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Zachary Taylor Discusses the Campaign against the Seminoles
Digital History ID 238

Author:   Zachary Taylor


A number of tribes resisted removal. In the Old Northwest, the Sauk and Fox Indians fought the Black Hawk War to recover ceded tribal lands in Illinois and Wisconsin, announcing that they had not understood the implications of the treaty transferring title to their land. The United States army and the Illinois militia ended the resistance by wantonly killing nearly 500 Fox and Sauks who were trying to retreat across the Mississippi River.

In 1832 in Florida, a number of Seminole leaders had signed a treaty under which they agreed to leave Florida for Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Other Seminoles refused to recognized the treaty, and took refuge in the Florida Everglades. In the Second Seminole War, the military spent seven years putting down resistance at a cost of $20 million and 1500 casualties, and even then succeeded only after the treacherous act of seizing the Seminole leader Osceola during peace talks.

In the following letter, a future president, Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), discusses the campaign against the Seminoles. He failed to pacify the Seminoles and was relieved of duty at his own request.


I regret to hear of the recent murders committed near Fort Lauderdale, & am satisfied you have fixed on the real perpetrators, the Seminoles, which shows conclusively that no reliance can be placed on their promises or engagements, could the perpetrators of the act be gotten hold of, they ought to be put to death in some way as a terror to others of their nation....

If determined to do so they can avoid you or anyone else for years, by keeping in or near the everglades.... If this war cannot not now be closed in a few months or measurably so by negotiations through the agency of the chiefs you have employed for that purpose, it may continue for many years, in that event a small but efficient force should carry it on, barely sufficient to prevent those people from cultivating the soil, & cutting off their supplies of clothing & ammunition, which must be done by mounted troops, aided by a few revenue cutters properly arranged around the peninsula, and a small force of Inf[antr]y judiciously stationed along the frontier or exposed white settlers, to protect them from the attacks & degradations of the enemy; a war of this kind if properly conducted would after a while drive the whole of the Indians from the country, & could be carried on with a moderate expenditure of life & treasure.

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: Zachary Taylor to Thomas S. Jesup

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