Buffalo soldier, 98, doesn’t want black regiments’ history to ‘fade out’

SEATTLE (Tribune News Service) — When Clyde Robinson was drafted into the U.S. Army’s 9th Cavalry Regiment in 1942, he had never heard of the buffalo soldiers. He did not know that he would become part of the storied, complicated legacy of the all-black regiments of the U.S. military.

Robinson served in the Philippines in World War II. Now 98 and living in Skyway, he proudly proclaims that he is the “last remaining buffalo soldier in Seattle and Tacoma.”

The term “buffalo soldiers” refers to the men who served in the four all-black Army regiments founded after the Civil War. According to legend, the name was bestowed by Native people who thought the soldiers’ hair looked like buffalo fur. Other lore contends it was due to the soldiers’ fierceness in battle.

The all-black regiments patrolled new settlements in the West, built infrastructure that helped make westward expansion possible, and fought in every U.S. war after the Civil War until the U.S. Army was desegregated in 1948. However, despite their significant role in U.S. history, their own story has been largely erased over time.

“A lot of people still don’t know, because they don’t publicize it,” Robinson said. “White people not gonna tell you. Most of them don’t even know what’s the buffalo soldiers. No, they never teach that. And you just fade out.”

This erasure was quite intentional, says Dr. Darrell Millner, professor emeritus of black studies at Portland State University. “Generally speaking, most people don’t associate blacks with the Western story, the Western experience. They’re surprised to hear that blacks were here and certainly surprised to hear that blacks were involved with some of the, what you might call iconic, experiences in the West,” Millner said. “For most of American history, it was not considered to be convenient to acknowledge that black people had the same qualities as those other people who came into the West — the potential for heroic behavior, the potential to be an explorer, the potential to be important in that difficult environment and circumstance.”

“You can’t maintain a slave society and acknowledge that black people are capable of heroic acts and capable of significant contributions,” he said. “So that’s why black people are dropped out of American history.”

In addition to their contributions to U.S. history, the buffalo soldiers helped to spread black culture in places, like many locations in the Pacific Northwest at the time, where black populations were small or nonexistent.

The legacies of these forgotten servicemen live on in their descendants and the people who continue to be inspired by their stories. A number of them have devoted their lives to reclaiming and spreading the legacy of the buffalo soldiers in the Pacific Northwest.

“I want to share” — the living legacy of a buffalo soldier in Portland

Dee Craig-Arnold is tall and stalwart just, she said, as was her grandfather Alfred Jerome Franklin, a sergeant in Company B of the buffalo soldiers’ 24th Infantry Regiment.

Like her grandfather, Craig-Arnold also served in the armed forces, but there’s little military bearing in her manner.

Chic in a black tunic spotted with bright exotic flowers, Craig-Arnold, 79, was vibrant, cheerful and quite comfortable in front of a video camera during an interview at her Portland, Oregon, home.

“I’m a Leo,” she said laughing as she settled in on her couch, ready to talk about how she came to know her grandfather through the artifacts of his time as a buffalo soldier.

Craig-Arnold never knew her grandfather; he died one year before she was born and her family didn’t really talk about him.

One of the few stories that was told is Franklin’s account of the Battle of San Juan Hill, famously known as the decisive battle in the Spanish-American War in which Theodore Roosevelt is credited with heroically leading the charge to victory.

Craig-Arnold lit up with excitement when she told the story, laughing loudly all the way through.

“The way the history books have depicted Teddy Roosevelt and the storming of the San Juan Hill, there’s a part that they missed. Because he did storm it, but he got surrounded by the enemy, and the African-American soldiers, the buffalo soldiers, were sent up to rescue him. That’s how it went. And that’s as far as I know about that,” she said.

Franklin’s version of events is backed up by Jerome Tuccille’s book, “The Roughest Riders: The Untold Story of the Black Soldiers in the Spanish-American War,” which corrects the narrative and attributes the all-black regiments with not only rescuing Roosevelt but also with doing the majority of the fighting.

Craig-Arnold has pored over the documents and memorabilia from her grandfather’s time as a soldier in the all-black regiments of the U.S. military.

With the help of historian Greg Shine, those artifacts revealed the story of a pioneering black man in one of America’s whitest major cities.

Formerly a chief ranger and historian with the National Park Service, Shine was stationed in Washington state at Fort Vancouver in 2002. He was drawn to the little-known stories of the 104 buffalo soldiers who were garrisoned there in 1899.

