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peace and security. These savage parties have spread such atrocities far and wide. The nation became bound, therefore, to adopt all means, not inconsistent with the customs of its enemy, to repress them ; and even, if it were necessary, to resort to the full measure of retaliation. Still, this has not been done, as yet, in Florida. The only instances, as far as we know, where this summary justice has been inflicted, were of those who were identified as perpetrators of recent murders.
Mr. Everett disclaimed the purpose of offering a criticism upon the campaigns, or those who conducted them, in Florida. We do not propose to do that which he declined attempting. An entire article would scarcely suffice for even a cursory view of such an extended and multifarious subject. Moreover, the period has not yet arrived for such an undertaking. It is, however, full time to glance at some of the difficulties which have stood in the way of success in all these campaigns. The public, for years, has been accustomed to regard Florida as a portion of the country which had no strong peculiarities of climate, topography, or vegetable production ; and to suppose that operations of war could be carried on there in the usual manner, provided the usual skill and energy were applied to the management of them. Such an erroneous judgment was excusable in the outset, as our military men shared in the conimon ignorance in this respect. But it ought long since to have been understood, that the troops encountered, in their Florida operations, impediments which nowhere else existed in the United States. When our regiments began their march in 1836 through different portions of the peninsula, they at once plunged into a terra incognita, and groped their way to the designated points with constant embarrassments, that were as unexpected as they were perplexing. The surface of Florida is generally divided between hummock land and pine barrens. The former is for the most part wet, while the latter are dry, though, from their levelness, liable to be submerged after abundant rains. The growth of vegetation in the wet hummocks is very luxuriant, and forms a close and tangled mass which is penetrated with much difficulty. These hummocks are sometimes like islands in the midst of the barrens, having been formed by basin-shaped depressions of the surface, which collect the rain-waters, and hold them a
sufficient length of time to produce a luxuriant growth of trees, vines, and shrubs, that scarcely show themselves where the pines prevail. But they more often follow the water-courses, and spread out from nearly every stream in Florida. The pine barrens, however, the main portion of the peninsula, are the general rule, while the hummocks are only exceptions. The barrens are moved over by troops with comparative sacility, but, being everywhere intersected by spurs of hummocks, or by the hummocks themselves, no march of many hours can be made in any section of the territory, that does not encounter impediments which obstruct, delay, or, perhaps, entirely turn it aside. Besides, in the more southern portions of the peninsula, there are cypress swamps, the most impracticable of all the embarrassments that beset military operations in Florida. The cypress has a base that spreads like a trumpet's mouth, and, though the trees may stand many feet apart, they almost crowd at the surface of the earth; while nearly every interstice is filled up by “cypress knees,' which are sharp, slender, and short cones, seemingly set there like artificial obstructions to a march.
These swamps are moreover mostly inundated, as their name bespeaks. In this enumeration of difficulties, we must not forget the “saw-grass” and “saw-palmetto,” both of which have serrated edges, made harsh and unyielding by the mineral substance they take up in their growth, which tear the clothes, and lacerate the legs and feet of the soldiers moving through them, to a degree that can scarcely be comprehended by those who have not seen or felt their effects. The trace of a column through these lets and hinderances has often been marked by blood and the tatters of clothing.
The copious rains in Florida, — realizing the seeming exaggeration of Shakspeare, who says of a shower, “it could not choose but fall by pailsful, are also a cause of extreme embarrassment to military operations. Falling in such quantities upon any description of country, they would produce great inconvenience ; but these inconveniences are incalculably multiplied by the singular flatness of the land in Florida. The very slight undulation of its general surface is not sufficient to give them any defined direction for many days. They accumulate often to such a degree as to leave none but the more elevated portions of the barrens or plains, such as the knolls, above their level. Marches have some
times been made for the principal part of a day through these shallow seas, with only a faint hope of finding dry ground of suitable extent for an encampment. Small streams are swelled to an unfordable depth, and the larger ones overflow their banks, appearing to have no channel, and becoming unapproachable. Almost every creek in Florida, even those which, according to the maps, would appear, from their short courses, mere brooks, are of an unfordable depth. The St. Johns itself, with its ample breadth, is not deeper or more navigable than (were it not for fallen trees and sunken logs) many of its smallest tributaries, which, with their scarp-like banks, uniform depth, and narrow channels, have much of the character of canals, excepting in their ever tortuous windings.
