This thesis argues that Florida's natural environment was one of the United States Army's most formidable enemies during the Second Seminole War (1835–42), and that environmental factors, more than hostilities from Native peoples themselves, led the United States to abandon the War. Many White soldiers from the North were unprepared to cope with the environmental challenges posed by Florida. In order to build a foundation for this argument, the thesis examines how previous newcomers to Florida dealt with the environment, from the original First Peoples who arrived several thousand years ago, to European explorer/colonizers, to White Americans in the decades preceding the Seminole conflicts. After establishing some basic history and context for the War, the thesis then turns to examples of naive Romantic illusions that some soldiers carried into the War, which made them even more mentally unprepared. This Romantic outlook amplified the disillusionment, dread, and loss of morale among soldiers from the ground up. By examining letters, speeches, reports, and editorials from various Senators, Congressmen, Presidents, Generals, and journalists, the thesis demonstrates that the natural environment, including its inherent diseases, caused far more damage to the Army than the Seminoles did. Conversely, the very same obstacles of heat and water that plagued the Army were used advantageously by the Seminoles. Using new data that has been compiled by researchers in the Veterans Legacy Program, this thesis shows the true depth and consequences of the environmental challenges of the War in ways that have eluded previous historians. Data previously obtainable only through meticulous reading can now be absorbed visually, allowing researchers to juxtapose ideas in new ways. This data allows scholars to "see" the true scope of the environmental impact upon the troops, including the impacts of disease. Though some historians, most notably John T. Mahon and C.S. Monaco, have mentioned Florida's natural environment as a factor in the Seminole Wars, no prominent historian has submitted a lengthy, extended analysis of this idea. That is what I hope to add to the conversation.
Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Brown, Nicholas, "Death in the Land of Flowers: Environment as Enemy in the Second Seminole War" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 333.