BILLY BOWLEGS Biography - Royalty, Rulers & leaders


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Billy Bowlegs was a Miccosukee, or Hitchiti-speaking Seminole, who was related         
to other prominent leaders of the tribe. His Indian name, Holatamico, is a Creek       
corn dance title for a leader with influence over several villages.                   
Bowlegs first emerged as a leader in 1832, when he signed the Treaty of Payne's       
Landing. He led other Seminole warriors during the Second Seminole War and             
remained in the field after Osceola was captured. In 1839, he directed a force         
of two hundred in an attack on a federal trading post, killing most of the             
garrison. He surrendered in 1842 and was given a grant of land in Florida. By         
this time he was recognized as the most prominent leader of the Seminoles who         
remained in Florida, and as such he went to Washington, D.C., to speak with           
federal officials in 1842.                                                             
Government officials in 1850 began pressuring Bowlegs to take his people to the       
Indian Territory. They offered him $215,000 and sponsored him on a tour of             
several cities, including a stop in Washington, D.C., where he met President           
Millard Fillmore. Bowlegs would not move, so the government in 1853 declared           
that all Indians in Florida were outlaws.                                             
The Third Seminole War erupted in 1855 when a party of federal surveyors and           
soldiers penetrated the region inhabited by Bowlegs and his people. Bowlegs led       
an attack on the intruders, and three years of guerrilla warfare ensued. The           
federals greatly outnumbered Bowlegs's tiny force, but they never inflicted a         
decisive defeat.                                                                       
In 1858, Bowlegs accepted a large financial settlement from the government and         
moved his followers—thirty-three warriors, eighty women and children—to the       
Indian Territory, where he remained a prominent leader. When the Civil War began,     
he spurned the Confederates and led his group to Kansas, where he became a             
captain in a Union regiment mustered from among the Indians. He died of smallpox       
while still serving in the army.