St. Augustine. August 23, 1841. pp., on the first and third pages of a folded folio sheet, with postmarked address leaf with wax seal on fourth page. Old folds, light stains, some minor splitting. Very good. Item #WRCAM57635
A brief, interesting letter from a Florida preacher to a future New York congressman, touching on personal and business matters as well as the ongoing Second Seminole War. Most interestingly, the letter makes reference to the recent capture of Seminole fighters who were led by the noted African- American Seminole warrior, Halleck Tustenuggee.
Axtell's somewhat hastily scrawled postscript refers to the capture of a group of combatants in the Second Seminole War, at that point ongoing for nearly six years. "The prospects of a speedy termination of the war continue to brighten," he writes, "Last eve an express arrived for a Steam Boat to go up the St. Johns near Lake George to take off a body of Indians just captured, supposed to be some of Alec Tusteneeggee's band." This is a reference to Halleck Tustenuggee, a Black Seminole war chief who fiercely and violently opposed forced relocation. Between 1840 and 1842, Tustenuggee and his band wreaked havoc in northern Florida until their eventual defeat at the final battle of the war, in April of 1842. He survived his capture and later fought for the Union during the Civil War, where he likely perished in the aftermath of the Battle of Chustenahlah.
Reverend Henry Axtell was born in New Jersey, where he preached from 1833 to 1838 after studying theology at Princeton. In 1838 he relocated to St. Augustine, Florida, in an attempt to improve his failing health. He continued preaching in Florida, and eventually became chaplain for the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Brook between 1843 and 1850, neatly threading the needle between the second and third Seminole Wars. Axtell writes here to his friend and Hamilton College classmate Hugh White, and begins by discussing a Florida land deed he is preparing and the transfer of money to his friend's account. He goes on to beg the forgiveness of White's wife for apparently moving her to tears by insinuating that the pair were Jewish, noting that "I appreciate and respect the heart that wept on reading the 'unlovely' charge in my letter."
The recipient of this letter, Hugh White, was a significant New York figure in his own right. Born in Whitestown, New York (named after his grandfather), White eventually joined his older brother Canvass, one of the civil engineers responsible for the Erie Canal and inventor of Rosendale cement, in the cement manufacturing business. In 1845 he was elected to Congress as a representative for New York in the Whig party. After the Whigs dissolved, he joined the Republican and later ran for state office on the Union ticket.
An interesting personal letter from the later years of America's longest and most costly concerted campaign against a Native American tribe, with reference to African- American Seminole War chief Halleck Tustenuggee.