One of the worst military posts to be stationed at was Fort Denaud on the Caloosahatchee River. The post was named after a Frenchman who traded with the Seminoles in the same area. It was first established around 1837 or 1838, and only consisted of a storehouse with no pickets. It was reestablished in 1855, but closed after only four months because of bad living conditions. The troops moved to Camp Daniels near Fort Myers until the weather cooled down. In February 1857, Fort Denaud was reestablished at a more healthy location two miles away.
From the beginning, living conditions were very primitive, and the only quarters were a few thatched huts. Military troops were kept in a constant state of drill and detail to keep them occupied. Indian attacks were a constant danger; once the cook was shot while gathering vegetables in the garden.
At the fort, mosquitoes and flies made living conditions almost intolerable, and sickness was rampant. At least six fires of pine logs were constantly burning inside the fort to keep the insects away. Wood cutting details had to constantly collect wood and were always in danger of being attacked by Seminoles. One ambush saw five soldiers killed.
Fort Thompson was on the south side of the Caloosahatchee, established on November 23, 1854. It was abandoned in January 1855 because of flooding from the river.
Other Seminole War forts: Fort Simmons and Fort T.B. Adams
In December 1855 the Third Seminole War was started, probably near what is today Graham Marsh.
First Lieutenant George L. Hartsuff took 10 soldiers from Fort Myers on a survey exhibition into the Big Cypress Swamp in early December. On December 18, 1855, they found the village of Chief Billy Bowlegs, nephew of Chief Micanopy of the Wind Clan. The camp was empty, and the Seminoles did not want to confront the soldiers. Accounts are unclear what happened, but it is believed that the soldiers destroyed the chief's garden with some prize-winning vegetables. One story is that Bowlegs went to complain to Hartsuff, but was taunted and laughed out of camp.
The next morning, about 40 warriors under Billy Bowleg's command attacked the soldier's camp. At least four soldiers were killed, and Hartsuff himself was wounded in three places and had to hide in the muddy swamp until the Seminoles were gone. Only three soldiers escaped unhurt, and the survivors were able to make it back to Fort Myers. George Hartsuff recovered and played a major part during the Civil War, but his death in 1874 was related to a chest wound he received during this battle. The Army and Florida Militia called up soldiers, and the Third Seminole War had begun.
Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum (Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation)
This museum contains the largest collection on display of Seminole clothing. For a long time in Florida, there were very few museums that had a large clothing collection from Florida Seminoles, much less a complete man or woman's outfit. It was not until the 1980's that there were very many museums that were even interested in Florida Seminoles. So it was with well-deserved fanfare that this museum opened on the 40th Anniversary of the modern Florida Seminole Tribe. (Modern tribal government was established in 1957.)
Most of the clothing is based around what the Seminoles wore in the year 1900. This was a time of transition, when the Seminoles were still living their traditional life and kept to the old ways of living. Besides the clothing, there are many artifacts of everyday life. The display and tools for making bread from the cootie root are very interesting. There are also interactive multi-media presentations. It also includes a traditional Seminole village with a mile long boardwalk, and resource library. There are even seminar rooms available.
Billie Swamp Safari (Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation)
A modern tourist resort in the Big Cypress Reservation. The "Swamp Water Cafe" features a wide variety of traditional or contemporary cooking for all meals. Guided tours in all-terrain vehicles or airboats are offered. You can sleep in one of chickees that are screened in to keep the critters out at night. (Panthers have been known to walk the grounds at night.) (Restrooms in separate buildings.) Hunting exhibitions are offered to hunt wild boar and other game animals maintained by the Seminoles.