Seminoles, a nation of Florida Indians, made up chiefly of two bands of Creeks who withdrew from the main body in 1750 and 1808, and of remnants of tribes partly civilized by the Spaniards, some Mickasuckees, and negroes. They became known as a distinct nation under King Payne. During the American revolution they were under English influence, and very hostile. The Spaniards on recovering Florida made a treaty with the Tal-lapoosas and Seminoles at Pensacola in May, 1784. The Creeks, who called them Seminoles or Wanderers, still claimed them as part of their nation in the treaty with the United States in 1790. The Seminoles disavowed this claim, and began hostilities against the Americans in 1793, which they renewed in the war of 1812, although under Spanish rule. They were then divided into seven tribes, and were rich in cattle, horses, and slaves. The war was very destructive to them. Their king Payne was killed in battle at Alachua in 1812, and his brother Bowlegs died soon after. The Creek war led to further trouble between them and the Georgians. In 1817 they surprised settlements on the Saltillo, and cut off Lieut. Scott and 40 persons on the Appalachicola, in revenge for the destruction of one of their forts.
Gen. Gaines finally took the field against them, and Gen. Jackson at the head of a large force invaded Florida, and destroyed the Mickasuc-kee and Suwanee towns, in April, 1818, after hard fighting. The purchase of Florida the next year made them subject to the United States. In 1822 they numbered 3,899, with 800 negroes, in villages from St. Augustine to the Appalachicola, but roaming the whole country. By the treaty of Fort Moultrie, Sept. 18, 1823, the Seminoles gave up all their territory but a small portion, for $6,000 in goods and a 20 years' annuity of $5,000; but as Neamathla and other head chiefs refused to join, small reserves were allowed them and their followers by an additional article, Jan. 2, 1824. They also agreed to arrest, hunt up, and deliver fugitive slaves. The enforcement of this led to great trouble. The settlers clamored for the removal of the Indians, and a strange treaty was made at Payne's Landing (1832), by which the Seminoles agreed that if certain commissioners, Indians and others, were satisfied as to the character of the country offered them west of the Mississippi, and the disposition of the Creeks to receive them, the treaty should be binding, and they were to give up all their lands in Florida for $15,400 and $3,000 a year for 15 years, but $7,000 was to be retained for slaves not surrendered.
The Seminole delegates were induced to sign a document at Fort Gibson in March, 1833, declaring themselves satisfied. Although they denied having done so understandingly, and the so-called additional treaty did not follow the terms of the original treaty of Payne's Landing, the latter was held to have become absolute, and was ratified by the president and senate in August, 1834. Gen. Thompson, when sent as agent, finding the chiefs opposed to emigration, undertook to depose five, and put Osceola in irons. The Seminoles killed a chief who favored emigration, and then prepared for war. On Dec. 28, 1835, Osceola killed Thompson, a lieutenant, and some others at Fort King, and the same day cut to pieces a body of troops under Ma-jor Dade near Wahoo swamp. A long and desolating war ensued, which cost the United States $10,000,000 and 1,466 lives. The Seminoles met Gen. Clinch on the Withlacoo-chee, Dec. 31, and subsequently baffled Gen. Scott; but they were so hard pressed by Gen. Call and Gen. Jesup that, after losing several battles, they asked for peace, and in the spring of 1837 agreed to emigrate. Osceola, however, fled to the woods, and renewed the war.
He was defeated by Gen. Taylor in the battle of Okeechobee, and soon after was treacherously seized and kept in confinement till he died. The war was kept up by Coa-coochee till he was taken. The prisoners and those who came in were transported to Indian territory, and 1,900 had been removed in 1839. In 1842 those in Florida were reduced to 300, and the war ended. No proper provision was made for the emigrants, and the Creeks wished to absorb them; but a treaty made in 1845 gave them some relief and a separate tract. The negroes among them were claimed by the Creeks or white men, and taken in such numbers that Coacoochee with a large body retired to Mexico. The treaty of Aug. 7, 1856, between the United States, the Creeks, and the Seminoles, recognized them as a nation, and assigned them lands west of the Creeks, which were, however, laid off so incorrectly that they were found to be all within the Creek district. It gave also $90,000 to the Seminole council, and $12,500 as an annuity. Of those in Florida, 164 emigrated under Bowlegs in 1858, and the next year, with those who returned from Mexico, their number swelled to 2,253. On the breaking out of the civil war the tribe was divided.
The Confederate States made a treaty with them, Aug. 1, 1861, guaranteeing their lands, assuming the obligations of the United States, and agreeing to indemnify them for slaves taken from them by Gen. Gaines. Those who adhered to the government suffered heavy loss in the battle of Dec. 25, 1861, and the survivors retired to Kansas. A treaty was made with the northern and southern bands in December, 1865, by which their old reservation was ceded to government at 15 cents an acre, and a new reservation purchased for them of the Creeks at 50 cents an acre. They then numbered 2,959, including negroes. They are steady, sober, and industrious, and in progress rank next to the Cherokees, Creeks, and Choctaws. Under the treaties of 1856 and March 21, 1866, they receive $25,000 as an annuity, $2,500 for schools, and $1,000 toward the support of the tribal government. In 1874 they had one mission and four district schools; they numbered 2,438, and cultivated 7,600 acres. Their personal property was valued in 1870 at $237,000. There are still some Seminoles and negroes in Mexico, and 150 or more in the Everglades of Florida. There are also in Texas some 500 negroes formerly slaves to the Seminoles, who returned from Mexico, and in 1875 asked government for lands in Florida or elsewhere.