Plains Indians expert Hatch (Encyclopedia of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution, 2007, etc.) applies his expertise to the man who led the Florida war “that would frustrate and embarrass the best officers in the United States Army—including five generals.”
Osceola was the leader in the Great Seminole War, the longest, deadliest and most expensive war ever fought against Native Americans. Born Billy Powell, he was a Creek Indian whose family fled Alabama and joined the Seminole nation. Native Americans could not have had a more virulent enemy than Andrew Jackson, who hated Indians and wanted to annihilate them. An uncontrollable hothead, Jackson blatantly disobeyed a presidential order by attacking a Spanish fort in what would be termed “total war,” destroying property and terrorizing noncombatants. The Seminoles welcomed slaves who had escaped from Georgia and Alabama, intermarried, and fought side by side with them. Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830 gave the Americans the right to relocate the Indians to land west of the Mississippi and to demand that escaped slaves be restored to their owners. The harsh treaties Indians signed under both false information and threat drove them finally to resist under Osceola’s leadership. Masters of guerrilla warfare, the Seminoles easily tracked the tramping American armies, disrupted supply lines, and foiled their best battle plans. Despite the demands for fairness by Indian agents and liberal press alike, multiple generals came to Florida intent on removing the Seminoles. The author thoroughly chronicles what a formidable force they would face.
Sitting Bull, Geronimo and Crazy Horse are well known to every schoolchild. Hatch deftly brings Osceola to the pantheon of legendary Native American leaders.