Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

husband had actually shot Broderick, inflicting a wound which

proved mortal. The law and army regulations required that the man

should be sent to the nearest civil court, which was at St.

Augustine; accordingly, the prisoner and necessary witnesses were

sent up by the next monthly steamer. Among the latter were

lieutenant Taylor and the pilot Ashlock.

After they had been gone about a month, the sentinel on the roof-

top of our quarters reported the smoke of a steamer approaching the

bar, and, as I was acting quartermaster, I took a boat and pulled

down to get the mail. I reached the log-but in which the pilots

lived, and saw them start with their boat across the bar, board the

steamer, and then return. Aahlock was at his old post at the

steering-oar, with two ladies, who soon came to the landing, having

passed through a very heavy surf, and I was presented to one as

Mrs. Ashlock, and the other as her sister, a very pretty little

Minorcan girl of about fourteen years of age. Mrs. Ashlock herself

was probably eighteen or twenty years old, and a very handsome

woman. I was hurriedly informed that the murder trial was in

progress at St. Augustine; that Ashlock had given his testimony,

and had availed himself of the chance to take a wife to share with

him the solitude of his desolate hut on the beach at Indian River.

He had brought ashore his wife, her sister, and their chests, with

the mail, and had orders to return immediately to the steamer

(Gaston or Harney) to bring ashore some soldiers belonging to

another company, E (Braggs), which had been ordered from St.

Augustine to Fort Pierce. Ashlock left his wife and her sister

standing on the beach near the pilot-hut, and started back with his

whale-boat across the bar. I also took the mail and started up to

the fort, and had hardly reached the wharf when I observed another

boat following me. As soon as this reached the wharf the men

reported that Ashlock and all his crew, with the exception of one

man, had been drowned a few minutes after I had left the beach.

They said his surf-boat had reached the steamer, had taken on board

a load of soldiers, some eight or ten, and had started back through

the surf, when on the bar a heavy breaker upset the boat, and all

were lost except the boy who pulled the bow-oar, who clung to the

rope or painter, hauled himself to the upset boat, held on, drifted

with it outside the breakers, and was finally beached near a mile

down the coast. They reported also that the steamer had got up

anchor, run in as close to the bar as she could, paused awhile, and

then had started down the coast.

I instantly took a fresh crew of soldiers and returned to the bar;

there sat poor Mrs. Ashlock on her chest of clothes, a weeping

widow, who had seen her husband perish amid sharks and waves; she

clung to the hope that the steamer had picked him up, but, strange

to say, he could not swim, although he had been employed on the

water all his life. 

Her sister was more demonstrative, and wailed as one lost to all

hope and life. She appealed to us all to do miracles to save the

struggling men in the waves, though two hours had already passed,

and to have gone out then among those heavy breakers, with an

inexperienced crew, would have been worse than suicide. All I

could do was to reorganize the guard at the beach, take the two

desolate females up to the fort, and give them the use of my own

quarters. Very soon their anguish was quieted, and they began to

look, for the return of their steamer with Ashlock and his rescued

crew. The next day I went again to the beach with Lieutenant Ord,

and we found that one or two bodies had been washed ashore, torn

all to pieces by the sharks, which literally swarmed the inlet at

every new tide. In a few days the weather moderated, and the

steamer returned from the south, but the surf was so high that she

anchored a mile off. I went out myself, in the whale or surf boat,

over that terrible bar with a crew of, soldiers, boarded the

steamer, and learned that none other of Ashlock's crew except the

one before mentioned had been saved; but, on the contrary, the

captain of the steamer had sent one of his own boats to their

rescue, which was likewise upset in the surf, and, out of the three

men in her, one had drifted back outside the breakers, clinging to

the upturned boat, and was picked up. This sad and fatal

catastrophe made us all afraid of that bar, and in returning to the

shore I adopted the more prudent course of beaching the boat below

the inlet, which insured us a good ducking, but was attended with

less risk to life.

I had to return to the fort and bear to Mrs. Ashlock the absolute

truth, that her husband was lost forever.

