Monday, April 18, 2011

One of the drawbacks of writing fiction is that you can't make it all up. Research is required to lend authenticity to your story. This is true whether you write contemporary or historical. Research can become an end in itself sometimes though. I have a file drawer full of tidbits that are interesting but which I may never use. Here's one of those tidbits. 

In 1513, Spain claimed the land now known as Florida.  At that time, more than 200,000 natives lived on the peninsula.  By the time of the American Revolution in 1776, disease and warfare had reduced the native population to less than 40,000.  More thousands had been made into slaves by English settlers starting in 1704.

By 1813, the United States had plans to clear lands for new settlement.  The natives were in the way.  The Creek War in Alabama forced the Creeks to give up millions of acres.  Many Creek Indians fled to Spanish Florida where they joined with native tribes living there. The combined tribes became known as the Seminoles.  This name means “wild people” or “runaways.”  Many slaves who ran away from Southern plantations also found a home with the native people in Spanish Florida.  

Their hope for safety did not last long.  By 1817, the U. S. military entered Florida to protect new American settlers on Indian land.  They also searched for the runaway slaves. These battles fought under General Andrew Jackson became known as the Seminole Wars.  For the next forty-one years, conflicts between American troops and the natives of Florida continued.  

During that time, Florida became a United States territory. In 1843, it became the 27th state.  More than 5000 of the Seminole people had been forced west of the Mississippi after being hunted down with bloodhounds They were herded like cattle onto ships to New Orleans and up the Mississippi River. 

About 200 to 300 of them were able to flee into the swampy wilderness of the Everglades.  There they managed to survive alligators, mosquitos, snakes, suffocating heat and malaria to stay hidden until the 1890s.  Today more than 2000 Seminoles live on six reservations in Florida.

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