THE SEMINOLE WAR PERIOD
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By November 1837, the Second Seminole Indian War had been going on for almost two years. Col. Zachary Taylor left Fort Brooke (Tampa) on the 27th day of November and proceeded to the Kissimmee River where he ordered the construction of Fort Gardner, located just north of Lake Kissimmee. On December 19, leading a force of 1032 men, Taylor headed south along the west side of the river, with orders to move forward and "destroy or capture" any of the enemy. After three days of travel, Taylor erected a stockade in which to leave artillery and heavy baggage. The stockade was named Fort Basinger, after Lt. William E. Basinger of Georgia, who was among those killed at the Dade Massacre in December 1835. After garrisoning Fort Basinger, Col. Taylor moved his troops across the Kissimmee River and headed toward Lake Okeechobee. He had learned from captured Indians that a large body of Seminoles had camped east of the river near the lake. [ A National Archives map states that Taylor left Ft. Brooke November 26, left Ft. Gardner December 20, and built Ft. Basinger, December 23. Albert DeVane stated that Ft. Basinger was built December 23. Mahons Second Seminole War says Ft. Basinger was established December 21 and other sources say December 22. All agree that the Battle of Okeechobee was fought Christmas Day, 1837. ]
The Battle of Okeechobee took place December 25, 1837. Col. Taylor reported that 26 whites were killed and 112 wounded. The Seminoles, outnumbered two to one, had approximately 11 killed and 14 wounded. During the battle, the Indians were forced to withdraw and retreated in an easterly direction. Col. Taylor, because of heavy casualties, was unable to pursue the Seminoles. On December 27 the troops began the return trip to Fort Basinger, arriving the following day. They then proceeded on to Fort Gardner and arrived there December 31, 1837.
Two Seminole Indian War forts were located in what is now Okeechobee County. The first was Fort Lloyd, also known as Fort Floyd or Camp Lloyd, and was located about eight miles north of Lake Okeechobee. The fort was established during the Second Seminole War about 1838.
After the Second Seminole War ended in 1842, seven years of uneasy peace followed. In 1849 two whites were killed at a trading post on Peas Creek, while on the east coast, near Fort Pierce, a trader was killed by the Indians. The renegades responsible for the murders were turned over by the Indian leaders to the military authorities, thus averting general warfare. The War Department ordered the establishment of a line of forts across the state from Fort Brooke to the Indian River and Gen. David Twiggs supervised the construction of the forts and the cross-state road. One of the forts built along this route was Fort Drum, located about 17 miles north of the present city of Okeechobee. Fort Drum remained in operation for only a short time and was soon abandoned.
The third and last Seminole War broke out in 1855 and lasted until 1858. During this final effort to remove the Indians from south Florida, three boat companies were organized to patrol the Kissimmee River, Lake Okeechobee and Big Cypress Swamp to look for the remaining Seminoles. The volunteers in the boat companies were not interested in killing Indians, rather they hoped to capture alive as many as possible. A bounty system had been set up whereby $500 was paid for warriors, $250 for women and $100 for children. Finally, in 1858 the Seminole leader, Billy Bowlegs II, was induced to leave Florida and the Third Seminole War came to an end. Only a handful of Seminoles then remained in the wilds of south Florida.
|This monument, which marks the site of the Battle of Okeechobee, is
located on U.S. 441, east of Taylor Creek, about 4 miles southeast of the City of
Okeechobee. The inscription reads:
W. I. Fee, Fort Pierce historian, who with the help of Judge Henry H. Hancock of Okeechobee, located the site of the battle, was master of ceremonies during the dedication program. Spessard L. Holland was the principal speaker.
A National Archives map states that Taylor left Ft. Brooke November 26, left Ft. Gardner December 20, and built Ft. Basinger, December 23. Albert DeVane stated that Ft. Basinger was built December 23. Mahons Second Seminole War says Ft. Basinger was established December 21 and other sources say December 22. All agree that the Battle of Okeechobee was fought Christmas Day, 1837.