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3 Epilogue to the War of 1812 The Monroe Administration, American Anglophobia, and the First Seminole War William S. Belko On a cold and wet morning in early March 1818, a sizeable contingent of U.S. regulars, militia, volunteers, and Creek warriors under the direct command of Major General Andrew Jackson departed Fort Scott in Georgia and crossed into Spanish Florida. The First Seminole War had commenced. Jackson’s ample force worked its way down the Apalachicola River, with the objective of pursuing the hated Seminole Indians deep into the interior of East Florida. Over the next three months, Jackson’s army destroyed several major Indian towns—burning homes and confiscating supplies and livestock, capturing men, women, and children of Indian and African background, executing several Indian leaders, and ultimately scattering the Seminole deeper into the peninsula of Florida. In the process of temporarily destroying Seminole resistance to U.S. expansion in the region, Jackson also seized several Spanish settlements and forts and captured and executed two British citizens—viewed by most Americans as the instigators of this Indian war. With the Spanish surrender of Pensacola, the capital of West Florida, and nearby Fort Barrancas , in late May 1818, Jackson returned to his home in Nashville, Tennessee, leaving behind an adequate force to occupy and protect the newly acquired posts in Florida—and ultimately handing over Spanish Florida to the Monroe administration. The First Seminole War had ended, barely three months after its commencement. This seemingly brief episode in the volatile and fabled history of U.S. expansion was anything but an isolated incident. It proved more than a simple expedition outfitted solely to punish hostile Indians; it was as much, if not more, a campaign to purge the British from the Gulf South borderlands, an objective launched several years prior—it was, in short, an epilogue to the War of 1812. The fate of the Seminole in 1818, therefore, had as much, and in some cases The Monroe Administration, American Anglophobia, and the First Seminole War / 55 more, to do with widespread American Anglophobia, with the intense fears of British influence and activity in Spanish Florida. Qualms about redcoats more than redskins spawned the First Seminole War. Seminole hostility certainly played a factor, but the apparent intervention of the British in such activities required far more immediate attention and response than mere Indian depredations on or near American territory. The specter of the British presence in North America—always a mantra of antebellum Americans—coupled with sensitive fears about national security in the Gulf Coast region continued unabated after 1815 and provided a powerful impetus for Americans to seize the Floridas. Removing this specter demanded more immediacy, more energy, than merely disciplining hostile Seminole, and to this the United States succeeded in 1818. In the end, however, it was the Spanish and the Seminole who paid the heavy price—the former simply lost an untenable territorial possession , whereas the latter lost their homes and an untold number of lives in a tragic story that unfolded for nearly a century after Jackson’s 1818 invasion. Certainly other factors caused the First Seminole War, and many were as pertinent as fears of British influence—precontact ethnic rivalry among the Muscogulge people (exacerbated by European contact), land hunger on the part of frontier Americans, border depredations between whites and Indians that resulted from this expansionistic tendency, inability of Spain to police its side of the border as stipulated by treaty, commercial expansion on the part of Americans seeking access to the river systems running from U.S. territory through Spanish territory to the Gulf of Mexico, concerns of slaveholders as their slaves sought refuge across an international border and received succor from the Seminole, rivalry over the cattle industry between whites and the Seminole, an extension of the Creek War (1813–14) as Red Stick Creek who had fled to Spanish Florida continued their resistance to the United States, and, of course, intense American Anglophobia. This essay focuses on the intense American Anglophobia and the consequent quest to secure U.S. national security in the Gulf Coast region, namely, in the Floridas. And what better way to demonstrate this than to focus on the perspectives, policies, and actions of the three powerful men who directly and indirectly represented the Monroe administration—President James Monroe, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, and Major General Andrew Jackson. These three also played leading roles in the War of 1812—then Secretary of State James Monroe...


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