American Military Strategy In The Second Seminole War
SUBJECT AREA Warfighting
AMERICAN MILITARY STRATEGY DURING
THE SECOND SEMINOLE WAR.
John C. White, Jr.
Major United States Marine Corps
Graduate Class AY-95
Thesis submitted to the faculty of the Marine Corps Command and Staff
College in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of
Masters of Science of Military Studies
Title: American Military Strategy in the Second Seminole War
Author: Major John C. White, Jr., United States Marine Corps
Thesis: In the wake of the Indian Removal Act of l83O, the United States Army
engaged in a seven year struggle against the Seminole Indians in which it found itself unprepared to fight a guerrilla war.
Background: In December l835, l80 Seminole Indians ambushed Major Francis Dade's
relief column, killing lO5 troops. The massacre touched off a guerrilla war in Florida that lasted seven years and became the government's first protracted campaign against a genuine unconventional enemy. The conflict has since been recorded in history as the Second Seminole War. Throughout the struggle, the War Department sent six theater commanders into the fray to try and forcibly remove all the Indians to the Arkansas territory. Only after a series of blunders and disasters did commanders finally come to grips with the nature of guerrilla fighting and understand the real character of the Florida war. Generals who first entered the theater knew nothing about the enemy and even less about the terrain. Their combat experience was shaped by their successes against the
British in the War of l8l2, and their training steeped in the traditions of conventional European battlefield tactics. Guerrilla warfare was a new experience for the Army as they had never fought an enemy who preferred to engage in lightning quick ambushes and raids but refused to get tangled in a fixed battle. The terrain itself posed a considerable hardship for soldiers, sailors, and Marines who suffered tremendous losses by the tropical heat and
a host of diseases that accounted for two thirds of all casualties in the war. As the commanders adapted to the nature of Indian fighting, some gained considerable success through means other than battlefield tactics. Negotiations with the Seminoles seemed to have a significant measure of success. Deception proved to be effective until the American public eventually regarded some of these measures as total treachery. As the war seemed to carry on endlessly into each year, the public lost its interest in the war. As the war became less popular, as costs kept soaring, and as more troops were committed to the theater, Congress hotly debated a war that seemed unwinnable and unpopular.
Conclusions: Eventually the Army did remove over 3OOO Seminoles to the West. Even though only a relative few managed to evade capture, the government fell short of accomplishing the political end state. The real lessons from the war concern how the Army preferred to view itself as a conventional power and was totally unprepared to fight an unconventional war. Even as they gained valuable lessons on Indian fighting, they lacked the institutions to pass these lessons along to the officers and men. Therefor, throughout the l9th century, the Army offered not one shred of training in preparation for an enemy it would ultimately end up fighting throughout the period of western expansion.
On December 28, l8B5, Major Francis Dade led a relief detachment of lO8
officers and men of the U.S. Army from Fort Brooke, Florida, to Fort King.
Approximately 6O miles into his march, a band of some l8O Seminole Indians ambushed the column, killing all but three soldiers who managed to escape. The Seminole ambush sparked a guerrilla war that led to the longest and costliest Indian conflict in U.S history: The Second Seminole War. Over the span of seven years, the War Department sent six different theater commanders to Florida to try and remove the Indians forcibly to the Arkansas territory (present day Oklahoma). Some of them failed miserably while others managed to remove the Indians by the scores. However, despite the best efforts of these officers, the war seemed to drag on endlessly until the American public simply lost its patience with war.
This paper will explore the reasons behind the Army's failure to implement the Indian Removal Act policy. In examining these failures, it is important to analyze the background of the policy, and determine its impact on both the Seminoles and the Army who struggled to execute it. The physical characteristics of the terrain created a variety of problems for commanders charged with the duty of trying to locate, fix, and defeat an elusive enemy. This paper will show how the Florida interior shaped the very nature of the war, and, what is more important, how commanders dealt or failed to deal with its imposing hardships.
Another important feature of this study is the complex background of the
Seminoles, This close affiliation of Creeks, Tallahassees, Mikasukis, and other tribes formed one nation of people. Their association eventually included Negro slaves who successfully integrated into the tribal social order and adopted the Seminole culture.
The focus of this paper is on the Second Seminole War. Though the First and Third Seminole Wars are discussed, information is provided to give the reader some background into those two conflicts and how they related to the second war. Neither of those wars matched the intense violence or the scope of operations that characterized the second conflict. The Second Seminole War offers military officers an important study on how the U.S. Army found itself ill prepared to fight a guerrilla campaign. Only after the Army suffered a series of blunders and disasters did commanders learn to adapt to the Indians nature of warfighting. This paper will analyze the campaigns of the six theater commanders, showing how each of them viewed the enemy situation, planned their warfighting strategy, prosecuted their operations against the Florida Indians and what results did they achieve. At the end of each chapter an analysis section is included to give the reader the author's interpretation of the content and material. At the end of the paper, a concluding chapter will provide analysis and conclusions relevant to the whole period of the Seminole Wars.
The author of the thesis derived his information entirely from secondary sources. Essentially, this paper comprises a synthesis of different books. As the bibliography shows, historians have already published an extensive collection of information on the Seminole conflicts and the history of the U.S. Army. Their work is compiled from exhaustive research into primary and secondary sources; therefore, the author of this paper chose to rely on the abundance of information already provided by these authors.
Chronology of Significant Dates and Events V
l. Historical Background 1
2. The Beginning of Hostilities 2O
3. A Series of Failures 29
4. Thomas Sidney Jesup, The Transition 5O
5. A Protracted War 74
Chronology of Key Engagements 112
Chronology of Treaties 114
Chronological List of Commanders 115
Annotated Bibliography l2l
LIST OF TABLES
I, Seizures, Jan. and Feb. l837 53
II, Strength of the Florida 57
CHRONOLOGY OF SIGNIFICANT DATES AND EVENTS
28 May l83O Indian Removal Act
9 May l832 Treaty of Payne's Landing
28 May l832 Fort Gibson Treaty
28 December l835 The Dade Massacre
15 March l836 Winfield's Scott's Campaign
6 March l837 Treaty of Capitulation of the Seminole Nation
27 October l837 The Capture of Osceola
25 December l837 The Battle of Lake Okeechobee
l4 August l842 The Government Declares the War Over
A historical pattern was beginning to work itself out: occasionally the
American Army has had to wage a guerrilla war, but guerrilla war is so
incongruous to the natural methods and habits of a stable and well- to - society
that the American Army has tended to regard it as abnormal and to forget
about it whenever possible. Each new experience with irregular warfare has
required, then, that apppropriate-techniques be learned all over again.
Russell Weigly, HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY
The Seminole People
The Seminoles came from a varied and ill-defined interrelationship of
southeastern Indian tribes in North America. In general terms, they comprised a loose association of Creeks and indigenous tribes of Florida that evolved from a series of migrations of Creek bands from the Alabama and Georgia territories. The first migration occurred early in the eighteenth century during the Queen Ann's War. The Spanish governor of Florida sought to create a buffer of Indians between his colony and the British settlements in the North. Over the century, other Creeks moved into Florida to expand their boundaries.1
During the mid-eighteenth century, the colonials recognized the Florida Indians had split from the Creek center. Bands that once complied with their confederation's decisions broke ranks and centralized political power within their local towns. The "Alatchaway" band declined to associate themselves with any treaties between the confederation and the British. Instead, they preferred to negotiate their own agreements with the colonial governments. The British Indian Agent, John Stuart, saw this clear distinction between the two groups and referred to the Florida Creeks as "Seminoles"--the "wild people"--who preferred to remain separate from their traditional tribes.2
During l767 a second migration of Upper Creeks, from the Chattahoochee River area, arrived in Florida and settled into the Tampa Bay area. This group spoke Muskogee, the second common language of the Creek--Confederation. Their group then merged with the Tallahassees and moved into other areas of western Florida. Eventually, the Spanish colonials influenced the Seminoles, and many of these Indians adopted the Spanish cultural and religious norms.3
The Creek War ushered in the last major migration of Indians into Florida.
During the War of l8l2, the great Shawnee Indian prophet, Tecumseh, forged an
alliance with the British. The charismatic warrior persuaded most of the Upper Creeks to close ranks with other tribes of the frontier and form a grand Indian alliance. The Indians terrorized white settlers throughout the Ohio River valley. However, not all the Creek Confederation united with Tecumseh and the British. The war created deep divisions between the Upper Creeks (the Red Sticks) and the Lower Creeks who recoiled at the notion of attacking their white neighbors. As Tecumseh war progressed, each side squared off against the other until outright civil war erupted among the entire Creek nation. Inevitably, the conflict threatened the lives of frontier settlers who all but invited the white military into the fray. On 3O August l8l3, at an outpost called Fort Mimms, just 3O miles north of Mobile, came under attack by a strong force of Red Sticks twice the size of the l75 man militia that protected the fort. All together, 55O whites of all ages lived inside the garrison. The Indians easily overwhelmed the fort and massacred all but l7 people who managed to escape. In retaliation the United States sent militia and regular infantry to exact a price from the Upper Creeks.4 On March 27, 18l4, three columns of American forces attacked the Creeks at the Battle of Tohopeka (Horseshoe Bend), near the Tallapoosa River. One column, a combined force of Tennessee militia and Lower Creeks led by Andrew Jackson, fought the decisive engagement that claimed the lives of an estimated 8OO Red Stick warriors. The battle destroyed the power of the Upper Creeks and brought about the end of the Creek war.5
In August l8l4 Jackson coerced the confederation into signing the Fort Jackson treaty which essentially ceded a majority of the Creek lands to the government. It made no difference to him that some of the land the government appropriated belonged to his Indian allies. Jackson intended to concentrate the groups into one area of western Georgia and open the rest of the frontier to white settlers. Some Red Sticks bitterly opposed the measure, and roughly 1000 of them fled into Florida to live among the Seminoles.
The Florida bands observed many of the Creek traditions relating to social order, culture, and warfare. The people formed their society into clans, who tended to live in their own talwas (towns). The town elders, standing at the top of the social hierarchy, were responsible for electing the talwa leader, the Mico, the hereditary chief of the clan.6 The Seminoles found it practicable to adhere to the Creek traditions of warfare. Like the Creeks, the Florida Indians placed their warriors into four classes: Imala, the lowest of rank; labotskalgi, higher; imala lakalgi, still higher; and tustunugee, highest. The clan elders selected the tustunugee and charged him with the responsibility of mustering the
warriors and leading them during raids. Obviously, he earned his position based upon his reputation in combat. In the event of war, the tustunugee gathered his warriors by placing a red club in the town square. He placed similar instruments, along with a number of red sticks (meant to signify the number of days before the warriors must gather), in the hands of war leaders from neighboring bands and directed them to collect their fighters. Once all the warriors gathered at the talwa, they retreated into a council house to listen to the tustunugee's war plans and make final preparations for the impending conflict.7
When the warriors went on a raiding party, they wore almost nothing at all. With the exception of their weapons and their provisions, they were virtually naked not even cartridge belts or ammo pouches. The warriors did this for two reasons: (l) The warriors preferred to carry their ammunition in their mouths, enabling them to load their rifles faster than their American opponent, (2) the Seminoles believed that wounds could become infected if musket shot and fabric tore into their flesh.8 Therefor, their lack of clothing and equipment served a practical purpose.
A raiding party would move to the objective in a single file. Each warrior
followed in careful trace of the other, while the very last one concealed the party's tracks by brushing them away with a tree branch. During the march, the Seminoles adhered to strict discipline. The party communicated by hand signals, and only the war leader could order a halt. When so ordered, the warriors quickly formed a circle with their rifles at the ready. The Indians executed this formation every time they halted for a rest or sleep9
One of the greatest ironies of the Second Seminole War concerned the Indians' possession of superior firearms. Generally, the Army and militia only possessed a .69 caliber flintlock musket, a standard smooth bore muzzle loader, fired by a flint and steel mechanism. The weapon proved ineffective beyond lOO yards. By contrast, every Seminole warrior possessed a Spanish small bore rifle, a breech loader, which enabled the Indians to load with greater speed than the Army muskets. The government did not create this disparity out of ignorance or neglect of the force. By l8ll, they had manufactured the Hall's rifle. This weapon had a maximum effective range of 4OO yards and could be loaded four times faster than a muzzle loader. However soldiers complained that its powerful recoil broke the stock and the rifle often malfunctioned after firing several rounds. Little wonder that soldiers preferred the old .69 muzzle loader over the unreliable Hall's rifle10
The First Seminole War.
Jackson's treaty of l8l4 opened the flood gates for whites seeking possession of the fertile farmland that once belonged to the Creeks. Those bands that were fortunate enough to retain their traditional lands found themselves constantly threatened by whites encroaching on their territory. By l8l7, relations between the two peoples turned into open hostility. A constant exchange of attacks occurred on the lower Alabama, Georgia, and upper Florida territories. Each side accused the other of stealing their livestock, burning their homes, taking their slaves, and committing murder. The U.S. Government fixed responsibility entirely on the Seminoles and Creeks. Brigadier General Edmund P. Gaines, Commander of U.S. troops in Alabama and Georgia territories, openly accused the Seminole leader, Chief Kinache of committing these depredations and demanded that he allow his force to enter the Suwannee River area to pursue the guilty bands. Meanwhile, tensions began to rise between Seminoles and whites along the east bank of the Flint river in southern Georgia. Chief Neamathla warned white settlers and soldiers to stop venturing across his land to cut wood and told them he would kill any whites who continued to trespass. When General Gaines heard of Neamathla's threat he summoned the chief to Fort Scott for a talk. Neamathla refused to comply, telling Gaines's messenger that he had nothing more to say. On 2l November l8l7, Gaines responded to Neamathla's obstinacy by sending 25O regular troops to Fowltown to arrest him. When the chief resisted, the Americans shot four Indians and burned the entire village to the ground, forcing Neamathla and the rest of his band to
flee into Spanish Florida. Gaines's excursion into Fowltown marked the opening
engagement of the First Seminole War.11
Neamathla's people joined Chief Kinache's Seminole town on the Suwannee
River. Several days after the American assault on Fowltown, the Indians retaliated by ambushing an American river vessel on the Appalachicola River. The Indians killed twenty- seven of the forty soldiers on board. Following the river ambush, the Seminoles increased their attacks against American farms throughout the western panhandle of Florida. They stole cattle, massacred whites, and plundered farms. The Indians usually rounded up any slaves they could find and claimed them as property of their own-- spoils of war so to speak.12
The Seminole relationship with Negro slaves created a unique characteristic of the Seminole wars which distinguished it from other Indian conflicts in the nation's history. Just as their Creek brothers, the Seminoles acquired their own slaves--not an uncommon practice among the Southeast Indian tribes. Ever since the colonial era, the Creeks, Cherokees, and Choctaws adopted the institution of slavery as a way of enhancing their own position in white society.
While the Seminoles and whites shared a similar interest in slavery, they took a different view on the master and owner relationship. Escaped slaves from Georgia believed they would receive better treatment from the Indians than from their white masters. The Seminoles, in fact, seldom mistreated their slaves. Indeed, the significant number of half-breed Indians and Negroes among the bands suggest the blacks assimilated quite easily into the Seminole culture. The Indians tolerated interracial relationships, including marriage. The African Negro moved about the towns as he pleased, without restriction. He could fish, hunt, and was generally free to acquire the same property as other talwa members. In fact, the Indians did not enslave all Negroes among their towns. Many of the blacks fled bondage from plantations in Georgia and sought safe havens among the Florida bands. Eventually many of these escaped slaves congregated into their own towns and lived peacefully along side the Seminole talwas. The Seminole elders provided them the necessary land on which to farm and build a house. In turn, the Negroes provided a portion of their crops and game to the talwa leader during an annual offering.13
This environment of cooperation and mutual respect created solidarity between the Seminole and his Negro brother who shared a similar resentment toward the Americans. By l8l7, Neamathla and Kinache had every reason to believe the whites wanted more than just their land. General Gaines openly accused Kinache of harboring slaves and, indeed, this may have been a true accusation. However, many of the Negro Seminoles were the descendants of fugitive slaves born into the tribe or married to tribal members. White slave hunters and settlers frequently declared them as their rightful property and appealed to the government to seek their return. For the next three decades, American commanders in Florida viewed the Seminole Negro relationship as a constant source of friction--as indeed it was.14
By February l8l8, several other Indian attacks on American vessels convinced river captains that further navigation up the Apalachicola posed unacceptable risks. Thus, the Seminoles had succeeded in halting all river traffic for Fort Scott. John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, feared that unless relief came to the beleaguered outpost soon, the 7th Infantry would have to abandon the fort. Calhoun ordered Andrew Jackson to raise an adequate militia force and lead them to Fort Scott. Marching 45O miles from Tennessee, Jackson's force reached the outpost in forty six days. Before his departure, he wrote President Monroe a letter indicating his desire to seize Spanish Florida by force. Confident that the President approved such operations, Jackson never
waited for a reply. He marched his force of 3,3OO troops and l,5OO allied Creeks deep into the Spanish territory east of the Apalachicola River. On l April, Jackson's force attacked a Mikasuki town driving the Seminoles further east into Spanish territory. When he entered the talwa, his men discovered the scalps of soldiers and civilians killed during the river boat ambush of December. Jackson reacted by ordering his men to burn the entire village and seized all the grain stored in the town.
Jackson next planned to seize the Spanish fort at Saint Marks. He believed that the Seminole force sought refuge within the fort's interior. He also felt the Spanish had encouraged the Negroes and Indians to terrorize the western countryside by keeping them well supplied with muskets and provisions. By l6 April, Jackson's force attacked the fort and forced the Spanish garrison to surrender.
With all of western Florida finally under American control, Jackson planned his final assault. His objective was the last collection of Seminole and Negro towns in eastern Florida. One town, composed entirely of 2OO Seminoles, fell easily to the swift attack of Jackson's l5OO Indian allies. Fearing the Creeks more than the main force of militia, the Seminoles fled in the face of overwhelming numbers and left the town firmly in the hands of their hated enemy. Jackson led the main force against the Negro town on the Suwannee River. However, Seminole scouts spotted the main attack and raced back to the Negro camp in sufficient time to warn them. This gave the Seminoles an opportunity to evacuate their women and children to the east bank of the river, while 3OO Negroes engaged the main force of Tennessee and Kentucky militia. The blacks put
tip a spirited defense but could not hold out against an overwhelming number of
militia troops. Amazingly enough, the majority of the Negroes managed to escape
into the Florida swamp and rejoin their Indian allies.15
Even though the Indians and Negroes were fortunate to escape with their lives, Jackson's incursion into Florida had delivered a shattering blow to the Seminoles. His force laid waste to the three largest Indian villages in the territory. The Indians had lost everything but their lives. He had broken their backs when he took possession of their livestock and fed his troops on their entire food stores. The First Seminole war was over. The Indians had fled deeper into the Florida peninsula, giving up their fight with the white man for at least l8 years.
Jackson's Seminole campaign earned him personal glory and enhancement to his national reputation. Not only did he squash an Indian uprising, but he also gave the United States a foothold in Spanish territory. Three years later, the United States offered to cancel Spain's five million dollar debt to Washington in exchange for Florida. Shortly after both countries formalized the agreement, President Monroe appointed Andrew Jackson as the first governor to the Florida territory.
The Moultrie Creek Treaty
By l823, most of the Seminole tribes occupied over 24 million acres of soil rich Florida land. It was only a matter of time before the whites would cast their eyes toward that highly prized region of Indian territory. Expansion of white settlements could only be feasible with the Seminoles out of the way. Many settlers found no shortage of reasons as to why the Indians should move, and the ever reoccurring issue of runaway slaves seemed to give the whites the ammunition they required to carry their argument to the Secretary of War. John C. Calhoun agreed that the run away slaves had taken up refuge with the Seminoles and that the Indians continued presence created a nuisance to
legitimate slave holders.. In as much as the Indians had always welcomed the Negroes into their towns, Calhoun had made a correct observation. But, as far as this forming the basis to remove the Indians, more likely Calhoun and other whites just simply wanted the land. The Secretary of War preferred to move the Indians out of Florida altogether however, the government, at the time, had no place outside the territory to move them to--the Indians would have to relocate to lands in southern Florida.
