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Indian Removal in the Southeast: The Second Seminole War

Books and Documents > The Army Medical Department 1818-1865

CHAPTER 3

Indian Removal in the Southeast: The Second Seminole War

The growing determination of both state and federal governments to remove the Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles to new lands west of the Mississippi encountered varying degrees of resistance from the members of these Five Civilized Tribes. Even before 1818 the pressures brought to bear upon them had induced some groups to undertake the long journey to a land inhabited by unfamiliar and hostile Indians. Others had delayed, hoping that they would never actually have to leave, but by December 1835 representatives of all five tribes had officially committed their peoples to the move west, and the Choctaws had already completed their emigration to lands beyond the Mississippi. In the years that followed, except for many members of the Seminole tribe and, to a lesser degree, of the Creek, even the most reluctant of the forced migrants left the lands of their forefathers without violent resistance to follow the long and wretched trail to the western territories.1

New Leadership for the Medical Department

The struggle to remove the Creeks and, above all, the Seminoles, from their easternhomes brought large numbers of soldiers into an area where malaria would prove to be the most dangerous enemy. Its inroads placed a great strain on the Medical Department, but just as the magnitude of the problem was becoming obvious and when the conflict was less than a year old, Surgeon General Lovell died. His successor, the Department's senior surgeon, Thomas Lawson, was neither as talented a physician nor as level-headed an administrator.

Lawson was already familiar with the situation in the southeast, however. "More soldier than doctor," he had served as a lieutenant colonel with a Louisiana volunteer unit in the early months of the war, resuming his medical duties as the department's senior surgeon in March 1836. He had served as temporary head of the general hospital at Tampa Bay, Florida, in April, in May joining the troops at Fort Mitchell, Alabama, who would be sent to Florida when they were no longer needed to enforce Creek emigration. When Lovell died in the fall of 1836, Lawson was serving as medical director for the units fighting the Seminoles. Not eager to take up his duties as surgeon general, he remained in Florida for several months before traveling to Washington to escort retiring President Andrew fackson to his home in Tennessee. He remained in Tennessee a short while before returning to Washington, but soon left once again for Florida, abandoning his

1Grace Steele Woodward, The Cherokees (Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), pp. 131, 158-59,161, 174-75,190,195; Prucha, Sword, p. 258.


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medical responsibilities in favor of the command of a volunteer unit late in 1837 or early in 1838.2

EUGENE ABADIE. (Courtesy of National Library of Medicine.)

Lawson retained the overall organization of the Medical Department that Lovell had created, but his direction of the Department's work in Florida soon demonstrated that he was a different man from his predecessor.

Throughout his years as surgeon general, Lawson's occasional temperamental outbursts suggested that time had neither thickened his skin nor lengthened his temper since his days on the frontier. Apparently convinced that the best defense was a strong offense and ever jealous of his own authority, he did not suffer criticism or frustration lightly.

Removal of the Creeks

Lovell was still surgeon general, however, when President Jackson decided that it was necessary to move Army units into Georgia, Alabama, and Florida to force the removal of the Seminoles and Creeks, a step that had the added effect of intimidating the most reluctant members of the other three tribes. Although the Creeks put up less resistance to removal than the Seminoles, the possibility of wholesale active resistance caused the Army to order sixteen companies of regular troops from artillery and infantry regiments, more than 1,000 men, south by mid-1836 to assist over 9,000 state troops in rounding up the reluctant members of this tribe in preparation for their removal. In the course of the following six months, over 14,000 Creeks left the area under Army escort.3

The Medical Department provided medical supplies for some of those going west, including the Cherokees, Choctaws, and Chickasaws, for which it was reimbursed from a special fund by the "Indian department," and medical officers also vaccinated large groups from the various tribes for smallpox. At least one Army surgeon, Eugene Abadie, was sent with the Creeks and specifically designated "Surgeon to Emigrating Indians" although, except for

2Quote from Percy Moreau Ashburn, A History of the Medical Department of the United States Army (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1929), p. 66; U.S. War Department, Proceedings of the Military Court of Inquiry in the Case of Major General Scott and Major General Gaines (n.p., n.d.), pp. 224, 469; Ltrs, Lovell to Lawson (26 May and 23 Sep 1836) and Benjamin King to Lawson (3 Nov 1836) and to Thomas Lee (28 Feb 1837), all in RG 112, entry 2, 7:460 and 8:53, 89, and 243, respectively; Macomb to Lawson (20 Sep 1837) and Smith to Lawson (6 Mar 1838), both in Lawson Papers, LC; Lawson to King (28 Mar 1837), in Benjamin King Papers, LC.
3American State Papers: Military Affairs 7:115; Prucha, Sword, p. 260.


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surgeons assigned to Army escorts, physicians accompanying groups of migrating Indians were apparently usually civilians. Abadie reported that many Indians fell sick during their march, fevers, dysentery, and diarrhea being the most common ills, and that many died, especially the very old and the very young. Abadie appears to have left the Creeks shortly after their arrival in the West, for he was at Fort Brooke, Florida, in August 1837.4

Some of those whose duty it was to assist in the removal of the members of these tribes were well aware of the tragedy involved. Although he was not assigned to accompany the Creeks as they moved west, Assistant Surgeon Jacob Rhett Motte, who was then attached to one of the artillery units in the territory of the Creeks, studied their language and learned to respect them as a people. He watched at least 500 Creeks being brought in chains to Fort Mitchell, Alabama, and deplored the

melancholy spectacle as these proud monarchs of the soil were marched off from their native land to a distant country, which to their anticipations presented all the horrors of the infernal regions. There were several who committed suicide rather than endure the sorrow of leaving the spot where rested the bones of their ancestors. The failure of his attempt to escape the round-up drove one warrior to self destruction; the fact that the only weapon at his disposal was an extremely dull knife did not deter him. With it he made several ineffectual efforts to cut his throat, but it not proving sharp enough, he with both hands forced it into his chest over the breast bone, and his successive violent thrusts succeeded in dividing the main artery, when he bled to death.5

The troops based at Fort Mitchell during the Creek removal suffered primarily from dysentery and diarrhea, which Motte blamed on "the rotten limestone water of the country." The sick were sheltered in two small buildings, each with a ten-foot wide piazza shading it from the summer's sun. Both structures were in poor condition, with split floor boards and rooms without ceilings. Neither had been intended to serve as a hospital, but the building constructed for this purpose was on private land and had been taken over as a home, apparently by the family owning the land. The diseases endured by the men who came to the facility were, for the most part, fevers, probably malarial, and, in hot weather, diarrhea and dysentery. An epidemic of measles broke out in the fall of 1836, and the surgeon was occasionally called upon to treat the victims of delirium tremens or even of poison ivy. By the summer of 1836 the facility was serving as a general hospital, taking in both Regular Army patients from the garrison and men from the Alabama volunteers, recently

4Quotes from Ltrs, Lawson to T. H. Crawford (24 Jan 1839), RG 112, entry 2, 10:107, and Eugene Abadie to [George?] Gibson (20 Oct 1836), in Grant Foreman, Indian Removal: The Emigration of the Five Civilized Tribes of Indians (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1932), p. 156; Ltrs, Lawson to Abadie (3 Aug 1837) and Benjamin King to Joel Martin (26 Apr 1838), both in RG 112, entry 2, 8:432 and 9:238, respectively; Crawford to Lawson (26 Jan 1837), Martin to Lawson (4 Jan and 21 Oct 1838), and J. Walker to Lawson (18 and 31 Dec 1841), all in RG 112, entry 12; Foreman, Removal, p. 100n; Prucha, Sword, pp. 260-61; R. Palmer Howard, "Cherokee History to 1840; A Medical View," Journal of the Oklahoma Medical Association 63 (1970):77; American State Papers: Military Affairs 7:15; Woodward, Cherokees, pp. 196, 200, 208.
5Jacob Rhett Motte, Journey Into Wilderness: An Army Surgeon's Account of Life in Camp and Field During the Creek and Seminole Wars 1836-1838, ed. Janus F. Sunderman (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1953), pp. 4, 19-20, 27, quote from p. 20.


