The Seminole tribe of Indians is said to have originated in the 1750’s as a clan of Georgia Creeks separated from the main tribe and moved southward. They indeed held slaves as documented by Minnie Moore Wilson (Seminoles of Florida, 1910) who wrote of a Seminole chief told a traveling white abolitionist that though the white man’s slave was free, “the Injun esta lusta (negro) belong to Injun – now you go.”
Florida Indians and Bushwhackers
“Many plantation owners in Georgia and South Carolina lost slaves who escaped to the wilds of Florida and the frequent cross-border Seminole raids on plantations often killed entire families and carried off more slaves. This would eventually push the American government toward military solutions and the annexation of Florida.
The Seminole tribe initially acquired black slaves as gifts from the British after 1763 or were purchased by them in imitation of Europeans and held in “a type of democratic vassalage” to the tribe. Though not considered the equals of the Seminole and living in separate settlements, black runaways were trained to hunt, fish and fight against white settlers who lived on Seminole land. After the tribe’s defeat in 1839, many of these “black Seminoles” accompanied the tribe to resettlement in the West. Interestingly, the name “Seminole” itself translates to “seceder” or “runaway” from the Creek nation, which occurred in 1750 under Chief Secoffee.
Only twenty-two years later the resettled Seminoles fought bravely against Northern soldiers in three Seminole Mounted Volunteer regiments of the Trans-Mississippi Department, led by Major John Jumper, whose Seminole name was “Hemha Micco.” Seminoles also fought alongside the victorious Florida and Georgia forces at the Ocean Pond (Olustee) battle on February 20, 1864.
One Northern soldier wrote a New York friend just after the engagement:
“The most desperate enemy that we have to contend with here is the Florida Indians in roving bands of bushwhackers [who] occasionally steal upon our picket lines under cover of night . . . Many Redskins are sharpshooters. During the recent battle, they took themselves to the tree-tops and picked off many of the officers of the Colored Troops.”
(Key West’s Civil War: Rather Unsafe for a Southern Man to Live Here.” John Bernhard Thuersam, Shotwell Publishing, 2022, pg. 143)