Native American Tactics in War

The history between Native Americans and Settlers is a long and incredibly controversial one. However, as they say: rather learn from history than repeat it.

The Native Americans for the most part could hold their own against the Settlers due to their enemy underestimating them and the tactics they used. Before the arrival of the Settlers, the Native Americans used war paint to intimidate their enemy as well as it having spiritual and protective significance to their people. Most conflicts and battles fought during Indian warfare were of a relatively short duration. They also believe while killing an enemy in battle was considered honourable, the greatest honour was bestowed upon the warriors who could get close enough to his enemy to touch him and then return to safety. This was called a coup, which meant a ‘war count’. A point scoring system was in place for touching an enemy with the bare hands or with a coup stick. The coups were carefully counted during warfare and war trophies were put on display such as the notches on a coup stick or by the feathers in war bonnets.

This carried over to fighting the Settlers as well as other tactics and strategies in war. They continued to use insurgency weapons which are usually used guerrilla type warfare and would usually be referred to as homemade weapons. As well as this, asymmetrical warfare strategies were used, this involved surprise attacks by small, simply armed groups on a nation armed with modern high-tech weaponry. They would also use audible signals to guide their men as Charles DeRudio recalled, “we heard the powerful voice of a savage crying out, making the same sound four times, and after these two signals, we saw 200 or more savages leave the bluffs and ford the river, evidently leaving the ground.” Unusually, against the Settlers at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Indians used “Suicide Boys” among both the Sioux and Cheyenne forces, and Cheyenne warrior Dog said there were also a few girls among the suicide warriors that day. The American troopers had certainly never seen anything before like these adolescent kamikazes on horseback, who essentially functioned as a stealth corps of shock troops.


Despite this it was rare the Natives won battles between the two warring groups. The detailed battles below are: The Second Seminole War and, one of the most recent attacks, The Battle of Bear Valley.

The Second Seminole War

Bands from various tribes in the southeastern United States had moved into the unoccupied lands in Florida in the 18th century. These included Alabamas, Choctaws, Yamasees, Yuchis and Creek people. The Treaty of Moultrie Creek provided for a reservation in central Florida for the Seminoles. At the time, the United States and Spain were at odds over Florida after the Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolutionary War and returned East and West Florida to Spanish control. The United States disputed the boundaries of West Florida (which had been established while the territory was under British control). They accused the Spanish authorities of harbouring fugitive slaves and of failing to restrain the Native Americans living in Florida from raiding into the United States. Starting in 1810, the United States occupied and annexed parts of West Florida. In 1817 Andrew Jackson led an invasion of the Florida’s, leading to the First Seminole War.

The United States subsequently acquired Florida from Spain via the Adams-Onís Treaty and took possession in 1821. Now that Florida belonged to the United States, the government was pressured by settlers to remove the Seminoles. In 1823 the government negotiated the Treaty of Moultrie Creek with the Seminoles, establishing a reservation for them in the middle of the territory. Six chiefs, however, were allowed to keep their villages along the Apalachicola River. The Seminoles gave up their lands in the panhandle and slowly settled into the reservation, although they had isolated clashes with whites. Colonel (later General) Duncan Lamont Clinch was placed in charge of the Army units in Florida. Fort King was built near the reservation agency, at the site of present-day Ocala, Florida.

By early 1827 the Army reported that the Seminoles were on the reservation and Florida was peaceful. This peace lasted for five years, during which time there were repeated calls for the Seminoles to be sent west of the Mississippi. The Seminoles were opposed to the move, and especially to the suggestion that they should be placed on the Creek reservation. Most whites regarded the Seminoles as simply Creeks who had recently moved to Florida, while the Seminoles claimed Florida as their home and denied that they had any connection with the Creeks.

The status of runaway slaves was a continuing irritation between Seminoles and whites. Spain had given freedom to slaves who escaped to Florida under their rule, although the US did not recognize it. Over the years, those who became known as Black Seminoles established communities near Seminole villages, and the two peoples had close alliances although they maintained separate cultures. Slave catchers argued over the ownership of slaves.