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back from Florida and the war against the Seminoles.6

Character of the Second Seminole War

A brief show of strength served to eliminate Creek resistance, but an increasing number of attacks on white families and ambushes of small Army units emphasized the determination of the Seminoles never to leave their homes. In the last weeks of 1835, the conflict erupted into open warfare. In the guerrilla struggle that followed, Army regulars and members of various state units sent to subdue the Seminoles fought in an unfamiliar and dangerous land, "healthy in winter but sickly in summer; . . . a most hideous region," where insects and bacteria alike throve and multiplied.7

The growing threat from the Seminoles caused the Army to establish two new posts in peninsular Florida, Fort King near today's Ocala and Fort Brooke on Tampa Bay. (Map 2) In 1834 both were reinforced. By late 1835 six companies of regulars were stationed at Fort King, three at Fort Brooke, one at St. Augustine, and one at Key West, for a total of over 500 men and officers. No Regular Army surgeon was available for Key West, where a contract with a civilian doctor had already become necessary, and a second assistant surgeon had been ordered to Fort Brooke.8

The open hostility of the Seminoles who resisted removal came to a head on 28 December 1835, when all but 3 of a 110-man detachment led by Bvt. Maj. Francis L. Dade were killed in an ambush not far from Fort King. Among the dead was the medical officer with the detachment, Assistant Surgeon John S. Gatlin, who thereby became the Medical Department's first casualty in the Seminole War, and the only surgeon lost to enemy action.

The Army's response to the Dade Massacre developed into a full-scale military campaign to force the Seminoles to cease their violence and agree once again to removal. For the first five years of a struggle described by one surgeon as an "inglorious, unthankful and hopeless war," the high incidence of fevers and diarrhea-like diseases necessitated an end to active campaigning during the summer months. The Seminoles were thus able to devote the hottest months to planting and harvesting the crops that sustained them and their families through the balance of the year. Since each of the four generals who came and went as overall commanders in Florida adopted this policy in turn, Seminole resistance continued. In 1841, however, the Army placed Col. William J. Worth in command of the troops in Florida. Refusing to be intimidated by the disease rate, Colonel Worth waged war throughout the summer against Seminole homes, crops, and warriors and in a year

6Quote from Motte, Journey, p. 34; Surgeon's Quarterly Rpts, Ft. Mitchell (30 Sep, 31 Dec 1836 and 31 Mar, 30 Jun, and 30 Sep 1837), and Ltrs, Madison Mills to Lovell (6 Nov 1835), all in RG 94, entry 634; Ltr, Leonard McPhail to Lawson (2 Jul 1847), RG 112, entry 12.
7Quote from Motte, Journey, p. 199; Ltrs, Benjamin King to J. Martin (26 Apr 1838) and Lawson to Crawford (24 Jan 1839), both in RG 112, entry 2, 9:236 and 10:107, respectively; Crawford to Lawson (26 June 1837), Martin to Lawson (4 Jan, 30 Mar, and 21 Oct 1838), and J. Walker to Lawson (18 and 31 Dec 1841), all in RG 112, entry 12; War Department, Seminole Hostilities: Message From the President of the United States (n.p., n.d.), p. 234.
8Ltrs, Lovell to Heiskell (25 Sep 1835) and to B. Alvord (29 Dec1835), both in RG 112, entry 2, 7:264 and 334, respectively; Woodward, Cherokees, p. 161; Prucha, Sword, pp. 273-74. Unless otherwise indicated, all material on the Seminoles and the Second Seminole War is based upon John K. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War, 1835-1842 (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1967), and John T. Sprague, The Origin, Progress, and Conclusion of the Florida War (Gainesville: University of Florida Press. 1964).


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Map 2. The Seminole War, 1835-1842


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brought the survivors of that tribe to the point where they could no longer continue their struggle.9

The conflict with the Seminoles was responsible for almost 1,200 of the 1,500 deaths occurring in the Army between mid 1835 and the summer of 1842. More than 75 percent of the military deaths in Florida, an average of 15 each month, resulted from disease. From 1835 through 1839, an average of almost 19 percent were sick at any one time. The disease rate increased when campaigning was continued throughout the summer. From I June 1841 to 28 February 1842, for example, 5,000 men suffered almost 16,000 cases of disease, nearly 2,200 in June alone. Army surgeons treated an additional 2,428 in July, over 2,000 in August, and more than 1,800 in September 1841. An average of 26 men died each month during the nine months beginning in June 1841, a rate almost twice that for the entire war. Ten of the medical officers who served in Florida lost their lives as a result of the war, but only Gatlin's death came at the hands of the Seminoles.10

9Quote from Ltr, Nathan Jarvis to Benjamin Jarvis (6 Sep 1839), in Jarvis Papers; Thomas Sidney Jesup, Seminole Saga; The Jesup Report (Ft. Myers Beach, Fla.: Island Press, 1973), p. 12.
10Ltrs, Heiskel to R. Jones (15 Jun 1842), RG 112, entry 2, 13:415; Benjamin Harney to Lawson (2 Jun 1841), RG 112, entry 12; Statistical Report 1819-39, pp. 306, 315.


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Assignment of Surgeons

Despite the fact that many tribes were being displaced by the white man in decades that preceded the Civil War, only the struggle against the Seminoles developed into a major war. Since it was, even so, a guerrilla war, the requirement for physicians was greater than it would have been had a similar number of men been engaged in conventional warfare. The many small units conducting operations in Florida could not easily share surgeons, isolated as they often were by distance, the primitive terrain, and the enemy's skill at attack from ambush. The high rate of disease made it difficult for a unit to go long without a physician. Although the organization of the Medical Department was basically suited to this type of warfare, its size was not; the number of available surgeons was not sufficient to permit one to accompany each separate detachment at all times. In the attempt to meet the need, some medical officers were called upon not only to move about with one detachment but also to change from one unit or post to another at short intervals.

