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 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.

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Today in Florida History September 16 September 16, 2009

Finally getting back into posting now with things beginning to calm down. I thought I would start things off with a Today in Florida History. It is taken from The Florida Historical Society. There is also a link to the site in my Links to the Past list.

1565: From the account of Pedro Menendez’s expedition to Florida in 1565 by Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, the chaplain to the expedition.  This account is taken from Charles E. Bennett, Laudonniere and Fort Caroline:  History and Documents (Gainesville:  University of Florida Press, 1964).  [We will continue with portions of this account in the coming days and will simply cite it as Laudonniere and Fort Caroline.  In today’s account, Father Mendoza recounts the beginning of Menendez’s expedition against the French at Fort Caroline.–moderator]

“Sunday, September 16, he [Menendez] departed with 500 men with many arquebuses and pikes, each one of the soldiers carrying a twelve pound sack of bread on his shoulders and a bottle of wine for the road.  They took two Indian chiefs who were great enemies of the French, so that they might show the way.  According to the practice of those Indians and by the signs they made, we understood that it was five leagues to the fort of the enemies, but one the road it appeared to be more than fifteen and a very bad road in the very hot sun.  But all have traveled it, according to the letter we received from the General [Menendez] today, the 19th of said month.”

1853: House Speaker A. K. Allison proclaimed himself Acting Governor of Florida when the governor, Thomas Brown, and the Senate President, R. J. Floyd, were both out of the state.  Allison served until October 3 when James E. Broome was regularly inaugurated as governor.

1863: The U.S.S. San Jacinto, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Ralph Chandler, seized the Confederate blockade-runner, Lizzie Davis, off the west coast of Florida.  She had been bound from Havana to Mobile with a cargo that included quantities of lead.

1864: An expedition from the U.S.S. Ariel, with Acting Master Russell in command, captured over 4,000 pounds of cotton in the vicinity of Tampa Bay.

Zora Neale Hurston is the author of Their Eyes were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) is the author of "Their Eyes were Watching God"

1928: The Belle Glade and Palm Beaches area was devastated by a hurricane. This was the culmination of the Great Lake Okeechobee Hurricane struck Florida as a Category 4 storm, with winds pushing lake waters to a storm surge of more than 15 feet.  The area surrounding the lake’s south end, occupied primarily by migrant agricultural workers, flooded.  The Red Cross’s death toll count reached 1,836, but additional bodies and skeletons were discovered after the end of the Red Cross count.  In response to this disaster, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built dikes around the lake to prevent a recurrence.  Florida author Zora Neale Hurston recorded the impact on this hurricane on migrants in her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.  (See September 6, Today in Florida History)

1968: The first classes convened at Warner Southern College in Lake Wales.  The college was founded by the Southeastern Association of the Church of God.