On l8 September l823, Colonel James Gadsden, an Indian agent for the
government, met with Seminole elders at Moultrie Creek, near St. Augustine, to
negotiate a treaty that essentially required the Indians to move to 5,865,OOO acres of inhospitable swamp land south of the Peace River (this reservation was later extended to Tampa Bay). During the negotiations, Gadsden resorted to the kind of coercion that he would employ in future agreements with the Indians. He told them that Andrew Jackson had beaten them twice before; however, if they concentrate in the south and cooperate with the government, the United States would forget the past. In return, the government would pay the tribes $6,OOO worth of farming tools and livestock plus $5,OOO in annuities over the next 2O years. After that time, the Indians would have to move to new reservations west of the Mississippi River. Several elders refused to sign the document, but when the Gadsden offered Neamathla the opportunity to retain most of his land along the Suwannee, the chief consented and signed the treaty.16
The Physical Setting
When Spain sold Florida to the United States, the territory had only two
permanent settlements. Along the east coast, St. Augustine served as the center of colonial trade and government, and was the largest town in Florida. Pensacola, situated on the Gulf of Mexico and in the extreme west of the Florida Panhandle, hosted the second main colonial settlement. Other than these two main colonies, the Spanish managed a small outpost at St. Marks, near the eastern bank of the Apalachicola and Suwannee rivers. An abundance of wild game, such as whitetail deer, turkey, and bears, provided the Indians with a constant source of meat and hides. The variety of rivers and streams inside the Panhandle created rich soil conditions throughout the northern region. The Indians and whites considered this area to offer the greatest potential for agriculture in Florida.
Florida ranks second only to present day Louisiana in the lowest elevation of the United States. On the average, Florida's elevation reached only 100 feet above sea level. In the Northern panhandle regions the elevation peaked to 345 feet. In the south-central region, a 3OO foot ridge line dominated the terrain, forcing streams to flow east and west. Florida's vast low land, combined with an annual rainfall of 5O to 65 inches, created numerous lakes and swamps. Most of these lakes, as many as 3O,OOO, are concentrated between present day Gainsville in the north, and Lake Okeechobee to the south. This great expanse of lakes accounted for 4,298 square miles of inland waters, with Lake Okeechobee itself (the third largest fresh water lake wholly within the United States) covering 7OO square miles. Beyond the lake lay the Everglades: 2,5OO,OO acres of fresh
water marsh containing dense sawgrass and scattered hammocks of sabal palmettos.
The theater of operations during the Second Seminole War lay almost entirely within this central and southern region of the peninsula. Throughout this area, the U. S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps operated within the inhospitable terrain of swampland and hardwood hammocks that made it nearly impossible for them to bring the elusive Seminoles to battle--unless the foe wanted to fight. Under such conditions, the harsh interior created a nature of war fighting that appeared totally beyond the capabilities of conventional forces. These dense areas of the interior created natural obstacles for the Indians to use to their advantage. However, at least five rivers in the central and south regions offered the Army commanders excellent lines of communication and resupply. The St. John's, the most important river in all the territory, originated at Melbourne on the east coast. For over 276 miles, the river meandered north until it reached present day Jacksonville where it emptied into the Atlantic. In the central region, the Withlacoochee, Kissimmee, and Oklawaha rivers provided commanders with north and south routes of communication. The Withlacoochee provided access to the interior by way of the Gulf of Mexico where, during the first year of the war, three American commanders conducted operations against the Seminoles concentrated along the Withlacoochee. In the south, river boats entered the interior near Charlotte Harbor and could reach lake Okeechobee by way of the Caloosahatachee, or go north by way of the
Three geographical areas divided the territory's extensive coastline. To the east, barrier beaches and lagoons characterized most of the littoral area, while in the south, a chain of islands known today as the Florida Keys, stretched to the southwest for about l5O miles. Along the west coast, a line of sandy beaches extended l8O miles to the north. Most of this area featured barrier islands punctuated by harbors and inland rivers. From Tampa Bay to the Apalachee Bay in the north, marshy shoreline dominated the coast until again the terrain turned to white beaches clear to Pensacola Bay.17 Many rivers, inlets, and lagoons exist throughout the terrain. These features propelled the United States Navy into an Indian war that required commanders to employ naval assets against the nearly inaccessible enclaves of the Seminoles.
Only the unbearable heat and humidity of the Florida climate exceeded the
miserable features of the terrain. With summer temperatures averaging between 80F to 83F, most of the peninsula experienced tropical weather throughout the year. In the wintertime, temperatures varied from 54F in the western panhandle, to 7OF near the keys. Most of the region's annual rainfall occurred during the summer months when extreme weather, such as hurricanes and tropical storms, often appeared until the late summer and early fall.18
These harsh conditions of the Florida environment created the greatest source of friction for all the theater commanders. For example, of the 1,466 American military deaths, only 328 resulted from hostile fire. The majority occurred from malaria and dysentery.19
The Paynes Landing Treaty and the Indian Removal Policy
The Second Seminole War originated from the turmoil created by President
Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act policy of l83O. The former Indian fighter and one time enemy of the Seminoles asked Congress to craft legislation that authorized the removal of all Indians from Lands east of the Mississippi River to lands west of it. Jackson, with the tacit support of many southern legislators, viewed the Indians as an impediment to white civilization. Indeed, congressional leaders had received scores of letters from their constituents complaining of Indian raids upon their property. In north-central Florida, farmers complained bitterly of Seminoles who constantly raided their farms, stealing cattle and kidnapping their slaves. Other whites, more sympathetic
to the Indians' situation, felt the Seminoles would find conditions in the West more to their benefit. In their view, the four million acres of land set aside in the Moultrie Creek treaty of l823 could not possibly sustain the bands. The Seminoles' reservation lay in the inhospitable swampland of south--central Florida where the area proved wholly unsuitable for agriculture and wild game.
By l827, the Florida Indians had reached the point of starvation. On 6 March, the Indian agent, Gad Humphreys, sent a letter to the Governor of Florida in which he wrote: "There is not at this moment, I will venture toy, in the whole (Seminole) nation a bushel of corn, or any adequate substitute for it... Many of the warriors' guns had been confiscated during a recent alarm so that they could not hunt."20
If the whites found cause to blame the Seminoles for violating the treaty, the Indians in turn found every reason to fix responsibility on them. On January l4, l829, Chief John Hicks, principal leader of the Seminole nation, made a speech to officers of the 4th Infantry and pointed out that white man's justice did not apply evenly to the settlers. He told them if a white man killed an Indian, the law rarely held the killer accountable, yet the whites never failed to seek justice against an Indian for killing a white. He also told them the whites were constantly taking their Negroes, even though the Indians had legitimately captured them in war or raised them since childhood. He complained bitterly how the government owed the Seminoles annuities (a provision of the Moultrie Creek treaty of l823) but had withheld payments as reparations for stolen property.21
Congress signed the Removal Act into law on May 28, l83O, but two years passed before the government undertook measures to remove the Indians from Florida. In the spring of l832, the Secretary of War, Lewis Cass, ordered Colonel James Gadsden to meet with the Seminoles to negotiate a new treaty. He told Gadsden to ensure the Indians understood the government intended to see them rejoin their Creek brothers and become a "constituent part of that tribe"
in Arkansas territory.22 Nothing showed a greater ignorance about Seminole history than the Secretary's stipulation regarding Seminole and Creek repatriation. The Florida Indians hated their Creek cousins who twice fought against them in the Creek War and the First Seminole War. Now the United States, which in large part bore responsibility for tearing apart the Creek nation, expected the Indians to "bury the hatchet" and reunite under the white man's terms--in a literally far distant land.
Chief Micanopy (elected leader of the Seminole nation) and Gadsden agreed
to conduct negotiations on the Oklawaha River at Payne's Landing in early May
l832. When the time came, the Indian agent and some fifteen clan leaders met to discuss terms that would satisfy Jackson's removal policy. Commenting on the proceedings, the historian John K. Mahon indicated that Gadsden failed to record any minutes of this historic meeting. Mahon wrote: "It is unfortunate that Gadsden never submitted any minutes of the talks... This failure laid him open to endless charges that the treaty signed there was obtained by force and fraud."23
Gadsden claimed he told the Indians only two things regarding the treaty: First, the U. S. could no longer afford to give them provisions each year. Second, if they remained in Florida their condition would deteriorate even further. Micanopy claimed he never signed the Payne's Landing Treaty, and the other elders claimed their signatures represented a forgery by younger tribal members. Nevertheless, the U. S. Government claimed they had entered into a legally binding agreement with the Seminole delegation. Here again, the American agents showed their cultural ignorance about the Indians' society. The Federal agents presupposed the bands vested their chiefs with enough authority to ratify the agreement, when, in fact, custom and tradition required the elders to seek approval from their people.
Was it possible the chiefs might have signed the document without fully
understanding the provisions written in the treaty? According to one Army officer who witnessed the Payne's Landing proceedings, Gadsden used bribery and fraud to secure the chiefs' signatures. Major Ethan Allen Hitchcock claimed Gadsden bribed the Indians' Negro interpreter to mistranslate the terms of the agreement. To carry out this deception, Gadsden added a provision to the treaty that the government had formally prepared in Washington. The provision invited a delegation of six Seminoles to go west and inspect their new lands at Ft. Gibson, Arkansas. If the delegates were satisfied with their new lands and signed the agreement, the government considered the treaty valid. According to elders present at Payne's Landing, they claimed their translator told them
that if their people were satisfied with their new lands then the chiefs would
sign the agreement. Hitchcock claimed Gadsden paid the interpreter $2OO.OO (a
huge sum of money in those days) to mislead the chiefs into signing the
document. According to Hitchcock's report, he wrote:
... That this was intended for a bribe became certain when, subsequently,
Colonel Gadsden reported in person to President Jackson his efforts in securing the treaty and stated in the presence of Captain Charles Thurston of the army, who informed the writer of this article of it, that he never could have got the treaty through if he had not bribed the Negro interpreter.24
It seemed as if now the government would spare no form of duplicity to con the chiefs into signing agreements to which no Indian in his right mind would consent to. In March l833, six Seminole chiefs escorted by Major John Phagan, U.S. Army, arrived at Fort Gibson to inspect the new land. The officer escorted the Seminoles throughout the territory while the Indians completed their survey. At the end of their journey, they collected at Ft. Gibson proper to complete the additional treaty provision that Gadsden wrote at Payne's Landing. Phagan reintroduced the document, but the delegates refused to sign, claiming they did not have the authority to certify the treaty until they first discussed the matter with Chief Micanopy and other tribal members. At this point, Phagan grew angry with the Indians and told them they either signed the paper or he would not escort the delegation back to Florida. This sort of coercion persuaded the six delegates to sign the Fort Gibson treaty on March 2O, 1833. However, Congress did not ratify the agreement until 1834.25
No one better understood the enmity of the Seminoles than Governor John Eaton of Florida. After he learned of the Ft. Gibson Treaty, he wrote President Jackson a letter warning him the Seminoles wanted to retain their present lands, and cautioned him against using the military to remove them with force. He indicated the Indians would fight back if necessary. Regardless of Eaton's advice, Jackson viewed the treaty as legal and ordered his agents to carry it out.
The Seminoles spent the first three decades of the l9th century fighting either the Creeks or the whites. During that period, other tribes east of the Mississippi also found themselves embroiled in conflict to defend their territory from encroaching settlers. Jackson's Indian Removal Act was the inevitable decision of the United States Government to try and make room for a growing movement of frontiersmen clamoring for more land. If the Seminole and the Negro had anything in common, it was their distrust and growing resentment against the whites. It only seemed natural that these two groups of people would come together to fight their common enemy.
The Payne's Landing Treaty was undoubtedly a fraud. Though Major Hitchcock's account of Gadsden's conversation with Jackson is second hand information, the $2OO payment to a Negro interpreter tends to support Hitchcock's claim that Gadsden bribed the interpreter into mistranslating the terms of the agreement. Gadsden, acting as an Indian agent, should have known the Seminole elders could not sign a treaty without first discussing the terms with their own people. When the Indian delegation traveled to Ft. Gibson, the government had no intention of allowing the delegates to delay any longer. Major Phagan probably coerced the Indians into signing the Ft. Gibson treaty because he was under strict orders to do so from his superiors. Regardless of his motives, Gadsdens duplicity underscored the Seminoles distrust of the American Government and evoked the enmity of a people who would not take long to exact their retribution against the United States Government.
THE BEGINNING OF HOSTILITIES
The Florida Wars...show how government, having committed itself
to solving a human and political problem with military force, was
trapped in a policy as ineffective as it was costly.
Virginia Peters, THE FLORIDA WARS
Under the explicit directions of Andrew Jackson, Indian Agent Wiley Thompson gathered the Seminole chiefs at Fort King on April 3, l835. In the presence of Colonel Clinch (commander of all regular Army forces in Florida) and fifteen Indian leaders, Thompson read to them the provisions of the Fort Gibson Treaty. Now, for the first time, the leaders heard the white agent inform them how their six delegates agreed to the terms to emigrate "freely and willfully" the Arkansas territory. The chiefs were startled to learn the whites had duped their delegates into signing the treaty. Once Thompson finished reading the document, Clinch stepped forward and demanded the chiefs fix their signatures to the paper. Only eight minor chiefs complied, the others, Halpatter - Tustenuggee (Alligator), Arpeika (Sam Jones), Fuchi Lusti - Hadjo (Black Dirt), and Ote - Emathla (jumper) adamantly refused. Micanopy did not attend the meeting, and no chief consented to sign for him. Emotions rose from all sides. When rancor and animosity took over the proceedings, Clinch threatened to employ his military force if the obstinate chiefs continued on their course. He told them President
Jackson promised to punish them with "certain destruction" if they refused to sign the treaty.26
At that point in the proceedings, legend claims Osceola emerged for the first time as a powerful influence among the Seminoles. In a symbolic act of defiance, he approached Wiley Thompson's desk, drew his knife, and drove it through the paper declaring, "This is the only way I sign." Thompson responded bitterly and told the chiefs he would strip them of their power, for America would not recognize chiefs who failed to carry out their responsibilities.27 Thompson's comments served no other purpose but to create more anger and resentment among the Seminoles. The relationship between the Seminoles and whites reached an impasse. Jackson remained unshakable in his resolve to carry out Indian removal. Throughout the south-east, he directed frontier soldiers and militia to round up the indigenous tribes and make preparations to transport them to the West. Creeks, Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, and Seminoles were all uprooted from their farms and forced to sell their livestock to government agents. In Tampa Bay, Wiley Thompson used Fort Brooke as a central staging area for some 4OO Indians who reluctantly had complied with the Fort Gibson Treaty.
Meanwhile, Osceola also remained implacable in his determination to resist the removal policy. Long before he planned the Dade Massacre, he started his preparations for war. He persuaded the beleaguered chiefs to preserve their stockpiles of gun powder and ammunition. He implemented a thorough reconnaissance of Fort King and the military roads leading south to Fort Brooke and told his scouts to compile information on Fort King's strength, locations of cannon, and bridges along the military roads leading to the outpost. To discourage any more Indians from emigrating to the west, he murdered Chief Charley Emathla, one of the original signators of the Fort Gibson Treaty. He told other bands he would kill any Indians who continued to sell their cattle
to the whites.28
The murder of Charley Emathla showed the settlers the real gravity of the
situation in Florida. While Osceola moved his people deeper into the impregnable
hammocks of the Withlacoochee Swamp, scores of settlers abandoned their farms and converged on several forts throughout Florida. Meanwhile, the horrid conditions of the detention camps at Fort Brooke left the Indian refugees destitute. The government could barely provide enough food to sustain their population while they languished in camp awaiting ships to transport them to New Orleans and up the Mississippi River. Thompson knew that Osceola was beginning to garner support from these disenchanted refugees. Unless the government reversed its policy, they would surely rejoin the other warriors. As recent as one month before the Dade Massacre, Thompson wrote a letter to the Secretary of War describing the horrible conditions at Fort Brooke, and Osceola powerful influence over the Seminoles. He urged the Secretary to reverse the policy, but
Cass flatly denied his request and told him the President remained committed to moving the Indians out West.
Fearing a new outbreak of hostilities, The Secretary of War placed General D. L. Clinch in command of all military forces in Florida. By October of l835, his regular forces numbered no more then 536 officers and men; hardly enough to prevent any Indian depredations. With such a small force, Clinch's ten combined infantry and artillery companies could not possibly protect such a large area as Florida against an estimated 10OO warriors. He positioned six of his companies at Fort King, three at Fort Brooke, and one at Key West. With the bulk of his force concentrated on the west side of the peninsula, the eastern plantations along the St. John's River remained wide open to Indian raids. Osceola controlled 25O warriors near St. Augustine and they raided farms with impunity, beyond the reach of Clinch's force. In December, the General received authorization from the Secretary of War to recruit a force of 1OO mounted
volunteers to patrol eastern Florida. However, these forces could not prevent
the Indian raids. Osceola's warriors managed to decimate Florida's whole sugarcane industry and forced the whites to abandon completely the entire north central region of the territory.
Probably, Osceola orchestrated those raids as part of a wider plan to strike a devastating blow to the main force of regulars. If so, Clinch certainly fell into the warriors cunning trap. In response to the Indian attacks up north, the General moved all but one company out of Fort King. He moved his troops 2O miles northwest to a position central to the Suwannee and Saint John's rivers and erected Fort Drane. Throughout this period, Osceola prepared his warriors to conduct an attack along the military road between Forts Brooke and King. He trained his men to fight in units, not as individuals. He noted that his Spanish rifles out ranged the army's standard muskets and planned his ambush accordingly. On 28 December, Osceola launched two near simultaneous attacks. One aimed at killing Agent Thompson at Fort King, and the other toward wiping out a relief column 1OO miles to the south. The first attack occurred at 4:OO PM. Under Osceola's personal direction, the Indians laid outside the fort waiting to
strike. About that time, Wiley Thompson and Lieutenant Constantine Smith were
taking an after dinner stroll when the Indians poured rifle shot into both of them. Each gentleman died in the murderous assault. At the same time, the Indians attacked a home outside the immediate pickets, killing three more whites.
Nearly 4O miles south, part of Osceola's force waited for several days to ambush Major Dade's two infantry companies that had left Fort Brooke to reinforce Fort King. No one knows exactly how Osceola learned about the reinforcements. However, some soldiers suspect Dade's Negro scout, Louis Pacheco, probably acted in concert with the Seminoles. The Indians selected an excellent ambush site on the west side of the road. To the immediate east side of the road, lay a pond that prevented any escape from the killing zone. For unknown reasons, Dade failed to order local security measures of any significance. To guard against the cold weather, he allowed his men to button their coats over their cartridge belts (a lazy habit Osceola had noted long before). He failed to position security along his flanks. Once his force reached the killing zone, the Indians poured rifle shot into the force from three sides. The warriors killed Dade and struck down half his force with their first volley. The remainder of the troops took up positions behind hastily built breast works of logs and fallen trees, and for nearly an hour they shot their only cannon and returned fire at the Seminoles. Once the soldiers ran out of ammunition, l8O warriors swarmed against the force with tomahawks. Only three troops escaped to Fort King, and Pacheco slipped over to join the Indians. The Seminoles claimed they never harmed any of the wounded. Once they departed the scene they said
a band of Seminole Negroes converged on the wounded, taking scalps and looting the dead.31
Why the Seminoles did not exploit their success that day remains uncertain. Osceola's ambush clearly achieved a serious blow to the army in Florida. His warriors wiped out one hundred regular troops and left Fort King, now denied its adequate reinforcement, vulnerable to an Indian attack. Did the Seminoles possess sufficient intelligence about General Clinch's forces at Fort Drane? If they did, they should have known the General's main force at Drane was to far removed to save Fort King. Perhaps a better answer lay in the Indians preference for ambushes and quick raids. Even though Fort King possessed only 46 troops, Osceola must have understood an attack on a prepared fortification required time and patience. Despite insufficient forces, the cantonment still possessed enough artillery to concentrate fires against a massed attack. In all probability, Osceola realized no advantage existed in wasting time laying siege to a fortified position. He preferred to fight the Florida army on his own terrain, where the deep swamps and thick hammocks provided him with every advantage.
After the Dade Massacre, the army of Florida stumbled into one disaster after another. While General Clinch occupied his troops with the construction of Fort Drane, he planned operations aimed at rooting the Seminoles out of their retreats hidden away in the swamp areas of the Withlacoochee cove. He controlled a force of six combined infantry and artillery companies, plus an additional 5OO Florida mounted militia. On the surface, this appeared to offer him sufficient combat power to mount offensive operations. However, several aspects about his plan point to considerable weaknesses in his force, and their inability to maneuver. His six companies of regulars only amounted to 25O men. On the average, all his companies in Florida never exceeded 5O soldiers. His 5OO man militia appeared strong, but they were largely untrained and ill-disciplined, not to mention their contracts expired on New Year's Day.
