizure of West Florida and suspen-ded the negotiations. Spain did not have the means to retaliate against the United States or regain West Florida by force, so Adams let the Spanish protest, then issued a letter, with 72 supporting documents, blaming the war on the British, Spanish and Indians. In the letter he also apologized for the seizure of West Florida, he said that it had not been American policy to seize Spanish territory and offered to give St. Marks and Pensacola back to Spain. Spain accepted and eventually resumed negotiations for the sale of Florida.
Britain protested the execution of two of its subjects who had never entered United States territory. There was talk in Britain of demanding reparations and taking reprisals. Americans worried about another war with Britain. In the end, Britain, realizing how important the United States was to its economy, opted for maintaining good relations.
There were also repercussions in America. Congressional committees held hearings into the irregularites of the Ambrister and Arbuthnot trials. While most Americans supported Jackson, some worried that Jackson could become a "man on horseback," a Napoleon. When Congress reconvened in December 1818, resolutions were introduced condemning Jackson's actions. Jackson was too popular and the resolutions failed, but the Ambrister and Arbnthnot executions left a strain on his reputation for the rest of his life, even if it was not enough to keep him from becoming president.
Spain did sell Florida and the United States took possession in 1821. Effective government was slow in coming to Florida. General Andrew Jackson was appointed military governor of Florida in March 1821, but he did not arrive in Pensacola until July 1821. He resigned the post in September 1821 and returned home in October, having spent just three months in Florida. His successor, William P. DuVal was not appointed until April 1822, and he left for an extended visit to his home in Kentucky before the end of the year. Other official positions in the territory had similar turn-over and absences.
The Seminoles were still a problem for the new government. In early 1822, Capt. John R. Bell, provisional secretary of the Florida territory and temporary agent to the Seminoles, prepared an estimate of the number of Indians in Florida. He reported about 5,000 Indians and 300 slaves held by Indians. He estimated that two-thirds of them were refugees from the Creek War, with no valid claim (in the U.S. view) to Florida. Indian settlements were located in the areas around the Apalachicola River, along the Suwannee River, from there southeastwards to the Alachua Prairie, and then southwestward to a little north of Tampa Bay.
Officals in Florida were concerned from the beginning about the situation with the Seminoles. Until a treaty was signed establishing a reservation, the Indians were not sure of where they could plant crops and expect to be able to harvest them, and they had to contend with white squatters moving into land they occupied. There was no system for licensing traders and unlicensed traders were supplying the Seminoles with liquor. However, because of the part-time presence and frequent turnover of territorial officials, meetings with the Seminoles are canceled, postponed, or sometimes held merely to set a time and place for a new meeting.
In 1823, the government finally decided to settle the Seminoles on a reservation in the central part of the territory. A meeting to negotiate a treaty was scheduled for early September 1823 at Moultrie Creek, south of St. Augustine. About 425 Seminoles attended the meeting, choosing Neamathla to be their chief representative. Under the terms of the treaty negotiated there, the Seminoles were forced to place themselves under the pro-tection of the United States and to give up all claim to lands in Florida, in exchange for a reservation of about four million acres. The reservation would run down the middle of Florida from just north of present-day Ocala to a line even with the southern end of Tampa Bay. The boundaries were well inland from both coasts, to prevent contact with traders from Cuba and the Bahamas. Neamathla and five other chiefs however, were allowed to keep villages along the Apalachicola River.
Under the Treaty of Moultrie Creek, the United States govern-ment was obligated to protect the Seminoles as long as they re-mained peaceful and law-abiding. The government was supposed to distribute farm implements, cattle and hogs to the Seminoles, compensate them for travel and losses involved in relocating to the reservation, and provide rations for a year, until the Seminoles could plant and harvest new crops. The government was also supposed to pay the tribe $5,000 per year for twenty years and provide an interpreter, a school and a blacksmith for twenty years. In turn, the Seminoles had to allow roads to be built across the reservation and had to apprehend any runaway slaves or other fugitives and return them to United States jurisdiction.
Implementation of the treaty stalled. Fort Brooke, with four companies of infantry, was established on the site of present-day Tampa in early 1824, to show the Seminoles that the government is serious about moving them onto the reservation. However, by June, James Gadsden, who was the principal author of the treaty and charged with enforcing it, was re-porting that the Seminoles were unhappy with the treaty and wanted to renegotiate it. Fear of a new war crept in. In July, Governor DuVal mobilized the militia and ordered the Tallahassee and Mikasukee chiefs to meet him in St. Marks. At that meeting he ordered the Seminoles to move to the reservation by October 1, 1824.