To gain maximum advantage from the flexibility he had introduced into the department's structure in 1818, Surgeon General Lovell decided that the senior surgeon assigned to Florida should serve as medical director. This officer could move the surgeons under him from one position to another at the direction of the commanding general without prior consultation with the surgeon general and require the surgeon or assistant surgeon at a supply depot to serve as purveyor. As a result, the more routine requirements of the war could be managed quickly and efficiently.11

LYMAN FOOT. (Courtesy of National Library of Medicine.)

Nevertheless the shortage of physicians was increasingly irritating to Lawson when he became surgeon general. To the secretary of war in 1839 he bristled, "Now a days an officer cannot march eight miles with a Sergeants Guard without having a Surgeon attached to his Command, in other words without his own special staff." In 1840 he lashed out at Lyman Foot, then the medical director in Florida, apparently because Foot, in letting surgeons leave after only two years of service, was adding to Lawson's difficulties in providing adequate medical support. Lawson brushed aside Foot's statement that he understood that two-year assignments were official policy, and accused Foot of being concerned only with popularity. When, a few months later, the general then commanding in Florida


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publicly and wholeheartedly praised Foot's work, Lawson raged at what he said was interference with his management of his department.12

Although well aware of the difficulties he faced, Lawson, like Lovell, used every resource at his command to bring adequate care to all who fell ill or were wounded. As early as April 1836, Lovell was able to state that "every disposable officer of the Department" had been assigned to duty in Florida, but more were almost continually being requested. When, early in 1837, Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Jesup, then commanding the effort against the Seminoles, added crewmen from a naval squadron to his force, he made a Navy surgeon his medical director, apparently because not enough Army medical officers in Florida had the rank of full surgeon. In this capacity, John A. Kearney was stationed at Fort Brooke much of the spring of 1837.13

Even with help from the U.S. Navy, the shortage of medical officers remained acute. In May 1837 a surgeon wrote Lawson that Jesup had ordered that the surgeon general be informed of the "destitute condition of the Medical Department in this country," where half the nation's army was being cared for by only a sixth of the department's surgeons, many of whom were themselves ill. According to Lawson, Kearney added his complaint that there was "not a medical officer of the first grade in Florida." In December 1839, by which time disease had already killed three of his physicians, Lawson confessed that he could not meet the demands for Regular Army surgeons. By late 1839, although at least nineteen surgeons were serving in Florida, some were responsible for two or more posts. From the outset, therefore, the Medical Department was forced to hire contract physicians to serve as acting assistant surgeons in Florida. Some were assigned to militia units there and one was ordered by the War Department to accompany a small group of Seminoles emigrating to the West in 1836.14

Lawson's frustration at his impotence in the face of the lack of manpower caused him to turn imperiously upon any surgeon who so much as appeared to be avoiding duty in Florida, where little but "Privations, hardships, sickness and murder" awaited. To a surgeon who complained that service in Florida was bad for his "constitution," Lawson wrote, "it will not do for officers to talk about constitutions or climates ... you have received your orders and must obey." To another, who had left Florida maintaining that he was ill and did not hasten to return, Lawson stated, "If you possess not the exalted sentiments of a soldier whose pride it is to perform his duty with alacrity and cheerfulness, then you may as well understand, once for all, that

12Quote from Ltr, Lawson to Sec War (9 Mar 1839), RG 112, entry 2, 10:197; Ltrs, Benjamin King to J. H. Chambers (26 Nov 1836) and Lawson to De Camp (23 Aug 1838), to Lyman Foot (5 Dec 1840), and to Jones (6 May 1841), all in RG 112, entry 2, 8:120, 9:408, and 12:196 and 416-17, respectively; Foot to Lawson (8 Sep 1840), RG 112, entry 12.
13Quote from Ltr, Lovell to Edward Worrell (4 Apr 1836), RG 112, entry 2, 7:410; Ltrs, Lovell to Joseph Eaton (17 Aug 1836), Benjamin King to John Kearney (24 Mar 1837), and Lawson to Kearney (16 May and 2 Jun 1837), all in RG 112, entry 2, 8:16, 276, 347, and 370-71, respectively; Kearney to AG (9 May 1837), RG 112, entry 12; Thomas Jesup to R. Jones (7 Feb 1837), in Sprague, Florida War, p. 173.
14 Quotes from Ltrs, Charles S. Tripler to Lawson (31 May 1837), RG 112, entry 12, and Lawson to Kearney (2 Jun 1837), RG 112, entry 2, 8:370-71; Ltrs, Lawson to R. M. Kirby (11 Dec 1838), RG 112, entry 2, 10:31, Kearney to AG (9 May 1837) and to Lawson (3 Jul 1837) and De Camp to Lawson (2 Mar 1839), all in RG 112, entry 12; War Department, Seminole Hostilities, pp. 271-72; SGO, War Department, Annual Report (6 Nov 1839), p. 14.


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you will be made to do it." To assistant surgeon William S. King, whom he had accused- as he was later forced to admit, unjustly- of scheming to sneak out of Florida, Lawson's apology was principally a defense of his own conduct. The facts as they were known at the time, he maintained, amply justified his conclusions.15

Lawson wanted his subordinates to see the war against the Seminoles not as a privation but as a golden opportunity since, if assignments were properly rotated, a surgeon could gain valuable experience in the field. He wrote both the medical director and the commanding general there, urging rotation. The frequent illness of surgeons in Florida made systematic rotation impossible, but Lawson became furious when they appeared to ignore his wishes. The medical director's suggestion that matters of assignment, as well as those of supply and the establishment of hospitals, were better managed by someone on the scene further irritated the surgeon general. The war was almost over, but the spring of 1842 found him once again raging, this time to the adjutant general, because Colonel Worth, then commanding in Florida, had ordered nine more medical officers out of Florida than Lawson believed wise, and had granted leaves of absence to other surgeons, all without consulting Lawson.16

WILLIAM S. KING. (Courtesy of National Library of Medicine)

Supply

Except for the heavy demand for quinine, supply problems do not appear to have triggered Lawsonian rage. The medicines and other items that surgeons in Florida needed came from as far away as New York City, New Orleans, Charleston, and Savannah. The extensive use of steamboats in support of operations against the Seminoles reduced the likelihood of severe or prolonged shortages in spite of the unusually heavy demand caused by the high disease rate. But transportation problems within some parts of Florida slowed delivenes inland from the principal supply

15Quotes from Ltrs, Nathan Jarvis to Nathaniel Jarvis (I Aug 1839), in Jarvis Papers, and Lawson to Stinnecke (12 Jun 1836) and to William W. Hoxton (29 Jan 1841), both in RG 112, entry 2, 8:376 and 12:279, respectively; Ltrs, Lawson to William King (19 Jul and 4 Sep 1839), both in RG 112, entry 2, 10:38 and 461, respectively. It should be noted, however, that when Lawson was but a surgeon himself, he, too, complained about the effects of an unfriendly clime upon his constitution. Ltr, Lawson to Lovell (5 Oct 1824), RG 112, entry 12.
16Ltrs, Lawson to De Camp (15 May 1839), to Walker K. Armistead (20 Aug 1840), to Edward Macomb (19 Oct 1840), and to Benjamin Harney (8 Jun 1841) and Heiskell to Sec War (21 Jun 1842), all in RG 112, entry 2, 10:211, 11:485, 12:86 and 462-63, and 13:427, respectively; Rpt, Lawson to AG (1 Apr 1842), RG 112, entry 12.


