A group picture of the Seminole Scouts.
Courtesy Whitehead Museum
The Seminole Indians lived in Florida swamplands and welcomed escaped slaves. The escaped slaves, called Maroons, combined African traditions with Native American lifeways. They joined the Seminole Confederation in 1812, but by 1841 almost all Seminoles had been forced to move to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. An 1845 treaty required the Creek Nation to share land there with the Seminoles, but the slaveholding Creeks proclaimed that no enclaves of freed blacks or Seminole Maroons would be allowed to live in the Creek Nation or to bear arms. Seminole leader Wild Cat and Maroon Leader John Horse brought their people to Mexico in 1849, protecting the Mexican border against hostile Indians in exchange for land, provisions, weapons, and ammunition. After the Seminole Nation was created in 1856 and Wild Cat died of smallpox in 1857, many Seminole Indians left their settlement at Nacimiento, Mexico for Indian Territory. The Seminole Maroons stayed in Mexico, fearful of being returned to slavery if they entered the United States. The end of the Civil War in 1865 put an end to slavery and refocused the attention of the U.S. Army on securing the western frontier. In 1870, the Army began recruiting Seminole Maroons, creating the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts. They were stationed at Fort Duncan in Eagle Pass and at Fort Clark in Brackettville. Their first permanent commander was Lt. John Latham Bullis, a white Quaker from New York State who had been an officer in the 118th U.S. Colored Infantry during the Civil War. The scouts saw most of their action under Bullis, who recognized their exceptional toughness, skill, and character. The graves of all four Congressional Medal of Honor recipient scouts are in the Seminole Negro Indian Scout Cemetery, west of Fort Clark on FM 3348, 3.1 miles south of Highway 90.