Palm Beach County

Big Mound City was one of the finest examples of a Calusa ceremony complex (inhabited from 300 B.C. to 1600 A.D.) built in the Everglades. It was a very complex series of mounds, with connecting earthworks making it look like a flower, with crescents connected by rays. It was very impressive, until about 15 years ago when vandals who used bulldozers to search for treasure destroyed it. Part of our ancient Florida heritage was destroyed, and these mounds do not offer anything that treasure hunters and looters would be able to get rich from. Even today, sites of our Florida heritage are being destroyed.

Site of the Battle of Loxahatchee, Loxahatchee Riverbend Park

The same day that Colonel Taylor was battling at the shore of Lake Okeechobee, General Thomas S. Jesup established Fort Christmas only a few miles west of the St. Johns River in Central Florida. Soon Jesup reached Fort Pierce and sent a combined Army & Navy force to search for Indians. This joint force was one of the first times that Army and Navy forces, white soldiers and colored sailors, worked together in a joint operation.

Lieutenant Powell was commanding one of these Army-Navy boat companies when they found a Seminole village on the Loxahatchee River on January 15, 1838. They had captured a Seminole woman and forced her to lead them to her village, but she led them into a well-planned ambush instead. The U.S. force made a quick retreat. Five soldiers and sailors were killed, including their surgeon. 22 were wounded. The body of the surgeon Dr. Leitner was never found; the Indians had conflicting stories on weather he died of his wounds or was killed by Indians.

Jesup now believed that the attack on Lt. Powell's force meant that the main village of renegade Seminoles and Mikasukis had been found. Jesup contacted Taylor's force nearby and continued south. The Army's movement was slow. Many of the soldiers had lost their boots, being cut up by the sawgrass. Everywhere they marched was swampy with only scattered small hammocks for dry land. The land along the coast was drier than usual, and they had to drag the boats over several crossings that were usually open to sea. Sickness also took a heavy toll.

On January 24, 1838, Jesup reached Jupiter Inlet and traveled up the Loxahatchee River to look for the Seminoles that attacked Lt. Powell's force. The Seminoles were known to set traps for the Army, and to lead them into areas that would be difficult for them to cross. Chasing the Indians, the horses and soldiers became bogged down in the swamp and cypress knees.

The Army came upon the Seminole force, and an unorganized melee of fighting ensued. Dragoons charged on foot with bayonets, artillerymen fired their cannon. Even congreve rockets fired, but all they did was make noise and smoke. General Jesup came forward to rally the Tennessee Volunteers and lead them across the stream to attack the Seminole position. In the middle of the river, Jesup turned around and noticed that the Tennessee Volunteers had failed to follow him. At that point, Jesup was hit by a bullet in the cheek, which shattered his glasses, but was not fatal. Jesup fell back for assistance from his surgeon. The Seminoles disappeared into the mangrove swamps and hammocks, leaving a hollow victory for the Army with heavy casualties.

After this battle, Jesup had an extremely low opinion of the volunteer militia forces. The Tennessee forces were not as brave as Andrew Jackson had claimed they were. This was the last battle that General Jesup fought against the Seminoles before resigning his position as commander of the forces in Florida. A few months later he became frustrated with his failed efforts to end the Florida War, and returned to his position as Quartermaster General of the Army; a position that he would hold until the Civil War. Despite Jesup considering his campaign in Florida a failure against the Seminoles, he did much to defeat the Indians. Many of the Florida Indians were captured and sent west, but he would defend his actions for capturing Osceola under a flag of truce for the rest of his life. His constant campaign of harassing the Seminoles and their villages had done more than his predecessors to defeat the Indians.

The location of the battle was found around 1990. Local residents claimed that they had always known it was there; nobody had listened to them before. The site has been heavily disturbed by looters. A convenience store built to the west is probably sitting on top of the site of the soldier's camp. Many people claimed credit for finding the site, and the local newspapers tell about the competition between the archaeologists and local residents fighting over the site and stealing credit from each other for finding it. Hopefully a lesson was learned that people fighting over the few undisturbed battle sites left in Florida makes it hard to preserve them.

The battle site is still threatened. One of the reasons for the recent archaeological survey is to see what is there before the highway is widened and destroys it. It is located at a county park, but the county seems more interested in building a golf course than preserving the site. West Palm Beach is the golf capital of the world, but for unexplained reasons, the county still thinks that it needs another one. This is another instance where money talks louder than the need to preserve an important historical site.

Jupiter

Fort Jupiter was established four days after the Battle of Loxahatchee, and served as General Jesup's headquarters during his campaign in southeast Florida. Once it was moved to the other side of the inlet to be more accessible to the ships. The men stationed in the fort suffered sickness known as "Jupiter Fever." Strong storms and flood often made life difficult. Sometimes Jupiter Inlet would be open to ships, and sometimes it would be high and dry. Local residents say that the site of the old fort is now unfortunately under modern "development." The fort was located on the west side of the Loxahatchee River where it forks to the north and south.

There were a few interesting incidents here during the war. On March 29, 1838, Sam Colt visited the fort to test out his new repeating rifles. Although this demonstration put much fear into the Seminoles, the Second Dragoons under Colonel William S. Harney were the only ones who adopted the rifles.

At one point, Seminoles who were captured in southeast Florida were brought to Fort Jupiter until they could be transported by ships to the western territories. The Seminoles organized a stick ball game, and while the festivities were underway, many of them slipped away from the Army guards back into their hidden villages.

Ever since a fort was at Jupiter, a lighthouse was planned. It was built on top of an Indian mound known as Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Midden; on the north side of the Loxahatchee River. It was not completed until 1859, just in time to remain dark during the Civil War so it would not help Union ships. It was lit once again in 1866. Today this light house is open as a museum on Sunday to Wednesday. It is still used as the U.S. Coast Guard Station, so the number of visitors are limited to a maximum of 15 for each tour. The tour guides ask every one to stay together and stay on the path marked by simple wood stakes. Take state road 707 east off U.S. 1; the lighthouse is at the end of Captain Armour's Way.

Jupiter Inlet Midden I is located on the south side of the inlet opposite from the Jupiter Lighthouse. On top of the mound is an old pioneer home known as the BuBois house; the home of famous local pioneers and historians. This mound was built by the Jeaga Indians, and was the village of Hobe, where Jonathan Dickinson's party was taken after they were shipwrecked. Professor and Mrs. Charles Andrews, who edited the modern printing of Jonathan Dickinson's Journal, lived in the house and were pleasantly surprised to find out that it was where Dickinson's party stayed after being captured by Indians. Visit this site at DuBois Park, at the end of DuBois Drive on the south side of the Loxahatchee River. The house is also the home of the Loxahatchee Historical Society Museum. The midden is much smaller than when Jonathan Dickinson saw it. Even with a house on top, the mound was still not safe from having large portions taken away for road building.

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