For the next twenty years, the regiment fought almost constantly with the Creek Indians in Georgia, and the Seminoles in Florida under the command of General Andrew Jackson, a future president. In constant and long hardships the regiment marched through swamps, building cantonments and raking roads to open what now is the state of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. A letter of Gen. Lorenzo Thomas stated: “Each company built its own double block of logs and a house of one story for the officers quarters. The troops also saved the boards for flooring, and rived the pine shingles for roofs. In truth, the troops did the entire work, the quartermaster department only furnishing the few tools to work with, such as nails and other hardware. Scarcely a nail was used to secure the shingles, they being hung on the rafters with wooden pegs. The spaces between the logs were chinked with moss and clay and afterward the whole was whitewashed. All completed with scarcely any expense to the government."
In December 1835, Osceola Seminoles cut the line of communication and supply to one of the border stations, Fort King. One hundred artillerymen from Fort Brooke under Major Gardner were ordered to re-establish the contact. At the last moment, Major Gardner's bride of a few weeks fell ill. Captain and Brevet-Major Francis L. Dade of the Fourth Infantry took command for Major Gardner. Dade joined the expedition with eleven men of B Company, Fourth Infantry. The march was begun on 20 December; on 28 December, forty miles short of Fort King, Major Dade's column was ambushed by Osceola. The only survivors of the attack were three badly wounded privates who reported the command had fought stubbornly from eight in the morning until five at night when, their ammunition exhausted, they were killed. Those who died or were wounded were: Francis L. Dade, Brevet Maj., Pvt. John Barnes, Pvt. Donald Campbell, Pvt. Marvin Cunningham, Pvt. John Doughty, Pvt. Cornel Donovan, Pvt. William Downes, Pvt. Enoch Yates, Pvt. Samuel Hall, Pvt. Wiley Jones, Pvt. John Massacre, suffering some casualties: Pvt. David Hill was killed at Fort Call on 21 August 1836, Pvt. David Mclaughlin and Pvt. William Walker were killed at Thonotosassa on 26 August 1836, Sgt. Levi Clendening was killed at Chrystal River on 9 February 1837, Pvt. Othiel Lutz, Pvt. John Stewart, and Pvt. Bathol Shumard were killed at Okeechobee on 25 December 1837, and Pvt. William Foster was killed at Big Cypress on 20 December 1841.By 1842, the Fourth Infantry had caught up with the Indians and sent Osceola to a cell at Moutrie in which he would remain until his death. Hostile tribes that lived in these areas fled west of the Mississippi. The death roll of one company for one year includes casualties from the Indians, cholera, and five diagnosed types of fever. The same death roll has the entry "Intemperance" after two more soldier's names. In Orders No. 15, Western Army, 28 August 1832, General Winfield Scott states: "The senior surgeon recommends the use of flannel shirts, flannel drawers and woolen stockings, but the Commanding General, who has seen much of the disease [cholera] knows that it is intemperance which generates and spreads the calamity and that, when spread, good and temperate men are likely to be infected. He therefore peremptorily commands that every soldier or ranger who shall be found drunk or sensibly intoxicated, after publication of this order, be compelled, as soon as his strength will permit, to dig a grave at a suitable burying place large enough for his own reception, as such a grave cannot fail soon to be wanted for the drunken man himself or for one of his drunken companions. This order is given as well to serve as a punishment for drunkenness as to spare good and temperate men the labor of digging graves for their worthless companions."
