Fake Seminoles in the Confederate Army (1864)

by Christopher Kimball

This interesting list from the Civil War came to my attention while researching the Florida Militia cards in the genealogy section of the library.  A friend was asking about possible Florida Seminole involvement in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy.  This information is on microfilm, copied from the original individual enlistment cards, and also printed in "Biographical Rosters of Florida's Confederate and Union Soldiers 1861-1865, Volume V" by David W. Hartman and David Coles.

What I found was, "Captain McBride's Company (Indians), Florida, (Confederate.)" This is a company that Captain McBride supposedly recruited for service to the Confederacy. All of the enlistment cards are signed by J.W. Wilkinson as "copyist." On each card is printed, "We the undersigned, respectfully volunteer and tender our services to the Confederate States of America, begging to be immediately admitted into their armies, having chosen A. McBride for our Captain. Dated Everglades, Fla., July 7, 1864."

Captain A. McBride is listed in "Biographical Rosters" as born in 1808, and "served in the Indian Wars under General Andrew Jackson." If this is true, he would have only been 10 years old when Jackson came to Florida in the First Seminole War. After Jackson served as Florida Territorial Governor in 1821, he returned home to Tennessee, and then went into politics. It is unlikely that McBride could have ever served under Jackson.

This roster of names is most likely fabricated, because many are not names that we see the Florida Indians use, many even quite comical. I do not know of any other examples where Seminole use name like Banana, Corn Stalk, Dry Eye, Fat Arms, or Thin Legs. No common Seminole or Muskogee names are used, like other lists from "friendly" Indian units who served on the side of the United States during the 2nd Seminole War.

The enlistment cards state that the names are taken from a list. A single list as opposed to separate rosters or enlistment papers. I would say that this entire unit was fabricated by the commanding officers to get themselves a paid commission out of the state government before the war ended. Most all of the names appear to be imagined around the campfire at night with a cheap bottle of whiskey. (There are some Anglo names on the list that are probably real people; part of the forgery.) It is also unlikely that any white man could have convinced this many Seminoles to gather at one location after fighting against them for the last several decades. After the last group of Florida Seminoles were taken to the western territories five years earlier, this many warriors could not even be found in Florida. What we do know of the Florida Seminoles in the Civil War is that they were very careful not to get involved.

These enlistment cards are signed in 1864. By then the war was not going very well for the Confederacy, and there would not be too many more battles that could have called this unit into action. If they did, the Captain could easily say that he could not reach the Seminoles in the Everglades in time for the battle, or that the Indians decided to flee instead of fight.

Another piece of evidence not considered before that would make this enlistment highly unlikely is the time of year. The recent new moon would have been three days before on July 4, 1864. That would have been the first new moon after the summer solstice, and very likely the time of the Green Corn Dance involving all of the remaining Seminole community. I can imagine that during this time, most Seminoles would not want any involvement with the white man. And none of the Seminoles in this muster would have cut short their important community ceremonies, to travel a few days to meet some white guy they just finished fighting against a few years ago.

Names on the enlistment cards:

Captain A. McBride

Banana Bud
Big Dark
Big Stream
Big Watchie
Big Wave
Black Dog
Black Feet
Bounding Buck
Nick Bowings
Neal Briles
James Buckeye
Hector Carston
Hector Costard
Cotton Stalk
Dark River
Deep Sky
Bill Drover
Ostar Drung
Dry Eye
Jim Dukes
Fat Arms
Richard Gourd
Gray Woods
Green Pine
Harsh Water
Hassy Ossy
Joe Hatch
Jake Hundreds
Land Drum
Little Boaster
Little Hatchie
Smith Locker
Rice Mallitch
(?) Marston
Miles Marston
Nick Minsing
New Snaps
Sandy Nickols
Oak Tree
Oscar William
Mola Puly
Red Eye
Jones Richard
Short Legs
Skipping Deer
Small Eye
Joseph Starkison
Henry Starns
Sweet Airs
Thin Legs
Josep Tree
White Hawk
White Nails
Henry white Oak
Yellow Orange

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(c) 1998, 2002 Chris Kimball
Note: None of this material can be reproduced without written permission from the author.