Shine’s research led him to Franklin, who was one of few buffalo soldiers to later settle in Portland. That eventually led him to Craig-Arnold, Franklin’s granddaughter who lives in the Portland area, not far from Shine’s home.

“That story is still alive and those descendants of African-American soldiers who served as buffalo soldiers are right here in our communities,” said Shine. “There’s a direct connection to that in our neighborhoods and in our genes here still today.”

Shine and Craig-Arnold became friends as they uncovered new stories and information about Franklin and his life in Portland.

Shine has become an endless trove of knowledge about the buffalo soldiers in Oregon, and he has extensively explored the details of Franklin’s military career from Texas to the Philippines to the Pacific Northwest.

“You could follow his postings, and his story tells the story of the U.S. Army in the late 19th century and into the early 20th century,” Shine said.

But for Shine, the story of Franklin and his descendants is more than just an interesting anecdote in U.S. military history.

Portland “is one of the whitest cities in the country and I think it’s important that we understand, first of all, how it got that way, but also, what are those stories that we’re not telling, what are the stories of other people, nonwhite people who have persevered and have crafted the city that now today is known as this liberal bastion,” he said. “The story of our nation is not complete without this chapter.”

At her home, sitting at a table covered with recruitment orders, medals and family photos, Craig-Arnold read aloud from one of her grandfather’s love letters, in which he thanked his “sweet little angel” for a foot rub and signed off with “bye bye sweetheart. Lots of kisses.”

“I really believe that the strength of my forebears — him and my grandmother, and who knows how far back it goes and my father — are right here,” she said, pressing her hand to the center of her chest. “That’s where I get my strength.”

Craig-Arnold hopes her family history can contribute to a more complete account of the all-black regiments.

“I want to put it into some official hands. Then it would be well cared-for and that anybody who’s interested would have access to it, so it’s not selfishly kept just within the family. That’s my goal,” she said. “I want to share.”

“The last remaining buffalo soldier in Seattle”

The history of the buffalo soldiers didn’t end in the 19th century. Seventy-six years after the first all-black regiments were formed, black soldiers like Clyde Robinson continued to serve in segregated units and frequently endured racism within the armed forces and at home.

Robinson loves Seattle and eventually made it his home, but he isn’t a big fan of Tacoma.

Robinson vividly remembers Dec. 26, 1945 — the day he arrived in Tacoma at the end of World War II.

“Me and my buddy went to the Y to take a shower, and they wouldn’t even let us take a shower. One lady had issued us the towels and the other lady said, ‘They can’t take no shower here. They got a place down the street,’ ” Robinson said. “Yep. I have no use for Tacoma at all.”

Robinson settled in Seattle because he felt there was less discrimination there than in other places.

“Seattle’s always been nice for race things,” he said. Racism “is around those little small places. I don’t be caught in them at night.”

Robinson acknowledged the unequal treatment of black soldiers during his service in short, matter-of fact sentences, noting that white soldiers kept black soldiers out of certain restaurants in the Philippines.

Robinson said he kept to himself, did his duty and focused on getting home from the war.

“I never gave nobody no problem. I know right from wrong. I know what you had to do. So that’s the way I carried myself. You had to do what you was told,” he said.

Robinson does not romanticize his time as a soldier. If he hadn’t been drafted, he probably wouldn’t have volunteered, he says. But he is grateful for how much he learned.

“I learned a lot from the Army, from being around different people,” Robinson said. The different places I’ve been. You learn a lot. You see a lot.”

As the last known veteran of the all-black regiments in Seattle today, Robinson occasionally dons a traditional buffalo soldier uniform to speak at events and increase awareness about a history that he finds few know about.

“We are all history-makers”

Several organizations in the Pacific Northwest today are dedicated to raising awareness of buffalo soldiers’ history in the region.

If you’re not looking for it, you might miss the Buffalo Soldiers Museum in Tacoma. Aside from a small sign and a metal cutout of a mounted soldier standing on the lawn, it looks like any other home in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood.

Inside, the family home layout lends a sense of intimacy to the experience of the history within, like browsing old family photos on the wall of a family friend’s home.

The museum is indeed a family affair.

It was founded in 2005 as the labor of love of William Jones, one of the last soldiers to serve in the historic buffalo soldiers 10th Cavalry Regiment before it was deactivated in 1944. In 1948, an executive order officially ended segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Jones died in 2009, and his daughter, Jackie Jones-Hook, took over the museum. It wasn’t necessarily her plan, but she’s embraced it with pride.