Thus, Clinch bad to use the force quickly or lose them altogether. His plan relied heavily on crossing the Withlacoochee River swiftly and taking the enemy camps by surprise. On December 29, his force departed Fort Drane and arrived just three miles short of the objective. Clinch decided to bivouac for the evening on the north side of the river and wait until dawn before striking across the southbank. He ordered his troops to adhere to strict noise discipline and told them to refrain from building any camp fires. Early the next morning, an undisciplined militia bugler shattered the silence by blowing his instrument. The Seminoles might have overheard the bugle, for they lay in wait for Clinch to cross at the only fording site in the immediate area. Unfortunately, torrential rains had caused the river to swell, and the General failed to locate any fording sites at all. Then his scouts discovered an old rickety canoe, and this provided the only means of getting his troops across the river. He sent his regulars over first, eight at a time. During the crossing, he received news that his troops spotted Indian scouts on the south bank but this did not appear to alter his plans. Once all the regulars reached the other side, they made their way to a clearing surrounded on three sides by hammocks thick enough to conceal enemy warriors. The open terrain presented a perfect killing zone, and the Indians took full advantage of it. The regular force, resting in the middle
of the open field, came under a murderous ambush. In the midst of total
confusion, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Fanning reconstituted the force and organized a bayonet charge. He launched three successive attacks before the Indians withdrew, but by the end of the skirmish the Indians had wounded or killed one third of the regular troops.32
In the space of three days, the Seminoles managed to inflict over l6O casualties on the U.S. Army. Osceola had achieved devastating victories; however, these were not at all decisive, for the government remained even more determined than ever to rid the territory of the Florida menace. For General Clinch, he clearly had suffered a disaster. In the aftermath of the Withlacoochee campaign, he withdrew his battered force to Fort Drane and sent the volunteers home to their families. Osceola now virtually found himself in total control of the countryside. He raided plantations with impunity, while
the white refugees clamored to the forts for protection.33
No doubt the Indians scouts had observed Clinch's movements along his route to the Withlacoochee. He had accompanied his force with such a large logistics train that the Indians must have heard his movements. The noise from horses pulling wagons out of the mud, and men struggling to carry supplies through the swamps prevented Clinch from achieving any hope of surprise. Unfortunately, the Army had not yet learned to conduct their operations over the Florida terrain. This was abundantly clear in the way Clinch planned his operations at the Withlacoochee River. The General entered into that region with little knowledge about the river's characteristics and how the climate could effect its conditions. This explains why he failed to bring any boats or rafts to make his crossing. He anticipated that conditions would offer him the chance to ford the river, never realizing that torrential rains could spoil his plan. General Clinch's dependence on large unwieldy baggage trains constituted the normal method of Army logistics. However, it did not lend itself to the operating environment and only served to encumber his movement.
Major Dade's march to Ft. King amply demonstrates how a unit could fall victim to an ambush when they neglect proper security measures. However, as for Osceola, his attacks on Dade and at Fort King showed the Indian's remarkable command and control over his warriors. Once he trained his men to fight together, as units so to speak, he was able to synchronize these attacks to occur near simultaneously. But, even beyond his ambushes, the real skill of his warfighting lay in his ability to coordinate his operations with Indian raids on the eastern side of the peninsula. His raids near St. Augustine prompted Clinch to shift a sizable amount of his force from Fort King to protect that area. Thus, the General put himself in the precarious position of trying to defend every where. Once this occurred, Osceola had a free hand at attacking the vulnerable forces left at Forts Brooke and King, inflicting a punishing blow against Dade's relief column and murdering Wiley Thompson.
Finally, Dade's Negro scout, Louis Pacheco undoubtedly served as a Seminole spy and deliberately led the Major's relief column into the ambush. How he came into Dade's confidence in the first place is a mystery, but it serves as a sobering reminder to commanders about knowing your enemy and what your going up against. By l835, the Seminoles and Negroes had forged a strong alliance that traced back to at least two generations. It would be unfair to claim the Army demonstrated a total ignorance about the Indian/Negro relationship, for they genuinely feared the consequences if the slaves came in league with the Seminoles, but nonetheless, at Dade's level, a breakdown in security had occurred, and Pacheco led lO5 men to their deaths.
A SERIES OF FAILURES
The United States Regular Army was patterned sufficiently on British and
European models, in fact, that in l835 it was not much better prepared for
guerrilla warfare against the Seminoles in Florida than Napoleon's soldiers had been for guerrillas of Spain.
Russell Weigly, HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY
While Osceola launched his campaign of destruction upon the army along the St. Johns River, Indians and Negroes belonging to King Philip and John Caesar wracked terror upon the citizens of eastern Florida. Osceola had coordinated his actions very carefully with his eastern allies, ensuring the raids that occurred on 26 and 27 December did not happen by mere circumstance. Brigadier General Joseph Hernandez, commander of all militia in east Florida, sent the majority of his troops to reinforce General Clinch and they bad left the rest of his territory virtually unprotected. For two days, Seminoles and Negroes raided homes, looted white possessions, and carried off slaves. Osceola had synchronized his actions so effectively that white settlers throughout the Peninsula were in a state of panic. Plantation owners spread the word that the Negroes were in league with the Indians. General Hernandez estimated as many
as 3OO of them linked up with the Seminoles after the Indians promised them freedom, possession of their own homes, and their own farmland. The Seminole/Negro alliance amounted to nothing short of a slave revolt, and the Florida settlers had every reason to fear it.34 Once the blacks entered the contest, the nature of the war changed to more than just another Indian conflict--it amounted to a slave war.
The early Indian victories in Florida did not in the slightest way give President Jackson cause to alter his course. He was determined to rid Florida of all the Indians and quite willing to provide the needed resources to accomplish this goal. If the Army found this task particularly difficult, their mission became all but impossible when Jackson promised the slave owners he would protect their Negro property. In January l836, the U.S. Army Adjutant General, Colonel Albert Jones, told Congress the government would not offer any terms to the Seminoles so long as they held one slave in their possession. The Adjutant General's testimony disclosed a significant change to the removal policy: as it applied to the Seminoles, the government no longer offered inducements (such as annuities and compensation). So what if the Indians refused to return their Negroes to white slave owners? This question placed Florida commanders in a dilemma. They knew the Seminoles would never turn over their blacks willingly.
Not at any price, nor through any amount of coercion. The Jackson administration's ignorance about the Seminole society was truly amazing. By now, the Florida Indians had assimilated at least two generations of blacks into their towns. Approximately 1000 Negroes lived among the tribes. Assuming Hernandez's estimate was reasonably accurate, then over two-thirds of these blacks were not escaped slaves. They had either established blood ties with the Indians, or they were born from black parents who already lived with the bands. How could the government distinguish between free blacks and escaped slaves? And what prevented disreputable slave traders from claiming any black as their property? Jackson's new policy created an impossible situation for the Seminol/Negroes and nothing short of military force could separate these two groups. The President had in effect created a new precondition to the policy that only served to strengthen the alliance between the Indians and blacks. Jackson had left officers with little choice but to use force as the only means to achieve his end state.35
General Scott's Campaign
In early January of l836, Congress met for the initial examination of the Florida situation. Throughout the sessions, the House Committee Chairman for Military Affairs, Churchill Camberley, gave serious consideration to supporting $8O,OOO in appropriations to aid the Army in facilitating Indian removal. However, on 29 January, news of the Dade Massacre and Clinch's disaster compelled Congress to provide the Army with $5OO,OOO to defeat the Seminoles. At the same time, the Secretary of War directed (Brevet) Major General Winfield Scott, Commander of the Eastern Department of the Army, to take command of Florida. The War Department divided the Army into the Eastern and Western departments. While Scott commanded in the east, Major General Edmund P. Gaines commanded the Western Department. By mere coincidence, the line dividing these two theaters extended through the Florida Peninsula. The Secretary of War directed Scott to ignore the boundary and the next day ordered Colonel Albert Jones to send a letter to Gaines informing him of the Secretary of War's decision to place Scott in command. In the letter, Jones ordered Gaines to remain in New Orleans to attend to matters west of the Mississippi River. Before Gaines received the letter, he learned of Clinch's humiliating disasters. After he determined that the Seminole hostilities occurred in his own department, he prepared a force for an expedition into Florida. Six companies from the Fourth Infantry and one regiment of Louisiana volunteers provided him with a force of 1,1OO men.36
Explicit within his orders, the Secretary of War authorized Scott to call upon the governors of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina to provide him with 3,7OO volunteers. The Secretary also directed him to buy weapons, ammunition, and such other supplies necessary to sustain his Army. Scott passed the better part of February at Savannah attending to the tedious duties of procuring the supplies and equipment. To his disappointment, the governors had already released most of the rifles and cannon to the increasing number of volunteers clamoring to enter Florida. During this time, he ordered the Army Quartermaster to send 32O,OOO rations to the assembly area at Picolata near the St. John's River, and 25O,OOO more at Tampa Bay.37
On l March, Scott reached his new headquarters at Picolata. He expected to find most of his men already assembled there, but only about half of the militia army had arrived. His Alabama militia was slow in getting organized and departing their home territory. He faced no other choice but to wait out another sixteen days for the rest of the force to reach Florida. The delay had a significant impact on his operational plan, for Scott had counted on having a militia contracted for ninety days service. Thirty days had already passed just assembling the force in the theater. To add to his problem, those men who did arrive, spent their time loitering in the camps; they consumed food stores originally reserved for the conduct of the campaign). Throughout the war, Scott and other regular officers came to regard militia troops as unfit, poorly disciplined, and ill-trained.
While Scott made preparations to move against Osceola, he had no idea Gaines had entered into his theater to conduct operations on his own. This uncoordinated movement between the two Generals created a near calamity in later days when Scott's operations developed more fully. When Gaines arrived at Pensacola during the first week of February, he received the letter from Albert Jones informing him to remain in New Orleans. In the letter, the Adjutant-General told Gaines he had enclosed a copy of "Order No. 7", which contained Secretary Cass explicit orders for Scott to proceed into Florida and take command. Jones however, forgot to enclose the orders with his letter (though he did include a postscript of the order from Cass to Scott telling him to ignore
the boundary between the two departments). This placed Gaines in a dilemma. Should he do as Jones directed and return to New Orleans, or continue on with his plans to fight in Florida? And what of his militia? Did he not already promise them payment if they served in the theater? In the absence of any written orders from a superior, Gaines felt perfectly justified in continuing on as planned. Albert Jones was only a colonel, and Gaines would not terminate his campaign for him or any other subordinate.39
Gaines may have had an ulterior motive for ignoring Jones's letter. Considerable acrimony between he and Scott had prevailed for quite some time. For the second time in three years, the War Department had usurped Gaines authority by allowing Scott to command operations in the Western Department. This had happened once before! During the Black Hawk War, Jackson had sent Scott into his department to command operations, and Gaines bitterly resented the interference. The commander of the Western Department would not allow Scott to intrude into his theater again. General Gaines decided to stick with his plan and went on to Tampa Bay where he appropriated ten days rations for the 1OO mile march to Fort King. On 22 February, he finally arrived at the outpost where he expected to find both General Clinch, and a large reserve of food supplies the Army had sent from New York. Instead, he only found a small company of artillery and not enough rations to sustain any one else. Once Gaines learned General
Chinch still remained at Fort Drane, he decided to press ahead with his plans.
He sent a letter to Clinch, warning him of his impending arrival and demanding
he resupply his force with l4,OOO rations.40
The news of Gaines's arrival at Fort King clearly put Clinch into a dilemma. The muddled chain of command had created confusion as to which General was in charge of the theater. How could he serve two commanders? General Scott had already arrived at Picolata, and clearly he was in command. With respect to rations at Fort Drane, Scott certainly did not intend to have his rations depleted by Gaines. In the midst of the confusion, Clinch chose to issue the rations anyway. He decided Gaines still served as his lawful superior until such time as Scott crossed into the western half of the peninsula.
On 25 February, Scott received a dispatch from General Clinch informing him, for the first time, that Gaines had entered Florida and had taken almost all the rations at Fort Drane. Scott became incensed over the news of the unexpected intrusion, and he ordered Clinch not to provide General Gaines with any more supplies or assistance of any kind.
On 26 February, the Commanding General of the Western Department set out
for the big bend of the Withlacoochee. Like Cinch, Gaines aimed to catch Osceola's warriors in a concentrated position and force the Red Sticks to fight. When he reached the river two days later, the Seminoles viciously attacked his force from three directions before he could even put one man over to the south bank. Now the Indians did not even wait for the force to cross, they attacked Gaines from behind and had him boxed in with no where to withdraw. The Indians wounded Gaines and killed one of his officers. With no way out, he ordered his troops to build a hasty breast works and try and fight from a fortified position. The Seminoles besieged his force for a week. As time went by, the
troops had run out of rations and resorted to butchering the horses for food. Gaines managed to send a message to Clinch requesting reinforcements. To make some face saving gesture, he told Clinch that his troops had forced the Indians into a fixed position and he could not leave, lest he risk allowing the warriors to escape back into the swamp land. All favorable comments aside, General Gaines did not fail to convince Clinch how desperate the situation had become. Despite Scott's orders, General Clinch made preparations to rescue Gaines's emaciated force. He took 5OO troops and wagons full of corn from his own plantation, and then marched toward the hastily built fortification Gaines had named Camp Izard.43
On the evening of 5 March, the Indians sent out John Caesar, a Negro emissary, to request a parley with officers of the besieged force. Apparently, the siege had also taken its toll on Osceola's warriors. Though the Indians never kept any records of their losses, the emissary claimed the white's had inflicted many casualties among Osceola 1,1OO man force. Gaines agreed to parley with the Indians, and early the next morning sent Captain Ethan Hitchcock, Inspector-General, to meet with Osceola, Jumper, and Alligator. The Indians told Hitchcock they wanted to make peace and would refrain from any more hostilities if the government allowed them to remain in their villages beyond the Withlacoochee. Hitchcock told the warriors he had no authority to
formalize agreements, but if the Indians withdrew back across the river they would agree to a temporary cease fire until the government worked out a more permanent arrangement. Then the advance elements of General Clinch's force came upon the battlefield while the parties were conducting their negotiations. Seeing a group of Indians collected near the breast works, they opened fire and broke up the parley. The Indians scattered into the forest and nothing further developed from this meeting.44
If General Gaines intended to deal a decisive blow to the Seminoles, he had clearly failed. He underestimated Osceola's ability to mass a credible force and surprise his opponent. Though both the Seminoles and the whites fought in equal numbers, the terrain and element of surprise worked to the Indians advantage. They killed five of Gaines's men and wounded forty-six more, while the Indian siege had a debilitating effect over the whole of Gaines's army: the Indians brought them to the brink of starvation. Had they pressed the siege, they might have succeeded in wiping out Gaines's entire force. Osceola's decision to seek a parley showed an inherent weakness of the Indian's method of warfare. They preferred to fight short engagements, such as raids and ambushes. The Indians found it particularly difficult to keep their warriors focused on a siege.
Scott Seeks the Decisive Battle
At Camp Izard on 9 March, General Gaines turned over his command to General Clinch and all but ignored Scott's lawful authority over the Florida army. In a last parting insult against his old adversary, Gaines declared that he had successfully put down the Indian uprising and that General Clinch would act as temporary commander until the Army sent an officer fit to handle the diplomatic arrangements with the Seminoles. General Gaines later returned to Fort Drane before his departure from Florida on l4 March.
With Gaines out of the way, General Scott was now free to conduct his campaign against the Seminoles. The Army could depend on Winfield Scott to draft a military strategy based upon his combat experience and rigid discipline. The Generals reputation as an able commander grew from his successes during the War of l8l2. In several campaigns along the New York and Canadian border, Scott, as a young American officer, had distinguished himself for his courageous actions against the British. Promoted to Brigadier General at age 27, he led his brigade against a combined British and Indian force at Chippewa, New York, where he achieved one of the great victories of his career. After the war, he retained his rank and remained one of the most prominent figures in the Army--and would remain so into the early days of the Civil War. The General had a penchant for colorful uniforms and the pomp and circumstance that the Army accorded officers of high rank. Beyond Scott's strict adherence to traditions and ceremonies, the Secretary of War considered him one of the strongest military leaders of the country. He had provided a great service to the Army by introducing it to the European methods of warfare. Under Scott's guidance, the Army gained its institutional knowledge on French tactics, logistics, and administration.
However, he possessed no experience as an Indian fighter. Though he participated in the Black Hawk Wars, he arrived after hostilities had already finished. To be sure, he had battled Indians during the War of l8l2, but those warriors comprised part of the British main force and fell under the control of officers that employed the Indians as part of their conventional force. Thus, Scott planned his operations the only way he knew how: along the traditional methods of European warfare.45
Scott aimed to fix the Seminoles at the Withlacoochee cove and force them into a decisive battle. In reading his instructions contained in "Order no. 7" the General noted Secretary Cass directed him, in painstaking detail, not to offer any terms to the Seminoles as long as they possessed "one living slave belonging to a white man." The government expected him to either force the Indians into unconditional surrender or exterminate them.
Scott's plan to destroy the Seminoles seemed perfectly logical. He crafted a good piece of operational maneuver that involved assembling his forces into three separate columns, marching them from widely dispersed areas of Florida, and massing them at the Withlacoochee Cove. He supported the plan with an extensive wagon train of rations, forage, and ammunition. In any other terrain the plan might have worked.
Unfortunately, Scott showed an incredible lack of knowledge about Florida.
Other than the military road between Fort Brooke and Fort King, no suitable routes existed for moving such a large logistics train.
His plan required his force to negotiate an immense interior of swamp, thick palmetto hammocks, and trails of sandy wasteland. He ordered General Clinch to command one of the columns, the right wing, which would depart Fort Drane and march to the south to prevent the Seminoles from escaping into the north and threatening the plantations. Throughout the campaign Scott accompanied this wing of his army. The second column, led by Brigadier General Abraham Eustis, would leave St. Augustine and march south toward the St. John's River, cross at Volusia and swing west toward the Oklawaha, ford the river and continue toward the military road before turning north toward the Withlacoochee Cove. This column had to make the longest and most difficult march of the three formations. The third column, led by Colonel William Lindsay and his Alabama regiment, would leave Tampa Bay and march northward along the west side of the Withlacoochee.
All of the officers chosen to lead the three columns possessed regular
commissions. Their forces constituted a mix of regular infantry, artillery, and volunteer militia. Throughout the campaign, bitterness and dissension existed between the regular officers and the militia troops. The volunteers took a particular dislike toward Lindsay and Eustis. In Lindsay's column, the Alabama volunteers exhibited poor fire discipline, often shooting at cattle and wandering deer during their march. The South Carolina troops disliked Eustis's cold demeanor and stiff personality. In fact, however, he was known as a fair officer who favored no particular troops over others. The sour relations
between regulars and militia persisted, and plagued theater commanders throughout the seven year war.47
Scott's plan seemed doomed from the out set. In order for it to work, the
columns had to reach their predesignated objectives on 25 March, and in order to
achieve that, his columns would have to stay in constant touch with one another. Only reliable command and control could ensure such proper synchronization of the columns, and the terrain just did not lend itself to it. The right column did not arrive at Camp Izard until the twenty-eighth, after a terrible ordeal of pulling wagons filled with supplies and struggling with two flat boats over impassable terrain. Clinch used the two boats to cross the river. Once his force reached the south side, they came under fire from the stubborn enemy firmly protected in the hammocks. After several days of brief engagements, the troops waded through swamps and saw grass, but never contacted any significant force of Indians. On l April, the force reached the lower extremes of the cove. Having failed to bring a large force of Indians to battle, and nearly out of rations,
Scott and Clinch had no choice but to march the right wing to Ft. Brooke.48
General Eustis found it particularly difficult to move his force across the peninsula. He departed St. Augustine on l5 March and did not reach the St. John's until the twenty-second. He sent two companies of regulars across first. Once they reached the west bank, the Seminoles delivered a firestorm of rifle shot into the force, killing three soldiers and wounding six more. The crossing lasted four days in all. Across the inhospitable interior, the Seminoles traded shots from trees, swamp grass, and palmetto hammocks. Not until l April did the South Carolina militia and Army regulars reach their objective area, the Pilaklukaha, a Seminole/Negro village that the inhabitants had abandoned. Eustis had nearly depleted his entire supply of rations. Having failed to establish contact with either Clinch's or Lindsay's forces, the General faced no alternative but to terminate his operations and seek the replenishment of his force at Fort Brooke.
