Seminole Wars

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The Seminole Wars were three separate conflicts between the Seminole Indians and their allies and the U.S. Military. The First Seminole War began sometime between 1814 and 1817 when U.S. forces began capturing runaway slaves who had integrated with the Seminoles. Led by future president Andrew Jackson, 4,000 soldiers, including 2,000 Creek Indians, burned Seminole villages and crops and killed hundreds. Jackson proceeded to capture the Spanish towns of St. Mark’s and Pensacola. After Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1821, thousands of settlers rushed into Florida, invading Seminole lands.

As American settlers crowded the Seminoles out of their land in the 1820’s and 1830’s, they banded together under Osceola, a half-White war chief whose bravery and determination inspired the resistance. The Seminoles lashed out against the settlers by destroying white plantations and routing a military detachment under the command of Major Francis Dade. As a result, the Seminoles temporarily regained control of a portion of their ancestral land. Up to 40,000 soldiers, volunteers, and Indians, under Zachary Taylor, Winfield Scott and others eventually dislodged the Seminoles from their positions, captured key Seminole leaders, stamped out Seminole ambush parties, and effectively surrounded the remaining resistance in the swamps of southern Florida. By 1842, the few remaining hostile bands of Seminoles, ragged and starving, were forced to surrender. Other bands of Seminoles persisted in the Everglades region for another decade and a half.

In 1857, the Seminoles made their last stand in what was known as the Third Seminole War, in which Seminole warriors were gradually defeated by various volunteer armies and militias. In all, over two thousand American soldiers were killed in the Seminole Wars along with many thousands of Seminoles. Most of the Seminoles would eventually be moved to reservations in Oklahoma.