“If this baby [the museum] wasn’t abandoned, I would be home cooking and eating. But you never know what trail God is gonna lead you on,” Jones-Hook said. “I grew up in an environment of appreciation for the military and respect for the military, and also compassion for the military, and so that carries on to the Buffalo Soldiers Museum — respect and compassion for servicemen who served both then and now.”

Jones-Hook said her father rarely spoke about his time in the military and it wasn’t until she assumed stewardship of the museum that she really dived into the buffalo soldiers’ history.

“I’d seen what he had started, then I began to research,” she said.

What was once likely a dining room has been converted into a multimedia room where visitors can watch videos about the buffalo soldiers.

Jones-Hook has seen them so many times that she can quote from several, and knows exactly which combination of clips to show for a well-rounded overview of the buffalo soldiers’ history.

“I don’t really have a life outside of this,” she said.

Jones-Hook has worked with schools and the National Park Service to expand the mission of the museum and spread awareness of the buffalo soldiers.

The U.S. “is so divided that I, in some way, hope that the museum is a place where the community can come together and build a better America,” she said.

“We are all history-makers, and making good history is important, said Jones-Hook. “The question is what kind of history-maker will you be to make the country a better place? Because that’s what they did. They made great history to make the country a better place.”

To that same end, Geordan Newbill is in the business of bringing history to life.

Newbill learned about the buffalo soldiers when, as a kid, he saw a group of black men in uniform ride past him on horses. They were part of the Buffalo Soldiers of Seattle, a group of citizens dedicated to raising awareness of the buffalo soldiers’ history.

Now, 23 years after joining the group’s inaugural youth cadet program, Newbill is president of the organization and can rattle off facts about the buffalo soldiers without a second thought.

“Before I became a member of the Buffalo Soldiers (of Seattle), I knew nothing about the history of the buffalo soldiers. Nothing at all,” said Newbill. “This is a history that isn’t taught in schools. You don’t get the history of the buffalo soldiers anywhere unless you go out and seek it yourself.”

The organization’s members call themselves “living historians,” and believe the buffalo soldiers’ history is relevant today.

“People forget to realize that black people have fought and died for this country since the beginning of the country. Every war there was, there was a black man that fought and died in it,” said Newbill. “You have black men who have joined the military, fought and died for these rights that are still being denied

EFA – A Seminole Dog

EFA – A Seminole Dog


Jerry Morris, board member of The Seminole Wars Foundation has published a book for children about the Seminole War that was illustrated with the help of local students. Wanting for a long time to tell the story of the war to children, Jerry came across the fact of how Seminole dogs were left behind as their masters were removed from Florida.

Efa the Seminole word for dog,is the story of one of the Seminole dogs who lived in the Seminole camp in and around Fort Brooke.

Available from the Seminole Wars website.

Celebrating history of Kerrville black community

Clifton Fifer Jr.


Clifton Fifer Jr. said some of the first Black families that came to Kerrville still have descendants here, long after arriving as “property” and slaves.

Those families include the Dimery family – Fifer called them “the first of the first” – Miller, Blanks (Theodore and Isaiah), Hamilton, Bridges, Benson, Fifer, Coleman, Hurst, Hardy, Edmonds, Askey, Thornton, Campbell, Ware and Butler families.

“I’m related by marriage to the Blanks, and the Wares and Thorntons.”

Asked about the story repeated sometimes that the Blanks family got that name by refusing to take their former slave-owner’s surname, Fifer said he’s heard that, too, but couldn’t verify its accuracy.

“Traditionally a freed slave took the owner’s names or chose another if their master was unkind,” Fifer said.

“In about 1984, my dad, Clifton Fifer Sr. started his own sanitation business after working for the city’s sanitation service. He started his own service in the county and picked up at River Hills Mall and in Kerrville South and Ingram and other places,” Clifton Jr. said.

“He also had a junk business and would collect radiators and batteries and other things, for copper. He’d collect it for about six months and stack it next to the house. Then he sold the loads twice a year. It helped pay the bills.”

He said his grandfather worked at the YO Ranch, and his Uncle Lester Fifer also was a cook there.

“Lester wrote a cookbook when he worked there, and I have a copy. But all the recipes were for 100 people or more. In the family he was known for his cinnamon rolls. They melted even before they got in your mouth,” he said.

Fifer also spoke of the portion of the Black community known as “Black Seminole Indians,” descendants of runaway slaves in the south who first lived in Florida among the Seminoles. When that tribe was forced by the U.S. government to march to Oklahoma reservations, some moved to Mexico or worked as scouts and trackers for the U.S. military, fighting other Native American tribes.

