The First Seminole War - The Florida War

While the First Seminole War officially began in 1816, conflicts began years earlier. These early years had a great influence on the outbreak of the Florida War. After Andrew Jackson's forces began to enter regions of Florida controlled by Spain, Spain had no choice but to begin to hand Florida over to the United States. Florida was officially handed over in 1819 and after the Adams-OnĂ­s Treaty. This handover was mostly due to the Spanish seeing Florida as hard to inhabit and the climate created unhealthy conditions for the Spanish. Furthermore, Napoleon was active in Europe and Spain saw him as being more worthy of their attention than Florida.

Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Beginning around 1790, Spain, along with the British, helped to move Irish Catholics, English citizens, and citizens in the United States into Seminole territory. They gave land deeds to these "settlers" that agreed to stay on the land for a decade. After the decade, they'd be exempt from paying taxes and exempt from doing military service for Spain. Thomas Jefferson, at the time, made it known that he was in support of this plan and wanted U.S. citizens to take up Spain's offer.

In 1804, due to problems that U. S. citizens were causing the local authorities and Spanish citizens of the territory the invitation to settle was canceled (remind anyone of Texas prior to the Mexican War). In 1812, the Governor of Florida had encourage the Seminoles of the Alachua area to raid U.S. farms and settlements inside the territory. This date should sound familiar, yes thats right, same time frame as the War of 1812. Due to uprisings of the Seminoles and the war against England, the Governor of Georgia organized his state militia and decided he would take Florida before the British did and rid the territory of Georgia's troublesome neighbors to the south, the Seminole. The Seminoles were becoming extremely bothersome to Georgia. Since the war with Britain started, the British encouraged the Seminoles and Creeks to raid settlements along the Georgia-Florida frontier to draw forces from the Canadian border.

Great Indian Wars
The Great Indian Wars: 1540-1890


In Fall of the year 1812, the so-called Patriot army had already established a provisional government under President John H. McIntosh, with Col. Ashley as his Minister of War, and had its capital at St. Mary's, Georgia, in March, 1812, before the Georgia forces arrived. General Geo. Matthews of Georgia had charged of the movement, and was promised help from the U. S. regulars should he need it. Col. Daniel Newnan, of the Georgia Militia, who was at Fort Picolata was attacked by a party of Seminoles at the fort. After a fierce battle the forces under Col. Newnan defeated the besieging force. He soon started making plans to hit the Seminoles were they lived. On September 24th, 1812 a force of 110 men he undertook to penetrate the enemy's country over one hundred miles, and attack two formidable chiefs surrounded by their warriors on Spanish territory while the U. S. and Spain were supposedly at peace. Upon reaching the area near what is today Gainesville, Fla., Col. Newnan engaged the Alachua Seminoles. Over a period of about 10 days, Col. Newnan's force was under constant danger from attack while it retreated back to Fort Picolata, out of the original force he left with all but 50 were effectively out of action, and he had completely exhausted all supplies. After reaching the safety of reinforcements they hailed this action as a victory and celebrated their supposed triumph. The Patriots would soon give up their crusade to acquire the territory of Florida, but the United States would soon be back to try again.

