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The Seminole Wars, also known as the Florida Wars, were three conflicts in Florida between the Seminole, a Native American tribe that formed in Florida in the early 18th century, and the United States Army. Both in human and monetary terms, the Seminole Wars were the longest and most expensive of the Indian Wars in United States history.
The First Seminole War (c. 1816–1819) began with General Andrew Jackson's excursions into West Florida and Spanish Florida against the Seminoles after the conclusion of the War of 1812. The governments of Great Britain and Spain both expressed outrage over the "invasion". However, Spain was unable to defend or control the territory, as several local uprisings and rebellions made clear. The Spanish Crown agreed to cede Florida to the United States per the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819, and the transfer took place in 1821. According to the Treaty of Moultrie Creek of 1823, the Seminoles were required to leave northern Florida and were confined to a large reservation in the center of the Florida peninsula. The U.S. government enforced the treaty by building a series of forts and trading posts in the territory, mainly along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.
The Second Seminole War (1835–1842) was the result of the United States government attempting to force the Seminoles to leave Florida altogether and move to Indian Territory per the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Fighting began with the Dade Massacre in December 1835, and raids, skirmishes, and a handful of larger battles raged throughout the Florida peninsula over the next few years. At first, the outgunned and outnumbered Seminoles effectively used guerrilla warfare to frustrate the ever more numerous American military forces. In October 1836, General Thomas Sidney Jesup was sent to Florida to take command of the campaign. After futilely chasing bands of Seminole warriors through the wilderness, Jesup changed tactics and began seeking out and destroying Seminole farms and villages, a strategy which eventually changed the course of the war. Jesup also authorized the controversial captures of Seminole leaders Osceola and Micanopy under signs of truce. By the early 1840s, most of the Seminole population in Florida had been killed in battle, ravaged by starvation and disease, or relocated to Indian Territory. Several hundred Seminoles were allowed to remain in an unofficial reservation in southwest Florida.
The Third Seminole War (1855–1858) was again the result of Seminoles responding to settlers and U.S. Army scouting parties encroaching on their lands, perhaps deliberately to provoke a violent response that would result in the removal of the last of the Seminoles from Florida. After an army surveying crew found and destroyed a Seminole plantation west of the Everglades in December 1855, Chief Billy Bowlegs led a raid near Fort Myers, setting off a conflict which consisted mainly of raids and reprisals, with no large battles fought. American forces again strove to destroy the Seminoles' food supply, and by 1858, most of the remaining Seminoles, weary of war and facing starvation, agreed to be shipped to Oklahoma in exchange for promises of safe passage and cash payments. An estimated 500 Seminoles still refused to leave and retreated deep into the Everglades and the Big Cypress Swamp to live on land that was unwanted by white settlers.