Beyond Tourism: America's Yesteryear

A blog of American History

Colonel William Jenkins Worth January 27, 2010

Colonel William Jenkins Worth

Military Career and Legacy
Colonel William Jenkins Worth fought in the War of 1812, the Second Seminole War, and the Mexican-American War where he died at the Alamo in San Antonio. Lake Worth in Florida and Fort Worth in Texas are named after him, according to Palm Beach Photo Tour.

Role in the Second Seminole War

According to the History of the Second Seminole War written by John K. Mahon, Colonel Worth accomplished three things. He lowered the expenses of the United States Army by eliminating or replacing roles that were, in earlier campaigns, held by militia and civilians. At the end of a year which ended April 30, 1842 the quartermaster estimated a savings of $174,923.90.

He was able to coerce Seminole Indian leader Coacoochee, also known as Wildcat, to convince other Seminoles to surrender. This was after Coacoochee was captured and shipped to New Orleans with fifteen other Seminole Indians. Colonel Worth had him sent back to Florida where he was held prisoner in Tampa.

Colonel Worth finally brought the war to an end by not resting during the hot summer months, but not without a price. The majority of South Florida was still marsh and everglades. This was before the everglades were drained for settlement. Mosquitoes were still a huge problem. Many soldiers died from disease and heat exhaustion.

The end of the War
The war ended in 1842, sort of. Not all the Seminoles were sent west. A few hundred of them were allowed to stay in Florida on reservations made for them. White settlers were not happy with this outcome and a few of the Seminoles were not happy with the out come either. Small skirmishes lasted through the 1840s and early 1850s. The outcome was finally settled during the Third Seminole War which lasted from 1855-1858.

Read another article about Lake Worth.  (Link forthcoming.)


The Dry Tortugas and the Lincoln Assassination July 30, 2009

Mudd, OLaughlen, Arnold, and Spangler were imprisoned here after being found guilty of taking part in the Lincoln assassination.

Mudd, O'Laughlen, Arnold, and Spangler were imprisoned here after being found guilty of taking part in the Lincoln assassination.

Ft. Jefferson located on the Dry Tortugas islands 70 miles west of Key West Florida. Construction began in 1846 but was ultimately abandoned 28 years later in 1874. The fort was never completed due to difficulties with numerous construction problems,  bouts of yellow fever and the invention  of the rifled cannon. The Dry Tortugas was discovered by conquistador Ponce de Leon 1513 and was given the name Las Tortugas for the abundance of turtles found on the islands. Due to the absence of fresh drinking water it got the name of Dry Tortugas. In 1935 Franklin D. Roosevelt set aside the Dry Tortugas Islands as a National monument and it was made into a national park in 1992

Just because the fort construction was never completed does not mean that it was not used. During the Civil War it was used as a prison for Yankee deserters. Union forces were able to use this fort because they were able to control Florida’s large coastline rather quickly with their superior naval fleet. While Florida did secede from the Union it had a large population of Union sympathizers. Check out my earlier blog post Today in Florida to learn a little more about Florida’s role in the Civil War.

Dr. Mudd as he appeared when working in the carpenters shop in the prison at Fort Jefferson.

Dr. Mudd as he appeared when working in the carpenter's shop in the prison at Fort Jefferson.

Ft. Jefferson’s most famous prisoner wasn’t even a soldier. He was Dr. Samuel Mudd. Dr. Samuel Mudd was accused and found guilty of  conspiracy to murder President Lincoln. He met with John Wilkes Booth in his home and Washington before the assassination of Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre. He was considered part of the conspiracy after setting Booth’s broken leg and giving him crutches to aid him in his movement. He did not report Booth until the next day after Booth left his home in southern Maryland. Mudd at first was considered just a witness until he lied about meeting Booth before the assassination. He was sentenced to life in prison at Ft. Jefferson. On September 25, 1865 he attempted escape when he learned that control of the fort was being transferred to a colored. He was quickly captured and put to hard labor building the fort in leg irons. In 1867 an outbreak of yellow fever occured and Mudd used his skills as a doctor to help end the epidemic. It was this work during the yellow fever outbreak that earned him his pardon by President Andrew Johnson in 1869. He was in prison for four years. After his release he returned home and restarted his practice.

Ft. Jefferson was made into an official National Park in 1992. People can visit the park and even camp on the grounds. For more information please visit the Dry Tortugas National Park (U.S. National Park Service).