Though Southern slaveholders dared not say it, the Florida uprising had mushroomed into the largest slave rebellion that the country had ever seen. By April of 1836, at least
422 field slaves had defected to the Seminoles. These plantation rebels joined 500-800 Black Seminole maroons already prominent in the Seminole ranks. Based on the number of plantation rebels alone, the rebellion was far and away the largest in U.S. history.
Amazingly, historians have failed to recognize the size of the rebellion right up to the present day. Since 1860, scholars have subscribed to the conventional wisdom that no major slave rebellions took place in the U.S. after 1831. This mistaken notion has many sources, but it mainly stems from a
southern tradition that sought to bury all memory of slave rebellions. The tradition nearly erased the Black Seminole uprising from national consciousness. Indian aspects of the Florida war entered national history, as did the maroon elements to a lesser extent, but not the slave uprising. And yet evidence of its existence abounds, in military records, newspapers, plantation journals, legal petitions -- even Southern pleas for help in quelling the violence.
The estimate of 422 plantation rebels is original to this work. For more on its derivation, see the
on the rebellion or see the original essay published on this site,
"." The number is conservative. Historians have speculated that as many as 750-1000 plantation slaves joined the Seminoles allies. See Brown "Race" 304, Rivers 203.
Part 2, War: l