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depots at Palatka, St. Augustine, Tampa Bay, Garey's Ferry, and Cedar Key.17

Some minor shortages stemmed from the unpredictability of the need for certain medicines or stores. In the spring of 1841, inroads of disease upon the men in Florida were apparently greater than anticipated. The prevalence of a mild form of scurvy in the Tampa Bay area in a season when the Subsistence Department did not issue lime juice made it necessary for the Medical Department purveyor there to order this antiscorbutic on his own. Additional problems stemmed from the fact that dampness spoiled many of the medicines packaged in paper rather than in bottles or canisters. On at least one occasion, surgeons discovered that a shipment of olive oil was polluted with linseed oil. Localized shortages might oblige a surgeon to try one depot after another. Still further minor difficulties were caused by the discovery that in the climate of Florida, "comfort and cleanliness" dictated that hospitals use bed sheets, which apparently were not generally provided. Despite the greater demand the war created for hospital supplies and medicines, however, no significant increase in the Department's cost per man resulted.18

Perhaps the greatest supply problem occurred because some surgeons in Florida were beginning to discover that quinine in large doses was effective against the paroxysms of malaria. The demand for this expensive drug was so great as to trigger another belligerent reaction from Lawson, who apparently concluded that surgeons had become soft and frivolous. To Brig. Gen. Zachary Taylor he wrote in 1839:

A Physician never shows to greater advantage than when he is operating successfully with a few materials, we do not want men in the Army who cannot combat disease with success unless surrounded by every article in the materia medica. -Our surgeons must learn to substitute in extreme cases one medicine for another; finery or furbelows [ruffles] at any rate cannot be tolerated in Field Hospitals or other sick Station in the theatre of War.19

Lawson's attitude toward quinine surfaced again with characteristic vigor in 1840, when the medical purveyor at Fort Brooke made the error of ordering a second supply of quinine before he had received the first. Lawson stated authoritatively that other "tonics" would serve quite as well; perhaps his failure to realize that this was not so may again be attributed to the fact that he was not on the scene. He informed the purveyor that "the reckless use of that medicine to the exclusion almost of every other Tonic" was prohibited. There is no indication that the problem was ever resolved. Lawson was still complaining in 1841, when he commented to the medical director: "Some years Ago when the Army was as efficient, or had at least as high a character as now, the Soldiers could ... take Peruvian Bark ... but nowadays they have become so refined and delicate of

17Ltrs, Lovell to Heiskell (29 Jun 1836), to Lawson (26 May 1836), to Richard Clark (30 Jun 1836), and to Hamilton Hawkins (9 Jul 1836), all in RG 112, entry 2, 7:374, 460, 495, and 507, respectively; Lovell to Lawson and to Worrell (both 16 Jul 1836), both in RG 112, entry 2,7:576; Benjamin King to J. P. Russell (19 Jan 1837), to W. H. Shelton (23 Nov 1837), and to Thomas Henderson (11 Apr 1838) and Lawson to Zachary Taylor (18 Nov 1839) and to A. K. Parris (17 Nov 1843), all in RG 112, entry 2,8:135,9:57 and 210, 11:73, and 14:474, respectively; Worrell to Lawson (14 Jun 1836), De Camp to Lawson (26 Dec 1838) and to D. E. Twiggs (15 Jan 1839), Foot to Lawson (17 Aug 1840), and W. T. Leonard to Lawson (2 Aug 1841), all in RG 112, entry 12.
18Quote from Ltr, B. M. Byrne to Lawson (21 May 1841), RG 112, entry 12; Ltr, Benjamin King to Sec War (17 Apr 1838), RG 112, entry 2, 9:219.
19Quote from Ltr, Lawson to Taylor (18 Nov 1839), RG 112, entry 2, 11:73; see also Smith, "Quinine," pp. 361, 363, and Urs, Lawson to Sec War (18 Jul 1837) and to R. C. Wood (11 Jul 1838), both in RG 112, entry 2, 8:418 and 9:949, respectively.


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stomach, that they can take down nothing but ... Sulphate of Quinine as a Tonic."20

General Hospitals

The location of many of the general hospitals that cared for the sick and wounded of the war in Florida at or near major depots to some degree eased transportation problems. In these institutions, men with chronic illnesses and severe wounds, together with the patient overflow from crowded post hospitals, could be cared for. Not long after the start of the war, this type of facility was established at Fort Brooke, on Tampa Bay, and in St. Augustine. At about the same time, a convalescent hospital was set up at Mullet Key, southwest of Tampa.

The general hospital at Fort Brooke was located on a hill above the Hillsborough River and surrounded by a grove of live oak. It could easily shelter 100 patients, but it was occasionally called on to care for twice that number. Hospital attendants were chosen from the units represented among the patients: a unit with 12 to 24 patients at this facility would provide 2 attendants; one with over 24 would provide 3. Men who were only slightly disabled but not well enough to march were sometimes assigned to remain at the hospital to care for the more seriously ill. The Fort Brooke unit continued in operation until 1840, when it was closed in favor of general hospitals established at Picolata and Cedar Key. Supplies that could not be used at Fort Brooke's post hospital were then sent to Cedar Key if that facility could use them.21

The sites of the general hospitals at Picolata and Cedar Key were considered to be healthy and convenient to the line of forts as it existed in 1840. The medical director in Florida hoped that, because of the good reputation of these sites, the opening of the two new general hospitals there would bring about a saving in expenses for the Medical Department. The hospital at Picolata on the St. Johns River was set up, apparently in 1837, in the upper part of the former hotel where troops used the basement as a barracks. The unit at Cedar Key opened in the summer of 1840 at a "beautiful location," initially in a temporary building and some hospital tents, while the construction of the permanent building, 160 by 30 feet and shaded by a 10-foot piazza, was underway. In the autumn of 1842, however, a severe storm blew the new hospital from its foundations and caused so much destruction that the Army abandoned the island .22

The Picolata general hospital was apparently moved to St. John's Bluff, five miles from the mouth of the St. Johns River, sometime in the summer of 1841, where it remained until it was closed in the spring of 1842. The St. John's Bluff hospital may have been slightly larger than the one at

20Quotes from Ltrs, Lawson to John B. Porter (15 and 21 Aug 1840) and Lawson to Benjamin Harney (8 Jun 1841), all in RG 112, entry 2, 11:470 and 486 and 12:465, respectively.
21Surgeon's Quarterly Rpts, Ft. Brooke (30 Jun and 30 Sep 1837 and 31 Dec 1839), all in RG 94, entry 634; Orders (no. 23, 9 Apr 1836), in American State Papers: Military Affairs 7:267; Order (no. 21, 22 Jun 1840); filed with Ltr, Foot to Lawson, (16 Aug 1840) and Ltr, Foot to Lawson (22 Jun 1840), both in RG 112, entry 12; Ltrs, Lawson to Lee (3 Aug 1837) and to A. T. Suter (30 Aug 1837), both in RG 112, entry 2, 8:433 and 474, respectively; Statistical Report, 1819-39, pp. 299, 304-05.
22Quote from Ltr, Foot to Lawson (16 Aug 1840), RG 112, entry 12; Ltrs, Benjamin King to Tripler (17 Jan 1838), RG 112, entry 2,9:118; Foot to Lawson (22 Jun 1840), RG 112, entry 12; "Campaign in Florida," Yale Literary Magazine 11 (1846):77.


