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 run 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 and found in The Journal of Negro History Vol. 77 No. 2 Spring 1992.