Jesup begins to see the challenges to winning the war
to main trail
The following letter is quoted in full for students of the war and readers who would like a detailed look into Jesup's thought processes during the conflict.
Though Jesup had in only two months enjoyed more military success than any of his predecessors, by the end of January
1837 he was already beginning to think that the war
might be impossible to win. These thoughts would come to fruition later, but were apparent in this letter, which
the general wrote to Acting Secretary of War B.F. Butler over February 17-18:
Headquarters, Fort Dade, February 17, 1837
Sir: I had the honor to receive last night your letter of the 4th ultimo, with a copy of the President's message and the documents accompanying it, for which accept my acknowledgements.
I am waiting most anxiously for the movements of the hostile chiefs. The attack on Lieutenant Colonel Fanning has caused me to doubt their sincerity even more than before; for although I consider myself bound to allow them an opportunity to come, I place but little reliance on their professions. There would be no difficulty in making peace if they were allowed to remain in the country even as citizens, or individuals subjected to our laws; but many of them prefer death to removal. In all the numerous battles and skirmishes that have taken place, not a single first-rate warrior has been captured, and only two Indian men have surrendered.
The warriors have fought as long as they had life, and such seems to me to be the determination of those who influence their councils -- I mean the leading negroes. To-morrow, however, will determine the question as to their sincerity. Should they refuse to the terms which I have offered, the war must recommence, and there will be little prospect of closing it during the present season.
If I were as well acquainted with the country as the hostile chiefs are, I would undertake to defend it with five hundred men against as many thousand. My last march, as well as the operations of Lieutenant Colonels Foster and Fanning, has demonstrated that we can pursue the enemy into their strongest holds, but we cannot remain there a sufficient length of time to produce any lasting effect upon them.
We may conquer them in time, and may destroy them, it is true; but the war will be a most harassing one, and will retard the settlement and improvement of this country for many years to come. I am not disposed to overrate the difficulties which surround me; but in communicating with you, it would be criminal to underrate them. The force I have is as large as could be well supplied, and as large, perhaps, as is necessary to carry on operations in any part of this country. I consider it amply sufficient to beat the whole force of the enemy if they were concentrated; but the enemy will not concentrate.
To enable you to judge of the difficulties of carrying on operations here, I beg of you to examine the map, and observe the dispersed state of the troops and the enemy. On the 27th ultimo the advance of my division fought on to the Hatcheeluskee, seventy miles southeast of this place, at the head of the Coloosahatchee. On the 8th instant Colonel Fanning fought at the head of Lake Monroe, perhaps sixty miles northeast of my battle-ground. On the 9th Captain Allen fought a party of the enemy near the Gulf, at least seventy miles west of this place; and I have been compelled to detach a part of the dragoons to Newnansville, a hundred miles to the northwest, and another portion of that corps to operate against the Indians on Orange Lake, fifty or sixty miles northeast of us. General Hernandez is to operate on the eastern side of the peninsula, from St. Augustine south. Thus it will be seen that the forces composing this army are divided into six different corps, covering an extant of country at least a hundred and fifty miles square.
The posts necessary to be kept up are Fort Brooke, Fort Foster, Fort Dade, Fort Armstrong, Fort Drane, Fort Harlee, and Fort Heileman, on a line or road from the former to the latter inclusive, a distance of one hundred and eighty miles; another post is necessarily kept up near the mouth of the Withlacoochee, one at Volusia, one at St. Augustine, and one at Picolata; besides numerous other small posts which are absolutely necessary to cover the country and protect the inhabitants.
With such numerous posts and detachments, it will readily be seen that a large force cannot be employed in any single operation.
If the war should recommence, I shall break up some of the small posts, in order to take their garrisons into the field.
February 18.- Abraham has just come in with a flag, accompanied by a nephew of the Indian chief Cloud, and a negro chief.
He repeats that Jumper, Holatoochee, Alligator, and others, are on the way, and will probably arrive to-morrow. I am yet doubtful of the result.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
THOMAS S. JESUP
ASPMA 7: 832-33.
Part 2, War: l