By: George E. Buker
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 led to the Second Seminole War, fought by the United States to evict the Seminoles from the Florida Territory. When the last surviving Seminoles sought refuge in the Everglades and resorted to guerrilla-style tactics, however, the U.S. Navy found its standard strategies of guerre de course and gunboat coastal defense useless.
For the first time in its history, the American Navy was forced to operate in a nonmaritime environment. In Swamp Sailors, George Buker describes how Navy junior officers outshone their commanders, proving themselves less resistant to change and more ready to implement novel strategies, including joint combat operations and maneuvers designed specifically for a riverine environment.
By 1842, when the Second Seminole War was halted, Lt. John McLaughlin’s “Mosquito Fleet” exemplified the Navy’s new expertise by making use of canoes and flat-bottomed boats and by putting together small, specially trained joint combat teams of Army and Navy personnel for sustained land-sea operations.
Originally published in 1975 and now in paperback for the first time, Buker’s Swamp Sailors is the story of the U.S. Navy’s coming of age, sure to be of interest to military history enthusiasts, to students of Florida history, and to armchair sailors everywhere.
George E. Buker, formerly a commissioned naval aviation commander, is professor emeritus of history at Jacksonville University and author of Sun, Sand, and Water: A History of the Jacksonville District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport; and Blockaders, Refugees, and Contrabands: Civil War on Florida’s Gulf Coast.