Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]

it is that those officers should have been there under commissions i in. structions of such a nature as to set them in such an awkward pvõiii in respect to each other, I will not take upon me to state, the facts leis g of sufficient notoriety.

A writer has given the following facts relative to the Seminoles recently, and, as they are suited to my course of remarks, I give them in his own words :—“Shortly after the cession, [of Florida to the U. S.) a treaty was made by which the Seminoles consented to relinquish by far the better part of their lands, and retire to the centre of the peninsula,—a quarter consisting for the most part of pine barrens of the worst description, and terminating towards the south in unexplored and impassable marshes. When the time came for the execution of the treaty, old Neha Mathla, the head of the tribe, thought it savored too much of the cupping and whiskey of the white man, and summoned his warriors to resist it. Gov. Duval, who succeeded Geni. Jackson in the chief magistracy of this territory, broke in upon his war council, deposed the war leaders, and elevated the peace party to the chieftaincies.

The Seminoles retired peaceably to the territory assigned them, and old Neha Mathla retired to the Creeks, by whom he was raised to the dignity of a chief.”

The next erept of considerable moment in the history of the Seminoles, is the treaty of Payne's Landing. Of this affair I am able to speak in the language of the principal agent in it, on the part of the whites. The individual to whom I refer, General Wiley Thompson, will be particularly noticed hereafter, from the melancholy fate which he met in the progress of this war.

I have, in a previous chapter, spoken of the treaty at Moultrie Creek; but, before going into the particulars of that at Payne's Landing, it will be necessary to make a few additional observations. The Indians who consented to that treaty, by such consent agreed “to come under the protection of the U. States, to give up their possessions, and remove to certain restricted boundaries in the territory, the extreme point of which was not to be nearer than 15 miles to the sea coast of the Gulf of Mexico. For any losses to which they might be subjected by their removal, the government agreed to make liberal donations, also to provide implements of husbandry, schools, &c., and pay an anuuity of 5000 dollars for 20 years; besides which there were presents of corn, meat, &c. &c. It was required of the Indians that they should prevent absconding slaves from taking refuge among them, and they were to use all proper exertions to apprehend and deliver the same to their proper owners."

Our account next goes on to state, that the harmony which existed at the conclusion of this treaty was very great, and that the Indians were so well satisfied with its provisions, “ that they had a clause expressly inserted, by which the United States agent, Major Gad. Humphreys, and the interpreter, Richards, were to have each one mile square, in fee simple, as a mark of the confidence they reposed in these officers of the government.”

Before this treaty was carried into effect, the Indians were intruded upon, and they gradually began to be rather slow in the delivery of the runaway negroes. Clamors were therefore loud against them, and difficulties followed, in quick succession, for several years. At length it was determined that the Seminoles should be, somehow or other, got out of Florida, and the treaty of Payne's Landing was got up for this object.

Accordingly, in 1832, on the 9th of May, a treaty was entered into “ Ocklawaha River, known by the name of the treaty of Payne's Landing, by which they stipulated to relinquish all their possessions in Florida, and emigrate to the country allotted to the Creeks, west of the Mississippi ; in consideration of which the government was to pay 15,400 dollars, on their arrival at their new home, and give to each of the warriors, women and children one blanket and one homespun frock. The whole removal was stipulated to take place within three years after the ratification.”

What object the government could have had in view by stipulating that the Indjans should deliver into its hands all their cattle and horses, previous to their emigration, I know not, unless it was the intention of its agents to speculate in stocks ; or perhaps the mode by which the Indians were to be transported, would not admit of their being transported with theiu. Be this

on

412

EXECUTIONS.-COUNCIL AT CAMP KING. [Boox IV. as it might, we shall see that this stock affair was among the beginning of the sparks of war.

It appears that between 1832 and 1834, it had become very apparent that no renoval was intended by the Indians; and it was equally apparent that those who had engaged a removal for the nation, were not the first people in it,-and, consequently, a difficulty would ensue, let the matter be urg when it would. General Thompson was the government agent in Florida, and he (whether with advice or without, I am not informed) thought it best to have a talk with some of the real head men of the nation, upon the subject of removal, which he effected about a year before the time of removal expired, namely, in the fall of 1834.

Meanwhile, the chief who had been put in the place of Neamathla, by Gorernor Duval, had been executed, by some of the nation, for adhering to the whites, and advocating a removal beyond the Mississippi. The name of the chief executed upon this account was Hicks. To him succeeded one named Charles, or, as he is sometimes called, Charles Omathla, and he shared the same fate not long after. Nine warriors came into his council

, and learning that he insisted upon a removal, shot pine bullets through his heart! No more doubtful characters were now raised to the chieftaincy, but a warrior, named Louis, well known for his hostility to the whites, was made chief.