“They rode just as hard and subsisted on low rations; and were the best scouts and trackers,” Fifer said.

Their connection to Kerr County came through the “colored troops” after the Civil War, or more famously the Buffalo Soldier regiment. These young men produced four Medal of Honor winners whose descendants are known here, Lillian Warren, Sylvia Lewis and Charlie Payne.

The medal winners were Pvt. Adam Paine; Pvts. Pompey Factor, Isaac Payne and John Ward.


Clifton Jr., who is 65 now, experienced in his long residency in Kerrville some of the effects of segregation.

“I remember going to Fredericksburg to the drive-in movie theater. We couldn’t go to the drive-in in Kerrville; but in Fredericksburg, it wasn’t segregated,” he said.

He said Kerrville had developed to the north from the Guadalupe River about to the Home Depot location. “There was a baseball stadium for Little League and a ‘pony league.’ There was no interstate and if you wanted to go to San Antonio I think you took Highway 87 to 27. Junction was north on 27.

“I think Kerrville is about to lose its ‘country feel’ but I reckon that’s progress,” Fifer said.


He said most entertainment was segregated, and in the Black community they owned their own “juke joints” including the Famous Door and Pleasure Garden.

Fifer said the new owners hope to reopen the Famous Door sometime next summer.

Kerrville North was a colorful, lively community with six juke joints in a two-country-block area, he said. They each served food, drinks and all had music, either live or from a jukebox.

The names and locations, in alphabetical order, were: The Cabin owned by Mr. and Mrs. C. W. McCray (Mrs. Carrie) at the end of Barnett Street; the Dream at the corner of Upper Street and Wallace Street owned by several different people at different times; Mrs. Ella Phelps owned and run by Mrs. Ella Phelps (her specialty was soul food) on West Davis Street; the Famous Door on West Barnett Street, run by Mr. Ed Bratcher, known throughout Kerrville for his steaks and fried chicken; and Pennick’s Green Door owned by Mr. John L. and Mrs. Beulah Pennick. First established as a music venue and meeting place for teenagers; they were known for their hamburgers, enchiladas, fries and chitlins.

“Probably the most famous of the juke joints was the Pleasure Garden run by Hilly Frazier on Webster Street. The infamous slab is still there today. ‘Uncle Hilly’ served the best barbecue in the county. Folks came from all around just to partake of his ribs, brisket, chicken and sausage. The people raved over his sauce.”

The Pleasure Garden was nothing like the name sounds, Fifer said. There was a small building housing the BBQ pit on a 9×15 slab, an old wooden building about 9×15 feet, and a huge concrete slab 54×39 feet.

During the time of segregation, he said, there were no recreation places for Black kids in Kerrville outside their community, as it was in most small Texas towns. So the people, businesses, schools and churches in the community provided entertainment for the kids.

“One of the places I remember was the Pleasure Garden. At 2 o’clock on Wednesdays, Uncle Hilly would allow kids to come in and skate on that huge slab for about an hour.

“What about the rhythm and blues scene at Pleasure Garden? Kerrville was the largest rural town in the region, and it was known for its juke joints and local bands. Even though the juke joints’ heydays were during segregation, that never stopped the juke joints from being integrated,” Fifer said. “The music, the culture, the good times seemed to draw all people together.”

Professor B.T. Wilson was not only the principal of Doyle High School, he was a musician, entertainer and songwriter along with other men here.


The following timeline of events in the life of Kerrville’s Black community is drawn from local history books including “Kerr County, Texas 1856-1976” by Clara Watkins, and the “Kerr County Album” by the Kerr County Historical Commission, with added information from Kerrville residents:

• 1852 – Mrs. Thomas Denton arrives in what would become Kerr County with her family and four slaves.

• 1854 – Dr. J. C. Ridley moved to the area, bringing slaves the Edmond family, and also owned Jack Hardy (1858-1907) who was captured by Indians in the winter of 1873.

• 1856 – Kerr County was formally established.

• 1856-59 – Dr. Charles de Ganahl moved to eastern Kerr County with his family and slaves, counting 21 of them by 1861. They included Theodore Blanks and his son Isaiah who helped found “The Settlement” in “Kerrsville.” Isaiah Blanks was employed by Capt. Charles Schreiner after 1865.

• 1867 – Negro resident Mike Hines appointed as a Kerr County commissioner by military authorities after the Civil War.

• 1887 – San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad began rail service once a day to and from San Antonio.