With Scott's operations deteriorating so badly, it only stood to reason that Colonel Lindsay's center wing would fail to establish contact with the other two columns. On March 2l, Lindsay received Scott's orders to march his column to Chocachatti, his appointed line of departure. The Seminoles ambushed his force habitually throughout the march. At one point of his operation, a Seminole ambush almost evolved into a sustained battle. The Indians fought him from a dense hammock that afforded them every advantage over Lindsay's vulnerable force. Canon and musket fire proved wholly ineffective against the Indians' natural fortification. Under such desperate conditions, Lindsay resorted to launching a bayonet charge directly into the face of the enemy. The
tactic worked, for it forced the Indians to flee from the onslaught of 75O determined troops who might have easily destroyed their inferior numbers. The Army learned one lesson from all this: throughout the war, other commanders came to regard the bayonet charge as the only effective means of breaking up an enemy ambush. However regardless of Lindsay's minor success, the Seminole attacks disrupted his movement so frequently that his force reached Chocachatti three days behind schedule. Once Lindsay did reach his objective, he spent three days trying to establish contact with Eustis and Clinch. When he failed to locate either of the officers, Lindsay marched his force back to Fort Brooke with little to show for his operations in the field.49
Scott's campaign ended in total failure. None of his three wings managed to fix a sizable enemy force and bring them to battle. Instead of destroying the military strength of the Seminoles, he spent the better part of his campaign struggling to move his forces through the horrid expanse of the Florida wilderness. His logistics provided no support to his operations, and in the end only served to burden the movement of his troops. The Seminole nature of warfighting was completely foreign to this officer who admired the conventions of French tactics. He failed to understand that the Seminoles did not fight by the rules of European warfare. They fought like guerrillas. They attacked with
sudden violence against the vulnerable points of their enemy; then vanished into the jungle leaving many soldiers lying dead, wounded, or in total shock.
In a brief analogue to Winfield Scott's Florida excursion, the General wrote to the Adjutant-General of the Army that supply shortages were the source of his failure. However, in a stinging rebuke of the volunteer militia, he told the Adjutant-General that future operations in Florida required no less than 3OOO troops, and they should be "good troops" (Scott's reference to regulars). Somehow, Scott's report (along with his disparaging remarks about the Florida citizens) fell into the hands of local citizens who vehemently attacked his character and competence. One militia officer, Major Leigh Read, wrote in a Florida paper that Scott had attempted to apply "the shreds and patches of the obsolete system of European tactics where they could not possibly work.." --and
apparently he was right.50
The aftermath of Scott's failure emboldened Osceola to invest outposts
throughout Florida. His warriors never succeeded in capturing any of the forts, yet his operations all but stopped movement along the few roads and trails of the peninsula. As for Scott, President Jackson no longer required the officer's presence in Florida and on 26 May l836 ordered him to take command of American forces in Alabama engaged in another Creek uprising. With Scott now relieved of command in Florida and no officer directing operations in the field, the Seminoles gained total control over all lines of communications throughout the peninsula. The government now had a real problem on its hands. Over 1,4OO Negroes were living among the Seminoles. Florida citizens were mortified of the potential for an outright slave rebellion in their territory. In the north, a new Creek war had broken out. If those two groups reunited the whites had every
cause to fear a Seminole and Creek alliance would drive them out of the territory.51
Governor Call Takes Command
The absence of a field commander to prosecute operations against the Indians prompted Richard Keith Call, Governor of Florida, to write President Jackson on 3O May asking for the opportunity to take command of all regular and militia units in Florida. In the letter, he laid out his campaign plan that aimed at fixing Osceola at Withlacoochee Cove and destroying his main force of warriors. He told Jackson the scope of his operations would differ from any of his predecessors. He planned to first attack from the north with mounted militia and regulars to draw Osceola out into the open. He would then out maneuver the wiley Indian leader by moving his main force up the Withlacoochee aboard U.S. Navy barges and attack his flank. Call's plan impressed Jackson enough to take the unprecedented action of placing the civilian Governor in command of all Florida troops.52
Richard Call did possess some military experience. For eight years he served as a junior officer in the regular army, and had served under Jackson during the Creek War. After he resigned his commission, he served as a legislator in the Eighteenth Congress-- right along side Jackson. As the territorial Governor of Florida, he held the rank of Brigadier General in the Florida militia. At the outbreak of Seminole hostilities he fought under General Clinch as one of his volunteer commanders. An outspoken critic of Winfield Scott, Call now earned his opportunity to demonstrate his competence against the formidable fighters that disgraced the reputation of his predecessor.53
While Call's plan appeared ingenuous on paper, in reality it was a bust. He planned on initiating his operations in the summer of l836. However, disease, in particular measles and malaria, had assaulted his troops with more affliction than the Seminoles could ever deliver with a thousand Spanish rifles. In several of his forts, sickness struck nearly two thirds of the inhabitants. At Fort King, six companies could barely provide l66 troops fit for duty. At Fort Defiance, near Micanopy, disease afflicted l2l out of the 3O7 regular troops. With Defiance and King in such a disease ridden state, Call had no other choice then to shut them down and reconstitute his forces at Fort Drane. Yet, even that outpost succumbed to malaria and had to close. Call's forces reached such a desperate state over the summer, he could not possibly entertain offensive actions against the enemy. The campaign had to wait until autumn.54
On 29 September, Governor Call finally possessed enough force to commence
operations aimed at the Withlacoochee Cove. As planned, he divided his force into two columns. He ordered Major Leigh Read to take the Florida militia and a small force of regulars down the Withlacoochee on a U.S. Navy steamer. On the same day, he departed the Suwannee River area with his mounted force of Tennessee volunteers. The Governor's first objective lay at Fort Drane. Call expected to find a considerable force of Mikasukis there after word had reached him the Indians recently invested the abandoned fort. On lO October, he arrived to find no one. The Indians had already fled. He decided to keep his force at Drane for another nine days, using up valuable rations until resupplies arrived on October 8th.
Once he replenished his force, Call headed directly for the Withlacoochee. This time the governor organized his force more efficiently then his predecessor. He used an advance guard of Tennessee horsemen to protect his movements and scout out Indian strongholds. They quickly located a force of 5O Seminoles and engaged them in heavy fighting. The force killed l4 Indians; probably the most successful action since the start of the war. After the engagement, Call pressed his advance guard to move rapidly to the river. When the advance guard reached the east bank, they attempted to swim across with their horses, but Seminole warriors engaged them at once and repelled the crossing force back to the east bank. Unable to cross in the face of the enemy, Call diverted his mounted troops north towards Read's supply depot. Operations then took a turn for the worse at this point in the campaign. His advance guard failed to locate Read's depot, and it spent the better part of two days searching for Read and had run out of forage for the horses. At least 6OO animals perished for lack of nourishment, and the troops had nearly depleted their own rations. Call faced little choice but to withdraw to Fort Drane. It
seemed now the Governor fell victim to the very circumstances that beleaguered
If Call was unable to locate Read, it's because misfortune visited the major with equal injustice. Set aboard the steamer on October 5th, his force had just reached the mouth of the river when the vessel ran aground at high tide. The naval officer piloting the craft was familiar with ocean navigation, but lacked the experience to negotiate the tricky rivers and inland channels of Florida. Once the tide subsided, the vessel broke in two and sank. Thankfully for Read, he had enough time to off load all the supplies from the Izard before hand. However, he lost considerable time loitering at the mouth of the Withlacoochee waiting for the expected arrival of another vessel, the Miranda, which had been delayed for a week supporting General Thomas S. Jesup near the Creek territory. On 22 October, Read managed to finally establish his force and supplies at the Withlacoochee bend: seven days after Call had already turned his mounted force around and marched back to Fort Drane in total frustration.
The news of Call's failure sent reverberations back to Washington almost at once. As soon as the Florida citizens learned of the governor's fiasco, many of them sent letters to Congress demanding the War Department send them a larger force and some competent leadership to end this Indian War once and for all. Call took nearly a month filing his own official report to the Secretary of War. In it, he blamed his failure principally upon the incompetence of the young naval officers on the Withlacoochee. Nevertheless, Jackson grew entirely dissatisfied with his old legislative companion and ordered his relief from command.57
The government had spent an entire year trying to destroy the Indians, and had nothing to show for it except the humiliation of two of the U.S. Army's most prominent generals. Osceola mounted a campaign that at once showed both the strength of his own leadership, and his tactical genius. After the Dade Massacre, the Seminole elders realized they needed a war leader who could unify the actions of all the bands scattered throughout the territory. Osceola certainly matched the requirement. His attack on Dade's column and the murder of Wiley Thompson demonstrated how deadly he could be. In addition, his ability to coordinate his attacks with King Phillip, (Seminole leader near the eastern side of the Peninsula) demonstrated to the chiefs that this young Red Stick exerted a powerful influence over the other bands. Osceola was their man. He was the warrior the elders needed to defend their homeland against the power of an army
bent on destroying everything they possessed. Thus, on 29 December, the chiefs chose Osceola as war leader for all the Seminole bands.
A year of frustration in Florida demonstrated an inherent weakness in the
training of the Army's officer corps. During the Second Seminole War, the majority of regular officers on active duty earned their commissions at West Point. And only by enrollment at this rigorous institution did the officers receive formalized education in the doctrine of French Warfare. Since the academy's inception in l8O2, the school had earned an excellent reputation for its challenging disciplines in engineering, science, and math. In l8l7, the War Department called upon (Brevet Major) Sylvanus Thayer to undertake the post of superintendent for the academy. Thayer, more than any of his predecessors, expanded the school into a real institution of higher learning. He broadened the academy's curriculum beyond the field of engineering and science by introducing courses in chemistry, history, geography, ethics, and moral philosophy. Along with this expansion in academics, Thayer developed the military training for the
Corps of Cadets. He created the position of the Commandant of Cadets, to whom he
gave responsibility for teaching military training and discipline to the young men of the academy. The Commandant of Cadets normally conducted training during the summer months. In the final summer he introduced the cadets to the current standards of infantry tactics, artillery, and horsemanship.58
Thayer looked to the French military schools to provide his model for expanding the academic and military curriculum of West Point. The Ecole Polytechnique, as a school of military engineering possessed an excellent reputation for training military engineers, as did the School of Application for Engineers and Artillery at Metz. Fundamentally, the French schools of military training focused on military engineering, fortification, and tactics.59
Winfield Scott also shared much of the credit for the emergence of military professionalism during the decades of the early republic. Though no Indian fighter, he did much to promote high standards at West Point and within the Army as a whole. He was an ardent student of European tactics, and after the War of l8l2, he served as a prominent member of a board of officers who drafted the Infantry's first tactics hand book authorized and approved by the U.S. Army. The Hand Book for Infantry, originally written by William Duane, contained Scott's own knowledge of tactics as well as a depiction of European methods of warfare. In l826, he wrote additional manuals on calvary and artillery to supplement his work on Infantry tactics.60
For the better part of the l9th century, an officer's only source of formal training lay at West Point. Yet, like the Army as a whole, the U.S. Military Academy ignored the Indian wars. Captain Thomas T. Smith, assistant professor of history at West Point, wrote a revealing article about the relationship between cadet training and the Indian Wars. In his recent article he wrote:
...the United States Military Academy did not, as an institution, formally
address the problems of Indian fighting. This precisely mirrors the attitude of its parent organization, the U.S. Army. The army of the nineteenth century, by and large, treated the Indian Wars as a nuisance and a disagreeable distraction from the real business of the American professional soldier, preparing for the next conflict with a European power.61
Thus, as the Army prepared its officers to fight the large engagements of a conventional war in Europe, it did nothing to prepare them for the rigors of a guerrilla war in Florida. For seven years, the Second Seminole War became a "learn as you go" type of affair for officers at every level of command. They learned their bitterest lessons about unconventional warfare while slogging their way through the muddy swamps and impregnable hammocks of the Florida interior. The Army failed to capture lessons on Indian fighting. As a consequence, in the l9th century they never developed a doctrine for fighting the Seminoles or any other guerrilla enemy.
At the out break of hostilities, the Army consisted of little more than 4OOO men spread among 5l outposts guarding the entire breadth of the American frontier. Scott's fiasco created a genuine fear in Congress that the small number of regulars in Florida could do little to discourage an Indian uprising or worse--a slave rebellion. On May 23, l836, Congress voted to increase the Army by adding a regiment of dragoons and authorized the enlistment of 10,000 more troops for six to twelve months of service. If the Army suffered humiliation at the hands of the Seminoles, Washington meant to put a stop to it. Over the next two years, the Congress would adopt a series of bills aimed at increasing war appropriations and the strength of the Army.62
THOMAS SIDNEY JESUP.
THE TRANSITION OF CAMPAIGN STRATEGY
The best officer is selected to direct the affairs of the Army -- comes to
Florida, exposes himself, does all he can, gets abused by all, more likely
breaks down his constitution, and is glad enough to get out of the scrape.
2nd Lt. William T. Sherman, THE SHERMAN LETTERS
Jesup's First Campaign
After Governor Call's failure to carry out his campaign, the government needed a General who possessed the wherewithal to defeat the Indians. Ironically, President Jackson chose a quartermaster officer to wage the next fight against Osceola. However, Thomas Sidney Jesup was more than just a capable staff officer. Like General Scott, Jesup earned a direct commission and had a distinguished combat record during the War of l8l2. By l8l8, the Army promoted him to Brigadier General and directed him to take charge of the Quartermaster Department. He continued to rise to prominence in the Army, developing a reputation for his precise management over military supplies and provisions. To his credit, he also acquitted himself well against the Creeks during their most recent uprising and instantly drew the attention of Jackson who recognized
his potential as a successful Indian fighter.63
The Secretary of War's orders to Jesup clearly indicated Jackson's intent for him to attack the Seminoles in their camps and drive them from the Withlacoochee. After that, he was free to execute his campaign however he chose. Jesup's campaign plan did not appear to change much from the strategies of his three predecessors. He wanted the Florida Army to quickly locate the preponderance of the Seminoles in one strong hold and destroy them completely. In l837, the Quartermaster of the Army did not grasp the real nature of war in Florida any better than previous commanders.
Jesup departed Lake George on December 27, l836, with the same Tennessee
brigade that remained in Florida after Call's campaign. He aimed to move on Osceola as quickly as possible before the contracts of the militia expired. As he headed west across the peninsula, the General determined that he needed to build supply depots closer to the Withlacoochee in order to sustain his forces while they operated in the broad swampland. He promised the militia he would allow them to return to Tennessee if they constructed these fortifications for him. The first post, called Fort Dade, was built on the south bank of the Withlacoochee, and volunteers erected the second fort at the site of the Dade Massacre and named it Fort Armstrong. Once they completed construction of the two outposts, Jesup initiated the main actions of his campaign. He tasked several units of dragoons and infantry to scour the countryside to flush out Osceola's band. Brigadier General Hernandez continued to patrol up and down the east coast, while the dragoons patrolled in between the St. John's River and the Suwannee. Meanwhile, one company each patrolled the north and south bank of the Withlacoochee.64
All of Jesup's active patrolling did little to fix the enemy. His force did succeed in locating Osceola camp, but they captured only thirty-six Seminole Negroes and most of them were not warriors. Several of the captives told the officers that Osceola managed to escape only moments before the patrol attacked the village. They also reported that the crafty Indian leader was sick. The prisoners' reports about Osceola's illness were an ominous sign of a situation that had taken hold of a number of Seminole towns--disease was hurting the Indians.65
Early in l837, Jesup mounted his campaign with a vengeance and relentlessly pursued the Seminoles into the southern regions of the peninsula. He learned from prisoners that Osceola had fled with his band of Mikasukis to the head of the Caloosahatchee River. At this point, Jesup decided he had to depart from his strategy of concentrating his force for a single attack. Instead, he divided his army into two brigades; by so doing, he could continue scouring the north while he kept the pressure on Osceola in the south. In the latter region, he assigned the majority of his regular force, soldiers and Marines, to Colonel Archibald Henderson, the Commandant of the Marine Corps; he would use his militia to sustain patrolling north of the Withlacoochee and east of the St. John's River. Jesup designated Henderson's force as the Second
Brigade, and the main effort of his campaign. For two months, Henderson doggedly
chased the enemy from one camp to the next, but to limited avail: the Indians fought a credible delaying action while withdrawing safely into the Big Cypress Swamp. The Seminoles left behind their food and provisions, which Henderson ordered his troops to destroy. In all of the first two months, his continuous pursuit of the enemy could not produce one killed or captured warrior.
Henderson's brigade may not have produced any casualties, but the Seminoles suffered critical losses of another form: resources. The Colonel's operation near the Big Cypress bagged a considerable booty that surely deprived the Seminoles of important resources. The table below lists the amount of Indian provisions seized by Henderson during the January and February operation:
TABLE I SEIZURES, JAN & FEB l837
head of cattle 3O6
mules 24 67
For the Seminoles despite their success, the war had now started to turn against them. Henderson's operation drove the bands deeper into the Everglades where even their own people felt the debilitating effects of malaria and disease. Osceola own health continued to deteriorate until he no longer could operate in the field and had to turn over leadership to Coacoochee (Wild Cat). The Indians were starving and diseased. Their constant running from the Army prevented them from planting corn and other essential crops that the tribes required for their very survival. The General might have failed at every attempt to draw the Seminoles into battle, but his relentless pursuit had effected the Indians tremendously. His force drove them over lOO miles from lairs which they once occupied inside the natural stronghold of the Withlacoochee Cove. When the captured Negroes told him Osceola was ill, Jesup realized he might have an
opportunity to seek a truce with the Indians.68
On 28 January, Jesup released a prisoner possessing a message offering a truce to any of the nearby chiefs. By the next day, the Seminole's prominent Negro leader and spokesman, Abraham, sent word back to Jesup that he would agree to bring a delegation to meet with him on 3l January. Abraham and Alligator arrived as promised. Because most of the chiefs were still scattered throughout the peninsula, all parties agreed to table the discussions until l8 February; thus enabled Alligator to have sufficient time to spread the word. In the mean time, both sides agreed to a temporary cease fire as a sign of good faith. The l8 February deadline came and passed without negotiations, as none of the chiefs showed up for the parley. Instead, the chiefs sent a messenger to Jesup
indicating the bands were so widely dispersed that they required more time to
gather all the chiefs. The General accepted the explanation as truth and set a
new deadline for March 4th.69
General Jesup initiatives toward negotiating a truce with the enemy showed a remarkable departure from Jackson's policy. From the beginning of Scott's campaign, the President had stated his position that the government would not negotiate with the Seminoles while they still possessed slaves. Even Jesup himself appeared to support Jackson's policy when he told his officers early in the campaign that he viewed the war not as an Indian conflict but as a slave war.70 Why did the General so abruptly initiate actions that appeared to contradict his Commander-in-Chiefs policy? Did Jesup take a more benevolent position about the Indians, or was he merely seeking the most reasonable means to accomplish his mission? The historian John Mahon, who later wrote a detailed account of the Second Seminole War, argued that Jesup had offered to parley with the Indians for no other reason than to seek the most practical course of removing the Indians. Thus, Mahon wrote: "General Jesup really thought this agreement would end the war if (in Jesup's words) a firm and prudent course be pursued."71
On March 6, l837, Jesup and four Seminole chiefs met at Fort Dade to negotiate a new treaty that suited the General's view of-a "firm and prudent" agreement to end the war. The document titled, "Capitulation of the Seminole Nation of Indians" outlined the following three important provisions: (l) That hostilities would end once and for all; (2) the Indians agreed to migrate immediately to Arkansas territory; (3) that by 10 April, all Indians would concentrate at Fort Brooke to await transportation to the west. Under the last term of the treaty, the Army agreed to feed and care for the Indians at Fort Brooke while they awaited transportation to Fort Gibson and for one year
thereafter at their new home. Jesup ensured the treaty contained language that
eliminated the greatest obstacle to western migration; the provision that the Seminoles and their "allies" (meaning Seminole Negroes) could emigrate west with the guarantee that Indian lives and property (including slaves) would be secure. Over the course of the next month, Jesup strategy of a firm and prudent course seemed to work. Chief Yaholoochee surrendered at Fort Brooke, bringing over 2OO of his people with him. And in the east, King Phillip, the principal Chief in that region, sent word to Jesup that he would follow Chief Micanopy's orders to surrender. On the eastern side of the Peninsula, the capitulation had prompted a host of chiefs and warriors to state their similar intent. Osceola, Sam Jones, Coa Hadjo, Tuskinia, and Phillips' son, Coacoochee, met at Fort Mellon, allegedly to demonstrate their intent of moving to Fort Brooke. Yet, by the twentieth, none of those war leaders appeared as promised.72
Jesup treaty with the Seminoles drew instant criticism and hostility from the citizens of Florida. The local press all but crucified him for agreeing to a treaty that allowed the Indians to leave with their Negroes. In their view, every Seminole Negro rightfully belonged to some plantation owner, and the government had made no indication they would compensate the owners for their loss. Jesup knew unscrupulous speculators could derail the whole treaty if they seized any Negroes belonging to the Seminoles. This was sure to occur if he failed to take strong measures to protect the Indians and their allies. On April 5th, he issued Order No. 79. This order forbid any whites from entering the territory between the St. John's River and the Gulf of Mexico. This action inflamed the locals even further, and placed Jesup in the precarious position
of trying to appease the locals and implement his promise to the Seminoles. In
an effort to placate the citizens, he modified order no. 79 by allowing landowners to inhabit their dwellings and work their farms. Meanwhile, he secretly persuaded the Indians to turn over any slaves they captured before the war. In as much as the Indians felt it proper to return to the whites all property they seized before the war, the treaty seemed to appeal to the Seminoles' sense of fairness, because the chiefs turned scores of Negroes back over to the Army. Jesup may have discovered a prudent course of action to accomplish his mission, yet there appeared no way he could satisfy the public. Once he persuaded the Indians to return the stolen slaves, Congressional leaders criticized his actions for using the Army to turn Negroes back into the hands of slave owners.73
While the Seminoles continued to collect at Fort Brooke, Jesup developed plans for another campaign-- a proper course if the Indians failed to live up to their end of the bargain. In the spring of l837 he sent letters to the governors of the surrounding states requesting more volunteers, while at the same time asking the War Department for a significant increase in regular forces. After his Tennessee volunteers departed the peninsula, the General maintained a force hardly large enough to fight the Seminoles and secure the territory at the same time. The following tables illustrate the strength of his forces in January l837, and their eventual increase almost a year later:
TABLE II STRENGTH OF FLORIDA ARMY
By January l837
Alabama volunteers 35O
U.S. Army regulars 45O
U.S. Marines 25O
Creek Regiment unrecorded74
By December l837
U.S. Army regulars 4,636
U.S. Marines l7O
U.S. Navy 100
Volunteer militia 4,O78 75
It is uncertain why Jesup believed the treaty was inevitably doomed for failure: whether he distrusted the Indians to abide by their word, or he believed that slave speculators would cause the Indians and Negroes to scatter into the countryside? Any one of these conditions could certainly sabotage his diplomatic efforts. Regardless of the reasons for such interference, he felt compelled to take the precaution of introducing a stronger force into the theater.
