Seminole Wars: Conclusion

Through the course of this project, I had to come at the three categories – secondary sources, primary sources, and sites – with very different approaches and different analyses. Secondary sources provided basic knowledge of the three conflicts, while showing that no historical source can be truly neutral because they are all created by specific people with specific agendas in specific contexts. Primary sources provided important additional perspectives, as a major form of bias is not showing all perspectives. At the same time, they illustrated the biases and attitudes of the time and possible motives behind these. The sites I visited showed bias through a lack of publicity and accessibility for crucial sites of the Wars, and lack of updated and thorough information at many sites.

The Seminole Wars were an important part of American (especially Floridian) history. In terms of time, expenditure, human suffering and loss of life, and lessons to be learned in diplomacy, military strategy, and even racial relations, it is as relevant a series of conflicts as any in American history to us today, and deserves to be remembered as such. As is often the case, sources from the time present the view of the eventual victors and the only side that kept written records, while modern historians try to remedy the wrongs of history in secondary sources by presenting a more complete view, more sympathetic to the struggles of the evicted people. At the sites I visited, where skewed portrayal or information existed, it was either in the form of outdated and/or lack of thorough information, or lack of accessibility and publicity about the sites themselves. This is bias because it speaks about the priority and importance placed on these conflicts by whatever organizations have the ability to upkeep them. There are, however, some sites created by local initiative which are very helpful and informative perhaps due to local perceptions of ownership of the history.

It is possible that because these conflicts were located only in Florida, they appear not to have as much national significance as a conflict like the Civil War, and I think that this perception may be a big reason this conflict does not have more exposure. In fact, in addition to the lessons that can be taken from the mistakes made in these costly Wars, there were tangible repercussions in other parts of the country.  Militias of young soldiers from southern states like Tennessee came down into Florida to fight and die to protect both Floridian settlers and the Southern slaveholders’ way of life that was threatened by black Seminoles. Guns Across the Loxahatchee tells of how a group of black Seminoles who were relocated west faced enslavement in a pre-abolition era US, and so crossed the border into Mexico and made a deal with Mexican President Santa Anna in 1849 for farmland in exchange for protecting the border against the Apaches and Comanches. After abolition, many of these black Seminoles fought valiantly for the US Army as border scouts. In addition, the Seminoles go down in history for the tenacity and comparative success they showed in fighting US removal efforts in the midst of the infamous era (the era of Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830) of Native American tribes being forcibly pushed off their native lands by an expanding American nation.

The surprising part of this project for me was finding out just how much significance this series of conflicts has for American history, and yet how little-known they are. I think that much of the problem is that it is not considered an important enough conflict on a national scale to be included in the general history of the US that most people know. The more people hear or learn about this conflict, the more it is talked about as an important part of American history, the more likely it will be that the Seminole Wars monuments, memorials, and commemorations will receive the care and attention they deserve.

 

Sources:

 

Covington, James W. The Seminoles of Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida, 1993. Print.

Laumer, Frank. Massacre! Gainesville: University of Florida, 1968. Print.

Loewen, James W. Lies across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong. New York: New, 1999. Print.

Missall, John, and Mary Lou Missall. The Seminole Wars: America’s Longest Indian Conflict. Gainesville: University of Florida, 2004. Print.

Peters, Virginia Bergman. The Florida Wars. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1979. Print.

Procyk, Richard J. Guns across the Loxahatchee: An Archaeohistorical Investigation of Seminole War Sites in Florida, with Special Focus on the Battle of Loxahatchee, January 24, 1838. Melbourne, FL: Florida Historical Society, 1999. Print.

Wolf, John B. The Battle at the Loxahatchee River: The Seminole War. Jupiter, FL: Loxahatchee Historical Society, 1989. Print.

 

Treaty of Moultrie Creek, 1823

“Resolution of the General Assembly of Florida, in reference to losses sustained by citizens of Florida in the Seminole War” (March 3, 1851, to Congress)

Blanchard, Daniel F., and Mary Godfrey. An Authentic Narrative of the Seminole War: And of the Miraculous Escape of Mrs. Mary Godfrey, and Her Four Female Children. Annexed Is a Minute Detail of the Horrid Massacres of the Whites, by the Indians and Negroes in Florida, in the Months of December, January and February. Providence: D. F. Blanchard, 1836. Print.

