Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Key to abbreviations in notes
 A new strategy
 Florida background
 West India squadron
 The commodore
 First attempt
 Shipwrecks and Indian massacre...
 U.S. steamer poinsett
 Mosquito fleet
 Florida expedition: A riverine...
xml version 1.0 standalone yes
PageID P136
ErrorID 4

PRIVATE ITEM Digitization of this item is currently in progress.
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00101408/00001
 Material Information
Title: Swamp sailors
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Buker, George E., 1923-
Publisher: University Presses of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 1103536
lccn - 74186326
isbn - 0813003520
System ID: UF00101408:00001

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
    Key to abbreviations in notes
        Page viii
    A new strategy
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
    Florida background
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
    West India squadron
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
    The commodore
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
    First attempt
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
    Shipwrecks and Indian massacres
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
    U.S. steamer poinsett
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
    Mosquito fleet
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
    Florida expedition: A riverine task force
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
Full Text

St. Augustine

iclote Keyj

bullet Kevl





SFowey Rocks
Cape Florida

vernier Key

T._ b. 4
v,... 1*7-4

To my sons

Gil and Gary

Swamp Sailors

Riverine Warfare in the Everglades


George E. Buker

A University of Florida Book
The University Presses of Florida
Gainesville /1975

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Buker, George E. 1923-
Swamp sailors: riverine warfare in the Everglades,
Includes index.
Bibliography: p.
1. Seminole War, 2d, 1835-1842-Naval operations.
2. United States. Navy-History-Seminole War, 2d,
1835-1842. I. Title.
E83.835.B8 973.5'7 74-186326
ISBN 0-8130-0352-0


All rights reserved



I wish to express my gratitude to Dr. John K. Mahon and Dr.
Samuel Proctor of the University of Florida, and to Miss Elizabeth
Alexander of the P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History. I am in-
debted to the Florida Historical Quarterly for permission to use my
article, "Lieutenant Levin M. Powell, U.S.N., Pioneer of Riverine
Warfare," which was published in January 1969. To my son Gary,
my thanks for his careful proofreading which eliminated so many
errors. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the invaluable aid
rendered by my wife, Dorothy, whose contributions are beyond

Not by rambling operations, or naval duels, are wars decided, but
by force massed, and handled in skilful combination. It matters not
that the particular force be small. The art of war is the same
throughout; and may be illustrated as really, though less conspicu-
ously, by a flotilla as by an armada.

A. T. MAHAN, 1905


1. A New Strategy 1
2. Florida Background 7
3. West India Squadron 16
4. The Commodore 32
5. First Attempt 49
6. Shipwrecks and Indian Massacres 69
7. U.S. Steamer Poinsett 82
8. Mosquito Fleet 97
9. Florida Expedition: A Riverine Task Force 115
10. Epilogue 136
Bibliography 141
Index 145

Capt. Itrs.
Cdr. Itrs.

JAG (Navy)
Off. Itrs.

Off., Ships of







Army and Navy Chronicle
Adjutant General
Adjutant General, Letters Received
Adjutant General, Letters Sent
American State Papers: Military Affairs
American State Papers: Naval Affairs
Letters received by the Secretary of the Navy from captains
Letters received by the Secretary of the Navy from com-
Commanding Officer
Dictionary of American Biography
Judge Advocate General (Navy)
National Cyclopaedia of American Biography
Niles' (Weekly or National) Register
Letters received by the Secretary of the Navy from officers
below the rank of commander
Letters sent by the Secretary of the Navy to officers

Office of Naval Records, "Records Relating to the Service of
the Navy and the Marine Corps on the Coast of Florida,
Secretary of the Navy
Secretary of the Treasury
Secretary of War
Office of the Secretary of War, "Letters Received, Main
Series, 1801-1870"
Office of the Secretary of War, "Letters Sent Relating to
Military Affairs, 1800-1889"
Office of the Secretary of War, "Registers of Letters Received,
Main Series, 1800-1870"
Clarence E. Carter. The Territorial Papers of the United
States. Vols. 22-26, Florida Territory
United States Naval Institute Proceedings

A New Strategy

During the three and a half decades prior to the Second Seminole
War the United States Navy had developed under the two different
strains of strategic doctrine or theory advocated by the Federalists
and the Jeffersonians. Neither group proposed an aggressive policy
of command of the seas; both were defense strategies differing
only in execution, with the Federalists supperting----uise-
-conmerce-raiding doctrine and the Jeffersonians lying on a
__gunboat-coastal-defense policy. These defensive strategies of the
Federalists and Jeffersonians correspond to Mahan's definitions of
offensive defense and passive defense; thus, if naval forces go forth
to meet the opponent's navy and merchant marine without attempt-
ing to attack the enemy's country it is offensive defense, and if a
nation relies upon coastal fortifications and harbor craft it is passive
The Federalist doctrine of cruiser-commerce-raiding was a legacy
from the Revolutionary War when American naval vessels were sent
out to cruise the high seas and prey upon the British merchant fleet.
For the struggling colonies to match the British Royal Navy in
ships-of-the-line would have been impossible, but to employ smaller
men-o-war and privateers as cruisers to seek merchantmen at sea
was relatively easy. The success of the American single-warship
encounters with the enemy strengthened this guerre de course con-
1. Mahan, Influence of Seapower, p. 75n9. Complete citations may be found
in the Bibliography beginning on p. 141.


cept, and there were enough such meetings to foster the belief that
this was the proper scope for naval operations. The decisive impact
of the French fleet off Yorktown escaped many Americans who
looked only to their own maritime exploits for naval guidance.
During the war as a whole this meant single-ship cruising, for there
were only three instances of truly multiship operations: the raid
upon the Bahamas, the battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain,
and the ill-fated Penobscot Expedition.
The quasi-war with France in the closing years of the eighteenth
century seemed to confirm the cruiser-commerce-raiding concept,
as once again American success was seen out of the context of the
overall naval situation. France had suffered serious defeats at the
hands of the British fleet at Cape St. Vincent, Camperdown, and the
Nile, which limited the number of men-o-war she could spare for
the American conflict in the Caribbean. With the victorious Brit-
ish so close to France's shores, the inchoate American Navy was
free to engage the numerous small, shallow-draft French privateers
and the few French warships that managed to escape the British.
Against this foe the United States Navy conducted itself rather
well, and its victories obscured the protective role of the British
Navy. T ll ta ederaists as t pr tn th ce
nf this strategy of gue.rr-de-course.
The victory of the Jeffersonian Republican Party in 1800 brought
forth the second strain of naval strategy as the agrarians-who
turned their backs upon the seacoast and looked toward the west-
ern continental frontier-took over the nation's political reins.
Under Jefferson's policy of naval retrenchment there developed the
concept of passive defense relying upon fixed coastal fortifications
and "Mr. Jefferson's gunboat navy." The military and naval policies
of the agrarians were built upon the premise that a large standing
army and navy would breed an elite corps of officers which could
threaten the democratic foundations of the nation. Therefere-,Mii--
ta*r- defense ld be based Upuon tile local lliltlida bough toM--
gethl-eto meetspecific needs; in like manner, the naval organization
should be centered around coastal and harbor defense, using gun-
boats or barges that would be built and stored along the country's
shoreline to be manned by local seamen when attack threatened.
The limited cost of these gunboats, in comparison to ships-of-the-
line, made a strong appeal to the agrarian elements of the nation,
and Congress soon authorized the construction of a large number

A New Strategy 3
of gunboats. These shallow-draft vessels varied from forty-five to
seventy-five feet in length, with beams of up to eighteen feet and
five-foot holds. They were manned by crews of twenty or more, and
were rigged with sails, fitted with oars, and armed with 18- to 32-
pounder medium guns and a small carronade on a truck carriage.
The Tripolitan War, 1801-7, provided the new gunboat navy with
its first wartime operations. Eight of these vessels, with their guns
stowed below, were sailed across the Atlantic to join the frigates
off the North African coast. The gunboats performed yeoman work
along the coastal waters and harbors of the Barbary states, exe-
cuting many vital tasks that could not be performed by the larger
vessels. The exploits of these small craft appealed to the Jeffer-
sonians for they enhanced the agrarian concept of a limited navy;
as a result the Jeffersonian-controlled Congress authorized addi-
tional gunbarges in 1805, 1806, and 1807.
In the War of 1812 both the Federalist and Jeffersonian doctrines
appeared successful as Perry's exploits on Lake Erie and Mac-
donough's on Lake Champlain, both conducted in hastily built
vessels, strengthened the gunboat policy of local defense; the Fed- A
eralist single-ship cruiser strategy was enhanced by thirteen Amer-
ican victories out of the twenty-five single-ship engagements with
British men-o-war on the open seas. Over 1,000 merchantmen were
captured in commerce-raiding, which inflicted enough injury upon
Britain to produce the political desire to meet at the peace table.
These exploits convinced theAmericans-thatthe two doctrines were
seomd anidwere the proper roles for naval operations.
In the postwar decades of the 1820s and 1830s the United States
continued to practice these earlier naval concepts, although multi-
ship organization became formalized in the navy when the Medi-
terranean Squadron was created in 1815 in response to the threat
to commerce from the Barbary states. In 1822, the West India
Squadron was added to deal with piracy in the Gulf of Mexico
and the Caribbean Sea. Yet the term squadron is misleading-the
vessels generally cruised individually and there was no attempt to
hold fleet or squadron exercises. According to the conclusions
reached by Harold and Margaret Sprout in their study of American
naval power, professional naval opinion in 1836 still failed to com-
prehend the importance of the use of fleet operations or the theory
of command of the sea.2
2. Sprout and Sprout, American Naval Power, pp. 86-87, 109.


During these years the Secretary of the Navy controlled most
naval affairs, including strategic planning, while the Board of Com-
missioners (the senior professional group composed of three navy
captains) handled technical problems such as ship design and con-
struction. Thus the secretary, from the seat of the government, ac-
tively participated in operational decisions with his commanders
afloat, which delayed the development of integrated fleet operations
even more. This also promoted the practice of individual officers
writing directly to the secretary rather than through the chain of
It was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that Cap-
tain Alfred T. Mahan's detailed and masterful analysis of the War
of 1812 pointed out the fallacy of the conclusions drawn by the
Americans from this conflict. For Mahan, one of the lessons of the
war was the value of Britain's doctrine of command of the sea as
opposed to the American strategy of guerre de course. The only
naval theater in which the United States had employed the theory
of command of the sea had been the inland lakes, and Mahan felt
that even there the campaign plans had failed to grasp the full
sjnificance of this strategy.3
vlBoth of the American doctrines-guerre de course and local de-
fense-retarded the development of a synchronized naval fighting
machine. The cruiser-commerce-raiding theory promoted indi-
vidual ship handling; each vessel received its orders independently
from the Navy Department, and the ship's captain could develop
more initiative, but complex operations (especially among diverse
classes of vessels) were strictly limited. Also, commerce-raiding
and single-ship cruising left little opportunity for joint army-navy
operations, and the few common ventures can only be described as
cooperation between two independent organizations, not a joint
action of the two services. In consequence, many naval officers
misunderstood the military role, and army officers failed to under-
/ sand the seagoing functions of the navy.
V Until the Second Seminole War the United States Navy had gen-
erally employed the Federalist doctrine, but the uniqueness of this
Indian conflict caused the navy to adopt a new offensive strategy.
For the first time in its history the American Navy was pitted
against a nonmaritime foe. There were no merchantmen to attack;
there were no cruisers to engage in single-ship combat; there were
3. Mahan, War of 1812, 2: chap. 12.

A New Strategy 5
no enemy fleets to be repelled from the nation's harbors; there were
only Indians, in a watery environment, resisting the demands of
the United States Government. Although it was not apparent to the
navy at the war's inception, a successful strategy called for com-
Iand not of the seas but of the riverine environment where the
eminoles sought refuge-the Everglades of Florida.
Riverine warfare is the extension of nayaLpower to restricted,
often shallow, coastal and inland waterways. This type of conflict
should not be confused with amphibious assault or river-crossing
operations. Combat under those latter conditions is based upon
the assumption that the intervening water between the two forces
is an obstacle to be overcome. The army invasions of North Africa,
Sicily, Italy, and Normandy in the European theater, and marine
landings on Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa in the Pacific
are all examples of amphibious assault techniques developed dur-
ing World War II; the Third Army's bestriding of the Rhine is a
modern study of river crossing. None of these should be classified
as riverine warfare.
Another type of waterborne conflict that has sometimes been
classified as riverine warfare is the engagement between two nauti-
cal forces upon inland waters: the naval battles on Lake Champlain
during the Revolutionary War and on Lakes Champlain, Erie, and
Ontario in'the War of 1812 are examples of such struggles. This
category of fighting is excluded from riverine warfare because its
form of combat is naval in execution, notwithstanding the use of
small vessels in restricted waters.
-j What then is riverine warfare? There must be further definition
than the initial statement that it is the extension of naval power to
restricted coastal and inland waters. The interior waterways may
consist of a large and extensive river system traversing hostile ter-
ritory, a coastal area with deep bays or estuaries leading to centers
of population, or vast swamplands serving as a refuge and base of
operations for an enemy. Practitioners of riverine warfare employ
such fluid concourses as the basic means by which to reach the
adversary. In most cases, the thrust into the enemy's land would be
met by military rather than naval resistance, and the major con-
frontations would not be naval. Therefore, riverine forces must be
specially trained combat groups organized for sustained operations
in both elements, an te c utWl small due to
the operaonterrai. In sltmmnnitt[oni, riyeriue.warfare .is a special-

ized form of combat, neither naval nor military, but a blend of the
two, conducted a riven environment.
Cruiser-commerce-raiding strategy promoted traits and attitudes
among naval officers that were the antithesis of those necessary for
riverine warfare. Riverine warfare needs a naval command familiar
with setting up and directing complex operations utilizing a variety
of diverse forces to achieve an overall objective; a naval command
ready to accept the principles of joint operations rather than the
more individualistic approach of cooperation; and a naval com-
mand trained for military as well as naval tactics and able to blend
the two to meet a given situation.
It was during the Second Seminole War, 1835-42, that the as-
signed naval forces slowly evolved an organization for riverine war-
fare. The result of years of adherence to the older concepts delayed
the development so that only after the more flexible junior officers
in the navy began to take command did this evolution take place.

Florida Background

The Seminoles were not the original inhabitants of Florida. When
the Spanish arrived they found the Calusa Indians living in southern
Florida, ranging as far north as Cape Kennedy on the east coast
and Tampa Bay on the west; the Timucua-speaking tribes inhab-
iting the remainder of the peninsula; and the Apalachees dwelling
on the panhandle, from the Aucilla River westward. These tribes
were almost extinct by the time Spain turned Florida over to Great
Britain in the mid-eighteenth century, and the few remaining sur-
vivors moved to Cuba with their Spanish allies in 1763. Earlier
various bands of Indians from the Creek confederation had begun
to drift south from their tribal lands in Alabama and Georgia to
settle the habitable but now nearly deserted territory of Florida.
These bands became known as Seminoles, meaning runaways, to
indicate their break from the Creek confederation.
During the English period in Florida, 1763-83, the Seminoles
enjoyed peace with a certain degree of prosperity, but all of this
changed when Spain regained Florida after the American Revolu-
tion. The Spanish, who exercised only minimal control, could not
prevent border depredations from breaking out between the Amer-
icans and Seminoles-over runaway Negro slaves who sought
refuge among the Indians, and over the perennial frontier prob-
lem of cattle ownership. Much of the trouble was masked by the
international situation among the United States, Spain, and Eng-
land along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. For example, in 1812


the Spanish governor encouraged the Florida Indians to attack
Georgia, and the following year United States troops marched
into Spanish territory to retaliate. During this same period the
English were actively recruiting Indian allies in Spanish Florida
for their own struggle with the United States. Such power politics
worsened relations between the Americans and the Seminoles.
The end of the War of 1812 did not stop the intrigue and border
strife which plagued Spanish Florida. British merchants continued
to provide trade goods and encouragement to the Indians in their
struggle against the Americans, and Negro slaves found safety in
Florida. By 1817 President James Monroe's administration author-
ized Andrew Jackson to cross the Spanish border to chastise the
Seminoles. During this action-known as the First Seminole War,
1817-18--Jackson, believing his orders included driving Spain out
of Florida, burned Indian villages, captured and executed two
British citizens, and occupied the Spanish settlements of St. Marks
and Pensacola. Although President Monroe returned Jackson's con-
quests to Spain, the Spanish Crown realized its precarious position
/as a neighbor of the Americans and so ceded Florida to the United
S States by the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819. The territorial transfer
was accomplished in 1822.
The slave problem was complicated by events which had trans-
pired while Florida was under Spain. In 1796, the Creek chiefs in
the United States had agreed to surrender all runaway Negro
slaves to the Americans, and most southerners-considering the
Seminoles to be part of the Creek confederation-felt that this
Treaty of Colerain was binding upon the Florida Indians as well.
The Seminoles, neither participating in the treaty nor considering
themselves bound by its terms, vigorously denied such an interpre-
tation. They had no recourse to justice except at the hands of their
American oppressors, and it was difficult for the Indians to offer
proof acceptable to white slaveowners that any of the Indian
Negroes were legitimately owned.
During the first decade and a half under American rule, the
Seminole position steadily deteriorated as concessions were wrung
from the red men. The Treaty of Moultrie Creek, 1823, initiated
the decline when the Indians ceded over twenty-eight million
acres to the United States while retaining only four million for
themselves. The whites further insisted that the Seminole Indian
reservation be set aside in the center of the peninsula to cut off

Florida Background 9
communications between the Seminoles and their Spanish friends
in Cuba.
Early in 1825, President Monroe spoke out for a federal policy
to move all American Indians west of the Mississippi River to
eliminate frontier conflicts. The fruition of this plan was the "Indian
Removal Act," passed by Congress in 1830 while Andrew Jackson
was president.
Two years later, under the terms of the Treaty of Payne's Land-
ing, the Seminoles agreed to send seven chiefs west under federal
auspices to examine the lands set aside for the tribe. If the chiefs
were satisfied, the Florida Indians would migrate within three years.
At Fort Gibson, in Arkansas territory, the chiefs signed their ac-
ceptance in the spring of 1833; however, some of the chiefs later
claimed that they were threatened that they would not be allowed
to leave the fort until the document was signed. This Treaty of
Fort Gibson was repudiated by many of the Seminoles, including
some of the signing chiefs, but the legal technicalities were com-
plete and the Americans made ready to move the Florida Indians
west, with force if necessary.
By 1834 the Seminole nation consisted of many bands scattered
throughout the Florida territory. In spite of the Treaty of Moultrie
Creek, the reservation was too small and barren to contain all the
Florida Indians. In October of that year the Indian Agent Wiley
Thompson held a council of the chiefs to give the Indians their last
annuity payment in Florida before the migration that was sched-
uled for the spring of 1835. Although four of the chiefs were in
favor of the move, Osceola was foremost among the defiant lead-
ers, and it became apparent that many of the Indians were going
to resist the move physically. As it turned out, this was not the last
meeting for annuities or discussion. The following April the govern-
ment was still not ready to begin the actual move, so an even larger
council was held; this time sixteen chiefs acknowledged their ob-
ligation to go west. One of the more influential and intractable men
at this meeting was Sam Jones (Arpeika)-a Mikasuki medicine
man, not a war chief-who hated the whites with a consuming
rage and did everything in his power to stiffen Indian resistance
to white demands. Among the chiefs who did not take an active
part in the meeting were King Philip (father of Coacoochee, or
Wildcat) and Chakaika. Philip led a Mikasuki group living in east
Florida south of St. Augustine, and Chakaika led a band of "Span-


ish Indians" who lived in the Everglades. It is possible that Cha-
kaika was not aware of the meeting because of his remoteness.
These Spanish Indians derived their name from the contemporary
belief that they were Calusa Indians, the indigenous natives of
Florida, but many scholars now believe that they were a isolated
band of Seminoles.'
Missing from the council was another group, also called Spanish
Indians, who made their living as fishermen on the ranchos scat-
tered along the coast of Florida. The inhabitants of these ranchos,
a mixed population of Spanish-speaking Indians and Cubans, har-
vested and cured fish for the Havana market, and there was some
confusion over their status. As early as January 1, 1834, based upon
hearsay from a Georgian slave-hunter, Agent Wiley Thompson said
that these ranchos were composed of a "lawless, motley crew ..
who will leave nothing unattempted to induce the Indians to op-
pose emigration."2 Captain William Buner [Bunce], an American
owner and operator of a rancho at Tampa Bay (his title was ob-
tained from the ownership of fishing craft and not from naval or
military service), held a more favorable view. He employed twenty
Spanish Indians and ten Cubans at his establishment, and he re-
ported that the Indians had been born and raised on the rancho.
According to Buner, they were fishermen and sailors who had
never traveled inland from the coast more than ten miles, and he
felt that they would not be able to survive as hunters in the West,
living in such a strange environment away from the sea.3
\ Judge Augustus Steele was in accord with Buner's view that
these Indians were fishermen and were in a different category from
the other Seminoles. He noted that they had never been amenable
to Indian laws or been allowed to receive any of the annuity
granted by the federal government. As he pointed out, they had
been considered as Spanish fishermen when Florida was a part of
Spain, and therefore they should be treated as Spaniards who had
elected to remain in Florida and become citizens of the United
1. Sturtevant, "Chakaika"; Neill, "Identity."
2. Thompson to William P. Duval, 1 Jan. 1834, ASPMA, 6:454.
3. William Buner was also known as William Bunce. In this letter and in
the text of Judge Steele's letter, he is referred to as Buner, yet Captain Ezekiel
Jones, USRM, and others used the name Bunce. I have used Buner in this
instance and for the remainder of the book used Bunce, in accordance with
the usage of contemporaries. Buner to Wiley Thompson, 9 Jan. 1835, ibid.;
Jones to Master Commandant Thomas T. Webb, 18 Mar. 1836, encl. in Dallas
to SN, 9 Apr. 1836, Capt. Itrs. See also Dodd, "Bunce."

