Return to Dr. Bronson's St. Augustine History
Return to William Jenkins Worth
William T. Sherman
and the Capture of Coacoochee
William T. Sherman from his Memoirs:

One day, in the summer of 1841, the sentinel on the housetop at Fort Pierce
called out, "Indians! Indians!" Everybody sprang to his gun, the companies
formed promptly on the parade-ground, and soon were reported as
approaching the post, from the pine woods in rear, four Indians on
horseback. They rode straight up to the gateway, dismounted, and came in.
they were conducted by the officer of the day to the commanding officer,
Major childs, who sat on the porch in front of his own room. After the usual
pause, one of them, a black man named Joe, who spoke English, said they
had been sen in by Coacoochee (Wild Cat), one of the most noted of the
Seminole chiefs, to see the big chief of the post. He gradually unwrapped a
peice of paper, which was passed over to Major Childs, who read it, and it
was in the nature of a "Safe Guard" for "Wild Cat" to come into Fort Pierce
to receive provisions and assistance while collecting his tribe, with the
purpose of emigrating to their reservation west of Arkansas. The paper was
signed by General Worth, who had succeeded General Taylor, at Tampa
Bay, in command of all the troops in Florida. Major Childs inquired, "Where
is Coacoochee?" and was answered, "Close by," when Joe explained that
he had been sent in by his chielf to see if the paper was all right. Major
Childs said it was "all right," and that Coacoochee in, when Major Childs
ordered me to take eight or ten mounted men and go out to escort him in.
Detailing ten men to saddle up, and taking Joe and one Indian boy along on
their own ponies, I started out under their guidance.

We continued to ride five or six miles, when I began to suspect treachery, of
which I had heard so much in former years, and had been specially
cautioned against by the older officers; but Joe always answered, "Only a
little way," At last we approached one of those close hammocks, so well
known in Florida, standing like an island in the interminable pine forest, with
a pond of water near it. On its edge I noticed a few Indians loitering, which
Joe pointed out as the place. Apprehensive of treachery, I halted the guard,
gave orders to the sergeant to watch me closely, and rode forward alone
with the two Indian guides. As we neared the hammock, about a dozen
Indian warriors rose up and waited for us. When in their midst I inquired for
the chief, Coacoochee. He approached my horse and, slapping his breast,
said, "Me Coacoochee." He was a very handsome young Indian warrior, not
more than twenty-five years old, but in his then dress could hardly be
distinguished from the rest. I then explained to him, through Joe, that I had
been sent by my "chief" to escort him into the fort. He wanted me to get
down and "talk." I told him that I had no "talk" in me, but that, on his reaching
the post, he could talk as much as he pleased with the "big chief," Major
Childs. They all seemed to be indifferent, and in no hurry; and I noticed that
all their guns were leaning against a tree. I beckoned to the sergeant, who
advanced rapidly with his escort, and told him to secure the rifles, which he
proceeded to do. Coacoochee pretended to be very angry, but I explained to
him that his warriors were tired and mine were not, and that the soldiers
would carry the guns on their horses. I told him I would provide him a horse
to ride, and the sooner he was ready the better for all. He then stripped,
washed himself in the pond, and began to dress in all his Indian finery,
which consisted of buckskin leggins, moccasins, and several shirts. He then
began to put on vests, one after another, and one of them had the marks of
a bullet, just above the pocket, with the stain of blood. In the bocket was a
one-dollar Tallahassee Bank note, and the rascal had the impudence to ask
me to give him silver coin for that dollar. He had evidently killed the wearer,
and was disappointed because the pocket contained a paper dollar instead
of one in silver. In due time he was dressed with turband and
ostrich-feathers, and mounted the horse reserved for hi, and thus we rode
back together to Fort Pierce. Major Childs and all the officers received him
on the porch, and there we had a regular "talk." Coacoochee "was tired of
the war." "His people were scattered and it would take a 'moon' to collect
them for emigration," and he "wanted rations for that time," etc., etc.

All this was agreed to, and a month was allowed for him to get ready with his
whole band (numbering some one hundred and fifty or one hundred and
sixty) to migrate. The "talk" then ceased, and Coacoochee and his envoys
proceeded to get regularly drunk, which was easily done by the agency of
commissary whiskey. they staid at Ford Pierce during the night, and the next
day departed. Several times during the month there came into the post two
or more of these same Indians always to beg for something to eat or drink,
and after a full month Coacoochee and about twenty of his warriors came in
with several ponies, but with none of their women or children. Major Childs
had not from the beginning the least faith in his sincerity; had made up his
mind to seize the whole party and compel them to emigrate. He arranged for
the usual council, and instructed Lieutenant Taylor to invite Coacoochee
and his uncle (who was held to be a principal chief) to his room to take
some good brandy, instead of the common commissary whiskey. At a signal
agreed on I was to go to the quarters of Company A, to dispatch the
first-sergeant and another man to Lieutenant Taylor's room, there to seize
the two chiefs and secure them; and with the company I was to enter Major
Childs's room and secure the remainder of the party. Meantime Lieutenant
Van Vliet was ordered to go to the quarters of his company, F, and at the
same signal to march rapidly to the rear of the officers' quarters, so as to
catch any who might attempt to escape by the open windows to the rear.

All resulted exactly as prearranged, and in a few minutes the whole party
was in irons. At first they claimed that we had acted treacherously, but very
soon they admitted that for a month Coaccoochee had been quietyl
removing his women and children toward Lake Okeechobeee and the
Everglades; and that this visit to our post was to have been their last. It so
happened that almost a the instant of our seizing these Indians a vessel
arrived off the bar with reinforcements from St. Augustine. These were
brought up to Fort Pierce, and we marched that night and next day rapidly,
some firty miles, to Lake Okeechobee, in hopes to capture the balance of
the tribe, especially the families, but they had taken the alarm and escaped.
Coacoochee and his warriors were sent by Major Childs in a schooner to
New Orleans en route to their reservation, but General Worth recalled them
to Tampa Bay, and by sending out Coacoochee himself the women and
children came in voluntarily, and then all were shipped to their destination.
This was a heavy loss to the Seminoles, but there still remained in the
Peninsula a few hundred warriors with their families scattered into very
small parcels,k who were concealed in the most inaccessible hammocks
and swamps. These had no difficulty in finding plenty of food anywhere and
everywhere. Deer and wild turkey were abundant, and as for fish there was
no end to them. Indeed, Florida was the Indian's paradise, was of little value
to us, and it was a great pity to remove the Seminoles at all, for we could
have collected there all the Choctaws, Creeks, Cherokees, and
Chickasaws, in addition to the Seminoles. They would have thrived in the
Peninsula, whereas they now occupy lands that are very valuable, which
are coveted by their white neighbors on all sides, while the Peninsula of
Florida still remains with a population less than should make a good State.
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