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Seminole War: Capture of Osceola And Coachoochee

A History of Florida


A Pretended Surrender. In the spring of 1837, a number of chiefs came to General Jessup and promised to go south of the Withlacoochee and get their people ready at once for removal from Florida. They were to gather at a fort near Tampa, and were to be sent from there to Arkansas. By the middle of May a great many, among them Osceola and Coacoochee, had come to the fort as agreed. There was great rejoicing among the white people, for General Jessup said the war was ended. Settlers began to return to their homes.

Escape. But the Indians were not ready to leave Florida without another struggle, and had made peace only to get time to plant their crops. Osceola easily persuaded the whole party to escape with him to the Everglades. Of course there was great alarm when the escape was known. More troops were called for, and preparations were made for another campaign.

King Philip's Capture. In September the chief, King Philip, was captured by General Hernandez. King Philip sent a message to his son, Coacoochee, begging that he would come to see him. Coacoochee, when promised he should not be made a prisoner, went to the camp to see his father. He took General Hernandez friendly messages from Osceola and a white plume, which meant a wish for peace.

Relate the supposed submission of the Indians. Who led them away again? What important chief was captured? By whom?

Osceola Captured. After this Osceola came to the camp near St. Augustine, under a flag of truce. He must have known that his people had no chance of success. After some questions had been asked him, he became silent. Turning to one of his friends, he said in a low voice, "I feel choked; you must speak for me." The talk ended. General Hernandez gave a signal to the troops, who closed in upon the Indians and took them as prisoners to St. Augustine. Osceola was afterwards taken to Fort Moultrie, near Charleston. His hopes were destroyed, and, broken-hearted, he pined away and died.

Coacoochee and Talmus Hadjo in Prison. Coacoochee and his friend, Talmus Hadjo, had also been captured and imprisoned in the old fort at St. Augustine. They were put in a dungeon lighted by a small window high above the ground. A sentinel constantly guarded the door. It seemed impossible to escape, but the two prisoners determined to make the attempt. They were a long time in making their preparations, and then waited for a dark night. They made ropes by cutting up the forage bags for them to sleep on. By taking certain herbs which they had gotten by pretending they needed them for medicine, they made themselves thin enough to get through the little window.

Escape of the Chiefs. Coacoochee told the story of the escape: "I took the rope which we had hidden under our bed, and mounting upon the shoulders of Talmus Hadju raised myself upon the knife, worked into the crevices of the stone, and succeeded in reaching the hole. Here I made fast the rope, that my friend might follow me, then passed through the hole enough of it to reach the ground on the outside. I had calculated the distance when going for roots.

"With much difficulty I succeeded in getting my head through, for the sharp stones took the skin off my breast and back. Putting my head through first, I was obliged to go down head foremost until my feet were through, fearing every moment the rope would break. At last, safely the ground, I awaited the arrival of my comrade. I had passed another rope through the hole, which, in the event of discovery, Talmus Hadjo was to pull as a signal that he was discovered and could not come.

Arrest of Osceola

Tell of the capture of Osceola and his imprisonment.

"As soon as I struck the ground, I took hold of my signal for intelligence of my friend. The night was very dark. Two men passed near me talking earnestly, and I could see them distinctly. Soon I heard the struggle of my companion far above me. He had succeeded in getting his head through, but his body would come no farther. In the lowest tone of voice I urged him to throw out his breath and then try. Soon after he came tumbling down the whole distance. For a few moments I thought him dead. I dragged him to some water near by, which restored him; but his leg was so lame he was unable to walk.

"I took him upon my shoulder. Daylight was just breaking; we must move rapidly. I caught a mule in a field, and making a bridle out of my sash, mounted my companion, and started for the St. Johns. We used the mule one day, but feared the whites would track us, and thought it safer to go on foot through the hammocks, though we must go more slowly.

"Thus we continued our journey five days, eating roots and berries, when I reached my band at the head waters of the Tomoka River, near the Atlantic coast." He said that when he was taken prisoner, his men were ready to leave the country, but now they said they would all die in Florida. Their indignation was so great when they learned from him of the treatment he had received, that they determined to fight the fight out to the last rather than trust again to the white man's promises. Yet they must have known the fight to be a losing one."

What effect did Coacoochee say the capture had had upon the Indian tribes?

Excerpt from Part Two, Chapter Eight, "The Capture of Osceola and Coacoochee" A History of Florida, 1904. Next Section; Table of Contents.


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