Letter from Governor Thomas Brown to B. A. Vaughan, T. S. Rogers and T. B. Goldsby, 1853

Letter from Governor Thomas Brown to B. A. Vaughan, T. S. Rogers and T. B. Goldsby, 1853


Executive Department Florida

Tallahassee March 9th 1853


I have just rcd your letter dated 25th Feby, offering the service free of expense of a company of forty students of the University of Virginia; who ever desirous to participate in the expulsion of "Billy Bowlegs" from our state. 

I admire, Gentlemen, your patriotism and public spirit; and so far as my authority may be necessary, I grant it with cheerfulness. But, I am only the Commander in Chief of the Militia of this state, and have no authority to organize a military force or to comission officers, in any other state. Nor do I think a state has authority to raise an Army, or to make war - even upon Indians. Such powers appertaining solely to the General Government - the authority, I think should be obtained from the President of the United States - particularly if your object is to go into the Indian Territory.

I do not question your ability to whip Billy Bowlegs and a hundred like him in a fair field; but in his swamps and Everglades it would be a very different matter. Where he would have the aid of some very effective [?] allies in the form of alligators, [?] and swamp ferns, especially during the rainy and summer and fall seasons. Therefore, with full and unquestionable authority; my advice would be to pause and obtain better information in regard to the character of your enemy before you make the adventure.

Messrs. B.A. Vaughan, T.S. Rogers and T.B. Goldsby

Thomas Brown


State Archives of Florida: Series S2153, Box 06, Folder 60


Reply letter from Florida Governor Thomas Brown to B. A. Vaughan, T. S. Rogers and T. B. Goldsby, a group of students at the University of Virginia, telling them he "admires" their willingness to come help expel Billy Bowlegs and the Seminoles from Florida, but as governor he has not authority to organize a military force.


March 9, 1853


Brown, Thomas, 1785-1867


Letters (correspondence)

General Note

Although the Second Seminole War ended in 1842, sporadic conflict between the Seminoles and white settlers continued. Billy Bowlegs and other Seminole chiefs frustrated repeated federal attempts to remove them and their bands to reservations west of the Mississippi River. News of the Seminoles' resistance received national attention, as people read about the ongoing fight in the swamps and forests of south Florida.