The Seminoles still had not started to move onto the reservation by October. Governor DuVal began paying them compensation for improvements they were having to leave as an incentive to move. He also had the rations that had been promised sent to Fort Brooke on Tampa Bay for distrubution. The Seminoles finally began moving onto the reservation but, within a year some of them were moving back to their former homes between the Suwannee and Apalachicola Rivers. Although most of the Seminoles were on the reservation by 1826, they were not doing well. They had to clear and plant new fields, and even the fields that had been planted were hit by drought. Some of them were reported to have starved to death. Both Col. George M. Brooke, commander at Fort Brooke, and Governor DuVal wrote to Washington seeking help for the starving Seminoles, but the requests got caught up in a debate over whether the Seminoles should be moved west of the Mississippi River. As a result, nothing was done for five months about providing relief for the Seminoles.
The Seminoles slowly settled into the reservation, although there were isolated clashes with whites. Fort King was built near the reservation agency, at the site of present-day Ocala. By early 1827, the Army reported that the Seminoles were on the reservation and Florida was peaceful. This peace lasted for five years, during which time there were repeated calls for the Seminoles to be sent west of the Mississippi. The Seminoles were very opposed to any such move and especially to the suggestion that they join their Creek relations. Most whites regarded the Seminoles as simply Creeks who had recently moved to Florida, while the Seminoles claimed Florida as their home and denied that they had any connection with the Creeks what so ever.
The status of runaway slaves was a continuing problem between Seminoles and whites. The Seminoles and slave catchers argued over the ownership and the new plantations in Florida increased the numbers of slaves who could run away to the Seminoles. Worried of an Indian uprising or a slave rebellion. Governor DuVal requested additional Federal troops in Florida. Instead, Fort King was closed in 1828. The Seminoles, short of food and finding the hunting becoming poorer on the reservation, were wan-dering off of it more often. Also in 1928, Andrew Jackson, the old enemy of the Seminoles, was elected President of the United States. In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. All the problems with the Seminoles were to be solved by moving them west of the Mississippi.
Indian Removal Act (1830)
It shall and may be lawful for the President solemnly to assure the tribe or nation with which the exchange is made, that the United States will forever secure and guaranty to them, and their heirs or successors, the country so exchanged with them... Provided always, That such lands shall revert to the United States, if the Indians become extinct, or abandon the same.
With the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, thoughts of Native American removal became a very real possibility for the policy makers of the United States Government. That purchase had given the government endless amounts of land, more than could ever possibly be put to use. Thomas Jefferson initiated discussion over whether this land could be used to solve what some viewed as the "Indian Problem" - Native Americans were occuyping land that many European Americans believed could be put to better use. Jefferson propsed that unincorporated land west of the Mississippi River be exchanged for more sought after land occupied by Native Americans in the east. Debates over the removal of the Natives grew more intense as the 19th century progressed and culminated in the passege of the 1830 Indian Removal Act.
In the act, Congress authorized President Jackson to begin the process of removal. Allocated $500,000, Jackson vigorously pursued his plan and in 1835 was able to announce that removal was complete or near completion. The majority of Native Americans had been removed to re-gions west of the Mississippi. The Indian Removal Act stood at the intersection of numerous debates among European Americans over the fate of the American Indians. Many Questions surrounding the controversy included: Would removal benefit or hinder efforts to civilize Native Americans? Were Native American groups going to be considered sovereign nations? Did Native American groups own the land that they occupied? How was the extinction of Native Americans going to be prevented?
Supporters of Jackson's removal policy agreed with the arguments Jackson made in his 1830 Second Annual Message, he stated that: "Humanity has often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country, and Philanthropy has been long busily employed in devising a means to avert it, but its progress has never for a moment been arrested, and one by one have many powerful tribes dissappeared from the earth." Jackson and his supporters claimed that the "savage" Native American culture must inevitably give way to the onslaught of civilization. They believed that efforts to civilize Native Americans within European American culture had been entirely unsuccessful. The only hope for Native American survival was to be moved outside the reach of civilization. In the West, missionaries could continue their efforts in Christianizing and civilizing the Native American at a slower pace, away from the vices of more populated areas.
