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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Seminoles in Florida and Beyond

In 1513, Spain claimed the land now known as Florida.  At that time, more than 200,000 natives lived on the peninsula.  By the time of the American Revolution in 1776, disease and warfare had reduced the native population to less than 40,000.  More thousands had been made into slaves by English settlers starting in 1704.

By 1813, the United States had plans to clear lands for new settlement.  The natives were in the way.  The Creek War in Alabama forced the Creeks to give up millions of acres.  Many Creek Indians fled to Spanish Florida where they joined with native tribes living there. The combined tribes became known as the Seminoles.  This name means “wild people” or “runaways.”  Many slaves who ran away from Southern plantations also found a home with the native people in Spanish Florida.  

Their hope for safety did not last long.  By 1817, the U. S. military entered Florida to protect new American settlers on Indian land.  They also searched for the runaway slaves. These battles fought under General Andrew Jackson became known as the Seminole Wars.  For the next forty-one years, conflicts between American troops and the natives of Florida continued.  

This time of war was marked by several unsuccessful treaties.  The 1823 Ft. Moultrie Treaty required the Seminole to cede all their lands except for a small central reservation. The treaty of Payne's Landing nine years later set the timetable for removing the entire tribe west of the Mississippi River. Heavy resistance to this treaty under the leadership of Tribal leader Osceola lead to the second Seminole War in 1835. This war lasted eight years with 1500 American troop deaths including the massacre of 100 men in one battle. The number of Seminole deaths in unrecorded. 
The Seminole Nation removed to the West became part of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory. When they agreed to outside settlement in the territory in 1908, the Nation numbered 2,138, many with mixed blood of the escaped slaves who found refuge with them in earlier years. A separate number of "Seminole Freedmen" was counted at 986.  A refuge band of Seminoles of mostly former slave blood settled in Mexico across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass, Texas. 
During that time, Florida became a United States territory. In 1843, it became the 27th state.  More than 5000 of the Seminole people had been forced west of the Mississippi after being hunted down with bloodhounds They were herded like cattle onto ships to New Orleans and up the Mississippi River.  About 200 to 300 of them were able to flee into the swampy wilderness of the Everglades.  There they managed to survive alligators, mosquitos, snakes, suffocating heat and malaria to stay hidden until the 1890s.  Today more than 2000 Seminoles live on six reservations in Florida.

My Question for September contest: What future president earned fame during the Seminole Wars?

BIO: Barbara Scott is the author of several romances includingCast a Pale Shadow, Haunts of the Heart, and Listen with Your Heart. Her most recent West of Heaven earned the following quote from Romancing the Book: "Barbara Scott blends the perfect amount of suspense, romance, history, and humor into a wonderfully engaging novel. I definitely recommend this novel with 4 stars (Lovely Rose!) and two thumbs up! "  Barbara's next release Talk of the Town is a contemporary romantic comedy due out October 1, 2011.

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