Florida Background 11
States by virtue of the Adams-Onis Treaty. The judge went on to
say that "two of those [Spanish Indians] in Captain Buner's service
are registered as seamen on a vessel roll of equipage in the custom-
house at Key West, and another is enrolled among my revenue
crew, and is a first rate seaman, having followed the sea from a
For a short while after the war started, the army did offer pro-
tection to the rancho Indians gathered at Tampa Bay, but in time
the policy changed and the Indians were shipped west.
Many arguments have been presented concerning the treatment
received by the Seminoles, pro and con, by contemporaries and by
* -J later scholars. Rgardlesswith t rpr;iation of the Treaty of
Fort Gibson most of the psychological ingredient to prepare the
Florida Indians for the Second Seminole War had been assembled:
a history of conflict between Americans and Seminoles, threat of a
loss of their legitimate Negro slaves, and a forced migration to,
western lands.
As the United States took steps to remove the Seminoles from
Florida in 1835, the enormous difference between the military
strengths of the two peoples seemed to preclude the possibility of
a drawnout war. The Seminole nation had a population of about
4,000 and estimates of the number of warriors varied from 900 to
1,400. According to tribal custom, individual braves were free to
follow the war chief of their choice, while the chiefs themselves
were equally independent in their operations. Thus, the Seminoles
lacked the military centralization necessary to utilize their fighting
strength effectively and to maximum advantage. This was partly
balanced by the terrain of operations; except for the coastline, the
peninsula was unknown to white men, and much of the interior,
with its swamps and rivers, was unexplored and difficult to traverse.
There were times during their struggle with the white men, es-
pecially in the early stages of the war, when the Seminoles executed
strategical plans with a high degree of sophistication. Frequently,
the Florida Indians were rather daring military innovators. For
example, on three occasions the Seminoles made night attacks,
something very rare in the annals of Indian warfare: Fort Drane
in April 1836; against Army Colonel Alexander C. W. Fanning's
detachment on the shores of Lake Monroe in February 1837; and
on Indian Key in August 1840. During the Indian Key raid, the
4. Steele to Thompson, 10 Jan. 1835, ASPMA, 6:484.

I- .


~tr' -


. .. . -- -= 7 -i :
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Sorrows of the Seminoles: banished from Florida

L -

J -
j f-

Florida Background 13
warriors repelled a small naval detachment by turning the white
man's cannons on the approaching boats in a further display of
military ability. At another time they invested a blockhouse for
forty-eight days before an American relief column arrived, an ex-
ceptionally patient undertaking for unsophisticated fighting men.
Prior to the Battle of Okeechobee, December 1837, the Seminoles
prepared the field by notching rifle rests on the palm trees of their
hammock and clearing out shrubs and underbrush to create a clear
fire field.
Against the Seminole nation stood the United States of America
with its population of about 17 million, of which 18,000 lived in
the Florida territory. The army's official strength was set at about
7,000 officers and men, although the number prepared for active
combat was closer to 4,000. In all there were 116 companies-
made up of infantry, artillery, and dragoons-strung out along the
vast perimeter of the nation from the Canadian border, the North-
west frontier, the Mississippi, into Florida, where eleven companies
(about 550 men) were stationed. In addition, many volunteer
militia units from the southern states participated in the war for
varying periods of service. John K. Mahon, in his History of the
Second Seminole War, estimates that 10,169 regulars and 30,000
9jhtiamen saw duty in Florida throughout the war years.5
SThis was the last American war to be fought principally by flint-
lock muskets. Opposed to the American flintlock was the small-bore
Spanish rifle made in Cuba, the basic hand weapon of the Sem-
inoles. While this rifle might have been superior to the army's mus-
ket in some respects, the Indian's lack of care while aiming and
firing his weapon, plus the limited hitting power of its small
caliber, gave a decided firepower advantage to the Americans.
*The war broke out in December 1835 when the Seminoles com-
mitted a series of widely separated assaults upon the whites
throughout Florida, actions so well timed that they could not have
been happenstance. In the early months of the conflict the Semi-
noles met the Americans in battle with rather large groups of
warriors-200 to 500 in some instances and over 1,000 on one oc-
casion. These actions caused the army command to assume that
this war would be fought with the European tactics of massed for-
mations and decisive engagements. As a result, the early command-
ers sent large columns of regulars and militia into the wilderness
5. Page 325.


with complex plans to converge upon Indian strongholds and de-
feat them on the field of battle. The unfamiliar Florida terrain
hampered, delayed, and discouraged the American military columns
as they thrashed about building roads, fording rivers, erecting forts,
and trying to create a supply system to support their movements.
These early campaigns did not produce any crucial engagements,
and, in the view of many contemporaries, led to few tangible
I results.
-V The Seminoles were aware that they were outnumbered and, as
the American military force built up in the territory, stopped using
large numbers in single actions. They were too few in numbers to
risk everything on one all-out attempt, and, in all probability, their
logistical organization was too primitive to allow them to remain
in large groups for any extended periods of time. Very early in the
conflict the Seminoles broke up into smaller bands and began har-
rying the army around the perimeter, avoiding critical confronta-
The conflict became a war of attrition and by 1839 about three-
fourths of the Seminoles had been eliminated from the territory,
most by capture or defection as various bands turned themselves in
and agreed to go west. Many of the Seminoles remaining in the
territory withdrew to the Everglades in South Florida to wage a
last-ditch fight using guerrilla tactics. The Seminoles were reduced
to around 300 by 1842 when Washington finally acknowledged that
it would be impossible to track down every Indian hiding in the
swamps. Thus the Second Seminole War came to an end, not by
victory on the field of battle, nor by diplomatic maneuvers at the
peace table, but by the mere expedient of no longer sending United
States military forces into the Florida Everglades to harass and
track down the remaining Seminoles.-*
The army had the prime responsibility for the Indian war in
Florida, but, as the theater of operations moved south to terrain
surrounded on three sides by water and encompassing the vast
swamps of the Everglades, it became necessary for naval forces to
participate. The United States Navy was a small organization: 785
officers and 3,627 sailors, augmented by a Marine Corps of 58 offi-
cers and 1,177 men. With this personnel the Navy Department
manned its shore establishment and eighteen ships spread over the
oceans of the world in five squadrons. It was a spare force with
no reserve. At the outbreak of hostilities the West India Squadron,

Florida Background 15
assigned to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, had on
station the frigate Constellation (flagship), the sloops-of-war Van-
dalia and St. Louis, and the schooner Grampus.6
S ,After the military campaign in the fall and winter of 1837-38,
the army command realized that it would have to rely on small
shallow-draft vessels to maintain communications among the mili-\,,
tary outposts along the perimeter of the Everglades and would have-
to penetrate the swamp. The navy did not have suitable craft for-
the task or the money to procure them, but it agreed to officer and
man any vessels the army could provide. 4rhis-eventually led to the
formatiorr-oftheMosquito Fleet (seven ships manned by 622 offi-
cers and men)--arrd-the gradual development of riverine warfare as
-a-concept for naval operations. The Mosquito Fleet's activities
broadened the professional horizon of many of the participating
.naval-offieers beyond the limited strategical concepts which had
- prevailed. The rest of the book will demonstrate the development
of the concept of riverine warfare.
6. ASPNA, 4:731, 763, 795-97, 799.

West India Squadron

As the time approached for the removal of the Seminole Indians
from their homeland, General Duncan L. Clinch, the army com-
mander in Florida, requested the assistance of a revenue cutter ,
from the Treasury Department. He proposed that this ship should
cruise along the west coast of Florida during December 1835, or-
dering the Indians to move to Fort Brooke on Tampa Bay, the port
of embarkation for the migration to the West. His request was
modified in Washington so that a navy vessel could be assigned
and Secretary of the Navy Mahlon Dickerson issued the necessary
instructions to Commodore Alexander J. Dallas, USN, commander
of the West India Squadron, on October 29, 1835.1 The use of this
one vessel appeared to be the extent of the service the navy would
be called upon to perform.

Major Francis L. Dade, USA, leading two companies of regulars
from Fort Brooke north to Fort King, marched into an ambush on
the morning of December 28 and was killed, as were all but three
of his 108 men. That same afternoon another band of Seminoles
shot and killed the Indian Agent Wiley Thompson and his com-
panion, First Lieutenant Constantine Smith, USA, near the agency
at Fort King. Three days later the Indians bested the Americans
1. Clinch to AG, 8 Oct. 1836, TP:Florida, 25:182-84; SN to Dallas, 29
Oct. 1836, Off., Ships of War.

West India Squadron 17
in the Battle of the Withlacoochee. Fears now caused Florida's
white settlers to move into the populated centers at St. Augustine,
Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Fort Brooke. At the southern ex-
tremity of the peninsula, a group of Seminoles attacked the William
Cooley homestead in the sparsely settled area along New River.
Cooley, acting as the lightkeeper for the Cape Florida Lighthouse
while the regular keeper was on vacation, was away from his home
when a group of warriors murdered Mrs. Cooley, the three chil-
dren, and Joseph Flinton, the children's tutor, on January 4, 1836.
The Indians then made several attempts to destroy the lighthouse.
Cooley was forced to abandon it on January 16 and move south
with the other settlers of the area to the larger communities at
Indian Key and Key West.2 William Cooley remained at Indian Key,
the settlement nearest to the mainland, waiting for an opportunity
for revenge.
All of these Indian attacks brought calls to the naval forces for
aid. The initial operations by the West India Squadron were im-
promptu tactical maneuvers in response to enemy actions, either
\actual or anticipated, and with a few exceptions the squadron's
Reaction to the Indian hostilities continued to be tactical for the
Next three years. Commodore Dallas and most of his commanding
officers failed to develop a strategic plan for utilizing their forces
effectively against the Seminoles. The naval operations undertaken
consisted of a series of actions by individual units responding to
specific events without the unity of an overall strategy. It was the
execution of the theory of single-ship-cruising against the Florida

George K. Walker, acting governor of Florida during the absence
of Governor John H. Eaton, requested that a small naval force be
organized to operate along the shore and rivers of West Florida.
Governor Eaton, who happened to be in Pensacola the day Master
Commandant Thomas T. Webb, USN, brought his sloop-of-war
Vandalia into the bay, followed up this request on December 28,
1835. He gave Webb a direct requisition for two officers, twenty-
five or thirty men, two boats, some light artillery, side arms, and

2. William Cooley's name was also spelled Coolie, Key West Inquirer, 16
Jan. 1836; Browne, Key West, p. 84; Whitehead to Dallas, 11 Jan., encl. in
Dallas to SN, 12 Jan. 1836, Capt. Itrs.


provisions to man a steamboat which the governor had chartered
to examine the coast from Pensacola to Tampa Bay.3
Four days later Lieutenant Edward T. Doughty, USN, of the
Vandalia departed Pensacola with twenty-nine sailors and marines
in the steamer, towing two small boats. Doughty was ordered to
proceed to Tampa Bay, running along the shore as close to land
as possible, to search out any Indians who might be traveling by
canoe. If he found any friendly Seminoles they were to be taken
into protective custody; hostile groups were to be cut off from the
shore, run down, and captured or destroyed. Governor Eaton
warned that Spanish fishing vessels from Cuba might be carrying
arms to the Seminoles, and, if there was any reason to doubt the
legitimacy of one of them, Doughty was to take it in to the nearest
port for adjudication. En route, the steamer was found to be un-
seaworthy, so Doughty took it into St. Marks where he left it and
part of his command, making the remainder of the trip to Tampa
Bay in the two small boats.4
In the meantime, Captain Francis S. Belton, USA, 2d Artillery,
commanding at Fort Brooke, requested aid from the naval forces
at Pensacola because the bay area was infested with hostile Indians
who far outnumbered his small command. His problem was com-
plicated by the presence of six unarmed army transport vessels
gathered at Tampa Bay to carry the Seminoles westward. More
vessels were expected daily, and the captain feared the Indians
might encircle the bay, establish themselves on islands at the en-
trance, and attack the transports. He requested a warship, muni-
tions, and some small boats to defend the public property at anchor
and the friendly Indian families who had been placed on some of

3. The rank of master commandant was changed to commander in 1837.
The Vandalia was a second-class sloop-of-war of the Boston class which was
launched at Philadelphia in 1828. She was rated as an 18-gun ship. Her di-
mensions were: length 127 feet, beam 34 feet, depth of hold 15 feet. She was
of 783-ton burden and carried three masts. The Vandalia had a long career
in the navy, serving on many stations. She was one of the vessels with Com-
modore Perry's expedition to Japan, and later participated in the Civil War.
In the 1870s she was scrapped but because of legal subterfuge a new steam
vessel carried her name for official and accounting purposes. This new Vandalia
was finally wrecked in a hurricane off Samoa. Chapelle, Sailing Navy, pp. 344-
45; Fitzpatrick and Saphire, Navy Maverick, pp. 147, 257; Walker to CO
naval yard, Pensacola, 16 Dec. 1835, Cdr. Itrs.
4. Eaton to Webb, 27 Dec., 29 Dec., 30 Dec. 1835, vice versa, 29 Dec.
1835, Webb to SN, 29 Dec. 1835, Doughty to Webb, 31 Dec. 1835, Cdr. Itrs.;
Eaton to Doughty, 19 Jan., enl. in Doughty to SN, 21 Jan. 1836, Off. Itrs.

West India Squadron 19
the bay islands for protection from the hostiles. When Belton's
message, sent by the public schooner Motto on January 5, arrived
at Pensacola twelve days later, Captain William C. Bolton, USN,
commander of the navy yard, ordered the Vandalia to Fort Brooke.
Master Commandant Webb, commanding officer of the Vandalia,
loaded three light field pieces for the army, brought on board last
minute provisions, and cleared the bar at Pensacola on January 19.
His departure was so expeditious that the officers of the Vandalia
failed to give a receipt for the supplies delivered before her de-
parture. Webb did not reach his anchorage off Gadsden's Point-
about sixteen miles from Fort Brooke-until January 28 because he
had to spend six days standing off Tampa Bay waiting for a heavy
fog to clear.5
The day the Vandalia departed from Pensacola, Commodore
Dallas at Key West, fearing for the safety of Fort Brooke, dis-
patched a force of fifty-seven marines under the command of First
Lieutenant Nathaniel S. Waldron, USMC, in a merchant brig sail-
ing for Tampa Bay. At the same time, the commodore chartered
the schooner Bahama to send Lieutenant George M. Bache, USN,
with a small party of seamen to reconstruct the lighthouse at Cape
Florida. Bache's group arrived at Indian Key where they found
William Cooley, who readily volunteered and guided them to Cape
Florida (also called Key Biscayne) on the morning of January 24.
Bache had the entrance and ground floor windows of the light-
house tower barricaded to protect John W. B. Thompson and his
Negro assistant who were left to maintain the beacon (which was
so necessary to marine navigation on the east coast of Florida).6
Shortly after the Vandalia anchored at Tampa Bay, Major Gen-
eral Edmund P. Gaines, USA, arrived there from New Orleans with
a large detachment. Gaines informed Webb that he intended to
take the field with all available forces, including the marines under
Lieutenant Waldron. The citizens, friendly Indians, and military
stores were to be loaded aboard the transports anchored in the bay
and left under the protection of the Vandalia.
While he provided for the defense of Tampa Bay, Webb_utilized

5. Belton to CO Naval Forces, Pensacola, 5 Jan. 1836, Bolton to Belton, 18
Jan. 1836, Bolton to Webb, 18 Jan. 1836, vice versa, 19 Jan. 1836, Joyner to
Bolton, 19 Jan. 1836, Webb to Belton, 28 Jan., 1 Feb. 1836, vice versa, 29
Jan., encl. in Bolton to SN, 18 [sic] Jan. 1836. Capt. Itrs.
6. Dallas to SN, 15 Jan., 17 Jan. 1836, Bache to Dallas, 26 Jan., encl. in
Dallas to SN, 27 Jan. 1836, ibid.


the services of the revenue cutter Dexter to return the remainder
of Lieutenant Doughty's expedition to Tampa Bay.7
At this time the hostile Seminoles were moving down the west
coast to avoid Gaines' force in the field, and Colonel William Lind-
say, USA, requested a naval patrol to prevent the movement. The
revenue cutter Washington, Captain Ezekiel Jones, U.S. Revenue
Marine, was the only vessel readily available, but its crew was too
small for such an assignment. Webb ordered Captain Jones to
investigate a supposed Indian encampment near the mouth of the
Manatee River, and dispatched Lieutenant William Smith, USN,
Assistant Surgeon Charles A. Hassler, USN, and fifteen seamen to
augment the cutter's crew.
The Washington departed on March 16, picked up competent
Indian guides from Captain William Bunce's fishing rancho at the
mouth of the bay, sailed to the Manatee, and anchored there on
the same day. Jones and Smith made a brief exploratory expedition
before dark and found many tracks in the recent encampment. The
next day the sailors and revenue marines marched ten miles into
the interior before conceding the impossibility of finding the hostiles
in the vicinity. This trek took them all day; the only useful informa-
tion gathered was that the Indians appeared to be headed south.8
Webb was preparing another small boat expedition to patrol the
coast and rivers and on the afternoon of March 17, 1836, the normal
routine of the AJ dali was interrupted by the boatswain's pipe
calling away the ship's boat party. This was the culmination of more
than a full day of preparation by Acting Sailing Master Stephen C.
Rowan, USN,9 and Passed Midshipman William M. Walker, USN,
who were second and third in command of this expedition under

7. Webb to Dallas, 13 Feb., 22 Feb. 1836, ibid.
8. Lindsay to Webb, 14 Mar. 1836, Jones to Webb, 18 Mar., encl. in Dallas
to SN, 9 Apr. 1836, ibid.; Floridian, 9 Apr. 1836.
9. Acting Sailing Master (Passed Midshipman) Stephen Clegg Rowan was
born near Dublin, Ireland, on December 25, 1808. His parents settled in Ohio
and he was appointed a midshipman from that state on February 1, 1826.
Serving as a lieutenant along the California coast during the Mexican War,
he later published his recollections of the war in the USNIP, vol. 14 (1888).
During the Civil War he remained with the Union Navy and for his actions
along the North Carolina coast was made captain and commodore on the
same day, July 16, 1862. He became commander-in-chief of the Asiatic
Squadron, 1868-70, with the rank of vice admiral. He retired February 26,
1889, and died the following year on March 31, in Washington. Lewis,
"Stephen Clegg Rowan"; "Obituary," New York Times, 1 Apr. 1890.

West India Squadron 21

Lieutenant Levin M. Powell, USN.10 Such boat parties required
more than just loading a group of men in the ship's boat and de-
parting. The items Rowan requested from the carpenter's depart-
ment provided the group with the tools necessary to make major
repairs to their craft: caulking mallets, caulking irons, broad axe,
jack plane, chisel, saw, spike gimblet, auger, topmaul, adze, and
wood axes. From the gunner's department he drew muskets, a mus-
ket scraper, pistols, a pistol scraper, cartridges, flints, priming
powder, bayonets, and cutlasses so that the sailors would be well
armed for any contingency. From the purser Rowan received the
necessary victuals: 210 pounds of pork, 210 pounds of beef, six
gallons of beans, six gallons of rice, three gallons of molasses, two
gallons of vinegar, twenty-four gallons of whiskey, and many pounds
of bread, which provides an idea of the sailors' fare. After drawing
two boat's compasses, a chart, and a spy-glass from the master's
department, Powell discussed the pending expedition with the
captain and Lieutenant Doughty, who had recently gained expe-
rience along Florida's coastline1 When the preparations were com-

10. Levin Mynn Powell was born in Virginia on April 8, 1798. He was
appointed midshipman in 1817 and lieutenant in 1826. In addition to his
services in Florida related here, he was commanding officer of the brig Consort
and surveyed the coast from Apalachicola to the Mississippi River in 1840-41.
During the Civil War he commanded the USS Potomac from August 20, 1861,
to June 29, 1862, on blockade duty in the Gulf of Mexico. He was appointed
rear admiral on the retired list in 1869 and died in Washington, January 15,
1885. There has been some confusion among various biographical sources as
to Powell's middle name and the year of his birth. In a petition for a naval
academy, issued by the commissioned and warrant officers of the USS Con-
stellation, he signed his full name as Levin Mynn Powell. The petition follows
the letter of 25 Jan. 1836, Off. Itrs. The year of his birth is taken from his
service record, "Levin M. Powell," Officers' Service Abstracts; "Levin Minn
Powell," NCAB, 1:383; "Survey of the Coast"; U.S. Office of Naval Records,
Union and Confederate Navies, vols. 1, 4, 16, 17, 18, 27; "Obituary," New
York Times, 17 Jan. 1885.
11. The provisions listed are based upon those for Lieutenant E. T.
Doughty's expedition in January 1836 and pro-rated for Powell's group of
forty-two men for a period of ten days. Doughty to Webb, 31 Dec. 1835,
Cdr. Itrs. The Vandalia carried a launch and four cutters of the following
length beam depth oars
launch 29' 7' 4" 3' 4" 16
cutter 24' 6' 6" 2' 8" 10
cutter (two) 25' 6' 0" 2' 3" 12
cutter 24' 5' 10" 2' 2" 10
Chapelle, Sailing Navy, pp. 504, 508; Vandalia ship's log, 17 Mar. 1836, Webb
to Dallas, 2 Apr. 1836, Records, pp. 50-52, 135.


pleted, the sailors fell in for muster and weapons check, dressed
in their white uniforms, blue collars, and straw hats. Satisfied with
his inspection, Lieutenant Powell reported his departure to the
officer of the deck.
PoYwell's specific orders were to "proceed to the examination of the
river Manaate, the Mullet Keys and to cruise alongthe main coast
"North of Anclote Keys with a view to intercept the hostile Indians
in their retreat coastwise." In other words, the navy was to perform
a flanking and harassing action upon the Indians who were being
driven southward along the west coast of Florida by the army.
En route to Manatee, Powell boarded the Washington and passed
to Captain Jones additional orders to go south and investigate
Charlotte Harbor. Powell and his men spent Friday, March 18,
looking for Indians along both banks of the Manatee (to the head
of boat navigation) but none was sighted. The following day he
sailed to Anclote Keys where the sailors examined the area care-
fully and observed many signs of Indians, but from all indications
these were not of recent origin. The investigation took a little over
five days, after which they sailed south to Mullet Keys where the
process was repeated, but again the results were negative. The
weather had turned stormy, provisions were running low, no In-
dians had been found, and the discomfort of living in an open
boat prompted Powell to set sail for the Vandalia on the morning
of March 27. The group arrived the following evening.12 In es-
sence, Powell had performed the traditional naval function of a
boarding party except that he visited islands instead of vessels.
Three days later the Washington returned from its inspection of
Charlotte Harbor, and Captain Jones reported that on March 28
and 29 Lieutenant Smith had sighted an Indian encampment at the
mouth of the Myacca River. Smith could count twenty-two Sem-
inoles at this camp, and he could see many fires nearby. Since it
was obvious that the enemy outnumbered his small party, he de-
cided to send his two Indian guides to arrange a parley. As soon as
the two landed they were met by a band of warriors, and there
was a tense moment until a brave recognized one of the guides.
After that the two parties talked. The hostiles said they would
have shot white men, and they were very reluctant to pass on any
information to Indians working for the Americans. The guides
12. Powell to Webb, 28 Mar. 1836, Vandalia ship's log, 28 Mar. 1836,
Records, pp. 44-45, 135.