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Cedar Key, although neither unit cared routinely for more than fifty patients at a time.23

The general hospital at St. Augustine was established in the summer of 1836, initially in two buildings, one near the barracks and the other near the center of town, and later in three more. To this facility shortly after its opening came the sick from several posts in that section of Florida, particularly Fort Mellon and Volusia, both temporarily abandoned because of the high disease rate that afflicted their garrisons. The sick from Micanopy, many originally from Fort Drane, were also moved to St. Augustine in the belief that their chances for recovery at Micanopy were poor. As.many as 150 sick were gathered at the St. Augustine general hospital shortly after its opening, among them one of the survivors of the Dade Massacre, a man whose eventual death evidently resulted more from his heavy drinking than from wounds suffered in the massacre. By September 1836, 225 patients shared the hospital, and three Army physicians, assisted by a civilian acting as assistant surgeon, were busy caring for them. After 1836, however, the largest number there at any one time apparently rarely exceeded 65. The facility evidently closed sometime during the second half of 1838, torn in its closing weeks by controversy between surgeons and line officers over the acceptability of removing experienced men from positions as hospital stewards in order to return them to their units.24

Not all of the seriously sick or wounded from the war were retained in Florida's general hospitals. The Army evacuated many to such East Coast posts as Fort Monroe in Virginia or Fort Hamilton in New York Harbor, in the belief that a change of climate would be particularly helpful for those with dysentery and recurrent fever. In the fall of 1840, patients whose recovery was supposedly being retarded by the effects of the Florida climate were also sent to Fort Columbus, a second New York Harbor post. There was a risk that some patients who were sent north might die along the way, but Medical Director Foot believed that these were men who would have died even if they had been retained in Florida .25

Not all those who were evacuated were actively ill. The Florida climate was considered to be so unhealthy that in 1841 an entire regiment was sent north because of its poor health and lack of vigor. The unit was dispersed among northern posts, where it was hoped that its overall health would improve.

Although the chronically ill and the seriously disabled were eventually sent on to general hospitals or even evacuated, those with lesser health problems often remained at post hospitals until they were ready to rejoin their units. At the time the Second Seminole War began, permanent post facilities existed at Forts Brooke, Marion (at

23Surgeon's Quarterly Rpts (31. Mar and 30 Jun 1841) and Consolidated Monthly Rpts, Army of Florida (Apr and Jul 1841), all in RG 94, entry 634; see also other Rpts, St. John's Hospital (1841-42), RG 94, entry 634.
24Ltrs, Lovell to Russell (20 Aug 1836), RG 112, entry 2, 8:18; H. S. Hawkins to Lovell (27 Jul and 8 Aug 1836 and 7 Sep 1836), G. F. Turner to Hawkins (6 Sep 1836), and Richard Weightman to Benjamin King (7 Jun 1838), all in RG 112, entry 12; Surgeon's Rpts, St. Augustine General Hospital, RG 94, entry 634; N. S. Jarvis, "Notes" 39:276, 279. There are no reports that can definitely be attributed to the general hospital at St. Augustine held in RG 94 for dates later than June 1838 and apparently no mention of a general hospital there after that date in other collections.
25Ltrs, Lawson to Robert Archer (27 Jul 1837), Tripler to Russell (26 Aug 1837), and Lawson to L. R. Arnold (12 Sep 1837), all in RG 112, entry 2, 8:425, 469, and 486, respectively; SOs, Brig Gen Armistead (no. 60, 18 Sep 1840) and Ltrs, Harney to Lawson (2 Jun 1841) and Foot to Lawson (30 Jul 1841), all in RG 112, entry 12.


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St. Augustine), and King. Reports from Forts Marion and King at the end of 1835 described their hospitals as satisfactory, and it would appear that the condition of the Fort Brooke unit was also acceptable.26

The site chosen for Fort Brooke itself was initially reported to be healthy, and vegetables and fish were available in sufficient quantity for a good diet. By the spring of 1836, diarrhea, blamed on the water and its high sulfur content, and respiratory ills were appearing in the garrison, and among the volunteers, measles and mumps as well. At the end of April of that year, 80 of the 802 men there were reported to be hospitalized, and the quarterly report dated 30 June 1836 listed 516 treated in the course of the April through June quarter, a time of much illness at Fort Brooke.27

In the first quarter of 1839, the garrison at Fort Brooke was moved to an "elevated" ridge where the water was considered to be good and the quarters comfortable. The hospital here would comfortably hold only twelve patients, but fortunately, diarrhea disappeared as a serious problem after the move. In November, however, the water was again causing comment, and the surgeon observed that it was "either saturated with rotten limestone or the brackish water of the river." Fever was the most common complaint, and he noted that "an offensive and most deleterious malaria" appeared to characterize the area. Overcrowding quickly reappeared as a problem, and the surgeon had to treat many patients in their quarters. Although the coming of cooler weather caused a drop in the number of sick from the Fort Brooke garrison, troops marching north in January 1840 left twenty of their sick there, and the hospital remained crowded.28

The area in which Fort Marion was located was also reported to be relatively healthy by comparison with other southern posts. Since the disease rate varied widely, and the number of men assigned to this post changed often, the number hospitalized also fluctuated. Yellow fever struck Fort Marion in the fall of 1839, causing 12 deaths in the 24 cases reported in November alone, and again in 1841, when 25 of 56 cases were fatal.29

The site of Fort King was not as healthy as those of Forts Brooke and Marion, despite its apparent beauty. "The live oak, with other species of the same genus, the cypress, magnolia, cabbage-tree, and several varieties of hickory, (carya), all united by a cordage of vines and brambles, extending from trunk to trunk and from limb to limb, constituting an immense network of vegetation" surrounded the post. Malaria was the principal health problem and led to the temporary evacuation of the fort sometime in the late spring or summer of 1836.30

26Rpt, Lovell to Sec War (28 Dec 1835), RG 112, entry 2, 7:340.
27Ibid.; John K. Mahon, ed., "The Journal of A. B. Meek and the Second Seminole War, 1836," Florida Historical Quarterly 38 (1960):309; James W. Covington, ed., "Life at Fort Brooke, 1824-1836," Florida Historical Quarterly 36 (1957-58):321, 323; War Department, Proceedings, p. 339; Surgeon's Quarterly Rpt, Ft. Brooke (30 Jun 1836), and other quarterly and monthly Rpts, Ft. Brooke (1835-36), RG 94, entry 634.
28First quote, Surgeon's Quarterly Rpt, Ft. Brooke (31 Mar 1839), RG 94, entry 634; second and third quotes, Surgeon's Monthly Rpt, Ft. Brooke (30 Nov 1839), entry 634; Surgeon's Monthly Rpt, Ft. Brooke (Feb 1840), RG 94, entry 634.
29Statistical Report, 1839-55, p. 309; Surgeon's Monthly Rpt, Ft. Marion (30 Nov 1839), and Surgeon's Quarterly Rpts, Ft. Marion (Jun 1840 and Jun 1841), all in RG 94, entry 634; Rogers W. Young, "Fort Marion During the Seminole War, 1835-1842," Florida Historical Quarterly 13 (1935):205, 218.
30Statistical Report, 1819-39, pp. 293-94, quote from p. 29 1; John Bernrose, Reminiscences ofthe Second Seminole War, ed. John K. Mahon (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1966), pp. 103, 103n; John W. Churchman, "The Use of Quinine During the Civil War," Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin 17 (1906):177; Surgeon's Quarterly Rpts, Ft. King (1837-41), all in RG 94, entry 634.