Meantime her sister had entirely recovered her equilibrium, and

being the guest of the officers, who were extremely courteous to

her, she did not lament so loudly the calamity that saved them a

long life of banishment on the beach of Indian River. By the first

opportunity they were sent back to St. Augustine, the possessors of

all of Ashlock's worldly goods and effects, consisting of a good

rifle, several cast-nets, hand-lines, etc., etc., besides some

three hundred dollars in money, which was due him by the

quartermaster for his services as pilot. I afterward saw these

ladies at St. Augustine, and years afterward the younger one came

to Charleston, South Carolina, the wife of the somewhat famous

Captain Thistle, agent for the United States for live-oak in

Florida, who was noted as the first of the troublesome class of

inventors of modern artillery. He was the inventor of a gun that

"did not recoil at all," or "if anything it recoiled a little

forward."

One day, in the summer of 1841, the sentinel on the housetop at

Fort Pierce called out, "Indians! Indians!" Everybody sprang to

his gun, the companies formed promptly on the parade-ground, and

soon were reported as approaching the post, from the pine-woods in

rear, four Indians on horseback. They rode straight up to the

gateway, dismounted, and came in. They were conducted by the

officer of the day to the commanding officer, Major Childs, who sat

on the porch in front of his own room. After the usual pause, one

of them, a black man named Joe, who spoke English, said they had

been sent in by Coacoochee (Wild Cat), one of the most noted of the

Seminole chiefs, to see the big chief of the post. He gradually

unwrapped a piece of paper, which was passed over to Major Childs,

who read it, and it was in the nature of a "Safe Guard" for "Wild

Cat" to come into Fort Pierce to receive provisions and assistance

while collecting his tribe, with the purpose of emigrating to their

reservation west of Arkansas. The paper was signed by General

Worth, who had succeeded General Taylor, at Tampa Bay, in command

of all the troops in Florida. Major Childs inquired, "Where is

Coacoochee?" and was answered, "Close by," when Joe explained that

he had been sent in by his chief to see if the paper was all right.

Major Childs said it was "all right," and that Coacoochee ought to

come in himself. Joe offered to go out and bring him in, when

Major Childs ordered me to take eight or ten mounted men and go out

to escort him in. Detailing ten men to saddle up, and taking Joe

and one Indian boy along on their own ponies, I started out under

their guidance.

We continued to ride five or six miles, when I began to suspect

treachery, of which I had heard so much in former years, and had

been specially cautioned against by the older officers; but Joe

always answered, "Only a little way." At last we approached one

of those close hammocks, so well known in Florida, standing like an

island in the interminable pine-forest, with a pond of water near

it. On its edge I noticed a few Indians loitering, which Joe

pointed out as the place. Apprehensive of treachery, I halted the

guard, gave orders to the sergeant to watch me closely, and rode

forward alone with the two Indian guides. As we neared the

hammock, about a dozen Indian warriors rose up and waited for us.

When in their midst I inquired for the chief, Coacoochee. He

approached my horse and, slapping his breast, said, "Me

Coacoochee." He was a very handsome young Indian warrior, not more

than twenty-five years old, but in his then dress could hardly be

distinguished from the rest. I then explained to him, through Joe,

that I had been sent by my "chief" to escort him into the fort. He

wanted me to get down and "talk" I told him that I had no "talk" in

me, but that, on his reaching the post, he could talk as much as he

pleased with the "big chief," Major Childs. They all seemed to be

indifferent, and in no hurry; and I noticed that all their guns

were leaning against a tree. I beckoned to the sergeant, who

advanced rapidly with his escort, and told him to secure the

rifles, which he proceeded to do. Coacoochee pretended to be very

angry, but I explained to him that his warriors were tired and mine

were not, and that the soldiers would carry the guns on their

horses. I told him I would provide him a horse to ride, and the

sooner he was ready the better for all. He then stripped, washed

himself in the pond, and began to dress in all his Indian finery,

which consisted of buckskin leggins, moccasins, and several shirts.

