The Biscayne Times

Jul 08th
The Military’s Long Shadow Over Miami PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul S. George, BT Contributor   
August 2019

A view of our past from the archives of HistoryMiami

TPix_PictureStory_8-19he area encompassing Greater Miami possesses a long, eventful military history, beginning as far back as the creation of Spanish Jesuit missions to convert the native Tequesta Indians in the 1500s. These missions included, in addition to clerics and Native Americans, Spanish soldiers, who helped build the mission stockades and provided protection for the missionaries. Ultimately, however, they found themselves in violent encounters with the Tequestas, leading to the closure of the missions.

Nearly 300 years later, the Second Seminole War (1835-1842) took place. The longest, bloodiest conflict between the U.S. Army and Native American forces, it resulted from the attempt by U.S. authorities to “relocate” all Indians living east of the Mississippi to an area west of the river corresponding to today’s Oklahoma and a portion of Arkansas.

Major moments in that war included construction of military forts on Key Biscayne and on the north bank of the Miami River, an Indian attack on the Cape Florida lighthouse, and a surprise attack by American forces, resulting in the death of the legendary Seminole leader Chekika and many of his men deep in the Everglades.

In the mid-1800s, Fort Dallas, the earlier military fort on the Miami River, was activated following a renewal of conflict. In the Third Seminole War (1855-1858), most of the military action centered on search-and-destroy missions in the Everglades. More consequential, perhaps, was the construction of a military road between the Miami River and Fort Lauderdale’s New River.

The Spanish-American War, America’s “Splendid Little War,” which led to Cuba’s independence from Spain in 1898, brought 7000 troops to Miami, which was then a fledgling city. They lived in Camp Miami, a makeshift military post in its northern sectors. Camp conditions were primitive, with polluted water and sanitary facilities consisting “of buckets and barrels.” Nearby Biscayne Bay became, briefly, the “world’s largest bathtub.”

Next month we will further examine Camp Miami and the more significant military history that followed.


Paul George is historian at HistoryMiami Museum. To order a copy of this photo, contact HistoryMiami archives manager Ashley Trujillo at 305-375-1623, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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