Beyond Tourism: Florida's Yesteryear

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John Horse: Florida Maroon of the Second Seminole War March 4, 2010

John Horse, leader during the Second Seminole War

John Horse also known as Juan Cavallo, Gopher John, and John Cabayo. His mother was a black slave woman and his father/owner was part Hispanic and part Indian. He was twenty-five years old when the Second Seminole began in 1837 and was a completely free man having neither a white master or a Seminole master. By age fourteen he had escaped to a maroon village and freed himself from his father/owner and joined a Seminole village. When the Second Seminole War began he decided to fight and he fought against the white man. During his skirmishes with the whites, the Seminoles haild him as a war-chief. On December 28, 1835 John Horse and his followers ambushed Major Francis Langhorn Dade’s 105 man command. It was a massacre with no survivors. This is said to have caused the Second Seminole War. This occurred two years after the rejection of the Treaty of Fort Gibson and is perhaps in retaliation for the forced acceptance of the Treaty of Fort Gibson.

He is said to have been a good war chief and cared for the warriors that were under his command. He was fluent in English and the Seminole language, and the dialect spoken among the slaves on the majority of the plantations. He was also knowledgeable about medicine and it was thought that he learned it from his mother who was from West Africa. All of these features made him a good leader that the maroon blacks wanted to follow.

During the time of the failed peace conference at Fort Izard with John Caesar and the other failed attempt at peace between Abraham and General Jesup John Horse did not settle for peace but continued fighting on. He was eventually captured along with his ally Wild Cat, or Coacoochee, during one of these peace offerings that was staged by the white man in order to capture Seminoles and Maroons. They were thrown into prison at Fort Marion in St. Augustine. They escaped prison in November 1837. They, with their followers, made their way south to Lake Okeechobee where they fought but lost against General Zachary Taylor. It was fought on Christmas day in 1837 and is thought to be the bloodiest contest within all the Seminole Wars.

After losing the Battle at Lake Okeechobee, John Horse, along with Coacoochee, retreated to the Everglades, but white U.S. forces did not give up. They were constantly on the runĀ  and faced disease and starvation. Finally in 1838 only out of fear for the well being of his wife and children did John Horse surrender. He was sent to Indian Territory.

*information about John Horse is from Philip Thomas Tucker andĀ  found in The Journal of Negro History Vol. 77 No. 2 Spring 1992.

 

John Caesar: Florida Maroon of the Second Seminole War March 1, 2010

King Phillip, Second Chief, painted from life by George Catlin in 1838. Smithsonian American Art Museum. He was the owner of John Caesar

John Caesar, a slave of Seminole leader King Philip and a contemporary of Abraham was approaching his sixties at the outbreak of the Second Seminole War. John Caesar was married to a slave woman on a plantation and this led him to be able to freely enter the plantation to visit his wife without suspicion of other activities. When the Treaty of Fort Gibson was rejected and fear of being put back into slavery was imminent, John Caesar, with the help of King Philip, incited slave revolts on nearby plantations. In December 1935, hostilities broke out on the St. John’s River, invading Seminoles and Maroons under the leadership of King Philip and John Caesar. This caused at least 250, if not more, plantation slaves to join in the fight that was the Second Seminole War.

During the siege of Fort Izard against General Gaines on February 27, 1836 John Caesar during the night approached the fort claiming that the Seminoles wanted to make peace. He did this without the knowledge of the Seminole chiefs. When they found out, it was was agreed that they should go to the conference. While at the conference, reinforcements for Fort Izard arrived and, thinking that the fort was under attack, they fired upon the Seminoles in the conference, thus continuing the war.

After this failed conference, and even the time between the conference and the previous uprisings on the plantations along the St. John’s River, John Caesar drops from the picture. It is believed that his Seminole owner, King Philip, preferred to avoid the white man rather than to fight him so they were avoided unless interaction was necessary. In December 1836 John Caesar seems to have gotten restless and decided on his own to go stir up trouble for plantations closer to St. Augustine that earlier they had left alone because of their proximity to the town. In January 1837, while trying to steal horses to begin the raids, John Caesar and his followers were found out. They fled the area. Men from St. Augustine followed their trail and discovered their camp in the woods where they opened fire on the completely unprepared raiders. The men from St. Augustine killed three and wounded at least one other. One of the three killed was John Caesar.

The aftermath of the failed uprising of John Caesar struck fear into the hearts of the white men knowing that another uprising could occur at any time. This led General Jesup to make the peace treaty with the remaining Seminoles and using Abraham as an interpreter.

**Information about John Caesar comes from Kenneth Wiggins Porter from The Journal of Negro History Vol. 31 No. 2. April 1946.**