Monday, February 23, 2009

Burial Place of Captain Billy Bowlegs, Union officer


Florida's connection with the modern state of Oklahoma is undeniable but often overlooked.

Hundreds of Seminole warriors and their families were forced west a gunpoint during the Second Seminole War, most making the long journey from Florida to the Indian Territory that is now Oklahoma by water. There they settled in the "new" Seminole Nation, a section of territory reserved for them by the U.S. Government.

Many of these individuals went on to fight again less than 20 years later when the so-called "Five Civilized Tribes" (the Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws and Seminoles) splintered upon the outbreak of the War Between the States. Some fought for the Confederacy and others for the Union.

Among the well-known names of men enlisting to fight for the Union was a Seminole chief named Billy Bowlegs. Not the famed Bowlegs of the Second and Third Seminole Wars, who had died in 1859, this individual had adopted his name and may have been a relative.

He was commissioned as the captain of Company H, 1st Indian Home Guards, a Federal regiment raised in Kansas that included many Unionist refugees from the Seminole and Creek Nations. In this capacity, Captain Bowlegs earned fame in his own right, fighting on battlefields across the west in the cause of the country that had driven his people from Florida.

He is buried now at Fort Gibson National Cemetery in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, along with more than 19,000 other Americans who served their country. To learn more about this cemetery of the western frontier, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortgibson1.

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