On the night of June 2, Osceola and Sam Jones provided him with the reason that confirmed his suspicions all along. With a force of 2OO warriors, the two war leaders infiltrated the large detention camp near Fort Brooke and cleaned the place out. In spite of Jesup efforts to seek a prudent course to end the War, all 7OO of the refugees had now fled back into the jungle. The war would continue.76
Osceola's bold action shattered the peace process, and Jesup's confidence in the Seminoles. He resigned himself to the sobering conclusion that it was impossible remove the Indians and that the war could only end if he embarked on a campaign to completely exterminate the Indians. Unwilling to prosecute such an immoral act, Jesup completely exterminate the Indians. Unwilling to prosecute such an immoral act, Jesup asked the General of the Army to relieve him. While waiting for General Macomb reply, Jesup evidently changed his mind and approached his mission with a new determination. He crafted a new plan that marked a clear change in America's war strategy. From this point on, he and each theater commander that succeeded him employed every means foul and fair, honorable and treacherous, to remove the Indians to the West. Jesup new campaign emerged into the type of unconventional operations that characterized the American way of fighting guerrillas in the later campaigns of the Nicaragua and Viet Nam wars
Jesup's Second Campaign
In June l838, General Jesup began preparations for a fall campaign that he
envisioned would employ every resource at his disposal. If the Negroes constituted a credible fighting force for the Indians, he aimed to reduce them at once by applying the age old philosophy of divide and conquer. In the hopes of persuading the Negroes to spilt away from the Seminoles, he offered them freedom and security if they turned themselves in. This appeared to work so effectively that he had more Negroes under his care than he could possibly look after and invariably created a tremendous strain on his logistics. To resolve this dilemma, he offered the Creeks any plunder they might seize from the Seminoles, including slaves. He later extended the same opportunity to the
militia and regular soldiers. However, offer of spoils to the victor ultimately worked against his purpose. The Negroes soon refrained from wandering outside the Seminole strongholds in fear of being captured and returned to bondage. Thus, in September Jesup changed the policy again and ordered his army to hold on to the slaves until he received further guidance from the Secretary of War. To calm the Creeks fears about the whites reneging on their deal, Jesup promised to pay them $8OOO for all the slaves taken as plunder. He also offered $2O.OO to each white man as restitution for any Negroes lost to the Indians. Jesup had now thrust the Army squarely into the business of the slave trade and the center of public controversy.77
To escape further public damnation, Jesup made an arrangement to ship the
Negroes west at once. Though the Secretary of War had not authorized him to act on his own, the General conveniently proclaimed the Negroes as the rightful property of the Seminoles under the terms of the treaty of capitulation. He thus allowed them to migrate with the Indians. Once he permitted the slaves to migrate, the Negro issue ceased to be a source of friction any longer.78
While the General planned his fall campaign, he took a benevolent position
toward the whole Indian Removal Act policy. He believed wrong of the government to force the Indians from their homeland before the whites were ready to occupy it. In no other territory did the government force the Indians off their lands under such conditions. In Jesup's view, the federal government had treated the Seminoles unfairly, and he felt obliged to intercede on their behalf. By now, Martin Van Buren had arrived in Washington, and perhaps in a more generous mood the new President might feel inclined to reconsider the Removal Act Policy. Jesup wrote the new Secretary of War, Joel Robert Poinsett, and asked him to consider reversing the policy. Within ten days, the Secretary of War answered the General's request with a curt reply that left no doubt the President of the United States would not allow the Seminoles to remain in Florida; there would be no change in policy: they had to go. In supporting the President's position, Poinsett explained that allowing the Seminoles to remain would show weakness
and invite trouble from other Indian tribes. The Secretary of War urged Jesup to
continue to use force against the Indians. If the Florida Army required more men, the War Department could provide them to him.79
To Jesup's credit, he had attempted to seek every reasonable solution toward ending the conflict. He tried to force the Indians into submission. When that failed, he used his diplomatic skills to negotiate a deal between the Indians and his own government, which also ended in failure. Left with no other option but to carry out his duty, Jesup again aimed to use force to remove the Seminoles. He estimated that his new campaign would require almost 6,2OO men, including a major naval force to patrol the territorial waters and carry troops deeper into the Florida interior. His plan again featured many similarities to his first campaign of l836-l837. He used regular forces to actively seek out the preponderance of Seminole bands in the southern peninsula. Meanwhile, he relegated the militia to manning the forts and patrolling the northern part
of the territory, where he considered Indian resistance as minimal. His plan centered on the employment of four mobile columns. One column would sweep north along the St. John's River; the second would move between Mosquito Inlet and Indian River; the third would depart Tampa Bay and move east to the Kissimmee and then descend toward Lake Okeechobee; the final column would move north-east up the Caloosahatchee River. He again called upon Colonel Archibald Henderson to take charge of the southern peninsula, the most active region throughout the territory. Also, Governor Richard K. Call was back in service, and Jesup assigned him to the western portion of the theater. In the north, he assigned General Walker K. Armistead. In all three areas, he ensured command to men of sufficient rank and experience to eliminate any arguments over the issue of seniority between regulars and militia.81
Ever the meticulous quartermaster, Jesup immersed himself into the endless
work of accumulating the combat power to sustain his 6OOO man force. He paid personal attention to the smallest details concerning the ordering of supplies and equipment. He possessed a clear idea of what he required for the force, ordering such items as shot guns for his light companies, standard colt revolvers, and Cochrane's repeaters. He ordered tents. He wanted Dearborn wagons, because they had wide tires and water tight bodies. To carry his men up the rivers, he ordered Mackinaw boats: flat bottoms with barricades and double orrs on each side. It seemed no item concerning logistics escaped the General's scrupulous eyes. He had a clear idea of what he needed to sustain his troops
for another long arduous campaign in the Florida wilderness.82
Jesup wanted his commanders to mount an aggressive operation against the
enemy, and this time he was not inclined to offer the Seminoles any generosity. His campaign plan characterized a certain brutality that seemed to reflect his and the government's loss of patience with the Indians. He told Lieutenant Colonel William S. Harney, a commander with a reputation for brutality and hatred of the Indians, that he would sanction any action the subordinate directed toward the Seminoles. He ordered the hanging of any Negroes who resisted his actions (this order he later rescinded). He aimed to destroy the Mikasukis and Tallahassees, whom he blamed for prolonging the war in the first place. To that end, he requested the services of the particularly brutal bands of other Indian tribes such as the Miamis, Delawares, Shawnees, and Sioux. He
planned to allow them maximum freedom to kill every Seminole man and enslave their women and children. He threatened prisoners with brutality if they did not keep him informed about the location of the Seminoles.83
The Capture of Osceola
In September l837, Jesup exercised a form of treachery that earned him
considerable scorn and ridicule from the American public. During that time, General Joseph Hernandez had succeeded in capturing several prominent chiefs within the eastern theater. These captives represented a significant loss of Seminole leadership, and the Indians appeared quite eager to get their leaders back. The Seminoles considered King Philip the greatest of their losses and sent his son, Wildcat, to parley with the whites under a flag of truce. Jesup decided to ignore the truce and apprehended the young warrior thus, breaching one of the oldest and most respected conventions of war. On October 27, Osceola and Coa Hadjo sent word to Hernandez they wanted to meet for a truce. When Jesup learned of the planned meeting he ordered Hernandez to ignore any white flags and to apprehend both of them. With a force of 25O regular dragoons and volunteers near Fort Peyton, Hernandez sprung a trap on his unsuspecting enemies while engaging them in the midst of negotiations. The plan worked better than expected, for Osceola surrendered without resistance. Besides the Red Stick, Hernandez brought in Coa Hadjo, seventy-one warriors, and fifty-two rifles.84
In spite of severe criticism from Congress and the general public, Jesup defended his actions because the Seminoles had failed to keep their word on countless occasions.
He cited Osceola raid at the refugee detention camp as the Indian's example of his own form of treachery. However, Jesup did have some supporters in Congress who defended his actions. They pointed out to critics that the commander used a reasonably expedient measure to end the war. Meanwhile, in Florida, Jesup continued to use this deceptive practice as standard procedure to capture the Seminole force. Jesup by now was willing to resort to any means to end the war. While the newspapers gave him a royal scathing, a significant number of distinguished chiefs now resided inside his detention camps. Besides Osceola, he captured King Phillip, nine other prominent war leaders, and warriors.85
When Hernandez captured Osceola, the Red Stick's health had deteriorated
badly and this in part may explain why he surrendered without resistance. The Army originally held him at the Marion prison in St. Agustine. Sometime later, they transported him to the Fort Moultrie prison in Charleston, South Carolina, where he succumbed to quinsy, brought on by his battle with malaria, and died on January 3l, l838. Osceola's death captivated the American public. It did not take long before the newspapers portrayed him as a martyr and a hero who fought tenaciously to defend his homeland. Clearly, by now public sentiment was beginning to turn against the war.86
The Battle of Lake Okeechobee
By the last month of l837, Jesup commanded the largest force to ever assemble in Florida. In addition to the 4,636 regular army troops, over 4OOO mounted volunteers had entered the theater. Jesup never envisioned such a massive force answering his call for reinforcement. This was simply more than his logistics could reasonably support, and more than he could control. The Secretary of War expressed his alarm about the startling number of militia and wrote Jesup a letter directing him to release 2OOO of the volunteers. Poinsett felt such a large number of militia would bankrupt the government. As for the Navy, Jesup had no inclination of employing them as a major part of his force. During his first campaign, he employed almost the entire strength of the West Indies Squadron to search the Everglades and scour the river inlets. With the
exception of one Navy detachment operating in the Everglades, he relegated the rest of Commodore Alexander Dallas's squadron to patrolling the coast and intercepting Cubans smuggling arms to the Seminoles. Dallas later claimed he found no evidence that such a smuggling operation existed.87
Jesup's campaign plan once again resembled the conventional strategy of his predecessors. However, this time he intended to converge on the enemy with seven columns and force them to fight. He aimed to see the Seminoles surrender, or he would destroy their force completely. His plan appeared ambitious, but it never required his units to coordinate their actions, like Scott's and Call's. Jesup had plenty of time to study the terrain and order a large number of flat bottom boats to carry his force into some of the most inaccessible areas of the enemy's territory. This time he possessed scouts, an advantage previous commanders would have found useful to their operations.88
Jesup organized his force into seven columns and planned to employ them as
follows: (l) Colonel Zachary Taylor replaced Col. Henderson. He and the First Infantry Regiment had responsibility for the region between the Peace River and the Kissimmee River. Jesup wanted him and his 1,4OO man force to establish a series of forts to sustain the First Infantry throughout their operations. Once he completed these works, the General intended for him to move south along the Kissimmee and search out any Indian strongholds. (2) Jesup ordered the second column, under the command of Colonel Persifor F. Smith, and his 6OO Louisiana volunteers, to enter the Caloosahatchee and march east to the head waters of the river. (3) Jesup's third column was a naval detachment under the command of Lieutenant Levi N. Powell, USN who led a force of 85 sailors, two artillery companies, and a company of infantry volunteers. Jesup directed him to enter the Everglades from the south and assist the other two columns in blocking any Indian escape from the main column in the north. (4) Jesup appointed his
fourth column as the main effort for his campaign. He directed the force, commanded by General Hernandez, to divide into four smaller columns, move south along the central and eastern area of the peninsula and converge at the head of the St. John's River. The total strength of the force exceeded 2OOO men, mostly regulars.89
In the meantime, Jesup planned on continuing his diplomatic ploys to capture chiefs who remained at large. By now, his schemes to trap the Seminoles at the negotiating table had evolved into a campaign of its own. Around the time he planned to start his military operation, the War Department sent him a delegation of Cherokee chiefs. The government hoped the delegation could persuade the Seminoles to surrender. The Cherokees managed to convince Chiefs Micanopy and Yaholoochee to accompany them to Fort Mellon for a meeting with Jesup. Though the delegates intended to bring in Micanopy under a flag of truce, by now Jesup had made it a practice to ignore such councils. He quickly seized Micanopy and Yaholoochee and had them transferred to St. Augustine.90
While Jesup remained busy with his unconventional campaign to capture
Seminoles, he placed General Eustis in tactical command of the four main columns in the south and ordered him to start the campaign on l9 December. The next day,
Colonel Zachary Taylor and his l,O67 troops of the Southern Brigade, now reinforced by elements of the 4th and 6th regiments, marched along the Kissimmee River. By this time, Taylor had constructed two forts. He built the first outpost on the Peace River in November and named it Fort Frasier. After completing a twenty-five mile journey to the Kissimmee, he selected a proper site to erect Fort Gardiner. Taylor stocked both these outposts with 4O,OOO rations and l,2OO bushels of corn. Between the Peace and Kissimmee, his pioneers and pontoniers erected bridges and causeways along 25 miles of difficult terrain, On 2O December, Jumper and 63 of his followers came in and surrendered his force. As Taylor's force advanced other Indians, exhausted from the chase, surrendered to the 1st Infantry. Early the next day his scouts learned of Alligator's presence nearby. Taylor decided to hasten a pursuit of Alligator and
detached half his mounted troops to press the attack. Taylor led the small detachment until midnight of the twenty-first, when he reached Alligator's Camp. At this time, the troops rounded up several women, children, and old men, but Alligator still remained at large. Taylor chose to erect a small outpost at Alligator's former camp site. Once his pioneers finished the works, he ordered all his pontoniers and logistics troops to remain with the baggage trains and eighty-five sickly troops.91
On the twenty-fourth, Taylor's Indian scouts reported that a large force of Seminoles had taken up defensive positions 2O miles to the south of the mouth of Lake Okeechobee. Indeed, a sizable enemy force did occupy a natural stronghold between the lake and a half mile of swamp to the Indians direct front. By this time, Wild Cat had escaped from Fort Marion and took command of the 3OO warriors now determined to make a stand at Lake Okeechobee. The young war leader prepared his defenses carefully. He used the swamp as a natural obstacle to reinforce his position at the mouth of the lake. He concentrated his force on a hammock that overlooked the swamp and offered him fields fires in three directions. His warriors did a thorough job of preparing their fields of fire by cutting down the sawgrass in front of their positions. Inside the hammock, the Indians notched out trees and breast works to sturdy their rifles. At noon on Christmas day, Taylor's force, augmented by 3OO Missouri volunteers known as Morgan's spies, began their movement to contact. Taylor deployed his force in two lines. Morgan's spies, led by Colonel Richard Gentry, formed the first line. The 4th and 6th Infantry constituted the second line and followed in trace of Gentry. Taylor held the First Infantry in reserve. When Taylor's men reached within twenty yards of the hammock, Wild Cat's force opened up with a devastating fuselage of fire. Gentry died instantly. The Indians poured volley after volley of deadly accurate fire into the Missouri volunteers. The first line crumbled within minutes. With Gentry dead and almost half the force laid strewn across the swamp, the volunteers fled in a disorganized mob. Taylor realized any further assault on the enemy's front would fail. He then ordered an envelopment from two sides. His 6th Infantry attacked around the east directly into the face of penetrating enemy fire. Again, the attack slowed down as Wild
Cat's force started shooting scores of troops. On the west side, the troops created better success when Abraham's warriors fled from the 4th Infantry. This enabled Taylor to gain access inside the enemy's perimeter, causing Wild Cat to withdraw his force and give up the terrain to the Americans. The Colonel put his force into pursuit of the enemy right away. They chased the Indians through the expanse of hammocks and swamp until midnight, but had failed to maintain contact. Wild Cat managed to disperse his warriors and get away again.92
The Seminoles usually refused to stand and fight, but on Christmas day Wild Cat felt he had the advantage. His defensive positions and the terrain gave him the opportunity to inflict more casualties on his enemy than they could do on him. Indeed, Zachary Taylor did sustain terrible casualties: twenty-six dead and ll2 wounded. No one knows for sure how the enemy faired in the battle. Taylor counted only 10 dead Seminoles. Apparently Wild Cat had made a sound decision.93
Taylor's after action report to the Army Adjutant General did not try to conceal the magnitude of his losses. In a very frank and honest assessment about the battle, he wrote:
It continued from half past midnight until after three P.M.... We suffered
much, having 26 killed and ll2 wounded, among whom are some of my most
valuable officers. The hostiles probably suffered, all things considered, equally with ourselves, they having left 10 dead on the ground, besides doubtless, carrying off many more as is customary with them when practical.94
The largest battle of the Second Seminole War occurred at Lake Okeechobee. At no other time of the seven year conflict did the Indians put up such a sustained defense. They fought a credible battle, but it was the last time the Seminoles would organize such a defense. After Lake Okeecbobee, the Indians reverted to their small raids and ambushes that characterized their way of fighting. As for the rest of Jesup's campaign, his other columns never located any significant force of the enemy. Lieutenant Powell did locate a small camp of Indians hidden in the Everglades. After he launched a surprise raid his force of soldiers and sailors were quickly threatened by a stronger Seminole counter attack, and Powell's force barely escaped with their lives.95
After Okeechobee, Congress and the American public grew increasingly agitated with Van Buren's administration. People openly questioned the wisdom of the removal policy and wondered if the whole ordeal justified the costs in lives and expenses. In a political climate that showed a remarkable similarity to the aftermath of the l968 TET offensive, the American people had lost their patience with the War. In December l837, the House of Representatives hotly debated the Florida War. Representative Henry A. Wise from Virginia vehemently ridiculed the government's campaign against the Seminoles and declared the whole war a disgrace. He stated he would rather appropriate funds for the Seminoles and support them in Florida than to continue the war. Other members continued to vent their anger over Jesup's handling of the war; criticizing his treachery and handling of Seminole prisoners. But not every member shared Henry Wise's views about the conflict. Representative Charles Downing, Florida, responded to these attacks by accusing his colleagues of prolonging the war and scolded them for
sympathizing with the Seminoles.96
By February, Jesup offered to negotiate another parley with the Indians. At Fort Jupiter he told Tuskegee and other Seminole leaders he would write a letter to the Secretary of War and again plea their case to remain in Florida. In return, he asked the Seminoles to camp nearby while they awaited the reply. On February 11, he kept his promise and sent a letter to Secretary Poinsett strongly urging the government to reverse the policy. Jesup again told them the whites could not possibly want the inhospitable wasteland of southern Florida. He told the Secretary that unless the United States abandoned the policy, the war would continue for many years.97
On St. Patrick's Day, Jesup received his reply: Poinsett denied the request. This time Jesup did not waste a moment apprehending the Indians while he still had a chance. He had over 5OO Indians camped nearly and he aimed to grab them before they learned about the War Department's reply. On March 2l, l838, he ordered Colonel David Twiggs to round up the warriors and bring them to an adjacent camp. Twiggs carried out the assignment and brought in over 5lO Seminoles, the largest single day apprehension of Indians in the war. Meanwhile, other bands managed to escape the army columns and raided plantations clear up to the northern extremes of Florida. Jesup was right: the war would drag on.98
In response to Poinsett's letter, Jesup resorted to measures that can only seem as an act of desperation. He purchased blood hounds from a slave trader in Cuba and set them loose on the Seminoles. The dogs did not track down a single Indian, but did bring further hostility from the public who quickly condemned the brutality of Jesup's actions.