He then began to put on vests, one after another, and one of them

had the marks of a bullet, just above the pocket, with the stain of

blood. In the pocket was a one-dollar Tallahassee Bank note, and

the rascal had the impudence to ask me to give him silver coin for

that dollar. He had evidently killed the wearer, and was

disappointed because the pocket contained a paper dollar instead of

one in silver. In due time he was dressed with turban and

ostrich-feathers, and mounted the horse reserved for him, and thus

we rode back together to Fort Pierce. Major Childs and all the

officers received him on the porch, and there we had a regular

"talk." Coacoochee "was tired of the war." "His people were

scattered and it would take a 'moon' to collect them for

emigration," and he "wanted rations for that time," etc., etc.

All this was agreed to, and a month was allowed for him to get

ready with his whole band (numbering some one hundred and fifty or

one hundred and sixty) to migrate. The "talk" then ceased, and

Coacoochee and his envoys proceeded to get regularly drunk, which

was easily done by the agency of commissary whiskey. They staid at

Fort Pierce daring the night, and the next day departed. Several

times during the month there came into the post two or more of

these same Indians, always to beg for something to eat or drink,

and after a full month Coacoochee and about twenty of his warriors

came in with several ponies, but with none of their women or

children. Major Childs had not from the beginning the least faith

in his sincerity; had made up his mind to seize the whole party and

compel them to emigrate. He arranged for the usual council, and

instructed Lieutenant Taylor to invite Coacoochee and his uncle

(who was held to be a principal chief) to his room to take some

good brandy, instead of the common commissary whiskey. At a signal

agreed on I was to go to the quarters of Company A, to dispatch the

first-sergeant and another man to Lieutenant Taylor's room, there

to seize the two chiefs and secure them; and with the company I was

to enter Major Childs's room and secure the remainder of the party.

Meantime Lieutenant Van Vliet was ordered to go to the quarters of

his company, F, and at the same signal to march rapidly to the rear

of the officers' quarters, so as to catch any who might attempt to

escape by the open windows to the rear.

All resulted exactly as prearranged, and in a few minutes the whole

party was in irons. At first they claimed that we had acted

treacherously, but very soon they admitted that for a month

Coacoochee had been quietly removing his women and children toward

Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades; and that this visit to our post

was to have been their last. It so happened that almost at the

instant of our seizing these Indians a vessel arrived off the bar

with reenforcements from St. Augustine. These were brought up to

Fort Pierce, and we marched that night and next day rapidly, some

fifty miles, to Lake Okeechobee, in hopes to capture the balance of

the tribe, especially the families, but they had taken the alarm

and escaped. Coacoochee and his warriors were sent by Major Childs

in a schooner to New Orleans en route to their reservation, but

General Worth recalled them to Tampa Bay, and by sending out

Coacoochee himself the women and children came in voluntarily, and

then all were shipped to their destination. This was a heavy loss

to the Seminoles, but there still remained in the Peninsula a few

hundred warriors with their families scattered into very small

parcels, who were concealed in the most inaccessible hammocks and

swamps. These had no difficulty in finding plenty of food anywhere

and everywhere. Deer and wild turkey were abundant, and as for

fish there was no end to them. Indeed, Florida was the Indian's

paradise, was of little value to us, and it was a great pity to

remove the Seminoles at all, for we could have collected there all

the Choctaws, Creeks, Cherokees, and Chickasaws, in addition to the

Seminoles. They would have thrived in the Peninsula, whereas they

now occupy lands that are very valuable, which are coveted by their

white neighbors on all sides, while the Peninsula, of Florida still

remains with a population less than should make a good State.

During that and preceding years General W. S. Harney had penetrated

and crossed through the Everglades, capturing and hanging Chekika

and his band, and had brought in many prisoners, who were also

shipped West. We at Fort Pierce made several other excursions to

Jupiter, Lake Worth, Lauderdale, and into the Everglades, picking

up here and there a family, so that it was absurd any longer to

call it a "war." These excursions, however, possessed to us a

peculiar charm, for the fragrance of the air, the abundance of game

and fish, and just enough of adventure, gave to life a relish. I

had just returned to Lauderdale from one of these scouts with

Lieutenants Rankin, Ord, George H. Thomas, Field, Van Vliet, and

others, when I received notice of my promotion to be first

lieutenant of Company G, which occurred November 30, 1841, and I

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 | View All | Next -»