First Significant Action of the Second Seminole War
The Battle of Black Point – actually two separate skirmishes – was fought near Florida’s Paynes Prairie on December 18-20, 1835. It was the first notable military action of the Second Seminole War and took place just one week before the Seminoles defeated Brevet Maj. Francis Dade’s command.
The battle took place as Brig. Gen. Richard Keith Call moved two regiments of Florida mounted volunteers to support regular U.S. Army forces along the borders of Seminole territory. The war was already underway, brought on by the incident at Hickory Sink near Gainesville and by U.S. demands that all Native Americans in Florida prepare for “removal” to new homes west of the Mississippi River in what is now Oklahoma. Seminole, Miccosukee and maroon (Black Seminole) resistance intensified in the fall of 1835 and warriors watched closely as Call’s troops moved south.
Col. John Warren’s 2nd Florida Mounted Volunteers moved away from their supply wagons, creating an opportunity for the Seminoles to strike:
…A few days since a detachment of Col. Warren’s command while on their march in the margin of the Alachua Savannah, was attacked by a party of Indians, & his baggage guard was defeated and his baggage captured. Two days after I marched on the same ground, recovered one wagon, a carryall and the greater part of the baggage, I had intended to camp that night at a house within one mile of Fort Defyance formerly called Micanopy where there was a supply of corn & fodder…. [I]
The initial attack against Warren’s supplies was reportedly led by the noted warrior Osceola. His larger force quickly overwhelmed the men assigned to guard the wagons and almost achieved total victory before white reinforcements arrived on the scene. Maj. John McLemore and 30 men drove back the Seminole attack long enough for the guards to withdraw, although a wagon and supplies were captured. The militia members retreated back to Fort Crum on the northwest side of Paynes Prairie. [II]
This initial skirmish was on December 18, 1835. Call returned to the scene two days later on December 20. After recovering a wagon, cart and some supplies, his spies or scouts reported that a nearby house was in flames. The structure was near Micanopy, now a charming and historic Florida community but then the site of Fort Defiance:
…[W]hen my spies and advance guard approached they observed a house on fire they pressed forward and found the trale of a small party of Indians leading into a thick hammock they gave pursuit, and drove them into a pond in which there was a thick undergrowth and a number of trees in which the Indians were concealed. The volunteers led by Col. Read the Brigade Inspector gallantly entered the water and fought most bravely at half pistol shot as long as an Indian, or the flash of his gun could be seen. [III]
Clinch reported that his men found the bodies of four Seminole warriors on the ground after the action. He reported his own loss as 4 wounded, one of them severely. [IV]
A more detailed account of the battle was penned by Lt. Col. W.J. Mills, who estimated the strength of the Seminole force at 30-40 warriors:
…At 9 o’clock in the morning, we took up the line of march from Crum’s Fort to Micanopy. On arriving at the end of the prairie, our advanced guard sent back word to me at the head of the Duval and Alachua men, now called the 1st regiment, that the Indians were burning Hogans’ house, &c. I sent the messenger to Gen. Call, who was in the centre, and he immediately sent Col. Warren with orders to take two companies and flank on the south and west of the hammock. We all dismounted and entered the hammock at the charge step, and were soon in action – the Indians yelling constantly, firing by platoons- they were in a thick brush pond and had a great advantage, and fired on us without our seeing them. However, after about one hour’s sharp firing it ceased, and we came out of the hammock. [V]
Mills reported that his men found the bodies of six warriors on the battlefield that night. He recognized the seriousness of the growing confrontation in Florida, writing, “We have hard times ahead.” [VI]
The lieutenant colonel was right. Dade’s command was wiped out ten days after the fighting near Black Point.
There is some debate about the actual location of the Battle of Black Point and, in fact, the contemporary accounts don’t mention that name at all. They do say, however, that it was on the “margin of the Alachua Savannah” near “Hogan’s house.”
Early historian John Lee Williams wrote about the engagement two years later in 1837 and said that the fighting on the 20th took place near the home of Malachi Hagan or Hagans who lived one-half mile north of Micanopy. This same Malachi Hagan later filed a claim with the U.S. Congress for reimbursement of his total losses during the Second Seminole War, reporting that U.S. troops burned the rest of his farm buildings “near Micanopy” when they evacuated the post there in 1836.
The Hagan place was near the southern edge of Lake Wauberg just north of Micanopy, Florida, not far from the entrance to today’s Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. Military roads connecting Fort Defiance at Micanopy with Newnansville and Fort Crum – locations mentioned in the original accounts – intersected nearby. The vicinity where US 441 touches the southern shore of Paynes Prairie has generally been called Black Point and is near enough the site of the Hagan farm for the name to apply. The general terrain of the battlefield area can be explored at the state park.
For more information:
[I] Brig. Gen. Richard Keith Call to President Andrew Jackson, December 22, 1835, Adjutant General, Letters Received, National Archives.
[II] John K. Mahon, “The First Battle of the Second Seminole War, Black Point, 18 December 1835,” John K. Mahon Papers, Special and Area Studies Collection, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida.
[III] Call to Jackson, December 22, 1835.
[V] Lt. Col. W.J. Mills to Dear Sir, December 21, 1835, published in the New York Spectator, January 21, 1826, Page One.