Col. Taylor. “Colonel Z. Taylor’s Account of the Battle with the Seminole Indians near the Kissimmee River, in Florida, on December 25, 1837.” Letter to Brig. Gen. R. Jones, Adjutant General U.S. Army. 4 Jan. 1838. MS. N.p.

Governor of GA. “War with the Seminoles.” Letter to Gen. Gaines. 5 Feb. 1817. MS. N.p.

Monroe, James. “War with the Seminole Indians.” Letter to House of Representatives. 25 Mar. 1818. MS. N.p.

Perryman, George. “War with the Seminoles.” Letter to Lt. Sands. 24 Feb. 1817. MS. N.p.

Secretary of War. “Letter from the Secretary of War, in Reply to a Resolution of the House of Representatives of the 21st Ultimo, as to Whether Any Seminole Indians, Coming in under a Flag of Truce, or Brought in by Cherokee Indians, Acting as Mediators, Have Been Made Prisoners by General Jesup.” Letter. N.d. MS. N.p.

A True and Authentic Account of the Indian War in Florida,: Giving the Particulars Respecting the Murder of the Widow Robbins, and the Providential Escape of Her Daughter Aurelia, and Her Lover, Mr. Charles Somers, after Suffering Almost Innumerable Hardships. : The Whole Compiled from the Most Authentic Sources. : Embellished with a Colored Engraving. New York.: Published by Saunders & Van Welt. Broadway., 1836. Print.

 

Historic Sites:

– Dade Battlefield Historic State Park (Bushnell, FL)

– Castillo de San Marcos (St. Augustine, FL)

– St. Augustine National Cemetery (St. Augustine, FL)

– Osceola capture site marker, Site of Fort Peyton (St. Augustine, FL)

– Riverbend Park (Jupiter, FL)

– Tennessee Volunteers Campsite marker (Jupiter, FL)

– Fort Christmas Historical Park (Christmas, FL)

– Jupiter Lighthouse Museum (Jupiter, FL)

Comments

  1. Wow Avery! I’m really impressed by your project! This is kind of embaressing, but I had never even heard of the Seminole Wars before I read your project. But considering the important role they played (especially in precipitating the Civil War!), I’m really surprised (and unimpressed) that I haven’t learned about them before now. Your posts are all so interesting! I am especially intrigued by the black Seminoles; do you know (or is there any way of knowing) how big of a presence they were in the Seminole communities? Does anyone know if there were more black Seminole slaves or black Seminole citizens?

  2. Anuraag Sensharma says:

    Avery, this is really well-researched and well-written; I’ve learned a lot from your posts! Like Claire, I was also surprised that I’d never heard about a forty year long conflict in a high school history class. In our textbook, the eviction of Native Americans did not get very much attention at all. I thought it was interesting that you found modern day secondary sources to be more sympathetic to the Seminoles, while textbooks try to minimize discussion of European injustices towards Native Americans. Do you have any thoughts as to what would be behind that disconnect?

    I was also curious about what you were saying about the Seminoles owning slaves as well as harboring runaway slaves. Did the Seminoles buy slaves just to free them from white slaveholders, or did they actually treat them like slaves? Thanks for working so hard on this; this has been really fascinating to read about!

  3. lhartmoynihan says:

    Hey Avery! Your topic on the Seminole Wars in Florida is fascinating. One of your most interesting points to me addresses the cooperation between African slaves and the Seminoles in Florida. You mention that there were “prosperous slave villages” which operated under the care of the Seminoles and that the slave villages contained African slaves who had been bought by the Seminoles themselves or won as booty by them in warfare against whites. You also mention some “free blacks.” Were you able to find out if there was ever a dialogue about freedom between the Seminoles and the Africans, and if Seminole owners of African slaves ever offered liberation to their slaves?