There were no obituaries when John Horse died in Mexico
City. He was buried without fanfare in a sixth-class grave.
And so ended one of the more remarkable lives in
nineteenth-century America. Born a nominal slave to Indians
in Spanish Florida, Juan Caballo became a free warrior of
color who helped inspire and lead the largest slave
rebellion in U.S. history. At least twice during the Second
Seminole War, at Fort Brooke and Fort Marion, his daring
helped turn the tide in the largest “Indian” war in U.S.
history. Castigated as a scoundrel by leading U.S.
politicians and generals, he later became their ally. Out
west, alliance deepened into mutual respect, as army
officers from the Indian Territory to Washington D.C.
embraced the man and his cause. When a divided country
proved unable to grant his followers the freedom they had
been promised, John Horse led a daring exodus to Mexico,
where he created a safe haven from slavery. Adapting to a
harsh new environment, he became a celebrated figure of the
frontier, and yet his very stature was nearly the cause of
his death at the hands of slave raiders and assassins.
From the onset of the Second Seminole War in 1835 to the
last days of his final mission to Mexico City in 1882, he
dedicated his life to securing a homeland for his family and
followers. He achieved that end with his final action. The
Mexican government secured the land grant, which Porfirio
Diaz and two more Mexican presidents subsequently confirmed.
John Horse’s descendants still live there to this day.
Sources: Porter Black 223-224.
Part 4, Freedom: l