The First Seminole (Florida) War
1804 - 1812
The wars against what we now call the Seminoles started somewhat earlier than this, but these years
would greatly influence the upcoming conflicts. While Spain was in control of Florida it had several problems
to deal with. First, the climate and unhealthy conditions of the territory was not attractive to people
in terms of settlement. Second, there was a gentleman named Napoleon that roamed Europe at will
and proved to be of greater importance in the minds of the rulers of Spain as the decade progressed.
To solve the first of the problems stated above, in 1790, Spain invited Irish Catholics, English citizens,
and citizens of the United States to settle inside the borders of the territory. They offered titles of land
to any and all individuals who stayed on a land claim for ten years at the end of the term of occupancy
the individuals would be exempt from taxes and military service to Spain. Thomas Jefferson stated that he wished
100,000 U. S. citizens would take Spain up on their gracious 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 cancelled (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 Canadien border.
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 beseiging 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.
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 dessimated 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 insidethe 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.
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.
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 seige began. General Jackson upon hearing of the predictament faced by Gen. Gaines musters up a force
of 1800 men comprised of regulars, Tennesee volunteers, and Georgia Militia, to relieve the beseiged 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 beseiged 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 seige 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.