Exploring the Seminole Wars Through Maps

The Second Seminole War

: Identify the causes and effects of the Seminole Wars.

The United States waged three wars against the Seminoles in the 19th century.

This episode describes the longest and costliest Indian War in U.S. history, the Second Seminole War.

  1. The Second Seminole War (PowerPoint | PDF)
  2. Accompanying Teacher Notes (PDF)

Episode Five: The Second Seminole War

Map of the Seat of War in Florida, created by order of General Zachary Taylor (1839)
Map of the Seat of War in Florida, created by order of General Zachary Taylor (1839)

(Slide One)

Episode Five describes the longest and costliest American Indian War in United States history: the Second Seminole War.

(Slide Two)

The resource for this episode is a “Map of the Seat of War in Florida,” created by an order of General Zachary Taylor in 1839. The map shows the locations of Seminole and American settlements, U.S. Army forts, the movement of troops across the peninsula, and the most complete geographic information available at the time.

(Slide Three)

On December 28, 1835, Major Francis Dade led two companies of troops through the pine and palmetto scrub near modern-day Bushnell, Florida. Dade and his troops were on their way from Fort Brooke to Fort King.

They marched on the Fort King road, which ran nearly alongside today’s I-75 from Tampa to Ocala.

(Slide Four)

Suddenly, Seminole warriors ambushed Dade and his men. Within a few hours, all but three of the 110 American troops lay dead. This battle, known as Dade’s Battle, directly contributed to the outbreak of the Second Seminole War—the longest and costliest Indian war in U.S. history.

(Slide Five)

In the months that followed, the Seminoles and their Black Seminole allies staged a series of raids on plantations in East Florida. Battles with American troops also erupted near the Withlacooche River.

The sight of Indian warriors burning plantations and liberating enslaved Africans created a panic along the Florida frontier and many settlers fled to nearby forts for protection.

The locations of some of these battles and raids are noted on the map with blue triangles.

(Slide Six)

The success of the Seminoles in the early stages of the war prompted the U.S. Army to change its tactics.

Under General Thomas Sidney Jesup, the army began a systematic search for Seminole villages, especially in their strongholds on the Withlacoochee River. When the army encountered fields they burned them, when they found cattle they rounded them up, and when they discovered villages they captured their inhabitants and destroyed the houses.

This strategy proved effective for the army in fighting the Seminoles, but also led to criticism of the methods used during the war.

On several occasions, Seminole leaders were lured into talks with the U.S. Army under the white flag of truce, a universally-recognized symbol of temporary peace for the purposes of negotiations. The most notorious case involved Osceola and General Jesup.

(Slide Seven)

In October 1837, Osceola met General Joseph Hernandez under a white flag of truce near Fort Peyton south of St. Augustine.

Prior to this meeting, General Jesup ordered Hernandez to apprehend Osceola should he have the opportunity. Despite the white flag signifying truce, Osceola was taken into custody and later died at Fort Moultrie in South Carolina.

(Slide Eight)

In December 1837, perhaps the most significant battle of the Second Seminole War took place on the northern shore of Lake Okeechobee.

The Seminoles inflicted significant casualties on the Americans, but were forced to retreat into the Everglades after the battle. Shortly after the Battle of Okeechobee, the Battle of Loxahatchee signaled a turning point in the Seminoles' ability to conduct the war on their terms.

(Slide Nine)

Although weakened by the U.S. Army, the war dragged on. Several raids and skirmishes took place throughout the state in the late 1830s and early 1840s; some of these are noted on the map with blue triangles.

In 1842, the U.S. Army declared an end to hostilities and ceased their pursuit of Seminoles in southern Florida. For the next few years the Seminoles regrouped in the Everglades while American settlement spread into peninsular Florida.

Another conflict nearly broke out in the late 1840s following raids by Seminoles on settlers in the Indian River country.

The peace was short-lived, however, and in the 1850s another conflict between the Seminoles and the Americans broke out, known as the Third Seminole War.