West India Squadron 23

could only report that the warriors were belligerent, determined,
and more numerous than Smith's force. There were no further
encounters with the Seminoles during the Washington's cruise.13
Powell and Rowan had two days of rest aboard ship before they
and Midshipman Lafayette Maynard, USN, were dispatched with
arms and provisions for fifteen days "to act against the Indians on
the coast south of Tampa Bay." This expedition was the result of a
request from the new army commander in Florida, Major General
Winfield Scott, that Webb send revenue cutters-or any other
naval vessels that could be mustered-to Charlotte Harbor to
"blockade the rivers of that country." Scott was very anxious to
prevent the Indians from fleeing to the Everglades where they
could escape his military columns in central Florida.14
Powell sailed for Charlotte Harbor with two boats-a launch and
a cutter-containing forty officers and men, and at the entrance to
the bay they came upon two pirogues of fugitives from the fishing
rancho at Josefa Island.15 These refugees reported that on the pre-
vious evening their settlement had been attacked by a force of
about twenty-five Indians led by Chief Wy-ho-kee. Some of the
residents had fled in small boats; others had hidden the women and
children in the woods while the Seminoles plundered the settlement.
Lieutenant Powell directed his group to the stricken village. On
the way he picked up another boatload of fugitives whom he
urged to gather up the women and children hidden along the
route while his force pushed on to meet the enemy. When the
navy arrived at Josefa Island, they found that the marauders had
departed for their encampment on a key a few miles away. While
helping the civilians return to their homes, Powell sent Rowan in

13. Jones to Webb, 1 Apr., encl. in Dallas to SN, 9 Apr. 1836, Capt. Itrs.
14. Vandalia ship's log, 31 Mar. 1836, Records, p. 136; Lindsay to Webb,
21 Mar., encl. in Dallas to SN, 9 Apr. 1836, Capt. Itrs.
15. A search of contemporary maps of Florida during this period failed to
identify Josefa Island, yet Powell mentions it in his report and again in con-
nection with a later expedition. Powell to Webb, 17 Apr. 1836, Records, pp.
56-57; Powell to Crabb, 8 Dec. 1836, A&N, 4:298-99. However, E. Ashby
Hammond of the University of Florida is of the opinion that the present day
Useppa Island is Powell's Josefa Island. His studies lead him to believe both
Powell's and the present name are corruptions from JosB's Island, named for
Jos6 Caldes who was the leader of a fishing rancho in Charlotte Harbor dur-
ing the 1820s until forced to move by the conflict in 1836. James M. Ingram,
M.D., suggests that Useppa is the corruption of Josefa, and that the island
was named after the pirate Gasparilla's mistress who was kept on this island.
Ingram, Journey's End, p. 3.

the cutter with guides to investigate the hostiles' camp. The fol-
lowing morning the sailors came upon a small group of Seminoles
just south of Charlotte Bay, and Rowan was able to get close to
the camp before he was sighted. The engagement was short and
sharp; two Indians were killed and two taken prisoner. Meanwhile,
Lieutenant Powell's main group had been joined by the cutter
Dallas, Captain Farnifold Green, USRM, which was sailing just off
the coast. When these units joined Rowan's force the captive In-
dians were placed aboard the Dallas for safekeeping. While Powell
made arrangements for the prisoners, Rowan trailed another band
of Indians to Sanibel Island, but no contact was made.16
There was some concern among the settlers of Charlotte Harbor
for the safety of Dr. Henry B. Crews, the customs inspector of that
area; he had gone on a hunting trip just before the attack and had
not yet returned. His revenue establishment had been destroyed
by the Indians and custom records were found scattered through-
out the wreckage. Because Dr. Crews' party consisted of two or
three other men-a Spaniard and an Indian, both of whom were in
his employ, and possibly his slave John-there was hope that the
inspector and his men might have avoided the war party and gone
into hiding.
Lieutenant Powell maintained his boat patrols along the coast
and around the keys searching for the missing doctor and for hos-
tile Indians. Residents of Charlotte Harbor found the murdered
bodies of Dr. Crews and the Spaniard on a small island, but there
was no sign of the Indian or the slave. Powell set a course for the
scene of the murder and as he neared it he noticed an Indian canoe
just off the shore of an adjacent island. He chased it, but the na-
tives were able to reach land before they could be overtaken.
Although the range was extreme, Powell ordered the sailors to
open fire; one Indian was killed and the other gave himself up. A
search of their canoe revealed some of Dr. Crews' personal effects.
Afterwards the Dallas was sighted, hailed, and given the new

16. Powell to Webb, 17 Apr. 1836, Records, pp. 56-57.
17. Dr. H. B. Crews (Crewe) appears to have been a frontier entrepreneur
interested in many projects. Before moving to Charlotte Harbor he lived in
Webbville, Florida, where he was appointed one of the trustees for the school
lands of Jackson County in 1832. Later that year, although recommended by
the Seminole Chief Blount, he was denied a position as physician on the
government-sponsored exploring party to view the western lands assigned to

West India Squadron 25
Meanwhile, the three army columns had made a sweep through
northern Florida without being able to find the main body of war-
riors. In early April the troops gathered at Fort Brooke to await
some news of the enemy's whereabouts. The arrival of the Dallas
at Tampa Bay brought information of Lieutenant Powell's brush
with the Seminoles, and, more importantly, one of Powell's prison-
ers confessed that the hostiles had concentrated their families and
supplies inland from Charlotte Harbor near the headwaters of
Pease Creek. General Scott ordered Colonel Persifor F. Smith and
his Louisiana volunteers to proceed by boat to Charlotte Harbor,
and Captain Webb instructed Powell to cooperate with this force.
The volunteers began to embark on the troop transports in the late
afternoon of April 10, but Smith was anxious to meet Powell before
his group departed from the area. He borrowed boats from the
Vandalia and the Dallas to load his staff and he left Tampa Bay at
nine that same evening.
The following morning, about twenty miles from Boca Grande,
Colonel Smith met Powell's expedition. It was convoying a group
of canoes carrying the Josefa Island fishermen and their families
from Caldes' rancho, headed north for Tampa Bay and protection;
the combined group turned south for Charlotte Harbor. When the
Dallas and the army transports became grounded three miles down-
stream of their intended anchorage, Smith enlisted the rancho In-
dians (he referred to them as Spaniards) and their pirogues to
carry his troops' supplies upriver. Powell and most of his men
marched with Smith's regiment up the banks of the river while
Captain Green, USRM, of the Dallas, led the waterborne group, a
fleet composed of the Vandalia's and Dallas' cutters with fourteen
Indian canoes carrying the supplies. Soon the ships' cutters were
stopped by shallow water, and the marshy conditions along the
banks forced the two groups to become separated too widely for
mutual safety. When Smith got to an open spot along the river-

the Seminoles. Finally, he had been one of the contractors associated with
repairing and rerouting the road from Tallahassee to Pensacola. TP:Florida,
24:568-69, 740, 786, 788-89; Pensacola Gazette, 30 Apr. 1836; Key West In-
quirer, 30 Apr., 7 May 1836. The contemporary reports of these events make
no mention of the slave John, yet he escaped from the Seminoles in mid-1840.
Judge William A. Marvin stated in a letter to the Floridian that John had been
captured from his master Dr. Crews in 1835; however, the extant Florida
papers for 1835 show no evidence of such an act in that year, and it is more
probable that John was captured in March of 1836. Niles', 59:308.

bank, he revised his plans; the ships' cutters, surplus provisions,
and extra men were sent downstream, and Lieutenant Powell was
given command of the canoes to carry the reduced force of 152
men (91 Louisiana volunteers, 41 navy men, and 20 revenue
marines) to the headwaters of the river. When they reached the
head of canoe navigation, the men marched up both sides of the
river. They came upon a deserted village and signs of the recent
passing of a small band of Indians headed south, but they found
no indications that the Seminoles had gathered in force. They were
ill equipped to march in this wilderness and all hands were glad
when the colonel gave the order to proceed back to Tampa Bay.
Smith reported that none of the fishermen at Caldes' rancho knew
the interior of the country or were useful as guides; however, the
colonel had nothing but praise for both Powell and Green for their
fine efforts with the small craft, and he said that "when they left
their boats [the sailors and revenue marines] rivalled the best
This venture with Colonel Smith was Powell's first work with the
military and it was different from his other expedition, which had
been in the tradition of a naval boarding party. This time his scope
of operations was wider; he had been responsible for organizing
and transporting the three services up the Myacca River, and for a
number of days he had acted as a company officer, leading his
sailors on the inland march alongside the army. This particular ex-
pedition taught Lieutenant Powell many things which would be
helpful to him at a later date. It also pointed up to him the im-
portance to the Seminoles of the Everglades as a place of refuge
for their women and children while the warriors were on the war-
path, for even north of the glades the terrain was difficult to

While acting as the base for the revenue cutters and boat expedi-
x tions operating out of Tampa Bay, the Vandalia depleted her sup-
/ plies and had to return to Pensacola. The sloop-of-war Concord,
a recent addition to the West India Squadron, was ordered to re-
place her. When Master Commandant Mervine P. Mix, USN,

18. Potter, War in Florida, pp. 179-80; Cohen, Florida Campaigns, p. 193;
Webb to Dallas, 12 Apr. 1836, reprinted in the Pensacola Gazette, 23 Apr. 1836,
Powell to Webb, 17 Apr. 1836, Records, pp. 56-57; Smith to Scott, 26 Apr.
1836, ASPMA, 7:290; Mix to Dallas, 30 Apr. 1836, Records, pp. 54-55.

West India Squadron 27
brought the Concord to her anchorage off Gadsden's Point, he
found the volunteers embarking in transports to leave Florida while
the regulars were preparing to go into summer quarters. (It was
generally believed that summer in Florida was the sickly season
and military operations should be suspended.) Fort Brooke's gar-
rison was to be reduced to 200 or 300 soldiers, which would be too
few, Mix thought, to defend the post. Thus, when the commanding
general made a request to Commodore Dallas that the Concord
remain in the bay and the West India Squadron's marines continue
to help garrison Fort Brooke, Mix concurred and stated in his re-
port to the commodore that he would periodically send a launch or
other boats to cruise and protect the fisheries at the mouth of the
Toward the end of the month Mix received a request from Gov-
ernor Richard K. Call, who had replaced Eaton as territorial gover-
nor in March 1836, for a naval vessel to be sent to Apalachicola to
aid in preventing the Creeks of Alabama and Georgia from moving
south and joining the Seminoles. Because the Concord had too deep
a draft, the Washington was sent, with her crew augmented by
Lieutenant Henry A. Adams, USN, and sixty men from the Concord.
The Washington departed Tampa Bay on June 2 and anchored at
St. Marks three days later. The Concord's detachment set out for the
defense of Tallahassee, but the expected attack did not materialize.
The governor asked Adams to conduct a survey of the coast from
St. Marks to Tampa Bay to aid future campaigns. Adams thought
this request to be within the tenor of his orders, so he accepted the
task and returned to St. Marks to construct boats for such service,
with a carte blanche from the governor.
Shortly afterward, Adams received an urgent express from Gov-
ernor Call asking for immediate aid against 2,000 Creek warriors
who supposedly had crossed the Chattahoochee River en route to
Tallahassee. He returned to the ship, rapidly assembled his men,
and departed for the capital the same day. The sailors marched in
company with an infantry detachment. While the two groups were
camped the first night, they received another message to make haste
as the Creeks were but twelve miles from Tallahassee. At the first
light the combined force was on the march. It was a hot day and
the sailors, unused to walking, suffered greatly; many threw away
19. Bunce to Mix, 10 Apr., encl. in Dallas to SN, 20 May 1836, Mix to
Dallas, 30 Apr., encl. in Dallas to SN, 7 May 1836, Capt. Itrs.


their shoes. Within three miles of the capital they learned the
alarm had been false, and once more Call expressed his thanks and
apologized for the urgent and unnecessary appeal for aid. Com-
modore Dallas later commented that the marches and counter-
marches were the result of "reports & alarms not duly enquired
into." He felt the Floridians were too sensitive about Indian hostili-
ties to be objective on the subject.20
Adams reported to the governor on June 19 that his term of
service away from the Concord had expired and requested instruc-
tions: Call released Adams who left Tallahassee the next day. On
the return trip one of the quarter-gunners was accidentally left be-
hind in the capitalihe sailor departed alone and unarmed to fol-
low his shipmates, and on his way to St. Marks he was joined by
an Indian armed with a rifle and a knife. At dusk the brave helped
erect a shelter against the rain and shared his meal of wild turkey.
Afterwards, the gunner reported he had been too fatigued to worry
about the danger of sleeping with his armed companion. At daylight
the Seminole took his leave and disappeared into the woods, and
the sailor continued on to St. Marks where he rejoined the Wash-
ington just before she departed.21

On March 17, a Spaniard arrived at Indian Key by canoe to trade,
but the citizens were suspicious of his actions and detained him.
When they learned that he had two Indian companions hiding on
another island about a mile away, a search party immediately
formed to bring them in. After some difficulty, both Indians were
captured, brought back to the key, and placed in custody. The in-
formation obtained from the three alarmed the citizens, for they
said that a large number of hostiles had gathered near Cape Sable,
just twenty-eight miles from Indian Key. Naturally, the citizens
appealed to Commodore Dallas for protection, and he sent the cut-
ter Dexter, Captain Thomas C. Rudolph, USRM, to their aid.
The three prisoners were placed on board the Dexter for safe-
keeping during her stay at Indian Key from May 22 until June 17.
The evening before she sailed to Pensacola for reprovisioning, the
two Indians jumped over the side. One of them was shot and dis-

20. Dallas to SN, 3 Jul. 1836, ibid.
21. Call to Mix, 19 Jun. 1836, Baldwin to Adams, 12 Jun. 1836, Adams to
Mix, 24 Jun., ends in Dallas to SN, 14 Jun. 1836, ibid.; Floridian, 18 Jun.

West India Squadron 29
appeared in the water; the other apparently escaped. The following
morning the old Spaniard died, "being in a very bad state of health."
Fearful that the escaped prisoner might return with others, the
citizens sent another appeal to the commodore, and again the
Dexter was sent to cruise the waters around Indian Key.22
The schooner Motto brought to Master Commandant Mix at
Tampa Bay news of the Indian escape and information that there
was a large supply of powder stored on Indian Key. The brig Gil
Bias had been wrecked at New River with thirty tons of lead on
board, and Mix did not want the enemy to appropriate either of
these supplies, if it could be prevented. There were no navy vessels
available to carry a party to Indian Key and the distance was too
great for open boats. He requisitioned Major Keney Wilson, USA,
commanding at Fort Brooke, for the schooner Motto (which was
under army contract) to transport his detachment, and the request
was granted.
The Motto left on June 7 with a small group of sailors and
marines under the command of Lieutenant Thomas J. Leib, USN.
When Leib found there was not really very much powder stored
on Indian Key, he sailed up the coast to the Gil Bias. He examined
the wreck closely, even dived into the water-filled hold, but couldn't
find any lead. Before departing he had the sailors set fire to the
hulk. Leib later reported that "while at anchor off the Gil Bias
[the Motto] rolled away our Rudder, both gudgeons being broken
off." His crew had to jury-rig "a couple of sweeps over the Stern
to steer with," which delayed his departure until late afternoon.23
That evening, when the Motto was within seven miles of Cape
Florida, Leib noticed that the lighthouse was on fire, and at day-
break he attempted to beat into the wind to the cape. By eleven
the schooner had worked its way to Bear's Cut where Leib armed
his detachment, hoisted out the boats, and headed for the light-
house. An hour later he came upon a recently abandoned canoe
drifting in the shoal waters, and about a mile farther he "took pos-

22. Housman et al. to Dallas, 16 Jun., encl. in Dallas to SN, 24 Jun. 1836,
Capt. Itrs.; Floridian, 16 Apr. 1836; A&N, 3:13.
23. A more correct nautical expression would be that the Motto "unshipped"
her rudder; however, the term "rolled away" her rudder did enjoy limited use
among European sailors and was used by Leib. The gudgeon was the support
by which the rudder was hung on the stern post. A jury-rig is a temporary
repair, and the sweeps (normally long oars) were used as rudders. Leib to
Dallas, 17 Aug., encl. in Dallas to SN, 19 Aug. 1836, Capt. Itrs.

session of a Sloop Boat loaded with plunder" from the lighthouse.24
Both prizes were taken in tow but the current was pulling against
him, so he had to destroy the canoe in order to reach the anchorage
off the lighthouse during daylight hours. Before landing, he placed
some of his men in the captured boat with instructions to stand
off and cover the beach. It was five in the afternoon before Leib
reached the lighthouse where he found the keeper, John W. B.
Thompson, on top of the tower, badly burnt and wounded.
Thompson told Leib that on the previous day he and his Negro
helper had been attacked by a band of fifty to sixty Indians. He
had spotted the band as he was going from the house to the tower,
and he had sprinted from the lighthouse, yelling a warning to his
companion to do likewise. The two men had reached the building
and barred the door just before the warriors arrived, and Thomp-
son stationed the Negro by the entrance while he took three guns
to the second floor. From this vantage point he had kept the war-
riors at bay until dark.
Some of the Seminole bullets had punctured the oil tins stored
in the tower, causing the first floor to become saturated with oil.
At dusk fire broke out, forcing Thompson and his helper up the
tower to escape the flames. They lay on the narrow ledge to avoid
the rifle fire below, but the Negro was hit seven times and finally
died. Miraculously, Thompson was only wounded in the ankles and
feet. The flames shooting up the tower were more dangerous than
the enemy rifles; the intense heat became intolerable. In despera-
tion, Thompson threw down a keg of gun powder in the hope that
the explosion would end his misery. The blast shook the tower,
but did not kill him. Next he decided to dive head first over the
rail, but "something dictated to me to return and lay down again;
I did so, and in two minutes the fire fell to the bottom of the
house." Thompson had continued to lie motionless and thus even-
tually convinced the Indians he was dead. The next morning he
watched them load his boat with their plunder and depart.
Leib and his men tried to get a line up to Thompson on his
perch ninety feet above the ground, but their efforts failed. At
dark they had to leave him and return to the Motto. That night the
sailors made kites on which to fly rope up to the keeper, and early

24. This phrase "Sloop Boat" is ambiguous; it could mean either a boat
from a sloop, or a boat with a sloop rig. After using Leib's words initially, I
avoid the issue by referring to the craft as the captured boat. Ibid.

West India Squadron 31
the next morning they were back at the tower to try again without
success. Eventually, they shot a ramrod with twine attached from
one of the guns up to the perch. Thompson was then able to haul
up a heavier line and on it two sailors climbed up to the ledge,
rigged a sling, and hoisted the wounded man down to the waiting
rescuers. The lightkeeper was taken to the hospital at Key West,
and was recuperating when the schooner left in August.25
While Captain Mix waited for Leib to return, the Concord's
provisions were depleted to such a level that Mix and the crew
decided to cut the daily bread ration to nine ounces per man.
Under these circumstances they were able to remain at Tampa Bay
until the first week in August. During this time the crew began to
show symptoms of scorbutus brought on by the lack of fresh pro-
visions. To arrest this affliction Mix frequently sent parties of fifty
to sixty men to the shore "for bathing and amusement," and he
increased the standards of cleanliness aboard ship. Finally, it was
necessary to return to Pensacola and the Concord departed Tampa
Bay the same day Leib left Key West. When she arrived at the navy
yard sixteen crewmen were on the binnacle list for scorbutus.26
From April through July the Concord sent out many small boat
parties in addition to Adams' and Leib's expeditions. Passed Mid-
shipman Washington A. Bartlett, USN, and Sailing Master James P.
McKinstry, USN, made a thorough survey of the coast around the
Withlacoochee, and this "probably kept the Enemy in check, as no
acts of hostility have been committed by him since the massacre of
Doct. Crews & his party at Charlotte Harbour."27
V I Is apparent from the actions o Squadr lhat
the guidin police wa still the sinle-ship-cruiser concept wherein
the commodore assigned his vesselsto sDecific locations and the
sVip's commanding officer responded tactically as the immediate
circumstances at his station dictated. Although cooperation with
otlherivessesani services took place, there was no overall strategy
for the use of the naval units assigned to prosecute the war against
the Seminoles.

25. Niles', 51:181-82; Mix to Dallas, 23 Jul., encl. in Dallas to SN, 1 Aug.
1836, Mix to Dallas, 5 Aug., Mix to Leib, 7 Jul., Mix to Day, 1 Aug., ends.
in Dallas to SN, 7 Aug. 1836, Leib to Dallas, 17 Aug., encl. in Dallas to SN,
19 Aug. 1836, Capt. Itrs.
26. Mix to Dallas, 23 Jul., end, in Dallas to SN, 1 Aug. 1836, Capt. Itrs.
27. Mix to Dallas, 5 Aug., encl. in Dallas to SN, 7 Aug. 1836, McKinstry
to Mix, 10 Jul., encl. in Dallas to SN, 11 Aug. 1836, ibid.

The Commodore

Commodore Alexander J. Dallas had an excellent background
for command f WestTl Sauadron. He entered the navy
as a midshipman on November 22, 1805, when he was only four-
teen years old. A lieutenant during the War of 1812, he served
under both Commodores John Rodgers and Oliver Hazard Perry.
He commanded the twelve-gun schooner Spitfire in the Mediter-
ranean Squadron under Commodore Stephen Decatur in 1815. As
a master commandant he captained the John Adams, participating
in the expedition under Commodore David Porter to suppress the
West Indian pirates in 1824. Appointed captain in 1828, ILlas wa.
ordered to establish the navy yard at Pensacola, Florida. On July
16, 1835, he assumed command of the WesIdia Squadron, and
he broug to thi~:s ssignment a knowledge of the territory of Flor-
ida, a background of ship operations in that area, and thirty years
of naval experience, which made him especially zealous to preserve
his and the navy's honor in all dealings with the military or civilian
authorities.1 The long years of peace he. theory of the
single-ship-cruig srat c early reflected )n Dallas letters
whhle he commanded the West India Squadror&It is readily ap-
parent from his correspondence that he employed the single-ship
1. The title of commodore was honorific and bestowed upon naval officers
performing duties normally calling for an officer of flag rank; however, at this
time captain was the highest rank in the United States Navy. NCAB, 8:307;
Appleton's Cyclopaedia, 2:58-59; Allen, West Indian Pirates, p. 69.

