In 1835 more and more confrontations were being reported between the settlers and the Indians. In June of that year the Spring Grove Guard was involved in a shooting skirmish with several Seminoles. Two or three of the Guard were helping a group of settlers look for some lost cattle that they thought might have been rustled. They came across a small hunting party of braves roasting a beef near Hickory Sink, located about 3 miles northeast of Archer. They overpowered the braves, taking their packs and rifles. Deciding to teach them a lesson, the whites took out long rawhide whips and began beating the Indians. While they were doing this, three more members of the hunting party arrived, and, seeing what was happening, fired into the group of settlers, wounding two or three seriously. The whites returned the fire, killing one of the Seminoles. Both sides retreated hastily, with the whites still in possession of the Indians, packs and guns. When news of this incident was learned, it further served to incite white imnity against the Seminole. David Levy, who later changed his name to David Yulee, spoke for the settlers in Alachua County when he urged the U.S. government to use whatever means it could, including force, to move the Seminoles out of Florida.
The first battle of the Second Seminole War occurred about
five miles east of Archer on December 18, 1835, about a week before
the massacre of Major Francis L. Dade and his command. Called the
Battle of Kanapaha Prairie, it happened in the following way: On
the previous day, General Richard K. Call and five hundred mounted
riflemen learned that a large force of Indians had burned several
plantations in the Wacahoota area and wounded several men. Call
ordered a detachment under the command of Captain Richards to
escort three wagons and a cart containing ammunition and stores to
Colonel Warren's command at Micanopy. While going around the
southwestern edge of Kanapaha Prairie, about the time they were
even with Black Point, they were ambushed. The front and rear
guard, about ten men, were ordered to join with the thirteen men
in the middle of the wagon train; of these only half obeyed.
Captain Richards and the bulk of his troops ran off at the first
signs of the attack. The men whose chose to stay and fight fired several times at the Indians until one of their number was shot through the body; they loaded the mortally wounded man into the cart and began to retreat. Three Indians rushed out from behind cover and tried to intercept the cart, but all were killed by rifle fire from the soldiers. The cart pony was hit several times by musket fire but continued to pull the cart until they reached dry land whereupon it fell dead. The Seminoles began looting the wagons that were left behind. They recovered the ammunition from one and set another afire. Again the troops tried to attack the Indians. Captain M. Lemore arrived with thirty militia. He ordered them to charge, but only about fifteen obeyed. The Seminoles opened fire on the charging horsemen and killed six and wounded eight. What was left of the force headed towards Fort Crum for reinforcements. By the time they returned, the Seminoles had driven the wagons off. Six days later scouts found the wagons near a small pond in thick underbrush; a reconnaissance of the area told them there were still Indians near the wagons. A charge was made by the soldiers which scattered the Seminoles into the swamps. Some of the soldiers chased them into waist-deep water, firing at the retreating enemy from distances as close as fifteen feet. After the skirmish the troops were able to salvage some supplies from the wagon including cookware and food.
The rest of December and January of 1836 saw many Indian attacks on unprotected homesteads and two major victories over U.S. troops near Bushnell and on the Withlacoochee River. General Wiley Thompson, Indian Agent, was murdered by Osceola at Fort King, Sugar mills, cotton gins, storehouses and dwellings were burned; settlers and slaves were attacked in the fields as they worked. It was a time, as one observer put it, when "none could tell at what moment,, or in what manner they would be assailed, and subjected to the most cruel and brutal deaths".
Because of the fierce attacks, homesteaders fled the area
south of Newnansville and sought refuge in one of several forts
further north. Settlers were encouraged to join the military to
help protect their property, but few did. Most preferred the army to do the fighting, feeling that they could be of more service being with their families to protect them. Citizens built makeshift shanties near the forts; in Newnansville for example, the area surrounding the fort was a maze of ten-by-ten shacks, which often sheltered two families. Built with a single doorway and no windows, the buildings were hot and poorly ventilated. Vermin- fleas, especially--were so bad in the dwellings that many people chose to sleep outdoors.
