Between the early to mid 1800s, the United States Government would fight three wars with the Seminole population of Florida. While the Second Seminole War of 1835-1842 proved to be the largest and costliest, the Third Seminole War of 1855-1858 was the last Indian war to be fought east of the Mississippi River. It began in late 1855 when a party of soldiers led by Lieutenant George Hartsuff was attacked by Seminoles led by Billy Bowlegs (Holata Micco). The encounter was precipitated by continued white encroachment onto Seminole lands in south Florida.
The subsequent war consisted of a series of minor engagements, punctuated by continued efforts to entice the few Seminoles remaining in Florida to accept removal to a reservation west of the Mississippi River. While some regular U.S. Army troops served in the conflict, it was fought largely by Florida volunteer companies. In 1858 Billy Bowlegs accepted generous financial terms to move with 163 others to the trans-Mississippi. Chief Sam Jones and perhaps 200 other Seminoles still remained in Florida, where their descendants live today.
The letter reproduced here was written from Adjutant General Samuel Cooper to Colonel John Munroe, commander of U.S. troops in south Florida. Cooper outlines the terms by which volunteer companies should be mustered into Federal service.
Adjutant General's Office
Washington, Jany 7th 1856
I have received and laid before the Sec- retary of War, your communications of the 23d and 26th ult. on the subject of the recent attack on Lieut. Hartsuff's exploring party, and the probable renewal of hostilities by the several Indian bands remaining in Florida.
To meet this contingency, it being impracticable to send re-inforcements of regular troops, the Department has authorized the Calling out of three independent Companies, to be disposed of in the manner sugested in your letter, or in any other way that in your judg ment will best insure the objects contemplated, and two other Companies to serve as hunters and trailers and to be associated with the regular troops in their operations. In respect to the com- position of these last two Companies, it is enjoined on you not to allow any man to be received who is not a good woodsman and familiar with the habits of Indians, and who could