• 1893 – Willie Fifer worked for Capt. Schreiner and for Mrs. A.C. Schreiner.

• 1897 – John Fifer helped establish Barnett Chapel United Methodist Church with four families, the Buckners, Robinsons, Butlers and Blanks.

• About 1900 – several Black families moved to Kerr County from Bandera County due to a rabies scare in “panthers” or cougars in the area.

• September 1902 – Mount Olive Baptist Church was organized.

• 1910 – population of Kerrville listed at about 1,850 by Census.

• Born April 1924 – Vesta Fifer attended Doyle School when it opened.

• Summer 1933 – Ida V. Nealy Mosby arrived to work as private practical nurse at Dr. Samuel Thompson’s tuberculosis sanitorium during the summers. She moved here fulltime in 1936.

• About 1935 – First community school grades one through seven offered for Black residents, called “Cabbage Hill,” on block where Buzzie’s BBQ is now.

• 1940-42 – Mrs. A. W. Doyle donated land for Black school and it was named for her.

• August 1940 – B. T. and Itasco Wilson arrive to interview as teachers for Doyle School. They were hired in 1941.

• 1941 – Ida Mosby became a nurse at Secor Hospital (Kerrville General Hospital), its first Black nurse; then back to the now-State Hospital.

• 1948 – Clifton Fifer Sr. played baseball with an all-white minor league team for one season; and coached the Black Kerrville All-Stars.

• 1949 – Ida Mosby employed on staff of the new Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital.

• 1949-50 – Doyle School rebuilt after a fire in the building, according to longtime residents.

• September 1966 – Kerrville ISD fully integrated; Doyle School closed, and most teachers reassigned to other schools.

• 1973 – B. T. “Prof” Wilson retired from Tivy High School, KISD, after 33 years. He died in 1998.

• 1975 – Itasco Wilson retired from teaching in middle school after 34 years in KISD.

Florida Keys Museum Tells Story Of Wrecker’s Paradise

The Florida Keys History and Discovery Center in Islamorada tells the story of Indian Key and salvager John Jacob Housman. A detailed scale model of Indian Key, shown above, helps visitors visualize what the island probably looked like around 1840. (Photo by JKN Model Works)

John Jacob Housman’s character was complex and colorful. He was an energetic entrepreneur, a shrewd businessman, a daring adventurer, a visionary developer, and it was all wrapped around the soul of a pirate. And in 1830, he found the perfect place to use these traits to his best advantage—Indian Key, a remote, tropical island in the Florida Keys, close to shipping lanes but well away from too much scrutiny by authorities.

“He was clearly a man with vision who was unafraid of going against the status quo,” said Brad Bertelli, an author and historian who is curator of the Florida Keys History and Discovery Center in Islamorada, Florida.

Still, Housman was not a man to let laws, ethics or common decency stand between him and a dollar. “I do think his moral compass was broken,” Bertelli said.

The 1/300-scale model of Indian Key shows the village–which included quarters for an enslaved community–as it might have looked around 1840. (Photo by JKN Model Works)

A detailed scale model of Indian Key when it was the seat of Housman’s small empire is on permanent display at the Center. The model, funded by a donation of $75,000 from Islamorada philanthropists Ken and Dee Meeks and built by JKN Model Works of Browns Mills, New Jersey, is based on period drawings and maps and some educated conjecture. The result is a captivating glimpse of how the island likely looked when it was attacked by Seminole Indians in 1840.

Bertelli thinks the story of Indian Key—part of the Florida Keys, about 85 miles southwest of Miami—“might be the best kept secret in the whole island chain.”

Prehistoric Native Americans probably were the island’s first occupants. In 1970, state archaeologists found a midden, or trash dump, where ancient Indians disposed of their refuse.

European ships started anchoring in the island’s natural harbor as early as the mid-18th century. Settlers were living on the island by the early 19th century.

Jacob Housman was only 23 years old in 1822, but he already was captain of a 56-foot schooner owned by his father Abraham Housman, a shipper who lived on Staten Island, New York. The younger Housman apparently became bored working the waters around Staten and Long islands, and decided to take his ship to the Caribbean.

He didn’t bother telling his father about his plans.

Like many mariners before him, however, he ran afoul of the treacherous coral reefs off the Keys and had to put in at Key West for repairs to his damaged ship. While he waited, he watched salvagers—known as “wreckers”—from Key West removing cargoes from other ships that had piled up on the reefs. The wreckers received a generous portion of the cargo for their fee. Housman realized the same reefs that had snagged his ship could provide a lucrative livelihood.