Worried about the possibility of an Indian uprising and/or an armed slave rebellion, Governor DuVal requested additional Federal troops for Florida. Instead, Fort King was closed in 1828. The Seminoles, short of food and finding the hunting becoming poorer on the reservation, were wandering off of it more often. Also in 1828, Andrew Jackson, the old enemy of the Seminoles, was elected President of the United States. In 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. They wanted to solve the problems with the Seminoles by moving them to west of the Mississippi River.

In the spring of 1832 the Seminoles on the reservation were called to a meeting at Payne’s Landing on the Oklawaha River. The treaty of Payne’s Landing was negotiated there and called for the Seminoles to move west, if the land was found to be suitable. They were to be settled on the Creek reservation and become part of the Creek tribe. The delegation of seven chiefs who were to inspect the new reservation did not leave Florida until October 1832. After touring the area for several months and conferring with the Creeks who had already been settled there, on March 28, 1833 the seven chiefs signed a statement that the new land was acceptable. Upon their return to Florida, however, most of the chiefs renounced the statement, claiming that they had not signed it, or that they had been forced to sign it. They said they did not have the power to decide for all the tribes and bands that resided on the reservation. Even some U.S. Army officers claimed that the chiefs had been “wheedled and bullied into signing.” Others noted “there is evidence of trickery by the whites in the way the treaty is phrased.”

The United States Senate finally ratified the Treaty of Payne’s Landing in April 1834. The treaty had given the Seminoles three years to move west of the Mississippi. The government interpreted the three years as starting 1832, and expected the Seminoles to move in 1835. Fort King was reopened in 1834. A new Seminole agent, Wiley Thompson, had been appointed in 1834, and the task of persuading the Seminoles to move fell to him. He called the chiefs together at Fort King in October 1834 to talk to them about the removal to the west. The Seminoles informed Thompson that they had no intention of moving, and that they did not feel bound by the Treaty of Payne’s Landing. General Clinch warned Washington that the Seminoles did not intend to move, and that more troops would be needed to force them to move. In March 1835 Thompson called the chiefs together to read a letter from President Andrew Jackson to them. In his letter, Jackson said, “Should you … refuse to move, I have then directed the Commanding officer to remove you by force.” The chiefs asked for thirty days to respond. A month later the Seminole chiefs told Thompson that they would not move west. Thompson and the chiefs began arguing, and General Clinch had to intervene to prevent bloodshed. Eventually, eight of the chiefs agreed to move west, but asked to delay the move until the end of the year, and Thompson and Clinch agreed.

Five of the most important Seminole chiefs, including Micanopy of the Alachua Seminoles, had not agreed to the move. In retaliation, Thompson declared that those chiefs were removed from their positions. As relations with the Seminoles deteriorated, Thompson forbade the sale of guns and ammunition to them. The situation grew worse. A group of whites assaulted some Indians sitting around a campfire. Two more Indians came up during the assault and opened fire on the whites. Three whites were wounded, and one Indian was killed and one wounded. In August 1835, Private Kinsley Dalton was killed by Seminoles as he was carrying the mail from Fort Brooke to Fort King. In November, Chief Charley Emathla, wanting no part of a war, led his people to Fort Brooke, where they were to board ships to go west. This was considered a betrayal by other Seminoles.

As the realization that the Seminoles would resist relocation sank in, Florida began preparing for war. The St. Augustine Militia asked the War Department for the loan of 500 muskets. Five hundred volunteers were mobilized under Brig. Gen. Richard K. Call. Indian war parties raided farms and settlements, and families fled to forts, large towns, or out of the territory altogether. A war party led by Osceola captured a Florida militia supply train, killing eight of its guards and wounding six others. Most of the goods taken were recovered by the militia in another fight a few days later. Sugar plantations along the Atlantic coast south of St. Augustine were destroyed, with many of the slaves on the plantations joining the Seminoles.