Jackson's approach to the question of sovereignty and land ownership supported his ideas for removal. He said that Native Americans choosing to remain east of the Mississippi were subject to the laws and jurisdictions of the state and federal governments. Native American sovereignty and land ownership existed only insofar as it could be ceded to the United States Government.
Opponents of Jackson's policy had quite different claims. Many of them, like Jackson, believed that Native Americans were in the process of becoming extinct. However, the solution in their eyes did not lie in segregation. Instead they insisted that the process of civilization had been successful. They turned to the Cherokee Nation as their primary example. The Cherokee farmed, were Christian, had created a written language, supported their own newspaper, and in 1828 had written their own constitution. Jackson's opponents argued that this process would not occur in other groups without the support and example of civilization. These opponents also claimed the U.S. government was oblig-ated to recognize the sovereignty of Native American groups and their right to hold lands their ancestors had occupied.
The debates over whether removal offered the solution to the "Indian Problem" con-tinued after the passage of the Indian Removal Act. Although the act was meant to encourage Native Americans voluntarily to give up lands east of the Mississippi, the process of removal was one of misdeeds and corruption. Agents of the treaty-making process forged signatures of Native leaders, dealt with indivduals unauthorized to cede land, and falsified records.
These actions led to the forced removal of several Native American groups who had not voluntarily ceded their land holdings. Soldiers and government officals forced several of the southern tribes, like the Cherokee, to Oklahoma on the infamous Trail of Tears. On this path many Native Americans faced starvation, freezing cold, and disease. Because of removal deadlines, 15,000 individuals were placed in detention camps where again they faced starvation and the spread of disease. Despite the claim that it would benefit Indians, the removal process hastened futher seizure of Native American lands and futher disregard for Native American culture by the United States Government.
In the spring of 1832, the Seminoles on the reservation were called to a meeting at Payne's Landing on the Oklawaha River.
The treaty negotiated there called for the Seminoles to move west, if the land were found to be suitable. They were to settle on the Creek reservation and become part of the Creek tribe. The delegation of 7 chiefs who were to inspect the new reservation did not leave Florida until October 1832. After touring the area for several months and conferring with the Creeks who had al-ready been settled there, the seven chiefs signed a statement on March 28th, 1833, that the new land was acceptable. Upon their return to Florida however, most of the chiefs renounced the statement, claming that they had not signed it, or that they had been forced to sign it, and in any case, they did not have the power to decide for all the tribes and bands that resided on the reservation. The villages in the area of the Apalachicola River were more easily persuaded however, and went west in 1834.
The United States Senate finally ratified the Treaty of Payne's Landing in April 1834. The treaty had given the Seminoles three years to move west of the Mississippi. The government interpreted the three years as starting in 1832 and expected the Seminoles to move by 1835. Fort King was reopened in 1834. A new Seminole agent, Wiley Thompson,
had been appointed in 1834, and the task of presuading the Seminoles to move fell to him.
He called the chiefs together at Fort King in October 1834 to talk to them about the removal to the west. The Seminoles informed Thompson that they had no inten-tion of moving and they did not feel bound by the Treaty of Payne's Landing. Thompson then requested reinforcements for Fort King and Fort Brooke reporting that, "the Indians, after they had received the Annuity, purchased very large amounts of "Powder and Lead." General Clinch also warned Washington that most all the Seminoles did not intend to move and that more troops would be needed to force them to move. In March 1835, Thompson called the chiefs together to read a letter from Andrew Jackson to them. In this letter, Jackson said, "Should you... refuse to move, I have directed the Commanding Officer to remove you by force." The chiefs asked for thirty days in which to respond. A month later, the Seminole chiefs told Thompson that they would Not move West. Thompson and the chiefs began arguing, and General Clinch had to intervene to prevent bloodshed. Eventually, eight of the chiefs agreed to move west but asked to delay the move until the end of the year, and Thompson and Clinch agreed.
Five of the most important of the Seminole chiefs, including Micanopy of the Alachua Seminoles, had not agreed to the move. In retaliation, Wiley Thompson declared that those chiefs were removed from their positions. As the relations with the Seminoles deteriorated, Thompson forbid the sale of guns and ammunition to the Seminoles. Osceola, a young warrior beginning to be noticed by the whites, was particularly upset by the ban, feeling that it equated Seminoles with slaves and said, "The White Man shall Not Make Me Black. I will make the white man red with blood; and then blacken him in the sun and rain... and the buzzard live upon his flesh." In spite of this, Thompson considered Osceola to be a friend and gave him a rifle. Later though, when Osceola was causing trouble, Thompson had him locked up at Fort King for a night. The next day, in order to secure hi release, Osceola agreed to abide by the Treaty of Payne's Landing and bring his followers in.
