Thomas Sidney Jesup and the Second Seminole War (Part One)

General Thomas Sidney Jesup commanded military operations against the Seminoles in Florida during the early stages of the conflict now known as the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). The Second Seminole War was the longest and costliest American Indian War in American history. Jesup’s field diary, available on Florida Memory, contains his perspective on the war from October 1, 1836, to May 30, 1837. This series of blog posts places significant entries from the Jesup diary in the context of the Seminole Wars and the history of Anglo-American Indian-African relations in the American South. Below is the first post in the series.

“Assumed the command of the troops south of the Withlacoochee.”

“Assumed the command of the troops south of the Withlacoochee.”

The Secretary of War ordered General Thomas Sidney Jesup to Florida in October 1836. In this entry, he acknowledged the beginning of his service in Florida. However, this was not his first experience with American Indian warfare. Prior to receiving these orders, Jesup was deployed in a military campaign against the Creek Indians in Alabama and Georgia. Tensions erupted in violence in the Creek Country as white settlers encroached upon Indian lands.

The lands in question had been guaranteed to the Creeks under the treaties of Fort Jackson (1814) and Indian Springs (1821 and 1825). The Treaty of Fort Jackson formally ended the Red Stick War (1813-1814), which began as a civil war among the Creeks. After an attack on Fort Mims, north of Mobile, Alabama, by the rebel Creeks, Andrew Jackson and militia from Tennessee joined the Creeks friendly to the United States. Jackson’s entry into the war contributed to the eventual defeat of the rebel Creeks, or Red Sticks, at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Shortly thereafter, Jackson arranged a punitive treaty that resulted in the transfer of over 14 million acres of Creek land to the United States.

Two other agreements took place between the Creeks and the United States in 1821 and 1825 at Indian Springs. The Creek leader William McIntosh, also known as Tustunnugee Hutkee, and his faction received allotments of land for themselves, while at the same time ceding control of much of what remained of the Creek Country. In April 1825, Creeks who opposed the treaty killed McIntosh and others in his party for signing the agreements. Settlers and land speculators flooded into the Creek territory following the second Treaty of Indian Springs. In several instances, armed confrontations occurred between Creeks and settlers. These confrontations led to the outbreak of the Second Creek War (the Red Stick War is considered the First Creek War).

In 1836, Creeks hostile to the United States launched a series of attacks against white settlements. The state governments of Georgia and Alabama demanded protection against what they considered unwarranted Indian depredations. As a result of these pleas for assistance, Thomas Sidney Jesup arrived to subdue the rebel Creeks.

The Second Creek War ended shortly after it began. The majority of Creeks were evicted from their lands and forced to emigrate to the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. Only a few families remained in the east. In the 20th century, this small band gained federal recognition as the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

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