Rebellion Florida slave uprising: 1835-38     
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Overview > Toolkit on the rebellion > Select quotations
spacer Select quotations from the period confirming the Black Seminole slave rebellion

* next to end note link indicates analysis is included with end note.

Speaker & Citation   Date
Brevet Brigadier General Duncan Clinch, a leading Florida planter, writing U.S. Adjutant General Roger Jones about the Seminoles’ thoughts before the outbreak of the Second Seminole War:

“[I]f a sufficient military force, to overawe them, is not sent into the Nation, they will not be removed, & the whole frontier may be laid waste by a combination of the Indians, Indian negroes, & the Negroes on the plantations—It is useless to mince this question.” [1]

  January 22, 1835
General Joseph Hernandez writing Florida Governor William Eaton before the Second Seminole War requesting “that a part of the militia should be held in readiness to protect the Inhabitants from any danger”:

“Much apprehension is already manifested by the community at large on this subject. And particularly as there are a large number of Negroes amongst the Indians, who may be under the influence of Abolitionists of the North, whose machinations, are now endangering our safety.” [2]

  October 26, 1835
Myer M. Cohen, an officer during the first months of the war who wrote one of the first accounts of the conflict, here describing the destruction of the St. Johns County sugar plantations (see end note for analysis of Cohen's assertion that slaves were faithful to their masters):

“The plantations extending from Cape Florida to Augustine, were visited in turn, and nearly all the buildings, including the sugar mills, were destroyed. It is estimated that property to the amount of two hundred thousand dollars was burnt in one week. Nothing was left except the storehouses containing corn and provisions; these were reserved by the Indians for their own consumption. Independently of this destruction of property, the loss to some of the planters was ruinous, in respect to their negroes; upwards of three hundred having been carried off; Col. Rees alone lost about one hundred and sixty. And here we cannot but remark, in terms of high commendation, the fidelity of some of the slaves to their masters. Ya-ha-Hago and Abraham the black had been round to all the plantations, some time previous to the commencement of hostilities, and endeavored to seduce them from their allegiance to their owners, with promises of liberty and plunder. With but few, very few exceptions, they rejected the overtures, and voluntarily preferred the condition in which fate or providence had placed them.”
“The negroes of Gen. Hernandez, and of Mr. Dupont, were singularly distinguished for their truth and fidelity to their owners. To such examples as these, we may proudly point those misguided men, who are urging upon the public their schemes of mistaken benevolence. A vast majority of our colored population, are attached to their owners from motives of gratitude and affection, and neither ask nor seek for an interference which can do them no possible good. The ‘pale face’ will find, as did the dark Yemassee of yore, and the red man of our day, that the relation of owner and owned at the South, is that of the protector and the protected—the kind, the indulgent master—the fond, the faithful servant.” [3*]

  Published in 1836, describing events in December 1835
Myer M. Cohen, the officer and historian, describing more events at the time of the St. Johns County uprising:

“Soon after the departure of Col. Warren for Fort Drane, intelligence reached Gen. Hernandez at St. Augustine, that a large body of Indians belonging to the tribe of Philip, and headed by an Indian negro slave, by the name of John Caesar, had concentrated themselves near the plantation of David Dunham, Esq., at Mosquito—that they evinced a disposition to be hostile, and had been tampering with the negroes, particularly those on the plantations of Messrs. Cruger and Depeyster.” [4]

  Published in 1836, describing events in December 1835
Myer M. Cohen, the officer and historian, describing events at the time of the St. Johns County uprising, after the burning of Dunham’s plantation (see end note5 and end note 9 for context on the claim that slaves were "captured" by the Indians):

“So rapid were the movements of the Indians in their devastations, that in four or five days after the burning of Dunham’s house, and before Major Putnam could reach Darley’s, they had burnt and destroyed the sugar plantations of Messrs. Cruger and Depeyster, and taken their negroes, about 45 in number, prisoners. The mills and houses of Col. Rees, at Spring Garden, were also destroyed, and his negroes, together with those of the estate of Woodruff, Alexander Forrester, and Joseph Woodruff, amounting in all to about 180, were carried off. The sugar plantation and negroes of Mr. Heriot, about 80 in number, shared a similar fate. With these negroes, amounting to more than 300, and all the plunder and provisions which they could collect, they moved off to their town at Tohopkeleky.” [5*]

  Published in 1836, describing events in December 1835 and January 1836
Jane Murray Sheldon, one of the refugees from the destruction St. Johns County plantations, describing how she learned of slave participation in the war:

“We remained in St. Augustine two years, during which time I saw many Indian prisoners, who were brought in to be sent West. There were a good many negroes captured with them, and it came to light that the negroes were in sympathy and had aided them in the first outbreak. I saw a number of the Cruger and Depeyste [sic] slaves and from them learned that they had secreted the Indians near there until the main body came up. But they were glad enough to get away from the Indians as they treated them cruelly.” [6*]

  Dictated by Sheldon in 1890 recalling events from Christmastime 1835 to 1837
Anonymous, from a letter to the Charleston Courier at the outset of the war, published in Niles’ Weekly Register with a dateline of “St. Augustine, Jan. 14”:

“The force at present in East Florida, is too small to compete with the Indians, whose strength and spirit have been alike underrated …. But whatever be the plan of operations, it should be quickly devised and promptly pursued. There are now about 400 negroes, perhaps more, in the hands of the Indians. The whole of East Florida is very much at the mercy of the enemy….” [7*]

  January 14, 1836
Elias Wallen and “Citizens of St. Augustine," conveying a message of distress to the United States Congress, sent to Florida’s Territorial Delegate to Congress, Joseph L. White, several weeks after Dade’s massacre:

