Sunday, July 12, 2009
St. Augustine, Florida #8 - Imprisonment of Osceola
The story of the great Seminole warrior Osceola is not as much a part of our nation's memory as it used to be, but it can still be explored in St. Augustine.
School kids across the country once learned the story of Osceola and the great war for survival waged by the Seminoles between 1835 and 1844. The Second Seminole War was waged from the Okefenokee Swamp south to the Everglades and from Walton County in Northwest Florida east to the Atlantic Ocean. In the end, despite repeated announcements of victory by the U.S. Army, the Seminoles of Florida clung to at least part of their lands.
Although he was not a chief, Osceola was recognized by both whites and Indians as one of the key war leaders of the conflict. The Creek and Seminole cultures had always allowed for warriors to rise to positions of distinction based on their prowess in battle, and Osceola was by all accounts a charismatic and competent leader in battle.
Frustrated by their attempts to capture or kill him, U.S. Army officers laid a trap for Osceola near St. Augustine on October 21, 1837. He appeared under a white flag to negotiate with the government, but was seized despite the protection of this flag by order of General Thomas S. Jesup.
Carried to St. Augustine, Osceola was initially imprisoned at the Castillo de San Marcos. He remained there until several other prisoners escaped one night. Concerned that he might repeat the feat engineered by the other Seminoles, the army moved Osceola to Fort Moultrie in South Carolina. He died there of sickness a short time later.
The story of the warrior's imprisonment in St. Augustine is interpreted today at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/staugustineosceola.