The Commodore

blockade pattern, keeping the patrol well offshore, was willing to
cooperate, but unable to rasp the modern military ,concept-of
joint operations,.and-faiad to innovate tactics to meet the unique
situation presented hy this anflict,
The first news Dallas had of the outbreak of hostilities was a
letter from William A. Whitehead, collector of customs at Key
West, reporting the massacre of Dade's command, the Indian at-
tack upon the white settlements near Cape Florida, and the move-
ment of the pioneer inhabitants toward the settlements at Indian
Key and Key West. Whitehead did not have much specific informa-
tion and his very terse account increased the note of urgency in his
letter. This message reached Dallas on the evening of January 12,
1836, at Havana, Cuba, where the frigate Constellation and the
sloop-of-war St. Louis were anchored.2 Although short of pro-
visions, he sortied at the first light in company with the St. Louis.
The Constellation barely cleared the reef on its approach to Key
West. Once there, Dallas decided to remain and aid the inhabi-
tants. He sent Master Commandant Lawrence Rousseau, USN, of
the St. Louis to Pensacola for supplies, with instructions to order
the sloop-of-war Vandalia or the schooner Grampus, should either
be at Pensacola, to sail for Tampa Bay to aid the military. Fearing
for the safety of the forces at Fort Brooke, Dallas dispatched his
marine detachment to Tampa Bay and sent Lieutenant Bache to
reconstruct the lighthouse at Cape Florida.Later he requested per-
mission from the Navy Department to charter a few small-draft
vessels for direct support of military operations, but failed to re-
ceive a reply.3
By February 9, he felt his services at Key West were no longer
needed, and he departed for Pensacola. His most immediate task
was to find replacements for the sailors whose terms of service had
expired or would expire within the next few months. By mid-
February, Dallas needed about 150 men to bring the squadron up
to strength. He informed the Secretary of the Navy that he was
going to send an officer to New Orleans to recruit, and on April 3
he reported that these efforts had been unsuccessful. A month
earlier, the commodore had issued instructions to the squadron's

2. Whitehead to Dallas, 11 Jan., encl. in Dallas to SN, 12 Jan. 1836, Capt.
3. Dallas to Rousseau, 13 Jan. 1836, Dallas to SN, 15 Jan., 17 Jan. 1836,
ibid.; Key West Inquirer, 16 Jan. 1836.

officers that he would not accept their applications for leave of
absence except under most unusual circumstances, and he requested
that the department take no notice of any request which did not
have his approval.4
i/The first week of April, Dallas had to supply the St. Louis with
thirty men from the Constellation before she could depart for a
Mexican cruise. The trouble between Mexico and Texas made it
mandatory that the St. Louis have a full crew prepared to protect
American commerce in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Navy Department sent additional vessels to the squadron
upon the outbreak of hostilities, including some revenue cutters
borrowed from the Treasury Department. Early in April, Dallas
reported the arrival of the sloop-of-war Concord after a voyage
from the north. "Like most of our vessels coming from the North,"
he commented, "she requires repairs." On that same day the rev-
enue cutter Washington arrived at Pensacola for duty with the
West India Squadron. "But," Dallas wrote, "as represented by her
Commander, [she is] unfit for service, without repairs and supplies
of arms, ammunition, men, &c. &c." On April 20, the revenue cutter
Jefferson anchored at Pensacola to join the squadron, and by the
end of the month the revenue cutter Dexter had also reported.
The Dexter brought letters from Lieutenant Waldron on the ac-
tivities of the marine detachment at Fort Brooke. Waldron re-
ported that in March he had been in the interior under Colonel
Lindsay, USA, had engaged in several skirmishes without suffering
any losses, and had returned to the fort on April 4 with many men
suffering from fatigue and exposure.5
Commodore Dallas informed the Secretary of the Navy that the
activities of the West India Squadron were so varied and widely
scattered throughout the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico that
he would remain at Pensacola where he could exercise most effi-
cient control. Ships going to Mexico or the coasts of Florida could
be augmented by sailors from his flagship, and he was centrally
located to receive dispatches from all points. At the time of his
writing, the crew of the Constellation was depleted by one-third,
and she was unable to get underway except in the direst emer-

4. Dallas to SN, 5 Feb., 14 Feb., 19 Feb., 11 Mar., 3 Apr. 1836, Capt. Itrs.
5. Dallas to SN, 8 Apr., 21 Apr., 23 Apr. 1836, ibid.
6. Dallas to SN, 20 May 1836, ibid.

The Commodore 35
4From the outbreak of the Indian hostilities, military commanders
had been convinced that the Seminoles were receiving munitions
from foreign sources. Cuban and Bahamian fishing vessels were
especially suspect. On January 21, 1836, Navy Secretary Dickerson
passed on to Dallas the opinion which Governor Eaton had sent
to the War Department that Spanish fishing vessels were engaged
in munitions trade with the Indians. The War Department re-
quested naval action to prevent the suspected trade.7
Commodore Dallas was well aware of the possibility of arms
smuggling and was continually issuing instructions to prevent such
traffic. When the Washington reported to Master Commandant
Webb for instructions in March 1836, she was ordered "to Cruise
along the Coast, from the Anclote Keys to Charlotte Harbour with
instructions to board and intercept all vessels that may be found
with supplies for the enemy and bring them to this place for further
instructions." In June the revenue cutter Jefferson was ordered to
"cruise on the Coast of Florida in the neighborhood of Charlotte's
Harbour & Tampa, with the view of preventing the introduction of
supplies to the Indians and exportation of slaves and property
taken by them to Cuba or elsewhere."8
In October of the following year, Dallas ordered the Jefferson
to cruise between Indian KeyKeyey West, and Tampa Bay. That
same month he had ordered the schooner Grampus to "sail for
Havana, thence to Nassau, (New Providence) with directions to
ascertain ifTrom either of those points munitions of war are sup-
plied to the Indians in Florida." After that she was to cruise be-
tween Cuba and Florida to stop any illicit traffic.9
In the third year of the war (1839) Dallas was still issuing such
instructions. "You will proceed immediately with the U. S. Ship
Boston under your command to Tampa Bay," he told Commander
Edward B. Babbit, USN, and "communicate with the commanding
officer of the forces there, obtaining every information that he may
think proper to give, for the purpose of your rendering every aid
in your power to prevent the introduction of munitions of war,
into Florida, for the use of the Indians." "On leaving Tampa," he
continued, "you will cruise on the Coast of Florida, say from the
7. SW to SN, 20 Jan. 1836, SWLS; SN to Dallas, 21 Jan. 1836, Off., Ships
of War.
8. Extract from Webb to Dallas, 13 Mar., in Dallas to SN, 3 Jul. 1836,
Dallas to SN, 20 Jul. 1836, Capt. Itrs.
9. Dallas to SN, 11 Oct., 17 Oct. 1837, ibid.

Tortugas as far as Cape Florida, boarding all vessels that you may
fall in with and particularly by examining fishing smacks and other
small craft, as it is by this means that (as it is supposed) powder
& lead are introduced among the Indians."10 Apparently the army
never seemed assured that such traffic had been halted.

S4The Florida conflict was only one of many responsibilities assigned
to the West India Squadron. The merchantss at Portsmouth, New
L Hampshire, requested protection from acts of piracy off the Haitian
coasts in Februair 1836kandTDalIa~i a-d-6-- dirct some of the
squadron's vessels into these waters. In the'Giulf of Mexico, where
Texas was fighting for its freedom .from Mexico, there were squad-
ron activities such as theWarrn'ste aptaur offhTesehoonetr-ainc-
ible, sailing under Texan colors, off the mouth of the Mississippi
River on April ~All of these made demands upon Dallas'
small squadron, reducing the number of vessels that could be de-
voted to the Florida war."
Besides the official requests for the squadron's services, Dallas
received many petitions from local communities for naval protec-
tion. The Jefferson returned from Mexico in June and was ordered
to St. Joseph at the request of that town's mayor and aldermen.
Captain John Jackson, USRM, was instructed to remain there as
long as necessary, and then to cruise between Charlotte Harbor
and Tampa Bay on blockade duty. Earlier, the commodore answered
an appeal from Captain Jacob Housman (whose title bore no naval
or military significance) and the citizens of Indian Key for naval
protection from hostile Indians supposedly gathered on the main-
land near Cape Sable. There were times when the squadron was
spread very thin to meet its commitments.12
In May the President had ordered the squadron to divert all pos-
sible aid to keep the Creek Indian uprising in Georgia and Ala-
bama from merging with the Seminole War in Florida. Thus, in
answer to an earlier letter from Secretary Dickerson asking that the
revenue cutters be turned back to the Treasury Department at an

10. Dallas to Babbit, 24 Sep. 1838, encl. in Babbit to SN, 21 Jun. 1839,
Cdr. Itrs.
11. SN to Dallas, 24 Feb. 1836, Off., Ships of War; vice versa, 5 May
1836, Capt. Itrs.
12. Captain Jacob Housman was a notorious wrecker who owned Indian
Key. Dodd, "Jacob Housman"; Jacob Housman et al. to Dallas, 16 Jun., end.
in Dallas to SN, 24 Jun. 1836, Dallas to SN, 20 Jun. 1836, Capt. Itrs.

The Commodore 37
early date, Dallas replied: "There has been no time since their be-
ing under my direction that they have been more wanted than at
this moment. I shall therefore continue them until I shall receive
your further instructions.-The Indians are up, and doing, with no
force in the land to prevent them from, at any time taking to the
water in their Canoes, and doing great injury to those inhabiting
the Islands along the coast of Florida. I am satisfied that the active
manner in which the Cutters have been employed does not suit the
taste of some of their Commanders, but this I can not help. The
Commander of the Washington makes sundry complaints about
men &c, all of which, I have done away with, by giving him a crew
from this Ship (temporarfly)-If the Cutters are continued in my
command and this Gentleman is not more on the alert, I shall sus-
pend him from his Command and put one of my Lieut: on
board. ."1

iThe military command in Florida was poorly defined during the
early months of the war and this added to Dallas' problems. Ini-
tially, General Duncan L. Clinch had been placed in command of
the army stationed in the territory during the preliminary stages of
the Indian migration. However, the War Department had divided
the nation into military areas which split Florida into the eastern
and western sectors.4Thus there were two additional commanders
concerned when the hostilities commenced, General Edmund P.
Gaines in the west and General Winfield Scott in the east. Person-
ally and professionally these two men were at odds. Although Gen-
eral Scott was appointed the overall military commander in Florida
in January 1836, General Gaines left New Orleans for Tampa Bay
as soon as he heard of the Indian uprising, before he had been in-
formed of Scott's assignment. For a brief period all three generals
were in the field simultaneously.
The confusion over military commanders did not disrupt naval
operations much, for all three generals wanted the navy to patrol
and blockade the coast and thwart Seminole movements through
harassing missions by small boat expeditions. The revenue cutters
Washington, Dexter, and Jefferson were initially transferred to the
West India Squadron to cooperate with General Clinch, although
technically they were under Dallas' command. Later, Secretary of
War Lewis Cass requested Secretary Dickerson to instruct the cut-
13. Dallas to SN, 20 May 1836, Capt. Itrs.


ters to receive their orders from Scott; he also suggested that Com-
modore Dallas be requested to cooperate with General Scott. Cass
hastily added that he did not mean that the commodore should re-
ceive orders from the general or be held in any way accountable to
the army. At this time there were no clear procedures established
to promote joint operations and even the idea of cooperation be-
tween the two services was new. Dickerson forwarded a copy of
Cass' letter to Dallas, but did not stress how these joint endeavors
were to be conducted.14
The man to profit most from the confused situation was the newly
appointed governor, Richard Keith Call. He wanted to lead all the
military forces in Florida as well as to serve as executive head of the
territory, and his letters to his friend President Andrew Jackson
eventually brought results. By June 1836, General Clinch had re-
tired because of the slight he felt he had received when Scott re-
placed him, Gaines was stationed on the Texas, border, and Scott
was in Georgia suppressing the Creek Indians*In one of the rare
instances in American military history, the theater commander was
a civilian who did not hold a regular commission.
Call was often arrogant in his dealings with others, and his
method of demanding naval aid was resented by Commodore Dal-
las, who at all times expected to be treated in a manner due the
senior naval officer in the territory. It was inevitable that these two
men should develop animosity toward each other.
Call's plan was to lead men and supplies up the Withlacoochee
River for an attack upon the Indian stronghold at the Cove of the
Withlacoochee while other groups approached from the interior.
In preparation for this operation, he wanted the navy to survey the
mouth of the river and to prevent supplies from reaching the Sem-
inoles. He was so convinced that the navy was not providing an
effective blockade that he wrote to Dallas in May, even before
his own military appointment, stating his belief that Spanish fis
ermen were operating in close cooperation with the Seminoles:
have to request that the Small Cruisers under your command and
the Revenue Cutters may be constantly employed on the Coast with
orders to cut off all communication between the Indians and for-
eigners."15 The governor was demanding nothing that had not been

14. SN to Dallas, 9 Jan. 1836, Off., Ships of War; SW to SN, 30 Jan. 1836,
15. Call to Dallas, 26 May, encl. in Dallas to SN, 3 Jul. 1836, Capt. Itrs.

The Commodore 39
foreseen or ordered executed by Dallas before his request; there-
fore, it seemed to the commodore that the governor was calling his
professional abilities into question, and at the same time trying to
bring him within the army chain of command.
Dallas received Call's letter while one of the governor's military
aides was visiting Pensacola. He told the aide that he did not like
the "Style of Command" in the letter and would not answer such a
communication. Dallas said that although he had cooperated in
the past, and would continue to do so in the future, he would not
give up command of his forces except under specific instructions
from Washington.1
The governor continued this exchange a month later: "On the
26th of May I made a request of you in my official capacity which
appears to have received no attention whatever. Were I disposed to
regard Etiquette more than duty I should not again trouble you,
but this I am not permitted to do under my instructions from the
War Department, even if it were my disposition, I have therefore
to request that a competent officer and crew may be ordered from
the Squadron under your command to make a survey of the coast
between the Bay of Tampa and the Mouth of the Withlacoochee
river. This survey will be highly important in the contemplated ex-
pedition against the Indians . The vessel employed in that serv-
ice should be of light draught and well furnished with Boats,
capable of being fortified."17
This elicited a reply from Dallas. "It is not my intention to cavil,"
he wrote, "or in any manner place obstacles in the way to a full and
perfect co-operation of the naval force under my command with
any force that may be engaged against the Seminole Indians or
others, .. previously to receipt of your letter of 26th May [I] had
distributed along the Seaboard of Florida and Northern Coast of
Cuba the different vessels of the Squadron with directions to ex-
amine and prevent any supplies from reaching the Indians or any
captured property being taken from the territory. All vessels now
on that coast have similar instructions. Up to the present moment,
I flatter myself, nothing has been neglected or left undone that
could in any way give effect to the movements of the military
forces in Florida." Commodore Dallas, who could be as imperious
as the governor, continued: "This explanation of what has been
16. Dallas to SN, ibid.
17. Call to Dallas, 25 Jun., encl. in Dallas to SN, ibid.


done is given not that I feel in the least called upon to make it but
out of courtesy to your situation as Governor of the Territory and
the high considerations which I entertain for you as a Gentleman."
Then, in a more pleasant vein, Dallas said he would enclose extracts
of letters he had received of a partial survey of the entrance to the
Amiura [sic] River. He informed Call that a cutter had been cruis-
ing from Anclote Keys to Charlotte Harbor during February and
March on blockade duty, and as soon as a vessel was available, he
would continue the survey. "I must in conclusion," Dallas told Call,
"be permitted to say that I shall be most happy to communicate
with you in any manner most agreeable to yourself for the full ad-
vancement of the objects of the present campaign . but in your
communications I beg that for the future your suggestions may bear
less the character of orders than those theretofore received. . I
hope the Etiquette I have been found wanting in (not intention-
ally) may not be lost sight of in any future [sic] communications
that it may become necessary to make to me as Commanding Offi-
cer of the Squadron acting in the West Indies and Gulf of Mexico."
As a final warning, Dallas continued, "the orders and instructions
I have received shall literally and liberally be construed and exe-
cuted, but I can not receive orders from any one but the head of
the Department from whom all my instructions are derived and
under whose direction I am, and shall continue to act."'8
Dallas sent this correspondence between himself and Governor
Call to the Secretary of the Navy. "I mean not to be fastidious in
the exercise of my command," he wrote Secretary Dickerson, "but
I shall require all the Courtesy of Language in any communication
that may be made to me from the military officers in Command,
that my rank and a service of thirty years entitle me to."19
The secretary replied, "The views which you have expressed, and
the principles regulating your conduct as Commander of the U.S.
Naval force, are strictly correct." In an attempt to smooth ruffled
feelings, he wrote, "It is not doubted that you and Governor Call,
are both actuated by pure and patriotic motives, and that you will
still cordially, and zealously preserve, in all measures of coopera-
tion, calculated to advance the public interest, to secure harmony
of action, and bring the War to a speedy and honourable issue."20

18. Dallas to Call, 2 Jul., end. in Dallas to SN, ibid.
19. Dallas to SN, ibid.
20. SN to Dallas, 16 Jul. 1836, Off., Ships of War.

The Commodore 41
Three days after sending the letter complaining of the governor's
conduct, Dallas received the exchange between Captain Mix of the
Concord and Major Keney Wilson, USA, commanding at Fort
Brooke. This occasioned another protest.
The commodore had written to Mix on May 18: "When in your
opinion your services in co-operating with the Army in Florida will
no longer be available, give an order to Lieut Waldron Command-
ing the Detachment of Marines at Fort Brooke to rejein [sic] repair
on board with them."21 Later in the month Mix felt that the naval
forces were no longer necessary at Tampa Bay, and he wrote to
Wilson: "I wish Lieut Waldron to be prepared to embark .... Will
you be pleased to direct Lieut. Waldron to repair on board this
Ship ... he will return to the Fort by the Cutter Washington after
I shall have had an interview with him."22 Mix waited two days be-
fore writing a second time. "Your reasons are," he told Wilson, "no
doubt, fully sufficient for detaining the marines, but as they are
unknown to me and as the Commander in Chief of the Naval forces
required their services, you will see the propriety of my request that
I may communicate a copy to him."23
Wilson replied, "I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of
your letters of the 26th and 28th inst. and must apologize for not
having made an earlier reply to the former; but as you did not then
present the alternative which would lead you to apply for the
Marine force at this Post I did not consider a specific reply neces-
sary. I presume that you have heretofore been advised of the au-
thority by which the Marines, under Lieut. Waldron, are detained
at this Post. I am directed to retain them here until the force shall
be augmented by recruits or otherwise, and I cannot now admit
the right of the Commander in Chief of the Naval forces of the
United States in the West Indies to transfer to you the discretionary
power of removal. The Marine force is still considered by me as a
very essential part of this command, and I should not feel authorized
to remove them without further instructions than those now in my
When he forwarded this correspondence to the department,
Dallas wrote to Secretary Dickerson, "I never had any idea of with-

21. Dallas to Mix, 18 May 1836, Capt. Itrs.
22. Mix to Wilson, 26 May, encl. in Dallas to SN, 6 Jul. 1836, ibid.
23. Mix to Wilson, 28 May 1836, ibid.
24. Wilson to Mix, 30 May 1836, ibid.


drawing the Marines from Fort Brooke until their place could be
supplied by troops properly belonging to such service .. but I do
contend, that belonging to the Squadron under my Command, and
as they originally proceeded to the relief of Fort Brooke by my
order, that they are still under my control and that I have a right
to remove them to their appropriate station a board of this ship,
whenever I think proper."25
Dickerson took this to the War Department, and by the end of
the month the secretary was able to transmit to Dallas a copy of a
letter from Adjutant General of the Army Roger Jones to Major
Wilson in which the general regretted the major's lack of tact in
replying to Captain Mix's request. Wilson was ordered to report to
the naval authorities, in detail, on his reasons for detaining the
General Jones' solution to the problem of overall command for
such joint operations was based on an idea of cooperation similar
to the commodore's. He wrote to Wilson that, "As the Marines
were 'detached for service with the Army, by order' of the naval
Commander in Chief of the Station for temporary service on shore,
and not by the President, the right to remand them on board was
with Commodore Dallas. But, if the Commander of the Fort ashore,
did not consider himself authorized to reduce the garrison which
had been placed under his command by his Superior Officer, by
permitting the withdrawal of the Marine quota in virtue of the
orders of the naval Commander, the Commandant of the Garrison
should have reported the facts and circumstances to the Com-
mander of the land forces, of which the commander of the fleet
should also have been apprised."26

4 Most historians mention the Fulton or Demologos (the craft was
known by both names), built for use in the War of 1812, as the first
steam warship to be employed by any of the world's navies. Gen-
erally, there is passing mention of the Sea Gull, a small steamer
converted to a war vessel for Commodore David Porter's squadron
assembled to suppress piracy in the Caribbean in 1823, but the true
beginning of steam is reserved for the Mexican War. The experience
and training gained by the officers and men of the United States

25. Dallas to SN, 6 Jul. 1836, ibid.
26. SN to Dallas, 27 Jul. 1836, Off., Ships of War; Jones to Wilson, 26 Jul.
1836, AGLS, 1205.

The Commodore

Navy in the use of steamers during the Second Seminole War is
overlooked by many naval historians.
The War Department purchased steamboats in the summer of
1836 for the campaign against the Creek Indians, who were then .
on the warpath in Alabama and Georgia. Commodore Dallas was
called upon to supply crews. The first steamer to arrive at Pensa-
cola was the American; Lieutenant Stephen Johnston, USN, was
given command of her and provided with a crew of fifty sailors.
The engineers, carpenter, and firemen were civilians contracted
when the vessel was procured in New Orleans. The next to arrive
was the Southron; she was renamed the Major Dade, Lieutenant
Neil M. Howison, USN, commanding. The third and final vessel was
the Yalla Busha, which was called the Lieutenant Izard during her
duty with the army;27 Lieutenant George M. Bache, USN, re-
ceived command of her. During the period June 19-July 17, 1836,
these vessels were dispatched to the Chattahoochee River to co-
operate with General Scott, who had been shifted from the Sem-
inole to the Creek theater.28
Scott's plans had changed by the time the three vessels arrived.
The general kept the Lieutenant Izard to transport his troops and
supplies, and sent the other two to Apalachicola, Florida, to oper-
ate under Governor Call.
While operating with Scott, the only action Bache reported con-
cerned the sailors' liberties. Bache had to keep the Izard tied up to
the riverbank because there was too much river traffic to allow him
to anchor in midstream, and his men frequently went ashore.
"There is a free Bridge across the River and a place called Sodom
on the opposite side in the extreme of Alabama where the arm of

27. Lytle, Merchant Steam Vessels, p. 8, and U.S. Naval History Division,
Dictionary, 1:40, both indicate that the American was built in 1837. However,
this date is undoubtedly incorrect for the steamboat American was purchased
for the army on June 10, 1836, for $13,000. Major Dade was obtained on
June 28, 1836, for $13,000 and Lieutenant Izard the following July 4 for
$11,000. ASPMA, 7:996. Major Dade's dimensions were length 134 feet, beam
of boat 19 feet, overall beam 37 feet, depth of hold 6 feet. In smooth water
she could make nine miles per hour. American was somewhat smaller than
Major Dade. Hunter to Bolton, 6 Jun., encl. in Bolton to SN, 11 Jun. 1837,
Capt. Itrs.
28. SW to SN, 24 May 1836, SWLS; SN to Dallas, 25 May 1836, Records,
pp. 6-7; vice versa, 10 Jun. 1836, Dallas to Call, 10 Jun., ends in Dallas to
SN, 3 Jul. 1836, Dallas to SN, 14 Jun., 20 Jun., 26 Jun., 30 Jun., 8 Jul. 1836,
Dallas to Call, 2 Jul., encl. in Dallas to SN, 16 Jul. 1836, Capt. Itrs.


the law is not very powerful."2 Bache felt that Sodom, across the
river from Columbus, Georgia, was a "bad place" for sailors.

