The buried history of the attack
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The attack on the Negro Fort remained almost unknown in its day, outside of military circles. Congress received official correspondence relating to it, but if more than a few members read the letters, none brought them to public attention. This would not take place until 1839, when the abolitionist William Jay published
A view of the action of the Federal Government in behalf of slavery, an exposť that included a summary of the attack on the Negro Fort. Jay's publication caught the attention of Ohio Congressman Joshua Reed Giddings, who went on to deliver several memorable speeches on the Florida War and then write the first history of the Black Seminoles.
In his historical depiction of the attack, Giddings dwelled on Jackson's order "to blow up the fort and return the negroes to their rightful owners," calling it the first use of the U.S. Army as slave-catchers. Jackson had accused the blacks of being outlaws on the grounds that they had "stolen themselves" from their masters. To Giddings, this act of thievery made them heroes:
"They had sought their own liberty, and the charge of stealing themselves, was used like the other epithets of 'outlaws,' 'pirates,' and 'murderers,' to cast opprobrium upon the character of men who, if judged by their love of liberty or their patriotism, would now occupy a position not less honorable in the history of our country than is assigned to the patriots of 1776."
Giddings Exiles 38-45, Jay 50-52.
Part 1, Early Years: l