Saturday, March 1, 2014

At the Book Fair, Billy Bowlegs' autograph

Chief Billy Bowlegs
Here’s an amazing item we’re bringing to the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. It’s an authentic autograph of Billy  Bowlegs, or Holata Micco, the Seminole chief who led his tribe toward the end of the Second Seminole War and during the Third Seminole War. He and his band were among the last of the holdouts who were finally forced by the U.S. government to relocate to Indian Territory in Oklahoma and Arkansas in 1858.

Brig. Gen. John Gibbon
The Seminoles boarded ships at Egmont Key in Tampa Bay that were bound for New Orleans. From there, they traveled to their new homes. Evidently, while he was in Tampa, Billy Bowlegs came to meet a young U.S. Army lieutenant, John Gibbon, who was assistant Indian agent at Fort Brooke. Evidently that was where he received Billy Bowlegs’ autograph. It is not clear who Miss V. Gibbon was. It is easy to speculate that she must have been a relative and must have had the autograph framed for John Gibbon as a gift.

Gibbon’s senior officer at Fort Brooke, was Capt. John Casey, who had earned the respect of the Seminoles and a reputation as a fair and honest man. Casey knew Billy Bowlegs and had many dealings with him. In July 1849, a handful of renegade young Seminoles attacked a settlement at Lake Worth and, a few days later, a trading post at Paynes Creek southeast of Tampa. They killed three men and wounded others. Casey sailed down to talk with Billy Bowlegs, who eventually gave the young marauders up to the Army authorities. Casey assisted with the charting of southwest Florida by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Casey Key, north of Venice, is named for him.

Capt. Casey died in Florida and his body was sent out on the same ship that took Bowlegs and his people to New Orleans. Billy Bowlegs was paid $10,000 by the U.S. government to move out west. He became a prominent chief in Indian Territory. He was quite wealthy and held 50 slaves, putting him on a par with major Southern planters.

Gibbon went on to distinguished service during the Civil War, during which he received several battlefield promotions, and ended up a general. Even though his family lived in North Carolina and his brothers joined the Confederacy as officers, Gibbon remained in the Union Army. He trained volunteers and saw action at Antietam and South Mountain, where his brigade earned the nickname the Iron Brigade for their fierce fighting.

He was wounded at Fredericksburg, returned to fighting at Chancellorsville, and led a division at Gettysburg, where his troops stopped Pickett’s Charge. He attended the ceremony at which President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. His troops blocked the Confederate escape at Appomattox and he was involved in arranging the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Later, he commanded troops in the west. He arrived at Little Bighorn River after George A. Custer’s defeat, where his  troops rescued soldiers still under siege and helped bury the dead. Still later, he commanded troops against Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce tribes in Montana. Gen. Gibbon was forced to retire at age 65. Later, he was president of the Iron Brigade Association, and commander-in-chief of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States until his death in 1896.

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Our specialties include Floridiana (Florida History, Florida Authors, Florida Related Ephemera), American History, Literature of the South, Military History (including, but not limited to, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korean War), Children’s Literature, Maps, Leather Bindings and Rare & Unusual items.

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Florida Antiquarian Book Fair

Michael Slicker was the founding president of the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association and has served as chairman of its annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair since its inception.

The 36th annual book fair is set for April 21-23, 2017 at The Coliseum in St. Petersburg.

The fair is the oldest and largest antiquarian book fair in the Southeast. Learn more about the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association.

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