History of the Third Seminole War 1849-1858, Joe Knetsch, John Missall and Mary Lou Missall

History of the Third Seminole War 1849-1858, Joe Knetsch, John Missall and Mary Lou Missall

The Third Seminole War was the final military conflict between the US and the Seminole Indians in Florida, and was a fairly small conflict, largely fought in the swamps of south-western Florida, in an attempt to convince the last few hundred Seminole still remaining in Florida to agree to move west to the Indian Territory in the west (mainly in Arkansas).

The history of the relationship between the United States and the Seminole Indians is fairly typical of most – a series of wars which were fought whenever the US wanted to expand its territory, each ending with a firm treaty that would sooner or later be broken by the Americans. 

I’m not sure there is any way you could write this story that wouldn’t make you sympathise with the Seminole. Every deal they made with the United States was broken, sometimes very quickly. It must have been infuriating for the delegation that visited Washington to be told that the treaty that had ended the Second War wasn’t actually a treaty that the US felt any obligation to obey, but only a truce, and it would basically end once White settlers got close enough to the reservation to want it to, but it can’t have come as a surprise. Those members of the tribe who did eventually agree to move west won’t have been surprised to find the new ‘permanent’ Indian territory soon disappeared as well.

However the authors have done a commendable job of trying to see both sides in this conflict – most of the White settlers who ended up living close to the remaining reservation were poor farmers attracted by the promise of good land, rather than large scale invaders deliberately attempting to provoke a conflict, and one can sympathise for their calls for help. We don’t know too much about how the Seminole saw the war, as sadly not left behind memoirs, but some of the American authors were sympathetic to their plight and give us some idea of how they must have felt.

One thing I wasn’t expecting was how many of the regular US soldiers involved in this war rather sympathised with the Seminoles. Many of them were aware that the Seminole didn’t really pose a threat to the rest of Florida, and that the areas they were living in by the 1840s wouldn’t have been of any use to white settlers anyway. Most were also convinced that it wouldn’t be possible to find every member of the tribe anyway, as they could retreat far into their swamps, and that eventually proved to be the case.

This is a well researched and very readable account of this previously rather obscure conflict.

1 - Florida Has Been Deeply Injured
2 - By This Shot Capt. Payne and Dempsey Whidden Were Killed
3 - We Must Take Time Enough to Avert War
4 - It is the Intention of the Government to Remove the Indians
5 - Our Citizens Are Now Compelled to Abandon their Homes
6 - The Bullets Whistled Over and Around Me Like Hell
7 - The Evils of a Savage Warfare
8 - This is a Mere Show of Doing Something
9 - The Indians Cannot Hold Out Much Longer
10 - Everything Was Destroyed That Could Be

Author: Joe Knetsch, John Missall and Mary Lou Missall
Pages: 288
Publisher: Casemate
Year: 2018

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