Exploring the Seminole Wars Through Maps

Causes of the Seminole Wars

: Identify the causes and effects of the Seminole Wars.

The United States waged three wars against the Seminoles in the 19th century. The largest of these conflicts, the Second Seminole War, was the longest and most costly American Indian war in U.S. history.

This episode describes the causes of the Seminole Wars, particularly conflicts over land, trade, and slavery.

Episode Two: Causes of the Seminole Wars

Romans’ General Map of the Southern British Colonies (ca. 1776)
Romans’ General Map of the Southern British Colonies (ca. 1776)

Map of the Forbes Purchase (ca. 1817)
Map of the Forbes Purchase (ca. 1817)

(Slide One)

Episode Two describes the origins of the Seminole Wars.

(Slide Two)

The resources for this episode are a British map from the 1770s created by the English surveyor Bernard Romans and (Slide Three) a map, made circa 1817, of the Forbes Purchase showing the area between the Apalachicola and St. Marks Rivers in the Florida Panhandle.

(Slide Four)

By the early 1800s, American settlements expanded westward and intruded on Creek and Seminole communities along the southern frontier in parts of what are now Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

(Slide Five)

Tensions mounted between Creeks, Seminoles and the United States over three issues: trade, land, and runaway slaves.

(Slide Six)

The Creeks and Seminoles wanted to trade with various European nations, including the French to the west (Slide Seven), the Spanish in Florida (Slide Eight), the British in the Caribbean (Slide Nine) and the United States to the north and east (Slide Ten).

The United States wanted Native Americans in the South to trade only with them. They were afraid that the Creeks and Seminoles would become economic and military allies with other European nations in a possible war against the United States.

(Slide Eleven)

The Americans wanted to take the prime agricultural lands occupied by the Creeks and Seminoles in order to grow cotton using slave labor.

(Slide Twelve)

Slaves that fled plantations in the South sought refuge among the Seminoles in Florida. The Americans considered this a threat to the institution of slavery and pressured the Seminoles to return the escaped slaves living among them.

(Slide Thirteen)

Escaped slaves, or “Black Seminoles,” enjoyed greater freedom among the Seminoles than African-Americans laboring on Southern plantations. Black Seminoles lived in their own independent settlements as well as in Seminole communities. They maintained close ties with the Seminoles and served as military allies in wars against the United States.

The locations of the principal Black Seminole settlements are noted on the map by blue triangles.

(Slide Fourteen)

The Americans fought a series of wars against the Seminoles in the first half of the 19th century over three issues: trade, land, and slavery.

The first conflict broke out in 1812, when Georgians known as the “Patriot Army” invaded northeast Florida and for a short time, gained control of Amelia Island. The Patriot Army then attacked Seminole and black settlements as far south as Alachua before being turned away by the determined defenders.

(Slide Fifteen)

The second conflict, which was more of a single battle than a war, occurred in 1816 along the Apalachicola River.

(Slide Sixteen)

During the War of 1812, the British built a fort 16 miles from the mouth of the Apalachicola River, which enters the Gulf of Mexico along the Florida Panhandle, at a place called Prospect Bluff. When the British lost the war, they abandoned the post and left it in the hands of runaway slaves and Native Americans. At this time the wooden structure became known as the “Negro Fort.”

(Slide Seventeen)

American soldiers, along with Creek Indians allied with the United States, descended upon the fort in July 1816. In a short engagement, a hot-shot, or a cannon ball heated-up red hot, destroyed the fort in a single blow.

(Slide Eighteen)

The survivors escaped towards existing Seminole settlements near Tallahassee, or the Spanish Fuerte San Marcos de Apalache.

(Slide Nineteen)

These two conflicts—the Patriot War of 1812 and the destruction of the Negro Fort in 1816—set the stage for the three Seminole Wars of the early 1800s.