1815

Duncan Clinch
Duncan Clinch
General Gaines and Colonel (later general) Duncan Clinch in response to reports of a fort being manned by runaway slaves and a variety of Seminole and Creek warriors on the Apalachicola River, ordered the build up of armed camps in the vicinity. This in the eyes of the United States was many things; a beacon for slaves in Georgia to run to for safety, the possibility of Spain's collaboration and support of the hostile bands, and a base of operation for bands to raid U. S. settlements on the frontier. General Gaines ordered Col. Clinch to take provisions for Camp Crawford (north of the fort), which included cannons, powder and other war supplies. On the 17th of August Lieutenant Loomis, USN, arrived at the mouth of the Apalachicola River with two gunboats on the same mission. In order for the gunboats to get to Camp Crawford they had to pass the fortification. The orders to both commands was if any opposition was made by the Negro fort that it should be reduced to rubble. In one of the first combined arms attack made by U. S. forces the fort was decimated in short order. On the 26th of August the gunboats try to pass the fort, which was replied with cannon fire. Col. Clinch's and his forces at Camp Crawford heard the gunboats open fire upon the fort and headed for the Negro Fort by land. After only the 5th discharge from the gunboats, a round known as a "hot shot" (a round ball of iron heated over a fire till it is red hot) found the powder magazine of the fort. Around 100 men and 200 women and children were inside the fort for protection, only a sixth of the total occupants survived the horrible blast. A force was seen advancing by Col. Clinch's scouts, but it dispersed before engaging him. Florida from this time through 1816 was in a state of anarchy.

1817

William McIntosh
The U.S. regular army had manned outposts and small forts all along the Florida Georgia line until mid 1817, which was successful in maintaining peace in that region. The army decided to pull its forces closer to the Alabama River which was west of the border areas. It is during this time that altercations between the Georgia settlers and Seminoles started to increase. General Edmund P. Gaines learned of the hostilities there and ordered Major Twiggs with a detachment of 300 men to take an Indian village named Fowl Town near the Florida line. During the initial attack an alarm was sounded and many Seminoles escaped into the swamps. This would start a series of events that would effectively start the war. Fowl Town was again visited by U. S. forces this time by Captain McIntosh with an equivalent number of men as the first time. This was to obtain the supplies that were left at the town after the first visit. Only this time the Seminoles were waiting for them. A small skirmish commenced and light casualties were felt by both forces engaged.

Edmund Pendleton Gaines
Edmund Pendleton Gaines
In retaliation to the attacks upon Fowl Town the Seminoles gathered support from other local clans and made an assault against Fort Scott. The garrison force at Fort Scott of 600 regular soldiers, commanded by General Gaines was confined to their post and the siege began. General Jackson upon hearing of the predicament faced by Gen. Gaines musters up a force of 1800 men comprised of regulars, Tennessee volunteers, and Georgia Militia, to relieve the besieged troops at Fort Scott. At the same time General Gaines is able to muster a force of 1600 Creek Indians to the service of the U. S. under Brigadier General McIntosh. McIntosh and Jackson joined forces on the 1st of April and proceeded to the besieged fort. The force of Seminoles only numbered from 900 to 1000 men and did not wish to contend with such a force. The Seminoles fled back into the swamps and Fort Scott was saved.

1818 - 1819

The force under Jackson then focused on Miskasuky towns, destroying them on their way to St. Marks. Jackson took St. Marks without firing a shot at the small Spanish garrison stationed there. Upon taking over control of St. Marks, April 7, 1818, he promptly arrested and held a trial against two British agents (Arbuthnot and Ambrister) in Florida and accused them of arming and inciting the natives to rise up in force against the U. S. The two British agents were found guilty and one was hung from the yardarms of the U. S. vessel that was in port at the time and the other shot. Gen. Jackson then proceeded to Pensacola. This move was according to Gen. Jackson to take control over territory that the Spanish could not control due to their weak military and political influence in the territory. If the Spanish couldn't control the natives he would. On May 24, 1818, Gen. Jackson's force was outside Pensacola and preparing to siege the town and the small Spanish garrison in the territorial capitol. Upon Jackson's arrival the Spanish governor fled to Santa Rosa Island and escaped capture by Jackson's forces. This according to Jackson was the only great failure of his campaign, his inability to capture, hold trial, and hang the Spanish governor for assisting the enemy of the U. S. In the following year the U. S. Army would build up the frontier fortifications to help quell the Seminole raids into Georgia. This would lead to the treaty of 1819 which would make West Florida officially the territory of the United States. Later in 1821, a treaty would be signed by the U. S. and Spain for the rest of Florida and the islands off the coast of Georgia and Florida.

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