Wounded Knee. Little Big Horn. Some Native American battles are so famous that the name alone evokes images of struggle and heroism. But countless other fights are less well known. Okeechobee, scene of the Florida clash that changed the course of the Second Seminole War, is among them.
"Okeechobee Battlefield is far more valuable than real estate alone," said National Trust President Richard Moe. "The blood of Native Americans and U.S. soldiers soaked its ground during that terrible fight. We owe it to those fallen men - and their descendants - to save it for future generations. The Seminole Wars deserve their rightful place in history."
History: It was Christmas Day 1837 when, during the Second Seminole War, Col. Zachary Taylor's troops clashed with the Seminole and Miccosukee warriors who fought alongside runaway slaves from Georgia and the Carolinas. Taylor's actions helped earn him a promotion to general, and the battle's influence on national politics ultimately helped Taylor win the presidency in 1848. The battle also led to the forced emigration of thousands of Seminoles to Oklahoma, hastening the end of the war and the settlement of the southeastern U.S. Though few outward signs of the battle remain, many artifacts lie buried in the saw grass swamp and pineland forest of the battlefield. Musket balls are buried in the bark of the battlefield's centuries-old cypress trees, where Indian snipers once crouched amid the hanging moss.
The Second Seminole War, from 1835 to 1842, was a product of President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act, which forbade Native Americans to live east of the Mississippi River. The Battle of Okeechobee was the war's bloodiest fight.
Threat: Sprawl has crept up on the battlefield's borders. Much of the 640-acre site is slated for residential development, which could destroy the area where the Seminoles were positioned during the battle. In addition, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may issue a permit for a housing development in the western section of the site.
Solution: Okeechobee Battlefield may lose its National Historic Landmark status if part of it is lost, so preservationists are seeking protective easements or private or public purchase of the entire site.
One way to save the battlefield from development would be for the government to purchase the land and protect the site. This is not unprecedented in the state of Florida. After developers discovered an archeological site at Miami Circle, the state stepped in and purchased the site for $9 million.
Write Governor Jeb Bush and urge the state of Florida to take
action to save Okeechobee Battlefield from new developments.
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