First Seminole War, Joe Knetsch

A Summary Of Joe Knetsch’s Book “Flordia’s Seminole Wars 1817 – 1858”

On Christmas Day I finished reading author Joe Knetsch’s book “Flordia’s Seminole Wars 1817 – 1858”.

The First Seminole War was faught under the leadership of General Andrew Jackson, a hero of the War of 1812. In 1817, Native Americans, within the Spanish ruled colony of Flordia, were crossing the border attacking settlers in the state of Georgia. The Spanish provided aid to Seminoles, and other Native American tribes, that were responsible for the attacks. Later, General Jackson found two British men, including one British Marine, who was providing aid to the Seminoles. General Jackson had both men hung, thus risking another conflict with Britain. Later in the war, without Congressional approval, Jackson invaded the Spanish Colony, took over multiple Spanish Forts to stop the trade of arms to the Seminoles, and installed a military Govenor of Flordia. The main consequence of this war was Spain’s decision to sell Flordia to the United States, rather then defending their colony from foreign intrusion. Many wanted the Seminoles to move westward, but a tentative peace was achieved while allowing the Seminoles to remain in Flordia.

The Second Seminole War, which lasted from, Dec 23, 1835 until Aug 14, 1842, while lacking the involvement of the British, was a more complicated affair. The American Navy conducted regular patrols around the Everglades to present the Spanish, in Cuba, from trading with the Seminoles that were attacking and killing settlers in southern and northern Flordia. There were various additional Native American tribes, such as the Creeks and the Miccosukees, whom were involved in this conflict. The Army compelled the Seminoles to abide by a treaty, that yhe U.S. Senate ratified, which mandated that the Seminoles move westward and to not have the free Blacks, some of which were escaped slaves whom were living among the tribes, move with them. A major reason why the second Seminole War dragged on for seven years was not just the ability of the Seminoles to slip away into the swamps, after engaging in guerrilla warfare, or the difficulty of sending the necessary supplies for soldiers stationed at U.S. Army forts that were surrounded by marshes and swamps, but due to the unwillingness of the Secretary of War, and other political leaders, to allow the freed blacks and former slaves to live with the Seminoles. A temporary peace was negotiated, but when Seminoles attacked and killed multiple settlers Flordia politicians encouraged the United States Congress to pass, which historians consider as the predecessor to the “Homestead Act of 1862”, which was the “Armed Occupation Act of 1842”. This law allowed for rations for settlers whom returned to their properties, that Native Americans had driven them away from, and provided free land for settlers who chose to settle as long as they were armed and proved that they could protect their own property. However, while this law was passed in Congress, the continual funding of the war ignited a debate between Democratic and Whig party members over abolition and slavery, some believed that the war was supporting the institution of slavery by seeking the apprehension of escaped slaves living along the Seminoles. During the Second Seminole War Winfield Scott, later a prominent Union leader in the U.S. Civil War, and Colonel Zachary Taylor, who would later be a hero of the Mexican American War and a future U.S. President, were leading some of the U.S. Army forces. While hundreds is Seminole warriors were killed in the second war, there were still a remainder of natives in the Everglades and other parts of southern Flordia.

Another period of peace, which almost led to war again after various attacks led to the deaths of various other settlers. Many Flordian settlers wanted another war because they wanted the remainder of the Seminoles removed from Flordia. Under pressure from politicians, and the settlers that influenced them, the U.S. Army increased it’s patrols of the Everglades and surveyors came out to plot lands for new settlers that were to arrive near the native territories. On December 20th, 1855, Seminoles had already seen growing evidence that they would eventually be driven out of their lands, by new settlers, so they went on the offensive, by attacking Lieutenant George Lucas Hartstuff’s command, which lead to the start of the Third Seminole War. The last Seminole War, which started as Jefferson Davis was ending his term as Secretary of War, did not consist of large battles between hundreds of soldiers and native warriors, like the previous two conflicts, but rather it was a war of attrition. A summer campaign, which was a continuation of Windfield Scott’s strategy in the Second Seminole War, involved soldiers burning down dens, villages, and food storages that the Seminoles had scattered across the Everglades. Many Seminoles, after losing their supplies of food, raised the white flag of surrender and after three years Seminoles, including their leader Billy Bowlegs, were sent westward out of their native lands. In fact, the last of the Seminole Wars was described by Doctor James Covington as “Billy Bowlegs War”.

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