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American Military Strategy In The Second Seminole War

 

CSC 1995

 

SUBJECT AREA Warfighting

 

 

 

 

AMERICAN MILITARY STRATEGY DURING

THE SECOND SEMINOLE WAR.

 

 

 

By

 

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

April l995

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

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.

 

PREFACE

 

 

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.

 

 

CONTENTS

Preface i

 

Chronology of Significant Dates and Events V

 

Chapter Page

 

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

 

Conclusions 96

 

Appendices

 

Maps l04.

 

Illustrations lO6

 

Chronology of Key Engagements 112

 

Chronology of Treaties 114

 

Chronological List of Commanders 115

 

Notes ll7

 

Annotated Bibliography l2l

 

 

 

LIST OF TABLES

 

 

Table Page

 

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

 

CHAPTER 1

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

 

 

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

Pease.

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.

 

 

Analysis

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.

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

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

 

 

Analysis

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.

 

 

CHAPTER 3

 

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