The foregoing presents but an imperfect sketch of the impediments which every body of troops has to encounter, and, if possible, overcome, while moving on land in Florida. The St. Johns is a noble estuary, opening the Peninsula for some two hundred miles to steamboats, and thus far bisecting it, as it were, for operations. But, since 1838, these operations have been necessarily carried very wide from this river. They have branched into the interior in every direction, and called for means of land transportation in proportion. Our stockade forts have dotted over the whole surface of the peninsula, and the roads, cut out with much labor by the troops, to make these stations accessible to supplies, would, if they were all laid down on a map, cover the area like a net-work. Within the present year, the everglades, which occupy a vast space of the southern portion of Florida, and were deemed inaccessible to all but the initiated savages, have been penetrated, and passed through in two or three directions. Such enterprise was not anticipated by those who habitually kept themselves within these formidable and unexplored morasses. Fixed on small islands in the midst of them, approachable only by ways of labyrinthian tortuosity and blindness, they expected no such bold intruders, and were consequently surprised and captured in numbers seldom equalled in this wary war, where surprises and captures have been so rare.
This achievement has done much to convince the Indians that they have no fastnesses which are secure from our attacks. The everglade expeditions contributed much to promote the emigration which followed, and, had they been permitted to continue, that emigration would probably have been far more extensive.
During the few first years of the war, the tribes were known to occupy certain locations, where they were accustomed to plant their corn, and have something like fixed habitations. These were easily found, as the operations of the war spread out, and were successively destroyed. But, after the tribes became broken up, and the bands were multiplied, though small in force, the planting grounds, and habitual resorts of the women and children, were removed to other, far more sequestered spots, surrounded by dense hummocks and wide-spreading waters, which seemed to baffle all attempts at discovery. In more recent seasons, when our troops had acquired habits that enabled them to assimilate their operations to those of the Indians, and where competent guides had been arrested from the enemy, and compelled, under peine forte et dure, to play an Ariadne's part, these retreats have been explored, and made familiar to our troops, until the Indians have found that they have no escape from our activity and perseverance.
It is surprising to notice with what tact they have selected these lurking-places, so well calculated to fulfil their purpose ; so well adapted, upon military principles, by making the arrangements of nature supply the place of art, to give them security. And certainly none but an eye familiar with signs that speak alone to an experienced observation, could have guided our scouts through such a maze of forest, marsh, and water, as surrounded them. "No accident or blunder could have led troops to penetrate such pathless hummocks, to wade through such broad morasses, ever on a zigzag route that seemed constantly abandoning its probable object, to stumble at last upon a few acres of dry earth, where a remnant of wretches had sequestered themselves under a flattering hope, that seed time and harvest might there be permitted to follow each other in unmolested succession. It would be vain to attempt a detail of the annoyances, fatigues, and wants, of these stealthy marches, which often run through a series of days and nights, frequently at the mercy of an unwilling guide, who might at any moment propose to offer himself, by false leading, as a sacrifice for the benefit of his tribe ; marches, endured in all patience, and even in cheerfulness, under a faint expectation, - made faint by repeated disappointments, - of performing something to weaken or discourage the enemy.
Mr. Everett mentions another “ error,” which he seems to regard as “ of no small magnitude," — " the sanction of the violation of our flag, the white fag, no longer respected by the Indians." There has no doubt been much misapprehension on this subject in the public mind, and much consequent disapprobation and condemnation, arising from a laudable sensitiveness as to national honor and faith, so intimately connected with the use of the “white flag.” From Mr. Everett's remark, that the Indians no longer respect it, the inference is, that they had before respected it. This is far from being the case. The respect they have occasionally manifested for it has arisen from an accidental coincidence of such a feeling with their temporary wishes or designs, rather than from an habitual acknowledgment, on their part, of its inviolable character. Nor could such an acknowledgment be expected of a people, that does not admit any one of the merciful restraints of war. It would be a singular incongruity indeed, if those who spare neither wornen nor children, — who cut down the captive, and answer the pleadings for life with instant death, — were to consider the white flag as throwing a security around those who bear it. When messengers have been sent out to them, they have generally borne a white flag, but these messengers have been almost invariably, if not always, either Indians or negroes, who had little to fear, even without such a protection, except from malice or misapprehension. A white man proceeding towards their camps under such circumstances would probably have forfeited his life by his confidence in their respect for the white fag.
Mr. Everett does not impute this “ error” so distinctly to the executive as in the other instances, and perhaps he meant that the censure should also fall on others, on those whom he believed to have violated its character, as well as on the executive, who, by passiveness in the case, sanctioned that violation. It would undoubtedly have been the duty of the President to punish any violations of the national faith and honor by any officer. As he sanctioned, either directly or impliedly, the course that was taken, the inference must be, that he perceived no such violations. He looked upon the Indians as baving no alternative but emigration, and the contest as having been begun and carried on to compel them to emigrate; and every Indian who fell into the power of the officer in command in Florida, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, he VOL. LIV.- NO. 114.