Imprisonment of Osceola - St. Augustine, Florida
Imprisonment of Osceola - St. Augustine, Florida
Castillo de San Marcos
The old fortress served as a
prison for the great Seminole
leader Osceola following his
capture in 1837.
Interior of the Castillo
Osceola and other captured
Seminole leaders were
confined in rooms in the
interior of the Castillo.
Imprisonment of Osceola - St. Augustine, Florida
Osceola in 1838
This painting of the great Seminole leader
Osceola was painted by artist George Catlin
from life in 1838.
Treachery and Imprisonment
One of the greatest Americans in history was
the Seminole leader Osceola. A heroic
warrior who fought to save his people and
their lands, Osceola remains a proud symbol
of the undefeated Seminole people of Florida.

Born in Alabama prior to the
Creek War of
1813-1814, Osceola and his mother fled to
Florida with the followers of the chief Peter
McQueen following the
Battle of Horseshoe
Bend in 1814. After being driven from the
Tallahassee area by Andrew Jackson's army
in 1818, McQueen's people fled to the area of
present-day Ocala where they became
associated with the prominent Seminole
chief Micanopy.

Although he was not a hereditary chief,
Osceola earned his position of leadership
through his natural abilities as a warrior and
leader of men. He emerged as one of the
most capable Seminole leaders when the
Second Seminole War erupted in 1835.

Involved in a number of battles against U.S.
troops, Osceola came to symbolize the pride
and determination of the Seminoles who
were fighting to preserve their right to live in

Unable to capture or kill the charismatic
leader, the U.S. Army resorted to treachery.
On October 21, 1837, when Osceola
appeared under a white flag for peace
negotiations near St. Augustine, he and
several other leaders were suddenly seized
by order of General Thomas Sidney Jesup.

Despite a public uproar over the way Osceola
was captured, he remained in the hands of
the army for the rest of his life. Taken to St.
Augustine, he was imprisoned at the
de San Marcos.

Although two other leaders managed to
escape from the Castillo, Osceola remained
confined there until he was moved to
Moultrie near Charleston, South Carolina.

There is considerable evidence that Osceola
was seriously ill at the time of his capture
and his confinement in the damp rooms of
the old stone fortress probably increased the
severity of his sickness.

He died on January 20, 1838, at Fort Moultrie,
just three months after his seizure near St.
Augustine. Osceola is buried today in a grave
near the main gate of Fort Moultrie, but it is in
Florida that his legend remains strong.
Escape from Captivity
Two Seminole leaders
managed to escape from the
Castillo by squeezing through
a tiny window. Osceola did
not accompany them.
His story can be explored at a number of
locations in Florida, including
Payne's Prairie
Preserve State Park near Gainesville and the
Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.

The old Castillo, where Osceola was first
imprisoned, is protected today by the
National Park Service and is a major
landmark in the old city. A walk through the
interior of the fortress provides a good idea of
what conditions must have been like at the
time the Seminole leader was held in
captivity there.

Osceola also serves today as the symbol of
Florida State University in Tallahassee. Each
year a student is selected to portray the great
Seminole warrior and he is a fixture at
Seminole athletic events. This use of
Osceola's likeness by FSU is supported by
the Seminole people of Florida.
Osceola's Exile
Osceola was carried from St.
Augustine aboard a ship and
imprisoned at Fort Moultrie,
South Carolina. He died there
and is buried near the gate of
that fort. He never returned to
his beloved Florida.
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Last Update: November 14, 2013