C. S. Monaco


On a spring evening in 1841, Major Ethan A. Hitchcock (1798-1870), mindful of the rare privilege of spending a night alone in a "small neat house" overlooking Tampa bay, rather than encamped in the East Florida wilderness, opened a trunk containing his flute and some sheet music and proceeded to play a few pieces. Pausing for a moment, he put his instrument down and walked over to an open window where he "sat in the light of the moon." As the air blew gently, Hitchcock was overcome by a rush of feeling. "I could haye wept," he confided to his diary, "but for no immediate cause, not even the definite memory of one-but I felt in the midst of an eternity passing on forever & forever." Such an epiphany was not uncommon for this deeply philosophical and influential officer; worldly strife and "the contemplation of Nations at War" often became inconsequential and even "pitiable" by comparison.1 Hitchcock's probing intellect was acutely manifested in his diary entries, spanning fifty years of army life. This valuable resource has mostly gone unnoticed in regard to the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), or "the Florida war" as it was known, but is nevertheless rife with significant historical details as well as more commonplace impressions.