Today, the Florida State Quarter Coin tells just one story of the state’s bloody history during the Seminole wars.
The Florida Department of State provides the following as background for the war:
The Treaty of Payne’s Landing, signed by a small number of Seminoles in May 1832, required Indians to give up their Florida lands within three years and move west. When the U.S. Army arrived in 1835 to enforce the treaty, the Indians were ready for war.
As Major Francis Dade marched from Fort Brooke toward Fort King, 180 Seminole warriors led by Micanopy, Alligator and Jumper attacked. Only one man of that army detachment survived the ambush.
The campaigns of the Second Seminole War were an outstanding demonstration of guerrilla warfare by the Seminole. TheMicos Jumper, Alligator, Micanopy and Osceola, leading less than 3,000 warriors, were pitted against four U.S. generals and more than 30,000 troops.
The Second Seminole War (1835-1842), usually referred to as the Seminole War proper, was the fiercest war waged by the U.S. government against American Indians. The United States spent more than $20 million fighting the Seminoles. The war left more than 1,500 soldiers and uncounted American civilians dead. And the obvious duplicity of the U.S. government’s tactics marred Indian-white relations throughout the country for future generations.
In his 1857 Biography and History of the Indians of North America, From Its First Discovery, Samuel Gardner Drake included the following description of the events 179 years ago.
On the 12 January, “Col. Parish, at the head of 200 mounted volunteers, composed of the companies of Capt Alston, Bellamy, and Caswell, had a sharp encounter with a large body of Indians near Wetumka, in Middle Florida.
The attack commenced with the advanced guard under Capt. Bellamy, who had been allowed by the enemy to pass their main body. Col. Parish immediately hastened forward to his support, when suddenly he was attacked on both flanks by the enemy in ambush.
The volunteers made an unsuccessful attempt to charge on horseback; they were then dismounted and formed in admirable order. They then charged the enemy in a manner worthy of veterans.
In the meantime, Capt Bellamy, having routed the attacking party opposed to him, fell back on the main body. The enemy were soon forced to take shelter in a thicket.
By this time, night coming on, it was not thought prudent to follow them, where the localities of the place and the darkness would have given them great advantages.
Our men rested on their arms in the open pine woods, prepared to renew the action at day-light; but during the night the savages effected their retreat.
Their loss must have been considerable, as six dead bodies were counted in one part of the field of battle.
Two days after, Col. Parish marched for Fort King, and arrived there in safety. He then proceeded to Powell’s [Osceola’s] town, and destroyed it. The volunteers then returned to Fort Drane.”
The best opinion can be formed of the distress of the people of Florida at this period, from the sufferers themselves, or those momentarily expecting to become such.
On the 16 January, a newspaper published at Tallahassee contained as follows: — “Since the engagement on the Wythlacoochee, no intelligence has been had of the main body of the Indians. The situation of the inhabitants east of the St John’s and south of St Augustine, is truly deplorable. New Smyrna has been burnt, and all the fine plantations in that neighborhood are broken up. Many of the negroes have been carried off, or have joined the savages. The Indians are dispersed in small parties, and when pursued they take refuge in the thickets, which abound everywhere, and fight with desperation, until they are dead, no matter by what numbers they are assailed. It is literally a war of extermination, and no hope is entertained of putting an end to it, but by the most vigorous measures. In the meantime, the number of the enemy is daily increasing by desperadoes from other tribes, and absconding slaves. The Mickasooky tribe is considered the leading [one] of the Seminoles. They have always been noted as the most ruthless and determined of the savage race.”
History is not always pretty.
The Florida State Quarter Coin against a battle scene background helps us remember the bloody struggles of the second Seminole War.