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Volume 36, No. 7 – July 2023

The President’s Message:

The Round Table will not be meeting in July or August.  I look forward to seeing everyone in the fall.  If you have a program you would like to give, please call me at 561/967-8911.  We are scheduling presentations for the coming months and look forward to a return engagement by Patrick Falci and Robert Macomber.

Gerridine LaRovere

July 12, 2023 Program:

There will be no July meeting.

June 14, 2023  Program:

Guy Bachman has worked with the Florida Architectural Society, Florida Anthropological Society, and was President of the Loxahatchee Battlefield Preservation.  He was a member of our organization way “back in the day.”  His topic is “Members of the military who served during the Seminole Wars in Florida who later rose to fame during the Civil War.”

The presentation has been divided up into five parts.  They are the time period leading up to the Seminole Wars, the 3 wars, and the coming American Civil War.  Guy began his talk by noting that our group has gotten a lot smaller today than it was when he was an active member.  All history focused groups are feeling the pinch of downsizing.  This is because history is not being taught in our schools.  By way of an introduction, it was mentioned that many of the leaders in the Civil War “got their feet wet” as lieutenants in the Seminole Wars.  This was quite literal as those wars were fought in the swamps of Florida.

Imagine what Florida was like in the 1830s.  Where we are there were no cities.  You had to go down to Key West before you would run into citizens of the United States.  It was the biggest city in Florida for 90 years.  In 1850 it was the richest city in America on a per capita basis.  And how did it come into all of this wealth?  It was the center of the “wrecking industry.”  You had to go to northern Florida before you would find anything that could be called a city.  These were settlements such as Tallahassee and Jacksonville.  By the way Jacksonville was named after Andrew Jackson.  Guy mentioned that he often plays the part of the good general in living history presentations.

JacksonThe first Seminole War began when Florida was actually a Spanish possession.  The year was 1817.  Spain was a waning power at this time.  The Seminole came from the Creek tribe.  Jackson had fought the Creeks in 1814 so he was no stranger to the people who became the Seminoles.  The Spanish gave them cover as these people acted as a buffer against invasion by the English speakers.  But the Seminoles raided the southern United States.  This was mainly things like cattle rustling.  They would hit Georgia and then run back to New Spain and hide.  Needless to say, the Georgia ranchers were not happy and wanted the government to “do something.”  So, General Andrew Jackson led an incursion into the territory over Spanish objections.  Jackson was an American hero from his action in the War of 1812 and well known as a successful Indian fighter. 

It is important to know that the Seminoles were not one tribe, but a collection of Indian nations who banded together in Florida.  Among them were the Creeks, Oconee, Alachua, and the Tallahassee.  This led to issues when America would make a treaty with one of the sub groups the other groups would claim to know nothing about that treaty.  Jackson's forces destroyed several Seminole towns.  One such incident was known as the Scott massacre.  He proceeds to Pensacola and captures it because the Spanish did not want a fight.  They were terrified of what they called the “Napoleon of the Woods.”  The major reason for this action was to acquire the territory of Florida for the United States.  A few years later we did purchase it for five million dollars.  We really got it for free as American settlers in Florida owed Spain about five million so Florida cost us nothing.  By 1818 the first war was over.

The second war was longer, 1835 – 1842.  It was the longest and most expensive war in American history.  It cost over thirty million dollars in 1830 dollars.  The Treaty of Moultrie Creek was an agreement signed in 1823 between the government of the United States and the chiefs of several Seminole groups.  It allowed the Seminoles to stay in Florida for 20 more years.  However, Jackson became president in 1829.  He did not honor any treaties with any Indian tribe.  In 1835 Jackson sent Major Francis Langhorne Dade down Fort King Road, the first highway in the state, to try and quell the Seminoles.  The Indians did not like the fact that the treaty was not being honored.  Dade had 105 men when he was ambushed in what became known as the Dade Massacre.  As Dade was nearing his destination his party was ambushed by 180 warriors led by Micanopy.  One of the first shot killed Dade who was an obvious target riding a horse.  At about the same time the famous Indian, Osceola, killed the Indian agent, Wiley Thompson who had once arrested him and put him in cuffs.  Thompson and all of his associates in Fort King were killed.

Of Dade’s men about 50 survived the initial attack, retreated, and built a make shift fortification made of logs which Guy called a pig pen.  That fort is still there today.  The Indians were about to leave when one of them named Jumper said no.  He said “we have done well, but now we have them in a pig pen.”  Only three survived the slaughter.  As time went on many forts were constructed.  They were given names to commemorate those who were in the massacre.  Many of the Seminoles who fought were black, and they were called Black Seminoles.  They still were slaves to the Seminoles, but they felt they got a better deal from the Indians.  Later on, some became leaders and even chiefs, like Abraham.

There were other massacres in the early days of the 2nd War.  Guy described one that occurred on the New River involving a wrecker and mill owner named William Cooley.  He sold a kind of flour to the Seminoles from his mill.  One day, when he was out wrecking, the Indians came to his home and killed his wife and baby.  There were many such incidents all over the state.  Most of these favored the Seminoles.  The Americans went through seven generals in seven years trying to find what strategy and tactics would work.  It was very rough to combat the hit ‘n run approach used by the Seminoles.

Winfield Scott was here for a while where he tried Napoleonic tactics without success.  EventuallyJesup they got General Thomas Sidney Jesup who was sent to Florida to take command of the campaign in 1836.  Instead of futilely pursuing parties of Seminole fighters through the territory as previous commanders had done, Jesup changed tactics and engaged in finding, capturing or destroying Seminole homes, livestock, farms, and related supplies, thus starving them out.

