Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Life of Osceola - Seminole Warrior

I've become interested recently in the story of the great Seminole warrior Osceola.
Osceola, of course, was a major leader of Native American forces during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). He is portrayed before hundreds of thousands of people each year by a mounted rider at Florida State University football games. Although he was not a hereditary chief, he rose to prominence through his ability and intellect.
I've always been curious about this charismatic Native American leader, but my renewed interest was sparked earlier this month while on a visit to Shands Medical Center at the University of Florida in Gainesville. To pass the time while waiting for appointments, I stopped by the visitor center at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park to check out the museum exhibits there. Among the displays in the park's excellent little museum was a bronze cast prepared using Osceola's "death mask."
For me it was a moving experience to look at the real face of the man that had such an impact on the history of Florida, the South and the United States. I had only known his appearance before from the famed portrait of Osceola (seen here) painted just a few days before his death by 19th century artist George Catlin.
The painting presents Osceola as he was best known, a brave and talented Seminole warrior that helped his people successfully defy the military might of the United States. The bronze cast, however, was a much more sober reminder of the tragic fate of this remarkable person (I'll show you a photo of it tomorrow).
Over the next few days, I will share the true story of Osceola with you along with some little known facts about his life and death. Be sure to check back!

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