More troops were committed to fighting the Seminoles in 1836. Beginning in that year regiments in the southern part of Alachua County included Companies B, D, I and K, of the 2nd Dragoons and Companies C, H, and I of the lst and 3rd Artillery Regiments. In 1838 they were supplemented by the 2nd, 6th and 7th Infantries and the 4th Artillery Regiment. Forts were constructed near population centers and strategic points throughout Central Florida. Within a six mile radius of Archer there were two forts. one of these was Fort Walker, named after the captain of the Spring Grove Guard who had gotten killed in the fighting. Its location was near the place where the Battle of Kanapaha Prairie had taken place. The other was Fort Wacahoota, which was somewhere near the Levy County line on Highway 121.
Fort Walker was primarily a citizen's fort, with a small
military attachment assigned to it. T. B. Ellis, who was born there
in 1842, described it as "logs placed in the ground, with port
holes, so that the occupants could shoot through".
According to Ellis, the women and children remained in the fort
while the men carried on activities outside such as farming,
raising stock and patrolling the area nearby. During the years it
was in service Fort Walker recorded only one death of a soldier,
that of a James Farrell of the 2nd Infantry, who was murdered by
a Sergeant Gravel. Only one Indian attack took place at this fort,
In January 1841, several Indians fired on slaves who were working
in a field just outside the gates. Six blacks were killed and one
woman was wounded while she was inside the fort.
By contrast, Fort Wacahoota saw a great deal more action. In operation between 1835 and 1842, it tied down one end of what was known as the "most frequented road in Florida" between it and Fort Micanopy. There were about forty troops stationed at the fort. It was issued six horses for public transportation and employed local citizens as teamsters and ostlers, About twenty-five soldiers were scheduled to be in the field on patrol at any given time; these patrols were divided up into five or six man squads so that they could scout more area more efficiently.
Higher contact with the enemy meant higher casualties for Fort Wacahoota than for Fort Walker; by the end of hostilities in 1842 Fort Wacahoota had eighteen deaths of soldiers recorded, with twelve of the deaths from wounds received in battle. Indian ambushes in the area were frequent as the following two accounts illustrate:
Death of Lt. Sherwood and Mrs. Montgomery:
On the 28th of December 1840, he (Lt. Sherwood)
started from Micanopy with eleven men for
Wacahoota, distant eight miles, as an escort
to Mrs. Montgomery, wife of Lt. Montgomery, 7th
Infantry. When halfway, he was attacked by a
party of thirty Indians. Mrs. M. and four men
were killed at his side. Upon the first
appearance of the enemy he rallied his command,
and with coolness and intrepidity assailed
them; he was soon overpowered. He fought hand
to hand with the Indians as they advanced,
wounding one mortally (says an Indian in the
party) , until exhausted by the loss of blood
from wounds in the back and arms, he fell
grappling with the foe, in the last agonies of
death....The Indians, after scalping the
killed, and otherwise mutilating the bodies,
returned to the hammock.
Deaths of three citizens, Messrs. Daniels, Harroll and Jennings:
They were on horseback, and when opposite Martin's Point, four miles from Micanopy, were fired from a strip of the hammock intersecting the road . Their bodies were most brutally mangled, entirely stripped of clothing, and so disfigured by blows and gashes with knives and hatchets, as to prevent their being recognized by friends.
The last battle soldiers from Fort Wacahoota were involved in was on May 17, 1842. On this date, a war party of Creeks under the leadership of Halpatter-Tustenuggee crossed the Suwannee River heading south. After killing several members of one family and burning their home near Newnansville, the war party headed further south where they intercepted a squad from Fort Wacahoota at Blue Peter Springs near Archer. They ambushed the soldiers from the tall grass on either side of the military trail. Two soldiers, Private Daniel McNeil and Private Christopher Duff, were killed. The rest of the soldiers retreated back to Fort Wacahoota, and got reinforcements; by the time they returned to the scene of the ambush, the Indians had vanished.
The Second Seminole War ended officially in 1842, with most
of the Indians sent off to Oklahoma, killed, or driven into the
impenetrable swamps of the Everglades. The U.S. goverrment began
a resettlement program to encourage homesteaders to return to their
lands and to recruit new settlers into the area from Georgia,
Alabama and the Carolinas. Those who took advantage of the
goverrment's offer were allowed to draw rations from the Army (one
full ration per each white person and half-ration per each slave
per day) until the time of the next harvest when it was felt the
settlers would be on their feet again. The Army also issued
firearms to all males, both black and white in a community; for
further protection blockhouses were built near the settlements.
By the end of 1842 there were thirty-two villages throughout the
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