This conflict began with the massacre of about 50 Americans near an army post in Georgia-climax to a series of raids against American settlements by Seminoles based in Spanish Florida. Brig. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines, Indian commissioner of the area, attempted countermeasures but soon found himself and his force of 600 Regulars confined to Fort Scott (Alabama) by the Seminoles. War Department instructions to Gaines had permitted the pursuit of Indians into Florida but had forbidden interference if the Indians took refuge in Spanish posts. Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, who was ordered to take over the operation, chose to interpret Gaines' instructions as sanctioning a full-scale invasion of the Spanish colony. He organized a force of about 7,500 volunteers, militia, subsidized Creeks, and Regulars (4th and 7th Infantry and a battalion of the 4th Artillery), and invaded Florida with part of thin force in the spring of 1818. Jackson destroyed Seminole camps, captured Pensacola (capital of Spanish Florida) and other Spanish strongholds, and executed two British subjects, Alexander Arbuthnot and Robert Ambrister, accused of inciting and arming the Indians. These activities threatened American relations with Great Britain and jeopardized negotiations with Spain pertinent to cession of Florida (Adams-Onis Treaty, 1819). Eventually the British were mollified and a compromise agreement was reached with the Spanish under which American forces were withdrawn from Florida without repudiating the politically popular Jackson. As for the Seminole problem, it was temporarily allayed but by no means solved.
In the Treaties of Payne's Landing (1832) and Fort Gibson (1833) the Seminoles had agreed to give up their lands, but they refused to move out. Following the arrest and release of Osceola, their leader, in 1835 Seminole depredations rapidly increased. These culminated 28 December in the massacre of Capt. Francis L. Dade's detachment of 330 Regulars (elements of the 2d and 4th Artillery and 4th Infantry) enroute from Fort Brooke (Tampa) to Fort King (Ocala)-a disastrous loss for the small, Regular force of 600 men in Florida. Brig. Gen. Duncan L. Clinch, commanding Fort King, took the offensive immediately with 200 men and on 31 December 1835 defeated the Indians on the Withlacoochee River.
The War Department, meanwhile, had ordered Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott, commander of the Eastern Department, to Florida to direct operations against the Seminoles. Most of the hostilities had occurred in General Gaines' Western Department, but the War Department expected impending troubles in Texas to keep Gaines occupied. Nevertheless, Gaines had quickly raised about 1,000 men in New Orleans and, acting on his own authority, embarked for Florida in February 1836. Even after learning of Scott's appointment, Gaines seized supplies collected by Scott at Fort Drane and pressed forward until heavily attacked by Seminoles. He succeeded in extricating his force only with help from Scott's troops. Shortly thereafter Gaines returned to New Orleans.
Completion of preparations for Scott's proposed three-pronged offensive converging on the Withlacoochee were delayed by Gaines' use of Scott's supplies, expiration of volunteer enlistments, and temporary diversion of troops to deal with the Creeks who were then on the warpath in Georgia and Alabama. (See Creek Campaigns.) Before the campaign could get underway, Scott was recalled to Washington to face charges of dilatoriness and of casting slurs on the fighting qualities of volunteers. Beginning in December 1836, Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Jesup carried out a series of small actions against the Seminoles, and in September 1837 Osceola was captured. Colonel Zachary Taylor decisively defeated a sizeable Indian force near Lake Okeechobee in December 1837.
After Taylor's expedition no more large forces were assembled on either side. Numerous small expeditions were carried out chiefly by Regular troops commanded successively by Jesup, Taylor, and Brig. Gen. Walker A. Armistead, and many posts and roads were constructed. Col. William J. Worth finally conceived a plan which consisted of campaigning during the enervating summer seasons with the object of destroying the Indian's crops. This plan was successful in driving a sufficient number of Seminoles from their swampy retreats to permit official termination of the war on 10 May 1842.
During the long and difficult campaign some 5,000 Regulars had been employed (including elements of the 1st, 2d, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Infantry) with a loss of nearly 1,500 killed. Nearly 20,000 volunteers also participated in the war which cost some thirty-five million dollars and resulted in the removal of some 3,500 Seminoles to the Indian Territory.
The final campaign against the remnants of the Seminoles in Florida consisted mainly of a series of skirmishes between small, roving Indian bands and the 4th Artillery which was stationed at Fort Brooke.
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