Governor Call had been placed in supreme command of the military
throughout the territory and was preparing for the assault upon
the Indian stronghold in the Cove of the Withlacoochee. By mid-
August all three steamboats were operating in Florida under Call's
direction, and they were detailed to bring supplies up the Suwannee
River in preparation for this campaign. Little enemy action took
place, although eight Indian rafts were found, and on one occasion,
while steaming between St. Marks and Camp Call at Suwannee
Old Town, the American came upon and chased some Indians in a
canoe. The Seminoles managed to escape in shoal water, but lost
their canoe and equipment to the sailors.
In late summer, sickness struck the crew of the Major Dade. "It
is a violent sort of fever," Lieutenant Howison wrote, and he felt it
was caused by hard work in the Florida sun and by poor drinking
water. Howison continued his report to the commodore with the
familiar refrain of the overworked and underpaid servicemen, with
a barb directed at the army. "The inhabitants of the country at this
season abandon it," he wrote, "and even negroes can with great
difficulty be procured at an expense of from three to five dollars a
day, while the obedient men of war Sailor for $12 the month, must
bear the burden of the public service, and lug along forage for the
army, which is snugly encamped near cool springs and shady trees
awaiting the agreeable weather of Autumn to begin its labours."30
Howison returned the boat to Pensacola due to the condition of his
Lieutenant Johnston reported in early October that the American
was in St. Joseph with a broken main shaft and he had sent his men
to Pensacola to recuperate from the effects of shipboard sickness.
The Lieutenant Izard had the same problem; Bache was among
the victims, and he had to be relieved by Lieutenant Raphael
Semmes, USN.31 The governor called upon Semmes to remain, for

29. Bache to Dallas, 22 Jul., encl. in Dallas to SN, 30 Jul. 1836, Capt. Itrs.
30. Howison to Dallas, 15 Aug., encl. in Dallas to SN, 31 Aug. 1836, ibid.
31. Lieutenant Raphael Semmes was born in Maryland in 1809 and entered
the navy as a midshipman in 1826. During the Mexican War he was the com-
mander of the brig Somers when she capsized during a storm in the Gulf of
Mexico on December 8, 1842, and sank with a loss of thirty-two of her
seventy-six crewmen. In the Civil War, Semmes gained fame as captain of the

The Commodore

it was imperative that he have one steamer to establish a depot on
the Withlacoochee for his upcoming operations. Semmes consented,
although he had to accept a draft of militiamen to complete his
Semmes departed Camp Call on October 2, 1836, bound for the
Withlacoochee, with General Leigh Read of the Florida militia and
his command on board. The Izard had to remain six to eight miles
off the mouth of the river until the channel could be found. Once
he found the channel, Semmes had doubts that a vessel the size of
the Izard could navigate the intricate route to the river; however,
General Read was impatient to get upstream and establish his
depot, and he convinced Semmes of the urgency of the situation.
Lieutenant Semmes began warping his ship up the channel by
sending boats up ahead with anchors which were dropped at
strategic positions and then the Izard hauled itself up to the anchor.
Near the shore the lines could also be attached to fixed objects.
It was a rather delicate feat requiring top-notch seamen. Although
Semmes realized many of his crew were militiamen, he committed
himself. When he had maneuvered the Izard into a particularly diffi-
cult position among some small oyster banks, the tide caught the
steamer and swung her about so that the bow and stern rested on
two oyster banks on opposite sides of the channel. The tide was
running out, and before Semmes could get the Izard off she "gave
way amidships, filled with water and sunk." The steamer was a
complete loss, but the crew and cargo were saved.32
Semmes felt the steamer's loss had little effect upon Read's oper-
ations, because the general still had a large barge with which to
carry his supplies upriver. However, Read failed to establish his
depot on time and this caused Call's main force to have to divert
to Fort Drane, which disrupted the campaign.
Governor Call laid the blame for the loss of the Lieutenant Izard
solely on the arrangement by the government to utilize naval offi-

Confederate raider Alabama, and for his exploits he was appointed a rear
admiral in the Confederate Navy. In the closing months of the war he had
command of the James River Squadron which before the fall of Richmond
was formed into a Naval Brigade and participated in the final battle and sur-
render of General Joseph E. Johnston on May 1, 1865. Semmes died in Mobile
on August 30, 1877. Naval Historical Foundation, Captain Raphael Semmes;
Bauer, Surfboats and Horse Marines, p. 60.
32. Semmes to Dallas, 11 Oct., encl. in Dallas to SN, 19 Oct. 1836, Capt.


cers who, he felt, had no experience or training for navigating in
restricted river waters. Semmes, on the other hand, gave much of
the blame for his loss to the crew of raw militia which had been
recently recruited for the mission. These charges and counter-
charges eventually led Semmes to request a Court of Inquiry, but
the Navy Department felt such action was not necessary.33
By November 1836, the American and Major Dade were back
operating with the military in Florida, and these two vessels con-
tinued to provide transportation and carry supplies for the army
throughout the first eight months of 1837.

Commodore Dallas took very seriously the complaints of his
officers assigned to steamboat duty. When Lieutenant Howison
complained to him of the sickness of his crew and of the ex-
cessive work assigned, Dallas wrote back that Howison was free to
return to Pensacola any time he felt it was necessary to do so for
the crew's health, and this action could be taken "without consult-
ing anyone." Further, Howison was to inform the governor that
while the steamers were available to transport provisions and men
wherever he desired, the sailors were not to be used to load sup-
plies unless the troops were similarly employed. Commodore Dallas'
attitude of his service's independence-undoubtedly strengthened
by years of single-ship-cruising-so greatly impeded cooperation
between the military and his steamer forces that by August of the
following year the army had decided to resume complete control
over the steamboats and had requested them from the navy; by
October 1837 the transfer was complete.34

In spite of much command bickering there was some cooperation.
At the height of the army's winter campaign of 1836-37, Dallas
offered to man some of the army posts so that the soldiers could
take the field with maximum strength. General Thomas S. Jesup,
USA, then commanding in Florida, accepted, and sailors and ma-
rines garrisoned Forts Clinch, Foster, and Brooke.35
Early in October 1836, Dallas summarized the squadron's move-
33. Call to SN, 2 Dec. 1836, TP:Florida, 25:351; Semmes to Dallas, 11
Oct., encl. in Dallas to SN, 19 Oct. 1836, Capt. Itrs.; Semmes to SN, 23 Nov.
1836, Off. Itrs.; vice versa, 8 Dec. 1836, Off., Ships of War.
34. Dallas to SN, 31 Aug. 1837, Capt. Itrs.; SW to SN, 3 Aug. 1837, SWLS;
SN to Dallas, 5 Aug. 1837, Off., Ships of War; SN to SW, 4 Oct. 1837,
35. Dallas to SN, 2 Jan. 1837, Capt. Itrs.

The Commodore

ments in a report to the department. The Concord, Boston, and
Natchez were cruising in rotation covering the Texas-Mexican
coasts. The St. Louis was en route to Tampa Bay to relieve the
Warren, and the latter was to take the sick and disabled of the
squadron to Norfolk. The Grampus would cruise to windward as
far as Haiti. The Vandalia and Washington had sortied with a large
expedition led by Lieutenant Powell to take the war to the Sem-
inoles believed gathered in the Everglades. "Enclosed," Dallas con-
cluded, "you will find a copy of a letter from the Governor of
Florida, the first I have been honored with, which gives any detail
of his intention or movement." Then in a rather smug tone he con-
tinued, "I am happy to say, that previous to its receipt all my
plans had been laid and orders given. You will perceive that they
are in unison with his views and suggestions."36 (Call was recom-
mending that a naval party scout the Everglades.)
At the beginning of the 1837 fall campaign season, the commo-
dore felt that naval efforts had been slighted and that General Jesup
had not sufficiently appreciated all the navy was doing. "It will af-
ford me pleasure," he wrote Secretary Dickerson, "to do all in my
power to aid General Jesup in his operations in Florida. I fear
however that the same degree of alacrity cannot be expected from
the navy as was exhibited during last winter. Lieuts. Johnston,
Powell and Hunter rendered every service that could be asked from
them, indeed more than could be fairly expected, nevertheless no
mention of their services in the many, very many General Orders,
lauding the merits, bravery, gallantry, perseverance etc. of volun-
teers, militia and regular forces engaged in the War in Florida.""
SIt was readily apparent that Commodore Dallas' concept of co-
operation was quite limited, for at no time did he relinquish control
over his forces. The commodore's form of cooperation taught the
army command a lesson, and when military commanders later
needed to utilize naval forces, they avoided the commodore and
sought other means of obtaining naval services.
Dallas applied standard naval techniques against the Indians dur-
ing the three years he commanded the West India Squadron. His
blockade instructions were routine orders for point to point cruis-
ing, and the sloops-of-war sailed well offshore because of their

36. Dallas to SN, 2 Oct. 1836, ibid.
37. Dallas to SN, 18 Sep. 1837, Records, p. 88.

draf.Trhis might have been effective against people who depended
on overseas commerce, but the Seminoles were self-sufficient except
for their weapons and powder. These two items could be brought
to the Indians in small coastal "ssels all along the peninsula with-
out the necessity of seaports.-o guard against this illicit traffic
would require extensive surveillance close to shore, which Dallas
failed to provide, although on several occasions he requested small
craft to patrol offshore.
The boat expeditions were also organized mainly along naval
lines, for they were tactical maneuvers reacting to specific threats
made by the Indians. The personnel manning these expeditions were
not equipped or prepared for sustained operations on both land
and water. The squadron's small-boat activities were only boarding
parties designed for coastal and river operations from the ships,
,tle exception being Lieutenant Powell's trek with Colonel Smith.
SDallas could not devote his full time to the Seminoles, nor could
. he set aside a permanent force to concentrate upon the Florida
war. His ships were too scattered to exert strong pressure on the
Indians. This undoubtedly accounted for the lack of special effort
on the part of the West India Squadron to cope with the enemy
under any but standard naval methods, and until the army forced
the Seminoles into the Everglades, there was no special reason for
the navy to become more involved in the conflict. In spite of Dallas'
efforts at blockade, the War Department was not satisfied that the
munitions traffic had been checked. It was aware of the inadequacy
of the navy's performance, and it tried to adopt new solutions. As
the Seminoles moved south into the Everglades, the army was the
first to realize the importance of naval forces working close to shore
and in harmony with the land forces. The Everglades provided the
terrain for riverine warfare: its coastline, indented and island-
studded, was small enough to be kept under close surveillance, and
its unexplored interior could be reached only by boat or canoe.

First Attempt

)i44The initial attempt to create a force to operate under a concept .
of riverine warfare was made by Lieutenant Levin M. Powell, USN. -
In all probability this concept was the outgrowth of his early boat
expeditions in the winter and spring of 1836, especially his military
work with Colonel Smith inland from Charlotte Harbor and his
later assignment in the fall of 1836. The winter campaign of 1836-
37 began for Lieutenant Powell on the morning of October 2, 1836,
when the~lanldlia. accompanied by the revenue cutter Washington,
sortied from Pensacola. .ayJheaded for Key West. This small force
carrie all of the marines of the squadrori's-ghips then in the Gulf
of Mexico, except for the St. Louis' detachment, to augment the
navy's seamen. They needed a strike force capable of dealing with
a group of Indians, believed to number about 200, gathered in the
vicinity of Cape Florida or New River. The initial reports of the
Seminoles' whereabouts had been obtained from widely separated
sources. In March of that year one of the Indian captives of Lieu-
tenant Powell's first expedition to Josefa Island said the Indians
were gathering near Pease Creek and the prisoners captured by the
citizens of Indian Key stated a hostile force had gathered at Cape
Sable. These reports that the Seminoles were moving south seemed
to be confirmed when, prior to leaving Tampa in July, Captain Mix
sent two Indians from Bunce's rancho to the mainland to spy. They
fell in with Chief Alligator's party and learned that many Seminoles


had built canoes with which to take their families to the islands in
the Everglades.1
Powell's expedition was tailored to this mission. He had the serv-
ices of experienced officers in Lieutenant William Smith, USN,
Surgeon Hassler, USN, and First Lieutenant Waldron, USMC.
Lieutenant Smith had conducted boat expeditions on the west coast
of Florida and had made a trek into the interior south of Tampa
Bay. Surgeon Hassler had accompanied Smith on some of his boat
expeditions and was familiar with this life. First Lieutenant Wald-
ron, who had operated rather extensively in the field with Colonel
Lindsay, USA, during several skirmishes with the Seminoles, was
in charge of the marines. Powell also had two very experienced
civilian volunteers: Dr. E. Frederick Leitner,2 a German-born
physician and naturalist who had resided in Charleston, South
Carolina, for the previous seven years and had spent much of his
time investigating the fauna of southern Florida, and Stephen R.
Mallory, a resident of Key West, who had extensive experience
sailing the waters of the keys.3
En route to Key West, Powell and Commander Thomas Crabb,
USN, the Vandalia's new commanding officer, sketched the broad
outline of the forthcoming operation. It had been reported that the
Indians harvested coontie (arrowroot), which they used to make
bread, in the locality of Cape Florida before moving northward.
Lieutenant Powell hoped to surprise a large number of warriors
before they took to the warpath; or, failing that, to deprive the
hostiles of one of their basic foodstuffs and let hunger take its toll.
The plan called for the Washington to transport boats and person-
nel from Key West to Cape Florida and to continue to act as the
S supply base for the ensuing operations. In addition to the mobile
S support base provided by the revenue cutter, the detachment's
fifty sailors and ninety-five marines manned "two schooner boats,"
the Carolina and the Firefly, along with six smaller craft.4
1. Mix to Dallas, 6 Aug., encl. in Dallas to SN, 7 Aug. 1836, Capt. Itrs.
2. A&N, 6:181; Motte, Journey, pp. 184, 299.
3. Stephen R. Mallory, Sr., later Confederate secretary of the navy, obtained
leave from his position as customs inspector to accompany Powell. Clubbs,
"Stephen Russell Mallory," p. 52.
4. Again there is the use of an imprecise term, "Schooner Boats," this time
by Powell. Boats are small watercraft generally pulled by oars and not named,
whereas large craft are not classed as boats and are named. The Carolina was
a decked schooner belonging to the Key West Custom House and the Firefly
was owned by Mallory who described his craft as a schooner-rigged whaleboat

First Attempt 51
Powell left Key West on October 3 for Cape Florida, and three
days later he brought his force into Indian Key to replenish his
water supply. The day before he arrived at Indian Key, a force of
some seventy Indians had attacked Key Largo, destroying the
garden and outbuildings of Captain John Whalton, U.S. Lighthouse
Service, the keeper of the Carysfort Reef Lighthouse. A few days
later the Indians attacked the schooner Mary, a small coastal vessel
of about fifteen tons, while she was riding at anchor at Key Taver-
nier, just off the eastern shore of Key Largo. The five crew members
managed to escape by taking to the small boats, although two of
the men were wounded in the fray. The Indians plundered the
schooner and set her afire. Not being in any haste, the war party
remained in the vicinity for several dayL,r Seeing the smoke from
their campfires about thirty miles away, Powell changed his plans
and decided to make a surprise assault on the band before pro-
ceeding to the cape. Recalling his earlier difficulties maneuvering
the large navy launches close to tlh shoreline in attempts to ap-
proach guerrilla bands undetectedte procured two light boats-
one from Jacob Housman-to augment his four smallest boats for
his first attack upon the enemy. Also at this time Lieutenant Powell
hired William Cooley, who was still at Indian Key seeking revenge,
Sto act as a guide.5
His plan of operations was a pincer movement: Lieutenant Smith
Swas to take a division of boats to circle the east end of Key Largo;
SPowell's group would stretch over to the mainland under cover
Sof darkness and try to stay hidden near the coast. Powell hoped the
Indians would be traveling by water and, not expecting a trap,
might move out away from the shore. He felt confident that he
would force an engagement on the water if he could maneuver his

(see text). Call to Dallas, 14 Sep. 1836, TP:Florida, 25:331-32; Dallas to SN,
2 Oct. 1836, Records, p. 76; Powell to Crabb, 8 Dec. 1836, reprinted in A&N,
4:298-99; Crabb to Dallas, 13 Oct., encl. in Dallas to SN, 19 Oct. 1836, Capt.
5. A few citizens of Monroe County claimed that "the undersigned know
that petitions with numerous signatures have been sent to Congress, praying
for a port Entry at Indian Key .... In one instance it is known, that men con-
stituting a large expedition against the Indians, under the command of Lieut.
Powel [sic], of the U.S. Navy, signed one of these petitions at Indian Key,
several times over, with different signatures, for a glass of grog each time."
TP:Florida, 25:252-53. Powell confirmed this accusation in a letter to William
A. Whitehead on September 11, 1837. "Memorial of William A. Whitehead,"
Appendix A, p. 7; Charleston Courier, 3 Nov. 1836; Floridian, 26 Nov. 1836.

sailors and marines between the Seminoles and land; such tactics
would move combat into the navy's element. Powell waited until
late in the day before deciding that the enemy was not going to
travel on open water; he then ordered his force to proceed along the
coast in an attempt to flush the hostiles out. Shortly thereafter they
came upon a canoe carrying two Indians, and the chase was on.
The Seminoles were able to prolong the pursuit by remaining in the
shallow waters, but Powell urged his sailors on as the gap nar-
rowed. Just after Powell ordered some of his men to open fire, the
canoe turned into shore and its occupants jumped out and fled
inland. Only then did Powell realize that the two had worked their
way back to their camp to spread the alarm; by the time he arrived
the whole Seminole force had vanished. he Indians had left be-
hind their canoes, fishing equipment, and provisions, and Powell
destroyed everything that he thought had any value before he re-
turned to Indian Key. Once again the force resumed its course for
Cape Florida.
After such an auspicious start, Powell was determined to ex-
amine the coast thoroughly. Lieutenant Smith was placed in charge
of the large boats with instructions to take the outer passage to the
cape; First Lieutenant Waldron and his marines accompanied
Powell in the small boats to search the passage between Key Largo
and the mainland. As Powell probed the many inlets and small keys
which might furnish secluded retreats for the enemy, he was con-
cerned about the possibility of ambush. Added to this hazard,
nature took a hand and the force had to beat against a northeast
gale. As a result, it was October 21 before the small boats reached
Cape Florida.
From his base there, Powell dispatched exploring parties at
night, to elude detection, and sought to engage his elusive guerrilla
foe, for he did not want the Seminoles to disappear. The first eve-
ning he sent Lieutenant Smith with a group of sailors to the Miami
River to inspect the former settlement there, but they found no
sign of Indians. First Lieutenant Waldron took his marines up that
river to the head of boat navigation and reported that the settle-
ments there had been utterly destroyed some time before his ar-
rival. Powell methodically widened his search, sending Stephen
Mallory to explore along Little River and Arch Creek, but with no
positive results. When he was convinced that there were no hostiles
in the immediate vicinity, he decided that they might be somewhere

First Attempt 53
along New River harvesting coontie, and he was determined to
surprisee them.
i_ Once again the pincer movement became Powell's modus oper-
andi. Accompanied by the marines, he planned to ascend to the
headwaters of the Ratones River before marching overland to New
River. Lieutenant Smith was to approach New River by sea. Powell
departed at nine in the evening, using darkness as a cover, and his
group rowed all night, arriving at the Ratones at ten the next
morning, a distance of twenty-five miles from Cape Florida. On the
overland march he came across a deserted Indian village which he
put to the torch. Powell reached New River about eight miles be-
low the Everglades and proceeded downstream until a junction was
made with Lieutenant Smith's boat force from the sea. Neither
group had found any Seminoles, so Powell established a camp on
the west bank of New River to send out more probing expeditions.
William Cooley led boats up the northeastern branch of New River
to the Cypress Swamp where the sailors followed an Indian trail
for a considerable distance into the swamp without discovering any
Seminoles. Smith was dispatched with three barges to operate as
far north as Indian River.rMeanwhile, knowing that the area to the
south was clear of guerrilla units, Powell decided to investigate the
Everglades, the terra incognita of the Seminoles.6
Powell started out with four of his lightest boats, carrying a
scanty allowance of provisions so as not to be burdened. The party
included Drs. Hassler and Leitner, who were interested in scientific
information, and William Cooley, the guide. By this trek Powell
hoped to add to the sparse military knowledge of the Seminoles'
retreat. Although the coastal area of Florida was fairly well known
by 1836, the interior of the glades had not yet been penetrated by
white men. The first night they anchored in the Everglades, Powell
was impressed by the contrasting views of the coast, outlined by
pines and cypress, on one side and the vast grassy sea upon the
other. He had the impression that, as on the ocean, there were no
obstructions to the eye when gazing inland, and he felt that from
his vantage point he would have been able to see any Indian fires
on the islands in the glades if there had been any.
At dawn the next day he set out for the nearer island seen in the
distance. Once his group entered the Everglades, the immense pan-
6. The name Everglades was not used on maps until 1823. Hanna and
Hanna, Lake Okeechobee, p. 33.

