The city of Inverness, Florida lies 20 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico and 80 miles to the north of the great city of Tampa. It is the seat of Citrus County, Florida. In April 2017, we moved to live a few miles to the south of Inverness. Our new home is located in a beautiful area of woods and lakes. As the sunlight comes slanting through the trees, there is an atmosphere of total tranquility. The deer, squirrel and sand crane wander around fearlessly, which is clever of them because they have nothing to fear. Yet a couple of centuries ago, it wasn't at all like that. There was fierce fighting in this idyllic setting.
|Chief Osceola and Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson seized Florida for the United States of America in 1820 and was elected President in 1828. The Second Seminole War, which began in 1835, was triggered by Jackson's plan to move Native Americans from Central Florida to reservations west of the Mississippi River. However, they didn't want to leave. Close to our new home are the remains of Fort Cooper, built in April 1836 on the shores of Lake Holathlikaha. The crystal clear water of the lake covers 160 acres.
|Reenactors portraying US Army soldiers in battle
The fort was built by Major Mark Anthony Cooper, commander of the 380 First Georgia Battalion Volunteers, whose task was to protect the sick and wounded left behind by General Scott who was moving on to Fort Brooke, which is now Tampa. Cooper built his fort close to the lake's edge in order that the sick and wounded could benefit from the fresh water. His orders were to hold his position until the arrival of relief troops which were expected to be there in nine days.
|Reenactors portraying Native Americans at Fort Cooper battle
After three days, this seemingly vulnerable target was discovered by Seminole warriors led by Chief Osceola. The Seminoles launched daily attacks upon Cooper and his men, who were greatly outnumbered. At one time, there were over 500 Seminoles attacking the fort and relief from Tampa did not arrive as promised. Supplies in the fort were running out. Yet surely those under attack were merely undocumented or illegal immigrants to Florida? Should they not have received from the Seminoles the same gentle treatment accorded to such immigrants by the US Federal Government in the 21st century. Anyway, the attacks continued, but Cooper held out.
The relief column arrived on the sixteenth day. Cooper and his Georgia Battalion were saved. Their casualties were 20 wounded and only one fatality. Fort Cooper continued to be used by the US Army during the rest of the war for reconnaissance purposes. The fort and the lake now form part of Fort Cooper State Park, so Major Cooper's efforts have been rewarded and his name is preserved for posterity. So has the name of Chief Osceola, who died in captivity not long after the events described above. Osceola County, Florida is now visited by millions of people from all over the world because it is the home of Walt Disney World. This internationally renowned resort is on the other side of the city of Orlando, about 80 miles to the south east of the crystal clear lake and the crumbling fort in Fort Cooper State Park. Chief Osceola may have failed to win 1836 but, in terms of 21st century fame, he can at least claim victory over Major Cooper in name recognition.
Fort Cooper Events On March 17 and 18, 2018, Fort Cooper was the site of a re-enactment of the battle between the US Army and the Seminoles fought at the fort in 1835. The people who portray the characters take their role very seriously and pay great attention to detail to get an accurate representation of the time period from the clothes to all the paraphernalia used to make up the two camps of the opposing parties.
Video below shows part of reenactment and comments by various actors regarding the history their characters portrayed.
This piece, written by Bob, was originally posted on our website on March 24, 2018.