About the same time a famous escape happened at Fort Marion in St. Augustine.  There was a famous Indian leader held prisoner at the fort known as Wild Cat.  He lost some weight, pulled out a bar, jumped 30 feet, and made good his escape with several others.  Osceola, who was quite old and also a prisoner, was too weak to escape.  Osceola remained confined there until he was moved to Fort Moultrie near Charleston, SC where he died.  The doctor who performed the autopsy cut off his head which made its way up to a museum in New York.

The most famous battle of the War was the Battle of Okeechobee on Christmas Day, 1837, under the command of Colonel Zachary Taylor.  Taylor commanded about 1,000 Missouri volunteers and federal troops.  They faced 400 Seminoles who knew the soldiers were coming.  The Indians sent a warrior to talk to Taylor.  The American were led to the lake shore where the Seminoles were hidden in the sawgrass.  They wanted Taylor to perform a frontal assault which he did.  The American suffered tremendous losses, but they pushed the Indians into the lake.  Yet, even then some of the warriors escaped.  Taylor became famous from the Battle of Okeechobee.

But the biggest battle of the war was just about to happen.  The soldiers pursued the Seminoles to the Loxahatchee River.  The Indians were outnumbered 1,600 to 200 – 300.  The story was not so much about the battle, but the American Joseph E. Johnston.  He was 21 years old and was attached to a small naval force as a topographical engineer.  It was the first encounter known as Powell’s Battle.  Powell was a navy officer with 100 men.  He spots a smoke signal and follows it into the woods.  It was a trap.  300 Indians shoot all of the officers with one blast.  The Seminoles had rifles, but Powell’s sailors had only muskets.  However, while the rifles were very accurate at long range the ball was very small so often the target was only wounded.  Johnston was shot seven times, but he was wearing a frock coat so he was only slightly injured.  He led a rear-guard action.  He maintained good control of the men who performed a retreat under fire.  Johnston had small groups of men stop and return fire so his small band made good their escape.  Guy told the story of a black sailor who carried the wounded Lt. Fowler back to safety.

The next story was a 200-mile march through the swamp.  The officer who led this march was Lt. Robert Anderson who will become famous at Ft. Sumpter.  His role during the Seminole Wars was to build roads and bridges under the most trying conditions of tropical Florida.  Military Trail is one such road.  Biting insects was a problem.  One technique they employed was to rub themself with cow dung at night.  The heat, insects, and tropical diseases led the soldiers to die sometimes by their own hand as suicide.

Our story briefly touched on the story of Major William Lauderdale and his interaction with Jesup, the commander.  The major was leading the Tennessee Volunteers who thought they were being badly treated by the regular army.  At one point in the battle the boys from Tennessee were ordered by Jesup to cross the river to attack.  Lauderdale balked and Jesup threatened to shoot the major.  But thinking better of the idea, that this action might not sit too well with Andrew Jackson, Jesup to the lead and headed the volunteers across the river.

As the war moves on Jesup is getting sick and tired of the fight.  He decides on his own to make peace.  Now he is not political, he is an Army officer.  But he takes things into his own hands and makes a deal at a place called Camp Truce near today’s Boynton Beach.  He makes an agreement and then writes the President who turns the letter over to Secretary of War Joel Roberts Poinsett.  Poinsett rejects the deal.  Jesup is told he must remove the Indians to Arkansaw or annihilate them.  Nothing was settled, there was no movement by anyone, and the war dragged on for four more years.

Finally, in 1842, Tyler becomes President.  He is a Whig and they were always against this war.  The war had always been unpopular.  The Third Seminal War (1855–1858) was not a very big deal.  Some Seminoles did some raids on the growing settler villages.  However, the Indians were sick of the war too.  When some white settlers were killed, the Indian leader, Sam Jones, said he would find out who did the killing and handle it himself, which he did.  By 1858, most of the remaining Seminoles were war weary and facing starvation so they agreed to move into the Big Cypress Swamp.  They never surrendered nor did they sign any peace treaty.

At this point in the presentation Mr. Bachman presented short clips about people who ended up in the Civil War.  The first noted soldier was Lt. Jubal Early.  He fought in the battle of Loxahatchee; however, he was best known for his raid on Washington in the fall of 1864 in the Civil War.  During that operation Early ran into Lou Wallace, another Seminole War participant, on Saturday, July 9, 1864, at the Battle of Monocacy.  Although Early with an estimated 15,000 troops defeated Wallace's troops, the fight forced Early to retire to Baltimore.  The effort cost Early a chance to capture Washington, D.C.

Adding to the cast of Seminole Wars characters was Braxton Bragg.  He was involved in the Battle of Nashville, among other engagements, but he was not known as a great general.  They named a fort after him, but they are in the process of renaming it from Fort Bragg to Fort Liberty.  Stephen Mallory was a famous politician and judge from Key West.  He fought in the 2nd Seminal War.  He ended up as the Confederate Secretary of the Navy.  Another young lieutenant was George Thomas.  He started in Florida and gain considerable fame as the “Rock of Chickamauga.”  Abner Doubleday participated in the brief 3rd Seminal War.  Whether he invented baseball is up for debate, but he played a pivotal role in the early fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg.  In 1858, now captain Doubleday was the last commander of Fort Capron near St. Lucie.

The list of names was rounded out by Edward Ord, John C. Pemberton, Samuel P. Heintzelman, A. P. Hill, George G. Meade, and William T. Sherman.  At the end of the presentation Guy passed around two maps one of which is shown here.


Davis map





Last changed: 06/27/23