Second Seminole War

Date: From 1835-12-28 to 1842-08-XX

Place: Florida

As Americans increasingly encroached on Seminole lands in Florida during the 1830s, tensions grew and the federal government eventually decided to relocate the tribe to the West. The Seminole, led by Osceola, resisted these efforts and ambushed a large group of U.S. soldiers sent to reinforce Fort King on December 28, 1835, killing about 100 and beginning the Second Seminole War. The Seminole and Osceola largely controlled the course of the war for the first year because they used the region's terrain to resist the traditional military tactics of Winfield Scott and other American generals. Major General Thomas Jesup regained the initiative in the first months of 1837 by engaging in smaller expeditions and convincing several Seminole chiefs to surrender and relocate west. However, Osceola released many of them from Fort Brooke in June 1837 and renewed the conflict. Jesup captured Osceola himself in October while under a flag of truce and the Seminole leader died in prison. The Americans then followed up with a sweep down the Florida peninsula, most notably resulting in a large battle between Zachary Taylor's American forces and a group of Seminole on the north shore of Lake Okeechobee on December 25, 1837, which Taylor won.

One of the most significant aspects of the war was the large number of escaped slaves who fought alongside the Seminoles. However, Jesup turned this advantage against the Seminoles in March 1838 by offering freedom to any African Americans who left the Seminole ranks to assist the U.S. Army. Using captured Seminoles and these former runaways as guides, the Americans were able to rout hidden Seminole camps throughout southern Florida and secure victory. By August 1842, most of the Seminole tribe had either been sent west, while a small number remained hidden in the southernmost parts of Florida.

John K. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1967); James W. Covington, The Seminoles of Florida (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1993).