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General Taylor and his men found traces of the Indians as they
advanced into the interior. On the third day of their march, they had
conclusive evidence that they were near the principal force of the enemy.
The Seminoles were cautious; keeping far enough ahead to be out of gun
range, they passed through swamps, hammocks, and prairies, followed
by troops doggedly trying to bring them to action. The Indians,
however, were unwilling to risk an encounter so long as the United
States forces could use their mounted men to advantage.
On Christmas Eve, 1837, the weary troops camped for the night
in the deep recesses of the Indian territory. Here, despite the necessary
patrols and the doubled sentinels, the men slept uneasily upon their arms;
awaiting, even in sleep, an expected alarm. The alarm did not come,
however, nor did it come in the early morning of that next day.
Again in motion, the troops shadowed the Indians determinedly.
When the Seminoles left a swamp, Taylor and his men entered it. When
the Seminoles entered a hammock, the troops were in close pursuit. A
palmetto leaf was found with a drawing on it of two muskets, muzzle to
muzzle. It had been left by the Indians with the intention that it should
be picked up by their pursuers.
At last, the Indians took a stand in a large cypress swamp fronted
by an immense sawgrass slough. Through the middle of it