The situation grew worse. On June 19, 1835, a group of whites searching for lost cattle found a group of Indians sitting around a campfire cooking the remains of what they claimed was one of their herd. The whites disarmed and proceeded to whip the Indians, when two more arrived and opened fire on the whites. Three whites were wounded and one Indian was killed and one wounded, at what became known as, "The Skirmish at Hickory Sink."
After complaining to Indian Agent Thompson, and not receiving a satisfactory response, the Seminoles became futher convinced that they would not receive fair compensations for their complaints of hostile settlers. Believed to be in response for the incident at Hickory Sink, in August 1835, Private Kinsley Dalton (for whom Dalton, Georgia is named) was killed by Seminoles as he was carrying the mail from Fort Brooke to Fort King.
In November 1835, Chief Charley Emathla, wanting no part of war, agreed to removal and sold his cattle at Fort King in preparation for moving his people to Fort Brooke to emigrate to the west. This was considered a betrayal by other Seminoles who months earlier declared in council that, any Seminole chief who sold his cattle would be sentenced to death.
Osceola met Chief Charley Emathla on the trail back to his village and killed him, scattering the money from the cattle purchase across his body.
The Seminole Indians relinquish to the United States, all claim to the lands they at present occupy in the Territory of Florida, and agree to emigrate to the country assigned to the Creeks, west of the Mississippi River, it being understood that an additional extent of the territory, proportioned to their numbers, will be added to the Creek country, and that the Seminoles will be received as a constituent part of the Creek nation and be re-admitted to all the privileges as members of the same.
For and in consideration of the relinquishment of claim in the first article of this agreement, and in full conpensation for all the improvements, which may have been made on the lands thereby ceded; the United States stipulates to pay to the Seminole Indians, fifteen thousand, four hundred (15,400) dollars, to be divided among the chiefs and warriors of the several towns, in a ratio proportioned to their population, the respective proportions of each to be paid on their arrival in the country they consent to remove to; it being understood that their faithful interpreters Abraham and Cudjo shall reseive two hundred dollars each of the above sum, in full remuneration for the improvements to be abandoned on the lands now cultivated by them.
The United States agree to distribute as they arrive at their new homes in the Creek Territory, west of the Mississippi River, a blanket and a homespun frock, to each of the warriors, women and children of the Seminole tribe of Indians.
The United States agree to extend the annuity for the support of a blacksmith, provided for in the sixth article of the treaty at Camp Moultrie for ten (10) years beyond the period therein stipulated, and in addition to the other annuities secured under the treaty; the United States agree to pay the sum of three thousand (3,000) dollars a year for fifteen (15) years, commencing after the removal of the whole tribe; these sums to be added to the Creek annuities, and the whole amount to be so divided, that the chiefs and warriors of the Seminole Indians may receive their equitable proportion of the same as members of the Creek confederation.
The United States will take the cattle belonging to the Seminoles at the valuation of some discreet person to be appointed by the President, and the same shall be paid for in money to the respective owners, after their arrival at their new homes; or other cattle such as may be desired will be furnished them, notice being given through their agent of their wishes upon this subject, before their removal, that time may be afforded to supply the demand.
The Seminoles being anxious to be relieved from repeated vexatious demands for slaves and other property, alleged to have been stolen and destroyed by them, so that they may remove unembarrassed to their new homes; the United States stipulate to have the same property investigated, and to liquidate such as may be satisfactorily established, provided the amount does not exceed seven thousand (7,000) dollars.
The Seminole Indians will remove within three (3) years after the ratification of this agreement, and the expenses of their removal shall be defrayed by the United States, and such subsistence shall also be furnished them for a term not exceeding twelve (12) months, after their arrival at their new residence; as in the opinion of the President, their numbers and circumstances may require, the emigration to commence as early as practicable in the year eighteen hundred and thirty-three (1833), and with those Indians at present occupying the Big Swamp, and other parts of the country beyond the limits as defined in the second article of the treaty concluded at Camp Moultrie creek, so that the whole of that proportion of the Seminoles may be removed within the year aforsaid, and the remainder of the tribe, in about equal proportions, during the subsequent years of eighteen hundred and thirty-four and five (1834 and 1835).
