Monday, October 13, 2008

Once A Warrior Always A Warrior

How A Soldier looked during the Seminoe War
From the "Florida Frontier Guard" Seminole Wars Living History Association, 1835-1842.

In the Pottsville Miners Journal for April 13, 1867 the following obituary is listed. This is the first soldier from Schuylkill County who I have found that fought in the Seminole War in Florida in the years 1837 -1838.
Pennsylvania sent 510 men from the Pennsylvania Battalion of Infantry volunteers to the war.

Patrick Campbell, a native of Ireland , but for the last 39 years a respected citizen of Schuylkill County, died at his residence in West baranch valley, near Cressona, on Sunday last, aged 83 years. His remains were brought to Pottsville on Tuesday afternoon last, attended by a large concourse of friends and relatives and interred in St. Patricks Cemetery.
Mr. Campbell was a soldier in the United States service during the Florida War. Being always patriotic, during the Rebellion not withstanding his advanced age, he enlisted in a Schuylkill County Company and proceeded to Harrisburg to be mustered in, but was rejected by the mustering officer on account of his age.

Andrew Jackson’s campaign in the First Seminole War (1817-1818) did not succeed in subduing the Floridian natives. The United States government would decide later that removal of all Indians in Florida to the Indian Territory in the West (present-day Oklahoma) was the best solution for persistent conflict between the Seminole and encroaching white settlers.
By the terms of the Treaty of Paynes Landing (1832), the Seminole were supposed to migrate west of the Mississippi River within 36 months. By 1834, 3,824 Indians had made the move. The largest faction of Seminole, led by their chief Osceola (1804?–1838), refused to go. Osceola vowed to fight "till the last drop of Seminole blood has moistened the dust of his hunting ground." In response to his resistance, Osceola was briefly imprisoned. A few months following his release, he commenced attacks on the Americans.
On December 28, 1835 Osceola murdered Indian agent Wiley Thompson. The same day, Major Francis Dade and his U.S. soldiers were ambushed by 300 Seminole warriors near Fort King (Ocala). These incidents began the Second Seminole War. The natives retreated into the Everglades, began guerilla tactics against U.S. forces and fought desperately for more than seven years.
By 1837, the Seminole apparently had managed to force a truce. During negotiations, however, Oceola was arrested and confined first at Saint Augustine, then Fort Moultrie at Charleston, South Carolina where he died on January 30, 1838. His followers fought on. By 1842, they were nearly exterminated. Some 4,420 Seminoles surrendered and were deported to Oklahoma. A few hundred managed to remain in the Everglades under the leadership of Billy Bowlegs, their principal chief. The Third Seminole War would ensue.
The Second Seminole War proved to be the most expensive of the Indian Wars in which the United States was involved. It cost the lives of thousands of Seminole and 1,500 U.S. soldiers, as well as more than $30 million.

The citizen soldiers of the 2nd Seminole War included state militia units, and US Army volunteer units. Among the militia's of the several states in the 1830s there were the "common" and the "volunteer" militia. The common militia were average citizens organized into their local "beat" companies. In contrast, the volunteer militia companies included men willing to procure the adopted uniform of an "elite" volunteer militia company. These uniforms were often ornate, and occasionally rivaled the livery of the United States regulars in martial splendor. Regardless, of the tens of thousands of citizen soldiers who served in the 2nd Seminole War, only a few hundred belonged to such uniformed militia companies. The majority were from among the common militia, though some of these procured simple uniforms for service as US volunteers in Florida.
While many militia units in state service, principally Floridians, did service in the 2nd Seminole War, the overwhelming majority of the troops employed were US Army volunteers. These troops were raised within the several states following requests of their governors for volunteer units for Florida service. Some "volunteer militia" companies enlisted for muster into these US units, bringing with them their distinctive dress, but most were simply organized from scratch from among the common, un-uniformed, militia.
The documentary evidence suggests that the overwhelming number of militia and volunteer units of the 2nd Seminole War were armed with United States muskets or rifles, and corresponding accouterments.

From the web site of the The "Florida Frontier Guard" Seminole Wars Living History Association, 1835-1842.

1 comment:

Budd said...

It is amazing how few people have even heard of the Seminole Wars. The story of these wars is both fascinating and tragic, and much of the story has become lost. The site of Dade's Massacre you mentioned is one of the few Seminole War sites that is truly preserved, and if you ever get down to Florida, I do highly recomend seeing this important historical place.