By the end of March, Jesup had exhausted every means at his disposal to bring an end to the war. Clearly Florida had beaten him. The Seminoles still remained dispersed throughout the interior. The government remained entrenched in a policy that offered no chance for success, and his Army felt the crippling effects of disease and poor morale. In March, he sent a letter to the Secretary of War requesting the government relieve him of his command. Throughout his tenure as Florida's ranking Army commander, Jesup had removed nearly 2,9OO Indians out of an estimated population of 4OOO people.99 His troops killed another 1OO. Three other commanders followed Jesup in succession, but
none of them produced as many casualties or removed as many Indians.
Jesup's period in Florida marked a significant change in the nature of American warfighting against the Seminoles. When he first assumed command, his military strategy aimed at fixing the enemy at one place with a concentrated force and making the enemy fight a decisive engagement. This strategy reflected the government's view that the war would end if Jesup could trap the Seminoles at the Withlacoochee. Once the General realized the Indians would never offer themselves up for a single contest, he put his troops into the field in a massive operation to locate the Indians. He organized his force into separate columns that conducted decentralized operations throughout the countryside. His aim always remained constant: scour the area, fix the enemy in one location, and force him into battle. Colonel Henderson's operations in the Big Cypress was the main effort of Jesup's early campaign and showed the difficulty of trying to locate the enemy in the inhospitable terrain.
When Jesup realized his strategy would not achieve the national end state, he shifted his campaign into the diplomatic and psychological arenas. In the former, he engaged his enemy in dialogue and negotiation, attempting to seek an alternative to military force that would enable him to achieve his political goals. He was willing to compromise on the Negro issue if it would induce the Seminoles to surrender and move west. When Osceola derailed the diplomatic process, Jesup shifted his campaign to the psychological arena, where he abandoned conventional warfare, ignored Indian flags of truce, and employed bloodhounds. Some of these methods militarily were quite effective. Jesup's deception strategy of luring in the enemy under a truce and then seizing upon these unsuspecting chiefs with force helped separate a substantial number of war leaders from their warriors, thus denying the Indians crucial leadership. On the other hand, it also undermined the higher political goals of the country. The
American public did not respond favorably to Jesup's ploys against the enemy.
hey considered such acts dishonorable and beyond the norms of acceptable conduct by the United States Army. Thus, ignoring flags of truce may have helped Jesup complete his goals militarily, but, at the political level, it eroded the public's support for the war. This in large part explains why the public recognized Osceola as a martyr after his capture. It also points out to commanders today that it is vitally important they carefully weigh their courses of action and understand the political consequences of their decisions before they adopt a military plan.
Jesup's second campaign had all the markings of the classic hammer and anvil operations incorporated into the Army's counterinsurgency doctrine of later years. The idea of this maneuver involved using a mobile force to locate the enemy, force him to withdraw into the face of another force, and then commit him into battle. For Jesup, the maneuver had only a limited amount of success. Taylor's 1st Infantry managed to locate Wild Cat's 4OO warriors at Lake Okeechobee and engaged the Seminole force in the largest and only single battle of the war. By no means was this a decisive victory for Zachary Taylor, but the battle did indicate the Indians would stand and fight if the conditions and terrain offered them a clear advantage.
Twice during his tenure of command, Jesup had appealed directly to the
administration to allow the Indians to remain in Florida. He more than anyone else in the government realized the President was wed to a policy that could not be solved by military force. Quite probably had the administration consented to Jesup's request, the war would not have lasted as long as it did. However, the Second Seminole War, like the war in South Viet-Nam, lost its public appeal as the conflict lingered on from one year to the next.
A PROTRACTED WAR
Armed peasants...when broken, disperse in all directions, for which no
formal plan is required; through this circumstance, the march of every
small body of troops in a mountainous, thickly wooded, or broken coun-
try, becomes a very dangerous service.
Karl von, Clausewitz, ON WAR
Following Jesup departure from the Florida war, the Army appointed in
succession three more commanders to continue the endless struggle to break the will of the intractable Seminoles. Brigadier General Zachary Taylor, Brigadier General Walker Keith Armistead, and Colonel William Jenkins Worth all assumed command of the Florida theater of operations. Each officer held his own view on the nature of warfighting in the theater. Three commanders' strategies did depart from the linear tactics and conventional operations of Winfield Scott. They learned that active patrolling and protracted security operations offered the only reasonable chance for success. These new Army commanders now employed strategies that resembled counterinsurgency operations. Commanders reconstituted the militia and regular brigades into smaller detachments. Together with the U.S. Navy, they assigned the smaller units to geographical areas of responsibility, so ordered they constantly patrolled and reconnoitered their terrain.
May l838 Zachary Taylor
After Jesup's relief, the Secretary of War turned over command of the Florida theater to Zachary Taylor. By May of l838, the President had elevated him to the rank of Brigadier General, largely in reward for being the first officer to win a pitched battle against the Seminoles. Now Taylor would have his opportunity to head the Army and Navy forces pitted against the Seminole Indians.
An able and competent officer, Taylor had proven himself as an experienced
Indian fighter. By the time he arrived in Florida, he had already faced Tecumseh at one of the fiercest Indian campaigns on the western frontier. At Fort Harrison in l8l2, he led fifteen able bodied soldiers in the successful defense of the out post against an onslaught of Shawnee braves. Territorial governors and Army brass alike joined in heaping their praise on Taylor for his heroic stand. Taylor subsequently received promotion to (Brevet) Major by orders of the President of the United States.100
Taylor understood the futility of ordering large columns into the field to try and root out the Indians. He crafted a different strategy that divided the entire peninsula into districts, each measuring 2O miles square. He assigned a thirty man detail to each district and ordered them to base their operations from a single outpost erected in the center of their respective districts. He told each detachment commander to actively scour every hammock and square mile of his territory. A key tactical innovation for its time, Taylor's new strategy, by its very implication, required these district commanders to build a labyrinth of roads, bridges, causeways and outposts. The extent of Taylor's engineering is contained in a letter he sent to Secretary Poinsett in which he wrote:
Beside what has been done around the Okeefenokee..., it will be observed
that fifty-three new posts have been established, eight hundred and forty-eight miles of wagon road, and three thousand six hundred and forty-three feet of causeway and bridges opened and constructed... Every hammock and swamp between Fort Mellon and Tallahassee, quite across the country, has been thoroughly searched.101
Taylor estimated he could implement his strategy with his four full regiments. At the time he assumed command, he possessed 1,833 regulars and only 467 militia. Whether 2,3OO troops could patrol the entire peninsula was uncertain. Taylor must have had confidence in the regular force, because he told Governor Call he had no intention of employing the militia during the summer months. Call took exception, feeling Taylor underestimated the force requirements and would inevitably leave some areas unprotected. However, Secretary Poinsett turned out to be the driving force behind the militia force reductions. On June l, l838, he directed Taylor to limit his militia to no
more then 1,OOO men. After a series of Indian depredations occurred between the
Okeefenokee Swamp and Tallahassee, Call raised his own militia of three companies to protect the northern territory. By August, the Secretary of War succumbed to pressure from Governor Call and authorized Taylor to raise 5OO more militia volunteers.lO2
It took nearly eight months before Taylor implemented his plan of districting the peninsula. In the early months of his command, he spent six weeks touring Florida outposts and discussing plans with his subordinate commanders. He declined to conduct any major campaigns in the summer months when disease and soaring temperatures afflicted many of the troops. Since the Secretary of War did not approve Taylor's plan until January l839, it is assumed that the General probably crafted his campaign some time in the later part of July or August of l838.
If the Indians offered to negotiate, Taylor always felt that option should remain open to them. He succeeded in convincing the last of the Apolachicolas to emigrate in October l838. During this time he also engaged in talks with chiefs from the Tallahassees, but these discussions produced little progress beyond a few promises from the Indians that went largely unfulfilled.103 Taylor clearly intended to use negotiations as a central element of his strategy, and he meant to reduce any friction that would hamper his efforts. Like Jesup, he recognized that the slave issue required a firm and reasonable policy, or the Indians would decline to discuss any negotiations. When he wrote Secretary Poinsett about his plan, he made it clear he would not take any slaves into Army custody, nor would he do anything to prevent their freedom. When General Jesup offered the Indians this sort of compromise, many of the bands agreed to emigrate. Taylor saw no reason to depart from a strategy that offered probable success.104
In February, Taylor's strategy settled into a routine of actively patrolling the districts, conducting engineering projects, and negotiating with the Indians. The Seminoles, in the meantime, remained constantly on the run from Army regulars searching the hammocks and swamps throughout the territory. In some areas of Florida, the activities ranged from ambushes by small war parties, to the unremarkable surrender of a handful of dispirited bands. In February lS39, the Indians killed two regular officers and wounded two dispatch riders. These episodes of violence remained a constant hazard to a soldier's duty in Florida. Meanwhile, the government shipped l96 more Seminoles and Negroes to the west.106 Such became of the monotonous duty in Florida during early l839. If the soldier did not find himself in the field searching out the deepest regions of the interior, then he was probably busy constructing roads, bridges, and outposts in the remotest areas of the territory. In this environment the
government looked for a means to end the war on honorable terms. Feeling the pressure of public dissatisfaction, the Van Buren administration was tiring of the war. Secretary Poinsett ordered Taylor's largest regiment, the 4th Artillery, transferred to New Orleans. In Congress, sharp rhetoric and heated debate illustrated public dissatisfaction with the war. Congressman William Montgomery of North Carolina attacked the Army with public ridicule over its incompetence and poor performance in Florida. Even within the Army, an increasing number of officers wrote letters home expressing their sympathies
with their enemy who, in their view, held as much love and patriotism for their land as any loyal soldier of the Army.
Taylor had barely put his plan into action when he received orders to temporarily cease his operations. Major General Alexander Macomb, Commanding General of the Army, entered the theater on 18 March l839. At the direction of Secretary Poinsett, he aimed to negotiate a new treaty with the Seminoles which offered the Indians the most generous terms since the opening of the war. On 18 May, Macomb, Chitto Tustenuggee, and Halleck Tustenuggee spent two days at Fort King conducting discussions concerning a permanent peace. During the process, Taylor advised his superior that the government should secure a treaty that allowed the Seminoles to remain in Florida. He was certain this would end the war. Macomb agreed. He told the two chiefs they could remain in Florida if they settled their people in an area south of Pease Creek by l5 July. He ordered Taylor to ensure adequate protection for the Seminoles in their new territory
and make sure they stayed there. Under the provisions of the Indian Intercourse Act of l834, the President had the authority to declare the area south of the Pease as an Indian reservation. The government offered no other terms to the Indians. Macomb had not even put the provisions in writing, but he did anticipate that eventually the United States would require the Seminoles to move
In the span of two months, Macomb had a negotiated an agreement that Jesup
had spent two years trying to secure. However, if the Commanding General of the Army had cause to be optimistic about a lasting peace, Taylor did not share that optimism. A number of Seminole bands still remained at large. At least four bands, estimated at 25O warriors, still roamed the Everglades. These and other stray bands might not receive word about the treaty--and he was right. On the evening of 23 July, at a trading post called Dallam's Store, some l6O Seminoles launched a surprise attack on the store's small protectorate of 26 dragoons. Taylor's men erected the store l5 miles from the mouth of the Caloosahatchee to trade with the Seminoles. The Indians made two simultaneous attacks against the store and the camp. The bands captured or killed l8 troops and stole $3OOO worth of goods--along with a number of brand new Army Colt rifles.107
The assault on Dallam's Store shattered Macomb's agreement. The Indians who conducted the raid probably knew about the agreement; however, they felt no obligation to adhere to the authority of the two chiefs. The Florida press vilified Macomb's deal with the Indians. Governor Call delivered a sharp oratory to Congress in which he openly attacked Poinsett for his incompetent handling of the war. In Florida, Taylor put his force back into the field at once to drive the Indians into an area east of the Suwannee River. He had at his disposal over 3OOO regular troops. However, he chose to put only 3OO into the field.108
This time, Taylor resorted to the same desperate measure that Jesup had
considered fewer than two years hence: the use of bloodhounds. Upon the initiative of Governor Call, who purchased the animals in Cuba, Taylor accepted two dogs for a trial period to track down the Seminoles. On January 27, l84O, Taylor began to use these dogs to root out the Indians. With the exception of two captured Indians, the idea failed. The dogs, it seems, had received training from the Cubans to track down escaped slaves, not Indians. The plan failed miserably and only served to promote negative publicity about the Army and Taylor's handling of the war. In Congress, the use of blood hounds created so much controversy that Congressman John Quincy Adams (former President of the United States) and other members demanded Taylor put a stop to it.1O9
Walker Keith Armistead
In April l84O, Zachary Taylor asked for and received permission from the
Secretary of War for relief from his command. Like his immediate predessessor, Taylor experienced first hand the futility of trying to round up the small bands that remained so widely scattered throughout the interior. The war was enough to break the back of the stoutest Generals. When Taylor was not fending off Indian attacks, he found himself trying to fend off stinging ridicule from Congress, the press, and the public. Florida had become quite the unglamorous service for troops and offices alike. The scorching heat and disease infested swamps sorely tested the morale and spirit of men who preferred assignment to any other frontier post in the country.
The War Department selected Brevet Brigadier General Walker Keith Armistead to assume the command. Armistead had entered the U.S. Military Academy in l8O2, graduated in l8O3, and served at Niagara during the War of l8l2. After the war, the Army promoted him to Colonel and assigned him as the service's chief of engineers. Eventually, he assumed command of the Army's Third Artillery Regiment. By l&3l, he reached the rank of Brigadier General and served under General Jesup during that officer's tenure in Florida.110
Armistead also planned a strategy that involved dividing his force into
detachments and assigning them to areas of responsibility. Though he chose to dissolve Taylor's districts, he adhered to the strategy of active patrolling with relatively small units. His organizations numbered about 1OO men for each detachment. He planned to put them into the field before the summer climate ushered in the sweltering heat. Armistead must have felt his men would become climatized to the harsh season, because he intended to keep his men in pursuit of the Seminoles through the summer.111
One of the most important features of Armistead's campaign concerned the focus of his operations. The General directed his officers to continue their actions into the summer and seek out and destroy Seminole crops. The Army would no longer concentrate exclusively on the enemy. Armistead believed the Indians critical vulnerability lay in their resources. If his soldiers vanquished their enemy's food supply, he felt the Indians resolve would weaken, and they would eventually surrender. Armistead divided his territory with an imaginary east-west line that ran through Fort King. Oddly enough, the boundary he drew on a map followed no distinctive terrain features. Armistead intended to assign responsibility for security north of this line to the Florida militia so as to free up his regulars to carry out the more demanding operations in the south, where he believed the remnants of Seminole resistance remained fairly active.112
The situation for the Indians did become increasingly harsh. Active patrolling by Army detachments kept them constantly on the run. The bands now scattered into small pockets of twenty to twenty-five people living in total misery. No more could they look forward to reestablishing their talwa environment, with their long houses and healthy abundance of crops and game. Now the Indians lived in lean-tos, with little opportunity to escape the harsh elements of the interior and even less of a chance to plant corn and other crops. However, the real tragedy of the Indians condition stemmed from the Seminole mother's inability to care for her children, and the burden a baby created for a family constantly on the run. Settlers claimed that the Indian women were killing their children to alleviate a child's burden on the rest of the band.113
Whether it was true or not, that Indians were killing their children, could not be determined. However, a soldier did not have to wonder about the tenacity of Wild Cat. On l9 May l84O, he led a war party of 8O warriors on an ambush near the town of Micanopy. His force had attacked a detachment killing five of 4O soldiers, including the lieutenant. Later that day, he attacked an actors troupe traveling by wagon train to St. Augustine. It would seem that inspite of the Seminoles desperate condition, the Indians carried on the fight as long as possible.114
By the summer of l84O, the Florida regulars had penetrated some of the most inaccessible regions of the interior. Armistead's detachments uncovered Seminole camps that the Indians had cleverly concealed throughout the war. If Armistead's troops had now become experienced hands at guerrilla fighting, it's because subordinate commanders took the initiative to radically change their operations. Lieutenant Colonel Bennett Riley sought permission to reorganize elements of the 2nd Infantry into partisan units. On 2 June l84O, he surprised an important Seminole camp and destroyed the stronghold located near the Chocachatti. Near the St. John's tributary, Captain B.L.E. Bonneville of the 7th Infantry attacked Wild Cat's hideaway at Wekiva. In the Wahoo Swamp and Oklawaha River, Armistead's commanders had achieved remarkable success at locating Seminole strongholds and engaging the Indians in heavy fighting.115
The Florida Army no longer patterned its operations according to Winfield
Scott's hand book for infantry tactics. Instead, they had adopted the Indians' way of fighting. They doffed the large baggage trains that only served to hamper their movements and compromised their positions to the enemy. Troops now learned to travel light and eat off the land. The Army discarded uniform standards as
commanders now allowed their troops to wear any clothing they found suitable for the environment. One commander, Lieutenant Colonel William Harney, went so far as to dress 9O men in warpaint and Indian clothing. He led them in a successful expedition that achieved surprise over an entire band hiding in the Everglades.ll6
The fighting skills of these detachments would impress the most seasoned
guerrilla fighter. Lieutenants and captains came to know the enemy's habits very well, and adopted their fighting techniques to outwit the Seminoles. Indian ambushes were met by American counter ambushes. Troops no longer attacked in linear formation. Instead, they employed the same methods as the Indians. They hid behind trees and advanced in small skirmishes using the terrain to protect their movements. The troops did not gain these lessons from training or schools professional education, for none existed in the Army. Instead, they learned from experience as they earned their successes in Florida through one engagement after another.
