Rebellion January 1857     
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Coacoochee, or Wild Cat
Coacoochee, or Wildcat. Engraving by N. Orr for Joshua Giddings' Exiles of Florida, based on Orr's previous engraving for Lt. Sprague's 1848 history.
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As if to underscore the deterioration of African-Seminole relations, a long chapter in the alliance came to a close in January 1857 when Coacoochee died in a smallpox epidemic that swept the region.

Like his ally Osceola before him, Coacoochee had been a staunch supporter of traditional African-Seminole relations. He inherited leadership of the alliance in Florida and led the partnership through the dark period of the Indian Territory and the quest for land in Mexico.

Coacoochee was a complicated figure for the Black Seminoles. He was reputed on occasion to sell maroons into slavery—something he allegedly did for personal gain or, on at least one occasion, as part of an elaborate con game that ended with him stealing back the same people he had sold. As was the case with Osceola, Coacoochee’s alliance with the maroons was clearly tied to his own self-interests. The partnership furnished him with skilled allies and, when necessary, a retinue of vassals for diplomatic and dramatic effect.

A successful leader of blacks and Indians in war and peace, in conflict and alliance with the U.S. Army, Coacoochee was undoubtedly one of the most accomplished Native Americans of the nineteenth century. His electrifying escape from Fort Marion in 1837 reenergized the allied Seminole resistance; his battlefield skills helped the Seminoles wage the most successful (from the Native American point of view ) Indian war in U.S. history. His diplomacy and guile out west kept slave raiders at bay until he and John Horse could lead one of the largest and most successful slave escapes on American soil.

Coacoochee lived too long, and led too skillfully, to inherit the mantle of the noble-savage-as-victim, the status that nineteenth-century historians conferred on Osceola, Geronimo, and other warriors whom the U.S. defeated. The U.S. never defeated Coacoochee. Perhaps above all, this fact secured his place in historical oblivion.

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Sources: Mulroy 75, Porter Black 144. ©
Part 4, Freedom: Outline  l Images
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 Trail Narrative
 + Prologue
 + Background: 1693-1812
 + Early Years: 1812-1832
 + War: 1832-1838
 + Exile: 1838-1850
 - Freedom: 1850-1882
+ Cost of Freedom
spacer spacer Arrival
Second Exodus
Border Etiquette
Duval's Desserts
Indian Killers
End of an Era
+ Liberty Foretold
+ Liberty Found
 + Legacy & Conclusion