“Now just conceive their position [the Seminoles]—eight hundred or one thousand warriors, animated by sentiments of hatred or revenge, and well aware what is to be their fate upon losing their superiority—with them three or four hundred Negroes of their own, better disciplined and more intelligent than themselves, to whom there is a daily accession of runaway Negroes from the plantations, supplied with arms and ammunition from the deceased whites.” [8]

  January 20, 1836
Secretary of War Lewis Cass describing the slave uprising in his letter of instructions sent to General Winfield Scott when Scott was en route to assuming command in Florida:

“You will see by some of the accompanying documents that many of the negroes have been captured by the Indians, and that there is reason to apprehend they will be transported to Cuba. I have to ask your particular attention to the measures indicated to prevent the removal of those negroes and to insure their restoration.
     “You will allow no terms to the Indians until every living slave in their possession belonging to a white man is given up.” [9*]

  January 21, 1836
William Lloyd Garrison, the famous abolitionist, indicating his awareness (highly unique at the time) of the nature of events in Florida in a letter to George Thompson:

“The numerous Indian tribes on our southern and western borders … are up in arms, carrying death and desolation in their train, and not only defying but absolutely out-generalling the U.S. troops. They have ravaged many plantations, killed many inhabitants, and emancipated a considerable number of slaves. Osceola, their chief, is a warrior who may be considered the boldest, bravest, and most sagacious, since the days of King Philip of New-England.” [10]

  May 24, 1836
General Thomas Sydney Jesup, upon assuming command in Florida, writing Acting Secretary of War Benjamin Butler with his assessment of the war:

“This, you may be assured, is a negro, not an Indian war; and if it be not speedily put down, the south will feel the effects of it on their slave population before the end of the next season.” [11]

  December 9, 1836
General Thomas Sydney Jesup, writing Secretary of War Joel Poinsett about his secret arrangements with the Seminole Indian chief Coa Hadjo (see end note for elaboration) during the armistice in the spring of 1837:

“The chiefs entered into an engagement yesterday to surrender the negroes taken during the war. They will deliver them to the commanding officer of the post on the St. John’s.” [12*]

  April 9, 1837
White residents of Florida, objecting to General Jesup’s initial terms for peace in 1837, which they feared would allow too many slaves among the Seminoles to emigrate west:

“The regaining of our slaves constitutes an object of scarcely less moment than that of the peace of the country.” [13]

  April 27, 1837
General Thomas Sydney Jesup, writing Secretary of War Joel Poinsett, indicating his view on the need for a policy reconsideration allowing some Seminoles to remain in Florida and driving a wedge between the interests of the Seminole Indians and the Seminole Negro (maroon) allies:

“The two races, the negro and the Indian, are rapidly approximating; they are identified in interests and feelings; and I have ascertained that, at the battle of Wahoo, a negro, the property of a Florida planter, was one of the most distinguished of the leaders; and I have learned that the depredations committed on the plantations east of the St. John’s were perpetrated by the plantation Negroes, headed by an Indian negro, John Caesar, since killed, and aided by some six or seven vagabond Indians, who had no character among their people as warriors.
     “Should the Indians remain in this Territory, the negroes among them will form a rallying point for runaway negroes from the adjacent states; and should they remove, the fastnesses of the country would be immediately occupied by negroes.” [14*]

  June 16, 1837
General Thomas Sydney Jesup, writing an appeal for militia to “His Excellency William Schley, Governor of Georgia, Milledgeville, Ga.”:

“From information which I have received, at different times, and through different channels, I have no doubt there is an understanding between the Seminoles and a portion of the slave population of the South; how far that connexion extends, is impossible to say; but I consider it of the utmost importance to the slaveholding States that the war be promptly brought to a close.” [15*]

  September 6, 1837
John T. Sprague, a leading officer of the war who went on to write the first definitive history of the conflict, referring to slaves whom General Joseph Hernandez captured and returned to citizens between 1836 and 1838:

“He captured important chiefs, and restored to the citizens upwards of three hundred negroes, who had been captured by the Indians.” [16]

  Published in 1848, describing events from 1836 to 1838
Reprinted in the Times (London), November 21, 1837, listed “From the Savannah Republican of October 26,” in “a letter from a correspondent, dateline of St. Augustine, Oct. 22, 1837”:

“70 or 80 negroes came into Fort Peyton a few days ago, having escaped from the Indians; they belong chiefly to Colonel Rees, of Stateburg [?], South Carolina; Major Heriot, of Charleston; and estate of Woodruff.” [17*]
  October 22, 1837
General Thomas Sydney Jesup, reprising his actions during the war in a letter sent to United States Secretary of War Joel Poinsett:

“Having been apprised, by prisoners taken in the preceding campaign, of an arrangement entered into previous to the war, through the Seminole negroes, between the Indians and their slaves, that so soon as hostilities should commence, the latter were to join them and take up arms, I informed the Indians that all their negroes must be separated from them, and sent out of the country.” [18]

  February 27, 1838
From the petition of Joseph M. Hernandez to the Committee of Claims, for losses suffered during the Second Seminole War:

"The plantation [of General Hernandez] had been abandoned, and the houses, with their fixtures for the manufacturing of sugar, had been destroyed by the Indians.... [I]t appears, by the testimony of Mr. Brodnax, that he withdrew again from the [Hernandez] plantation about the last of April, because the troops were retiring; and so closely was he pressed, that the Indians captured about a dozen of the negroes as he was in the act of taking them away." [19]

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Also see:

Slave Uprising: 6 story panels on the rebellion from the Trail Narrative.

The largest slave rebellion in U.S. history: Essay documenting size and scope of the rebellion and comparing it to other major U.S. slave revolts.

The buried history of the rebellion: Essay exploring how and why scholars overlooked the largest slave revolt in U.S. history.