The Seminole Wars of 19th century Florida were one of the starkest examples of government & military mishandling, racial misunderstanding, and untold human suffering in American history. Yet this series of three wars, starting in 1817 and not being fully resolved until 1858, costing the US government around 30 million dollars, and resulting in the deaths of some 1500 American soldiers for the removal or death of less than 6000 Seminoles, is hardly remembered today. To begin my research project on this long and bloody conflict, I read a few secondary source books to gain a thorough background knowledge of the subject. So far I have read The Florida Wars by Virginia Bergman Peters, the Seminole Wars section in The Seminoles of Florida by James W. Covington, Guns Across the Loxahatchee by Richard J. Procyk, the essay “The Battle at the Loxahatchee River: The Seminole War” by John B. Wolf, the specific account of one of the most infamous conflicts of the Wars – Massacre! by Frank Laumer, and have started The Seminole Wars by John and Mary Lou Missall that I hope to finish in the course of the project. Together they’ve given me a basic understanding of the Wars – here’s my best attempt at a concise summary of this incredibly complicated over-40 year long conflict!
There are many ways information about the past can be manipulated or presented in a specific light to influence how the public sees the event. I’ll be exploring how the Seminole Wars, which are today not considered a historical event to be proud of, have been portrayed and commemorated for the public, both at the time of the wars and in the present. I plan to gather factual information on the Wars from various secondary sources, such as the book The Seminole Wars: America’s Longest Indian Conflict by John Missall and Mary Lou Missall, and compare this with two types of presentations to the public. Primary source accounts of the wars written at the time, such as Woodburne Potter’s The War in Florida from 1836, may reveal bias in how the Wars were portrayed to the public at the time. I also plan to visit various battlefields, cemeteries, museums, and other Wars sites in Florida such as the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, and evaluate the facts, pictures, reenactments, artifacts, memorials, or plaques to see if there is a possible bias in what information was included and how it is presented to the public currently. I will also be exploring whether there is change over time in how biased or unbiased the commemorations are. To increase my understanding of bias in historical commemorations, I’ll also be looking at sources like James W. Loewen’s Lies across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong.