Seminole Wars and Metal Detecting for Artifacts
In all, the Seminole Wars consisted of 3 wars. The first Seminole war (1817-1818), the second Seminole war (1835-1842), and the Third Seminole War (1855-1858). All in all, it was an over 50-year ordeal that caused devastation to both sides. This war was fought between the U.S. and the Seminole Indians over land. The goal of the U.S. was to push all of the Seminole Indians out of Florida. One goal for the Seminoles was to fight for freedom as many of them were African American and Andrew Jackson was trying to capture them to be put back into slavery. Over the more than 50-year span of the war, many forts have been built in Florida and on the border between Florida and Georgia. These are the forts that we detect today.
Daily life for soldiers stationed at forts during the Seminole wars consisted of drilling, inspection, cleaning, and much more. The following Day to day life procedures are what the dragoon soldiers and other regiments of soldiers at Fort Scott would have followed in the 1840’s-1850’s. Throughout the day, a series of bugle calls were sounded throughout the fort to que specific actions. The first call was the wake up call that happened right at day break. Next was a roll call sound a few minutes after the first. After that was the sick call at 7:10 for anyone in poor health to go see a doctor for treatment. This was a much-needed part of the day since there was a lot of sickness and disease going around in these times. 1130 soldiers during the Seminole Wars died from disease. That’s more than 4 times the number of solders that died from Indians! The 4th call of the day was “mess call” which was the call for breakfast at 7:30. The next call of the day was the “Fatigue call”. This call was probably the most rigorous one of the day. It consisted of the soldiers doing work such as cutting timber, cleaning, hauling wood, building roads, loading supplies, and many other duties. The next call was the guard mounting call. Guard duty was done in shifts. There were usually three people rotating in a 24-hour time frame. The drill call happened about once or twice a week usually at 10:00 AM but was sometimes done after lunch at 1:00. Later in the day, the retreat ceremony was held to lower the flag, roll call, ect. The last call of the day was the “tattoo” call. This call required all soldiers to return to their quarters for the night. Although holidays were special occasions at the forts, not much fun time or relaxation occurred at forts during the Seminole war due to the rigorous activities.
Back in 2012, I started metal detecting at the age of 8 years old. When I first started, trying to find good places to metal detect in Florida seemed hard. For the first 2 ½ years or so, I only metal detected beaches, public parks, or curbs in search for wheat pennies, silver coins, ect. It wasn’t until early 2015 that I found out about the Seminole war history in Florida. I then began finding some incredible artifacts from the 1830’s to the 1850’s. After my first good hunt out (having found musket balls and a U.S. Great Coat button), It was safe to say I was hooked on metal detecting for Seminole war relics.
On an average day of relic hunting any Seminole war fort, you can probably expect to find at least a couple of buttons, musket balls, and percussion caps. If you are lucky, however, you can find some rare artifacts. My first really amazing unique find was a hand carved love token/ID tag from a worn out large cent. Although I can’t really make much out on it, you can definitely see the old cursive hand-writing. The first line says something like A.N.O Burke. The A and N are both doubled. It was found at about 10 inches deep under a root and gave a 60’s signal. The fort site I was detecting was a second Seminole war fort that was there from the 1830’s-1840’s. After a lot of research, I haven’t been able to find any name relating to the one on the first line.
Since 2017, I have found 3 silver coins from one Seminole war fort. The three coins were an 1840 seated half dime, an 1843 silver quarter reale, and an 1829 capped bust half dime. The first one I found was the quarter reale. It was so exciting to see my first Seminole war related coin come out of the ground to say the least. Then, later in the year I found the 1840 seated half dime which was my first American coin from the seminole wars. That one for me was even more exciting than the first silver coin to find. A couple hunts after the seated half dime, I found the 1829 capped bust half dime which is still my oldest coin today. The amazing thing is, they were all found less than 50 feet from each other.
Starting from the beginning of my Seminole war relic hunting career, there had been one find that had been at the very top of my bucket list (above a gold coin), which was any type of belt/box plate. This year I managed to find my first 2 beautiful small style US belt plates that were about 25 feet apart. They are my all time favorite finds for sure, and were so exciting to find. The first one was right along the edge of some bushes and gave a solid 77-79 signal on the Teknetics T2. It was about 6 inches deep and when I popped it out and saw the small oval shape, I was speechless.
Most likely due to the rigorous activities at the forts and the long period of time the forts were in use, lots of artifacts had been lost by soldiers. The most common of them are buttons. Over the past 3 years, I have found over 123 buttons at Seminole war forts (mostly being artillery eagle buttons). In the 1800’s, the uniforms were made much differently than any cloths now. The wool material was very flimsy where the buttons were attached. Especially in the rain. This explains why so many buttons were lost back then. Some of the other types of relics we usually find at these fort sites are dropped musket balls, percussion caps, pottery, and occasionally, coins and belt plates. In addition, since most of these forts are set very close to water sources, we do find a lot of hand-made fishing sinkers.
About the author:
At 14 years old (at the time of this writing) Nick Amelio is an up and coming metal detectorist and prolific YouTuber. Join Nick on his YouTube channel History Preserved as he discovers the history of the Seminole Wars and more.