U I I r a r, p', inK-I nwl
U.S. sailors and marines operating in the Everglades


o .I

Courtesy U.S. Navy

I t

First Attempt 55
orama seemed to close in on them. Just as the sea becomes a series
of huge individual waves as one approaches the shore, the waving -
grass of the distance turned into matted clumps of saw grass. It
wounded like a razor, as it inflicted deep and painful cuts on the
men. There were deep sluices crisscrossing the glades, too tortuous
to navigate in keel boats, too deep to ford on foot. Powell and his
men struggled most of the day hauling, pushing, and poling their
boats through the morass, but made very little headway. "I found
it impracticable to navigate the glades, at this stage of water," he
wrote, and added, "we reluctantly commenced our return to the
When Lieutenant Smith returned on November 6 and informed
Powell that there were no recent signs of Indians as far north as
the St. Lucie River, Powell concluded that the Seminoles had com-
pleted their harvest earlier and must now be operating in the
northern part of Florida. He ordered the expedition to move south-
ward, continuing to probe and explore the extremity of the penin-
sula. Powell rounded the tip of Florida and moved northward up
the west coast, inspecting the abandoned fishing ranchos and re-
cording information about them for future use. He reached Josefa
Island in Charlotte Harbor on November 30, just in time to take
shelter against a northern gale. The boats needed major repairs
and the men were weakened after constant exposure to the ele-
ments. After two days of inactivity, he decided it was time to re-
turn to Key West. There the expedition ended as Powell sought
transportation for his men back to Tampa Bay and Pensacola. Early
in December, Lieutenant Powell's group began to report aboard
their respective commands as the cutter Dexter arrived in Tampa
Bay with some of the marines from the expedition and the re-
mainder came in soon after.
Not all of Powell's group felt that the expedition had been gruel-
ing. In his diary Stephen Mallory presented the whole episode as a
cheerful, carefree lark, quite contrary to most reports. Mallory had
charge of the Firefly, a "long, center-board schooner-rigged whale-
boat" in which he sailed from Jupiter River to Tampa Bay with "a
fine body of seamen." According to him, it was a part hunting and
part sailing outing in the company of interesting officers. He en-
joyed the excitement of searching for Seminoles, and, although he
never received the opportunity to fire at an Indian or be under
7. Powell to Crabb, 8 Dec. 1836, A&N, 4:298-99.


their fire, he found the experience stimulating. He wrote, "I enjoyed
capital health, good spirits, and reaped much useful experience,
,self reliance, and benefit generally from my service."8
SThis initial attempt to penetrate the Everglades provided the im-
\ petus for another expedition the following fall. Lieutenant Powell
was challenged by Florida's vast aquatic land, teeming with am-
phibian denizens, and he thought the Everglades must be pene-
trated militarily by an equally amphibious force. Powell wrote to
Joel R. Poinsett, Secretary of War, in September 1837, offering his
services to lead a military expedition into the glades. He pointed
out to the secretary that his previous expedition had penetrated
eighteen to twenty miles into the glades in deep-hulled ships'
cutters, which had convinced him that with the proper boats the
whole of south Florida was accessible to the military''He proposed
that the expedition be transported to New River where the actual
penetration could be made in"'boats built under my direction at a
navy yard (or purchased) of the lightest draught and to stow in
nests."9 Secretary Poinsett was so impressed that he invited Powell
to Washington to present the plan in person.
Powell formally presented his "Project of an Expedition to the
Everglades of South Florida" to the War Department in October.
Although he did not use the twentieth-century expression "search
and destroy," it is apparent he had something similar in mind as he
wrote: "It is proposed to circumnavigate the Everglades-discover
the aforesaid retreats, to endeavour to capture the women & chil-
dren, to fall upon the war parties-and to harass & terrify the
nation, by this unexpected inroad from this quarter." Powell felt
that attacks made upon the refuge of the Seminole families would
be the best way to curb the war party raids in north Florida and
at the same time force the Seminoles to sue for peace. He suggested
a force of a hundred sey a hundred soldiers, and the necessary
officers from each service he whole expedition was to be out-
fitted with "not less than twenty boats-flat built and fitted with
sails oars &c."10 This offer was accepted and the details of organiza-
tion were left to Powell.
By mid-October, he was in Charleston, South Carolina, gathering
the equipage he considered necessary. He bought two boats and

8. Clubbs, "Stephen Russell Mallory," p. 52.
9. Powell to SW, 24 Sep. 1837, P-898, SWLR.
10. Powell's memorandum, 10 Oct. 1837, P-910, ibid.

First Attempt 57
fourteen pirogues and ordered twelve boats constructed. He char-
tered four schooners to transport the navy detachment with its
equipment to St. Augustine, Florida, where the army personnel
were to be embarked.11
General Jesup had taken command of the military forces in
Florida from Governor Call on December 9, 1836. Prior to that he
had been in charge of the Alabama sector of the Creek campaign
under Scott where he had gained experience in fighting Indians.
During his first winter in Floridl he divided the territory into two
zones. The northern sector, a zone of interior, under Brigadier
General Walker K. Armistead, USA, was serviced principally by
Florida militiamen and the West India Squadron's sailors who gar-
risoned certain forts. This freed the regulars to pursue the Sem-
inoles southward into the southern operational sector. For the
winter campaign season of 1837-38, Jesup again divided the terri-
tory into the two zones and emphasized offensive operations to
force the Indians south.
Secretary Poinsett counseled General Jesup to insure that the
army officers assigned to Powell's group would not outrank the
lieutenant. Jesup complied, although he protested that the force
was too large to be an efficient exploring party, too small to be a
combat group for the forthcoming operations, and would not be
ready to move as soon as he wished. At the same time the general
requested that Powell's group be placed under his direct command.
Meanwhile Secretary of the Navy Dickerson informed Commodore
Dallas that Powell had been selected to lead this expedition, and,
while he would render any aid needed by the army in its forth-
coming campaign, he was to report directly to the commodore.
Powell mentioned his instructions from the "Secretary at War" as
the basic guidelines for the expedition when he wrote the final
report of his activities in South Florida to Dallas. The command
situation was confusing.12
When Powell arrived at St. Augustine, General Jesup sent for
him to report to headquarters at Black Creek where he could be
briefed on forthcoming operations. Jesup planned to utilize three
forces in south Florida to sweep the area, and to hold the Indians
11. Powell to SN, 29 Nov. 1837, Off. Itrs.
12. SW to Powell, 14 Oct. 1837, SW to Jesup, 14 Oct. 1837, SWLS; vice
versa, 29 Oct. 1837, "Court of Inquiry," Appendix, pp. 188-89; SN to Dallas, 1
Nov. 1837, Records, p. 11; Powell to Dallas, 2 May, encl. in Dallas to SN, 16
Jul. 1838, Capt. Itrs.

Map of Powell's battlefield

Courtesy P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History,
Gainesville, Florida

First Attempt 59
while the main assault pushed south. The southern groups were
Colonel Smith's Louisiana volunteers in the west, operating from
the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River; Colonel Zachary Taylor,
USA, and the 1st Infantry Regiment in the center, covering the
area between the Kissimmee River and Pease Creek; and Powell's
small mixed force of sailors, Company I, 1st Artillery, and a de-
tachment fromithe Washington City volunteers, to operate along
the east coast. lPowell received his first movement orders: he was
directed to proceed to the St. Lucie River to investigate the pos-
sibility of opening communications between Indian River and the
St. Lucie for military probes into the interior of the peninsula.
In mid-December, Powell's command left St. Augustine for Mos-
quito Inlet where they off-loaded from the schooners and sailed
down the lagoon in the expedition's small boats to the Haulover,
a narrow stretch of land separating the lagoon from Indian River.
The transports were directed to carry the bulk of the provisions
down the coast to rendezvous with Powell at Indian River. Some
days earlier, Navy Lieutenant John T. McLaughlin had transported
Army First Lieutenant John B. Magruder's detachment of three
companies of 1st Artillery to the Haulover and here the two com-
mands remained throughout the month of December.14
At first Powell kept his men busy moving their thirty boats across
the land from the lagoon to the river. A more pressing problem for
him was the lack of military cohesiveness of his force. Therefore, he
frequently exercised his conglomerate group in military formations
and close order drill, a task certainly made necessary by the di-
vergent backgrounds of his force of Army regulars, volunteer
militia, and navy men. This period was also beneficial to the offi-
cers; like the men, they had only recently assembled for this ex-
pedition. Lieutenant Powell was experienced, but his officers were
new to this type of operation. Midshipman Peter U. Murphy, USN,
and Midshipman William P. McArthur, USN, had been at the
Naval School at Norfolk until ordered to this duty in the fall, and
Passed Midshipman Horace N. Harrison, USN, joined Powell at St.
Augustine. Surgeon Jacob Rhett Motte, USA, of Magruder's com-
mand wrote an eyewitness account of the drill formation of the ex-
13. Mahon, Seminole War, pp. 219-20.
14. The Haulover, or Sands Point, was the site of Fort Ann during this war.
Because this was a gathering point for late pioneers moving south, the town of
Titusville sprang up a few miles south of the Haulover. Hellier, Indian River,
p. 11.

petition: "When drawn up in line they presented a curious blend-
ing of black and white, like the keys of a piano forte; many of the
sailors being coloured men. There was also an odd alternation of
tarpaulin hats and peajackets, with forage caps and soldiers trip
roundabouts; soldiers and sailors, white men and black, being all
thrown into the ranks indiscriminately, a beautiful specimen of
mosaic, thus modifying sailor's ardour with soldier's discipline."15
The day after Christmas 1837, the expedition departed the Haul-
over to explore Indian River. Captain Harvey Brown, USA, and
the group's topographical engineer, Mr. Joseph E. Johnston,16
were to select and mark sites along the route for some depots;
later Lieutenant Magruder's group was to follow and construct
forts at the places selected. On the evening of the second day, they
arrived at a location previously selected by General Jesup to be
inspected. As the boats pulled into the shore, the men were startled
to glimpse a small band of Seminoles break from cover and flee to
the interior. Powell said "their fleetness defied pursuit." The fol-
lowing night the group made camp on a high oak bluff on the
north bank of the St. Sebastian River. There was a brief period of
rest until dark, then Powell had the men ascend the river looking
for fires which would betray the hostile campsites. This search
lasted all night and the river was scouted to its headwaters without
discovery of the enemy. The next day the group continued south
and arrived at the mouth of Indian River where they made camp
while waiting for the transports. On December 31, Magruder's
group joined them. While at the inlet, Powell sent Captain Brown
and Midshipman Murphy to scout the mainland and Lieutenant
Harrison to reconnoiter the mouth of the St. Lucie River.
As soon as fresh supplies were received from the transports, the
first week in January, Powell departed for the St. Lucie. He was
concerned for the physical comfort of his men, knowing from
previous duty the strength-sapping rigors of life in the swamps. He
left Captain James R. Irvin's company of Washington City volun-
teers at Fort Pierce because they had not been a part of his original

15. Motte, Journey, p. 168.
16. Joseph E. Johnston, later a Confederate general, was graduated from
West Point and resigned his commission May 31, 1837. While waiting for re-
appointment he volunteered for duty in Florida. He accepted a commission
as first lieutenant in the topographical engineers in June 1838 and was im-
mediately promoted to brevet captain. He was cited for his actions during the
Florida War. Heitman, Historical Register, 1:578.

First Attempt 61
plan and he wanted men who had served longer in Florida. He had
not yet learned of the Battle of Okeechobee which took place on
December 25, so he was not aware that large numbers of Indians
had been forced into the Everglades by military pressure.17
Whether or not this would have influenced his decision cannot be
determined. When the group reached the St. Lucie, it made camp
"on the sea beach where we discharged the boats of their heaviest
lading & started up the river."18 Again Powell's men traveled at
night and this time they "started an Indian from his lair," but he
disappeared before he could be captured or killed. The next day
the force had a brief engagement with a small band of Seminoles
on the north fork of the St. Lucie; it was an inconclusive affair.
Finally Powell and his men reached the headwaters where they
made camp and waited while Captain Brown went to find General
Jesup to report their progress.
Powell kept searching the area while awaiting a reply from the
general. One day when he sent a man back to the base camp-a
half hour's walk from the party-the sailor lost the trail and
strayed off. Two days later Powell found him in a state of ex-
haustion from his efforts to locate himself in that wild and desolate
i It was at the headwaters of Jupiter River, as the expedition was
leaving the interior, that Powell engaged in his most serious con-
frontation with hostile Indians. On January 10 or 11, 1838, while
exploring the St. Lucie, he discovered an Indian trail with signs
that a large band had recently moved southward. Military engage-
ment was his prime purpose, so Powell followed the trail. On the
fifteenth he overtook an Indian woman who, when captured, gave
information that there were several Indian camps in the vicinity.
Twenty-three men were left to guard the boats and the woman
was pressed into service as a guide. She led the group down a
well-beaten trail about five miles to a cypress swamp from which
columns of smoke were rising. Lieutenant Powell formed his
force into an extended line of three divisions with Acting Lieuten-
ants Harrison and McArthur, USN, each leading a division of
sailors, and First Lieutenant Henry W. Fowler, USA, commander

17. The Battle of Okeechobee is described in Mahon, Seminole War, pp.
227-30. Powell departed for the interior before the news of the battle reached
Jupiter Inlet. Motte, Journey, pp. 178-80.
18. Powell to Dallas, 2 May, encl. in Dallas to SN, 16 Jul. 1838, Capt. Itrs.

of Company I, 1st Artillery, leading the army group. Midshipman
Murphy, USN, and his men had been sent on detached duty, so
the entire force numbered about fifty-five sailors and twenty-five
44t was four o'clock in the afternoon when Powell came to the
swamp. A war whoop sounded ahead and instantly he ordered a
charge. The Seminoles were superb guerrilla fighters, using the
terrain to maximum advantage; they emerged for an instant to
shoot at the charging line and then disappeared again into the
underbrush. The nerve-shattering war whoops commencing as a
low growl and increasing in pitch to a shrill yell, followed each
shot. The steady rifle fire from the underbrush, the Indians popping
up here and there for a split second, and the treacherous swampy
terrain added to the difficulty of keeping the inexperienced sailors
in a coordinated line of advance. Tactically, a fluid line utilizing
natural cover with one group providing fir' support for another's
advance would have been more practical, but this was not the
standard battlefield procedure at the time.4Thus casualties were
rather one-sided in favor of the Indian defenders.
Acting Lieutenant Harrison was shot in the shoulder at the out-
set and his division was left without an officer to lead them. Powell
ordered Lieutenant Fowler to enter the swamp on the right and
Acting Lieutenant McArthur to lead the remaining two divisions
along the original line of advance. One of the sailors near Powell
was shot in the leg, but he continued the fight and killed his op-
ponent with a blast of "both barrels of Captain Powell's double
gun, loaded with buckshot.""
The Indians were forced slowly backwards until they were at the
edge of the more dense portion of the cypress swamp. Here they
held and maintained a steady, unrelenting fire upon the advancing
line. This fire from the unseen enemy force of undetermined size
took its toll upon the attackers. Lieutenant McArthur was seriously
wounded and the expedition's surgeon, Doctor Leitner, was killed.20
The sailors from Harrison's division, lacking an officer to lead them,
began milling about. Night was approaching, and the number of

19. The title of captain is generally accorded to commanding officers in the
navy regardless of their rank. Niles', 53:401.
20. Later reports indicate that Dr. Leitner did not die at this time, but was
captured by the Indians and subsequently killed by them. Motte, Journey, pp.

First Attempt 63
wounded was increasing.VPowell realized he was in a precarious
position and ordered a withdrawal.
While recrossing the swamp, the army group came under heavy
fire and Lieutenant Fowler was shot in the thigh and side, forcing
him out of action. Mr. Johnston immediately took charge and ef-
fectively directed the rearguard activity of the army regulars.
The sailors were raw recruits to land operations, and, with the
approaching darkness, they forgot the finer points of maintaining
unit integrity while retreating. The savages moving in from behind,
the lengthening shadows, and the safety of the boats created a
sense of insecurity for the sailors and weakened their recently in-
stilled discipline. The sailors of the leaderless division broke ranks
and ran for the boats. Had the rest of the detachment followed in a
rout, the Seminoles could have picked off the men at will.
Powell and Harrison, both wounded, were able to keep the re-
maining sailors in a ragged but effective military formation. The
brunt of the rearguard action fell to the army detachment and they
kept the retreat from turning into a rout. The firing was maintained
until about seven-thirty in the evening when the expedition finally
reached the boats and was able to pull off. Powell brought his force
back to Indian River Inlet where the wounded could be cared for,
then sailed them to Fort Pierce for hospital treatment.
Lieutenant Powell's final recapitulation to Commodore Dallas
was five killed (one surgeon, two seamen, and two soldiers) and
twenty-two wounded (four officers, including Powell, one non-
commissioned officer, eleven privates, one boatswain's mate, and
five seamen). Later Powell picked up a wounded man who had
lost his way during the retreat, reducing the number killed to four.
One of the boats, containing powder, rum, and whiskey, was in-
advertently left on the bank during the retreat because it was not
noticed in the darkness.21
Meanwhile, General Jesup led the main column south along the
coast from Fort Pierce. He detoured inland rather than ford the

21. The conduct of the battle of Jupiter River is derived from many sources.
The following are the most pertinent. Lieutenant Powell's reports: Powell to
Dallas, 17 Jan. 1838, Niles', 53:388; Powell to SN, 27 Jan., 6 Feb. 1838, Off.
Itrs.; Powell to Dallas, 2 May, encl. in Dallas to SN, 16 Jul. 1838, Capt. Itrs.
Surgeon Motte, who was at the camp on Indian River Inlet, and Surgeon
Jarvis, who received his information three days later at Camp Loyd, both
basically agree with Powell's reports. Motte, Journey, pp. 182-84; Jarvis,
"Diary," pp. 38-40.

St. Lucie River, and on his way back to the coast he engaged the
Seminoles at the same locale where Powell had fought a few days
earlier[The Battle of Locha Hatchie on January 24, 1838, involved
an estimated two to three hundred warriors. Indian casualties were
unknown, but the army suffered seven killed and thirty-one
wounded, including General Jesup. The Indians retreated into the
interior where the army could not follow, even in its Dearborn wag-
ons with their big, wide wheels and watertight bodies; the horses'
legs were torn by the sawgrass and the physical effort needed to
move the vehicles through the morass was too great. On the twenty-
seventh, the 1st Artillery reached Jupiter Bay, out of forage and with
only two days' rations. Powell arrived with supplies on that day
and his boats made several trips provisioning the force at Jupiter
until February 4, when he was ordered to sail for Key Biscayne.
General Jesup felt that by sending Colonel Benjamin K. Pierce,
USA, with a part of the 1st Artillery and Powell's sailors to Key
Biscayne by water, his own force could proceed southward by land
and trap the Indians.22
Powell's defeat bothered him so much that before he left Indian
River Inlet he sent an additional report to the Secretary of the
Navy placing much of the blame upon the men he had under him,
who were not of the caliber that had been proposed by him or
approved by the secretary. "The seamen were all landsmen and
three-fifths of the regulars were volunteers. I could have taught
them to make watches as easily as to learn the one to handle an
oar and the other a musket. Nor do I say this in reproach to either,
but to show that service like this required men who had nothing to
learn of the business before them." Still, the humiliation he felt at
his group's actions during the battle could not be removed by such
remarks; bitterness got the better of Lieutenant Powell so that he
added a postscript to the outside fold of his letter:

of the 96 sent
1 was a petty officer
8 were seamen of which 1 deserted
16 were O[rdinary] Seamen
64 Landsmen 1 deserted
9 boys.

22. Jarvis, "Diary," p. 46; A&N, 6:159-60; Mahon, Seminole War, pp. 210,

First Attempt 65
Amongst the above there
were the lame-blind-
deaf and idiotic to be found
making a most important
component of the expedition
fatal to its success.23

Powell insisted that his assault group be strengthened by the ad-
dition of a company of regulars and that the volunteers be excluded.
When this was done, his command consisted of Acting Lieutenants
Harrison and Murphy as division officers for the sailors; First Lieu-
tenant John B. Magruder replacing First Lieutenant Fowler of
Company I; Second Lieutenant Robert McLane, USA, commanding
Company E, the new company; Mr. Johnston as topographical
officer; and Dr. William T. Leonard, Acting Surgeon, USA, replac-
ing the deceased Dr. Leitner. With this group, Powell sailed south
for Key Biscayne where he spent the rest of the month establishing
a depot and erecting Fort Dallas on the mainland.24
Early in March, after he received information that Sam Jones
was in the interior of the Everglades near New River, General Jesup
ordered Lieutenant Colonel James Bankhead, USA, to Key Bis-
cayne and informed Powell that he should aid the colonel. At the
same time, Jesup wrote to Commodore Dallas of Powell's per-
formance, praising the lieutenant for his cooperation with the army
and the value he brought to the campaign, and indicating that at
last the situation was right for Powell to enter the Everglades
(which was, after all, the prime reason for the creation of Powell's
group). "He will penetrate them," Jesup wrote, "so soon as I shall
have placed a force on New River sufficient to protect his move-
ments which will be in a few days."25 The force Jesup spoke of
included Lieutenant Colonel Bankhead, with six companies of the
1st and 4th Artillery; Major William Lauderdale, Tennessee militia,
with two hundred Tennessee volunteers; Lieutenant Robert An-
derson, USA, with a company of the 3d Artillery; and Powell's
Powell scouted the interior while the army forces moved toward
the rendezvous on the edge of the glades along the north fork of

23. Powell to SN, 6 Feb. 1838, Off. Itrs.
24. A&N, 6:220; Shappee, "Fort Dallas," pp. 20-24.
25. Jesup to Dallas, 5 Mar. 1838, Records, p. 92.

New River. Just after entering the Everglades he found a fresh trail
leading toward an island, and he communicated this information
to Colonel Bankhead. The country had experienced a drought
which caused the normally wet glades to become a muddy swamp,
too dry for boats and too wet for walking. Bankhead prepared for
this venture by leaving his horses on the mainland, depositing most
of his baggage on the first island he came to after entering the
Everglades, and distributing his troops among the boats. The
soldiers put their muskets and cartridge boxes in the boats to keep
them dry while all hands pushed and towed the watercraft through
miles of ooze and saw grass. Finally, on March 22, 1838, they
reached the island in the sea of mud where the Indians were en-
Bankhead attempted to parley but the Seminoles fired upon his
flag of truce. The colonel swung into action, even though it was
late in the afternoon with only an hour before sunset. He posted
an extended line to cover the front of the hammock while Major
Reynold Kirby, USA, five companies of artillery, and two of the
S Tennessee volunteers were dispatched to the left flank where the
water was shallow, and Powell was sent to the right flank where
it was deep. When Powell's boats came within gun range, the
Seminoles opened fire, which he answered with a four-pounder
from the bow of his boat; however, before the navy could link up
with Kirby, the hostiles realized the plan and fled in great haste,
leaving food, lead, powder, and twenty skin canoes. This sortie was
important, for it was one of the first attacks into the asylum of the
Everglades where the Indians had boasted that "no white man
could go."26
After this engagement Powell returned to Fort Dallas to repair
his boats. He received instructions from General Jesup to release
one of the artillery companies. Afterward he continued his routine
probing of the glades with a reduced force until April when he
ended his expedition at Key West. Many of his men were suffering
from scorbutus and there were not enough fresh provisions on the
key for them, so Powell prevailed upon Captain William A. Howard,
USRM. of the Madison to take him to Havana for the necessary
vegetables. When the cutter returned, she loaded Magruder's com-

26. Powell to Dallas, 2 May, encl. in Dallas to SN, 16 Jul. 1838, Capt. Itrs.;
A&N, 6:268-69; Niles', 54:49; Sprague, Origin, pp. 195-96; Floridian, 21
Apr. 1838.

