Monday, January 30, 2006

Asiyahola (Oceola)

January 30, 1838:

Seminole Chief Osceola dies today at Fort Moultrie, in Charleston, South Carolina. It is believe he has some sort of throat disease, others will say malaria, other say of a broken heart..



... Elegant in dress, handsome of face, passionate in nature and giant of ego, Osceola masterminded successful battles against five baffled U.S. generals, murdered the United States' Indian agent, took punitive action against any who cooperated with the white man and stood as a national manifestation of the Seminoles' strong reputation for non-surrender.

Osceola was not a chief with the heritage of a Micanopy or Jumper, but his skill as an orator and his bravado in conflict earned him great influence over Seminole war actions. Osceola's capture, under a controversial flag of truce offered by Gen. Thomas Jessup, remains today one of the blackest marks in American military history.

A larger-than-life character, Osceola is the subject of numerous myths; his 1838 death in a Charleston, S.C. prison was noted on front pages around the world. At the time of his death, Osceola was the most famous American Indian.


Osceola (Asi-Yahola, Bill Powell, Talcy), Seminole c.1803-1838.

Osceola, whose name was derived from 'asiyahola' (meaning "Black Drink Crier"), was born on the Talapoosa River near the border of Alabama and Georgia. His mother was Polly Copinger, a Creek woman; she married William Powell, a white man. As the result of his mother's marriage to Powell, Osceola was sometimes called Bill Powell, but he considered Powell his stepfather and asserted that he was full-blood.

As a boy, Osceola moved with his mother to Florida and took up residence along the Apalachicola River about 1814. As a young man, he is believed to have fought in the first Seminole War of 1817-1818. Indeed, some reports during the war assert that he was captured in 1818 along the Enconfino River by troops under General Andrew Jackson and then released because of his youth.

In 1823, Seminole leaders such as Neamathla agreed to the Treaty of Moultrie Creek, which ceded tribal lands and created reservations for the Seminoles. Later, as a result of the U.S. removal policies, the Treaty of Payne's Landing of 1832 required all Seminoles to leave Florida within three years for Indian Terretory. According to the treaty, Seminoles with African American blood were to be sold into slavery. In 1833, seven Seminole chiefs, including Charley Emathla and Foke Luste Hajo, endorsed the Treaty of Fort Gibson, which created a homeland in Oklahoma near the Creeks. However, most Seminoles did not comply readily with the requirements of the treaty. At this time Osceola became a noted antiremoval leader. He urged various bands to remain in Florida.

At Fort King in April 1835, Wiley Thompson, the Indian agent, dictated a new treaty with the Seminoles, forcing their removal to Oklahoma. Several chiefs declined to endorse the treaty or to deal with white officials. Seminole tradition has it that Osceola angrily slashed the treaty with his knife. Subsequently, Osceola was seized and jailed. Although he continued to protest, in the end he agreed to the terms of the treaty. After his release, however, he slipped into the marshes with many Seminole people following him.

During preparation for removal, Osceola ambushed Charley Emathla. Osceola allegedly threw the money the whites gave Emathla on his dead body. Osceola attacked and killed Wiley Thompson on December 28, 1835. On the same day, Alligator, Micanopy and Jumper, with about three hundred men, attacked Major Francis Longhorne Dade's detachment of 108 soldiers and killed all but three soldiers.

On New Year's Eve 1835, Osceola's men won a battle against General Duncan Lamont Clinch's force of 800 men on the Withlacoochee River. Four infantrymen were killed and only three Indians died. Osceola was injured but eluded capture. While waging a guerilla war for two years, Osceola devastated the countryside. Finally Micanopy and other rebel chiefs stopped fighting in the spring of 1837. Osceola forced Micanopy to flee with him into the swamps, but Micanopy stopped fighting again later in the year. In October 1837, General Thomas Jesup seized Osceola through subterfuge. Under a flag of truce, Osceola attended a peace council at Fort Augustine in fall 1837. Despite the flag of truce, Osceola was captured, bound, and incarcerated at Fort Moultrie outside of Charleston, South Carolina. There are varying accounts of Osceola's demise: poisoning, malaria, or abuse in prison may have been the causes. In any case, the whites were excoriated by public opinion for their treachery and his tragic death.

On January 30, 1838, Osceola died at Fort Moultrie in full battle regalia. Even in death, Osceola did not escape white exploitation. Dr. Frederick Weedon, the military surgeon, kept his head in a medical museum until it was destroyed by a fire in 1866. In spite of the death of their renowned leader, many Seminoles continued to resist removal to Oklahoma for many years, using the Florida swamps as a base for their operations.



Osceola ("Black Drink") (circa 1804-1838) Seminole leader

Although neither a hereditary nor an elected chief, Osceola was the defiant young leader of the Seminole in their resistance to Indian emigration. In 1835 he plunged his knife into the treaty he was asked to sign that would move his people from their swamplands in the Southeast to the unoccupied territory west of the Mississippi. This action precipitated the Second Seminole War--a seven-year game of cat-and-mouse in the Florida swamps against federal troops.

Tricked into talking peace, Osceola was captured in 1837 while carrying a white flag of truce and was imprisoned in Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. This treachery so outraged George Catlin that he went immediately to the prison. He and Osceola became friends, and Osceola willingly posed for his portrait. "This gallant fellow," wrote Catlin, "is grieving with a broken spirit, and ready to die, cursing the white man, no doubt to the end of his breath." Soon after this portrait was completed, Osceola died of malaria. Osceola's name was derived from the Indian term "Asiyahola," the cry given by those taking the ceremonial black drink that was supposed to cleanse the body and spirit.


1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJuly 26, 2006