In the colonial and early periods of U.S. history, many self-emancipated people from Georgia and the Carolinas took refuge in Seminole towns in Spanish Florida. They became known as the Black Seminoles, and they worked closely with the Indigenous Seminoles to help protect their lands and freedom. This enraged white Americans. They called on the government to destroy these refuges.
In 1816, U.S. soldiers destroyed a Seminole garrison that was known to house a large community of self-emancipated people, killing 270 Seminole and Black Seminole people. The Seminole retaliated by raiding U.S. settlers who lived along the Georgia and Florida border. In 1817, a full battle took place at the Seminole village of Fowltown. Historians consider this the official beginning of the First Seminole War.
In December 1818, General Andrew Jackson was given command of the U.S. troops fighting the Seminoles. Over the next six months, he invaded Spanish Florida and destroyed several Seminole villages. However, he did not achieve any real victory over the Seminoles. Jackson’s successes convinced Spain to give the Florida territory to the United States in 1819. But there were two more wars between the United States and the Seminole before they were finally defeated in 1858.
The drawing by George Catlin shows us the clothing worn by Seminole people in the first half of the 19th century. In the letter, General Andrew Jackson describes an encounter he had with a Seminole woman early in his campaign in Spanish Florida. Jackson had just achieved a victory against the Seminoles, but his troops failed to capture their leader. One of the women captured during the fighting offered to convince her people to turn over their leader if Jackson would help them move to Georgia and start a new settlement. Jackson eagerly agreed, but the woman was never heard from again. She may have made the offer simply to escape imprisonment.