Osceola (also spelled Oseola, Asseola, Asseheholar, properly Asi-yaholo, ‘Blackdrink halloer,’ from asi, the ‘black drink’, yaholo, the long drawn-out cry sung by the attendant while each man in turn is drinking).
A noted Seminole leader to whom the name Powell was sometimes applied from the fact that after the death of his father his mother married a white man of that name. He was born on Tallapoosa river, in the Creek country, about 1803 his paternal grandfather was a Scotchman, and it is said the Caucasian strain was noticeable in his features and complexion. He was not a chief by descent, nor, so far as is known, by formal election, but took his place as leader and acknowledged chieftain by reason of his abilities as a warrior and commander during the memorable struggle of his people with the United States in the Seminole war of 1835. Secreting the women, children, and old men of his tribe in the depths of a great swamp, where the white troops were for a long time unable to find them, Osceola turned his energy to the work of harassing the Government forces. Maj. Dade and his detachment, the first to attack him, were cut off, only two or three wounded men escaping. Beginning with Gen. Gaines, one after another officer was placed in charge of the army sent against this intrepid warrior and his followers. These were successively baffled, owing largely to the physical difficulties to be overcome on account of the nature of the Seminole country, until Gen. Jesup, maddened by the public cry for more energetic action, seized Osceola and his attendants while holding a conference under a flag of truce, an act condemned as inexcusable treachery by the same public that had urged him on. The loss of freedom, and brooding over the manner in which he had been betrayed, broke the spirit of the youthful chief, who died a prisoner in Ft. Moultrie, Florida, in Jan. 1838. In physique Osceola was described as tall, slender, and straight, with a countenance pleasing, though of somewhat melancholy cast.
For Further Study
The following articles and manuscripts will shed additional light on Osceola.
- Sketch of the Seminole War, by a Lieutenant, 1836.
- Barr, Narr. Ind.- Wars in Fla., 1836.
- McKenney and Hall, Ind. Tribes, 1854.
- Potter, The War in Florida, 1836.
- Ellis, Indian Wars of the United States, 1892.