In testimony whereof, the commissioner, James Gadsden, and the undersigned chiefs and head men of the Seminole Indians; have hereunto subscribed their names and affixed their seals. Done at camp at Payne's landing, on the Ocklawaha river in the territory of Florida, on this ninth day of May, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two, and of the independence of the United States of America the fifty-sixth.
James Gadsden; Holati Emartla, his x mark; Jumper, his x mark; Fuch-ta-lus-ta-Hadjo, his x mark; Charley Emartla, his x mark; Coa Hadjo, his x mark; Ar-pi-uck-i, or Sam Jones, his x mark; Ya-ha Hadjo, his x mark; Mico-Noha, his x mark; Tokose-Emartla, or Jno Hicks, his x mark; Cat-sha-Tusta-nuck-i, his x mark; Hola-at-a-Mico, his x mark; Hitch-it-i-Mico, his x mark; E-ne-hah, his x mark; Ya-ha-emartla Chup-ko, his x mark; Moke-his-she-lar-ni, his x mark;
Douglas Vass, Secretary to the Commissioner,
John Phagan, Agent,
Stephen Richards, Interpreter,
Abraham, Interpreter, his x mark,
Cudjo, Interpreter, his x mark,
Treaty with The Seminole
March 28, 1833
Whereas, the Seminole Indians of Florida, entered into certain articles of agreement, with James Gadsden, Commissioner on behalf of the United States, at Payne's landing, on the 9th day of May, 1832; the first article of which treaty or agreement provides, as follows: "The Seminole Indians relinquish to the United States all claim to the land they at present occupy in the Territory of Florida, and agree to emigrate to the country assigned to the Creeks, west of the Mississippi River; it being understood that an additional extent of the territory proportioned to their number will be added to the Creek country, and that the Seminoles will be received as a constituent part of the Creek nation, and be re-admitted to all privileges as members of the same." And whereas, the said agreement also stipulates and provides, that a delegation of Seminoles should be sent at the expense of the United States to examine the country to be allotted them among the Creeks, and should this delegation be satisfied with the character of the country and of the favorable disposition of the Creeks to unite them as one people, then the aforementioned treaty would be considered binding and obligatory upon the parties. And whereas a treaty was made between the United States and the Creek Indians west of the Mississippi River, at Fort Gibson, on the 14th day of February 1833, by which a country was provided for the Seminoles in pursuance of the existing arrangements between the United States and that tribe. And whereas, the special delegation, appointed by the Seminoles on the 9th day of May 1832, have since examined the land designated for them by the undersigned Commissioners, on behalf of the United States, and have expressed themselves satisfied with the same, in and by their letter dated, March 1833, addressed to the undersigned Commissioners.
Now, therefore, the Commissioners aforesaid, by virtue of the power and authority vested in them by the treaty made with the Creek Indians of the 14th day of February 1833, as above stated, hereby designate and assign to the Seminole tribe of Indians, for their separate future residence, forever, a tract of country lying between the Canadian river and the north fork thereof, and extending west to where a line running north and south between the main Canadian and north branch, will strike the forks of Little river, provided said west line does not extend more than twenty-five miles west from the mouth of said Little river. And the undersigned Seminole chiefs, delegated as aforesaid, on behalf of their nation hereby declare themselves well satisfied with the location provided for them by the Commissioners, and agree that their nation shall commence the removal to their new home as soon as the Government will make arrangements for their emigration, satisfactory to the Seminole nation.
And whereas, the said Seminoles have expressed high confidence in the friendship and ability of their present agent, Major Phagen, and desire that he may be permitted to remove them to their new homes west of the Mississippi River; the Commissioners have considered their request, and cheerfully recommend Major Phagan as a suitable person to be employed to remove the Seminoles as aforesaid, and trust his appointment will be made. not only to gratify the wishes of the Indians but as conducive to the public welfare.
In testimony whereof, the commissioners on behalf of the United States, and the delegates of the Seminole nation, have hereunto signed their names this 28th day of March, A.D. 1833, at Fort Gibson.
Henry L. Ellsworth,
John F. Schermerhorn.
John Hick, representing Sam Jones, his x mark; Holata Emartta, his x mark; Jumper, his x mark; Coi Hadgo, his x mark; Charley Emartta, his x mark; Ya-ha-hadge, his x mark; Ne-ha-tho-clo, representing Fuch-a-lusti-hadgo, his x mark; On behalf of the Seminole Nation.
Continued on Chapter Two: the Other Treaties (bottom of page)