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Florida Volunteers: Territorial Militia in the Opening of the Second Seminole War


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The Second Seminole War was America's longest Indian conflict. Spanning seven years, the war was the deadliest and costliest phase of a half-century-long struggle between the U.S. government and the Seminoles over Indian removal. The war consumed every regular army unit at one time or another (approximately 10,000 soldiers) and 30,000 militia. Yet, few histories of the Second Seminole War exist and there are none that explore the capabilities and effectiveness of the Florida Militia. Major works, such as John K. Mahon's History of the Second Seminole War, 1835-1842, contemporary accounts, and journal articles, alike, focus on the campaign commanders and generally disregard the Florida Militia's contributions. The Florida Militia should be examined because it was the military force made up of the territory's citizens the people most invested in success or failure. This thesis examines the Florida Militia's capabilities and effectiveness in the opening of the first year of the Second Seminole War. This period, from December 1835 through April 1836, was the first fighting season where the Florida Militia was used primarily as an expeditionary force. Contrary to the preceding histories, the Florida Militia offered capabilities comparable to the regulars, specifically in their veteran leadership, and unique capabilities, such as their mounted militia. Overall, and in spite of their flaws, the Florida Militia proved far more effective than previously thought, owing to their leadership, organization, and policy.



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