Focus on Treaties for Native American Heritage Month
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Coe Hadjo

Coe Hadjo was one of the exploring party who went west in 1832 to look at possible locations for settlement of the Seminole in Indian Territory. The Treaty of Payne's Landing (1832) earlier that year had provided for Seminole removal under certain circumstances. A delegation of seven chiefs was to go west to find a suitable land for the Seminole. If they found such a land, the Seminole would remove in stages over a period of years. The delegation arrived in Indian Territory during the visit of the Stokes Commission, composed of Montfort Stokes, Henry Ellsworth, and John F. Schermerhorn, who were there to assess the relations between local and recently removed tribes.

The commissioners were able to get the seven delegates to sign an agreement testifying that they liked the land. It was the common practice of Andrew Jackson's negotiators to cajole or coerce chiefs without authority to sign papers that the United States claimed were binding to entire tribes. The government applied that tactic in the Seminole's case. The United States claimed that the agreement signed at Fort Gibson bound all of the Seminole bands to remove to the West. Coe Hadjo, Holata Emathla, and Jumper denied that they had signed the document, and the Seminole generally denied that the seven delegates had decision-making authority for all.

Disagreement over interpretation of the treaty among Seminole leaders and between the Seminole and U.S. officials led to the Second Seminole War. In April 1835, Seminole agent Wiley Thompson convinced 16 headmen to sign a paper attesting to the validity of the Payne's Landing treaty. He struck the names of those who were absent or who refused to sign from his "official" list of chiefs. Coe Hadjo was among them. When the war broke out, he was a major figure. In October 1837, he and Osceola indicated they were willing to come in under a flag of truce to talk with Gen. Joseph M. Hernandez, not knowing that Gen. Thomas S. Jesup had directed Hernandez to violate the flag of truce, as Jesup had done before, and seize the leaders if he could. According to Dr. Nathan Jarvis, who accompanied Hernandez and his force, Osceola was so emotional he could not speak and asked Coe Hadjo to talk for the Seminole. He told the general that they had been urged to negotiate by Philip (Emathla), through his son and emissary Coacoochee. Hernandez said he took them prisoners because the army had been deceived by the Seminole too often.

Surrounded by troops, they were disarmed, and the two leaders with 71 warriors, six women, and four blacks were marched off to St. Augustine and imprisoned at Fort Marion. Later that year, a delegation of Cherokee led by John Ross arrived in Florida to try to convince the Seminole to remove to the West. Jesup allowed Coe Hadjo to guide the Cherokee and gave them six days to complete their mission. The Cherokee delegation sought out and brought in Miconopy, Yaholoochee, Tuskegee, Nocose Yahola, and other subchiefs to Fort Mellon. To the dismay and anger of the Cherokee, who were there to attempt to negotiate a peaceful end to the war, Jesup once more violated the flag of truce and had the chiefs seized and promptly shipped to St. Augustine and prison. In early January 1838, Coe Hadjo, Osceola, Miconopy, Philip, and other leaders were sent to prison at Fort Moultrie at Charleston, South Carolina.

Coe Hadjo remained in prison until he removed. He and the other Fort Moultrie prisoners were transported to New Orleans in May 1838. Coe Hadjo traveled to Indian Territory in Miconopy's party, arriving in June. His band went west a year later. That group arrived at Fort Jackson in March 1839; they numbered about 200 and included, in addition to his band, Abraham, Tom, Cudjo, and Tony Barnett, free blacks who had interpreted and scouted for the U.S. Army. Other free blacks and slaves were also in the party. They arrived at Fort Gibson on April 13, 1839.

In October 1842, Coe Hadjo and other Seminole leaders wrote a letter to the War Department asking for Seminole self-rule in Indian Territory, which had been promised them in 1840 if they would send a delegation back to Florida to encourage the remaining Seminole to remove. The granting of self-rule was one of the first steps toward the establishment of a separate Seminole Nation in the West.

Amanda L. Paige

Further Reading
Littlefield, Daniel F., Jr. Africans and Seminoles: From Removal to Emancipation. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1977; Mahon, John K. History of the Second Seminole War, 1835–1842. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1967; McReynolds, Edwin C. The Seminoles. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1957.

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