First Attempt 67
pany for the trip to New River while Powell took his naval force
up the west coast to Pensacola.27
Lieutenant Powell did not feel that he had accomplished his pri-
mary objective-exploring the interior of the Everglades and bring-
ing war to the Seminoles in their swampy retreat. He felt that
much of the failure rested with General Jesup who had delayed his
actual entry into the glades until the water was too low to make
much of a penetration, even with the boats he had procured for
this mission. Nevertheless, as he wrote to Secretary Poinsett, his sec-
ondary function of cooperating with the army had achieved great
success and his unit had been beneficial to the overall military
operations in South Florida. He stressed to the Secretary of War
that the most successful pioneer unit for the Everglades must be
composed of a mixed force of seamen and soldiers. It fell to his
group to scout for the army as well as to transport supplies and
fighting men once the forces in the field reached the glades
When Lieutenant Powell completed this expedition he left Florida
and did not return until 1840, when he commanded the brig Con-
sort assigned to survey the Gulf coast. The official records do not
indicate why he did not continue his work in the Everglades; from
his correspondence and from newspaper items it is apparent that
he was greatly concerned over his defeat at Jupiter, frustrated at
the duties which kept him from the glades during the season of
high water, and convinced that exploring the Everglades was a
task for younger men (he was forty at the time). It may be that he
had just had enough.
There is no explanation in his correspondence as to why he took
his plan to the War Department. He may have sounded out his
own service first, but the type of expedition he proposed probably
seemed to be essentially an army operation. In any case, he was
the first to show a concept of combat resembling riverine warfare:
he attempted to create an assault force proficient on land and water
by employing personnel from both the army and navy; he devised
special watercraft for his mission; he wanted to use internal water-
ways to reach the enemy; and he was prepared for sustained opera-
tions in a riverine environment.
The immediate result of Powell's expedition, for the army, was
27. Howard to Dallas, 26 Apr., encl. in Dallas to SN, 3 May 1838, Capt. Itrs.
28. Powell to SW, 26 Apr. 1838, P-1314, SWLR.

the demonstration that it was possible to circumvent Commodore
Dallas and his West India Squadron to exercise military control
over the naval aid received. The army now attempted to create
its own naval forces by using naval officers who, like Powell, vol-
unteered to serve the army; working through the Secretary of the
Navy in Washington to receive naval personnel drafts, thus avoid-
ing the squadron's sailors; procuring revenue cutters which were
assigned from the Treasury Department; and buying and charter-
ing vessels by the War Department itself.

Shipwrecks and Indian Massacres

G general Jesup was convinced that the West India Squadron's
blockade was ineffective. "I am apprehensive of the Indians ob-
taining powder from Havana on the one side," he wrote to Secre-
tary of War Poinsett in August 1837, "and New Providence on the
other; and if a small naval force, or even the cutters which were
under the direction of the Navy last winter, could be spared, much
advantage would result."1 This was forwarded to the Secretaries
of the Navy and Treasury where it brought action. Commodore
Dallas sent the schooner Grampus to Havana and Nassau to seek
information about the arms smuggling. Afterward she sailed off the
southern tip of Florida boarding all suspicious vessels; however,
her commanding officer, Lieutenant Elisha Peck, USN, made a neg-
ative report at the completion of his cruise. The Treasury Depart-
ment turned over the cutters Jefferson and Jackson to Commodore
Dallas, who had them operate off the west coast of Florida, co-
operating with the military.2
Army pressure was forcing the Indians southward, which resulted
in increased enemy activity in the lower peninsula. Captain John
Whalton, USLS, of the Carysfort Reef Lightship, who had main-
tained a garden on Key Largo for years, rowed over to visit his
1. Jesup to SW, 10 Aug. 1837, TP:Florida, 25:416.
2. SN to Dallas, 6 Sep. 1837, Off., Ships of War; vice versa, 11 Oct., 17
Oct., 4 Dec. 1837, Peck to Dallas, 15 Jan., encl. in Dallas to SN, 15 Jan. 1838,
Capt. Itrs.

courtesy U.b. Uoast iuard Academy, New London, Uonnecticut

U.S. Revenue Marines landing on the Florida coast


C-f/ I ew?

Shipwrecks and Indian Massacres 71
orchard on June 25, 1837, with four unarmed crewmen. Seminoles
were waiting for them and opened fire just as they stepped out of
their boat. Whalton and one other were killed in the first salvo,
but the remaining three, two of whom were wounded, managed to
set the boat afloat and escape. The Seminoles manned their canoe
to give chase but their rifles got wet during their launching, and by
the time they were able to use their weapons again their quarry
was well out of range.3
Later that month Winslow Lewis of Boston arrived at Biscayne
Bay to take over the duties of lighthouse keeper at Cape Florida,
but on learning of Whalton's murder he refused to stay. In the same
area, one of the small coastal vessels engaged in hunting turtles re-
ported being chased by a war party in canoes.4
In January 1838, Secretary of the Navy Dickerson informed the
War Department that the cutter Madison had been made available
to the navy, and he wanted to know what duty to assign her. Sec-
retary Poinsett replied that the various disasters occurring in South
Florida pointed up the need for naval protection in that area. The
east coast from Key Biscayne south to Key West had always been
dangerous for sailing vessels and had long supported a thriving
wrecking business. Now that hostile ndi ative land
the risk was greater and it was imperative that armed aid be offered ''
to those cast on shore. It was the end of March before the Madison,
Captain Howard, USRM, arrived at Pensacola, and June before
she and the Campbell reported to General Zachary Taylor, USA,
who had replaced General Jesup in May 1838.5
Taylor's plan was first to drive the Indians south of a line roughly
from Tampa Bay to St. Augustine, which would keep the Seminoles
from "every portion of Florida worth protecting." The second part
of his program was to cut off the Indians in the south from all
trade with white men so that they would eventually desire to leave
their barren lands and migrate. Taylor wanted the cutters to cruise
up both sides of the peninsula from a rendezvous point at Cape
Sable, not only to aid distressed mariners, but to stop arms traffic
and to visit the various army posts along the coast to check on

3. Florida Herald, 22 Jul. 1837; Williams, Territory, p. 271; Browne, Key
West, p. 87.
4. Hanna and Hanna, Florida's Golden Sands, pp. 114-15; A&N, 6:315-16.
5. SW to SN, 18 Jan. 1838, SWLS; SN to Dallas, 20 Jan. 1838, Records,
pp. 11-12; vice versa, 26 Mar. 1838, Capt. Itrs.; Taylor to Howard, 22 Jun.
1838, T-169, AGLR.


their safety. They were to be his sea link in the chain of force set
up to isolate the Seminoles.6
The Secretary of War took active measures of his own beyond
that of his theater commander's. He asked Navy Lieutenant John T.
McLaughlin, one of the naval officers serving with the army, his
opinion concerning this problem of blockade, and McLaughlin sub-
mitted a written proposal in May 1838. He felt the army needed a
fast schooner of sixty or seventy tons which would not draw more
than five or six feet of water: it should have a beam wide enough
to store a barge in each waist (the waist is that portion of a
vessel between the foremast and the mainmast). These barges
should draw no more than eight inches, be pulled by ten oars, and
carry fifteen men. The armament should consist of one twelve-
pounder on the schooner and two light swivel guns for the barges.
In addition, there should be one Whitehall boat, light and fast,
pulled by four oars, to overtake any of the Seminole canoes. After
Poinsett approved this, he forwarded the letter to the navy, and
three days later Dickerson replied that he did not have either the
schooner or the small boats called for, "but if the Secretary of War
will provide them it will give me pleasure to furnish officers & men
for them as recommended." The offer was accepted even before
Poinsett acknowledged Dickerson's letter, and McLaughlin was
sent to New York, where he purchased the yacht Wave from John
C. Stevens.7
The Wave left New York on August 1, 1838, headed for South
Florida. En route she was forced into Ocracoke Inlet, North Caro-
lina, to ride out a storm off Cape Hatteras; this delayed her arrival
at St. Augustine until August 21. McLaughlin wrote that the series
of southwesterly gales and the heavy seas had challenged the
Wave for all but two hundred miles during his voyage from New
York; the schooner proved to be "as fine a sea-boat as She was
known to be a Sailor," and McLaughlin was well pleased with her
performance.8 She sailed the next day for the Florida reef to join
the Madison and Campbell already on station. Before the Wave
arrived, the Madison received orders to return to her revenue
6. Mahon, Seminole War, p. 247; Taylor to Howard, 22 Jun. 1838, T-169,
7. McLaughlin to SW, 31 May, encl. in SW to SN, 1 Jun. 1838, SWLS;
SN to SW, 4 Jun. 1838, N-294, SWLR; vice versa, 11 Jun. 1838, SWLS;
McLaughlin to SN, 9 Jun. 1838, Off. Itrs.; A&N, 7:27.
8. McLaughlin to SN, 21 Aug. 1838, Off. Itrs.

Shipwrecks and Indian Massacres 73
station at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. By September 2, the Wave's
two barges Shocco and Emmett were on patrol among the keys.
Three days later the brig Alna, of Portland, Maine, was en route
to Boston from Santiago de Cuba when it ran into a strong blow
from the northeast. As the winds increased in intensity Captain
Charles Thomas took in sail. By the seventh the storm had reached
gale proportions and all the canvas had been furled, yet the brig
was being steadily blown toward the Florida coast some fifteen
miles to the westward. The captain decided to unfurl some of his
sail in an effort to halt the drift toward land. It was dangerous
work and all hands turned to in the attempt to beat against the
gale, but the winds were too strong and carried away the head of
the bowsprit. Once again the crew shortened sail, hoping to strike
that delicate balance of just enough canvas to maintain way with-
out further damage to the rigging. It was no use; the elements were
overpowering. The Alna was heaved to as the crew shortened sail.
Then, as a last resort, Captain Thomas ordered the mainsail lowered
and the brig headed for the coast. He knew that it was impossible to
remain offshore; therefore, he determined to beach his ship during
daylight hours in an effort to save the crew.9
As the Alna's head swung round toward the waiting land, the
heavy seas swept over her, carrying all loose gear over the side. It
was a struggle for all hands just to remain aboard, and one crew-
man, John Sheaf of Portland, Maine, lost his grip and was washed
over the side. Once the decision had been made to beach her and
the brig headed toward land, it took very little time for the storm
to slam the small ship against the shore, fifteen miles north of the
Cape Florida light. The captain and crew waited until the wind
and water had driven the Alna firmly onto the coast before leaving
the vessel. For the next few hours the men of the beached brig

9. Wyer wrote, "we lowered the mainsail and put the helm up," and once
again such an irregular term is misleading; the mainsail on a brig is square-
rigged and properly the sail would be furled. However, the main yard might
have been lowered so as to reduce the heavy weight aloft in an effort to di-
minish the ship's roll when not under canvas. On the other hand, if the Alna
really was a schooner rather than a brig (see text), the mainsail might well
have been lowered after the captain had put up the helm. I have no way of
knowing whether the sail was furled or lowered or the yard lowered from
Wyer's account. Niles', 55:165. The Alna was a 73-foot, 118-ton schooner
built at Alna, Maine, in 1835. WPA, Port of Philadelphia, 1:31. Samuel Pierce
lists the Alna as a brig built at Alna in 1831. Pierce, "Inspection Lists of 360

worked feverishly unloading clothing and supplies from the dis-
abled vessel to ensure their survival in case the Alna broke up.
The storm abated and the crew remained in their camp by the
brig awaiting rescue. They were not worried; they had provisions
and water enough for a month and there was little fear among the
castaways of hostile Indians. Sunday morning Samuel Cammett
went aboard the wreck to retrieve the Captain's spyglass so that
a fire could be ignited by the sun. Then he accompanied Captain
Thomas on a scouting walk to the south, but they saw nothing
and returned to camp after traveling five or six miles. Had the two
gone farther they might have met a war party investigating other
shipping disasters.
Not too far away, the French brig Courier de Tampico, Captain
Jule Julian, had been driven ashore with a loss of nine of her six-
teen crew members. When the Indians visited this group they
offered the Frenchmen aid and informed them that the Seminole
nation was at war only with the Americans. Nearby, three small
fishing sloops, Alabama, Dread, and Caution, all of Mystic, Con-
necticut, had grounded and the seventeen American crewmen of
these fishing smacks had been massacred by the Indians, with the
exception of Joseph Noble of the Alabama.10 He managed to reach
the men of the Courier de Tampico and passed himself off as a
The Florida conflict first intruded upon the Alna's crew at noon
that day when a band of warriors appeared. A shot struck First
Mate Andrew J. Plummer as he was packing some of his clothes
which had been drying in the sun. He died instantly. The two men
nearest Plummer-William Reed of Salem, Massachusetts, the
ship's cook, and a Dutchman named Ryan-fled and were im-
mediately pursued. Captain Thomas tried to calm the remaining
two crewmen, Eleazer Wyer, Jr., and Samuel Cammett, of Port-
land, Maine, by saying that the natives would not hurt them if
they did not run. This advice was terminated abruptly by a second

10. The Alabama was a 42-foot, 34-ton sloop built at New London, Conn.,
in 1837; the Caution was a 46-foot, 44-ton sloop built at Stonington, Conn., in
1838; the Dread was a 44-foot, 36-ton sloop built at Stonington in 1818 and
rebuilt in 1835. WPA, "Port of New London." These vessels must have been
among the early Connecticut fishing smacks which began spending the winters
in the Gulf of Mexico in the 1830s and developed trade with Cuba. Goode,
Fishing Industries, 1:595.
11. Niles', 55:102-3.

Shipwrecks and Indian Massacres 75
shot which passed through Wyer's hand and thigh. The three ran
down the beach with the enemy in full chase.12 Captain Thomas
fell behind, and was overtaken and killed; both Wyer and Cammett
eluded their foe by taking to the heavy underbrush.
The day being warm and sunny, neither man had his shoes on
when the Indians attacked. Wyer pressed on through the palmet-
toes unmindful of the pain to his feet; Cammett stopped running
as soon as he lost sight of the Indians and hid himself until night-
Reed and Ryan were captured and were forced to work around
the camp for the Indians for the remainder of the day. At dusk
they were taken out to be shot. The cook was killed immediately,
but Ryan, although shot at, managed to escape in the darkness.
During the initial confusion of the hunt for him, Ryan returned
to the wreck of the Alna and hid in the hold. Monday the Sem-
inoles stayed near the brig, and the Dutchman remained in hiding;
on the following day the warriors departed and Ryan emerged on
deck in time to hail the passing wrecking sloops America and
Mount Vernon. No sooner had his rescue been effected than the
Indians returned to the Alna.
The struggle for survival endured by the remaining two men,
separated and alone on a hostile coast, almost defies belief. Wyer
pushed his way through the dense underbrush all day and that
night he continued north, occasionally falling and resting for a few
minutes, then getting up and moving on. Monday he discovered
his feet were leaving a bloody trail in the sand, and bound them
with flannel taken from his shirt. He had nothing to eat Monday or
Tuesday and by Wednesday hunger forced him to fight off numer-
ous birds for the privilege of eating some of the dead fish which
had been washed up on shore. Just before sundown that day he
saw some sail, but could not attract attention to himself. He had
almost given up hope when the wrecker Mount Vernon came into
view and rescued him.
Samuel Cammett remained hidden all Sunday afternoon, not
daring to move until darkness. As soon as he felt it safe to do so
he returned to the beach to travel north. He had only gone about
five miles when he unexpectedly encountered a small party of war-

12. The Seminoles were armed with small-bore rifles and this fact possibly
explains Wyer's amazing physical abilities after being wounded. Mahon,
Seminole War, pp. 120-21.

riors. Immediately he ran into a swamp where he waded out in the
muddy waters to hide. The Indians spread out encircling the area,
but they did not venture into the waters of the swamp for fear of
snakes. After hiding an hour or so, Cammett was able to escape
undetected, and he again returned to the shore for easier traveling.
At the end of two days his neck was so swollen from mosquito
bites he could scarcely turn his head. Cammett also subsisted on
the dead fish thrown up by the sea. Wednesday afternoon he saw
four sloops coasting northward in a light wind and he managed to
keep up with them throughout the rest of the day and night, but
was not able to communicate with them. At dawn he saw one of
the sloops stand in toward the shore while launching a small boat
and only then did he realize he had been sighted. When he was
brought alongside, the first man to greet him was his friend Eleazer
Wyer, for the rescue sloop was the Mount Vernon.13
The very day Cammett was rescued, September 13, 1838, Lieu-
tenant McLaughlin, anchored at Key West, received the news of
the shipping disasters. He got underway as soon as possible, and
picked up the Wave's two barges which were returning from a
patrol among the keys. The Campbell, commanded by First Lieu-
tenant Napoleon L. Coste, USRM, was also making its way to Cape
Florida to render aid. En route the cutter exchanged signals with the
Mount Vernon and learned that the Alna was in the possession of
the Indians. Later, the Wave and Campbell met and proceeded up
Biscayne Bay in company to anchor on the evening of September 17.
Lieutenant McLaughlin held a council of war aboard the Wave,
where boat parties were organized, equipped, and dispatched at
midnight to investigate the wrecks. He led the Wave's party of
thirty seamen and marines in his two barges while Second Lieuten-
ant John Faunce, USRM, accompanied by his civilian guide, Jim
Eagan, commanded the Campbell's group of twenty-three officers
and men.14 It was five o'clock in the morning when they landed on
13. Letters by Wyer, 3 Oct. 1838, and Cammett, n.d., quoted from the
Portland Advertiser, reprinted in the Bangor Daily Whig & Courier, 20 Oct.
1838; statements made by Wyer and Cammett quoted from the Evening
Mercantile Journal, reprinted in the Bangor Daily Whig & Courier, 30 Oct.
1838; The Christian Mirror, 11 Oct., 18 Oct. 1838.
14. Faunce identifies his guide only as Mr. Eagan. Years later E. Z. C.
Judson, whose pen name was Ned Buntline, wrote an article about his ad-
ventures as the executive officer of the Otsego in 1840 and he mentions "Jim
Eagan, our coast pilot, an old Floridian" as a civilian with the navy during
the war. The Eagans were among the first settlers in the Miami area when

Shipwrecks and Indian Massacres 77
the banks of Indian Creek near a well-traveled trail. They dis-
covered the burnt remains of the fishing sloops from Mystic, which
had been fired by the Seminoles. As daylight increased, the sailors
saw the Alna eight or nine miles to the north and manned their
boats and headed for her.
At noon they spotted three canoes near the brig. Lieutenant
Faunce, Eagan, and nine men were landed to go inland through a
swamp to surprise the Indians from behind, while the remainder
approached by water. They were too few to outflank the enemy;
Faunce ordered his men to charge, hoping the Indians would flee
in their canoes into the hands of the waterborne group. The en-
gagement was brief. The Seminoles, numbering about fifteen, of-
fered little resistance; they fled into the swamp leaving their canoes
and equipment behind. The revenue marines killed three Indians
and wounded an equal number while receiving no injuries them-
selves. They were too exhausted from the night's exertion of rowing
and marching to pursue the Seminoles. After a brief rest, they
gathered up all of the Alna's papers which could be found before
they set fire to the ship. They took possession of one of the cap-
tured canoes and destroyed the other two. At half past seven that
evening the men returned to their respective ships.
The following month the men from the Campbell engaged a
party of hostiles in a minor skirmish near Bear's Cut. Two of the
Indians killed carried powder pouches decorated with eleven scalps
which had been taken from the castaways of the September
The Alna, the Courier de Tampico, and the three fishing smacks
were not the only victims of the storm. The brig Export of Kenne-
bunk, Maine, was wrecked on Carysfort Reef, but her crew sur-
vived. The schooner Palestine of Bangor, Maine, had to be aban-
doned in the Gulf of Mexico after receiving serious topside damage,
and an unknown brig lost all rigging sixty-five miles north of Cape
Florida and was riding on her anchors awaiting rescue. The Madi-
son, which had been detached from the naval service and was
returning to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in company with two

John Eagan, the father, received his Spanish grant of land in 1808. Hollings-
worth, Dade County, pp. 25-26; Pond, "Ned Buntline," pp. 24-25.
15. McLaughlin to SN, 19 Sep. 1838, Faunce to Coste, 19 Sep. 1838,
Coste to Dallas, 19 Sep. 1838, Cdr. Itrs.; McLaughlin to SN, 20 Sep. 1838,
Coste to SN, 27 Oct. 1838, Off. Itrs.

wreckers, went to the cape to investigate. McLaughlin felt that
there was no further need for the Wave on the east coast and
headed back to the reef to resume station.16
The maritime traffic in the waters around Florida was heavy,
and these disasters pointed up the necessity of increasing the naval
force off the southern tip of Florida to aid any future castaways.
The following month, General Taylor authorized McLaughlin to
obtain a small vessel to work with the Wave and her two barges
on the reef, and McLaughlin chartered the sloop Panther from
Henry Benners and placed Acting Lieutenant Edmund T. Shu-
brick, USN, in command.17
Indian sightings continued. In mid-November, First Lieutenant
Coste found a large camp of Seminoles while the Campbell was
lying off the Miami River, but they so outnumbered his small crew
that he was reluctant to attack. Near the end of that month, Lieu-
tenant Shubrick brought the Panther, the Shocco, and a schooner
borrowed from Jacob Housman up to Key Biscayne to form a
boat expedition to Boca Raton. Before his group disembarked,
they saw a large party of warriors on the beach. Shubrick refused
to send his sailors against a superior foe, even though the Indians
built fires on the shore to entice them to land.
A few days later a boat came alongside to report the grounding
of the steamer Wilmington north of Cape Florida. Shubrick sailed
to the distressed vessel, located fifty miles beyond the cape, and
rescued the steamer's sixteen men. En route back, he sent Acting
Lieutenant Charles B. Howard, USN, in the Shocco and the
schooner to the wreck of a Spanish brig. Howard saved the crew,
thirty slaves, and most of the cargo, but lost the Shocco when the
wind picked up and drove her out to sea. She capsized before she
could be made fast to the schooner, but none of the sailors was
lost in the incident. Shubrick arrived later to remove quantities of
lea from the brig before he set her afire. All of this took place
/uner the watchful eyes of a large Indian war party on shore.18
VV--These Indian hostilities at the tip of the peninsula caused reac-
tions on three levels of the federal government: the local theater,
the War Department, and Congress. Locally, General Taylor had

16. McLaughlin to SN, 20 Sep. 1838, Off. Itrs.
17. McLaughlin to SN, 1 Jul. 1842, ibid.
18. Coste to SN, 26 Dec. 1838, Shubrick to McLaughlin, 1 Dec., encl. in
McLaughlin to SN, 23 Dec. 1838, ibid.

