Threatened with forced removal from their Florida homeland, the
Seminole and Miccosukee Indians took up arms. Using alligator-infested swamps to
their advantage, they fought the U.S. Army to a standstill.
Unable to win militarily, General Thomas Jesup captured his
enemies under flags of truce. With most of their people transported west, fewer
than a hundred remained hidden in the heart of the Everglades, members of the
only tribe never to surrender.
"Robson's soaring descriptions of Florida
and the beauty of the untrammeled wilderness are beautiful. Her
descriptions of the eradication of a tribe are heartrending." -- Ocala
“...powerfully recreates the mid-19th century Seminole Indian Wars and
the life of Osceola.” -- Publisher’s
“...creates a thoroughly believable character called Osceola and sweeps
the reader into a sensory experience of the Florida swamps and savannas,
fascinating local lore, and a grueling, bitter war in which the Seminoles won
most of the battles.... Robson, as
few writers could, does full justice to the tragic but splendid story of the
Seminoles’ fight for their homeland.” -- Roundup Magazine
Lucia was amused by the fact that in the first quarter of the 19th century the high-stakes gambling game in Tampa was Keno, a variety of Bingo.
a Distant Fire
If the fort was all neatness and order, the recently built section of Tampa was not. The streets and vacant lots were of crushed shell, deep sand, and garbage. The untrammeled parts were covered with a sparse growth of brittle grass and sand spurs, spindly palmetto and scrub oak.
The older part of the village, Spanishtown Creek, was different. The Spanish, Minorcan, and Cuban inhabitants had planted the trees of their homelands. Palm-thatched frame houses nestled in a tropical confusion of avocado and lime, orange, fig, papaya, banana, mango, and tamarind. The pungent odor of guava simmering into jelly floated out of Spanishtown Creek.
When Osceola and Alligator entered Tampa, the dregs of the settlement’s social order sat around a long plank table. The table occupied most of the piazza of Count Odette Philippe’s oyster shop and billiard hall. Philippe claimed to be related to King Louis XVI. He had been captured at the Battle of Trafalgar and exiled to the Bahamas. After his release he had drifted here where he was in the process of prospering. Lumber for his proposed bowling alley lay stacked behind the oyster shop.
Private O’Reilly wiped his sweaty hand on his soiled blue trousers. Then he used it to slide the grains of corn off the square of cardboard and into a neat pile. The keno card was limp and frayed with use. Its red border had faded to a pale brown. The printed grid lines and numbers were almost illegible. O’Reilly handled it as delicately as a lace hankie, and delicacy was not O’Reilly’s style.
“Look at them.” With his chin, O’Reilly pointed to Osceola and Alligator. “Now there is a uniform a man might swagger in.”
O’Reilly’s oblique glance encompassed the fringe on their leggings and rifle cases and the brilliant colors and ruffles of their
appliquéd hunting shirts. Osceola and Alligator had put on their finery. They wore silver gorgets, armbands, and bracelets, paisley shawls, beaded garters and belts, crimson sashes, hip pouches, and shell earrings. White egret plumes nodded regally in the elaborate turbans whose fringed ends hung loose on the napes of their necks. The turbans gave them the look of magi,
sans camels and strayed from their Eastern desert.
O’Reilly surveyed his own faded, stained, and rumpled uniform with distaste. “They have the air of satisfied men,” he said. “I’ll wager they’re never bored or overworked or in want of the company of obliging women.”
“They look to be dressed for a ladies’ sodality.” Private Lewis was far more interested in swapping his keno card for a luckier one. “They’s just Injuns,” he added. “And tame ones at that.”
“No, they ain’t.” At nineteen, Private O’Reilly was already a shrewd judge of character. He would make
sergeant some far-off day. “Those partic’lar boys is powder in the pan, waitin’ for a spark.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Re-exploring parts of Florida
Lucia hadn't seen since she was a Girl Scout. Don't these Seminole women look like they've stepped out of