In the council which General Thompson got together for the purpose of holding a talk, as has been remarked, appeared Osceola, and several other distinguished chiefs. This council was held at Fort King, and was opened by General Thompson in a considerable speech, wherein he endeavored to convince the Indians of the necessity of a speedy removal; urging, at the same time, that their own safety, as well as that of their property, required it; and requested their answer to the subject of his discourse, which he presented in form of propositions. “ The Indians retired to private council, to discuss the subject, when the present young and daring chief Aceola (Powell) (Osceola] addressed the council

, in an animated strain, against emigration, and said that any one who should dare to recommend it should be looked upon as an enemy, and held responsible to the nation. There was something in his manner so impressive and bold, that it alarmed the timid of the council; and it was agreed, in private talk, that the treaty should be resisted. When this was made known to the agent, he made them a long and eloquent harangue, setting forth the dangers that surrounded them if they were subjected to the laws of the pale faces, where a red man's word would not be taken ; that the whites might make false charges against them, and deprive them of their negroes, horses, lands, &c. All this time Aceola was sitting by, begging the chiefs to remain firm.” When this was finished, a chief, named

“ HOLATEE Mico, said the great Spirit made them all-they had come from one woman and he hoped they would not quarrel, but talk until they got through.” The next chief who spoke was named

MICANOPEE. He was the king of the nation. All he is reported to have said was, that he had no intention to remove. “ Powell then told the agent he had the decision of the chiefs, and that the council was broken up. In a private talk, an old chief said he had heard much of his great father's regard for his red children. It had come upon his ears, but had gone through them; he wanted to see it with his eyes ;—that he took land from other red skins to pay them for theirs, and by and by he would take that also. The white skins had forked tongues, and hawks' fingers; that David Blount told him the people in the great city made an Indian out of paint, and then sent after him and took his lands, (alluding to the likenesses of the chiefs, in the war department, at Washington.) He wanted, he said, to sleep in the same land with his fathers, and wished his children to sleep by his side.”

The plea set up, that Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1819, without any provision for those Indians, need only to be noticed to show its absurdity. It is worthy of remark, that when the right of the Seminoles to the lands of Florida was talked about, the idea was derided by many influential men; but when such persons desired to take possession of some of the territory, they seemed more inclined to acknowledge the Indians' rights by agreeing to pay them for them, than of exercising either their own right, or that

of the United States, by taking unceremonious possession. This can be accounted for in the same way that we account for one's buying an article that he desires, because he dares not take it without.

When a removal was first urged upon the Seminole Indians, their chiefs said, “Let us see what kind of a country this is of which you talk, then if we like it, it is time enough to exchange ours for it.” But it is said, the government agent had no authority to authorize a deputation of Indians to visit the promised land, and here the matter rested awhile.

How long after this it was, I shall not undertake to state, that the Indiang made known their desire of exchanging their country; but this was said to have been the fact, and the result was the treaty of Payne's Landing, already described.

It appears that General Thompson, nothing discouraged at the result of the council which had been terminated by the wisdom of Osceola, without the slightest concurrence in any of his measures, by unceasing efforts had prevailed upon a considerable number of "chiefs and sub-chiefs to meet him afterwards and execute a writing, agreeing to comply with the treaty of 1832.” This was evidently done without Osceola's consent, but its being done by some whom he had considered his partisans, irritated him exceedingly. He now saw that in spite of all he could do or say, the whites would get terms of agreement of some of the Indians; enough, at least, for a pretence for their designs of a rernoval.

In this state of things, Osceola remonstrated strongly with the agent for thus taking the advantage of a few of his people, who doubtless were under much greater obligation to him than to the people of the United States. Remonstrance soon grew into altercation, which ended in a ruse de guerre, by which Osceola was made prisoner by the agent, and put in irons, in which situation he was kept one night and part of two days.

Here then we see the origin of Osceola's strong hatred to General Thompson. While lying in chains he no doubt came to the fixed resolution to resist the wbites to his utmost ability, and therefore, with perfect command over himself, dissembled his indignation, and deceived the agent by a pretended compliance with his demands. The better to blind the whites, he not only promised to sign the submission which he had so strongly objected to, but promised that his friends should do so, at a stated time; and his word was kept with the strictest accuracy. He came to Fort King with 79 of his people, men, women, and children, and then the signing took place. This punctuality, accompanied with the most perfect dissimulation, had the effect that the chief intended it should—the dissipation of all the fears of the whites. These transactions were in the end of May and beginning of June, 1835.

