ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SECOND CAVALRY
By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.
Spain ceded Florida to the United States on July 17, 1821. Emigration from adjoining states began at once, but it was found by the new settlers that the most desirable land was occupied by the Seminole Indians, who were originally Creeks from Georgia. According to the census by the superintendent of Indian affairs in 1822, there were less than 5,000 of these aborigines, including 800 negro slaves. Their village consisted of log or palmetto huts surrounded by cleared fields of less than twenty acres.
After much insistence by the white people, a commission was appointed to make a treaty with the Indians in 1823. Under this treaty they were specifically limited to certain areas, and placed under the patronage of the federal government. The Indians did not like the provisions of the treaty, saying they were not given enough land upon which to live decently. There was much ill feeling between them and the settlers because of the difficulty of the latter in inducing the Indians to give up runaway slaves. After much persuasion, the chiefs reluctantly signed a treaty in 1833, whereby they agreed to remove to Arkansas and live among the Creeks. Their own people repudiated this treaty and positively refused to move to the new land. The chiefs were called together again in 1835, and when five refused to agree to the treaty, they were told by the commission that their names had been stricken from the rolls as chiefs. This of course heightened the ill feeling and suspicion of the Indians. In October, 1835, one of the friendly chiefs was murdered when he attempted to flee to the troops for protection. In December the Indian Agent, General Thompson, and an officer accompanying him were murdered just outside Fort King. A detachment of one hundred men, under Major Dade, while marching from Fort King to Fort Brooke, together with eight officers, was ambushed December 28, 1835, and all of the party killed, except two men who escaped. Plantations were attacked, and much of the state was soon laid waste by the bloodthirsty Indians.
Micanopy was the legitimate head of the Seminole nation but, being lazy and fat, he was more inclined to peace than many of the more active chiefs. Coacoochee was considered the most dangerous chieftain in the field because of his cunning manner of evading pursuit and his fleetness of rushing from one place to another. The most famous chief was Osceola, or Powell, a half breed born of an English father and Seminole mother. After his father and mother separated, he was reared by his mother among the Indians. By his aggressive spirit he had much influence among the chiefs and did much to persuade his people to strike the first blow. Arpeik, or Sam Jones, was chief of the Mickasukie branch of the Florida Indians. Because of his advanced age, said to be seventy, he planned war parties, accompanied them to the scene of action, and from afar witnessed their conduct, giving encouragement by incantations.
War was inevitable now and the government began assembling more troops in the territory. The general object was to quell the outbreak in order to give peace and security to the citizens, and to move the Indians to Arkansas. A system of calling into service untrained volunteers and militia prolonged the war and increased the expense. Between December 20, 1835, and December 31, 1840, there were called into service for various short periods 20,026 of these men. Results were not obtained by their services and by 1840 there were only 1,784 Florida and Georgia militia in the field, and none during the following year. At the beginning of the campaign the regular troops amounted to 1,681 only, including 303 marines. By November 30, 1837, the force consisted of the Second Dragoons, 563 men, the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Artillery dismounted, the First, Second, Fourth, and Sixth Infantry, a detachment of marines and recruits, total 4,322, and volunteers and militia numbering 3,825. After various difficulties in getting the force organized, Major General Jesup was placed in command in November, 1836.