The U.S. Army had 11 companies, about 550 soldiers, stationed in Florida. Fort King had only one company of soldiers, and it was feared that they might be overrun by the Seminoles. There were three companies at Fort Brooke, with another two expected momentarily, so it was decided to send two companies to Fort King. On December 23, 1835 the two companies, totaling 110 men, left Fort Brooke under the command of Maj. Francis L. Dade. Seminoles shadowed the marching soldiers for five days. On December 28 the Seminoles ambushed the soldiers, and killed all but three of the command, which became known as the Dade Massacre. Only three white men survived; Edwin De Courcey, was hunted down and killed by a Seminole the next day. The two survivors, Ransome Clarke and Joseph Sprague, returned to Fort Brooke. Only Clarke, who died of his wounds a few years later, left any account of the battle from the Army’s perspective. Joseph Sprague was unharmed and lived quite a while longer, but was not able to give an account of the battle as he had sought immediate refuge in a nearby bar. The Seminoles lost just three men, with five wounded. On the same day as the Dade Massacre, Osceola and his followers shot and killed Wiley Thompson and six others outside of Fort King

On November 17 Seminoles were routed from a large camp. There was another battle the next day, and the Seminoles were assumed to be headed for the Wahoo Swamp. Call waited to bring the other column across the river, then entered the Wahoo Swamp on November 21. The Seminoles resisted the advance in the Battle of Wahoo Swamp, as their families were close by, but had to retreat across a stream. Faced with trying to cross a stream of unknown depth under hostile fire, and with supplies again running short, Call withdrew and led his men to Volusia. On December 9 Call was relieved of command and replaced by Maj. Gen. Thomas Jesup, who took the troops back to Fort Brooke. The enlistments of the volunteers were up at the end of December and they went home.

January 1837 saw a change in the war. In various actions a number of Seminoles and Black Seminoles were killed or captured. At the Battle of Hatchee-Lustee, the Marine brigade captured between thirty and forty Seminoles and blacks, mainly women and children, along with 100 pack ponies and 1,400 head of cattle. At the end of January some Seminole chiefs sent messengers to Jesup, and a truce was arranged. Fighting did not stop right away, and a meeting between Jesup and the chiefs did not occur until near the end of February. In March a ‘Capitulation’ was signed by a number of chiefs, including Micanopy, stipulating that the Seminoles could be accompanied by their allies and “their negroes, their ‘bona fide’ property” in their relocation to the West. Even as Seminoles began to come into the Army camps to await transportation west, slave catchers were claiming blacks living with the Seminoles. As the Seminoles had no written records of ownership, they generally lost in disputes over ownership. Other whites were trying to have Seminoles arrested for alleged crimes or debts. All of this made the Seminoles suspicious of promises made by Jesup. On the other hand, it was noted that many of the warriors coming into the transportation camps had not brought their families, and seemed mainly to be interested in collecting supplies. By the end of May, many chiefs, including Micanopy, had surrendered. Two important leaders, Osceola and Sam Jones, had not surrendered, however, and were known to be vehemently opposed to relocation. On June 2 these two leaders with about 200 followers entered the poorly guarded holding camp at Fort Brooke and led away the 700 Seminoles there who had surrendered. The war was on again, and Jesup would never again trust the word of an Indian.

The war did not immediately resume on a large scale. General Jesup had thought that the surrender of so many Seminoles meant the war was ending, and had not planned a long campaign. Many of the soldiers had been assigned elsewhere, or, in the case of militias and volunteers, released from duty. It was also getting into summer, the ‘sickly season’, and the Army did not fight aggressively in Florida during the summer. The Panic of 1837 was reducing government revenues, but Congress appropriated another US$1.6 million for the war. In August the Army stopped supplying rations to civilians who had taken refuge at its forts. Jesup did keep pressure on the Seminoles by sending small units into the field. Many of the blacks with the Seminoles began turning themselves in. After a couple of swings in policy on dealing with fugitive slaves, Jesup ended up sending most of them west to join the Seminoles that were already in Indian territory. On September 10, 1837 the Army and militias captured a band of Mikasukis including King Phillip, one of the most important chiefs in Florida. General Jesup had King Phillip send a message to his son Coacoochee to arrange a meeting with Jesup. When Coacoochee arrived under a flag of truce, Jesup arrested him. In October Osceola and Coa Hadjo, another chief, requested a parley with Jesup. A meeting was arranged south of St. Augustine. When Osceola and Coa Hadjo arrived for the meeting, also under a white flag, they were arrested. Osceola was dead within three months of his capture, in prison at Fort Moultrie in Charleston, South Carolina. Not all of the Seminoles captured by the Army stayed captured. While Osceola was still held at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, twenty Seminoles held in the same cell with him and King Phillip escaped through a narrow window. The escapees included Coacoochee and John Horse, a Black Seminole leader.