By March l84l, Armistead's counterinsurgency campaign showed significant
progress in the war. Though he had not achieved the success of Jesup, he did hold 27O Seminoles in his detention camps at Tampa Bay. Considering the small number of warriors at large, which ranged anywhere between 2OO and 3OO Indians, Armistead could justifiably take satisfaction with his results. An important reason behind his success lay in his willingness to offer the Indians inducements to surrender. Armistead coordinated his operations with careful negotiations to encourage the Indians to surrender. Whenever he saw an opportunity to negotiate terms with a chief, he ordered his local commanders to halt their operations and give the peace process a chance to succeed. The inducements Armistead offered these chiefs amounted to nothing less than
bribery. The government appropriated $25,OOO to pay off chiefs who agreed to
surrender their people. Coosa Tustenuggee accepted $5OOO from Armistead for
surrendering himself and 6O of his people at Fort Brooke. Other chiefs pocketed $2OO, while single warriors each received $3O and a rifle.118
Certainly some of the Seminole leaders took advantage of Armistead's
inducements and never intended to surrender. Wild Cat cleverly presented himse1f at several forts promising Army officers he would surrender his people in exchange for provisions and liquor, but each time the war leader disappeared into the swamps and continued his campaign of destruction.119
In May of l84l, General Armistead followed suite with his predecessors and
asked Secretary Poinsett for his relief from the Florida command. In this instance, one could understand why. Armistead had already served twice in the theater under Jesup and now was on year into a third tour of duty. He reasoned that he had produced reasonable success: he had removed 45O Indians, including l2O warriors. He estimated the enemy now numbered no more than 3OO fighters.120
Colonel William Jenkins Worth
A significant shift in presidential policy led the War Department to appoint a Colonel to conduct Florida operations. By March l84l, President John Tyler decided to discharge all militia troops in Florida and place the full responsibility of operations into the hands of regular troops. The government had spent over 3 million dollars paying the militia's salary, as opposed to only two million dollars for the regular soldiers. This shift made it necessary for the government to increase the Florida Army to 5,O76 men, an all time high of combat power in the theater. With the discharge of the militia and senior volunteer officers, the Army no longer had to ensure a regular officer of flag rank presided over operations in Florida.121
Born in l794, Colonel William J. Worth earned his commission during the War of l8l2. By l8l3, the Army promoted him to First Lieutenant. At the battle of Lundy's Lane in July l8l4, Worth suffered grievous wounds that nearly killed him. After a year of convalescent leave, the young officer served as Winfield Scott's aid-decamp, where the two established a close relationship into the Mexican War. Worth, like many other officers, fell into Scott's disfavor and the two became bitter enemies there after. Worth was not a West Pointer, but the Army held him in such high regard they promoted him to Major in l82O and assigned him as the Superintendent of the academy until l828. Worth then saw duty in various frontier posts, at one point fighting in the Black Hawk Wars in upper Wisconsin territory. In l838, the War Department assigned him to command the 8th Infantry, and in l84O they directed him to transfer his regiment from
the upper Mississippi Valley to Florida.122
Shortly after Worth assumed command, war expenses averaged over $93,OOO a
month. Apart from the soldiers' pay, most of these expenses involved payments to civilian employees of the Army. Worth aimed to eliminate these costs by removing the civilians from the government payroll completely. The government estimated he saved $l74,923.9O. However, at least part of these savings stemmed from his order to transfer three regiments of infantry and five companies of dragoons from Florida.123
By May l, l84l, Wild Cat himself had grown tired of playing cat and mouse with the Florida troops and surrendered to Second Lieutenant William Tecumseh Sherman near Fort Pierce. By this time, the war settled into a tenuous peace that was occasionally interrupted by an Indian raid or murder of a settler. Despite this uneasy peace, Worth decided to press the war with an aggressiveness not matched by any of his predecessors. At the time he assumed command, 25 percent of his 4,8OO regulars were ill. With 3,7OO able troops and the hot summer fast approaching, Worth departed from the strategy of garrisoning troops during that time of year. He knew that despite his casualties, he could not grant the Indians a respite from the war at a time of year when the Seminoles
could produce crops and gather enough food to sustain them through another year of war. Worth's strategy would put his force into the field throughout the summer. Operating in small detachments, he sent his joint force of Army regulars and naval river boat units out to scour the rivers, swamps, and interior to locate the Indian hide outs. Worth's orders to his commanders left no doubt of his intent to destroy the will power of the Indians. He told his officers to remain on constant patrol as long as they had troops still able to walk or stand on their own feet. If they could not find the enemy, find his camps, find his food supplies, and wipe them out. Worth rightfully calculated that the Indians real center of gravity was not the strength of their force. If the Army shifted its focus to the enemy's resources, the Seminoles would have no choice but to surrender.124
Worth augmented his compaign by using Wild Cat to act as a delegate to meet with the bands at large and persuade them to surrender. Wild Cat had been broken. Worth gave the once vigorous and tenacious warrior a clear choice: either convince the other bands to migrate or the Colonel would hang his fellow captives. Worth used the same coercion on other prisoners (though he never actually followed through with a hanging). Always the choice remained consistent: either persuade other Indians to surrender or hang.125
By February 5, l842, Worth wrote the War Department a letter asking the
Secretary for permission to end the war. Worth estimated only 3OO Seminoles remained at large and they could not be forced to surrender, nor would they likely give up the fight under the terms of the Removal Act. He proposed the government should allow them to settle into a small reservation between the Peace Creek and Lake Okeechobee under the protection of a reduced force of Army regulars. The Secretary of War gave Worth's proposal serious consideration, but a council of General officers ultimately rejected it. With no options left to pursue, Worth relentlessly rounded up small parties of Indian camps.l26
Worth encouraged his troops to stay on the heels of the enemy by offering the soldiers a reward of 1OO dollars a piece for every warrior they killed or captured. Accordingly, on April l9, l842, the last real engagement of the war occurred at Lake Ahapopka. Chief Halleck and 4O Seminoles cleared a hammock and constructed a formidable stronghold, replete with log breast works and prepared fields of fire. Colonel Worth assumed personal control of the battle with a force ten times stronger than the hapless Indians. He attacked the strong point with two extended lines of infantry to the front and a small detachment of dragoons enveloping to the Seminoles rear. Once the dragoons made contact, the Indians dispersed. Ten days later, Halleck surrendered at Worth's camp with the remnants of his tiny band of Indians.127
By May, a new Secretary of War, John Spencer, told General Winfield Scott (now Commanding General of the Army) that the President wanted to end the war as soon as possible. Colonel Worth was free to end the war whenever he deemed appropriate. As for the Seminoles, those intractable bands could occupy the reservation originally proposed by Worth in February. With this letter of authority in hand, Worth spent much of his summer in conferences with the Seminole chiefs offering them a choice of either moving to the reservation or accept inducements to move to Fort Gibson, Arkansas Territory. A few Indians did accept government payments to move west, but the majority of the 3OO Indians chose to stay. Based on the situation, Worth declared the war over on August l4, 1842.128
The Third Seminole War
By l843, the Army shipped off over 3,8OO Seminoles to the Arkansas territory. Those Indians that remained in Florida eventually declined to approximately 1OO people. No records exist that indicate the numbers of Seminoles who perished in the Second Seminole War. By l848, Billy Bowlegs presided over the small band of Indians relegated to the Everglades. Bowlegs sincerely wanted to maintain peace with his white neighbors, but several episodes created by unsavory whites or renegade Indians shattered nearly eight years of peace. In July of l848, Indians attacked a plantation on New River, killing one man. By the end of August, five young Seminoles burned a store
on Pease Creek. Bowlegs made every effort to avoid another conflict. He made
assurances to the government's Indian agent that he would hunt down the guilty parties and turn them over to Florida authorities, and he did make good on his promise. However, the sporadic violence was enough to convince the Department of the Interior to mount another campaign to persuade the Seminoles to leave Florida.129
By December l855, the government had spent nearly $49,OOO in elaborate
schemes and payments, to convince Bowlegs to move his band out to Arkansas territory. But for nearly two years after the government made these payments, almost no contact occurred between the Seminoles and the whites. Then in December l855, a small detachment of Army engineers conducting a survey in the Everglades destroyed Bowlegs banana garden. Without provocation, the soldiers shot up the garden that took years for the Indians to grow. The next morning, Bowlegs and his warriors attacked the surveying crew, wounding a few. Within days, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis authorized Colonel John Munroe to raise five companies of volunteers and hunt down the Seminoles. Over the next two and a half years, the militia embarked on a campaign of destruction. The militia destroyed Seminole villages and dragged women and children from their homes. The war was very much a one sided affair, as the militia suffered the loss of only one officer. By l858, Bowlegs accepted a government offer of $6,5OO and $1,000 to each of his people if they moved to Fort Gibson. After his departure, an uncertain number, probably less than three hundred, remained in the Everglades.130 Officially Bowlegs agreement to migrate west marked the end of the Third Seminole War. However, a year later he returned from the Arkansas territory at the request of the government to try and induce other remnants to rejoin the tribe. Seventy-five Indians agreed to accompany Bowlegs on l5 February l859 and by doing so, carried out the last migration of Seminoles to the West under the ill conceived Removal Act.131
Some scattered pockets of Seminoles thoroughly resisted removal to the West and remained deeply entrenched in the remote regions of the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. After l859, the government gave up altogether any attempts to persuade these people to leave. Instead, the majority of military forces had transferred out of Florida, the militia moved back to their towns, and a majority of bases were abandoned. The bands eventually adjusted to their new peace, but it would be many years before they would ever grow to trust the whites ever again.132
In l855 a consensus taken by the Commission of Indian Affairs estimated 2,5OO Indians resided in the Arkansas territory. Between the final removal and the first year of the American Civil War, the Seminoles out West experienced turmoil and readjustment. Some of the people moved beyond Fort Gibson and settled into farming, using their government resettlement payments to build cabins, raise livestock, and grow crops. Other Indians loitered around the fort, spending their cash on liquor and generally running into trouble with the whites and other Indian tribes. There were periods of turbulence living under Creek administration. Most of these issues centered on subsistence and payment of annuities, both handled by the Creeks and subject to accusations by the Seminoles who felt they were being cheated. In truth, some Indian Creek agents hired by the government did engage in fraud, rip offs, and all sorts of other
scandalous activities to cheat the Indians out of food and money. However, the
Seminoles adjusted to their reservation at the Canadian River valley, developing their own internal councils, local administration, and tribal government. The United States eventually granted citizenship to the Seminoles and other tribes in March l9Ol. By l9O6 the President of the United States abolished tribal government and the Seminoles came under the full jurisdiction of Federal Law like every other tribe in North America133
Following Jesup's departure from the Florida theater, his successors shifted their military strategy to campaigns of active patrolling and protracted security operations. Gone was the Army's reliance on large maneuvers of brigade size columns scouring the countryside while dragging their baggage trains of supplies. The new commanders reshaped their forces into smaller detachments, supported by a network of forts and military roads which facilitated sustained operations in the field. Under these new strategies, the Army could keep their men engaged in relentless pursuit of the Seminoles into some of the most hidden recesses of Florida. Each of Jesup's successors considered it important to maintain communications with the enemy. In their view, they stood a better chance of accomplishing their mission if they encouraged the Seminoles to negotiate, rather than to continue searching for them all over the interior. Zachary Taylor's strategy of squares involved dividing the Florida territory into grids measuring 2O square miles and employing 2O man detachments to patrol their districts. He kept his men in a constant state of activity through active patrolling and engineer works. General Macomb interrupted the campaign after he arrived from Washington to conduct negotiations with the Indians. Macomb's meeting with the two war leaders, Chitto and Halleck, at Ft. King in May l839 showed promise for success. The Indians agreed to a cease fire and moved their band to a reservation intended to serve as their permanent home. Three months later, a band of l6O Seminoles shattered the peace when they attacked Dallam's store near the Pease River. After that, Taylor put his troops back into motion scouring their districts to locate the recalcitrant bands. During this time, Taylor resorted to using Blood Hounds to chase down the Seminoles. The dogs turned out to be totally useless as they only managed to track down two Indians.
Taylor departed Florida upon his own request after the public and Congress bitterly ridiculed him for using the dogs and failing to keep the peace. Armistead then assumed command in April l84O and redefined the operational boundaries inside his theater. However, The General understood the benefits derived by keeping with the strategy of employing small detachments in the field in constant search of the Indians. General Armistead astutely recognized his constant patrolling would have a severe impact on the Seminoles livelihood. He had mounted an aggressive campaign of chasing the Seminoles from their camps and destroying their resources. Armistead operations enabled him to bring 45O Indians into his camps under terms of surrender.
Colonel Worth became the last and most junior officer to command Florida
operations. Under his leadership, his troops conducted a fierce campaign of total war against the enemy. Worth rightly saw that the Indians' center of gravity lay in their resources--not their warriors. Thus, he set out to destroy everything that belonged to them, anticipating that once he denied the enemy their resources, they would face no other choice than to surrender. Wild Cat turned himself over to the Army shortly into the new campaign, and the Colonel wasted no time using the warrior to his advantage. Worth coerced Wild Cat into seeking out those bands that remained on the loose. But, by early l842, the theater commander estimated less than 3OO Seminoles remained at large in the interior, and they probably would never surrender. Accordingly, Colonel Worth followed suite with his predecessors and sent a letter to the Secretary of War asking him to consider allowing the Indians to remain in Florida. Inspite of Worth's request, a council of Generals recommended against it, and the war drug on for another seven months.
Not until August l4, l842, did the government finally oblige the Indians to remain in Florida. Thereafter, the United States provided the Everglades as a place for them to settle. For nearly seven years, the Indians lived in peace within their territory. Then in l848, a series of small incidents involving both whites and renegade Seminoles prompted Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War, to press for the removal of the estimated 4OO Indians to the West. The government spent a considerable fortune employing every sort of scheme to persuade the Indians to leave. When Chief Billy Bowlegs showed he would not be bought, Davis ordered the state to raise a militia to remove the Seminoles with force. From l855 to l858, the Florida volunteers carried out a campaign of harassment and coercion that bordered on out right brutality. By l858, Bowlegs succumbed to these tactics and agreed to migrate to Ft. Gibson with all but 3OO of his people, who could never be dislodged from their home.
Zachary Taylor's campaign of districts signaled a major shift in the U.S. Army's military strategy. From a historical perspective, a student of military studies could compare his plan to the Viet Nam war's fire base concept, but on a smaller scale: The construction of small outposts centrally located in a unit's area of responsibility from which troops would seek out and destroy guerrilla units operating in their area. Given time, his plan might of worked; however, according to Taylor, Macomb's attempt to negotiate a peace process showed a greater potential for resolving the conflict than the continued use of force. From a logistics standpoint, the districts, with their forts offering the principal basis for resupply, made perfect sense. Patrols could cover their
areas almost daily without pulling supply trains behind them. However, measured
against the need to protect the detachments, Taylor's plan might have incurred to much of a risk. Twenty man detachments do not present a credible force. The Indians had already succeeded in overwhelming far larger numbers of men. If Taylor had remained in the theater any longer, there is no telling if the Seminoles would have eventually pulled off another ambush. If they had, their attack on a 2O man detachment would have delivered another embarrassment for the Army.
Armistead's plan made better sense. His strategy did not change much in
concept, but it did provide stronger elements conducting the security patrols. His plan also featured another tactic of the counterinsurgency campaigns of later eras-- search and destroy missions. Armistead told his men if they could not find the enemy, then find their crops and homes and destroy them. The General pressed his men to continue their pursuit through the summer, denying the Indians any opportunity to build up their resources. His willingness to allow subordinates to fight as partisans gave his commanders the freedom they required to get in close to the enemy haunts and take them by surprise--a highly unorthodox decision for a General serving in an Army shaped according to the rigid standards of Winfield Scott.
Colonel Worth's campaign carried Armistead's plan to total war. He knew the Indians were feeling the debilitating effects of deprivation and sought to bring the war to a swift conclusion. He focused almost exclusively on destroying the enemy's resources. Wild Cat's surrender to William T. Sherman all but brought the war to an end. If this last of the fiery Seminole leaders buckled under Worth's relentless pursuit, then it was only a matter of time before the other tribes would give up the fight.
Worth's formal arrangement with the Indians of l842 to end the war brought an inconclusive peace. Witness l3 years later, the government's campaign to once again tear the remnants of Seminole clans from Florida. Small isolated incidents between whites and Indians continued inspite of the U.S. claim the war had ended. The war just went on until it wore itself out.
Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act lay at the core of the Seminole conflict. No one in our contemporary time could fail to see the immoral characteristics of the government employing military force to remove Indians off their own land. Competing demands over another people's land or territory has been the source of many wars throughout history. This competition for land certainly defined the relationship between the American Indian and the early Republic. The federal government would seek to negotiate a treaty or coerce the Indians to cede territory to white settlers. If the Indians refused to oblige, or when the settlers' interests conflicted with their Indian neighbors, the government inevitably pressured the Indians to move. Aside from the moral questions about Indian policy, the Seminole wars demonstrated how a well trained, conventionally led, and well equipped modern army can be frustrated for a long time by a well led and determined guerrilla force.
Despite the Indians resentment over the Removal Act, the policy in and of itself did not prevent the Seminoles from leaving Florida peacefully. Most of the elders reluctantly signed the Fort Gibson treaty. However, when Andrew Jackson added conditions which required the Indians to return Negroes back into the hands of slave owners, the Seminoles chose to fight. Essentially, Jackson's condition served as an obstacle to peace. Army commanders understood they could not achieve the administration's end state if the President clung to the slave policy. It should be noted, that Jackson added the slave issue as a condition of Indian migration two years after the Payne's Landing treaty. In today's era, the American public might consider such a shift in government policy as a form of mission creep. Regardless, now the Army not only had to force the Indians off their land, but the government gave them a new mission -- seizing the Seminole blacks and turning them back into bondage.
Beyond the controversy of the Removal Act Policy, lay the Army's handling of the war. More than just a few poor strategic decisions caused successive theater commanders to fail. From the outset of Winfield Scott's campaign, poor command and control impacted severely on his operations. The confusion created by two Generals at odds over who should take command in Florida impacted on logistics. After General Gaines ignored Colonel Jones's directive to remain in New Orleans, he brought his troops to Fort Brooke and consumed ten days of rations intended for Scott's army. Though Gaines can not be faulted for creating Scott's supply shortfall, he certainly aggravated the problem. Aside from the acrimony that already existed between Scott and Gaines, the appearance of both senior officers in Florida at the same time stirred confusion among subordinate commanders who inevitably wondered which General was in charge. General Clinch's dilemma served as the best example. On the one hand, he had received a plea from Gaines to come and rescue his beleaguered force at Camp Izard, while Scott on the other hand ordered Clinch not to send any more supplies or assistance to Gaines. This clearly put Clinch in the odd position of dividing his loyalty between two superiors.
Once Scott commenced his campaign, he experienced an enormous command
and control problem with his converging columns. He intended to have his three
commanders coordinate their advance on the Withlacoochee so they would arrive at their attack positions at the same time. The rugged terrain did not lend itself to this type of maneuver. On open ground, mounted horsemen could easily aid commanders in controlling the movements of their forces, but not in Florida. The terrain prevented that type of communications. As a consequence, Scott's three columns never established contact with each other, and they failed to launch a coordinated attack against the Indians.
The most obvious flaw in the Army's campaigns in Florida concerned the
strategy itself. Witness Clinch, Gaines, Scott, and Call all planning a strategy that was totally out of place with the Seminoles' methods of warfare. All of these commanders articulated a military strategy that attempted to fix Osceola warriors at the Withlacoochee and force them into battle. None of these experienced and well respected combat veterans understood the nature of the war. The Seminoles fought a guerrilla campaign in the classic style of hit and run engagements. Dade's massacre and the death of Wiley Thompson point out the Indian's preference for using ambushes to terrorize their opponent. They would not stay and offer the Army a fixed engagement unless it held out a strong chance for success.
Eventually, Florida commanders changed their strategies to adapt to the
Seminole nature of guerrilla fighting. Over the seven year period of the war, these changes occurred gradually, as troops of all ranks gained lessons and more experience. Jesup's campaign really marked the turning point in the war. His initial plan focused on the Seminole camps at the Withlacoochee. Once he learned Osceola fled with his Mikasukis to the Big Cypress, the General changed his strategy. He divided his force into separate brigades and permitted decentralized execution of the mission. Unlike Scott's campaign, Jesup's did not require his columns to coordinate their movements. Jesup also directed his commanders to sustain their operations for longer periods. Colonel Henderson kept his brigade in the field near the Big Cypress for over two months. Though his force failed to produce any Indian casualties, it did succeed in breaking down the will of several chiefs who surrendered their bands. Henderson's relentless pursuit drove the Seminoles into starvation and disease.
General Jesup and his successors all employed negotiations in support of their strategy. These commanders felt that dialogue with the enemy offered more promise toward ending the war and achieving the government's end state than chasing the Seminoles all over the swamps and jungles of Florida. Once the government dropped their demand for the Seminoles to return their Negroes, negotiations persuaded a significant number of Indians to surrender.
Jesup's second campaign offers a good example of the hammer and anvil tactics of counter insurgency operations. He employed four main columns. He directed one of the columns to advance south across the breadth of the entire peninsula while his other three columns operated in the vicinity of the Everglades, hoping to catch any Seminoles flushed from their hide outs by the advancing columns in the north. This maneuver did bring a certain success by forcing Wild Cat and his followers to make a stand at Lake Okeechobee against Taylor's 1st Infantry. Even though Taylor's force suffered considerable casualties, the engagement marked the first time the Army was able to force the Indians to fight a sustained battle. It also illustrates that the Seminoles would stand and fight when the terrain and the tactical situation offered them a reasonable chance for success.
