Jacob Hangstrom


In the summer of 1839, after four years of inconclusive military campaigns, the army's adjutant in Washington asked Zachary Taylor why his troops had not yet removed all of the Seminoles from Florida. One of Taylor's opponents, Coacoochee, turned to nature as well to explain his ultimate failure to remain in Florida. Coacoochee's followers were among the last of about four thousand Seminoles to depart the peninsula for Indian Country in the west. The Indigenous resistance leader, sometimes known as Wild Cat, explained the reason for his surrender with reference to the densely wooded "hammocks" that dotted the Florida landscape. He said, "The white men are as thick as the leaves in the hammock; they come upon us thicker every year." Taylor and Coacoochee were not alone in their analyses. Nearly every Seminole War veteran turned to problems with Florida's environment when they sought to explain military events there. Soldiers harped on choking vegetation, oppressive heat, and the prevalence of disease. Observers often summarized these elements with the phrase "the nature of their country."

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