Jesup now had a large army assembled, including volunteers from as far away as Missouri and Pennsylvania, but this lead to a problem with food. Jesup’s plan was to sweep down the peninsula with multiple columns, pushing the Seminoles further south. Colonel Zachary Taylor led a column from Fort Brooke into the middle of the state, and then southward between the Kissimmee River and the Peace River. Colonel Taylor saw the first major action of the campaign. Leaving Fort Gardiner on the upper Kissimmee with 1,000 men on December 19, Taylor headed towards Lake Okeechobee. In the first two days out ninety Seminoles surrendered. On the third day Taylor stopped to build Fort Basinger, where he left his sick and enough men to guard the Seminoles that had surrendered. Three days later, on Christmas Day, 1837, Taylor’s column caught up with the main body of the Seminoles on the north shore of Lake Okeechobee. Taylor had about 800 men, while the Seminoles numbered less than 400. Taylor sent the Missouri volunteers in first. Next in were 200 soldiers of the 6th Infantry, who lost four officers and suffered nearly 40% casualties before they withdrew. Then it was the turn of the 4th Infantry, 160 men augmented by remnants of the 6th Infantry and the Missouri volunteers. This time the troops were able to drive the Seminoles from the hammock and towards the lake. Taylor then attacked their flank with his reserves, but the Seminoles were able to escape across the lake. Only about a dozen Seminoles had been killed in the battle. Nevertheless, the Battle of Lake Okeechobee was hailed as a great victory for Taylor and the Army. Taylor now joined the other columns sweeping down the peninsula to pass on the east side of Lake Okeechobee, under the overall command of General Jesup. The troops along the Caloosahatche River blocked any passage north on the west side of the lake. Still patrolling the east coast of Florida was the combined Army-Navy force under Navy Lt. Levin Powell. On January 15 Powell, in the Battle of Jupiter Inlet, led eighty men towards a Seminole camp only to find themselves outnumbered by the Seminoles. A charge against the Seminoles was unsuccessful, but the troops made it back to their boats after losing four dead and twenty-two wounded. At the end of January Jesup’s troops caught up with a large body of Seminoles to the east of Lake Okeechobee. The Seminoles were originally positioned in a hammock, but cannon and rocket fire drove them back across a wide stream, where they made another stand. The Seminoles eventually just faded away, having caused more casualties than they received, and the Battle of Loxahatchee was over.

The fighting now died down. In February 1838 Seminole chiefs Tuskegee and Halleck Hadjo approached Jesup with the proposition that they would stop fighting if they were allowed to stay south of Lake Okeechobee. Jesup favored the idea, foreseeing a long struggle to capture the remaining Seminoles in the Everglades, and calculating that the Seminoles would be easier to round up later when the land was actually needed by white settlers. However, Jesup had to write to Washington for approval. The chiefs and their followers camped near the Army while awaiting the reply, and there was considerable fraternizing between the two camps. The approval was denied and, unwilling to let 500 Seminoles return to the swamps, Jesup sent a force to detain them. The Seminoles offered very little resistance, perhaps seeing little reason to continue fighting. Jesup now asked to be relieved of his command. As summer approached in 1838 the number of troops in Florida dwindled to about 2,300. In April Jesup was informed that he should return to his position as Quartermaster General of the Army. In May Zachary Taylor, now a General, assumed command of the Army forces in Florida.

Taylor’s plan was to build small posts at frequent intervals across northern Florida, connected by wagon roads, and to use larger units to search designated areas. This was expensive, but Congress continued to appropriate the necessary funds. In October 1838, Taylor relocated the last of the Seminole living along the Apalachicola River to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. Killings in the Tallahassee area caused Taylor to pull troops out of southern Florida to provide more protection in the north.

