flowed a sluggish stream impassable for the horses and nearly so for the
men. In this swamp bordering the northeastern side of Lake
Okeechobee, the Indians had chosen the most advantageous group for
the encounter. They knew it would be necessary for their pursers to
abandon the horses and most of the baggage. This was done and the
animals and baggage were placed under guard in a nearby pine forest.
The battle of Okeechobee was about to begin.
Quietly the sun shone upon two files of determined men
descending into the slough. One was composed of volunteers and the
other of regulars. Steadily they went forward until the far side was
reached in safety. Not a shot had been fired. There was not an Indian in
sight and the stillness was unbroken even by the faintest rustle in the
forest before them.
Suddenly as the volunteers in the front line approached the thick
hammock bordering the slough, the quiet ended with a devastating burst
of gunfire. At point-blank range, the Indians led by Sam Jones, Wild
Cat, and the Prophet riddled the line of volunteers. The remnant
scrambled to the roar of the regulars but did not remain there as ordered.
Instead they recrossed the slough to comparative safety, and no amount
of persuasion could induce them to return.
Undaunted by the complete route of the volunteers, the regulars
continued to advance. On reaching the hammock, they too, were not by
a murderous hail of bullets. Their commander was killed, every