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At the start of the Second Seminole War, the hospital at Fort King was located on the "declivity of a hammock about 40 yards from the barracks and officers Quarters," and was constructed of "hewn logs, chinked and plastered; one storey high, 35 feet long by 20 wide." The largest of the building's two rooms could hold as many as six patients, and the other was used as a dispensary. The entire hospital was surrounded by a piazza eight feet wide, but half of it had been recently enclosed and the facility could shelter a maximum of twenty patients. Attached to the main building was a small kitchen made of logs.31

The patient load of this facility was larger than one might expect from a garrison whose size rarely rose above 210. Volunteers, camp followers, and occasional Indians found shelter at the fort, as did the sick and wounded from smaller posts. In 1840 and 1841, patients at the Fort King post hospital suffering from repeated "attacks of disease & ... entirely broken down" were periodically sent on to the general hospital at Picolata. Although from October through March in the years 1838 through 1841, their number tended to be less than six in a quarter, from April through September, when diarrhea and malaria were common, the quarterly average might approach fifty.32

Care of the Sick and Wounded at a Temporary Fort

The problems posed by the sick and wounded at the relatively short-lived war time forts that appeared and disappeared during the course of the Second Seminole War (thirty-one in 1838-1839 alone) were greater than those at the few permanent posts. It appears that when there was a surgeon at such posts, he often managed without the services of anything resembling a hospital. Even at the major temporary posts, facilities for the sick and wounded were likely to be makeshift and less than satisfactory.

One temporary post, Fort Drane, was a base of operations for Regular Army efforts against the Seminoles until the summer of 1836, when the unhealthiness of the site, in an area of many small ponds, forced its abandonment by regular troops. A high rate of sickness characterized the garrison here from the beginning. On 28 December 1835, when 250 men left the fort for the battle of Withlacoochee, the first major engagement of the war, 100 more men were too ill to accompany them. On 31 December, six surgeons, two of them Regular Army physicians, accompanied the troops into action, leaving a hospital surgeon behind in camp with five more men, victims of malaria.33

Since caring for the 100 casualties at or near the site of the battle would have been imprudent, as soon as their wounds had been dressed, the most seriously injured were placed on stretchers made of blankets fastened to pine saplings. These litters were then suspended between two horses for the return to the relative safety of Fort Drane. Men with lesser wounds who were unable to walk were moved in springless wagons and their "shrieks told of the great anguish" their journey caused them. The convoy spent several nights on the road, and each night the able-bodied had to cut brush

31Ltr, Archer to Lovell (17 Nov 1835), RG 94, entry 634.
32Quote from Surgeon's Quarterly Rpt, Ft. King (Jun 1841), RG 94, entry 634; Surgeon's Quarterly Rpts, Ft. King (1838-41), all in RG 94, entry 634.
33Bemrose, Reminiscences, pp. 2, 4, 35-36, 40, 43, 48, 104n.


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for beds. One night six attendants went off without leave, increasing the burden on those who remained. Wounds began to stiffen as the journey progressed, so that before the sufferers reached Fort Drane, their "cries and shrieks" had become almost constant.34

The tents set up at Fort Drane to shelter the sick and wounded from the elements were scarcely better accommodations than if they had been set up in the forest. Patients lay two to a bed. Two nurses plus one attendant cared for every ten wounded while twelve cooks prepared the diet believed necessary for proper healing. As soon as the patients were settled, surgeons began to probe wounds. In recalling the five-hour ordeal, steward John Bernrose, an Englishman of some education who left a valuable account of his experiences, wrote later that "The grinding of the knife through the sound flesh edged on" his teeth. Since Indian rifles had small bores, only one wound proved fatal. One patient, however, became obsessed with a desire for vengeance and begged to be shown an Indian scalp. At last the desired treasure was brought to him, and he burst into "antics of delight ... over this small portion of flesh belonging to a poor dead Indian."35

Although the number of physicians caring for the patients at Fort Drane in the spring of 1836 appears to have been adequate (Bernrose mentions four Regular Army surgeons by name and refers to a fifth as "the pragmatical assistant surgeon"), the accommodations still were not. Of the shelters available for the sick and wounded, one tent and a lean-to shed were actually outside the protective pickets of the fort, at sites considered more healthful than those available inside. During a Seminole attack, however, musket balls pierced the walls of the tent, and surgeons had to move it to a safer location, even though it was "neither so pleasant nor so healthy." Patients in the shed, which was open along one side to both sun and rain, were "in a deplorable condition."36

As spring progressed toward summer, the rate of disease increased. Half of the 274-man garrison was sick in June, and in time a total of seven buildings within the bounds of Fort Drane were filled with patients. Conditions became deplorable for everyone. "All suffered from the malignancy of disease and the comfortless state in the fort," wrote Bernrose. "Some were filthy in the extreme, others without the necessary clothing." Insects of all sorts and descriptions joined them, undeterred by either pickets or guards. "Sand flies and mosquitoes were innumerable.... Centipedes, cockroaches, scorpions, with immense spiders, were daily tenants of the place.... The sand of the fort was full of chigoes [chiggers], and a sort of black flea. This latter was the greatest [pest] to all of us."37

Some of the men stationed at Fort Drane (where, in Bernrose's words, "the misery of soldiering was certainly very great") developed emotional problems. The ever-present fear of Indians, who "had a constant habit of prowling around our sentinels for the purpose of picking them off," the exhaustion brought on by guard duty under these circumstances, the equally constant danger of disease, the isolation, all added to the strain on the occupants of the fort in the spring and early summer of 1836.38

34Ibid., pp. 47-48, 51, 54, 57-58, quotes from pp. 54-55.
35Ibid., pp. 51, 58, 61-62, quotes from pp. 58, 61.
36Ibid., pp. 94-96, quotes from p. 95.
37Quotes from ibid., pp. 96, 103, 104n; Ltr, Weightman to Lovell (3 Jul 1836), RG 112, entry 12.
38Bemrose, Reminiscences, p. 103.