Shipwrecks and Indian Massacres 79
replaced the services of the Madison, which had been returned to
the Treasury Department, with the Panther. A month later he had
McLaughlin exchange her for the schooner Caroline, which was
considered more adequate for the service required. (Just over two
years later the Caroline was replaced by the schooner David B.
Small. During the periods of their services on the Florida Reef
each of these two schooners was designated the Otsego.)19 In
Washington, the War Department requested the navy to increase
the force now patrolling the reef. The West India Squadron put
two vessels on cruising stations between the Dry Tortugas and Cape
Florida on the east coast and between St. Marks and the Tortugas
on the west coast. At the same time, when the Treasury Depart-
ment requested the return of the Campbell, Secretary Poinsett re-
plied most emphatically that this was not the time to diminish the
number of vessels in Florida; rather, as recent events had shown,
more ships should be made available as soon as possible.20
The blockade of the peninsula now consisted of three lines of
surveillance. The bays and inlets of the extreme southern tip were
under the scrutiny of the oared barges; along the reef itself were
the schooners Wave and Otsego, and the cutter Campbell; farther
out to sea sailed the sloops-of-war Boston and Ontario.
In Congress, at the session after the massacres, additional funds
were appropriated to the army "to cut off all communications be-
tween the Indians of Florida and the islands of Providence and
Cuba, and to prevent the repetition of the outrages."21 The War
Department used this money to add the seagoing steamer Poinsett
t the blockade force in April 1839.
V/Even though the blockade force had three surveillance lines, it
lacked central coordination. The two sloops-of-war on the seaward
patrol were under direct control of the commander of the West
India Squadron, based at Pensacola, and the military theater com-
mander had no method of communicating with them except through
Pensacola. Lieutenant McLaughlin's group on the reef was also
assigned to the squadron, but his vessels and sailing orders came
from the War Department. When he had first assumed command
of the Wave, he had requested orders from the navy and had been

19. Taylor to McLaughlin, 22 Jan. 1839, T-49, AGLR; McLaughlin to SN,
1 Jul. 1842, Off. Itrs.
20. Page to SN, 31 Oct. 1838, Cdr. Itrs.; SW to SN, 15 Oct. 1838, SWLS.
21. SW to SN, 4 Apr. 1839, SWLS.


referred to the army. The secretary of war wrote, "I was under
the impression that what is technically termed 'sailing orders,'
would have to be given you from the Navy Department; but I find
that it is there considered that you have been placed wholly under
the directions of this Department, and that, from here, must issue
all orders and instructions both as to your time of Sailing, and as
are necessary to govern your operations during your cruise."22 He
was then instructed to sail as soon as possible for the reef where
his primary mission was to prevent intercourse between any vessel
and the Indians, preventing the passage of not only munitions but
all sorts of supplies. While his mission was basically naval and
nothing was to interfere with it, McLaughlin was also instructed to
cooperate with the military forces in Florida in any way possible.
Once on station, McLaughlin worked very closely with the military
commander; the West India Squadron's control over him was
The treasury cutter Campbell's chain of command was the most
nebulous. It would appear that this vessel was, from the stand-
point of utilization, lost for almost a year. When the War Depart-
ment first wanted to put a small vessel off the Florida keys, it asked
the Treasury Department for a cutter. (Apparently the War De-
partment was unaware that General Taylor had just ordered the
Madison and Campbell to cruise off the keys on June 22, 1838.)
Treasury Secretary Levi Woodbury wrote to Secretary of War
Poinsett on July 5, 1838, suggesting that the Campbell, already
under navy orders, would be well fitted for such duty. Several days
later the request was repeated to the navy and James K. Paulding,
now the Navy Secretary, transmitted the army's desires to Commo-
dore Dallas on July 11, and reported his actions to Poinsett the
same day. Two weeks later, Dallas answered that the Campbell
had never reported to him, but if it did he would carry out the
army's request. Secretary of the Navy Paulding wrote back on
August 10: "Lt. Coste will probably be found in the vicinity of
Tampa Bay whither he was ordered by this Department to proceed
in October last and to report to Major General Jesup or to the
Commanding Officer of the U. S. Troops at that place."23

22. SW to McLaughlin, 24 Jul. 1838, ibid.
23. ST to SW, 5 Jul. 1838, T-920, SN to SW, 11 Jul. 1838, N-316,
SWRLR; Dallas to SN, 25 Jul. 1838, Capt. Itrs.; vice versa, 10 Aug. 1838, Off.,
Ships of War; SN to Coste, 10 Aug. 1838, TP:Florida, 25:527.

Shipwrecks and Indian Massacres 81
In December 1838, after the Campbell had been on the reef
almost six months, Lieutenant Coste wrote to Paulding that he had
established headquarters on Tea Table Key and had named it Fort
Paulding. The secretary penned onto this report, "See how Lt. N.
Coste stands in relation to the Naval Service." Under this was the
answer: "He is under the orders of this Dept. employed at the re-
quest of the Sec of War to cruise in the Eastern Coast of Florida
&c-He reports regularly to Com Dallas."24 The structure of the
blockade force was simplified when the Campbell was returned to
the Treasury Department later in the month.
Thus there were three naval forces operating around the keys:
Commodore Dallas' sea patrol, General Taylor's schooners and
barges, and the revenue cutter. There was no unity of command,
nor even an officer assigned to coordinate the activities of these
diverse groups. The individual vessels did not even carry a common
Navy Signal Book to communicate with each other. (Later, when
his force was turned over to the navy for control, McLaughlin
asked that he be issued the Signal Book and Telegraphic Diction-
ary, but his request was refused because the secretary felt his
service did not require it.)25 Such decentralization hindered naval
operations off the reef.
The immediate answer to Indian hostilities along the southern
tip of the territory had been supplied by providing a naval force
to that area. The haphazard manner with which it had been pro-
vided promoted its inefficiency. This heterogeneous collection of
vessels, under the command of naval officers who received their
orders from different departments and seniors in the chain of com-
mand, acted independently except when accidentally drawn to-
gether in response to some disaster such as the September gale.
This naval force lacked an on-the-scene commander, a common
organization, and an aggressive policy toward the enemy. The
blockade duty and minor shore patrols were passive actions, not
designed to direct pressure upon the Seminole Indians within the
24. Coste to SN, 26 Dec. 1838, Off. Itrs.
25. McLaughlin to SN, 4 Sep. 1839, ibid.; vice versa, 6 Sep. 1839, Off.,
Ships of War.

US Steamer Poinsett

Alexander Macomb, Commanding General of the United States
Army, arrived in Florida in April 1839 with instructions from Wash-
ington to end the drawn-out Indian conflict. Macomb did not inter-
fere with the routine duties of General Taylor, military commander
in Florida, but confined himself to arranging a meeting with the
remaining Seminole chiefs to end hostilities by treaty. The Sem-
inole nation had been reduced to four bands inhabiting the southern
portion of the peninsula and a few smaller groups roaming in other
areas of the territory. The principal bands in the Everglades were
led by Sam Jones, Hospetarke, the Prophet, and Chakaika; Coacoo-
chee led the best known and most feared group in the north.
The general succeeded in arranging a talk with Chitto Tustenug-
gee, one of the war chiefs of Sam Jones' band, and Halleck Tuste-
nuggee. This was certainly not a representative group, but Macomb
did arrange a truce which set aside the area south of Pease Creek
for the Seminoles until more final arrangements could be made.
He may have hoped this agreement would be acceptable to the
other hard-pressed chiefs once the terms were known. At any rate,
on May 18, 1839, a general order was issued proclaiming the war
at an end.'
Although naval operations were limited during the fourth year
of the conflict, there were major changes in the operational orga-
nization of the sea forces assigned. In January 1839, Commodore
1. Mahon, Seminole War, pp. 255-57; Sprague, Origin, pp. 228-29.

U.S. Steamer Poinsett 83

Dallas was relieved by Captain William B. Shubrick, USN. In the
very lengthy instruction issued by the Navy Department to Com-
modore Shubrick there was no mention of the Indian war in Flor-
ida, or the usual solicitation to cooperate with the army in that
quarter, although there were detailed orders on the squadron's con-
duct with respect to the French blockade of the Mexican gulf
The squadron now consisted of the frigate Macedonian and the
\ sloops-rof-ar Boston, Erie, Levant, Natchez, Ontario, Vandalia,
-- ad Warren. In his instruction to Commodore Shubrick the secre-
tary expressed the hope that he could supply a brig or schooner at
a later date for shallow water missions; at the end of his second
month in command the new commodore requested at least three
such vessels but was told none was available.3
In April the army added the seagoing steamer Poinsett4 to its
small force of vessels on duty around the peninsula, and at the same
time the two service secretaries agreed that the army's blockade
force should be under a single naval commander on the scene.
Thus Secretary Paulding wrote to Commander Isaac Mayo, USN,5

2. The French blockade took place during the so-called Pastry War (Guerra
de los Pasteles) between France and Mexico in 1838. It was the result of
riotous conduct by Mexican soldiers who in 1833 had destroyed a bakery
owned by a Frenchman. The original damage was about 1,000 pesos, but with
the passage of time this claim grew to 60,000 pesos. By 1838, the French de-
mands amounted to 600,000 pesos, which the Mexican government refused to
satisfy. The French minister asked for his papers on April 20, 1838, and be-
fore the end of the month the French fleet arrived to blockade the Mexican
coast. Admiral Baudin waited for cool weather before landing on the fever
coast at Veracruz, on November 27, 1838. Two weeks later as the French
forces were withdrawing, Santa Anna, who had come out of political retire-
ment, led some Mexican forces in a charge upon the departing Frenchmen
and lost his leg in the ensuing skirmish. This restored Santa Anna to the lime-
light and launched him upon another political venture in Mexico's turbulent
politics. Callcott, Santa Anna, p. 155; SN to W. B. Shubrick, 25 Jan. 1839,
Off., Ships of War.
3. SN to W. B. Shubrick, 5 Apr. 1839, Off., Ships of War.
4. The Poinsett was originally the New Brighton but her name was changed
after the army purchased her in August 1837 for $27,000. Stuart reports that
the Poinsett and the Colonel Harney were constructed alike in their hulls and
paddle wheels, although he lists the dimensions for the Colonel Harney only.
St t, Naval and Mail Steamers, pp. 32-33; ASPMA, 7:996.
Isaac Mayo entered the navy on November 15, 1809, as midshipman
an was promoted to lieutenant in 1815. He became commander on December
20, 1832, and served in Florida with that rank. On September 8, 1841, he
became captain and served under Commodore Matthew C. Perry in the Gulf
of Mexico during the Mexican War. At one time he commanded the Naval

U.S. Steamer Poinsett

Courtesy Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia

U.S. Steamer Poinsett

on April 5, 1839, that he was appointed to command not only the
steamer Poinsett but the schooner Wave and the barges assigned,
and that this force was "destined to co-operate with the land forces
in Florida in the suppression of Indian Hostilities."6 When the
Poinsett was ready to steam south from Norfolk, Paulding informed
Commodore Shubrick of Mayo's assignment and included a state-
ment of intent: "As this is considered by the Department as special
service, distinct from any connected with your Command, you will
not interfere in any manner with his operations."7 Yet when Mayo
asked the secretary to grant him permission to hoist the flag of a
squadron commander, Paulding replied that his force and mission
were not considered sufficient to warrant that distinction.8
There was little opportunity for the "Expedition for the Suppres-
sion of Indian Hostilities, Florida" (as Mayo's command was offi-
cially called) to participate actively in the Florida war. When he
arrived on July 12, 1839, the territory was technically at peace,
and during his brief tour of duty he did not have a chance to exer-
cise his full command, for the Wave departed to go north before
Commander Mayo arrived. Lieutenant McLaughlin had many men
whose terms of service ended in July; those of his crew who would
sign on for two more years he transferred to the Otsego before he
left to recruit replacements. He arrived in Washington on July 2
and did not return until December, at which time the Poinsett
was en route north with mechanical difficulties.
When Commander Mayo left Baltimore, he decided to tow
two of the four gunbarges assigned to the Poinsett to determine the
practicability of taking them to Florida in this manner. By the time
he reached Norfolk he realized the great danger to the boats from
any strong wind, and he requested transportation for those barges
which could not be carried aboard the steamer. Passed Midshipman
Henry Waddell, USN, was assigned to take the men, stores, and
excess barges to Key Biscayne as soon as possible.
Mayo left Norfolk on June 26. Four days later he was back; he
had run into a blow from the south just after rounding Cape Hat-

Battery during the siege of Veracruz. He was dismissed from the navy on May
18, 1861, at the commencement of the Civil War. Hamersly, General Register,
p. 467; Bauer, Surfboats and Horse Marines, pp. 91-94.
6. SN to Mayo, 5 Apr. 1839, Records, p. 17.
7. SN to W. B. Shubrick, 14 Jun. 1839, Off., Ships of War.
8. Mayo to SN, 17 Jun. 1839, Cdr. Itrs.; vice versa, 22 Jun. 1839, Off.,
Ships of War.

teras. He tried to make it to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina, be-
fore his fuel supply was depleted, but headwinds made it impos-
sible to reach the inlet. With Hatteras on his lee, he dared not
remain offshore waiting for the wind to die down. Further, the
Poinsett sprang a leak in one of the sponsons, which forced Com-
mander Mayo to turn away from the storm to minimize taking on
water.9 He stood northward, running with the storm until it abated.
By this time he did not have enough fuel to make any ports to the
south, and he was even compelled to burn some of the ship's super-
structure in order to reach Cape Henry, where he met the steamer
South Carolina and received enough wood to return to Norfolk.
He departed again on July 3, and arrived three days later at
Charleston, South Carolina. Mayo finally reached Garey's Ferry,
Florida, on July 12.10
General Taylor was not at Garey's Ferry when Mayo arrived, so
the commander wrote to him of his intentions to use Key Biscayne
as his base of operations and to distribute his barges along the keys
as far as Key West or the Dry Tortugas. He said that his instructions
were to cooperate with any military operation if it again became
necessary to suppress hostilities within the territory, as well as to
perform blockade duty. He requested that the general forward any
instructions or information to him at his rendezvous point."
Taylor's answer, which reached Mayo at Key Biscayne, stated
that he was satisfied with the plan of operation. The general added
that, from information reaching him from middle Florida, it seemed
probable that the Tallahassee tribe would not accept Macomb's
treaty, and it would be necessary to patrol the waters between St.
Marks and Cedar Key to ensure isolating the Indians. He suggested
Commander Mayo send one of his schooners as soon as possible in
anticipation of such an event; Mayo decided to send the Wave as
soon as she reported to him.
After leaving Garey's Ferry, Mayo took his steamer into St.
Augustine where the local paper reported: "The Poinsett, painted
black, with her white painted ports, looks about the guards as gay
as a sloop of war, and above has as much top hamper as a load of
hay. She draws six feet water, and though schooner rigged, will run
9. Sponsons are projections on the sides of vessels to increase stability by
increasing the surface area.
10. Mayo to SN, 17 Jun., 26 Jun., 30 Jun., 3 Jul., 6 Jul., 12 Jul. 1839, Cdr.
11. Mayo to Taylor, 12 Jul., encl. in Mayo to SN, 25 Jul. 1839, ibid.

U.S. Steamer Poinsett

a chance of getting 'snagged' on the reefs if a pretty considerable
supply of wood is not in readiness. What with a small vessel, red
hot boilers, a vertical sun, smoke, cinders and mangrove-key mos-
quitos, the officers and crew may anticipate delightful cruising."12
The first task after arriving at Key Biscayne was to send out
woodcutting parties to gather fuel for the steamer. Afterwards,
Commander Mayo organized a small force to enter the Everglades
on an exploring expedition. Captain Martin Burke, USA, stationed
at Key Biscayne, accompanied the group to acquaint the sailors
and marines with some of the peculiarities of the terrain. When
Mayo returned to the Poinsett, he found Mad Tiger (Catsha Tus-
tenuggee) with some twenty Indians visiting aboard the steamer. In
spite of this show of good feelings, Mayo ordered his wood and
water parties to proceed well armed and to exercise care.13
Meanwhile, the army established a trading post on the lower Gulf
coast, in accordance with the terms of Macomb's treaty, about
fifteen miles up the Caloosahatchee River. Colonel William S. Har-
ney, USA, had command of the twenty-six-man detachment pro-
tecting the post when the establishment was unexpectedly attacked
on the night of July 23, 1839, by war parties from Hospetarke's and
Chakaika's bands acting in unison. Harney and thirteen others es-
caped; the rest were killed. This attack was the start of a rash of
violence throughout the territory; as the news spread, the Ameri-
cans rounded up the Indians living peacefully near the various
army posts, for shipment to the west.14
Captain Mayo received notification of the massacre at Key Bis-
cayne on July 30, just after Mad Tiger and his group had departed
the Poinsett. He ordered a landing party assembled and the cutters
launched as soon as possible. He left immediately in his gig to
overtake one of the canoes and did so after a three-hour pull.
Shortly thereafter Lieutenant John A. Davis, USN, arrived in a
cutter with ten men and captured another group of Indians. First
Lieutenant Thomas T. Sloan, USMC, leading nine marines in the
steamer's dinghy, brought in still another canoe. Mayo turned his
prize over to Davis and set out after Mad Tiger who was now on the
other side of the bay. It was an exhausting task to overcome such a
lead-during the chase Mad Tiger managed his sail and paddles

12. Reprinted in Niles', 56:355.
13. Mayo to SN, 25 Jul. 1839, Cdr. Itrs.
14. Mahon, Seminole War, pp. 261-64.

with such skill that Mayo's crew was hard pressed to overtake the
Indians-but at length the sailors outperformed the Seminoles and
overhauled the Indian canoe. Even after Mad Tiger had been cap-
tured he did not give up; at the first opportunity he attempted to
regain his canoe which was being towed by the gig, but the sailors
easily subdued him. The Poinsett's sailors captured a total of five
canoes containing nine warriors and six squaws, all of whom were
turned over to Colonel Harney at Key Biscayne.15
Four days later the merchant ship Grand Turk of Boston was
found beached on the Fowey Rocks. The Poinsett's crew managed
to refloat her and to bring her inside the reef to anchor, but, even
after twenty-four hours of constant bailing and pumping, the water
continued to gain in the hold of the Grand Turk, causing the master
to run her aground to save the rigging and spars. When a wrecker
appeared to make a contract with the master for salvage, Mayo left
Fowey Rocks.
The Poinsett returned to Key Biscayne where the transports from
the North arrived two days later with the remaining barges. Mayo
soon distributed the barges along the coast as planned. He had a
house built on Key Biscayne to store the expedition's supplies; a
lieutenant, eighteen men, and a large barge were left there to
patrol the coast. Another group was stationed at Indian Key, and
the southwestern anchor for this chain of barges was established
at Key West.
During Mayo's stay at Key West, a fishing vessel came in with a
report that a white flag had been seen flying over the abandoned
blockhouse near Cape Sable. Mayo, thinking this might be a signal
from some survivor of Harney's massacre, sailed to the rescue.
When he arrived, he dispatched four armed boats to scout the area,
but nothing was found. Then he proceeded up the west coast to
visit the Caloosahatchee where he took two barges and two cutters
upriver to look at the site of the massacre and to hunt for survivors.
He found the store and other buildings still standing, but all the
contents had been plundered. After spending a few days searching
the area without discovering any signs of survivors, he set course
for Tampa.16
15. Cutters are double-banked, square-sterned ship's boats. "Gig" is the
name of the ship's boat set aside for the commanding officer. A dinghy is a
small boat for work alongside the ship. Poinsett ship's log, 30 Jul., 31 Jul. 1839,
Mayo to SN, 30 Jul. 1839, Records, pp. 114, 145.
16. Mayo to SN, 4 Aug., 6 Aug., 16 Aug., 23 Aug. 1839, Cdr. Itrs.

U.S. Steamer Poinsett 89
Mayo wanted to consult with General Taylor about the recent
treaty violations, to find out what effect they had upon the military
situation. When he arrived at army headquarters he had three ques-
tions: Had general hostilities recommended? Was he justified in
using force to capture all Indians whether hostile or not? Finally,
if he made any captures, how were the Indians to be disposed of?
General Taylor said he considered that the war had been renewed
and the commander could take all action necessary to capture or
destroy any Indians he came upon. The general requested that the
prisoners be sent to Fort Marion at St. Augustine for safe-keeping.
Taylor added unofficially that he had heard that Colonel Harney
was holding talks with two of the Seminole chiefs near Key Bis-
cayne in hope of dividing the hostile strength. Therefore, the gen-
eral recommended that Mayo make no show of force in that area
until Harney had completed his parley.17
Later Commander Mayo wrote to Secretary Paulding of his in-
tention to continue scouting the Everglades, for he wanted to dis-
cover the Seminoles' places of concealment. In his opinion, this
would be vital information if war were to be renewed. At the same
time he reported that he could wait no longer for the Wave, and he
was sending the Otsego to cruise off the Suwannee River in prepara-
tion for hostilities from that quarter.18
The Seminoles were not the only enemy along the Florida reef.
There was also disease, especially the fever. In all probability it
was malarial, although in official communications it was referred
to only as "the fever."19 A severe outbreak of fever appeared among
the crew of Passed Midshipman Waddell's barge on Indian Key.
When Mayo visited this group in late September, he found Waddell
and most of his men seriously ill. He had them removed to the
Poinsett where two of the men died within a few hours. Waddell
survived for several days but was delirious the whole time. Some
of the citizens of the key told Mayo that Waddell's "intellect was
much disordered for several days before he was taken ill." This
was apparent from the condition of the camp when Mayo arrived:
the quarters were filthy, the brine had escaped from the salt pro-
visions, and the stench from the spoiled food was overpowering.

17. Mayo to Taylor, 26 Aug. 1839, vice versa, 26 Aug., ends. in Mayo to
SN, 26 Aug. 1839, ibid.
18. Mayo to SN, 6 Sep. 1839, ibid.
19. Hammond, "Notes," pp. 93-110.


Of the sixteen men exposed to these conditions, twelve were
stricken and three died.
Midshipman Mayo C. Watkins, USN, was sent ashore with some
replacements to clean up the base and continue barge operations,
but two days later he and some of his man came down with the
fever. Mayo did not want to jeopardize the steamer's crew by bring-
ing the invalids aboard so he sent a surgeon ashore who constructed
a "commodious sail-loft" as a temporary hospital. Surgeon William
Maxwell Wood, USN, and Assistant Surgeon Stephen A. McCreery,
USN, were left to operate this infirmary.
Shortly after the Poinsett departed in answer to a Seminole at-
tack near Fort Lauderdale, the fever spread to the medical staff.
Doctor Wood and three of the attendants were incapacitated. One
of the attendants died, and manpower was so critical that civilians
had to be hired to bury him. No sooner had Wood recovered than
the assistant surgeon was struck down for a week. In the midst of
all of this, two sailors stole a boat in which to desert; however, they
were captured by the boat's owner with the aid of two other
civilians, and returned to the hospital. The fever passed as suddenly
as it had arrived, and by the end of October Commander Mayo
had discontinued his hospital on Indian Key.20
Mayo was quite pessimistic about the talks Colonel Harney was
conducting with the Indians. He stressed his opinion many times in
letters to the Secretary of the Navy. He felt the Indians were only
participating to gain time and to receive supplies and presents from
the army. Moreover, Mayo was convinced that the Seminoles would
be unwilling to leave the east coast because of the rich plunder
available from the many vessels cast ashore during the frequent
storms. The commander reported that he had recommended to
Colonel Harney that the Seminoles must not be allowed to retain
any rights to the shore in any treaty that might be forthcoming.
Mayo also pointed out to the secretary that "as long as this treaty
is going on the force under my command on the East Coast can do
nothing more than look out for boats trading with the Indians and
for wrecked vessels."21
His misgivings about the Indians' motives for wanting peace
were confirmed when he received a report from Lieutenant John A.

20. Mayo to SN, 2 Oct., 13 Oct., 26 Oct. 1839, with ends. Wood to Mayo,
28 Sep., 30 Sep., 4 Oct. 1839, and McCreery to Mayo, 8 Oct. 1839, Cdr. Itrs.
21. Mayo to SN, 8 Sep., 17 Sep. 1839, ibid.