He changed his mind about going to the Caribbean, and stayed in Key West to learn the wrecking trade. But Housman’s business practices didn’t endear him to local residents, and after a few years, he wanted his own base of operations. Indian Key seemed a likely place for an ambitious, energetic businessman to set up shop. There was a small settlement on the island, and it was far enough away from Key West that Housman wouldn’t be competing with that city’s wreckers.

Housman bought the 11-acre island and started developing it, and by 1840 Indian Key had become Housman’s tropical paradise.

Eventually he’d sunk about $140,000—roughly $4 million in today’s dollars—into Indian Key. About 150 people lived in a small village on the island, and its amenities included a hotel, general store, bowling alley, restaurant, and a large warehouse where Housman stored the goods he’d plucked from shipwrecks.

He also brought his shady, amoral business practices to the island.

“After Housman purchased Indian Key’s general store,” Bertelli said, “he became the kind of owner who would be more than happy to give you store credit and then, when you couldn’t pay your end, he was also the kind of man who had no problem taking ownership of the collateral.”

Housman’s political influence increased with his prosperity, and he persuaded territorial officials to create Dade County and make Indian Key the county seat in 1836.

But the US government had been fighting the Seminole tribe of Florida for years, and in 1840 a Seminole war party attacked Indian Key, setting fire to the village and killing a dozen or so residents. Housman and his family escaped, but he sold his interests on the island soon after the attack and moved back to Key West. In 1841, he was killed in a salvaging operation off Key West.

Bertelli said building a 1/300-scale model of Indian Key “was not even on my radar” until the museum received the donation from Ken and Dee Meeks.

“It is one thing to tell someone the island was home to a pretty sophisticated community,” Bertelli said, “but it is another thing altogether to be able to show them the island with all the buildings and docks that once stood on this relatively small island.”

James Roberts, owner of JKN Model Works, said building the model was “unusual from day one” because the builders didn’t have an exact idea of what the island looked like 175 years ago.

“We worked with hearsay and sketches,” Roberts said. “We had to make it up along the way. (Bertelli) sent loads of information, and we had to do a lot of reading to understand what was going on there.”

Still, the builders created a brilliantly detailed conception of what the island probably looked like—right down to tiny oranges and lemons hanging on fruit trees and privies on the docks for sailors’ and residents’ use.

Indian Key’s population dwindled after the Seminole raid, and eventually the settlement was abandoned. Today, the island is Indian Key Historic State Park and is accessible only by boat.

Listen to IPPY Award-winning author Willie Drye talk about his latest book, For Sale—American Paradise: How Our Nation Was Sold An Impossible Dream In Florida, on NPR affiliates WUNC, Chapel Hill and WLRN, Miami. Visit his blog, Drye Goods, now in its 10th year. Follow him on Facebook.

When Native Americans were arms dealers: A history revealed in ‘Thundersticks’

In the years after the American Revolution, Seminole Indians built an arsenal of weapons acquired from Cuban and British traders that allowed them to defend their lands as an alternate and well-armed Underground Railroad in what was then Spanish-controlled Florida. To the horror of Deep South elites, the Seminoles shielded and supplied guns to Panhandle communities of Black Seminoles, small villages peopled by plantation runaways, intermarried tribal members and freed slaves of the tribe themselves.

“Together they resolved to keep white Americans and their slave catchers out of Seminole territory,” historian David Silverman writes in “Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America.” “An alliance of militant Indians and black maroons supported by European resources was the materialization of a nightmare that had haunted white southerners ever since the seventeenth century.”

Written in an accessible and at times swashbuckling style, the book is in many ways a retelling of the U.S.’ Indian Wars from the 17th to the 19th centuries, with a twist. It cracks the mystery of how Colonial-era Native American tribes came to master a continent-spanning, gun-running network  in smoothbore flintlock muskets, often decades in advance of European settlement . …more

John Horse

John Horse was born about 1812 in Spanish Florida. His mother was of African descent and his father a Native American, Charles Cavallo, a Seminole town chief. He also had a sister named Juana or Wannah John Horse, or Gopher John as nicknamed by military following turtle ruse with Major George M. Brooke. Over a period of several weeks John sold the major’s cook the same turtle several times (soldiers savored the turtles, they called gophers). Discovering John’s fraud, Brooke opted for leniency and let John go on condition he make good on the missing turtles which he apparently did. This began a lifelong relationship between John Horse and the American military and earned his nickname, Gopher John.

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