Stephen Thomas Hollingsworth's Letter
Stephen Thomas Hollingsworth was born in Sampson Co., NC, in 1830 and came with his father, stepmother and siblings to Hillsborough Co., FL, in 1843. During the Third Seminole or "Billy Bowlegs" War, Stephen Thomas, his father Stephen, and brothers John Henry, William R. and Timothy served in local mounted volunteer companies. While serving as a private in the company of Capt. Simeon L. Sparkman, from Aug. 1857 to Feb. 1858, Stephen Thomas and his unit traveled deep into the Everglades in search of the remaining hostile Seminole Indians. This letter was dated, Jan. 20, 1858, from Camp Rogers.
My dear Sarah, its with a fateagued pen and mind i imbrace the opportunities of adressing you these few lines an there in at this instant we left this place for the indians, we trampt almoste day and night in serch of them, we burnt houses and corn and rice. Enough to last us 5 years or more, after travling 4 or 5 day up to our hips in mud and water, thro the big cypress, as we reached the Everglades and fresh trail, we caught one by shooting him The moste of the boys i believe think that i did the execution, so we gained all the information we could from him, and on we went to the place where we thought we could get a fight, so on the morning of the 15th we was fired on by the spie (centry) and he made his flight, across a large open praray, we chaced him a long ways thro the sawgrass and mud some of us fired at him some number of times, he reached the other side, but badly wounded, blood was throwed on the grass but he made safe his excape, i wish you could have benn there Sarah ann to be ner you would have been pleased to have sen the act of menn on such an occasion, To see the bravery of some of our Boys lit up with love for fame it is strange for me to say to you, neither would I say it in strange places, For people would think that i would yarn but entire of this month we had mutton corn, greene beans young pumpkins Everything is the best of groth as in the midst of a seasonable spring, we found rich plantations filled with the beautifulest health you ever saw, we fared well while in the neighbor hood of this section, Tho in the Everglades we suffered For food and rest, parched corn was the only hope for many, those who had any thing to eat, divided it with the rest, and so on with all was pretty much out we taken old assin.a.was wife and child, the rest made their escape thro mud water and saw grass, it is no use to talk about indian fighting it nothing when you get to them, it appeared to me that i could have whiped a half dozen my self, I wish you could but have the feelings i had at that time so would know how a man feels when he sees his Enemy, an indiscribable feeling whether it is bravery or not i felt like cold whip a 1/2 dozen my self I have no news only campt talk, and so am My health is good. as much so as i ever Experienced. The Ballance of the company is well with the exception of John Taylor, he is a little sick Taken yesterday, I have not heard from you since Albert pass, I would like to hear soon, I would much rather see you and the children than to hear from you Keep in good heart i will be back soon Kiss the children for me and reserve 2 for your self, Tell them i will fetch some indian beads to them when i come Give my love to your mother and Pa also to all In general nothing more at present But Remain your affectionate Husband
S. T. Hollingsworth
Stephen Thomas Hollingsworth and his wife Sarahann Caroline (Pearce) Hollingsworth are seated in front, with Jane Angeline and Joseph L. between them. Standing in the back are Martha, Henry, Joshua and Thomas Enoch. Joshua was first president (1887-89) of what is now Florida Southern College, when it was located at Leesburg and known as the Florida (Methodist) High School and College. Picture taken ca. 1870
Photo Courtesy of Kyle VanLandingham
The original of this letter was in the possession of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Gardner when copied by Kyle S. VanLandingham in 1976. The following is from James W. Covington's The Billy Bowlegs War 1856-1858 The Final Stand of the Seminoles Against the Whites, (Chuluota, FL, 1982), pp. 75-76:
"New Years Day  saw Colonel Rogers moving the healthy men from his regiment plus one hundred and ninety-two from several independent companies into the Big Cypress where more triumphs were attained. Rogers divided his little army into three detachments: these units were commanded by Dozier, Lesley and Sparkman respectively, with Major Dozier directing the entire operation. Several villages and large areas of cultivated fields were discovered and destroyed by the walking and rowing Florida Mounted Volunteers and United States Army artillerymen. The extent of the damage inflicted can be seen in brief summary of the drive made southeastward from Camp Rogers:
'Sparkman finds field of pumpkins-half roasted, next day discovers 7 horses, boat-tracks, 2 ponies captured. On 31 (Dec.) found another field. Jan. 1 large fields, pumpkins, potatoes, beans 50 bu. corn, pumpkin and melon seed, all destroyed. Jan.2 eight horses, 7 houses, 8-10 bu. corn, 12 houses, 6 houses, fields, 5 houses. (Stephens encounter) Village of 40-50 houses which had been burned by Indians themselves. Another village of 50 houses discovered and burned. 10-15 bu. corn, 4 boats destroyed, go to Prophet's Landing 4 mi. N. of Falso Hadjo's Town.' [Rogers to A.A.G Jan.9, 1858]
"Thus, the military had, after two years of warfare, discovered the hiding places of Billy Bowlegs and his band and some excellent results were obtained...."
See also Florida Department of Military Affairs, Special Archives Publication Number 75, Florida Militia Muster Rolls: Seminole Indian Wars Vol. 9, pp. 128-129. John Taylor, age 22, who was mentioned in the Hollingsworth letter, died on Jan. 22, 1858.
Kyle S. VanLandingham