Ar-pi-uck-i (also known as Sam Jones) was an important leader for the Miccosukee tribe (until 1962 officially a tribe of Seminoles) who lived to be about a 100 years old. Ar-pi-uck-i is perhaps most famous for his role in fighting against the United States in the Second Seminole War. Several of the Seminole’s great victories of the war involved Ar-pi-uck-i as did the final defeat at Pine Island Ridge.
Ar-pi-uck-i was born in Georgia in 1760 and like many Creek people of that era ended up in Florida before long. Ar-pi-uck-i was also known as Sam Jones and had a daughter Rebecca Jones that reportedly lived until 1898.
Some chroniclers believe Ar-pi-uck-i was at the Battle of Ocheesee in 1817, a week long battle on the banks of the Apalachicola River where the Seminole peoples were driven deeper into Florida. Many Creek people had fled into Florida, ruled nominally by the Spanish at the time to avoid persecution and also due to an ideological split in the Creek tribes. As we discussed yesterday in a piece on Fort Mose, Florida represented an escape route for African-American slaves and that continued in this period with many escaped slaves fighting for the Seminole cause and becoming part of the tribe.
Future President Andrew Jackson was the American commander at the battle. The aftermath of the battle also led directly to the Adams-Onis treaty in which Spain ceded Florida to the United States. Following incorporation into the United States as a territory a treaty was signed with the Seminoles limiting them to the land indicated in green below.
Once Jackson became President, the United States made plans to relocate Native Americans to what is now Oklahoma, breaking the aforementioned treaty. Ar-pi-uck-i was coerced into signing the Treaty of Payne’s Landing which would relocate the tribes of the Seminole west. He was consistently opposed to this migration and partly due to his leadership, the Seminole people heroically resisted the United States efforts to conquer and relocate them.
About half the Seminole refused to move to Oklahoma and several important battles took place as the United States tried to force the relocation of the Native Americans – these battles in the Second Seminole War (1835-1842) took place throughout much of the peninsula, from the Ocala area all the way down to what is now Fort Lauderdale. For the purposes of this article we are only focusing on those that involved Ar-pi-uck-i.
Christmas Day 1837 was the Battle of Lake Okeechobee. It was a battle that that propelled US commander Zachary Taylor towards the White House, but also could be seen as a tactical victory for the Seminole.
The United States felt that In the battle Colonel Taylor’s forces strategically defeated the Ar-pi-uck-i and Billy Bowlegs led Seminole and built up the battle as a great American victory. Taylor’s famous nickname “old rough and ready” that persisted into his political career was formed from this showdown.
However, Ar-pi-uck-i strategically positioned the Native Americans to counterattack and they eventually created confusion among the United States ranks and a retreat. The Seminole themselves also moved from the area fleeing deeper into the peninsula and toward the eastern coast. Taylor’s men fled toward Tampa.
Three weeks later, Ar-pi-uck-i led the Seminole in a great victory over the United States forces that included future Confederate General Joseph Johnston and the Battle of Jupiter Inlet. The victory was so decisive, the Americans in the field petitioned Washington to make peace with the Seminoles. This was rejected leading two months later to the United States victory at Battle of Pine Island Ridge, where Major William Lauderdale forced Ar-pi-uck-i and his Seminole troops from the battle field and deeper into the Everglades.
Meanwhile in another part of the state Chief Osceola has been captured due to treacherous behavior by the United States. Following this Ar-pi-uck-i moved back north occupying some areas near the mouth of the Kissimmee River in modern Okeechobee County.
In the Third Seminole War, Ar-pi-uck-i well into his nineties proved less effective a war leader trying to defend the Big Cypress Swamp from the United States. Today’s Miccosukee reservations on the Tamiami Trail and off of I-75 are roughly in the area Ar-pi-uck-i moved the tribes into during this period. Ar-pi-uck-i goes down as a famous Floridian, one that helped resist the attempts of the United States to subjugate the native peoples.