Exploring the Seminole Wars through Maps

The Third Seminole War

: 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 third and final Seminole War.

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

Episode Six: The Third Seminole War 

Surveyor General’s Map of Florida (southern portion, 1844)
Surveyor General’s Map of Florida (southern portion, 1844)

Florida by H.S. Colton (1853)
Florida by H.S. Colton (1853)

A New Map of Florida by the firm of Charles Desilver (1859)
A New Map of Florida by the firm of Charles Desilver (1859)

South Portion of Florida by Asher Adams (1873)
South Portion of Florida by Asher Adams (1873)

(Slide One)

Episode Six discusses the third and final Seminole war.

(Slide Two)

The resources for Episode Six are an 1844 surveyor’s map of Florida, (Slide Three) an 1853 map of Florida by H.S. Colton, (Slide Four) an 1859 map of Florida by the firm of Charles Desilver, and (Slide Five) an 1873 map of Florida by Asher Adams.

(Slide Six)

A third Seminole War almost broke out in July 1849 when Seminole warriors attacked a farm near modern-day Fort Pierce. Two weeks later, another attack took place near the Peace River in southwest Florida.

Initially caught off guard by the attacks, the U.S. government was unprepared to renew a military campaign against the Seminoles in Florida. Fearful that the actions of a few might endanger all of his people, Billy Bowlegs, the most powerful Seminole leader remaining in Florida, met with the Americans and vowed to turn over those responsible for the 1849 attacks.

(Slide Seven)

Despite surrendering the accused attackers, Bowlegs was informed that all Florida Indians had to leave Florida. The major Seminole settlements during this time are indicated on this map by blue triangles.

Over the next two years, several dozen Seminoles were bribed and pressured to leave Florida for the Indian Territory in the West.

In 1852, Billy Bowlegs met with President Millard Fillmore to discuss removal. Bowlegs agreed to the President's demands for removal, but, upon returning to Florida, decided not to leave the state again.

In response, the Americans placed additional pressure on the Seminoles in order to force them into a conflict with the U.S. Army.

(Slide Eight)

The plan worked. In late December 1855, warriors led by Billy Bowlegs attacked a party of surveyors who had disturbed Seminole camps near the Big Cypress Swamp.

The approximate location of Bowlegs’ camp is indicated on this map by a blue triangle.

(Slide Nine)

Over the next three years, the Americans attempted to drive the Seminoles into the Everglades. They thought that the Seminoles could not survive in the swamps during the rainy season. When they came out to plant crops, the Army planned to capture them.

The Americans built a series of forts to surround the Seminoles. Compare this map from 1859 with the previous map from 1853. Note the increased military presence indicated by the number of forts reactivated or built during the Third Seminole War.

Although the Seminoles dealt a series of blows against frontier settlements during the Third Seminole War, the Americans’ plan proved largely successful.

(Slide Ten)

By 1858, most of the Seminoles remaining in Florida had been captured or had agreed to emigrate west, including Billy Bowlegs. When the Third Seminole War finally came to an end, only an estimated 200 Seminoles remained in Florida.

The approximate location of major post-Seminole Wars camps are indicated on this map by blue triangles. After three wars, Florida Seminoles now faced a new life in a challenging environment.