History of Florida


As the pace of settlements steadily increased, there was growing pressure on the US government to remove the Seminole Indians from the lands they had settled on in East Florida since they had been raiding white settlements in the state of Georgia to the north. There were also Black Seminoles that were the descendants of Africans, who had been granted their freedom, together with runaway slaves who had escaped from the rice plantations of South Carolina and Georgia. Together, they had fled into the Spanish Florida wilderness during the early to late 1600s. By the early 1800s, they had formed their own communities in the neighbourhood of the Seminole Indian settlements. Together, these two groups formed an alliance that was both multi-ethnic and involving both races.

This alliance further inflamed the Georgia landowners with the result that clashes intensified between the white settlers and the Indians. As new settlers appeared, the position further deteriorated.

In 1823, in accordance with the Treaty of Moultrie Creek, the Seminoles gave up any claims to land within the Florida Territory and, in return, they received a reservation in the middle of the Florida peninsula. However, by 1928, the movement to move all the Indians in the United States to west of the Mississippi River grew in intensity.

In 1832, the US government finally agreed to sign the Treaty of Payne's Landing with some of the Seminole chiefs. This treaty promised the Seminole Indians lands for settlement to the west of the Mississippi River on condition that they agreed to leave Florida of their own accord. Although many of the Seminoles accepted the terms of the treaty and agreed to leave, there were a number of prominent Seminole chiefs who had no intention of leaving and did not accept the treaty. In fact, they were quite prepared to defend their claims to the land which they had received in the 1823 treaty. As the position gradually deteriorated, pressure mounted on the government by the white settlers to remove all of the Indians from the area, and to use force, if necessary. Finally, in 1835, the US Army arrived and was directed to enforce the treaty.

The "Dade Massacre" was an 1835 defeat for the United States Army which turned out to be the catalyst that started the Second Seminole War that lasted until 1842. On December 23, 1835, two U.S. contingents consisting of 110 men under the command of Major Francis L. Dade, left Fort Brooke (now called Tampa), on a mission to supply and reinforce Fort King (now called Ocala). They were ambushed by a surprise attack from a 180 Seminole Indian force, which left only one surviving trooper.

For seven years after the start of the Second Seminole War, a force numbering some 900 to 1500 Seminole Indian warriors were very effective employing guerrilla hit and run probing actions against the US Army troops. Osceola was an influential leader of the Seminoles in Florida, and maintained much influence on Micanopy, the highest-ranking Seminole chief. In 1837, Osceola was arrested upon arrival in Fort Payton for what he understood were negotiations to find a truce, and was duly imprisoned. The deceitful way in which Osceola's was captured created a national outcry. He died of malaria three months later whilst in prison. He came to epitomise the war and the struggle of the Seminoles.

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