In Washington and around the country in 1839, support for the war was eroding. The size of the Army had been increased because of the demands for manpower in the Florida war. Many people were beginning to think that the Seminole had earned a right to stay in Florida. The cost and time required to get all the Seminole out of Florida were looming larger. Congress appropriated US$5,000 to negotiate a settlement with the Seminole people in order to end the outlay of resources. President Martin Van Buren sent the Commanding General of the Army, Alexander Macomb, to negotiate a new treaty with the Seminole. On May 19, 1839, an agreement was made. They would stop fighting in exchange for a reservation in southern Florida.

As the summer passed, the agreement seemed to be holding. A trading post was established on the north shore of the Caloosahatchee River, and the Seminole who came to the trading post seemed to be friendly. A detachment of 23 soldiers was stationed at the Calooshatchee trading post under the command of Colonel William S. Harney. On July 23, 1839 some 150 Indians attacked the trading post and guard. Some of the soldiers, including Colonel Harney, were able to reach the river and find boats to escape in, but most of the soldiers, as well as a number of civilians in the trading post, were killed.

The Americans did not know which band of Indians had attacked the trading post. Many blamed the ‘Spanish’ Indians, led by Chakaika. Some suspected Sam Jones, whose band of Mikasuki had come to agreement with Macomb. Jones promised to turn the men responsible for the attack over to Harney in 33 days. In the meantime, the Mikasuki in Sam Jones’ camp near Fort Lauderdale remained on friendly terms with the local soldiers. On July 27 they invited the officers at the fort to a dance at the Mikasuki camp. The officers declined but sent two soldiers and a Black Seminole interpreter with a keg of whiskey. The Mikasuki killed the soldiers, but the Black Seminole escaped. He reported at the fort that Sam Jones and Chitto Tustenuggee were involved in the attack. In August 1839, Seminole raiding parties operated as far north as Fort White.

The Army decided to use bloodhounds to track the Seminole. In early 1840, the Florida territorial government purchased bloodhounds from Cuba and hired Cuban handlers. Initial trials of the hounds had mixed results, and a public outcry arose against the use of the dogs, based on fears that they would be set on the Seminole in physical attacks, including against women and children. The Secretary of War ordered the dogs to be muzzled and kept on leashes while tracking. As bloodhounds cannot track through water, the Seminole easily evaded the dogs.

In May 1840 Zachary Taylor, having served longer than any preceding commander in the Florida war, was granted his request for a transfer. He was replaced by Brig. Gen. Walker Keith Armistead, who had earlier served in Florida as second in command to General Jesup. Armistead began an offensive, sending out 100 soldiers at a time to search for the Seminole and their camps. For the first time, the Army campaigned in Florida during the summer, taking captives and destroying crops and buildings. The Seminole also were active in warfare, killing fourteen soldiers during July. The Army worked to find the Seminole camps, burn their fields and stores of food, and drive off their livestock, including their horses.

Armistead planned to turn over the defense of Florida north of Fort King to the militia and volunteers. He wanted to use Army regulars to confine the Seminole to south of Fort King, and pursue them within that territory. The Army destroyed camps and fields across central Florida, a total of 500 acres of Seminole crops by the middle of the summer. General Armistead became estranged from the territorial government, although he needed 1,500 militiamen from the Territory to defend the area north of Fort King. To bolster the effort south of Fort King, the Army sent the Eighth Infantry Regiment to Florida. Changes were also being made in southern Florida. At Fort Bankhead on Key Biscayne, Col. Harney instituted an intensive training program in swamp and jungle warfare for his men.  The Navy took a larger role in the war, sending manned boats with sailors and marines up rivers and streams, and into the Everglades.

In the early years of the war Navy Lt. Levin Powell had commanded a joint Army-Navy force of some 200 men that operated along the coast. In late 1839 Navy Lt. John T. McLaughlin was given command of a joint Army-Navy amphibious force to operate in Florida. This included schooners off shore and barges close to the mainland to intercept Cuban and Bahamian traders bringing arms and other supplies to the Seminoles, and smaller boats, down to canoes, for patrolling up rivers and into the Everglades. McLaughlin established his base at Tea Table Key in the upper Florida Keys.

