Here is the history question for today. Who was the famous Seminole Indian leader during the Seminole Indian Wars? Osceola. Osceola was born around 1804, somewhere in northern Alabama. He later moved with other Indians of his tribe to an area near Silver Springs, Florida.
Osceola first began to attract attention when he opposed a plan by the United States government to send all the Seminole Indians westward. He was present with a group of Indian leaders when they were told they must sign a treaty agreeing to move west across the Mississippi into Arkansas. His dark eyes flashing, Osceola drew his knife, stabbed it through the treaty paper, which was lying on the council table, and exclaimed, “This is the only treaty I will ever make with the white man.” If you ever visit Silver Springs near Ocala, you will see a statue of Osceola repeating this defiant gesture. This marked the beginning of the Second Indian War between the armed forces of the United States and the Seminoles that lasted about eight years.
The First Seminole Indian War only lasted about two years. General Andrew Jackson, with approximately 3000 men, attacked the Seminoles, burning their villages, taking a great number of horses and cattle, and killing or capturing all the Indians he could round up. This defeat for the Seminoles quieted them down for about fourteen years until the same Andrew Jackson became President and ordered all the Indians moved to Arkansas and Oklahoma west of the Mississippi River.
It was the treaty about moving west that Osceola stabbed with his knife, and soon war was again declared. The Seminoles were masters of the hit and run tactics. They would attack small settlements, burn, kill, and then fade back in the Everglades and swamps. Osceola was not a chief by either descent or election. He became a leader solely through his personal ability. His influence on the Seminole tribe became greater than the head Chief, Micanopy, who became weary of the war and was willing to move west. But Osceola would not agree to this move, and he and his followers continued to fight for their right to remain in Florida.
One of the first and most publicized battles of the war was fought near Leesburg, Florida, where an entire company of 110 United States soldiers was killed with the exception of two men, both of whom were wounded and left for dead by the Indians. Do you know the name of the army major in command of this troop that was massacred? Major Francis L. Dade. Dade County, Florida, was named for him.
For seven more long years, the war lasted, costing over forty million dollars. Nearly 1500 soldiers were killed. At one time, the American forces had almost 10,000 men in the field, while the Seminoles never had more than 1500 warriors. Osceola, the peerless leader, did not survive the war. He was persuaded to enter an army camp near St. Augustine for a parley under a flag of truce. Here he was knocked on the head, bound, and imprisoned in the old Fort Marion dungeon at St. Augustine. He was later transferred to Fort Moultrie in Charleston, South Carolina, where he died of a throat infection. His body was buried at Fort Moultrie under a stone on which was inscribed these words: “Patriot and Warrior.”
My family and I were in Charleston about twenty years ago, and we drove out to Fort Moultrie. As we were walking around the old historic fort, we saw a small plot of ground enclosed with an iron fence. We went over to see what it contained, and here we found the grave of Osceola, the great Indian leader. It was not well kept. I made a mental note to write the governor and tell him a brave Indian leader’s grave deserved better care, but like so many of our good intentions, I never got around to writing that letter.
Many of the Seminole Indians finally gave up the fight and went west, but a large number moved way back into the Everglades and refused to leave. The government did not give up very easily and they continued to harass the Seminoles until about thirteen years later when the Third Seminole Indian War erupted. But that is another story that will be covered by a later history lesson.

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