Thus we have arrived very near the period of open hostilities and bloodshed; but before proceeding in the details of these sanguinary events, it may not be improper to pause a moment in reviewing some of the matters already touched upon. The first to which the attention is naturally called, is so prominent as scarcely to reed being presented, but I cannot refrain asking attention to a comparison between the number of “chiefs and sub-chiefs, (which was Sixteen) who on the 23 April, 1835, agreed to "acknowledge the validity of the treaty of 9 May, 1832," and the number of warriors and chjefs now in open hostility. These have not been rated below 2000 able men. Does any body suppose that those 16 “chiefs and sub-chiefs," (among whom was not the "king of the nation” nor Osceola,) had full power to act for 2000 warriors on so extraordinary an occasion ? The question, in my mind, need only be stated; especially when it is considered how ignorant every body was of the actual force of these Indians.

It will doubtless be asked, how it happens that the Indians of Florida, who, a few years since, were kept from starving by an appropriation of congress, should now be able to maintain themselves so comfortably in their fastnesses. The truth undoubtedly is, that the “starving Indians” were those then lately forced down into the peninsula, who had not yet learned the resources of the country; for not much has been said about the “starving Indians of Florida” for several years past. In addition to the great amount of cattle, hogs, corn, grain, &c. taken

414

DEVASTATIONS BEGIN.

(Book IV

from the wbites, from the commencement of the war to the present time, the Seminoles make flour of a certain root, called coonty, upon which they can subsist without inconvenience for a cousiderable length of time, which is of incalculable advantage to them in their war operations.

The strength of the Indians has been not a little augmented by the blacks. Some accounts say there are 800 among them, some of whom have joined them, on absconding from their wbite owners; but it is well known that the Florida Indians own many slaves. Old Micanopy is said to have 80.

CHAPTER LX.

The Indians prepare for war-Affair of Hogtown-A mail-carrier killed Sales of the

Indians' catile and horses advertised by the Indian agent, but none takes placeBurnings and murders are committed--Suttlement at Nero River destroyed- Re markable preserration of a Mr. Godfrey's family--Colonel Warren's defeai- Swamp fight-Destruction of Nero Smyrna-Defeat and death of Major DADE, with the destruction of nearly his whole party-Visit to his battle.ground.

From April until harvest time, preparations had gone on among the Indians, and they only waited for the whites to begin to compel a removal, when the blow should be struck. The time allowed them over and above the three years, to prepare for their journey to the prairies of the Arkansaw, was spent in making ready to resist at the termination of it.

As early, however, as the 19 June, 1835, a serious affray took place between some whites and Indians, at a place called Hogtown, not far from Mickasauky in which the former were altogether the aggressors. The Indians, about seven in number, were discovered by a gang of whites, hunting " beyond their bounds," upon whom they undertook to inflict corporal punishment. Two of the Indians were absent when the whites came up to them, and they seized and disarmed them, and then began to whip them with cowhide whips. They had whipped four, and were in the act of whipping the fifth, when the other two Indians came up. On seeing what was going on, they raised the war-whoop and fired upon the whites, but whether they received any injury, we are not told; but they immediately returned the fire, and killed boh the Indians. When General Thompson was made acquainted with the affair, he summoned the chiefs together, and stated the facts to them, and they disclaimed all knowledge of it, and, it is said, agreed to deliver the offenders into the hands of the whites, to be dealt with according to their laws. This must be taken as the story of the whites; for in this case they, and not the Indians, were the “offenders.” It was altogether a singular report, that after the Indians had all been whipped and killed, they should be required to give up the offenders ; but such was stated to be the fact, and I know not that it has been contradicted.

Frequent signs of uneasiness had been manifested during the summer among the Indians, some of whom could not be restrained from acts of violence by the chiefs, although, it is pretty evident, such acts were against their advice. A mail-carrier was killed and robbed between St. Augustine and Camp King, and two or three houses had from time to time been broken open in different places; but it is not impossible but that these acts might have been committed by other people than Indians. However, the Indians were mistrusted, and not only mistrusted, but reported as the perpetrators; and whether they were or not is but of small moment, as affairs turned out.

Things remained in this state until December following, when the Inelian agent notified such of the Indians as he was able, that their time had expired, and that they must forthwith prepare for their journey over the Mississippi, and to that end must bring in their cattle and horses according to the terms of the treaty. And so confident was he that they would be brought in, that be had advertised them for sale, and the 1st and 15th of the month were the

« PreviousContinue »