Osceola - Encyclopedia

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OSCEOLA (a corruption of the Seminole As-se-he-ho-lar, meaning black drink) (c. 1804-1838), a Seminole American Indian, leader in the second Seminole War, was born in Georgia, near the Chattahoochee river. His father was an Englishman named William Powell; his mother a Creek of the Red Stick or Mikasuki division. In 1808 he removed with his mother into northern Florida. When the United States commissioners negotiated with the Seminole chiefs the treaties of Payne's Landing (9th of May 1832) and Fort Gibson (28th of March 1833) for the removal of the Seminoles to Arkansas, Osceola seized the opportunity to lead the opposition of the young warriors, and declared to the U.S. agent, General Wiley Thoinp son, that any chief who prepared to remove would be killed. At the Agency (Fort King, in Marion county) he became more violent, and in the summer of 1835 Thompson put him in irons. From this confinement he obtained his release by a profession of penitence and of willingness to emigrate. Late in November 18 3 5 he murdered Charley Emarhla (or Emartla), a chief who was preparing to emigrate with his people, and on the 28th of December he and a few companions shot and killed General Thompson. On the same day two companies of infantry under Major Francis L. Dade were massacred at the Wahoo Swamp near the Withlacoochee river, while marching from Fort Brooke on Tampa Bay to the relief of Fort King. In a battle fought three days later at a ford of the Withlacoochee, Osceola was at the head of a negro detachment, and although the Indians and negroes were repulsed by troops under General Duncan L. Clinch (1787-1849), they continued, with Osceola as their most crafty and determined leader, to murder and devastate, and occasionally to engage the troops. In February 1836 General Edmund P. Gaines (1777-1849), with about troo men from New Orleans, marched from Fort Brooke to Fort King. When he attempted to return to Fort Brooke, because there were not the necessary provisions at Fort King, the Indians disputed his passage across the Withlacoochee. In the same year Generals Winfield Scott and Richard K. Call (1791-1862) conducted campaigns against them with little effect, and the year closed with General Thomas Sidney Jesup (1788-1860) in command with 8000 troops at his disposal. With mounted troops General Jesup drove the enemy from the Withlacoochee country and was pursuing them southward toward the Everglades when several chiefs expressed a readiness to treat for peace. In a conference at Fort Dade on the Withlacoochee on the 6th of March 1837 they agreed to cease hostilities, to withdraw south of the Hillsborough river, and to prepare for emigration to Arkansas, and gave hostages to bind them to their agreement. But on the 2nd of June Osceola came to the camp at the head of about 200 Mikasuki (Miccosukees) and effected the flight of all the Indians there, about 700 including the hostages, to the Everglades. Hostilities were then resumed, but in September Brigadier General Joseph M. Hernandez captured several chiefs, and a few days later there came from Osceola a request for an interview. This was granted, and by command of General Jesup he was taken captive at a given signal and carried to Fort Moultrie, at Charleston, South Carolina, where he died in January 1838. The war continued until 1842, but after Osceola's death the Indians sought to avoid battle with the regular troops and did little but attack the unarmed inhabitants.

See J. T. Sprague, The Origin, Progress and Conclusion of the Florida War (New York, 1848).

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