View Full Version : ‘Gone to fight the Indians’

02-07-06, 01:27 PM
February 13, 2006
The Lore of the Corps: ‘Gone to fight the Indians’
By Don Burzynski
Special to the Times

During the Creek and Seminole Indian War, the Indians had faced deportation from their homelands in Florida and were on the warpath. According to Corps history, Marine Commandant Col. Archibald Henderson volunteered the Corps to take charge of the matter.

When Henderson left Washington for Florida, he left a note tacked to his office door that read, “Gone to fight the Indians, be back when the war is over.”

In the summer of 1835, Henderson marched his battalion south, and on Oct. 28, 1835, took command at Fort Brooke in Florida. Two battalions were reorganized into one regiment of six companies that included more than half the strength of the entire Corps. They were joined by 750 Creek Indian volunteers. Some of the Creek units were commanded by Marine officers — the first time Marines led native troops.

The allied Creeks, who wore white turbans to distinguish them from the enemy in battle, led the pursuit. In one attack, Lt. Andrew Ross, who held the rank of captain in the Creek unit, tried to cross a stream and was shot. He died of his wounds on Dec. 11, the first Marine officer to be killed in action since the War of 1812.

On Jan. 8, 1837, Brig. Gen. Thomas Jesup gave Henderson command of the Army’s 2nd Brigade, which included the Marines.

On Jan. 23 near Lake Abapopka, a detachment including Capt. John Harris’ company of “Horse Marines” fought a large body of Seminoles. Five days later, Henderson led a force into the Great Cypress Swamp to find the main body of indians.

When the Creeks made contact with the Seminoles, Henderson ordered the Marines into the battle. In the dense swamp, the Marines and the Creeks engaged the enemy across the Hatchee-Lustee River, a deep 20-yard-wide stream. Marines and soldiers extended along the river bank to lay a cross-fire. When the enemy’s fire slackened, the troops plunged across the river by swimming or crossing on logs.

As the enemy retreated, Henderson’s force pursued for half a mile through an even more difficult stretch. The Seminoles made repeated stands, and the Battle of the Hatchee-Lustee was the Marines’ largest battle of the war. Six Marines were killed or died of their wounds. The battle led to a talk with the Seminole chiefs, and an armistice was signed March 6. The Indians agreed to be removed to a reservation, and it looked like the war was over. Henderson returned to Washington in May.

Then, at midnight on June 2, the compliant chiefs and their 700 followers were captured, and the war began again for five more years.

Seminoles to this day never surrendered to the U.S., and the war ended with most of them still in Florida.

The writer is a War of 1812 re-enactor. He can be reached at dburzynski2003@yahoo.com.

02-13-06, 05:24 PM
While I love US history, especially our military history and USMC history, I hate to read about what we did to the natives, especially in my homestate of Florida. Sad situation how we treated those people.