With all due respect to Bill Doolittle’s previous post, I offer up the following, mainly because I caught glimpse of, and then took a picture of, what for me was an unexpected encounter with the grave of Osceola while touring the South this past week. The grave of Osceola is located at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, SC (Edgar Allen Poe fans take note), and I have been itching for an opportunity to post it.
The greatest lesson of the Second Seminole War shows how a government can lose public support for a war that has simply lasted for too long. As the Army became more deeply involved in the conflict, as the government sent more troops into the theater, and as the public saw more money appropriated for the war, people began to lose their interest. Jesup’s capture of Osceola, and the treachery he used to get him, turned public sentiment against the Army. The use of blood hounds only created more hostility in the halls of Congress. It did not matter to the American people that some of Jesup’s deceptive practices helped him achieve success militarily. The public viewed his actions so negatively that he had undermined the political goals of the government.
[Thanks to Martha Bridegam for her comments in the previous post, which reminded me (I’m a poor history scholar) that Osceola (misspelled on the grave) had a connection to Andrew Jackson.]
And it also has been written of Osceola:
Although Osceola was not an elected chief, his band of about 4,000 men successfully held 100,000 U.S. Army troops at bay for over ten years by employing hit and run guerrilla warfare tactics from bases deep within the wilderness swampland that was then central and south Florida.
On October 21, 1837, on the orders of U.S. General Thomas Sidney Jesup, Osceola was captured when he arrived for supposed truce negotiations in Fort Payton. He was imprisoned at Fort Marion, St. Augustine, Florida.
Osceola’s capture by deceit caused uproar even among the white population and General Jesup was publicly condemned. Opponents of the contemporary administration cited it as a black mark against the government.
The next December, Osceola and other Seminole prisoners were moved to Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. There painter George Catlin met him and convinced him to pose for him for two paintings. Robert J. Curtis painted an oil portrait of him. These pictures inspired a number of other prints, engravings and even cigar store figures. Afterwards numerous landmarks, including Osceola Counties in Florida, Iowa, and Michigan, have been named after him.
I might suggest that there are striking parallels between the first and second Seminole Wars and the first and second Iraq Wars, but heck, what’s the use. President Bush never claimed to be a history scholar anyway. And for what it’s worth, the politicians would call Osceola a terrorist these days. At any rate, let us hope that it doesn’t take ten years this time around.