Historic City Memories: The Dogs of War


Reminders of the Second Seminole War

“The Dogs of War”.

By Geoff Dobson

On August 14, 1842 at Depot Key, General William J. Worth declared the Florida War, now known as the Second Seminole War, at an end. The war had lasted seven years.

The war had commenced with the killing of civilians at Fort King, present day Ocala, and the Massacre of Captain (Brevet Major) Francis L. Dade and his men at Wahoo Swamp sixty-five miles north of Fort Brooke on December 28, 1835.

It took several days for official word to be received by the army at Fort Brooke (present day Tampa). Unofficially, there was a realization that something had gone amiss when the dog of one of the three survivors of the massacre, Captain Charles Gardiner, reappeared, wounded, at the Fort. It was, perhaps, the only time when the military received word of a disaster in the field from a dog.

Official word of the loss was received on December 31st when one of the other survivors, Ransom Clarke, arrived at the Fort having walked and crawled back to within 3/4th of a mile of the post and collapsed. There, an Indian woman found him and assisted him the rest of the way to the Fort.

The third survivor, Jack Sprague, also arrived on December 31st. The dead remained unburied for almost two months and were identified only by bits and pieces. Captain Dade was identified only by his vest and infantry buttons.

Until the Vietnam Conflict, the Second Seminole War was the longest war in the history of the Republic. The Massacre was the second worst loss by the military to Indians until June 25, 1876, when George Armstrong Custer had a date with destiny.

In the 19th Century it was common for troops to take pets, such as dogs, with them in the field. Among the casualties at Little Big Horn, was Custer’s favorite dog, Tuck.

At Fort Bridger, Wyoming, buried in a place of honor, is Thornburgh (1879-1888), the sole survivor of a military wagon train that was burned by Indians on September 19, 1879. The inscription on Thornburgh’s grave marker reads:

“Thornburgh, Died Sept. 27, 1888. Man never had a better, truer, a braver friend. Sleep on, Old fellow, We meet across the range.”

As a small puppy, Thornburgh was found whimpering next to the body of his mother who was killed in the battle. He was named after Major T. T. Thornburgh who was also killed in the massacre. Thornburgh is credited with preventing a burglary of the Fort Bridger commissary, alerting sentries to marauding Indians, and saving a young boy from drowning.

In his later years, Thornburgh overcame his dislike of civilians to become the faithful companion of freighter Buck Buchanan. Thornburgh never overcame, however, his intense dislike of Indians. Thornburg died when he was kicked by a mule.

Fort Bridger, itself, serves as a reminder of the Second Seminole War. The individual most associated with the Fort’s history was the post sutler, former St. Augustinian William A. Carter. Carter obtained his position at Ft. Bridger as a result of friendships made during the war in St. Augustine. Over the years, Carter hosted in Fort Bridger many with whom he had served during the War.

During the Second Seminole War, notwithstanding a ring of small forts surrounding the city, St. Augustine was virtually isolated. To the south, sixteen plantations were burned by the Indians. Military escorts were required for the Picolata stage. The stage was attacked as close in as where Holmes Boulevard now is.

There are few physical memorials to the casualties of the Second Seminole War.

South of the old Post Headquarters Building on Marine Street lays a small national cemetery. Within the cemetery are coquina pyramids. At the conclusion of the war, the remains of the dead from throughout Florida were gathered and brought to St. Augustine and buried beneath the pyramids with their comrades.

Many of the officers killed during the war and interred beneath the pyramids were graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point. A traditional song sung at the Point is “Benny Havens, Oh!” commemorating an off-limits saloon in adjacent Highlands Falls.

