Chief Bowlegs and the Banana Garden: A Reassessment of the Beginning of the Third Seminole War

by John Settle

Institution: University of Central Florida
Year: 2015
Keywords: Arts and Humanities  – Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic  – Arts and Humanities; Seminoles; seminole indians; native americans; american indians; frontier florida; third seminole war; seminole wars; indian wars; florida history
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2067508
Full text PDF: http://digital.library.ucf.edu/cdm/ref/collection/ETD/id/6652


This study examines in depth the most common interpretation of the opening of the Third Seminole War (1855-1858). The interpretation in question was authored almost thirty years after the beginning of the war, and it alleges that the destruction of a Seminole banana plant garden by United States soldiers was the direct cause of the conflict. This study analyzes the available primary records as well as traces the entire historiography of the Third Seminole War in order to ascertain how and why the banana garden account has had such an impactful and long-lasting effect. Based on available evidence, it is clear that the lack of fully contextualized primary records, combined with the failure of historians to deviate from or challenge previous scholarship, has led to a persistent reliance on the banana garden interpretation that continues to the present. Despite the highly questionable and problematic nature of this account, it has dominated the historiography on the topic and is found is almost every written source that addresses the beginning of the Third Seminole War. This thesis refutes the validity of the banana garden interpretation, and in addition, provides alternative explanations for the Florida Seminoles' decision to wage war against the United States during the 1850s. Advisors/Committee Members: Murphree, Daniel.