October 26, 2004

The Freedmen: John Horse, adviser to Osceola


The Freedmen: John Horse, adviser to Osceola … KEYWORDS: John Horse freedmen black indians black Seminole wars black indian leader freemen who lived with Indians black adviser to Osceola Florida indian history Oklahoma Freedmen African-Native people

A significant number of Afro-Americans escaped or fled from slavery and eventually settled in the West, where they were adopted by Indian tribes and accepted into the tribal structure as equals. Many even assumed roles of leadership. John Horse was an advisor to Osceola in Florida in the days of the Seminole wars.

No richer or more colorful life could have been lived than that of John Horse, whose life began as a slave in Florida, took him to Indian Territory as a young man, to Mexico as a leader of his people, and then back and forth from Mexico to Indian Territory.

This young man, was first noted when he was an advisor to Osceola in Florida in the days of the Seminole wars, and during the time, that he fought against the army of Zachary Taylor. Having begun in life in what was then Spanish owned Florida, he was often called by his name in Spanish, Juan Caballo. He was often called Gopher John while a young boy, who after playing a trick on General Brooke by selling him the same gopher’s several time, the nickname was often applied to the young John.

By the time of the Second Seminole War, John’s skill as a negotiator, interpreter, and advisor were noted. Chief Alligator, as well as Osceola often received advise and consulted with John about their strategies. After many negotiations when relocation seemed inevitable for the Indians in the Southeast, like Abraham, John Horse was an interpreter and able to secure safe passage from many who followed and formed a band behind him.

However, after arrival in the Territory, the Seminoles, particularly many of the Black Seminoles were not safe from Creeks seeking to kidnap them and to sell them to whites. Chief Micanopy declared that he and others were free, but the threats from the Creeks continued. John Horse was then inspired with his compatriot Wild Cat to relocate again, this time on his own for freedom. With several hundred people, the two leaders, Wild Cat and John Horse led another contingent of Seminoles southward into Mexico.

After many weeks and much danger, particularly from the Comanches John Horse was able to secure safety and passage to Mexico. After the Civil War, many returned to the United States, preferring to settle in Texas. However, John Horse was just as concerned for those who chose to remain in Mexico. He was able to successfully negotiate the right of the Black Seminoles now known as Mascogos de Nacimiento, to remain in Mexico with land. He met at length with Mexican leadr Porfirio Diaz.

Though he never lived in Indian Territory after the trek to Mexico, he did travel there often, and did interact with Black Seminoles in the Territory. His focus however, remained with his people both in Texas and Mexico. However, as one who left the Southeast, and was taken westward into Indian Territory, this leader, whose influence is still felt today from Wewoka, to Brackettville Texas, to Musquiz, Mexico, John Horse is one of the Estelusti who life was critical, whose leadership was essential to the survival of the African-Native people and whose history has the same beginning as that of all of the Oklahoma Freedmen.

John Horse died in Mexico City in 1882. His grandson was John Jefferson, who served with the famed Seminole Negro Indian Scouts, at Ft. Clark Texas.

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