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Among those for whom the pressures became intolerable was a West Point-trained officer who escaped what he could not endure by placing the muzzle of his pistol in his mouth and pulling the trigger. He "thus blew out his brains, hurrying his soul into perdition." An enlisted man was led in from his post, shrieking "Indians, Indians," to die, raving mad, "the dread of Indians being so great upon him as to affect his brain." One of the fort's surgeons withstood the strain with difficulty. He became increasingly irritable, erupting into threats of physical violence, including an offer to "give the stupid mortals a drubbing," whenever a patient gave him the smallest difficulty. Although he survived his tour at Fort Drane, by the time he left, his depression had become so deep that "A continual dark hour seemed to be upon him. He ... passed through his multifarious cases with scarcely cognizance of his duty."39

The principal health problems at Fort Drane, however, were not mental but physical. Surgeons used great quantities of quinine daily to combat the fever that afflicted many within the fort, often causing delirium and even death. Up to five might die from it in the space of twenty-four hours; some bled from the nose in the hours immediately before their deaths. The implied ineffectiveness of quinine suggests the problem may have been typhoid fever. Among those disease killed in May was the fort's commanding officer, Col. Julius F. Heilman.40

Overcrowding exacerbated the health problems at Fort Drane in the last months before its evacuation in July 1836. In March men from volunteer and regular units that had barely escaped annihilationat the hands of the Seminoles in the course of a brief and unfortunate campaign arrived, all in poor condition, half starved, some barely able to stand, many sick or wounded. By the middle of that month, over 3,000 shared the protection of the post. The expansion of the fort in April and the repeated evacution of patients whose prompt recovery could not be expected alleviated some of the crowding. But for those leaving the fort, danger waited. In June a convoy of the sick and wounded was twice attacked, ten to twelve were wounded and two killed. The surgeon accompanying the group was wounded .41

An Army Surgeon in the Field

A majority of the Medical Department's surgeons in Florida during the Second Seminole War worked without the advantages offered by general and permanent post hospitals. Many moved about repeatedly from temporary forts to even more temporary camps that rarely had facilities of any kind in which patients could be segregated from their healthy comrades and kept both comfortable and safe. In Florida the surgeon's

post was always that of danger too; during winter, in the field sharing alike with all his brother officers their fatigues, privations, and perils. In summer, while his fellow campaigners were resting from their past toils and dangers, in anticipation of new ones the coming winter... he was pressing the pulse of languid sickness, and breathing the pestiferous exhalations of crowded hospitals in some unhealthy "Ultima Thule" of the wilderness. He had but one consolation; the consciousness of doing good.42

39Ibid., pp. 93-94, 102-03, quotes from pp.93, 94, 102.
40Ibid., pp. 94, 96-99.
41 Ibid., pp. 77-78, 83, 96-97, 99, 103-04; Ltr, Hawkins to Lovell (27 Jul 1836), RG 112, entry 12.
42Motte, Journey, pp. 106-08. Unless otherwise indicated, all material concerning Motte's work in Florida is based on this work.


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Assistant Surgeon Jacob Rhett Motte's experiences and peregrinations in the Southeast from 1836 to 1838 suggest the nature of the challenge faced by the Army surgeon assigned to that part of the country during the Second Seminole War. Motte was at Fort Mitchell, Alabama, in the early summer of 1836. In July he was sent to Tuskegee to care for the men of an artillery battalion. Scarcely had he arrived there, however, when he was ordered to a camp fifteen miles from Tuskegee to cover for Surgeon Elwes, who was once again ill. Here Motte treated the victims of what he called typhoid fever as well as sufferers from dysentery. In September he was ordered to join an artillery unit on its way to Fort Mitchell where forces were gathering to join the fight against the Seminoles. Here he encountered Lawson, who as medical director for the Army in the South promptly ordered Motte to accompany units going to the southern counties of Georgia, "a low, swampy part of the country ... [with] the worst possible reputation for health."43

On the way to his new assignment, Motte came down with fever. When he finally became too ill to ride his horse, he was placed in a wagon whose "thick covering," he later recalled, "afforded my burning brain no protection against the heat of the vertical sun in this latitude ... the constant jolting over rugged roads and roots of trees was fast driving me into a dreadful tempest of delirium." At last he could go no further. The convoy left him at a log house ten miles from the Florida border, to be cared for by its owner. By the end of October he had recovered sufficiently to rejoin his unit in Lowndes County, Georgia, and to camp with them in a pine barren, at Camp Townshend, Georgia.44

Camp Townshend appears to have made a strong impression upon Motte; although he did not remain there long, he described it in lively detail in his memoirs. The scenery consisted of "burned and decaying trees, pig-pens, pine-flats, and log-huts." By day he enjoyed watching "the little tadpoles and polywogs as they frisked and frolicked in the muddy pools." At night his "attentive neighbours the screech-owls and whooping cranes would commence entertaining us in the most delicate manner, at the expense of their melodious voices. These flattering attentions, however, were not properly appreciated by us, owing no doubt to our not possessing a correct taste for music." The nightly forays of the pigs of the area, however, particularly appealed to Motte's dry sense of humor.

In their comings they displayed the wisdom of Solomon. Not a snout was visible before tatoo (tattoo) (sic]; but as soon as that signal for an exit into retiracy was completed, on they came, grunting, snorting, and squeaking, -old boars, little pigs, and all; forming a concert of sweet sounds.... Their serenades were met on our part with base ingratitude; by the shade of Mozart! instead of listening to their dulcet tones with marked applause, and inviting them to partake of refreshments after such exertions, as is usual among a refined and serenaded people, we impolitely and ungratefully gave the sentinels peremptory orders to expel them at the point of the bayonet .45

For several months after his stay at Camp Townshend, Motte accompanied expeditions seeking out Creek troublemakers in southern Georgia and northern Florida. In May 1837 he briefly came to rest at the town of Newnansville, Florida. His enjoy-

    43Ibid., p.34
    44Ibid., p. 40.
    45Ibid., p. 44.


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ment of the fine airs affected by the populace of this town was not to last long, however, for in June he was ordered to Fort Mellon, Florida, to replace yet another sick surgeon, but the health of the men at Fort Mellon was so bad that he could see no alternative to its abandonment, which took place a week after his arrival there. So Motte was once more on the move but before he could reach his destination at St. Augustine, he was again sick. Leaving the boat that was taking the men from Fort Mellon north, down the St. Johns River, Motte recuperated for a week on shore before resuming his journey. When he finally did arrive at St. Augustine, he was immediately given orders for Fort Harlee, where the surgeon had fallen ill. In August, when he left Fort Harlee, Motte was sent to Fort Peyton, near St. Augustine.

In September, an expedition was formed to capture some of the Indians near Fort Peyton, and Motte was assigned to accompany the 170-man detachment, which included two dragoon companies, an artillery company, and two companies of Florida volunteers. No casualties resulted from this operation, but a second shortly thereafter resulted in the death of an officer. By the time a third such foray was undertaken, Motte was once again sick, and another assistant surgeon at the post took his place with the men.