Once Jesup departed the theater, his successors crafted strategies that proved more suitable to counterinsurgency operations. Taylor's campaign of squares featured a network of forts and roads interconnected across the peninsula. This invariably allowed his detachments to remain in the field longer. The small outposts maintained healthy stockpiles of rations and ammunitions that eliminated any requirement for the detachments to pull large pack trains. The forts and roads gave his troops the ability to stay in constant search of enemy hide outs and maneuver into some of the most remote regions of the territory. When Taylor relinquished command, Armistead redefined the interior's boundaries but he kept his detachments in constant pursuit of the Indians. He lightened his soldiers' loads and allowed his regiments to reorganize into partisan units. On several occasions his men achieved surprise and overwhelmed the Seminoles. Worth's plan made the final shift in strategy when he launched a campaign of total war. Like Armistead, he pushed his troops to press their patrolling throughout the summer. Despite the impact of illness and disease amongst his force, Worth relentlessly drove his men to the edge of their endurance. He, more than any of his predecessors, anticipated the Seminoles must have suffered considerable hardship by his pursuit. He predicted
the Seminoles center of gravity lay in their resources--not their warriors. He knew if he deprived the Indians of adequate food and shelter they would eventually surrender.
The Seminoles success against the Army demonstrates how dangerous a guerrilla force is to a military that is focused on preparing for a conventional conflict. When Osceola declared war, the American Army had never fought a classic guerrilla campaign. Winfield Scott focused Army training and doctrine on fighting the large scale conventional war in Europe. Officers at West Point did not receive training in Indian fighting or guerrilla warfare. Like the Army as a whole, West Point ignored the stark lessons of unconventional fighting and remained fixed on preparing cadets for war against a European power. This is how the Army viewed itself in the l9th century, largely as a conventional force patterned after the mightiest armies of Europe. Contrary to this view, a soldier's service in the l9th century focused on lending order to the
frontier and trying to compel the tribes to remain on their reservations. The
very nature of this service drew troops into violent confrontations with the Indians.
Army logistics in many ways impeded the commanders ability to fight the
Indians. At least in the first two years of the war, logistics, it could be argued, formed the Army's center of gravity. Commanders simply relied too much on large baggage trains to sustain their forces operating in the field. In the Florida terrain, the Army found it almost impossible to move wagons through the swamp and hammocks. However, the theater commanders eventually learned to do away with the large logistics trains and changed their concept to a strategy more suitable for the environment. Once commanders erected forts and outposts closer to their operating areas, they were able to stockpile enough rations and ammunition to sustain their men in the field over longer periods of time.
The greatest lesson of the Second Seminole War shows how a government can
lose public support for a war that has simply lasted for too long. As the Army became more deeply involved in the conflict, as the government sent more troops into the theater, and as the public saw more money appropriated for the war, people began to lose their interest. Jesup's capture of Osceola, and the treachery he used to get him, turned public sentiment against the Army. The use of blood hounds only created more hostility in the halls of Congress. It did not matter to the American people that some of Jesup's deceptive practices helped him achieve success militarily. The public viewed his actions so negatively that he had undermined the political goals of the government. By the time Worth assumed command, the Congress wanted the war to end.
The United States never achieved their end state. Though the Army did succeed in forcing most of the Seminole population to move to Fort Gibson, at least 3OO people remained in the Everglades. These were the intractables or the unconquered ones who eventually reached an agreement with the U.S. Government to remain in Florida. The fact that these remaining bands managed to elude capture should serve officers of today as a reminder of the folly behind a government trying to apply a military solution to a problem that demands political diplomacy. Four of the theater commanders recognized that and tried to convince political leaders that chasing every last Seminole man, woman, and child and forcibly removing them to the West was an impossible task. The longer the government pursued the policy the more unpopular it became for the American public, and, eventually, the war stained the reputation of the Army and the government itself.
If the Army failed to institutionalize the lessons learned from the Second
Seminole War, one reason lay in its lack of any advanced professional education.
William T. Sherman, General of the Army, and himself a veteran of the Seminole wars, created the forerunner of the Army's Command and Staff College at Fort Leavenworth--the School of Application for Infantry and Calvary. However, the two year school hardly served the purpose of educating officers in advanced study of warfare. It primarily instructed officers in grammar, penmanship, and general history. During the second year of an officer's instruction, the school proceeded into classes involving tactics communications, field fortifications, and military law. Not until l888 did the school do away with these basic studies and reorganize the curriculum into professional education that emphasized problem solving and warfighting. However, at no time in the l9th century did the Fort Leavenworth school study the lessons learned from the Second Seminole War or any other Indian war.134 Thus, with no medium to teach officers and soldiers the stark lessons of Indian fighting [A historical pattern was beginning to work itself out: occasionally the American Army has had to wage a guerrilla war,
but guerrilla war is so incongruous to the natural methods and habits of a well-to-do society that the American Army has tended to regard it as abnormal and to forget about it whenever possible. Each new experience with irregular warfare has required, then, that appropriate-techniques be learned all over again.]135
CHRONOLOGY OF KEY ENGAGEMENTS
The Dade Massacre
- 28 December l835
- 6O miles north of Fort Brooke (north of present day Tampa Bay).
- Strength of American forces: Regular infantry and artillary; lO3
- Strength of Seminole force: l80 warriors.
- American casualties: lOO killed and 3 wounded.
- Seminole casualties: Unknown.
Duncan Clinch's Attack at the Withlacoochee
- 29 December l835
- South bank of the Withlacoochee River.
- Strength of American forces: Regular infantry; 25O, Florida militia; 5OO.
- Strength of Seminole force: 25O warriors (estimated figure).
- American casualties: 4 killed and 59 wounded.
- Seminole casualties: 3 killed and 5 wounded.
Edmund Gaines's Attack at the Wthlacoochee
- 28 February l836
- North bank of the Withlacoochee River.
- Strength of American forces: l,lOO men comprising Six mixed companies of
regular infantry, artillary, and militia.
- Strength of Seminole force: l,lOO warriors.
- American casualties: 5 killed and 46 wounded.
- Seminole casualties: l known dead.
Winfield Scott's Attack at the Big Bend of the Withlacoochee
- 15 March l836
- Swamp area of the Withlacoochee Cove.
- Strength of American force: 4,O88 mixed regular and militia.
- Strength of Seminole force is undetermined.
- American casualties: 7 killed and 8 wounded.
- Seminole casualties: 2 known dead.
Jesup's First Campaign
- 27 December l836
- Jesup's operations aimed initially at the Withlacoochee then moved on to the
Big Cypress Swamp.
- Strength of American force: 45O regulars, 25O Marines, 35O volunteers, and
a Creek regiment of undetermined size.
- Strength of Seminole: l,2OO warriors (estimated number).
- American casualties: 5 killed.
- Seminole casualties: 2 known dead.
Jesup's Second Campaign and the Battle of Lake Okeechobee
- Late October l837.
- Jesup's campaign extended from the head waters of the St. John's River to the
- Strength of American force: 40OO combined Army regulars, Marines, sailors, and
- Strength of Seminole force: unknown.
- American Casualties: l2 killed and 38 wounded.
- Seminole casualties are undetermined.
Battle of Lake Okeechobee
- 25 December l837
- Battle fought in the south-east side of the theater in conjunction
with Jesup's second campaign.
- Strength of Zachary Taylor's force: Elements of the 1st, 4th, and 6th Infantry
reinforced with Missouri militia, l,O67 troops.
- Strength of Seminole force: 3OO to 4OO warriors.
- American casualties: 26 dead and ll2 wounded.
- Seminole casualties: 1O known dead.
Note: In most engagements the Seminoles would conceal their casualties by carrying off their dead and wounded, making it imposible for
commanders to determin actual number of enemy casualties.
CHRONOLOGY OF CREEK AND SEMINOLE TREATIES
The Fort Jackson Treaty, 9 August l8l4.
- Treaty signed by both parties of Lower and Upper Creeks after the Creek Civil
- Treaty crafted by Andrew Jackson.
- U.S. Government forced the Creeks to surrender 2 million acres of their land
in Georgia and Alabama.
- 1OOO Red Sticks refuse to comply with the provisions and flee to Florida.
Moultrie Creek Treaty, l8 September l823.
- Treaty negotiated between U.S. and the Seminoles at Moultrie Creek near St.
- Negotiated between Chief Neamathla (Red Sticks) and Indian Agent Col. James
- Treaty concentrated the Seminoles to 5,865,OOO acres of land south of the
Indians surrendered over 24 million acres.
- Area later enlarged to a region north of Tampa Bay.
- Neamathla's band allowed to settle on separate reserve in north Florida.
Payne's Landing Treaty, 9 May l832.
- Jackson's Indian Removal Act aimed to displace the Seminoles from their Florida reservations to lands in Arkansas Territory (present day Oklahoma)
- Signed by James Gadsden and l5 Seminole chiefs at Payne's Landing on the Oklawaha River.
- Indians claim the treaty is only binding if a delegation of their own inspects their new lands, is satisfied with them, and garners consent from their people.
- Gadsden claims that delegates consented to sign provisions for their people.
- Some Army officers claim Gadsden bribed a Negro interpreter to mistranslate the terms to the chiefs.
Fort Gibson Treaty, 28 May l833.
- 7 Indian delegates travel to Ft. Gibson, Arkansas to survey their new lands.
- The delegates claim the government coerced them into signing the document.
- The Fort Gibson Treaty prompts tribal members to make war against the whites.
The Treaty of Capitulation, 6 March l837.
- A group of Seminole chiefs meet with Gen. Jesup and agree to surrender their people at Fort Brooke and give up the war.
- Over 7OO Indians collect at Ft. Brooke awaiting transportation to the West.
- In June Osceola infiltrates the detention camp and clears out all 7OO Indians. The war drags on for 5 more years.
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF COMMANDERS
List of Commanders, Periods of Command, and their Major Strategies of the War.
Major General Winfield Scott, l8 Mar- l5 Apr l836
- Converging columns. Attempted to fix the Indians at one location and force
them into battle. He used the conventional doctrine of European warfare to
fight a guerrilla foe.
- His plan failed due to his lack of knowledge of the terrain and poor command &
Governor Richard Keith Call, 2l Jun- 2 Dec l836
- Attempted to apply similar strategy as Scott's. Employed naval assets as part
of his maneuver arm. Poor coordination between maneuver elements caused
Major General Thomas Sidney Jesup, 9 Dec l836- 29 Apr l838
- Most Successful of any theater commander. His first campaign was similar to
his predecessors. He shifts plans several times during the war.
- He employs an early version of the hammer & anvil tactics of 2Oth century
- He supports his strategy with negotiations and later resorts to treachery to
capture prominent chiefs.
- He succeeded in removing 2,9OO Seminoles to the Arkansas territory.
- Inspite of his success, many aspects of his strategy are unpopular with the
American public and Congress and eventually undermine U.S. policy.
Brigadier General Zachary Taylor, May l838- 2l Apr l84O
- He mounts first comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy.
- He partitions Florida into districts and assigns small detachments to
constantly patrol their areas of responsibility.
- Builds a labyrinth of roads and bridges to improve communications in the
- He also supports his strategy with negotiations that ultimately leads to a
cease fire and a promise from the govt. to allow the Indians to remain in
- Unwritten treaty between the govt. and the Seminoles breaks down.
- Taylor resorts to hunting Indians down with blood hounds and earns public
ridicule and harsh criticism from Congress.
Brigadier General Walker K. Armistead, 5 May l84O- 3l May l84l
- He continues counterinsurgency campaign. Reorganizes areas of responsibility
but adheres to Taylor's counterinsurgency plans.
- Targets Seminole resources for destruction and sets into a motion a campaign
that will shift focus to the enemy's food as their center of gravity.
Colonel William J. Worth, l Jun l84l- l2 Sep l842
- He embarks on a campaign of total war.
- He focuses destruction on Seminole crops and camps.
- He coerces prisoners into persuading fellow Seminoles into surrendering.
- The government directs him to seek a peace with the Indians and tells him to
offer the Seminoles a reservation near the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.
- 3OO Seminoles remained hidden in the Florida interior after the government
granted them their own reservation in Florida.
- Worth's peace plan with the Indians resulted in a tribe divided between
present day Oklahoma and Florida.
1 John K. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War,
Revised Edition (Gainsville: Univ. of Fla. Press, l967), 3.
2 Mahon, 7.
3 Mahon, 5.
4 Francis P. Prucha, The Sword of the Republic, the
United states Army on the Frontier., l783-l846, ( Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, l969), ll4-ll5
5 Mahon, 6.
6 James W. Covington, The Seminoles of Florida
(Gainsville: Univ. of Fla. Press, l993), 6.
7 Covington, 7.
8 Covington, 7.
9 Covington, 7.
10 Mahon, l2O. Note: Research into several weapons books
and other secondary sources concerning the Hall's rifle
failed to reveal any data concerning the Hall's rate of fire
or its range. A visit with Mr. John G. Griffiths, Curator
of Ordnance, Marine Corps Museums Branch, also failed to
uncover this information. Research into a number of
reference materials on ancient fire arms did not reveal any
information on the Spanish rifles that is discussed by Mr.
11 Virginia Peters, The Florida Wars (Hamden, CT: Archon
Books, l979), 49-5O.
12 Covington, 42.
13 Peters, 3O-3l.
14 Peters, 33.
15 Peters, 53.
16 Mahon 4O-49.
17 New Age Encyclopedia, under "Florida": "Physical
18 New Age Encyclopedia, ibid.
19 Mahon, l2l.
20 Peters, 79.
21 Peters, 83-84.
22 Peters, 88.
23 Mahon, 75.
24 Covington, 65.
25 Covington, 65.
26 Peters, 95.
27 Peters, 95.
28 Peters, lOO.
29 Peters, 99.
30 Mahon, lOl-lO2.
31 Mahon, 1O3-lO6.
32 Mahon, lO8.
33 Peters, 110.
34 Peters, 1O8.
35 Mahon, l38.
36 Mahon, l39.
37 Mahon, l42.
38 Mahon, l42.
39 Charles W. Elliott, Winfield Scott, The Soldier and the
Man (New York: The MacMillan Co., l937), 295.
4O Elliott, 3OO.
41 Elliott, 298.
42 Elliot, 3Ol.
43 Elliott, 3O2.
44 Elliott, 3O2.
45 Mahon, l44.
46 Elliott, 292.
47 Mahon, l52.
48 Elliott, 3O5.
49 Mahon, l54.
50 Mahon, l57, 161.
5l Hans J. Hoefer, Insight Guides Florida (Florida: APA
Publications, l989), 65.
52 Mahon, l68.
53 Mahon, l69.
54 Mahon, l73-l75.
55 Mahon, l8l.
56 Peters, l24.
57 Peters, l24.
58 Russell Weigly, History of the United States Army
(Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, l967), l47.
59 Weigly, l47.
6O Weigly, l7O-l7l.
6l Captain Thomas T. Smith, "West Point and the Indian
Wars, l8Ol-l89l" Military History of the West, vol.24, no.1
(spring l994), 3l.
62 Weigly, 162.
63 Mahon, l93.
64 Peters, l38.
65 Peters, l38.
66 Mahon, l98.
67 Peters, l39.
68 Peters, l39.
69 Peters, l4O.
70 Mahon, l96.
71 Mahon, 2Ol.
72 Mahon, 2OO, 2Ol, 2O3.
73 Mahon, 2O2.
74 Mahon, l96.
75 Mahon, 226.
76 Mahon, 2O4.
77 Mahon, 2O6.
78 Mahon, 2O6.
79 Mahon, 2O7.
80 Mahon, 2O7.
81 Mahon, 2O8.
82 Mahon, 2lO-2ll.
83 Mahon, 2O9.
84 Mahon, 2l4-2l5.
85 Mahon, 2l6-2l7.
86 Mahon, 2l8.
87 Mahon, 22O.
88 Mahon, 2l9.
89 Mahon, 2l9-22O.
9O Mahon, 227.
9l Holman,Hamilton, Zachary Taylor, Soldier of the
Republic (New York: The Bobbs - Merrill Co., l94l), l29-l3O.
92 Hamilton, l32.
93 Mahon, 228.
94 Hamilton, l33.
95 Mahon, 232.
96 Mahon, 234-235.
97 Mahon, 235.
98 Mahon, 238.
99 Covington, 96.
1OO Hamilton, 64l.
101 Hamilton, l38.
1O2 Mahon, 248.
103 Mahon, 25l.
104 Mahon, 25l.
lO5 Mahon, 254-255.
106 Mahon, 258.
107 Mahon, 262.
108 Mahon, 265.
109 Mahon, 266.
110 Mahon, 275.
111 Mahon, 276.
112 Mahon, 276.
113 Mahon, 243.
114 Mahon, 276.
115 Mahon, 278.
116 Mahon, 283-284, 289.
117 Mahon, 285.
118 Mahon, 285.
119 Mahon, 285.
120 Mahon, 287.
121 Mahon, 292-293.
122 Mahon, 295.
123 Mahon, 298.
124 Peters, 2O7.
125 Mahon, 3O6.
126 Mahon, 3O7.
127 Mahon, 3O8.
128 Mahon, 3l6.
l29 Peters, 27O-278.
130 Peters, 2O8.
131 Edwin C. McReynolds, The Seminoles (Oklahoma: Norman
and London Univ. of Oklahoma Press, l957), 287.
132 Covington, l45-l46.
133 McReynolds, 35l.
134 Dr. John Partin, A Brief History of Fort Leavenworth
l827-l893 (Ft. Leavenworth: Combat Studies Institute, U.S.
Army Command and General Staff College, l983), 43.
135 Weigly, l6l.
Covington, James W. The Seminoles of Florida. Gainsville: Univ. of Fla. Press, l993.
Covington's book provides comprehensive information about the Seminole tribe. The focus of his material centers on the history and culture of the Seminole people. The book examines the peoples origin and follows their history through the mid twentieth century. Details of the three Seminole wars are covered in general terms without detailed analysis of military operations.
Elliott, Charles W. Winfield Scott, The Soldier and the Man. New York: The MacMillan and Co., l937.
Elliott wrote a biography of Winfield Scott. The material covers his entire life time with a great deal of his material derived from Scott's personal letters and diaries. This book offers detailed information on Scott's campaign in Florida.
Hamilton, Holman. Zachary Taylor, Soldier of the Republic. New York: The Bobbs
Merrill Co., l94l.
Biographical work written on Taylor's life and military career. Source provides detailed account of his battle at Lake Okeechobee and his Command of the Florida theater. Note; the author writes a very favorable story about Taylor.
Hicks, James E. U.S. Fire Arms. Beverly Hills CA: Fadco Publishing Co., l957.
Source provided data and illustration on the U.S. Army's first patented
fire arm, the 1819 Halls rifle
Hoefer, Hans J. Insight Guides, Florida. Singapore: Hofer Press, l989.
The source is intended to be a travel guide for tourists traveling in
Florida. Provides general background about the Seminoles and their relationship
to the Negro.
Jamison, Susan. State Maps on file. New York: Facts on File Inc., l984.
Contains an excellent source for maps on the Florida terrain and baffle
Mahon, John K. History of the Second Seminole War. Gainsville: Univ. of Fla. Press., l967.
The author wrote an extensive account of the Second Seminole War. Research
into government policy and military activities provided valuable information
about the campaigns of the Fla. commanders.
McReynolds, Edwin C. The Seminoles. Oklahoma: Norman and London Univ. of Oklahoma Press., l957.
The author has written a concise historical account of the Seminole
tribes, their role in the Florida wars, and their history on the Oklahoma and
New Age Encyclopedia, Under "Florida" provided information of the physical setting of the terrain.
Dr. Partin, John. A Brief History of Fort Leavenworth 1827-1893. Ft. Leavenworth: Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, l983.
The author provides a very brief account of the history and development of
the Army's present day Command and General Staff College.
Peters, Virginia, The Florida Wars. Connecticut: Archon Books., l979.
Historical account of the history and culture of the Seminole people. The
book covers the peoples origins and their activities in all three Seminole wars.
Prucha, Francis P. The Sword of the Republic, the United States Army on the Frontier., 1783-1846. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, l993.
The author writes a historical account of the early history of the U.S.
Army and its role in the Indian wars from the post Revolutionary War up to the
beginning of the Mexican War
Capt. Smith, Thomas T. "West Point and the Indian Wars, l8Ol-l89l" Military History of the West, vol. 24, no. 1. spring l994.
Article written about cadet training during the l9th century. The author details his analysis of the Indian Wars, how many West Point graduates fought in these engagements, and the academy's casualty rate for each of the wars. The article offers good information on why the Army failed to retain lessons learned from these wars.
Weigly, Russell F. History of the United States Army. Bloomington: Indiana University Press., l967.
Author wrote an extensive history of the U.S. Army. Weigly's book discusses why the Army adopted French doctrine and tactics. Discusses how warfighting developed during the Seminole wars.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|