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.
Fort Christmas, located in the present-day town of Christmas, Florida, was a short-lived part of the supply chain during the Wars and today is a museum. Their section on the Seminoles includes artwork, costumes, maps, artifacts, and a video on the Seminole Wars. The fort has much information available, about the Seminoles during the Wars as well as afterwards and up to the present, which is an interesting aspect to include. The video contained lots of information and was overall rather sympathetic to the Seminole cause.
“Only one American in six ever takes a course in American history after graduating from high school. Where then do Americans learn about the past? From many sources, of course…but surely most of all from the landscape” says James W. Loewen in his book Lies Across America. In my research I found that a major reason the costly Seminole Wars are not a well-remembered conflict was because the Civil War came directly on its heels, eclipsing it. Because of this, I think it’s very important that historical sites give thorough and relatively unbiased information on these Wars that contain so many hard-learned lessons in military decisions and conduct as well as cross-cultural interaction. In this part of my project I tried to identify where the sites were commemorating the conflict thoroughly and accurately , and where sites could use more work in order to better commemorate this conflict.
I ended up working on both primary sources and site visits at the same time, so these posts are going to come right on top of each other. It’s been really interesting looking at primary sources because I’ve been able to get more of an idea of the Wars from different perspectives. Granted, all of the accounts were written by Americans; however, quotes from different sources at least give an idea of the Seminole attitude, as well as the experiences of American settlers including women, and individual American soldiers – all of which are important to look at for a complete look at the Wars. I’ve been looking at a variety of sources – narratives written for the public, letters between American politicians and generals, General Taylor’s account of the 1838 Battle of Okeechobee, a FL General Assembly resolution, and the original Treaty of Moultrie Creek from 1823. All of these have provided an interesting perspective as to how the players in these Wars viewed the events and people involved in them.