Benny Havens, Oh!
Come tune your voices comrades, and stand up in a row,
For to singing sentimentally, we are about to go.
In the Army there’s sobriety, promotions very slow,
So we’ll sigh our reminiscences of Benny Havens, Oh!
Chorus
Oh! Benny Havens, Oh! Oh! Benny Havens, Oh!
We’ll sigh our reminiscences of Benny Havens, Oh!
(Repeat three more times)

Benny Havens, Oh! was written by Lucius O’Brien and Ripley A. Arnold allegedly after a visit sans permissione to Benny Havens. It has been estimated that over the years more than 60 verses have been added commemorating various officers. The song itself was published in 1855 by J. Sage & Sons, Buffalo, New York. Thus, the song predates a more famous song set to the same tune, Wearin’ of the Green, written by the Franco-Irish-American playwrite, Dion Boucicault in 1865.

Among those buried beneath one of the pyramids is Lucius O’Brien. Following the death of O’Brien in the Seminole Wars, Verse XVIII was added to the original song:

XVIII
From the land of death and danger–from Tampa’s deadly shore,
Comes up the wail of manly grief, O’Brien is no more;
In the land of sun and flowers his head lies pillowed low,
No more he’ll sing “Petite Coquille,” or “Benny Havens Oh!”
Oh! Benny Havens Oh! Benny Havens Oh!
No more he’ll sing “Petite Coquille,” or “Benny Havens Oh!

To the West of Government House stands Loring Park — another memorial and reminder of the Second Seminole War. The center of the park is a monument and the grave site of William Wing Loring; a veteran of the Second Seminole War, a Pasha in the Army of the Khedive of Egypt, and former Confederate Major General. The Park is now popularly regarded as a part of the Plaza. The formal name of Loring Park has generally been forgotten.

Historically, the Plaza de la Constitucion only extended to the Government House. But for that matter General Loring, “Old Blizzards” to his men, has been forgotten — forgotten to all but the men of the local encampment of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The monument was erected in 1920 when General Loring’s remains were relocated from Evergreen Cemetery to downtown. Loring Street, in the northern part of St. Augustine, also commemorates the general who was reared in St. Augustine and who represented St. Johns County in the legislature.

General Loring, served in Florida during the Second Seminole War and later served in the Mexican War. At Belen Gate, a main entrance to Mexico City, Loring was wounded, necessitating the amputation without anesthesia of his arm. The pain of the surgery was relieved only by his smoking a good cigar as the surgeons worked. He thus became known as the one-armed Confederate General.

But he was certainly better off than General John Bell Hood who lost the use of his left arm at Gettysburg and lost his right leg at Chicamauga.

The Union Army also had its one-armed generals, John Wesley Powell and Oliver Otis Howard. Powell is famous for his voyage through the Grand Canyon and Howard for his capture of Nez Perce Chief Joseph. Howard University also commemorates General Howard.

Also at Belen Gate were Generals William J. Worth and Ulysses S. Grant. Grant participated in the same charge in which Loring was wounded.

Loring and Worth undoubtedly knew each other in St. Augustine. Loring brought a charge of assault against Worth. St. Augustine Mayor E. B. Gould directed the sheriff to take General Worth into custody to answer the charge.

Years later, U.S. Grant met Loring in Egypt. Although, the two had not seen each other in 31 years, Grant immediately recognized Loring.

Another who served in Florida during the Second Seminole War was William T. Sherman. There were many former Confederates, particularly those from Georgia, who did not think highly of General Sherman. But at the end of the Civil War it was difficult for former Confederates to obtain employment. Among those who assisted Loring in obtaining his position in the Khedive’s army were Generals Sherman and Grant.

Geoff Dobson, a St Augustine resident for the past 32 years, is a western and Florida history writer. He is a former president of the St. Augustine Historical Society and a regular contributor of nostalgic memories to Historic City News. Before his parents moved to Florida, his father was a Black Angus cattleman. Geoff has written extensively on Wyoming history (“Wyoming Tales and Trails”). When Geoff was in high school, his family lived in the cattle country of eastern Sarasota County. The family spread, which his parents called “Wild Cat Slough,” was reachable only by a pair of ruts over the sand hills and through a snake and gator infested slough. Now, it is an area of four-lane roads, expensive subdivisions, shopping centers, and office parks. . His undergraduate degree is in history. Geoff received his post-graduate degree from the University of Florida. He may be reached at horse.creek.cowboy@gmail.com

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