Friday, December 18, 2020

Review of "The Seminole Wars," by Henrietta Buckmaster

 Review of

The Seminole Wars, by Henrietta Buckmaster

Five out of five stars

Some points of history not often stated

 The history of Florida relative to the United States is not a pleasant one and some of the darker aspects are emphasized in this book. When the territory known as Florida was under Spanish control after the American War of Independence, that governance was tenuous at best. Many in the southern United States considered the border to be at most a minor inconvenience.

 What was considered the most annoying from the perspective of the slave owners was that many escaped slaves crossed into Florida and formed communities with the native Seminoles. In the early years of the nineteenth century, slavery was a booming business in the United States, the largest domestic slave market was in fact in Washington D. C. within sight of the Capitol building.

 This put great pressure on the U. S. Government, and it was considered a major diplomatic coup when Spain ceded control of Florida to the United States. This removed the last impediment to the slave catchers going into Florida and claiming any black person that they encountered as a runaway slave. The native Seminoles coexisted very well with the black communities and they formed a common armed front against the encroaching whites.

 As is made clear in this book, that common front was solid, the Seminoles were one of the few Native American tribes that supported the “free” blacks in their struggles. That is a historical fact that is rarely mentioned. They fought together against the inevitable takeover of their land  by whites.

 A second point made in this book is that large numbers of the Creek tribes eagerly joined the efforts of the U. S. Army in conquering Florida. They were offered booty in the form of captured blacks to be taken as slaves. From that perspective, much of the fighting could be considered a civil war between the Native Americans. This was after many of the Creeks had been transported to land out west. Large numbers of Native Americans fighting other Native Americans is a fact not often mentioned in the study of history.

 The war to subjugate Florida was a nasty, brutal one. There were several occasions when U. S. commanders violated a stated truce when Seminole leaders met them under an agreed upon sign of peace. At times, the U. S. Army was reduced to being a gang of slave catchers, so much so that there were significant tensions up the chain of command all the way to Washington. In classic scorched Earth warfare, the Army destroyed crops in the fields, confiscated grain and cattle so the blacks and Seminoles had to either surrender or starve.

 The war against the Native Americans was always a brutal and unprincipled one. However, unlike in the west, the war in Florida was intertwined with slavery. One of the few good things that came from it was that it triggered the beginning of the anti-slavery movement in the United States.

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