An attempt to cross the Everglades from west to east was launched in April 1840, but the sailors and marines were engaged by Seminoles at the rendezvous point on Cape Sable. Although there were no known fatalities, many of the naval personnel became ill, and the expedition was called off and the sick were taken to Pensacola. For the next few months the men of Lt. McLaughlin’s force explored the inlets and rivers of southern Florida. Indian Key is a small island in the upper Florida Keys which had developed into a base for wreckers. In 1836 it became the county seat of the newly created Dade County and a port of entry. Despite fears of attack and sightings of Indians in the area, the inhabitants of Indian Key stayed to protect their property, and to be close to any wrecks in the upper Keys. Early in the morning of August 7, 1840, a large party of ‘Spanish’ Indians sneaked onto Indian Key. By chance, one man was up and raised the alarm after spotting the Indians. Of about fifty people living on the island, forty were able to escape.

In December 1840, Colonel Harney finally got revenge for his humiliation on the Caloosahatchee River. He led ninety men into the Everglades from Fort Dallas on the Miami River, traveling in canoes borrowed from the Marines. They were guided by a black man named John who had been in Seminole captivity for a while. When John was having trouble finding the way, Harney tried to force the captured Seminole women to lead the way to the camp, reportedly by threatening to hang their children. However, John got his bearings again and the Harney party found the camp of Chakaika and the ‘Spanish Indians’. Dressed as Indians, the soldiers approached the camp early in the morning, achieving surprise. Chakaika was outside the camp when the attack started. He started to run and then stopped and turned to face the soldiers, offering his hand, but one of the soldiers shot and killed him. There was a brief fight during which some of the Indians escaped. Harney had two of the captured warriors hanged, and had Chakaika’s body hung beside them. Harney and his men returned to Fort Dallas after twelve days in the Everglades. Harney had lost one soldier killed. His command had killed four Indians in action and hanged five more. The Legislative Council of Florida presented Harney with a commendation and a sword, and Harney was soon given command of the Second Dragoons.

In May 1841 Armistead was replaced by Col. William Jenkins Worth as commander of Army forces in Florida. Due to the unpopularity of the war in the nation and in Congress, Worth had to cut back. The war was costing US$93,300 per month in addition to the pay of the regular soldiers. John T. Sprague, Worth’s aide, believed that some civilians were trying to deliberately prolong the war in order to stay on the government payroll. Nearly 1,000 civilian employees of the Army were released, and smaller commands were consolidated. Worth then ordered his men out on what would now be called ‘search and destroy’ missions during the summer. These efforts effectively drove the Seminoles out of their old stronghold in the Cove of the Withlacoochee. Much of the rest of northern Florida was also cleared by these methods.

On May 1, 1841 Lieutenant William Tecumseh Sherman was assigned to escort Coacoochee to a meeting at Fort Pierce. At the meeting Major Thomas Childs agreed to give Coacoochee thirty days to bring in his people for transportation west. Coacoochee’s people came and went freely at the fort for the rest of the month, while Childs became convinced that Coachoochee would renege on his agreement. Childs asked for and received permission to seize Coacoochee. On June 4 he arrested Coachoochee and fifteen of his followers. Lieutenant Colonel William Gates ordered that Coacoochee and his men be shipped immediately to New Orleans. When Colonel Worth learned of this, he ordered the ship to return to Tampa Bay, as he intended to use Coacoochee to persuade the rest of the Seminoles to surrender.

A total of 211 Seminoles surrendered as a result of Coacoochee’s capture, including most of his own band. Hospetarke was drawn into a meeting at Camp Ogden in August and he and 127 of his band were captured. As the number of Seminoles in Florida decreased, it became easier for those left to stay hidden. In November the Third Artillery moved into the Big Cypress Swamp and burned a few villages. Some of the Seminoles in southern Florida gave up after that, and turned themselves in for transportation west.

