The chiefs and warriors of Miccosukee announced 200 years ago today that they would stand firm in the face of demands from the U.S. Army.
Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines had demanded of the town’s chief, Cappachimico (sometimes called Kenhajo or “King Hadjo”), that he turn over to the whites the warriors responsible for killing members of the Garrett family on the St. Mary’s River in Georgia. (Please see A demand at Miccosukee.) The general also instructed the Miccosukee warriors to help in returning maroons (escaped slaves) from the United States who were believed to be living on the Suwannee River.
Cappachimico’s reply was dated September 11, 1817 and made clear that the Native Americans in Spanish Florida also held unresolved grievances against the United States:
…Since the last war, after you sent word we must quit the war, we, the red people, have come over to this side. The white people have carried all the red people’s cattle off. After the war I sent to all my people to let the white people along, and stay on this side of the river, and they did so; but the white people still continue to carry off their cattle. Barnard’s son was here, and I inquired of him what was to be done, and he said we must go to the headman of the white people and complain. I did so, and there was no white headman, and there was no law in this case. (1)
The mention of “Barnard’s son” was a reference to Timpoochee Barnard. The son of white trader Timothy Barnard and a Yuchi woman, Timpoochee had led a company of Yuchi on the side of the United States during the Creek War of 1813-1814 and the War of 1812.
The Miccosukee response was likely written by Alexander Arbuthnot, a Scottish trader from the Bahamas who had arrived on the Florida Gulf Coast several months earlier. U.S. officials generally regarded him as a British agent but there is no evidence that he held any authority from Great Britain.
With regard to the large settlement of maroons on the Suwannee, Cappachimico made clear that he had nothing to do with them:
…You have sent to us respecting the black people on the Suwanee river. We have nothing to do with them; they were put there by the English, and to them you ought to apply for any thing about them. We do not wish our country desolated by an army passing through it for the concern of other people. The Indians have slaves there, also – a great many of them. When we have an opportunity, we shall apply to the English for them, but we cannot get them now. (2)
Cappachimico’s main message, however, focused on what he considered to be the one-sided view of U.S. officials. The army demanded justice for crimes committed by Native Americans he pointed out, but did nothing when whites were responsible for crimes against his people:
…The whites first began, and there is nothing said about that, but great complaint made about what the Indians do. This is now three years since the white people killed three Indians; since that they have killed three other Indians, and taken their horses and what they had; and this summer they killed three more, and very lately they killed one more. We sent word to the white people that these murders were done, and the answer was that they were people that were outlaws, and we ought to go and kill them. The white people killed our people first, and the Indians then took satisfaction. There are yet three men that the red people have never taken satisfaction for. You have written that there were houses burnt, but we know of no such thing being done; the truth in such cases ought to be told, but this appears otherwise. On that side of the river the white people have killed five Indians, but there is nothing said about that; and all that the Indians have done is brought up. All the mischief the white people have done ought to be told to their headman. (3)
It was a compelling appeal for justice but it received little attention when it was received by U.S. authorities.
It would take time for Cappachimico’s reply to reach Gen. Gaines because it went by way of Fort Hawkins at today’s Macon, Georgia, instead of Fort Scott on the lower Flint River. The latter post was connected to Fort Gaines on the Chattahoochee and Fort Crawford near the Conecuh by new roads. Fort Hawkins, however, had long been the U.S. Army’s primary post on the Georgia frontier and the Miccosukee may have sent their response there for this reason.
It mattered but little. Gen. Gaines was already preparing for the movement of the 4th and 7th U.S. Infantry regiments to Fort Scott in anticipation of a fall campaign against the Creeks and Seminoles who lived along the Florida border.
This series marking the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War will continue.