Seminole War Army Boot found in the mud in Florida

This is a 1830’s military ankle boot, found at the site of the Battle of Camp Izard from the Second Seminole War in Florida. It was remarkably well preserved in the muck. This location is very close to my family ranch where I spent much of my childhood. My great great grandfather served in this war, which has almost been forgotten, which led to him getting a pension from the US Government, despite later fighting 4 years as a confederate in the Civil War. 

The western Indian wars get all the attention, but the much earlier Seminole Wars, were much more brutal. The Second Seminole War was the fiercest war waged by the US Government against American Indians, ever. The US spent more than 20 million fighting it, and suffered 1,500 KIA and MIA, from 1835 to 1842. By the end of the war, only 300 Seminoles remained. But they never gave up, and retreated to the swamps, where they were never completely defeated. 

On February 27, 1836, General Gaines was attempting to march his army across the Withlacoochee River. He was ambushed by 1500 Seminoles led by Chiefs Osceola and Alligator. A 1st Lieutenant named Izard was the first casualty, being shot in the head. They were surrounded and circled the wagons, so to speak. They were trapped in a 250 yard quadrangle. They put up temporary emergency log fortifications, which I imagine would have been pine trees and/or cabbage palms. Here is a drawing of the impromptu fort:

They were stuck there under siege for 2 weeks! A relief force of 500 Americans showed up, fired on the Seminoles, and the drive was lifted.

There is so much to learn about the Seminole Wars which is not taught in schools – even where I grew up in Florida. There is a lot of interesting Florida history which is mostly unknown. Supposedly Frederick Remington traveled to Florida after the West had already been “won,” in 1895. He found a “Wild West,” there still very wild, untamed and dangerous. Check out his drawings from his visit….

Frederic Remington famously visited Arcadia,Florida, in 1895, well after the Wild West was alredy “won,” and made the following observations about how wild Florida still was….

Wiki background on the 2nd Seminole War, leading to Izard:

Bands from various tribes in the southeastern United States had moved into the unoccupied lands in Florida in the 18th century. These included AlabamasChoctaw,  YamaseesYuchis and Creek people. The Creeks were the largest group, and included Lower Creeks and Upper Creeks, and both Hitchiti and Muscogee speakers. One group of Hitchiti speakers, the Mikasuki, settled around what is now Lake Miccosukee near Tallahassee. Another group of Hitchiti speakers settled around the Alachua Prairie in what is now Alachua County. The Spanish in St. Augustine began calling the Alachua Creeks Cimarrones, which roughly meant “wild ones” or “runaways”, and which is the probable origin of “Seminole”. This name was eventually also applied to the other groups in Florida, although the Native Americans still regarded themselves as members of different tribes. Other groups in Florida at the time of the Seminole Wars included “Spanish Indians”, so called because it was believed that they were descended from Calusas, and “rancho Indians”, persons of Native American ancestry, possibly both Calusa and Creek, and mixed Native American/Spanish ancestry, living at Spanish/Cuban fishing camps on the Florida coast.[13]

The Treaty of Moultrie Creek provided for a reservation in central Florida for the Seminoles.

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 harboring 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 1818 Andrew Jackson led an invasion of the Floridas, leading to the First Seminole War.

The United States acquired Florida from Spain through the Adams–Onís Treaty in 1819 and took possession of the territory in 1821. Now that Florida belonged to the United States, settlers pressured the government 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.[14]

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 Kingwas 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.[15]

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. New plantations in Florida increased the pool of slaves who could escape to the Seminoles.

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.[16]

The regular American army was very small at the time, with less than 7,500 men manning a total of 53 posts.[29] It was spread thin, with the Canada–US border to guard, coastal fortifications to man, and especially, Indians to move west and then watch and keep separated from white settlers. Temporary needs for additional troops were filled by state and territory militias, and by self-organized volunteer units. As news and rumors of the fighting spread, action was taken on many levels. Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott was placed in charge of the war. Congress appropriated US$620,000 for the war. Volunteer companies began forming in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. General Gaines put together a force of 1,100 regulars and volunteers in New Orleans and sailed with them to Fort Brooke.[30]

When Gaines reached Fort Brooke, he found it low on supplies. Believing that General Scott had sent supplies to Fort King, Gaines led his men on to Fort King. Along the road they found the site of the Dade Massacre, and buried the bodies in three mass graves. The force reached Fort King after nine days, only to find it was very short on supplies. After receiving seven days’ worth of rations from General Clinch at Fort Drane, Gaines headed back for Fort Brooke. Hoping to accomplish something for his efforts, Gaines took his men on a different route back to Fort Brooke, intending to engage the Seminoles in their stronghold in the Cove of the Withlacoochee River. Due to a lack of knowledge of the country, the Gaines party reached the same point on the Withlacoochee where Clinch had met the Seminoles one-and-a-half months earlier, and it took another day to find the ford while the two sides exchanged gunfire across the river.[31]

Viewing the demise of Gaines and his men.

When a crossing was attempted at the ford of the Withlacoochee, Lt. James Izard was wounded (and later died). General Gaines was stuck. He could not cross the river, and if he returned to Fort King his men would be out of rations. Gaines had his men construct a fortification, called Camp Izard, and sent word to General Clinch. Gaines hoped that the Seminoles would concentrate around Camp Izard, and that Clinch’s forces could then hit the Seminoles in their flank, crushing them between the two forces. General Scott, however, who was in charge of the war, ordered Clinch to stay at Fort Drane. Gaines’s men were soon reduced to eating their horses and mules, and an occasional dog, while a battle went on for eight days. Still at Fort Drane, Clinch requested that General Scott change his orders and allow him to go to Gaines’ aid. Clinch finally decided to disobey Scott and left to join Gaines just one day before Scott’s permission to do so arrived at Fort Drane. Clinch and his men reached Camp Izard on March 6, chasing away the Seminoles.[32]

This half-boot would have looked a lot like these:

Some other artifacts. This is a Seminole War officer’s pistol found in the 1920’s in the mud of Taylor’s Creek:

US Army hat and powder flask from the Second Seminole War:

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