Beyond Tourism: Florida's Yesteryear

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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.**

 

Abraham: Florida Maroon of the Second Seminole War October 30, 2009

Maroons are slaves who escaped to Florida and other frontier locations in order to live a free life before the Civil War. Abraham was a slave born sometime during 1787-1791. After arriving in Florida he became the slave to the leader or Micco of the Seminole Indians during the Second Seminole War, Chief Micanopy.

Abraham eventually became the chief’s interpreter and even joined a Seminole delegation to Washington 1826. When Abraham returned from Washington Micanopy freed him and made him his sense bearer. A sense bearer is “the official who pronounced the Micco’s statements.”

Abraham was an interpreter, knowing both Seminole and English, during the Second Seminole War

As an interpreter Abraham was one of the few who could speak Seminole and English fluently. The white people bribed Abraham with $200 and convinced him to talk the Seminoles into sending a party out to Indian Territory for possible relocation. On March 28, 1833 the survey party, along with Abraham, were coerced to sign a treaty to move to Indian Territory within three years without holding a council meeting to come to a final decision. It is known as the Treaty of Fort Gibson and led to the Second Seminole War.

General Jesup attempted to end the War on March 6, 1837, when safe passage to Indian Territory was promised to the Indians and their slaves through Abraham. But with the appearance of slave hunters the Seminoles fled into the swamp except Abraham and a few other maroons. After a promise from General Jesup of freedom for himself and his family Abraham agreed to help him find the Seminoles who fled. On September 9-10, 1837 he helped U.S. forces capture Seminoles unwilling to surrender. On March 24, 1838 he helped U.S. forces and Seminole Indian Alligator make peace. On February 25, 1839 Abraham and his family were given freedom and shipped west to Indian Territory.

Read another article about the Second Seminole War.