In November Motte accompanied a detachment going south on U.S. Navy vessels to New Smyrna, on the east coast. While on the journey, Motte served as fleet surgeon for the crews of ten to twelve "Mackinac boats" and a sloop-rigged flagship. In January 1838 he was again moving south, this time to Fort Pierce, located on the west bank of the Indian River, with a dense palmetto forest at its back. When an expedition was sent up the Indian River shortly after his arrival, Motte was left behind. He was not idle, however, for twenty-two wounded from a combined Army-Navy expedition were brought in and he joined the dragoon surgeon at the post in caring for them.46

In late January, since the dragoon surgeon was still exhausted from the long march from Missouri's Jefferson Barracks, Motte accompanied the cavalry into the field. He was present at a skirmish with the Seminoles on the shores of the Loxahatchee River in which Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Jesup, then in command of the army in Florida, was wounded in the face. Seven men were killed in this engagement and thirty wounded. The casualties were carried

to the foot of a spreading oak, beneath whose widely-flung branches were strewn a score of dead and dying. There before us lay death in his most horrible forms; bodies pierced with ghastly wounds, and locks begrimed with gore. In one direction, leaning against a tree, there reclined a soldier of the Artillery; his face pale, and o'erspread with an expression of anguish; one hand pressed to his side, from which the blood slowly oozed. In another direction lay stretched upon the ground, with face turned upwards, and glazed eyes wide open, one whose marble cheek too plainly told that the rifle ball which had entered his temple had truly done its mission; ... In one spot sat a party of wounded upon the ground, a surgeon binding up their bleeding wounds, with hasty but skilful hands; a little farther off, reclined one upon a cloak; his closed eyes, and calm smiling expression of features like that of a sleeping man, indicated an exemption from pain; true, his sufferings were over; he had gone to that place where physical pain is unknown .47

After the battle, Motte apparently returned to Fort Pierce with the wounded, but the rest of the force pushed southward

    46Ibid., p. 155.
    471bid., p. 197.


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to establish Fort Jupiter in "a most hideous region, in which nothing but serpents and frogs can exist. The Indians themselves say they cannot live there after March." In February, however, Motte was also on his way to Fort Jupiter. He felt ill even before starting out but remained silent for fear that he would be left behind. Before long he again found himself suffering the tortures of travel in an Army ambulance wagon. When he reached the new post on 11 February 1838, he was forced to take to his bed, one that consisted of a single "blanket beneath separating me from the bare ground, my saddle for a pillow to my aching head," with nothing "but a thin and threadbare old tent, of the smallest dimension to protect me from the maddening rays of the sun above ."48

After two weeks of suffering, Motte was on the way to recovery and by the end of March was able to join a fifty-man dragoon detachment moving further south in an attempt to capture the Seminole chief known as Abiaka or Sam Jones. The men on this expedition reached Fort Lauderdale in April. Joined there by several companies from the artillery regiment, they proceeded by boat to Key Biscayne.

For several weeks the search for Abiaka continued, both among the islands and on the mainland at its southern tip. At last, however, Motte had found a part of Florida that appealed to him. One camp was located, for example, in an area that could, in Motte's opinion,

with very little trouble be converted into a perfect Eden. The cocoanut, the banana, the orange, the lime, and tamarind flourished around us, the spontaneous growth of the soil. Swarms of deer abounded in the forests close by; and most delicious spring water flowed from the rock under the bluff of the shore. This was indeed the land of flowers, and no wonder that the Seminoles desired to remain in a country where food was as plentiful, and as easily procured as manna by the Israelites.49

By the end of the month the food supply was running out, and the expedition's leaders were considering abandoning the search. One company of artillerymen was sent back to Tampa Bay while the dragoons and a regiment of artillerymen remained for one last search. Although this attempt to capture Abiaka also failed, the Army mistakenly believed the war to be drawing to an end at this time and several regiments were ordered north to Cherokee territory. Motte accompanied the 1st Artillery regiment on its journey to St. Augustine and thence to Charleston, South Carolina. On 16 May 1838, a joyous Motte arrived safely at Charleston, the town of his birth.

Motte was, of course, but one of many surgeons the Medical Department sent to Florida in the period 1835 to 1842. By June 1842, however, Colonel Worth's relentless campaign was obviously bearing fruit, and by August the war would be officially over. Most of the twenty-six surgeons still in Florida in June were soon reassigned to other parts of the country, since only two regiments were required to watch over the less than 300 Seminoles who remained east of the Mississippi.50

48First quote, Ltr, from an Army officer at Jupiter Inlet (Jan 1838), in Theodore Francis Rodenbough and William L. Haskin, The Army of the United States: Historical Studies of Staff and Line (1896. Reprint, New York: Argonaut Press for University Microfilms, 1966), p. 30; second quote, Motte, Journey, p. 206.
49Ibid., p. 229.
50Ltrs, Benj. King to Martin (14 Apr 1838) and Heiskell to Jones (2 5 Jun 1842), both in RG 112, entry 2, 9:214 and 13:434-35, respectively; Prucha, Sword, p. 300.


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Conclusion

The basic problems the Medical Department had encountered in the Southeast during the period from late 1835 to the summer of 1842 originated in factors beyond its control. The nature of the conflict, which involved many small units frequently on the move and often isolated in primitive terrain, and the climate, which favored the development of both fevers and diseases of the digestive system, placed demands upon the small medical staff that it could not completely meet, especially when surgeons themselves were falling ill again and again.51

In spite of the stress that the Second Seminole War placed on the Medical Department, the confusion, the feuds, the shortages, and the serious inadequacies that had haunted both the Continental Army's Hospital Department during the American Revolution and the short-lived U.S. Army Medical Department during the War of 1812 did not reappear. The permanent but flexible nature of the Medical Department's organization made it possible to assign and quickly reassign all surgeons and to establish without delay or difficulty a chain of command that eliminated serious conflicts of authority and permitted swift reactions to changing needs and circumstances. Although some surgeons sought excuses to avoid service in Florida, most, as career military surgeons, accepted Lawson's insistence upon discipline. Their caliber was such that few, if any, major complaints arose about their professional abilities or their devotion to duty while in Florida. The requirement for a strict accounting of the use of supplies and medicines together with systematic planning for their future use prevented the development of significant shortages, despite the fact that medicines and stores often had to be moved over long distances and the needs of individual posts could not always be precisely predicted.

Even in the hands of others, the Medical Department created by Lovell functioned well. Medical science was still unable to deal effectively with the diseases that afflicted armies in hot climates, but the department's success as an organization during the course of the Second Seminole War justified the faith of those who had supported its establishment as a permanent staff department and had favored the appointment of the young Lovell as its first surgeon general.

51Even in World War II, after weeks of treatment with sizable doses of either quinine or Atabrine, 30 to more than 80 percent of the victims of Plasmodium vivax suffered the relapses characteristic of chronic malaria within four months of the end of the course of medication: W. Paul Havens, Jr., ed., Infectious Diseases, vol. 2 of Internal Medicine in World War Il (Washington: Office of the Surgeon General, Department of the Army, 1963), pp. 513-14, 532, 534, 568-69, 583-84, 590.