Seminoles were still scattered throughout most of Florida. One band that had been reduced to starvation surrendered in northern Florida near the Apalachicola River in 1842. On April 19, 1842, a column of 200 soldiers led by First Lieutenant George A. McCall found a group of Seminole warriors in the Pelchikaha Swamp, about thirty miles south of Fort King. There was a brief fire-fight and then the Seminoles disappeared into a hammock. Halleck Tustenuggee was held prisoner when he showed up at Fort King for a talk. Part of his band was caught when they visited the fort, and Lieutenant McCall captured the rest of Halleck’s band in their camp. Colonel Worth recommended early in 1842 that the remaining Seminoles be left in peace if they would stay in southern Florida. Worth eventually received authorization to leave the remaining Seminoles on an informal reservation in southwestern Florida, and to declare an end to the war on a date of his choosing. At this time there were still several diverse bands of Indians in Florida.

In the last action of the war, General William Bailey and prominent planter Jack Bellamy led a posse of 52 men on a three-day pursuit of a small band of Tiger Tail’s braves who had been attacking pioneers, surprising their swampy encampment and killing all 24. William Wesley Hankins, at sixteen the youngest of the posse, accounted for the last of the kills and was acknowledged as having fired the last shot of the Second Seminole War.

Peace had come to Florida for a while. The Indians were mostly staying on the reservation, but there were minor clashes. The Florida authorities continued to press for removal of all Indians from Florida. The Indians for their part tried to limit their contacts with whites as much as possible. As time went on there were more serious incidents. The government resolved once more to remove all Indians from Florida, and applied increasing pressure on the Seminoles until they struck back, starting the Third Seminole War of 1855-1858.

Battle of Bear Valley

On January 8 in 1918, a local cattleman and owner of the Ruby Mercantile, Philip C. Clarke, rode into camp and told Captain Ryder that his neighbor found the body of a cow in the mountains to the north and that a piece of its hide had been removed for making sandals. It was assumed that Yaquis killed the cow so Ryder strengthened the observation post on top of the ridge by sending up First Lieutenant William Scott and a detail of men equipped with field glasses to watch the trails from a distance. By the time the soldiers left camp the Yaquis were no longer in sight but Lieutenant Scott kept pointing so the troop kept moving due south, towards the border fence. When the Americans were finally in position, they dismounted and left a guard to watch the horses, and then continued advancing on foot in a skirmish line. Moving forward, the soldiers were nearing the top of a canyon side when Captain Ryder decided to return to the horses, using a different path. Ryder then continued up the canyon, in a southeastern direction, when suddenly the Yaquis opened fire from concealed positions.

The Americans returned fire and a typical Indian war skirmish began. Wharfield wrote that “the fighting developed into an old kind of Indian engagement with both sides using all the natural cover of boulders and brush to full advantage. The Yaquis kept falling back, dodging from boulder to boulder and firing rapidly. They offered only a fleeting target, seemingly just a disappearing shadow. The officer saw one of them running for another cover, then stumble and thereby expose himself. A corporal alongside of the captain had a good chance for an open shot. At the report of the Springfield, a flash of fire enveloped the Indian’s body for an instant, but he kept on to the rock.

About a week after the engagement, Captain Ryder was ordered to proceed to Arivaca, where the Yaqui prisoners would be held until the army figured out what to do with them. According to Wharfield, the Yaquis proved to be reliable workers and adjusted well to life in the army. Even though they were prisoners, each one received three meals a day, a straw mattress for a bed and a G.I. blanket. It was sometime during the stay at Arivaca when one of the Yaquis revealed that they had only opened fire because they thought the Buffalo Soldiers coming at them were Mexicans. All ten of the Yaquis, including the boy, volunteered to enlist in the United States Army but the government had other plans and the prisoners were later sent to Tucson for trial in federal court. Charged with “wrongfully, unlawfully, and feloniously exporting to Mexico certain arms and ammunition, to wit: 300 rifle cartridges and about 9 rifles without first procuring an export license issued by the War Trade Board of the United States,” the Yaquis pleaded guilty and were sentenced to a mere thirty days in jail, excluding the boy whose charges were dismissed.


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