It is said that Abraham was a full-blooded African American who was a servant to a Spanish physician in Pensacola. He is described as one of the most remarkable black leaders of his time. After the British War of 1812, he left Pensacola and took to the wilderness, living near the Indians. He rose among the Seminole by serving as Chief Micanopy’s interpreter, counselor, and “sense bearer.” After a trip to Washington in 1826, the chief granted him freedom as a reward for his services.
Abraham was a cunning diplomat and politician who had a genteel mannerism. He had survived the Negro Fort attack and fiercely opposed efforts to relocate the Seminole to Oklahoma. He understood the risk that deportation points would present to blacks as slave raiders used those same points to recapture fugitive slaves before they were relocated to Oklahoma. He was an important negotiator in the siege of Camp Izard on the banks of the Withlacoochee, negotiating a truce with General Gaines that was quickly overcome through a misunderstanding with other troops who arrived shortly after. Abraham was a master at playing both sides of the coin – convincing the whites that he was working on their behalf and at the same time counseling the Seminole to resist at all costs. In the end, it was Abraham who helped to negotiate an end to the hostilities and who eventually did relocate to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma.
Correspondence from Abraham to General Jesup describing concerns for how his people will be protected during passage to the Indian Territory:
Negro Abraham to Gen. T. S. Jesup, commanding at Tampa Bay.
Fort Deynaud, Florida
General, 25th April, 1838.
I have the honour to present my best respects to you. Myself and ‘Tony Barnet have done everything promised by us, and expect the General will do by us as he said at the beginning of this Campaign.
I send Tony to see you, and he can afterwards come and join me wherever I may be. We wish to get in writing from the General, the agreement made with us. We will go with the Indians to our new home, and wish to know how we are to be protected, and who is to have the care of us on the road. We do not live for ourselves only, but for our wives & children who are as dear to us as those of any other men. When we reach our new home we hope we shall be permitted to remain while the woods remain green, and the water runs.
I have charge of all the red people coming on to Pease’s Creek, and all are satisfied to go to Arkansaw. They all wish to see you, and hope you will wait until they come to Tampa. Whoever is to be chief Interpreter we would wish to know. I cannot do any more than I have. I have done all I can, my heart has been true since I came in at TohopoKilka. I wish Tony to come to Pease’s Creek immediately. I hope Toskeegee is satisfied. All his Seminole Bretheren are coming in. Hotatoochee has done well. All the black people are contented I hope.
X his mark
P.S. John Cavallo is in and contented. Glad to hear of the peace.
25th April 1838
Recd. 30th Apl. ‘38
The Black Seminole warrior John Horse is described as the most successful black freedom fighter in U.S. history. In Florida, he led the largest slave rebellion and for forty years after, he led his people on a journey from Florida to Mexico to secure a free homeland.
He was an adviser to Seminole chiefs; led the black forces at the climactic Battle of Lake Okeechobee in 1837; served as a Scout for the U.S. Army; and was a decorated officer in the Mexican military. He defended free black settlements on three frontiers. In 1882, he fulfilled his quest for a free homeland with the final act of his life, securing a land grant in Northern Mexico where his descendants live to this day.